EQ – The Difference between emotions and feelings

In last month’s article “EQ – The Key to Your Success”, I suggested that you ask yourself a couple of tough questions and referred to them weekly, to increase your self-awareness. They were as following:

  1. How do I come across to others? Imagine yourself receiving the information the way you deliver it. Would you like it?
  2. How are you reacting to other people’s emotions? Do you acknowledge and support them, even if you don’t experience the same emotions? Or would you try to sneak out of the room asap?
  3. Are you able to rationally label your own feelings and behaviours?
  4. How are you dealing with difficult situations?
  5. Do you take responsibility? Are you able to put your pride aside and apologise if you hurt someone’s feelings?

How did you go?

From a quick overview of emotional Intelligence/quotient last month, I want to go a little deeper this month by sharing with you, the difference between emotions and feelings.


Our six core emotions

Fear, Anger, Sadness, Disgust, Happiness and Surprise/Nervousness.

Where are emotions processed and how do they affect you?

Emotions are and have been hard-wired into us for thousands of years. They are processed in the limbic system (also call the old brain) which we often refer to as being illogical, irrational and unreasonable. Emotions are experienced unconsciously 1/5 of a second before we are made consciously aware of them. Emotions can create severe physical reactions such as increased heartbeat, feeling sweaty, difficulty breathing, numbness etc.

What are emotions good for?

They keep us alive, which is our organism’s core principle. With that in mind, our brain is constantly skimming our everyday environments (every second, every minute and every hour of the day) for rewards and threats that can affect our existence. You may think: “I don’t do that”. The reason, why you may not be aware of this is, that our emotions are experienced unconsciously, and if the levels of chemicals released in the brain are low, it may not be brought to your conscious mind’s attention.

The main chemicals released, when experiencing a positive emotion such as happiness, are dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. A negative emotion like fear will result in the brain releasing chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol.


What are feelings?

Feelings are reactions to emotions. There are hundreds of different feelings that can come along with experiencing one or more emotions.

How and where are feelings processed?

In contrast to emotions, feelings are processed consciously in our frontal cortex, which we often refer to as being the new rational brain. Feelings don’t cause any physical reactions.

The extend of your feelings depends on how your brain perceives your emotions. They are also strongly affected by previous experiences and memories.


  1. Emotions are experienced unconsciously
  2. Feelings are reactions to emotions and are experienced consciously
  3. Emotions can create physical involuntary reactions and can be measured
  4. Feelings do not create physical reactions and can’t be measured

I hope the above information has given you a greater insight to what is happening in your own body and brain, when emotions present themselves. Knowing that emotions (fear, anger, sadness, disgust, happiness and surprise/nervousness) CANNOT be avoided (as they are happening unconsciously) however, HOW your chose to react (your feelings) is the key to a high emotional intelligence.

The funny thing is, that emotional intelligence is not about changing our emotions or our physical reactions to emotions (we can’t, as they are happening unconsciously). Emotional intelligence is about feelings. How we can self-regulate our feelings and control our reactions to the emotions.

Check in for my article about ‘EQ – Self-management & Self-regulation’ next month. Till then, take care.

Michella Francis is the founder and managing director of Venus Consulting. With her passion for the human psychology and extensive experience in conflict resolution, Michella’s expertise is helping employers create a harmonious and productive workplace environment.

Her qualifications in neuroscience and PRISM Brain Mapping (behavioural preferences assessments) have seen her develop a range of unique programs including the new ‘Workplace Prosperity Program’.

Michella is also a Nationally Accredited Mediator specialising in Workplace Mediation as well as Family Law Mediation.

If you would like to know how you can maximise productivity, inspire innovation and collaboration in a drama-free working environment, please contact Michella on 1300 30 40 18 or on mfrancis@venusconsulting.com.au.

Photo by Valeriy Khan on Unsplash

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