Word of the Month: Emotion

David Zapatka

Do emotions happen consciously or unconsciously? Can emotions be chosen or do they just happen? While reading “I Am: The Power of Discovering Who You Really Are” by Howard Falco, I read, “Emotions are the clues that lead you to the treasure of everlasting peace.” Ponder this for a while. Are our emotions clues? Do emotions just happen to us? Do we have the power to choose our emotions as we wish? Are we responsible for our emotions?

When asked the question, “Do you choose your emotions or are they innate?” New York University Center for Neural Science professor Joseph LeDoux wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Emotions are not innately programmed into our brains, but, in fact, are cognitive states resulting from the gathering of information. We argue that conscious experiences, regardless of their content, arise from one system in the brain. Specifically, the differences between emotional and non-emotional states are the kinds of inputs that are processed by a general cortical network of cognition, a network essential for conscious experiences.”

Emotionemo·​tion i-mo-shən noun

1a: a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body, b: a state of feeling, c: the affective aspect of consciousness : feeling 2: excitement

Origin and Etymology—Middle French, from emouvoir to stir up, from Old French esmovoir, from Latin emovere to remove, displace, from e- + movere to move

The term emotion was introduced into academic discussion as a catch-all term to passions, sentiments, and affections. The word emotion was coined in the early 1800s by Thomas Brown and it is around the 1830s that the modern concept of emotion first emerged for the English language. “No one felt emotions before about 1830. Instead, they felt other things—‘passions’, ‘accidents of the soul’, ‘moral sentiments’—and explained them very differently from how we understand emotions today.”—TW Smith, author of The Book of Human Emotions published 2015.

First Known Use—1579

Emotion used in a sentence:

It was a display of raw emotion.

The defendant showed no emotion when the verdict was read.

She was overcome with emotion at the news of her friend’s death.

Emotion in the news and in publications:

Giotto placed real people in real scenes, expressing real human emotions.—Rick Steves, Chicago Tribune, 25 July 2023

That tragic day was nearly three years in the past at this point, but emotions still ran quite hot.—Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 24 July 2023

Take a few months to think through any life-altering decisions, and let your emotions even out.—Alicia Adamczyk, Fortune, 12 July 2023

Do you choose your emotions or do your emotions just happen to you? Please submit your experiences or any word you may like to share, along with your insights and comments, to [email protected].