Some days are better than others. But what makes them feel that way? Sometimes we just feel like things are going our way, and other times like it’s a struggle. Generally all feelings, including physical sensations, emotions, and even moods lie somewhere on a spectrum from mildly pleasant to ecstatic on one side and from uncomfortable to excruciating on the other. Our take is that all feelings are part of an evaluative system, which determines whether what we perceive is good or bad for us, beneficial or harmful.
This evaluative understanding of emotions means that feelings are feedback, and that we constantly aim to feel good or happy because these positive feelings tell us we’re on the right track. We love to be up and happy as opposed to down and out because our feelings evolved to guide our behavior to optimize our lives.
When we recognize this somewhat mechanical, stimulus-response aspect of emotions—the fact that they are simply feedback—we can take them far less personally. Rather than signifying something intimate and personal about us, emotions are about as personal as breathing or digestion: simply a fact of human functioning. As you become aware of this basic fact, the grip of unpleasant emotions lessens somewhat and the discomfort they can cause seems to lighten considerably. In the same way, when we recognize pleasant emotions as information from the reward system, our need to feel good all the time recedes. This expanded perspective, paired with an increased capacity to feel emotions completely as sensations in the body, can result in a lighter sense of being human.