Emotions are still recognized as the common language of humanity since they influence every aspect of our lives, for good or for bad. They are the most basic characteristic of the human race. It is difficult to describe what emotions are; however, they generally refer to our feelings that lead to coping activities in response to the feeling.
Emotions are recognized as cognitive aspects and they are either negative or positive. And their physical sensation distinguishes them. Some of the types of emotions include anger, happiness, hate, love, reverence, cheerful, confidence, and remorse. This paper centers on the emotions of anger and happiness.
Anger is an involuntary emotional response to real or perceived threat that activates, encourages, and energizes someone to act so as to eliminate the perceived threat. As a strong feeling of annoyance or displeasure, the level of arousal to eliminate the threat depends on its degree.
Similar to other emotions, anger has both cognitive and physical aspects. Actually, there are several complicated cycles of physiological events, which take place when someone is irritated. It has a physiological preparation period in which energy is drummed up for a fight-flight response.
All emotions that occur in our bodies start in the section of the brain called amygdala, which identifies the perceived threats to our well-being and sends out appropriate response actions. The amygdala is efficiently wired such that it is able to respond to perceived threats to our well-being even before the cortex responds. The cortex makes judgments and considers the consequences of the actions to be taken. This is why sometimes people behave badly when they are angry.
When someone gets angry, his or her body muscles tense up and the brain releases neurotransmitter chemicals referred to as catecholamines that results in a burst of energy responsible for the common angry desire for fight. Simultaneously, the heart pumps faster, blood pressure increases, breathing rate increases, and consequently, all other thought processes are eliminated as one becomes locked up in the target of the anger.
In swift sequence, other brain neurotransmitters and hormones, such as adrenaline, are also given out making one to be ready to defend himself or herself (Frijda, 1986). After attaining the angry state, the wind-down phase now follows in which the body starts to get back to its normal resting state. However, it is important to note that relaxing from an angry state is not easy since the adrenaline-caused arousal usually lasts for a long time in the body. And during this time, one is prone to getting angry faster.
Happiness is another basic human emotion that is usually portrayed by positive feelings such as satisfaction, compassion, pleasure, or joy. Contrary to the popular opinion, most people usually consider themselves happy even when they are in less than ideal situations. It is interesting to note that studies have revealed that there is no consistent positive association between happiness and circumstances that most individuals relate with it, for example, riches, good job, or brainpower.
Even though most situations cannot reliably predict happiness, some situations associate positively with it, for example, having a strong religious conviction and being in a good social network. A major aspect of happiness is its physiological impact on our bodies as well as on our brains. Happiness is a form of eustress; that is, positive stress (unlike distress or negative stress). It brings the body and the brain to an alert state and it is beneficial in assisting us to feel alive, vibrant, and “up.”
As much as the present knowledge of the structure of the brain is not able to give a precise elaboration on the complex biochemical processes that generate what we experience as “happiness,” there is no disagreement concerning the fact that the experience comes from particular regions found within the human brain.
Scientists have been able to map out the actual regions within the human brain that leads to the state of happiness. Sections in and around the limbic system have been identified to be the major source of happiness and triggering of these areas lead to complicated interactions with other higher regions of the brain, such as the cortex, to cause the positive experience.
The emotion of anger affects our health and wellbeing in various ways. As a powerful emotion, anger can lead to both positive and negative benefits depending on how it is handled. Uncontrolled anger can lead to various health problems since the frequent releasing of stress chemicals and related metabolic changes that accompany it can ultimately cause harm to several other systems of the body leading to short term and long term health problems (Peurifoy, 2002; Barrick, 2002).
The physical effects of anger such as unconstructive arguments and assault can damage social relations, which ultimately can affect our well-being. However, a well managed anger can be a beneficial emotion that compels someone to achieve certain goals.
On the other hand, the experience of happiness has beneficial effects to our lives. Studies in neuropsychology have revealed that the state of happiness elevates the natural mood-enhancing endorphins. Consequently, the feel-good brain chemical dopamine is released. And the feeling of happiness depresses the stress hormone spigot and significantly reduces the effects of the chemical cortisol.
The chemical cortisol has been correlated with negative stress behaviors and it can increase the body’s blood sugar level to dangerous levels. In addition, it also suppresses other stress-related hormones, which have been known to constrict blood vessels.
It has been observed that the brain and the body chemicals released during the state of happiness remain at escalated levels for a prolonged period, even after the happiness experience. Therefore, the release of these beneficial chemicals leads to healthier lives (Uhl, 2008).
In contrast to anger, happiness assists in building and maintaining social bonds. These benefits in the social realm improve our well-being since we are more likely to seek the advice of our friends when we are in problems.
As much as emotions of anger and happiness are universal in scope, there are some cultural and gender differences found in each of these emotions. Every culture in the world has its own unique behavioral codes and this distinguishes how they tackle the emotions of anger and happiness.
The place and the culture that we have been brought up in dictate how we interpret the thoughts and the emotions of other individuals around us. Behaviors that we think of as “the norm” were taught to us by the interactions we had while growing up. For example, there are marked differences in emotional perceptions exhibited by the eastern and the western cultures.
Studies have indicated that individuals from Japan (eastern culture) stare at the eyes for signals of changes in emotion while the people in the United States (western culture) stare mainly at the mouth for similar changes, and the former tend to suppress their emotions more than the latter. In both scenarios, the disparity in the center of attention influences the emotions of happiness or anger that someone may be having.
In addition, the eastern cultures (being collectivistic cultures) have been observed to be more conventional and less open to expressing their experiences of anger and happiness while the western cultures (being individualistic cultures) are more focused on individuation and open expression of these cultures (Weiten, 2010). This leads to different social consequences depending on the inclination of someone to either the western or the eastern culture. Gender differences are also found in these emotions.
Current investigations have revealed that men and women have different skills as appertains to sending and receiving of emotions of anger and happiness and it is usually considered that the latter are more emotional. Generally, women are more emotionally expressive, showing them through facial expression and words, while men tend to hide their emotions, showing them using actions such as participating in disorderly behavior.
In conclusion, emotions of anger and happiness are physiologically different and they have different effects to our health and well-being. The emotion of anger is usually considered to be negative and it can lead to various negative consequences. On the other hand, the emotion of happiness is positive and it has numerous benefits to our lives. And as much as these emotions are common to every individual, their expression varies depending on the culture and the gender of the person.
Barrick, M. C. (2002). Emotions : transforming anger, fear, and pain : creating heart-centeredness in a turbulent world. Corwin Springs, MT: Summit University Press.
Frijda, N. H. (1986). The emotions. New York: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.
Peurifoy, R. Z. (2002). Anger: taming the beast. New York: Kodansha International.
Uhl, A. M. (2008). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Psychology of Happiness. New York: The Penguin Group.
Weiten, W. (2010). Psychology: Themes and Variations. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.