In 1884, William James wrote an article, What is an Emotion? Scientists are still debating this question today. As clinicians, however, most of us would describe an emotion as a natural instinctive state of mind triggered by circumstances, mood or relationships, or something similar.
Emotion is a relatively recent concept. The English word emotion derives from the 16th century French word émotion used to describe mental agitation. Before the word was introduced into the English language, people used words such as appetites, passions, affections or sentiments. Besides being a relatively recent concept, emotion is culturally-based and some languages do not have an equivalent word to this day.
We see this confusion in our clients as well. Our clients (and some of us) confuse emotions with thoughts, rumination or even the facts of a situation. They say, “He made me angry” rather than seeing emotions as a natural instinctive state of mind. They believe emotions are bad or a weakness. They judge themselves for having emotions. Saying someone is emotional is an epithet.