Emotions are generally experienced as being positive (e.g. contentment, happiness, enthusiasm) or negative (e.g. sadness, shame, anxiety, jealousy). Most clients who enter therapy do so because they are experiencing difficulties or disturbances in their emotions.
We generally want to act in ways that promote positive emotions and avoid or eliminate negative ones.
Therefore, emotions motivate us to take action.
For example, if you feel frustrated or anxious in your job, you will try to bring about change to reduce those negative feelings.
The intensity of the emotion is also important. The stronger the emotion, the stronger its motivational influence, and consequently the more likely we are to take action. It has also been observed (Lazarus, 1991a) that emotions seem to be related to personal goals or meaning. An event that has little or no meaning to the individual will evoke little emotion. Too much or too little in the way of emotional intensity can cause problems for an individual.
Emotions have also been linked to survival and to our psychological health (Izard, 1990). For these reasons it is important that we pay heed to them. They provide feedback as to what is happening within ourselves with regard to deeper values and needs. Individuals who ignore their emotions can therefore be ignoring important aspects of themselves which may in turn lead to discontentment, unhappiness and alienation. Emotional suppression can also adversely affect mental and physical health. Chronic states of high emotional arousal that are not resolved can result in physiological damage.