The Purpose of Emotions


When people come to counselling, they often want to change how they’re feeling. They feel anxious, sad, discouraged, or angry, and just don’t want to feel that way anymore. Helping people to feel better is a huge part of our work as therapists.

But emotions are more than just annoying feelings that we need to change. Our body produces these feelings for a reason. Emotions act as signals and provide us with information to help us to make decisions. Here is a list of 5 common “negative” emotions and a few of their key purposes.

  1. Anger. Every emotion consists of a physical component, but anger produces one of the strongest physical sensations. Heart rate increases, muscles tense, and body temperature rises. Sometimes we are told to avoid or stuff down our anger. However, its an important emotion to pay attention to because it can often let us know when someone is crossing a personal boundary. Anger protects us. If you didn’t feel angry when someone physically attacks you, you may not do anything to protect yourself.
  2. Anxiety. Without some level of anxiety, we wouldn’t get anything done. Anxiety is key for motivating us to complete a task. Without anxiety, you likely wouldn’t study for tests.
  3. Fear. This strong emotion lets us know there’s a threat to be avoided. Again, this feeling helps keep us safe and cope with any danger.
  4. Guilt. Guilt is the feeling that we’ve done something wrong. Without feeling guilt, our society wouldn’t be a very nice place to live because we wouldn’t treat each other very well. Feeling guilty allows us to apologize and build strong relationships with others.
  5. Sadness. Sadness lets us know what we value and when we should reach out to friends or family for support. It can help us connect with others. Sadness also helps us to appreciate and enjoy when things in our lives are going well.

Its natural to want to turn away from “negative” emotions because they don’t feel good and are uncomfortable. But remember that emotions are natural and our body’s way of signalling something to us. Pay attention to your negative emotions and don’t be afraid to lean into them – they’re there to help you out!

To learn more about emotions and how leaning into them can be helpful and healthy, contact Allison at Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services to book an appointment. She has helped many people learn how to regulate and understand their own emotional experience.  OCCS has 3 locations throughout the Okanagan in Kelowna, West Kelowna, and Penticton.

This blog post was written by:


Allison Crosby

B.A. Psyc, M.Ed. Counsel

Registered Clinical Counsellor

Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services

Direct Line: 250 870 8330


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