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Deciphering the Feelings and Emotions Enigma: A Logoteleological Perspective

Updated: Jul 2

Luis A. Marrero, June 24, 2024

“… a principal property of emotions is motivational: emotions are tendencies toward action.”
Keith Oatley [i]
“In MP [Meaningful Purpose Psychology], feelings are not the same as emotions (i.e., energy in motion). To feel is an intrapsychic event, while emotion is energy invested to fuel interaction with a target within the environment or outside oneself.”
Luis A. Marrero and Daniel Persuitte [ii]

Feelings and Emotions

Understanding and defining emotions and feelings remains a significant challenge for academics and practitioners. As Klaus R. Scherer lamented over two decades ago, “Unfortunately, the need to define these two concepts differentially has not always been heeded by scholars in this area and much confusion has been the result. … There is an unabated tendency to use these two terms interchangeably, and further misunderstanding, followed by futile debate, can be predicted.” (Scherer, 2004)   This gap underscores the urgent and crucial need for clarity in our definitions of feelings and emotions, a need that continues to be a pressing issue in the field.

Yet, despite Sherer’s lamentation two decades ago, the debate continues, even among those studying emotions. In a recent paper published by the American Psychological Association, we read, “But over 18,000 articles on this topic appeared over the next 20 years, between 2000 and 2018. However, at the same time as the study of emotional development has increasingly captured the attention of many researchers, our understanding of emotion, and its development, is incomplete and still undergoing change.” (Pollak, Camras, and Cole. 2019)[iii] More recently, other researchers revealed, “Although emotion has long been studied, it bears no single definition.” (Tyng, Chai M., et al., 2019) [iv]

Despite numerous attempts to clarify the distinction between feelings and emotions, the field still grapples with a complex semantic Tower of Babble. The lack of consensus on the terms used hampers comparisons and complicates their study.

While the ongoing debate about emotional intelligence presents challenges, it also stimulates intellectual curiosity in our field. Despite these challenges, significant progress has been made by empirically demonstrating that emotional intelligence correlates positively with psychological resilience, reduced stress, improved academic performance, and enhanced life satisfaction in different cultural settings. However, even emotional intelligence is not immune to the definition debates. David Caruso, a leading authority in EQ, stated, “Just what is this thing called emotional intelligence (EI)? The answer, to a large extent, depends on who you ask. EI has served as a sort of conceptual inkblot, an unstructured notion that is open to a vast number of interpretations. (Caruso, 2003)[v]  Studying prevalent definitions for EQ, it is apparent that practitioners and experts lack agreement. (Ackley, 201) [vi]

Context and Goals

To contextualize this article, I have studied and leveraged feelings and emotions in my practice for decades. (Marrero, 2013; 2022)[vii] Also, I am a practitioner, not an academic researcher. While most of my propositions are backed by science, my primary mission is to help clients live meaningful lives through Meaningful Purpose Psychology (MP) theory and methods.

Through this paper, I intend to

  • explain the role of feelings and emotions in the Logoteleology Identity Model.

  • present consensus-building definitions.

  • clarify the distinction between feeling and emotion and how it is applied in therapy, counseling, coaching, and consulting according to Meaningful Purpose Psychology (i.e., logoteleology).

Deciphering Feelings and Emotions: A Logoteleological Perspective

As alluded to in the opening quotes of this paper, feelings and emotions are not synonymous in MP. First, feelings belong in the MP meaning construct (Marrero, 2023),[viii] while emotions belong in the MP motivation construct.[ix]

Figure 1 Logoteleology Identity Model

The Logoteleology Identity Model outlines how meaning determines motivation and purposeful actions within an individual’s identity. The identity model identifies three measurable properties: meaning, motivation, and purposeful action. All three components have a construct, and their quality can be measured. Motivation's role is to fuel purposeful action, as designated by the meaning. Purposeful action includes applying competencies to carry out a task.

For example,

  • Meaning: I feel thirsty.

  • Motivation: Urge. I burn calories (e.g., emotion or energy in motion)

  • Purposeful Action: I drink water.

Here are the basic definitions and propositions.

1. Feeling is one of six factors within the MP meaning construct. (Marrero, 2023)[x] Feelings contribute to the construction of meaning (as a factor in the meaning construct). They act as conduits of awareness, lifting our consciousness to the significance of our experiences, surroundings, and what is possible. Hence, feelings inform us. For instance, “I am thirsty.”

2. Feelings and emotions are sensory experiences.

3. We sense feelings through the five senses plus intuition.

4. Feelings and emotions express attributions, beliefs, values, and wants. (Shweder, 2004) [xi] 

5. Feelings are sensory, affective, and intuitive experiences that express how we view and judge situations. (Solomon, 2004) [xii]

6. Feelings can lead to emotions, but not all feelings provoke emotions. For instance, we can enjoy, be inspired by, and relax listening to a violin concerto without triggering emotional responses or generating an active motive.

7. Feelings can have and reveal needs (e.g., attention). Emotions meet needs. [xiii]

8. Feelings can reveal unfulfilled urges. Emotions are urges in fulfillment mode. (Elster, 2004) [xiv]

9. Feelings trigger attitudes (e.g., move toward, away, or stand still based on a like-don’t like continuum).

10. Feelings and attitudes betray and forecast the potential (not yet executed) emotional intensity and direction of motivation (i.e., energy-in-motion plus type [e.g., intrinsic, extrinsic]). This awareness can allow us to determine future consequences, evaluate options, self-determine, and self-regulate.

11. Motivation (emotional energy plus type) is triggered by a wave of instructions from the meaning known as a telosponse. (Rychlack, 1994) [xv]

A telosponse is the affirmation or taking of a position regarding meaningful content … relating to a referent acting as a purpose for the sake of which behavior is intended. Affirmation encompasses predication.
We must understand telosponsivity exclusively from an introspective perspective in which meaning extends as behavior unfolds. … If there is no meaning involved, then there is no telosponsivity involved.
Joseph F. Rychlack
Logical Learning Theory: A Human Teleology and Its Empirical Support

Within the context of the Logoteleology Identity Model, it can also be said that a telosponse is

  • The transition point between meaning and motivation

  • The moment a meaning becomes a determined motive

  • The beginning of motivation

  • When an emotion and its direction are triggered by a meaning

  • A decision point

  • A choice

  • A point of no return


12. Emotion is energy-in-motion.[xvi] It is one of the factors in the MP motivation construct.

13. Feelings produce moods and reveal temperaments. Emotions potentiate them.

14.  Emotions help fulfill meaning’s goals.

A narrative line, therefore, is what first links emotions to the principal aspect of their meaning, namely goals. … In a literary character, emotions potentiate goals.
Keith Oatley (2004) [xvii]

15.  Emotion or energy in motion has degrees of intensity. Its strength can reveal helplessness, aversion, grit, stamina, commitment, and engagement.

16.  Emotion is an urge or affect. The urge can be a conscious and an unconscious, intentional action.

17.  Feelings and emotions can be voluntarily chosen and regulated. The choice can be pro and antisocial. Humans can “work themselves into” a feeling and an emotion.

18.  Feelings are sensed internal experiences, while emotions are tasked to fuel actions toward a target or point of contact. For instance, following the LIM model, a person feels angry but has not externalized it. Hence, the feeling remains part of and contained in the meaning. Force or energy is released to fuel action once the individual determines to act (i.e., through a telosponse). This emotional force can be labeled as “rage,” and the eventual purposeful action could be “hit.”

Unlike anger, which typically clouds or biases the mind, hatred is consistent with clear-headed instrumental rationality. The Holocaust – the greatest act of hatred in history – was carried out with notorious efficiency.
John Elster, Emotions and Rationality (2004) [xviii]


19.  Feelings appraise meaning, and emotions energize the execution. Feelings are felt, and emotions are felt and expressed.

Emotions have intentional objects: they are about something, or directed toward something.
John Elster

20.  Feelings and emotions can be involuntary or run on autopilot (e.g., hardwired responses, emotional lability, fight-flight-freeze mechanism, reflex, neurological reaction). Even when involuntary, they have a cause (Ohman & Wiens, 2004; Shweber, 2004; Goodart, 2001; Goddart & Wierzbicks, 1994; Wierzbicks, 1999). Hence, there is a meaning that can explain it after the fact.

Biologically “normal” human beings in all cultures have an autonomic arousal system, …
Richard A. Shweder

21.  During the natural course of daily life, there are times when feelings can and do precede emotions, as viewed in the LIM.

22.  Emotions can be perceived more readily by others than feelings.

23.  Feelings and emotions can be habituated (Pavlovian conditioning). (Elster, 2004) [xix]

24.  Feeling autonomous sensations are part of the meaning system.

25.  Emotional autonomous urges are part of the motivation system.

In Practice, why is the Distinction Relevant?

First, understanding the difference between feelings and emotions is important to certified MP practitioners such as therapists, consultants, coaches, and counselors. It is also indispensable in helping clients prevent and deal with daily challenges. For instance, by enhancing awareness and the ability to sense feelings, the individual can assess the meaning of the feeling, determine its need or wants, search for alternate ways to meet the need, stop themselves from emoting if it will lead to problems, and proceed to emote (through a telosponse) when advantageous. Once the emotion is released, there is no turning back, and one must live with the consequences. Hence, it is best to understand feelings before emoting.

Second, society is dealing with serious mental health problems. [xx] [xxi] [xxii] Meaningful Purpose Psychology came to explain why – despite all the existing research and various practices -- problems persist. Logoteleology proposes a science-based alternative to improve mental health and human well-being. We believe deciphering feelings and emotions as we propose is worth considering, preventing and alleviating suffering and promoting human thriving.

Third, we have found that our clients experience greater self-regulation and self-determination when they understand the distinction between feelings and emotions. For that reason, we encourage research leveraging our definitions.

Fourth, understanding feelings and emotions is just a small component of meaningful purpose psychology. We do not intend to insinuate that just differentiating and addressing these differences will have a desired effect. Feelings and emotions need to be contextualized into the general logoteleological theory in order to prevent mental problems and promote well-being. Fortunately, this general logoteleology theory has applications in therapy, counseling, coaching, and consulting.

You can learn more about meaningful purpose psychology and its application through The Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose programs. To learn how to become a certified meaningful purpose psychology practitioner or to inquire about coaching services, please contact or our site, Contact | Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose (


 © Luis A. Marrero, Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose

[i] Oatley, Keith (2004). From the Emotions of Conversation to the Passion of Fiction. In Antony S. R. Manstead, Nico Fridja, and Agneta Fischer (Eds.), Feelings and Emotions: The Amsterdam Symposium (p. 100) 

Frijda, N. H. (1987). Emotion, cognitive structure and action tendency. Cognition and Emotion, 1, 115-143.

[ii] Marrero, Luis A., and Daniel Persuitte. Meaningful Purpose: A Primer in Logoteleology. Bloomington: IUniverse. P. 16

[iii] Pollak, Seth D., et al. “Progress in understanding the emergence of human emotion.” Developmental Psychology, vol. 55, no. 9, Sept. 2019, pp. 1801–1811,

[iv] Tyng, Chai M., et al. « The Influences of Emotion on Learning and Memory.” Frontiers Psychology, vol, 8, 24 Aug 2017.

[v] Caruso, D. (2003, November). Defining the Inkblot called emotional intelligence. Retrieved from CREIO ( 

[vi] Ackley, D. (2016). Emotional intelligence: A practical review of models, measures, and applications. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research68(4), 269–286.‌

[xi] Shweder, Richard A. (2004). Deconstructing the Emotions for the sake of Comparative Research. In Antony S. R. Manstead, Nico Fridja, and Agneta Fischer (Eds.), Feelings and Emotions: The Amsterdam Symposium

[xii] Solomon, Robert C. (2004). On the Passivity of the Passions. In Antony S. R. Manstead, Nico Fridja, and Agneta Fischer (Eds.), Feelings and Emotions: The Amsterdam Symposium, (pp. 11–29)

[xiii] Pollak, S. D., Camras, L. A., & Cole, P. M. (2019). Progress in understanding the emergence of human emotion. Developmental Psychology, 55(9), 1801–1811.


Vansteenkiste, M., Ryan, R.M. & Soenens, B. Basic psychological need theory: Advancements, critical themes, and future directions. Motiv Emot 44, 1–31 (2020).


Furtak, Rick Anthony, 'What the Empirical Evidence Suggests', Knowing Emotions: Truthfulness and Recognition in Affective Experience (New York, 2018; online edn, Oxford Academic, 15 Feb. 2018),, accessed 1 July 2024.


See also:

[xiv] Elster, John. (2004). Emotions and Rationality. In Antony S. R. Manstead, Nico Fridja, and Agneta Fischer (Eds.), Feelings and Emotions: The Amsterdam Symposium, (pp. 30-48) 

[xv] Rychlack, Joseph F., Logical Learning Theory: A Human Teleology and Its Empirical Support. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

[xvi] Baker, W. E. (2019). Emotional energy, relational energy, and organizational energy: Toward a multilevel model. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 6, 373–395.

Wong, M.Y. The mood-emotion loop. Philos Stud 173, 3061–3080 (2016).

Davis, J.P., Bellocchi, A. Intensity of emotional energy in situated cultural practices of science education. Cult Stud of Sci Educ 15, 359–388 (2020).

Baker, Wayne E., Emotional Energy, Relational Energy, and Organizational Energy: Toward a Multilevel Model (January 2019). Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, Vol. 6, Issue 1, pp. 373-395, 2019, Available at SSRN: or


[xvii] Oatley, Keith. (2004). From the Emotions of Conversation to the Passions of Fiction. In Antony S. R. Manstead, Nico Fridja, and Agneta Fischer (Eds.), Feelings and Emotions: The Amsterdam Symposium. (p. 99)

[xviii] Elster, John. (2004). Emotions and Rationality. In Antony S. R. Manstead, Nico Fridja, and Agneta Fischer (Eds.), Feelings and Emotions: The Amsterdam Symposium (p. 35) 

[xix] Ibid

Logoteleology Identity Model

Feelings and Emotions

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