In this essay I use the terms ‘emotion’ and ‘mental state’ interchangeably. I think they are largely the same thing, the commonly recognised emotions are simply the clearest and most consistent mental states people experience.
I have recently become interested in the idea of exerting control over my mental state. Most people live their lives entirely responding to outside stimuli, having their emotions and behaviours dictated by the events they are subjected to. But it has become clear to me that we have a lot more control over the state of our own minds than we think, and that this concept is rarely mentioned in our society.
It seems only natural that we respond emotionally to the things that happen to us, but thinking about emotions and their Darwinian origins have made me realise that they serve a few basic functions.