"When you extract a splinter it hurts, briefly, but then you feel relief, even pleasure. When you find a fault in yourself it will hurt, briefly, but it you keep going and acknowledge the fault, you are likely to be rewarded with a flash of pleasure that is mixed, oddly, with a hint of pride. It is the pleasure of taking responsibility for your own behavior. It is the feeling of honor."
-Jonathan Haidt- The Happiness Hypothesis
Obvious: We are emotional creatures.
Not so obvious: Sometimes what we think are emotional reactions are really our brains interpretation of them turning them into thoughts.
Semi-obvious: It's much harder to identify the fundamental emotion underlying said thoughts
Maybe all of the above statements are well-known facts, but I learned them the hard way (graduate program in mental health counseling anyone). Where you're graded on discovering emotional awareness, insight, and developing appropriate cognitive reactions in yourself in order to then help others.
And these emotional experiences affect our self-esteem (obvious). And this in turn affects are ability to empathize. We may confuse our own emotional/thought processes as an attempt to demonstrate to our friends we understand them, that we hear them.
But do we? Think about it. How often are you having a conversation with a friend when you say "Man, I feel your pain" but what you're really doing is rehashing your own experience and projecting it on to another? How often do you ask others how they are doing and let them get by with a simple "Fine, Great, How are YOU?"
My point is, we think of tend to think of emotions as a by product of life when the truth is that for most of us our emotions are unconsciously or not, the driving force maneuvering our thoughts, our actions, and broadly our overall existence. But we tune out, instead of tuning in creating barriers in communication.
And quite frankly, I think its time to start tuning in. Because if we can't figure our how we're feeling we're far from capable of empathizing with others and creating meaningful connections.