Universal and cultural
Gripped by emotion
What happens during the moment we experience an emotion?
In the West, one of the things we say that distinguishes emotion from other mental phenomena is that an emotion can occur very quickly. It can begin in a fraction of a second (even though in some people it often takes much longer).
A second distinguishing aspect is automatic appraising. The evaluation that turns on an emotion happens so quickly that we are not aware it is occurring. We are not a witness to the process of evaluation that generates the emotion. We typically become aware that we are afraid, or angry, or sad, after the emotion begins, not before.
This is a core understanding of emotion that Buddhism and the western sciences see differently. In the West we think of the first moment of a process that leads to an emotion as something unknowable — we can only wonder about it. Our awarenss begins with the emotion itself. In other words, we are not the master at the incception.
This example demonstrates our evolutionary emotions. Something is moving fast toward our visual field, we respond. It doesn't matter what it is.