Understanding Your Emotions

Do you know how you are feeling?

Emotions are a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances,

mood, or relationships with others.

The word 'emotion' encompasses a broad range of feelings, behavior and changes in the body and mind. Noted professor and psychologist, Robert Plutchik listed the basic or main types of emotions as follows:

joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, anticipation, & love

These, he said, can be classified as primary, secondary and tertiary emotions. Along with the primary emotions, we also experience secondary emotions which are a direct reaction of the primary emotions. For instance, a person may feel ashamed or guilty after experiencing the primary emotion of fear.

Fear is a response to impending danger. It is a survival mechanism that is a reaction to some negative stimulus. It may be a mild caution or an extreme phobia. If the fear is trivial, it is called "trifling fear" or if the danger seems formidable it is a "serious fear". One secondary emotion in this category is nervousness. The various tertiary emotions relating to this sub-category are: anxiety, apprehension, distress, dread, tenseness, uneasiness, & worry. Another secondary emotion in this category is horror. There are various tertiary emotions in this sub-category; alarm, fright, horror, hysteria, mortification, panic, shock, and terror.

Joy or happiness has shades of enjoyment, satisfaction and pleasure. There is a sense of well-being, inner peace, love, safety and contentment. The first secondary emotion is cheerfulness. This comprises a myriad of tertiary emotions like: amusement, ecstasy, euphoria, bliss, elation, delight, happiness, & jubilation. Zest is another secondary emotion encompassing different tertiary emotions like: enthusiasm, excitement, exhilaration, thrill. The other emotions included in this category are contentment, relief, optimism, pride and enthrallment.

Love arises from a feeling of profound oneness. Love can be platonic, romantic, religious or familial. There are certain nuances to love regarding bonding, friendship, altruism and philanthropy. As per psychology, love is to lend self-esteem to another. There are three secondary emotions - affection, longing and lust. Affection includes the following tertiary emotions: fondness, attraction, adoration, sentimentality, & caring. Lust is related to different tertiary emotions like: lust, arousal, desire, passion, infatuation, obsession.

Sadness is related to a feeling of loss and disadvantage. If this feeling drowns the individual, it may lead to a state of depression. When a person can be observed to be quiet, less energetic and withdrawn to himself it may be inferred that sadness exists. Such an individual usually has a sloping body, stuck out lips and a downcast appearance of the head.

The secondary emotion suffering includes agony, hurt and anguish. Another secondary emotion disappointment comprises tertiary emotions like dismay and displeasure. Shame is a secondary emotion that can be linked to tertiary emotions like guilt, remorse and regret. The secondary emotion neglect can be understood by the following tertiary emotions list; insecurity, alienation, homesickness, embarrassment, humiliation. Feelings of sympathy and pity are also included in this category.

Surprise means the showing up of an unexpected result. When one experiences surprise, it is accompanied by raising of the eyebrows, horizontal lines on the forehead, open mouth, stretched skin below the eyebrows and wide-open eyelids. A momentary raise in the eyebrows is the most common evidence of surprise. There are related tertiary emotions like: astonishment & amazement.

Anger is evoked due to injustice, conflict, humiliation, negligence or betrayal. If the anger is active, the individual attacks the target, verbally or physically. If the anger is passive, the person silently sulks and feels tension and hostility. Often, when one empathizes with another, anger may be displayed. If the purpose of the source of pain is known, the magnitude of anger is altered. One secondary emotion rage is further differentiated into tertiary emotions like: fury, wrath, bitterness, loathing, resentment, & hate. Frustration and exasperation are similar types of tertiary emotions. The secondary emotion irritation involves tertiary emotions like: agitation, aggravation, & grouchiness. Another secondary emotion disgust comprises tertiary emotions like: revulsion & contempt. Some other tertiary emotions include jealousy and torment.

Robert Plutchik's Emotion Chart

Primary: The eight sectors are designed to indicate that there are eight primary emotion dimensions. They are anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness and disgust.

Intensity: The cone’s vertical dimension represents intensity – emotions intensify as they move from the outside to the center of the wheel. For example, a feeling of boredom can intensify to loathing if left unchecked. This is an important rule about emotions to be aware of in relationships: If left unchecked, emotions can intensify. Herein lies the wisdom of enhancing your emotional vocabulary: it’s the bedrock of effectively navigating emotions.

Relations: Each circle sector has an opposite emotion. The opposite of sadness is joy, and the opposite of trust is disgust. Can you find the opposite of anticipation?

The emotions with no color represent an emotion that is a mix of the 2 primary emotions. For example, anticipation and joy combine to be optimism. Joy and trust combine to be love. Emotions are often complex, and being able to recognize when a feeling is actually a combination of two or more distinct feelings is a helpful skill.

The intensity of emotion decreases as you move outward and increases as you move toward the wheel's center. The intensity of the emotion is indicated by the color. The darker the shade, the more intense the emotion. For example, anger at its least level of intensity is annoyance. At its highest level of intensity, anger becomes rage.

Trust goes from acceptance to admiration

Fear goes from timidity to terror

Surprise goes from uncertainty to amazement

Sadness goes from gloominess to grief

Disgust goes from dislike to loathing

Anger goes from annoyance to fury

Anticipation goes from interest to vigilance

Joy goes from serenity to ecstasy

The basic emotional pairs are as follows:

Joy and Sadness

Trust and Disgust

Fear and Anger

Surprise and Anticipation

Combinations: All other emotions occur as a result of a mixture, or combination, of the basic emotions. For example, love is a combination of joy (primary emotion) and trust (primary emotion).

Emotions on Plutchik’s wheel may be combined as follows:

Anticipation + Joy = Optimism (with its opposite being disapproval)

Joy + Trust = Love (with its opposite being remorse)

Trust + Fear = Submission (with its opposite being contempt)

Fear + Surprise = Awe (with its opposite being aggression)

Surprise + Sadness = Disapproval (with its opposite being optimism)

Sadness + Disgust = Remorse (with its opposite being love)

Disgust + Anger = Contempt (with its opposite being submission)

Anger + Anticipation = Aggressiveness (with its opposite being awe)

Opposites: The primary emotions are categorized into pairs of polar opposites.

Joy is the opposite of sadness.

Fear is the opposite of anger.

Anticipation is the opposite of surprise.

Disgust is the opposite of trust.

Similarity: All emotions have different degrees of similarity to one another.

The following info-graph is another useful tool to help you identify your emotion and its root emotion.

Understanding what you are feeling is the key to unlocking your ability to navigate through difficult emotions as well growing your capacity to align with peace and love.

As Always,

Peace & Love.


Information taken from Robert Plutchik theory on human emotions.

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