IDENTIFYING Emotions (Part 1)

I just can’t handle them

PREVIOUS: The Body & Emotions – #3

REVIEW: Getting to our Emotions – Under


Many psychologists & sociologists have created their own Primary Emotions list (90 so far), some of which are seen on the Changing Minds & Alley Dog sites.
One THEORY of Emotions
A variety of concepts try to explain the source of Emotions (Es), put forth by psychologists, sociologists, philosophers & scientist.
EXP: The James-Lange theory argues that an ‘event’ first causes physical arousal (body), which we then interpret (mind). Only after the interpretation do we experience emotions (body) related to the event.  However, if the physical ‘symptoms’ are not noticed or not given any thought about a specific event, then we don’t experience emotions

Here are some ways to think about this theory:
Expl: You’re walking down a dark alley late at night. You hear footsteps behind you. You start to shake, your heart beats faster & your breathing deepens. As you notice these body changes & decide this is telling you you’re in danger – then you feel fear

: Those same physical symptoms can also occur when you met your exciting new lover – & your interpretation (what you’re thinking) is that this is a very good thing – so you feel the emotions of excitement, joy & sexual desire!

No Reaction: If you just found out that you lost out on a job opportunity you interviewed for but weren’t crazy about getting – you don’t have a physical response & don’t give it a second thought – so you’re not upsetBIG Es

Suppressed Reaction: You’re having a very busy day, running around without a moment to think.  You pass by a major car accident on the street, with people screaming & bodies everywhere.  You don’t stop – you’re mind is on the next task & how late you are, so you’re too preoccupied to feel anything about the event you just saw

However – you did register fear, sorrow, revulsion…. at some physical level you weren’t aware of – so maybe late that nite you have a nightmare, or the next day you’re sluggish & cranky but don’t know why!

Below is Robert Plutchik’s well-know chart, a 3-D model using the color spectrum to indicate adjacent & opposite Es, (Fear opposite Anger, Sadness between Surprise & Disgust …..) The vertical dimension represents intensity & the circles are degrees of similarity.

1. Fundamental – inner circle are the most basic Es. They are the intensity of an infant’s feelings, whose brain pathways are not yet developed enough to experience a variety of emotional nuances
2. Secondary – each row out from there are milder versions of the core
3. Tertiary – in the white spaces, each E. is made up of the 2 adjacent secondary Es (Trust + Fear = Submission; Anticipation + Anger = Aggressiveness ….)

2nd CHART indicates triads – emotions formed by combining 3 primary emotions, leading to 24 dyads & 32 triads (MORE….— also several other theories of Es)

EXP: Fear opposite Anger in extremes
• Think of some who always seem angry. They’re using that emotion to feel powerful while covering up how scared they are, unwilling to be vulnerable (it wouldn’t if they had a strong identity, good boundaries & healthy self-esteem!).  They believe that feeling fear is a weakness & will do anything to avoid it
• Now notice people who usually present themselves as scared, delicate, easily hurt, a victim, isolating….. You can be sure that hidden underground is a lot of suppressed rage which they’ve been taught to deny & are terrified of!

➼ Yes, anger AND fear can also mask sadness, loneliness, shame, guilt, hopelessness….. BUT we can actually see the difference when someone does FoO work & those extremes get evened out. The person is easier to be around since they live less in the painful Es, but can still respond with fear or anger when it’s appropriate, as well as have a wide variety of pleasurable feeling.

NEXT: Identifying Es #2 :
W. G. Parrott’s Emotion List

2 thoughts on “IDENTIFYING Emotions (Part 1)

  1. I was getting to know someone who presents exactly as you describe here – sensitive, scared….and yet I felt as I got to know them…I felt they were masking unbridled anger. I believe it “leaked” out at others, I gave her the benefit of the doubt but not unexpectedly, it started to be directed at me.

    Its interesting to note this is a “known” phenomena! It was my private conclusion and why I decided she was not healthy for me. I wonder given our collective history, how do we “know” if we are exhibiting this kind of behavior. She is smart, articulate, etc and I don’t believe she is aware of it, however obvious it is after you get to know her. I suppose her only indication is a great loss of friendships, but then, I have a similar experience, but I believe? (eek!:-) mine is due to life changes and letting friendships go that I decided were unhealthy for me.

    Perhaps an indication is that I made (most) of the decisions, vs them occurring spontaneously?

    I guess my thought is how do we see ourselves and avoid similar behavior problems? Do we measure by our reflection in others…..? I need a litmus test for everything, LOL.



  2. If we make the decision to ‘leave’ because we know someone is not safe or compatible with us – then it’s OK.

    If others are uncomfortable with us, they’re not often going to say it or tell us why. Deep seated rage is usually the thing that keeps others at arms length. Doing a lot of rage work (privately) & changing specific negative messages makes a big difference.

    Consistently using all our tools allows us to become sensitive to how we’re reacting, so we know when something’s off in us. An upcoming post re ACoAs & Es. has some Qs we can ask ourselves about that. We have to be careful about using others as a reflection – they have to know us well & not be projecting their damage or expectations on us (unless they can own it).


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