It is not easy to be able to shape something so intimate and “elusive” as emotions. Numerous researchers and scholars have elaborated so many classifications of emotional states, but one of the most important ones is one elaborated by Paul Ekman, a pioneer in the study of emotions.
The US psychologist, from whom the creators of the TV series “Lie to me” have shed light on the different emotions in primary and secondary. The primary emotions have the characteristic of being innate and common to all human beings that are universal. The secondary emotions are perilous the result of the combination of those primary and variables related to different cultures.
Primary emotions, the underlying emotional heritage of each of us, are joy, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, surprise, and contempt (for cinema, you may have noticed the first five are those represented in the movie “Inside Out”).
Those secondary, which originate in the course of individual development from the reference culture, are more numerous and complex. Among these we find anxiety, envy, shame, nostalgia, jealousy, disappointment, remorse, hope and resignation.
What are the emotions for?
To put it in words, emotions are the meeting point between us (the interior) and the world around us (the outside). These are the reactions that occur within us when something is significant in our “world”. In particular, they arise from the interaction between our needs and desires and the circumstances that can influence them.
For example, if I am walking in the street and I come across a suspect type with a knife in my hand, I will immediately feel scared. This is because the external circumstance (the knife-type) is a potential threat to the basic need to survive.
Or, between the supermarket counter of the supermarket, I feel a stench and I feel a great disgust. What do I do, buy that thread? No, because instinctively my body told me: “If you eat this you can feel bad, you may even die.”
Of course, as reactions, they are pretty quick and automatic. But that’s fine! Let’s imagine we have to analyze every single detail to understand, for example, whether to run away or go on ignoring the other human with the knife, or whether to eat that piece of meat because it’s always food: we would have been extinct for a long time.
In short, emotions are the instinctive signal that our organism triggers when it is in certain circumstances that can have a significant impact on ourselves and our lives (not necessarily negative, joy in fact tells us that there is something positive for us). That this signal is always accurate and leads us to functional choices, however, is not always said.
Emotions = Actions
The word emotion is derived from the Latin ex-moves, literally “move out”, that is to move, take out. The key here is the verb to move. Moving means acting. And emotions usually follow actions.
If I’m afraid, I ‘m gone. If I feel disgusted, avoid it. If I do get angry, I get caught. Acting instinctively, on the wave of emotion, in some circumstances can save us life, but sometimes it can complicate it.
Let’s imagine waiting for our turn for a dreadful oral exam and experiencing a strong anxiety. We are extremely worried about making a bad figure in front of the professor and we fear the consequences that could come about. We perceive, that is, a danger. Instinctively this is a very real danger, because it is very important for us to be appreciated by others, and to make a bad figure is something we absolutely do not want.
In such a situation, if the emotion we feel is very strong (powered by rigid and equally strong beliefs and desires) we tend to react distancing ourselves from danger. We raise the heels and, four quarts, we leave the classroom. Well done! Even today, we have avoided making a bad figure! Of course, there is no exam on the booklet (and next time it is not said we will feel prepared enough to face it without losing the face), but at least the appearances are safe!
In this case, emotion actually translated into action. The consequences that will result (another examination to give, stress, guilt, and-now-what-tell it-to me?) Will be the result of the instinctive reaction that triggered in response to what was tried. The question is: could things go differently?
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