In an earlier post I mentioned the 6 primary emotions of mad (anger), sad, glad (happy), fear, disgust, and surprise. With the exception of glad and surprise, all the primary emotions are primitive threat detectors.
Each of the primary threat detectors focuses on a different threat. The “message” of each emotion is an alert that you may be facing a specific threat. An important part of mastering your emotions and using them as strategic tools is the ability to recognize that your emotion is alerting you to and preparing you to deal with a possible threat so that you can choose how you want to respond to the situation in which you find yourself.
Remember that the fast track message from your senses to the amygdala sets you up to react to the threat as if it was a real and valid issue that would hurt you if not eliminated. Also, remember that your initial perception may not always be accurate. The slower track message to the cortex gives you the opportunity to master the emotion.
So, let’s look at the message of each primary emotion.
The message of mad (anger) is that you perceive a threat that you believe you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it. When you get angry, your attention narrows onto the “enemy”, adrenaline is released into your body, and you are ready to go to war. We will focus more on the anger mastery cycle in a future post.
The message of sad is that you have experienced a significant loss in your life. The emotion of sadness is experienced as a loss of energy and a desire to withdraw from the situation. If you have experienced a significant loss, it is in your best interest to take some time and process the loss so that, when you are ready, you can return to “life” and begin to move on.
In is important to keep in mind that emotions are not experienced as an “all or nothing” phenomenon. It is not the case that the feeling is either present or absent. You can experience the feeling as a less intense sensation that something minor has happened or as an overwhelming sensation that some major has taken place. Think about being sad that your favorite TV show has been cancelled by the network verses losing an important family heirloom or experiencing the death of a relative.
The message of fear is that you are facing a threat that will kill you unless you escape. Fear is a present “here and now” emotion and is not the same as anxiety which is a “future based” emotion.
The message of anxiety, by the way, is that you are facing a threat which MIGHT be harmful to you. I will talk about anxiety in a future post.
The message of disgust is that you have encountered something unpleasant, repugnant, distasteful, or offensive. Disgust is what you experience when you taste a food that is spoiled and you recoil with an anguished look on your face. The emotion sets you up to recoil, and expel or get away from the threat.
I hope this has been informative and I look forward to your comments.