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Understanding the primary emotions

    Emotions play a major role in determining how we live and interact with others. Often, it can seem like emotions rule our lives. Every decision we make, every action we take, and every perception we have is affected by the emotions we are experiencing at the time.

    Psychologists have attempted to identify the various kinds of emotions that humans experience. Different theories have been proposed to categorize and explain human emotions. 

    The Wheel of Emotions is a psychological tool that explains how different emotions can be derived from a combination of two different feelings, just as two primary colors can be mixed to produce other shades. For Eample- The mixing of primary colors red and blue makes purple. Similarly, blending core emotions can produce more complex, sometimes mixed emotions.

    We’ll explore a few types of primary emotions and how they impact our behavior.


    Most people strive to achieve happiness out of all the different types of emotions. Happiness is generally considered a pleasant emotional state marked by feelings of gratification, pleasure, satisfaction, and wellbeing. Often, this type of emotion is expressed in the following ways — Using facial expressions such as smiling, body language, such as a relaxed posture, or the tone of voice such as an upbeat, pleasant way of speaking.


    Emotions such as sadness can be defined as transient emotional states. This emotion is characterized by feelings of grief, hopelessness, disappointment, disinterest, etc.  Everyone experiences sadness from time to time, just like other emotions. Crying, quietness,  dampened mood, lethargy, withdrawal from others, etc are all ways of expressing sadness.  Depending on the cause of the sadness, the type and severity can differ, and so can the method of coping.


    Emotions such as fear can play a crucial role in survival. When humans experience a sense of danger or fear, they go through a reaction called the fight or flight response. In response to danger, the muscles tense, the heart rate and breathing increase, and the brain becomes alert, priming the body to either run away or fight.  There are varying degrees of fear for different people. Certain objects or situations may trigger fear more easily for some people than others.


    Disgust is another primary emotion expressed through many forms including body language such as turning away from the object of disgust or physical reactions such as puking or retching, wrinkling the nose, or curling the upper lip. One can suffer from this feeling of revulsion if one is exposed to something offensive or in the form of taste, smell, or sight.


    Anger can be a powerful emotion marked by feelings of hostility, frustration, agitation, etc. Like fear, anger can contribute to flight or fight responses in the body. A threat that stimulates anger may cause one to fend off the danger and protect themselves. Frowning or glaring on the face, turning away or speaking gruffly, sweating or turning red, and even violent behavior such as hitting or breaking things are all signs of anger.  An emotion such as this can affect both the mind and body. Anger left unchecked can affect the ability to make rational decisions and even affect one’s health.


    One of the six primary emotions of humans is surprise. The physiological reaction to surprise tends to be brief and is characterized by a sudden startle after something unexpected occurs. The emotion of this kind may be positive, negative, or neutral. If you are walking towards your house at night and someone jumps out from behind a car and scares you, you might have an unpleasant surprise. An example of a pleasing surprise would be arriving home to find that your family and close friends have gathered to celebrate your promotion success.  A surprise is frequently characterized by facial expressions such as bulging of eyes, raising the brows, and wide opening the mouth or verbal reactions like yelling, shouting, or gasping. People who are startled may feel a rush of adrenaline, which helps prepare the body for either fighting or fleeing.

    The emotional state of mind plays a crucial role in life. Every aspect of our lives is affected by how we engage with others and how we make decisions. Having an understanding of how some of these emotions are expressed and how they affect your behavior can help you to make better decisions about how to deal with them.