Can you guess how many emotions a human can experience?
The answer might shock you – it’s around 34,000.
With so many, how can one navigate the turbulent waters of emotions, its different intensities, and compositions, without getting lost?
The answer – an emotion wheel.
Through years of studying emotions, Dr. Robert Plutchik, an American psychologist, proposed that there are eight primary emotions that serve as the foundation for all others: joy, sadness, acceptance, disgust, fear, anger, surprise and anticipation.
This means that, while it’s impossible to fully understand all 34,000 distinguishable emotions, learning how to accurately identify how each of the primary emotions is expressed within you can be empowering. It’s especially useful for moments of intense feelings when the mind is unable to remain objective as it operates from its older compartments that deal with the fight or flight response.
The eight primary emotions that he identified, which are the basis for all others, are grouped into polar opposites:
- joy and sadness
- acceptance and disgust
- fear and anger
- surprise and anticipation
The foundation of his theory stems from the following ten postulates:
- The concept of emotion is applicable to all evolutionary levels and applies to all animals including humans.
- Emotions have an evolutionary history and have evolved various forms of expression in different species.
- Emotions served an adaptive role in helping organisms deal with key survival issues posed by the environment.
- Despite different forms of expression of emotions in different species, there are certain common elements, or prototype patterns, that can be identified.
- There is a small number of basic, primary, or prototype emotions.
- All other emotions are mixed or derivative states; that is, they occur as combinations, mixtures, or compounds of the primary emotions.
- Primary emotions are hypothetical constructs or idealized states whose properties and characteristics can only be inferred from various kinds of evidence.
- Primary emotions can be conceptualized in terms of pairs of polar opposites.
- All emotions vary in their degree of similarity to one another.
- Each emotion can exist in varying degrees of intensity or levels of arousal.
A Take Home Message
We can summarize the usefulness of the Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion in the form of the following golden rules:
- Learn to attend to your emotions
- Become curious and patients with your emotions
- Talk about them and show your real emotions to others
- Learn to accept having different emotions
- Change your emotions with other emotions
With the wheel of emotion and the golden rules in hand, life will become more manageable.
If there’s some confusion as to how and when an emotion arises in human, then you must check out the following video. It’ll definitely help you understand the concept of emotion in more broader terms.