Being able to understand your emotions and identify them in the present moment is an essential tool for building happy relationships that thrive and stand the test of time.
In relationships, we all want to feel understood as much as we want to understand others. If you can be there and show empathy for what others are feeling, you can build deep connections.
What types of basic human emotions are there?
The answer depends on who you ask and which theory you believe makes the most sense.
As people who share the world together, we are always looking for ways to understand each other better and work together. In the quest for answers to such important questions, many researchers, sociologists, and psychologists have debated whether there is a list of universal human emotions and associated facial expressions.
Reading facial expressions is part of the puzzle, but it actually falls short of the goal when it comes to creating understanding and genuine connection by leaving out important elements like body language and tone of voice. but more on that below.
Cole Calistra, in his article “The Universally Recognized Facial Expressions of Emotion,” wrote in 1872 that Charles Darwin said, “Facial expressions are universal and not learned differently in each culture. ” explains the general history of the study.
Since that time, three central theories of human emotion have dominated the conversation.
- Dr. Paul Ekman’s Categorized List of 6 Human Emotions
- Dr. Robert Plutchik’s Circle of Emotions (focusing on the 8 main emotions)
- Desmer, Chapman, and Klemp’s Five Basic Emotion Lists
Ekman’s List of Six Basic Human Emotions
In 1960, psychologist Paul Ekman identified a list of various core or primary human emotions that he believed to be universal.
The expression of joy, or happiness, is characterized by the corners of the mouth being lifted in an overt smile accompanied by tightening of the eyelids.
The surprised expression is characterized by arched eyebrows, wide-open eyes, white-baring eyes, and a slightly open chin.
A sad expression is characterized by a lowered mouth corner, lowered eyebrows, and lowered eyelids.
An angry expression is characterized by wrinkled brows, tightly pressed lips, and protruding eyes.
The look of disgust is characterized by a ridged upper lip, creases on the bridge of the nose, and ridges on the cheeks.
The fearful expression is characterized by the upper eyelids raised, the eyes wide open, and the lips stretched to the left and right.
Contempt is the seventh basic emotion
Contempt, characterized by a taut upper lip and a slight tilt of the head back, is sometimes considered the seventh universal human emotion that Ekman added to his list of emotions in the 1990s.
All Photos: Getty
Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions
In 1980, psychologist Robert Plutchik expanded on Ekman’s concept and created what he called the Emotion Wheel.
Based on the concept of a color wheel, Plutchik believed that there were eight main emotions (such as primary colors) that could be blended, diluted or enhanced to create different shades and nuances.
Photo: Wikipedia/Public Domain
The 8 Basic Emotions of Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel
Opposing feelings: sorrow
Opposing feelings: fear
Opposing feelings: disgust
Opposing feelings: expectations
Opposing feelings: joy
Opposing feelings: anger
Opposing feelings: trust
Opposing feelings: surprise
Both of these theories hold that certain facial expressions are universally interpreted as indicating certain emotions.
22 Secondary Human Emotions of the Plchik Wheel
- anger vigilance
Are these basic human emotions really universal?
Returning to Callisto, he also points to research from the Institute for Interdisciplinary Emotional Sciences, suggesting that previous experiments may have had some bias and that these lists of emotions may not be truly universal. I discovered something.
In 2014, a team of researchers from Northeastern University, the University of Essex, and the University of Namibia conducted a study that asked participants from the United States and the Himba ethnic group in the Kunene region of northwestern Namibia to classify images of posed poses. was carried out. Pile up facial expressions for each type of emotion.
In contrast to the Americans involved, members of the Namibian tribe could only categorize the expressions as either ‘laughing’ or ‘seeing’. Their language and culture influenced the way they interpreted what they saw on the faces of others.
Both sides’ positions seem to be partially correct.
Facial expressions can convey positive and negative emotions, but the context in which an observer perceives those expressions influences the meaning they see in other people’s expressions.
It is important to note that none of these theories take into account the important components of body language and tone of voice that are important in recognizing the emotions of others.
As we all know, sometimes someone seems happy and submissive. For example, smile and nod. Body language like folded arms can convey very different messages of resistance and anger.
How can emotions be used as connection guides in relationships?
This is an important question, especially since experts cannot agree on a universal list of basic emotions and people send different messages through body language.
Luckily, you don’t really need to read what other people think or feel. There are faster and more direct ways to create connection and understanding. It starts with each one of us.
Instead of looking outside and interpreting what is happening outside, we can look inside and experience what is happening inside.
In order to connect authentically and honestly with another human being, we need to be clear about what we are feeling so that we can accurately communicate our experiences.
This leads us to the third model of human emotion.
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Dethmer, Chapman, and Klemp’s list of five basic emotions
For some, it is best to use the model proposed by Jim Desmer, Diane Chapman, and Kayleigh Klemp in their book 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success. it’s simple.
They identify the following list of five basic emotions:
- sexual (or creative) feelings
All other emotions we experience are either subtle versions of one of these basic emotions (such as anger, which is intense anger), or combinations of two or more of these basic emotions (fear and anger). (such as frustration, which is a combination of
They continue to describe the sentiment as follows. energy in motion. At its simplest level, emotions are energy that moves in and on the body’ or put another way, ’emotions are bodily sensations’.
If an emotion is a physical sensation, it means two things.
- Emotions are just natural, automatic bodily responses to our thoughts.
- It is natural and automatic, so it is neither good nor bad. It’s what our bodies do to tell us what they’re thinking.
This makes it much easier to know what’s going on inside you, with information literally at your fingertips, letting go of judgment and just observing.
The first step is to pay attention to bodily sensations. The second step is telling others how we feel.
For example, in an argument with another person, instead of exchanging insults by saying, “You’re so mean,” pay attention to your current physical sensations. Speaking from that awareness, “My chest hurts and I feel nauseous. I’m sad and scared.”
Such statements clearly communicate what you are going through and are not inherently defensive or challenging. It invites others to your experience. Brings understanding and connection.
It’s not guaranteed that others will be willing to do the same, but it’s certainly more likely to happen when someone is invited to an experience than criticized.
Regardless, there is no doubt that staying in touch with your emotions allows you to connect more with your own experiences, leading to greater understanding between individuals.
What better way to make yourself known to others than to know yourself first? And what better way to connect with others than to emerge from a state of compassion and understanding?
From that state of mind, the expressions we see on other people’s faces may seem less like puzzles to solve, but more like invitations to connect and understand each other on a whole new level.
Michelle Thompson is a life coach who specializes in personal and relationship transformation, helping stranded individuals and couples improve the flow of positive energy, reconnect with their inner selves and partners, and become more complete. It helps us accept our capacity to love.