Why just five emotions?
Paul Eckman did a study back in the 70's, where he measured all observable facial movements when experiencing emotions. He found that there are six facial expressions universal to all people all over the world.
He found the five emotions that are featured in the movie Inside Out, plus the emotion of surprise. Surprise was taken out of the film because it’s a very short emotion and because, if displayed continuously, after a while starts getting annoying. Imagine somebody acting surprised all the time.
But these are just the universal basic emotions that can be observed in facial expressions. The reality is that there are more emotions than we can imagine. A lot of studies have been made since then, and more emotions have been identified, but let’s just focus on these for now.
What are emotions?
Let me begin with this first. There are five traditionally recognized senses in human beings: Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell and Touch. We all know very well how they work, right?. For example, we know that sound cannot be seen or touched. Only our hearing sensor can receive the invisible sound waves and translate them into sound for us.
Understanding that, we can easily understand what emotions are. Emotions are another type of sensors, similar to the ones used by the five basic senses, and they also have a job to do.
Emotions are reactions in your body that help you understand the experiences that you are living day to day.
That’s right; emotions are reactions to how you perceive what’s going on around you. And since there is always something going on around you, well, you are always experiencing them. Just keep in mind that emotions felt continuously are no longer emotions, they are moods. Let's briefly explore each one to understand the difference between them and how they affect us.
Understand the characteristics of emotions so you know how to handle them, instead of the other way around.
Emotions are categorized into positive and negative emotions, based on how we feel them in our bodies. But let me be clear on this, there are no good or bad emotions. They are all needed for this human experience. How could we know we are happy if we are never sad?
So, let’s take a look at the characteristics of emotions:
- An event around you caused them.
- They tend to be so intense that you can feel them in certain parts of your body.
- They usually last from a few minutes to a few hours. Something lasting longer than that is not an emotion. They are moods.
Moods are the average emotional state you experience day to day. Their characteristics are:
- There is no clear cause and usually have no specific beginning or end.
- They are not as intense as emotions.
- They last for long periods of time.
- They are usually a mix of different emotions.
Let me show you the difference between emotions and moods with this example. Let’s say you know someone who has been feeling sad for a while. Then they watch a funny movie or interact with a funny person, and you notice that they are having a good time and might even begin to laugh. But then, when the experience is over, you see how steadily they go back to their usual sad mood.
That funny experience brought a positive emotion to the constant negative mood. If you were watching it in a graph, it would be like a spike pointing up somewhere on a flat line at the bottom. The graph would look the same if you were watching a joyful person go through a sad experience. But, in this case, the mood line would be drawn higher up, and the emotional spike would be pointing down.
You can change your mood
Being in a certain mood doesn’t mean you can’t get out of it. You just have to make the conscious decision of getting out of that mode right now and start acting on it. In future posts I'll be showing you a few ideas on how to do this.
So, from the five emotions featured in the movie, and listed above, which of those do you think you are spending most of your time in? Or which mix of them?