Emotional Regulation 3: Primary Emotions

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There are approximately 8 primary emotions: anger, sorrow, joy, surprise, fear, disgust, shame/guilt, and interest. We are born with the potential/biological readiness for these. All others are learned and are usually a combination of these

Emotions are particular types of patterned reactions to events. They are complex and involve many components

Emotions come and go, like waves on an ocean. Most emotions last only from seconds to minutes. Emotions are self-perpetuating; once and emotion starts, it keeps reactivating itself. When an emotion stays around it’s called Mood. So a mood disorder is like the climate of you, where a personality disorder is like the daily weather. This is how you can have a mood disorder, like depression or bipolar disorder, and BPD at the same time.

Let’s break down each of the 8 primary emotions:

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Joy communicates positivity and enjoyment, it shows as a happy face, energy, enthusiasm and lots of happy chemicals in the brain like oxytocin, seratonine and dopamine

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Surprise communicates a sudden burst of the unexpected which can be positive or negative. You recieve a burst of adrenaline and probably make a lot of noise as your body wants to react as quickly as possible to keep you safe.

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Anger communicates that something is unfair or unnatural and action needs to be taken to address the situation. It’s wise to always check the facts of a situation when anger is in the blood, namely adrenaline and noradrenaline.

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Sorrow communicates the experience of loss and grieving. It forces the body to slow down and be gentle with yourself so you can take the time to heal.


Fear communicates a threat or danger and jumps into action with adrenaline to keep you safe. Too much fear and anxiety can be very stressful on your body and cause panic attacks or burnout.

Good disgust/confused face for an emotions chart. Teens might ...

Disgust communicates something that is poisonous whether it be in your food or in your social life. Things that disgust us are usually things that threaten our well-being so care must be taken to avoid those things.

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Interest communicates our indestructible curiosity and a need to learn more about something. Humans are learning creatures, finding boredom to be a very uncomfortable state of being. I find life to be so much better if I’m indulging interest in something new!

Shame your unit: LING292

Shame/Guilt communicates the responsibility we must take when we have done wrong. Usually the action urge is to cover and hide ourselves but the true way through this discomfort is to make the connection needed to heal from the wrong that has been done.

There are dozens of other emotions that can be identified and I encourage you to indulge your own curiosity and find them. Sometimes finding the words to describe the emotions you are feeling will give you a better understanding of your action urges and explain your bodies automatic response to your environment.