Differences between primary emotions and secondary emotions

Primary emotions are considered innate responses, while for some authors, secondary emotions are more complex and refined. Let’s see their differences.

Last update: 19 January, 2022

Emotions make up a complex plot. In some points the majority coincide, while in others we are unique, with a singular expression. This is one of the differences between primary and secondary emotions.

However, regardless of its classification, the interesting thing is that message they have to give us and what we will do with it. So let’s see what they are all about.

What are primary and secondary emotions?

When we talk about emotions, we must take into account three components:

  • behavioral response.
  • subjective experience.
  • physiological response.

In a simple way, we could think about how we react, what we feel and what happens in our body as a correlate. Paul Ekman, one of the pioneers in the study of emotions and an expert on the subject, postulated that primary emotions are basic, since they are innate and shared by all people in all cultures.

With regard to secondary emotions, they are so named because result in a conjunction of primary emotions. It is considered that they enrich our emotional universe and that their expression is unique, since it varies depending on learning, the characteristics of each person and the environment. Socialization plays a key role in their development.

Likewise, there are those who say that secondary emotions are more refined or sophisticated than the former, in the sense that they are less automatic or innate. They are a fruit of learning and other factors.

Emotions are important because they can lead us to react and change large aspects of our lives.

What are they for?

Generally speaking, emotions They are a vehicle for communication and interaction. They allow us to express what we feel, what we like or dislike, although not all of us can do it in the same way.

They are also adaptive, since they allow us to anticipate certain situations and respond. In this sense, they have a motivating role that invites us to change, to get moving.

Per se, emotions are neither good nor bad, although anger often receives its label of negative emotion and the joy of positive emotion. Why should fear be bad if it allows me to keep an eye on my child not to take risks? Why should anger be considered negative if it allows me to limit an unfair situation?

It is the intensity, the frequency and the expression that will give them their functional connotation.

Emotions work like beacons. If we know how to recognize, read and accept them, they will allow us to self-knowledge, understand values, motivations and limits. When we try to hide them, we spend too much energy.

Examples of Primary and Secondary Emotions

Although they can vary according to the author, 6 primary emotions are recognized:

  1. Afraid.
  2. Surprise.
  3. Go to.
  4. Disgust.
  5. Sadness.
  6. Joy.

Some examples of secondary emotions are as follows:

  • Shame.
  • Satisfaction, enthusiasm, pride.
  • Nervousness, guilt.
  • Astonishment, admiration, shock.
  • Anger, resentment, indignation, jealousy.
  • sorrow, pessimism
  • Disgust, rejection.

Within this wide emotional universe, some are better seen than others. Sadness looks better than anger and joy is perceived better than those two.

However, taking care of our emotions leaves us unprotected, makes us more vulnerable to situations. We get stronger when we allow ourselves to feel.

The process of recognizing emotions is key to self-knowledge and to act accordingly.

Ignoring emotions leaves us prisoners of them

Validate the importance of emotions as signs it is something that gains importance in society, little by little. Before, the greatest role was taken by reason. However, the idea that human beings are complex and not simply reason or emotion is consolidated.

Emotions provide us with resources to decide what we want to do in certain situations. Knowing them and living them allows us to have energy available to handle these situations, instead of trying to contain them.

It is also possible to say that emotions go through us and ignoring them does not prevent us from feeling a certain way. Even the cost of letting them go is very high. Hence, it is necessary to consider their importance and manage them in time.

Finally, the management of emotions should not be confused with impositions. Many times we do not react to what we feel for previous mandates. What we must do is accept what happens to us and seek an adequate form of expression without harming others or ourselves.

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