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An emotion is an organic response - physical - of the central nervous system to a stimulus. The cause of this stimulus comes from a construction generated by neuronal interconnections following internal or external information. An emotional reaction may thus be caused either by awareness or a confrontation with a stimulating situation. Emotions are essential ingredients of motivation.

Emotions come into the area of affective states on which a mediator must be capable to intervene.


[edit] René Descartes, Theorist of Emotions

Theories about primary emotions. Descartes proposed an approach that was provocative in his time. In his “Traité des passions de l’âme” (section 69), he identified six primary emotions:

  • Admiration
  • Love
  • Hate
  • Desire
  • Joy
  • Sadness

…and all others are composed of some of these six ones or are variations of them.

[edit] What is an Emotion

An emotion creates a state change in the living world: "to move" means "to put into motion". This change is physically experienced (expressions of happiness, fear, disgust, anger...).

An emotion is a chemical-electrical phenomenon produced by the brain. An emotion is composed of hormonal production. It comes because of a change that occurs in a lived or experienced relationship. We move from one state to another. This change of emotional state can be pleasant or unpleasant. Its suddenness can cause shock, regardless of the nature of the emotion, which can be prejudicial to the person who is experiencing the state change.

The one who expresses an emotional state is looking for a sensory attention from his interlocutors. As for the transmission of any information, the two ways the most used are hearing and sight.

Nevertheless within close relations, smell can also be used. In these cases, both sensory and taste are combined with associations of ideas or operation (the disgust of the other).

An emotion is an internal state associated with an attitude (internal behavior) that can generate a visible behavior (external action).

[edit] Differences between Emotion and Impulsion

  • Impulsion: from Latin "Pulsio": action of pushing. The desire, for example, is an impulsion.
  • Emotion: from the Latin "Moveo", derivative of moving: initiator of a movement in the self.

[edit] Differences between Emotion and Feeling

An emotion creates a movement (to be moved, to be into motion). Emotion is sudden, that may be sustainable or not. It is intense and more or less disturbing. Emotion causes one or more changes in the self - that can be perturbing and/or lead to change our relations with reality and others. These changes are immediate.

A feeling, though subject to variation of intensity, is marked by continuity. It seems easier to cultivate in ourselves negative feelings than positive ones. It seems easier to cultivate or maintain others' feelings than those we can feel towards others.

It seems we cannot control the birth of feelings in ourselves. However, it seems possible to provoke the birth of feelings in others.

[edit] The Primary Emotions

When we clarify the emotional manifestation and when we only retain the primary emotions, i.e. the ones which are not composite, it is plausible that only three emotions can be identified:

  • Surprise
  • Joy
  • Sadness

Anger is an emotional manifestation which comes from the confrontation with a fear.

Fear may only come from the interpretation related to the need for a state change. The person identifies that he might abandon or lose a joy. The fear or fright of falling into sadness can make the person angry. Therefore, we could say:

  • (negative surprise = fear) + sadness = anger

[edit] Classification of Emotional States

Can there be no emotional state? Peacefulness, although not so reported in the literature regarding emotions, seems to be an emotional state clearly visible, identifiable within ourselves and others. However, it seems agreed that an emotional state is defined by its punctual and sudden nature; and its principle is the creation of an internal movement. The lack of emotional state means rather the sustainability of a feeling, which can be positive (tranquility, affection, love, satisfaction...) or negative (hatred, resentment, grudge, bitterness, etc.).

A classification of emotional states in three categories has been proposed by Jean-Louis Lascoux - including the composite emotions i.e. that can be combined with other emotional states - with a declination of feelings that can be associated with:

  • Well-being
  • Shock states
  • Conflicting states (personal or with others)

[edit] Emotional States Associated with Situations of Well-Being

  • Joy
  • composite emotion: excitement
  • Feeling: peacefulness
  • Feeling: acceptance
  • Feeling: affection
  • Feeling: love
  • Feeling: friendship
  • Feeling: satisfaction

[edit] Emotional Shock States

The emotion or the following feeling can reach the well-being or conflicting state. These are ambiguous states, not so sustainable, which open onto the escape, rebellion or acceptance.

  • Astonishment (see surprise)
  • Composite emotion: sideration
  • Composite emotion: stupefaction, amazement

[edit] Emotional Conflicting States (in itself or with others)

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Disgust
  • Composite emotion: anxiety
  • Composite emotion: sadness
  • Composite emotion: abatement, dejection
  • Composite emotion: repulsion
  • Feeling: hatred
  • Feeling: regret
  • Feeling: remorse
  • Feelings: grudge
  • Feelings: resentment, rancor

"Fear is often confused with surprise or excitement", says Robert Dantzer (1988: "Emotions" (PUF, collection "Que sais-je?"); P. 25).

[edit] Categories of Behaviors Generated by Emotions

  • Complaint
  • Submission
  • Rebellion
  • Escape

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