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Newsletter - March 2008  
"Look at the State we are in"  
Paul Ekman (1971) suggests that the human face can present six basic emotions:
  • Disgust
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Joy
  • Fear
  • Surprise.

I say present, for the faces made would not be the emotion themselves, merely a signal of an internal state set by internal musculature and body signals from the proprioceptive system. Some external stimulus or internal memoriy may actually trigger this 'feeling' or, more accurately, an emotion.

I am not suggesting that there are only six emotions, there are certainly at least 120 labels for an emotional experience compiled by one study.

What might be useful though, is to routinely and frequently check on our emotional state, for this is the key to become less reactive to the world around us by default.

So how do emotions 'anger', 'joy', 'surprise' etc. manifest in YOU? Are you conscious of your ongoing emotional state? What is your default state and does it serve you well enough? What would you prefer your normal state to be?

Perhaps you hadn't been concious of your state until now - it might be useful to dip one's toe into each state to experience (in a safe environment for you of course) what it is like to be Sad, Joyful etc. If you want to shy away from emotions then ask yourself why that should be; for the human 'being' can be suggested as a whole made up of behaviour, thought and emotional characteristics. Any suppression of one part will effect the other characteristics of the self. This doesn't mean that emotions ought to be given free reign all the time - Appropriateness is a useful word to use here!

What this does mean is the gaining of choice and freedom for oneself - to be and take responsibility not just for one's actions but also one's thoughts and emotions rather than buffeted by the world around us, passively and helplessly.

Appropriate expression of emotion is healthy and serves a purpose for the person in question.

Furthermore; How do you know for sure what other people are feeling? What would be your evidence for that? and if you asked them about their experience, would they confirm or refute your label for their experience? It is possible to fall into a trap and attempt to mind-read other's experiences and fit our perception onto them...

Just a thought (and emotion!)

More soon!


Ekman, P. and W. V. Friesen (1971). "Constants across cultures in the face and emotion." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 17(2): 124-29

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