This week I'll be going back to my roots. See, when I was in graduate school, I was mentored by Carroll Izard, a psychologist who has had an incredibly long, incredibly prolific career in the field of emotions research. He also happens to be a really nice guy who has helped launch a lot of psychologists in their careers.
Cal's Differential Emotions Theory (DET) posits that human beings, no matter what culture they're from or how old they are, have a set of basic emotions. These emotions are universal, and have evolved as a way for us to be able to predict how others are feeling and thinking, which is pretty essential to social functioning (keep in mind, there are other theories of emotion as well, and researchers get pretty feisty when they argue about this stuff).
Now--if you buy into DET, you will believe that there are about seven core emotions, and that each one has its own adaptive function. Of course, any emotional response can become maladaptive if it isn't well-regulated, if it overwhelms or floods or stuckifies (sure ... that's a word) you, and I've posted about how to write those kinds of moments here and here. But what I'm talking about today is how emotions work for us. Because, if they only existed to get in our way ... why would we ALL have them?
FEAR: It protects us. Tells us to run or fight. Without fear, the human race probably wouldn't have survived very long. Sure, it can get in the way, but it's healthy to fear things that are actually dangerous.
ANGER: It motivates us. Without anger, we'd all be doormats. Wet noodles. Anger gets us going, fighting for our rights, trying to change the world or just a single situation.
SADNESS: It shows us what we value, and also draws others to us for social support. Recently, I tweeted that my day wasn't going well, and within a minute people were reaching out to me. First, that shows how awesome the writing community is, but also, it shows how, even electronically, communication of sadness elicits social support, compassion, and assistance from others.
GUILT: It keeps us from hurting each other, or, if we do, drives us to try to fix things. Without guilt, we'd be psychopaths.
SHAME: It keeps us in line with general social expectations. I know, that's not always a popular idea, but shame as an emotion is part of the glue that holds society together. Shame at least gets us asking ourselves if our behavior is appropriate.
JOY: It draws us together, helps us share triumphs with each other, allows us to connect with each other and create lasting bonds.
There are other emotions, of course, including disgust/contempt, surprise, and (according to some theories) love. How about it? Can you think of other functions of these emotions? Do you embrace emotion or are you wary of it? Are you expressive or buttoned-down? And what about your characters?
It's Monday, check out Lydia's Medical Monday post and Laura's Mental Health Monday post!