It has been over three weeks since the storming of the U.S. Capitol and I am still sorting through the feelings that ranged from shock and surprise to disgust and anger. There were others to sort through including disappointment, embarrassment and sadness. I felt betrayed by my fellow human beings and tried to let it go, put it behind me and look ahead. I have had to do that on other occasions.
We have an innate and learned capacity for emotion and we need to not only understand and manage our own feelings, we need to help others do the same. If we do not, emotions such as hate and anger can dominate and threaten humanity whether it is one person at a time or an entire group. There is a better way toward love and compassion for our fellow beings on this planet. Why we have not been able to learn the lessons from history is beyond me except to think that either some folks didn’t get the memo or they embraced apathy instead of empathy. There are other reasons, including the lack of emotional intelligence, popularized by Daniel Goleman’s work, “Emotional Intelligence and Why It Can Matter More Than I.Q.”
We need to appreciate and understand those who have felt disenfranchised for whatever reason including educational, economic, racial, political, and religious differences. Much of what we saw on January 6 was, in fact, the result of irrational behavior emanating from feelings of exclusion, contempt, hostility and resentment ending up in violence. Those feelings were further stirred up and reinforced by a misguided, ill-informed President whose primary focus was himself for the entire time of his being in office. As Sarah Kendzior observed in her work “Hiding In Plain Sight” we should not have been surprised by the former President’s behavior given his history. What was surprising, according to Sarah and many others, is that no one did anything about it.
I think often about the effects of poverty, discrimination, brainwashing and dogmatism on our fellow human beings. My life as an “educator” was spent trying to help both children and adults evolve to a higher level of awareness and being. My goal or mission was to help them be and do better. We must continue that work however we can and in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”
Human emotions run along a continuum from fairly slight to extremely strong. Almost everyone has emotions that, when expressed verbally or physically, can have an impact on others that will be mostly positive or mostly negative. Feelings about one’s self are valid regardless what they are. You cannot have a “wrong” feeling and when someone says,
“You shouldn’t feel that way” it’s too late. The feeling exists and then the task is to decide what to do with it, how to express it and manage it in ways that enable us to benefit from the expression.
Below are eight primary emotions, cast differently by different people who study human behavior. However, there is wide agreement about both the kinds of feelings and their various iterations. In the early 1980’s, the work of Robert Plutchik defined eight core emotions, which he grouped into four pairs of polar opposites (joy-sadness, anger-fear, trust-distrust, surprise-anticipation).
- Anger: fury, outrage, wrath, irritability, hostility, resentment and violence.
- Sadness: grief, sorrow, gloom, melancholy, despair, loneliness, and depression.
- Fear: anxiety, apprehension, nervousness, dread, fright, and panic.
- Joy: enjoyment, happiness, relief, bliss, delight, pride, thrill, and ecstasy.
- Interest: acceptance, friendliness, trust, kindness, affection, love, and devotion.
- Surprise: shock, astonishment, amazement, astound, and wonder.
- Disgust: contempt, disdain, scorn, aversion, distaste, and revulsion.
- Shame: guilt, embarrassment, chagrin, remorse, regret, and contrition
For those interested in reading more, here’s a good article on our FIVE core emotions and how we make them so complex: