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General Page on Emotions





Resentment, Bitterness


Discouragement, Hopelessness



The Positive Value of Negative Emotions

Managing Negative Emotions

Other Feelings

Men and Emotions

Importance of Our Emotions

Primary and Secondary Emotions

List of Common Negative Feelings

Feelings Predict Behavior

Emotional Needs

Emotional Honesty



Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Abuse

Love, Hugs


Emotional Validation


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* find frustration - add frustration -> energy but does the problem require more energy? (ex of trying to get memory stick off key clip.

Importance of Emotions

Here are a few of the reasons our emotions are important in our lives. By the way, the first few chapters of Goleman's 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, have a good presentation on evolution and emotions.


Nature developed our emotions over millions of years of evolution. As a result, our emotions have the potential to serve us today as a delicate and sophisticated internal guidance system. Our emotions alert us when natural human need is not being met. For example, when we feel lonely, our need for connection with other people is unmet. When we feel afraid, our need for safety is unmet. When we feel rejected, it is our need for acceptance which is unmet.

Decision Making

Our emotions are a valuable source of information. Our emotions help us make decisions. Studies show that when a person's emotional connections are severed in the brain, he can not make even simple decisions. Why? Because he doesn't know how he will feel about his choices.

Predicting Behavior

Our feelings are also useful in helping us predict our own, and others' behavior. Here is an article on the idea that feelings predict behavior.

Boundary Setting

When we feel uncomfortable with a person's behavior, our emotions alert us. If we learn to trust our emotions and feel confident expressing ourselves we can let the person know we feel uncomfortable as soon as we are aware of our feeling. This will help us set our boundaries which are necessary to protect our physical and mental health.


Our emotions help us communicate with others. Our facial expressions, for example, can convey a wide range of emotions. If we look sad or hurt, we are signaling to others that we need their help. If we are verbally skilled we will be able to express more of our emotional needs and thereby have a better chance of filling them. If we are effective at listening to the emotional troubles of others, we are better able to help them feel understood, important and cared about.


The only real way to know that we are happy is when we feel happy. When we feel happy, we feel content and fulfilled. This feeling comes from having our needs met, particulary our emotional needs. We can be warm, dry, and full of food, but still unhappy. Our emotions and our feelings let us know when we are unhappy and when something is missing or needed. The better we can identify our emotions, the easier it will be to determine what is needed to be happy.


Our emotions are perhaps the greatest potential source of uniting all members of the human species. Clearly, our various religious, cultural and political beliefs have not united us. Far too often, in fact, they have tragically and even fatally divided us. Emotions, on the other hand, are universal. Charles Darwin wrote about this years ago in one of his lesser-known books called "The Expression of Emotion In Man and Animal". The emotions of empathy, compassion, cooperation, and forgiveness, for instance, all have the potential to unite us as a species. It seems fair to say that, generally speaking: Beliefs divide us. Emotions unite us.

Human Emotional Needs

All humans have basic emotional needs. These needs can be expressed as feelings, for example the need to feel accepted, respected and important. While all humans share these needs, each differs in the strength of the need, just as some of us need more water, more food or more sleep. One person may need more freedom and independence, another may need more security and social connections. One may have a greater curiosity and a greater need for understanding, while another is content to accept whatever he has been told.

One of the major problems I have observed in schools is the treatment of all children as if their emotional and psychological needs were identical. The result is many children's needs are unsatisfied. They then become frustrated, as any of us do when our needs are unmet. They act out their frustration in various ways which are typically seen as "misbehavior." This is especially evident when children are expected to all do the same thing for the same length of time. The better we identify their unique needs and satisfy them, the few behavioral problems. It is also evident when they are made to do things which are not interesting to them, or when they are not challenged enough with things which are relevant to their lives. One of the things teenagers who are cutting themselves seem to have in common is they are extremely bored at school as well as emotionally neglected, over-controlled or abused at home.

In dysfunctional families it is most often the emotional needs which are not met. The children and teenagers are getting enough to eat and they have a roof over their heads, but their emotional needs are not being met.

It is helpful to become more aware of these emotional needs as a first step towards helping each other fill them.

For a more complete list these needs, go to human emotional needs list.


Primary and secondary emotions

Some authors use the terms primary and secondary emotions. This distinction is very helpful. A primary emotion is what we feel first. The secondary emotion is what it leads to.

Anger is a good example of a secondary emotion. As discussed in the section on anger there are many possible primary emotions which, when they are intense enough, can lead to anger. We might feel insulted, pressured, cheated, etc. If these feelings are at a low level we are not likely to say we feel angry. But if they are intense, we commonly say we feel "angry."

Depression is another example of a secondary emotion. Or we might call it a "catch-all" term. Depression can include feeling discouraged, hopeless, lonely, isolated, misunderstood, overwhelmed, attacked, invalidated, unsupported, etc. Normally it includes several feelings. These more specific feelings are what we call the primary emotions.

Secondary, "catch-all" terms like anger and depression do not help us much when it comes to identifying our unmet emotional needs (UEN's). When all I can say is "I feel angry," neither I nor any one else knows what would help me feel better. But if I say I feel pressured or trapped or disrespected, it is much more clear what my UEN is and what would help me feel better. A simple, but effective technique, then, is to identify the primary emotion.

Managing Negative Emotions

General Guidelines

Here are few general guidelines for managing negative emotions. .

First, identify the feeling. Next, ask if is a healthy feeling. Then list your options and chose the one which is most likely to lead to your long-term happiness.

After asking these first two questions, the next step is to ask what would help you feel better. Try to focus on answers which are in your control, since it would be easy, but not too helpful, to think of things ways others could change so you would feel better.

Another question is to ask how you want to feel. This helps you direct your thoughts in a positive direction.

To summarize, here are some helpful questions:

  • How am I feeling?
  • Is it a healthy feeling?
  • How do I want to feel?
  • What would help me feel better (that I can control)?

Anger Management / Feeling Destructive in Germany - A personal story

Anger Management - A true story

I once went to Germany to visit a female for what I thought would be a romantic vacation. When I got there she met me at the train station with her ex-boyfriend. I asked why he was there and she said they had just reunited and she wasn't going with me to Paris for Christmas and New Years as we had planned. I remember laying in bed that night. I picked up a small souvenir glass that I had brought for her mother's collection. I remember thinking that I wanted to smash it against the wall. I asked myself what I was feeling as I stared at the glass clenched in my hand. The word that came to mind was "destructive." I said to myself, "that is not a healthy feeling." I took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, and put the glass down.

See also the sections on the specific emotions of fear, guilt, etc. listed in the Table of Contents on this page

Expressing Negative Feelings

Here are a few suggestions for communicating your negative feelings:

  • Don't be dramatic.
  • Don't wait till things build up.
  • Be brief.
  • Don't blame or lay guilt trips.
  • Talk about how you feel.
  • Ask how the other person feels.
  • Offer a way to save face. (For example, "Perhaps I misunderstood you," or "I know your intentions were good.")


(I am re-writing this section but here are some notes....)

There seem to be at least two ways the word "disappointment" is used. For example, one day at a friend's I opened a CD case expecting to find the CD inside, but the case was empty. I felt a combination of sadness and surprise, which fits with some academic definitions of disappointment. But I did not feel judgmental or disapproving, as a parent might feel when their child comes gets suspended from school. The parent might, for example, say "I can't believe you got suspended! What is wrong with you??" In this case we might say disappointment is a combination of disapproval and disbelief.

I find it helpful to look at disappointment as something we do to ourselves. I say this because it seems to arise out of our own expectations or demands about how we think the world should be or how we think people should act. In other words, I look at "disappointment" as an innacurate view of reality. Looking at it this way could help us accept that we didn't really understand things as well as we thought I did and that our expectations were unrealistic.

By looking at it this way it is easier for us to take responsibililty for it and thus to reduce the negative feelings which usually accompany it. It also helps us avoid laying guilt trips on others as I explain below.

Instead of using the word "disappointed," I sometimes try to substitute the word "disillusioned." This helps remind me that I had created an illusion in my own mind about. Calling something an illusion suggests that my interpretation of reality was inaccurate. So when things don't go the way I expected or wanted them to go, it seems to help if I take the perspective that I created a false image of reality in my mind and I need to quickly adjust myself to actual reality. The sooner I do this the faster I get over the negative feeling of what I used to call disappointment.

Many people use the expression of disappointment as a way of laying a guilt trip on someone else.

Consider the parent who tells the child "I am utterly disappointed in you," or, "you really disappointed me." Think for a moment how you feel when someone says such things to you. You might feel guilty, blamed, inadequate, unworthy, ashamed.

A woman once said she felt devastated when her father said to her "You have utterly disappointed us."

Is this how we want our children to feel?

The father who feels disappointed does not stop to consider that it was the father himself who did not know his child as well as he thought. Turning it into an opportunity to lecture the child will hurt the child's self-esteem by causing him to feel "failful." The parent who uses disappointment to lay guilt trips doesn't consider the long term damage to the child's self-esteem. The parent is simply using guilt as an expedient way to emotionally manipulate the child as a form of control.1 Disappointment in another person is basically a form of rejection and disapproval. It can be powerful in its toxic affect on the self-esteem.

Another problem with telling someone you feel disappointed in them is that it encourages them to avoid sharing things truthfully with us. It helps others feel judged as well as disapproved of.

Note that it is usually the person in power who creates the expectations. They are the ones who say "I am disappointed." I noticed this in Australia when the governmetn people said they were "disappointed" that the aboriginals put up metal structure on the land where they have created the Aboriginal Tent Embasssy. The Australian police soon came and tore it down.


See also How Parents Create Their Own Disappointment


A more intense form of disappointment is sometimes bitterness, which tells us that not only did we expect something, but we started to count on it or depend on it.

A healthier reaction would be to let the feeling provide an opportunity to get to know the other person or the child better. By showing sincere curiosity and a desire for knowledge instead of disappointment, we open the door to understanding and bonding. In other words, we might say to ourselves, "Hmm, I expected x to happen, in fact I really wanted x to happen. I was even counting on it. I am sad, or hurt or frustrated that it didn't happen. I wonder why it didn't happen. What can I learn from this?" Such curiosity opens the door to seeking knowledge and helps get our thinking back in line with reality. In other words, situations where we initially feel disappointed can lead to wisdom if we allow ourselves to learn. In the case of the parent and child, the parent might learn about the circumstances surrounding the child's life, and the way the child makes decisions based on his or her values, beliefs, and needs. The same idea applies to friends or romantic partners.

Here is an example of how a mother might react when she initially starts to feel "disappointed"

"Jessica, I feel sad and confused about what you did. Can you help me understand? "

The mother might also ask: "How were you feeling when you did so and so?" or "How do you feel about it now?"

These questions, if asked without causing the child to feel interrogated or afraid, is much healthier than an expression of "disappointment."



1. For a good discussion of emotional manipulation see Chapter 1 in Smith, M.J. (1975) When I say no I feel guilty. Bantam


How Parents Create Their Own Disappointment

Here is something from a Christian parenting website in America. This sets up the parents to be "disappointed." It is likely that if their children or teens do not do as the parents "expect" them to, the parents will further worsen the situation by expresing disappointment instead of trying to understand the relattionship between their child or teen's unmet emotional needs and their behavior.

Courtesy and respect for one another are expected: no shouting, no violence, and no insults.


How Needs and Expectations Lead to Disappointment


Discouragement, Hopelessness

When you are feeling discouraged and hopeless, you could look at it as a sign that you need to find some source (or create one within yourself) of encouragement and hope. Maybe a technique would be helpful, like making a list of some things which are encouraging. Or forcing yourself to find just one encouraging thing amid your present feelings of discouragement. Maybe just find some uplifting books or articles or read a story on what someone is doing somewhere to help people. There is a huge selection of inspirational books and tapes. Some of them have helped me both during an immediate down period in my life and also in a longer term sense because I have the memory of some things they said which helped.

Another option is to seek out some optimistic, but validating people. Perhaps just tell a friend who knows you well that you are feeling discouraged and hopeful. Perhaps they will remind you of some encouraging truths.

I remember a few times I was feeling discouraged and I was able to remember some encouraging things. And it helps me to know that I have felt extremely discouraged and hopeless, even suicidal, but I have recovered from those feelings. And I believe those feelings helped me focus on what was truly important to me.

Besides telling someone, it may help to write down that you are feeling hopeless, or to yell or cry it out. The reason it may help is because your emotional brain center, your amygdala, is sending you a message. Let it know that you have received it. I am not sure how the process works but it seems that once the message is fully accepted, validated and understood, it can be integrated by survival forces of the brain which go to work on solving the problem.

Once you have completely accepted that you feel hopeless, you may want to rest. I find resting often helps me and I feel refreshed after I have had enough rest or sleep. After a rest you might be able to take action to feel more hopeful. You can search for inspiring websites, books, tapes etc. You can actively think of people who you admire, who are contributing to the world in the way you believe is needed.

Hope seems to be some type of survival instinct. And the survival instinct may be a source of hope if you remind yourself that it is our instinct to move in a life promoting direction. It might help to think of this: As long as there is one male and one female alive on earth, there is hope for the human species.

Feeling Destructive

The amygdala is capable of initiating a sequences of chemical reactions which create extreme energy. Some people's brains, for whatever reasons, create these intense chemical reactions extremely quickly. In a life or death situation, this could prove to make the critical difference. But we are not often in life and death situations anymore. Yet we still sometimes feel the same urges, such as the urge to completely destroy our attacker.

The challenge is how to use the energy in a constructive way. When I have felt destructive in the past it has proved helpful to ask: What do I really want to destroy? A person? A relationship? Myself? Asking these questions helps me realize that I don't want to hurt others or myself. Nor do I want to damage relationships, even though they may be bringing me pain at that moment. But what I do want to destroy are the dysfunctional systems which perpetuate the hurting and killing which have been going on for centuries. I want to prove that there is a better way. I want to show the world that there are more options than repeating the mistakes of the past. I try to focus my energy in this kind of positive direction. This takes practice, especially when one comes from a dysfunctional family, but I believe we can all make improvements in how we handle our destructive urges by refocussing our energy into more productive outlets.

If you have so much energy that you really have to release it in a physical way, try finding something like a cardboard box or an empty cereal box. If you often experience strong destructive feelings, in fact, keep a supply of boxes handy! After you have released your energy physically, chances are your mind will guide you to what is important to think about, as the emotional intelligence model suggests.


Goleman said that resilency was part of emotional intelligence. Mayer and Salovey, however, do not seem to ever include this, so I assume they would call it a "personality trait." Whatever category you want to put it under, it is clear that resiliency helps us survive and "thrive." I recently discovered a site called "thrivenet," in fact, which includes a wealth of information on resiliency. The site is based on the work of Al Siebert who has studied what he calls "survivors." Interestingly, his list of the characteristics of resilient people is quite similar to what I call high EQ people. The site is www.thrivenet.com


Piero Scaruffi - http://www.scaruffi.com/nature/emotion.html