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What are Secondary Emotions? How Many Emotions are There?

The emotional life of people is complex. This can be evidenced in the variety of explanatory models that have been formulated around emotions, which differ from each other. However, these theories share one aspect in common: the distinction between primary and secondary emotions.

The primaries are characterized by being innate, universal and by fulfilling an adaptive function. Among them, fear, disgust, anger, sadness and joy stand out.

On the other hand, secondary emotions arise from the combination of primary ones, are learned and vary depending on the culture and the context in which we develop. If you want to know a little more about these, we invite you to continue reading.

Characteristics of Secondary Emotions

The distinctive features of secondary emotions are summarized as follows:

  • They are learned emotions. In general, they begin to be acquired between 2 and 3 years of age. This is due to the need for a certain level of development so that they can be established. They are not innate or automatic.
  • They are not universal. This means that they do not manifest themselves in the same way in all cultures, even if they share a certain basis.
  • Its manifestation takes place based on what has been learned throughout life.
  • They are the result of the combination of the primary emotions.
  • They contribute to the formation of an identity. The manifestation of these emotions influences the way we perceive ourselves and interact with the environment. Its purpose is social.

5 Typical Secondary Emotions

As we have already said, different theoretical models have been developed around human emotions. Many disagreements can be evidenced between them. However, it is agreed that among the secondary emotions are the following.

1. Shame

Shame is an unpleasant emotion that arises from the feeling that there is something dishonorable, immodest, or unseemly about one’s behavior or circumstances.

In general, shame induces avoidance of social interaction, either through flight or concealment. It can also provoke defensive responses, such as anger or retaliation.

2. Guilt

Guilt is characterized by a painful appreciation of having done something that we believe is wrong. Often this emotion is accompanied by actions that try to undo or mitigate the evil caused. However, it can also inhibit the person and make them think they deserve punishment.

3. Pride

Pride implies a feeling of satisfaction with oneself. It occurs when we have reached a goal and others have recognized and approved the achievement.

In its proper measure, it turns out to be a beneficial emotion, since it promotes the development of self-esteem and security. However, excess often leads to feelings of grandeur, causing conflict in social relationships.

4. Pleasure

Pleasure is the emotion caused by the enjoyment of what is considered good or desirable. We usually experience it when our needs are met.

However, the problem with this emotion is that it could be used to hide psychic conflicts, which can lead to dangerous consequences. For example, addiction to harmful substances or engaging in risky behaviors.

5. Jealousy

Jealousy is a negative emotion in which a person feels resentment towards a third party, perceiving that the affection of a loved one is taken away from him. It requires that a relational triangle be present between the one who is jealous, the loved one, and the rival who represents a threat.

Romantic relationships are the prototypical example of jealousy, but any significant relationship (parents, friends, siblings) is capable of producing it. It differs from envy in that there are always three people involved.

Other Secondary Emotions

Secondary emotions are not exhausted in the list presented. Psychologists such as Paul Ekman and Robert Plutchik present a more extensive list. For example, the former also includes embarrassment, contempt, complacency, and enthusiasm.

For his part, Plutchik proposes a much more complex model, known as the wheel of emotions. In it, the basic ones are plotted and how they are combined, generating the secondary ones.

In this case, some components of your list of secondary emotions are the following:

  • Aggression: anger + anticipation.
  • Love: joy + confidence.
  • Anxiety: fear + anticipation.
  • Disappointment: surprise + sadness.
  • Despair: fear + sadness.
  • Envy: sadness + anger.
  • Outrage: surprise + anger.
  • Pessimism: sadness + anticipation.
  • Sentimentality: confidence + sadness.
  • Submission: trust + fear.

What to take into account about secondary emotions?

Primary emotions are characterized by being present from birth, fulfilling an adaptive function, being universal (there is no culture that does not manifest them) and having a well-defined expression. We are born with them.

Instead, secondary emotions are learned throughout life. Their function is social, they are not universal and are expressed in different ways, depending on the culture and context.

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