The 8 Basic Emotions

It amazes me how often I have clients who cannot put a name to the emotion that they are experiencing.

I’ll hear things like “I can’t come up with a word for how I’m feeling” or “I don’t know what I’m feeling.” And this seems especially true when it comes to men (more about that crusade later.)

For men, many times, emotions range from anger to ….well……anger.

I’ll hear different forms of the word anger, such as resentment, irritation, or frustration, but I won’t hear much else.

Now don’t misunderstand me: I think it is good to have an understanding and connection to the emotion of anger.

However, according to Pia Mellody—author of many books on relationships, including “Facing Co-dependence” and “The Intimacy Factor”—there are 7 other basic emotions that we should be able to NAME and CONNECT WITH on a regular basis.

8 Basic Emotions

Download your own 8 Basic Emotions Reference Sheet

Pia lists the 8 basic emotions as Anger, Fear, Pain, Joy, Passion, Love, Shame, and Guilt. For each of the basic emotions she lists a few words that relate to each, to help people make the connection between how they feel and an emotional word to define that feeling. For example:

Anger: resentment, irritation, frustration;

Fear: apprehension, overwhelmed, threatened, scared;

Pain: sad, lonely, hurt, pity;

Joy: hopeful, elated, happy, excitement

Passion: enthusiasm, desire, zest;

Love: affection, tenderness, compassion, warmth;

Shame: embarrassment, humble, exposed;

Guilt: regretful, contrite, and remorseful


I have a sheet on the coffee table in my office to help people during a session to come up with the words that connect it to an emotion they are experiencing.

So when I hear someone say that he or she is “sad” we are able to equate that to the feeling pain, or if they say I’m feeling overwhelmed we then equate that to fear, and so on.

Often times it is the first time they have connected an emotional label to how they’re feeling and it can be pretty powerful for them to hear them say for the first time “I’m scared.”

Allowing people to label for the first time the emotion of fear, versus always saying “I’m angry,” can be very powerful. People go from not understanding and feeling disconnected to connecting and building self-awareness.

It is within the self-awareness that the real power lies.

This is where this concept connects with Leadership. When we become more aware of what is driving us emotionally, we can then start to build inner strength. It is within our inner strength that we are able to make sense, feel empowered, feel connected, clearly articulate and make meaningful changes in our lives.

Would you like a visual reminder of the 8 Basic emotions to post at your home or office?

Here’s mine, and I’m happy to share.  Simply click here to download the PDF.


Mark Glover

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