I remind our readers that we have written several blogs on “feelings,” noting that feelings erupt in four consecutive stages: first physical, secondly emotional, thirdly cognitive, and finally in some kind of action (which could be something said or done). Significant in the understanding of feelings is that feelings are undefined. Thus “feelings” belongs with the undefined elements of basic physics, the undefined concept of life in biology, and the undefined concept of love in human interaction with the world. These central ingredients of the existence are so important that they need to be undefined. While time, life, and love and other such basic ingredients of the universe cannot be defined, they can be observed, they can be experienced, and they can be expressed. You have a sense of such things as time and life. Most important for our discussion, you have a sense of feelings. I will remind us that emotions are a subset of feelings, feelings being the first reflections of my core self. Now here I go again using an undefined phrase, core self, without so much as a by-your-leave. I will need to rely on previous blogs, and more substantial writings of other authors to make a case for “core self.”
So here is the paradigm: I have a core self, which we must admit is a spiritual phenomenon (oops, another undefined word: spiritual. Just have to observe it, experience it, and speak it…but that is another blog). So this spiritual entity of my so-called core self generates feelings. The stimuli for feelings can be an internal experience or an external experience, but when feelings erupt, they are an emanation of one’s core self. Then these feelings are expressed in physical, emotional, cognitive, and active (or spoken) forms. We have previously noted that people are inclined to the experience of one of these four elements of feelings and likewise inclined to the expression of one of these elements. So, for instance, I am a person who experiences feelings first emotionally and then I am inclined to express feelings in action or words. Deb is inclined to first experience feelings physically and then express them cognitively. Consider how these differences have made for a challenging opportunity to understand each other over our 42 years together. You might consider how you experience and express your feelings. But for now, I want to focus on the experience and expression of emotion, that second of the four elements of feelings. There are four basic emotions.
The Four Basic Emotions
In previous blogs we have noted that there are four basic emotions: fear, joy, anger, and sadness. These four emotions are constellated in two different forms: defense-based emotions and “love-based” emotions. Thus:
- The love-based emotions are:
- Joy when I have something that I love
- Sadness when I lose something that I love
- The defense-based emotions are:
- Fear when I imagine that I might lose something
- Anger when I have lost something
An important note is that joy always precedes sadness and fear always precedes anger. I have to experience the joy of having something before I have the experience of sadness upon losing it. When I feel the need to defend myself, I always feel fear first because of the impending threat, and then I feel anger secondly as a means of defense against my attacker.
It is also important note about the “something” that I love, have, and lose is that it could be anything. For instance, I may love a person, a group of people, a political persuasion, a physical object, a geographical place, an idea, a hope, a dream, or many other things, some physical, some imaginary, some personal, some interpersonal. The key factor in this is that all the four basic emotions have something to do with love in some way even though we refer to joy and sadness as love-based emotions. So when I get afraid of losing something, I fear losing something I love, and when I get angry at having lost something, I have lost something that I love. Our proposal, then, is that all emotions are in some way about loving something. Let’s move on to how these emotions are related to temperament. There are four temperaments.
The Four Temperaments
I suggest readers review our previous blogs on the four temperaments. I will not belabor the differences among these temperaments but to suggest some things common to each of them. Furthermore, there are many other systems of understanding personality, among them personality type (Jung, and Myers-Briggs), Enneagram (many authors), the DISC assessment (primarily in business). The StrengthsFinder (also in business primarily), and several other “temperament” systems. All of these systems are of value, but for our purposes here, we understand the four basic temperaments to be:
- Player, someone who seeks experience, and often excitement
- Lover, someone who seeks connections, often seeking harmony
- Caretaker, someone who takes care of property
- Analyst, someone who seeks truth, usually through finding and solving problems
We will not belabor further explanation of these temperaments except to say: (1) no one fits entirely in one temperament, (2) everybody has some elements of all four temperaments, and (3) people need to develop the characteristics of the other temperaments to be mature, successful, and happy in life. Most don’t. Now on to the emotion part of this blog.
Emotion and Temperament
Everybody experiences all four emotions regularly, certainly every day, and very often more frequently than daily. And everybody experiences joy first and sadness second as they have something before they lose that something. Additionally, everybody experiences fear first and anger second. That having been said, we propose that people of different temperaments tend to express these emotions differently. Each temperament has a tendency to express one of the love-based emotions and experience one of the defense-based emotions. Thus:
- Players express the love-based emotion of joy most readily and experience the defense-based emotion of fear when feeling in some kind of danger
- Lovers express the love-based feeling of sadness most readily and experience the defense-based emotion of fear when feeling some kind of danger
- Caretakers express the love-based emotion of joy most readily and experience the defense-based emotion of anger when feeling some kind of danger
- Analysts express the love-based emotion of sadness most readily, and experience the defense-based emotion of anger when feeling some kind of danger
It is important to note that we look at sadness as a love-based emotion, not depression, not despair, and not something bad. Thus, lovers and analysts are not more often sad, and certainly not more depressed than players and caretakers. They are simply freer to express sadness when they feel it. Lovers express sadness frequently because they are acutely aware of the loss of connection with people that happens frequently every day. Analysts express sadness frequently because they are always seeing how the world is not functioning as well as it could be. Players and caretakers appear to be happier than lovers and analysts, but they are, in fact, no happier: they just focus on being happy and seek to ingratiate the feeling of joy. They have just as much sadness as lovers and analysts; they just don’t show it.
People tend to express different defense-based emotions according to their temperament. Thus, we see more expressed anger with analysts and caretakers than we see with players and lovers. Caretakers and analyst are not angrier by nature; they just tend to express anger more readily. On the other hand, players and lovers express fear more readily. So while fear is actually the first defense-based emotion when we feel some threat, players and lovers tend to express this emotion, while caretakers and analysts tend to quickly pass over the fear part of defense and move right into the anger part of defense.
A way of understanding this phenomenon of experience and expression of emotions according to temperament is to consider that all people tend to be consciously aware of one emotion while another emotion lies in one’s unconscious. Thus, a person who expresses joy rather more readily than sadness is consciously aware of the emotion of joy but not always conscious of the emotion of sadness that always accompanies the joy of having something. In this paradigm of temperament vis-à-vis emotion, caretakers and players are more aware of the joy of having something but not conscious of the possibility of losing what they have. In contrast, lovers and analysts are much more aware of the possibility of losing what they love, and hence less aware of the actual joy of having something that they love. We could suggest that lovers and analysts are more aware of the potential of losing something that they love while caretakers and players are more aware of the joy of having something that they love. This paradigm might suggest that caretakers and players are happier than their counterparts, but such is not the case. They are just better at enjoying the moment of loving something. Analysts and analysts are not sadder than their counterparts; rather, they are more aware that having something always means losing it eventually. Both the joy of having and the sadness of losing are love-based and valuable in life. But one’s awareness and expression of emotion can lead to difficulties in life:
Challenges Related to Emotion and Temperament
Consider how you express your love positively, whether with joy or sorrow. Then consider which of the two defense-based emotions you actually experience most frequently. You might then be a:
- A player who loves life, enjoys people, places, and things very easily, but have a tendency towards an underlying fear, which could then turn to anxiety
- A lover who loves people and the connections with people, but also have a tendency to an underlying fear, which could then turn to anxiety
- A caretaker who loves things and the care of things, but when feeling some kind of danger to these things, can fall into anger
- An analyst who loves ideas, truth, and problem-solving, but can fall into anger when things don’t go right.
This analysis of temperament vis-à-vis emotions might seem convoluted, so allow me to make the matter of emotions and temperament even murkier. When someone is expressing his or her basic love-based emotions, there is always the other side of the spectrum operating at an unconscious level. Likewise, when someone is experiencing a defense-based emotion, there is always the other defense-based emotion lurking in the background. So, what we have then is:
- The player easily expresses fear on the surface when feeling a need to defend, but unconsciously, s/he feels anger. Because her/his anger is not mature, players can become enraged and out of control occasionally.
- The lover also expresses fear on the surface when in defensive posture, but unconsciously feels anger. Thus, s/he isn’t particularly good at managing anger, which can come out with explosions.
- The caretaker who displays anger on the surface when defending, but unconsciously feels fear. Thus, a caretaker can become quite overcome with fear, which then turns to anxiety.
- The analyst who is good at expressing anger unconsciously feels fear when in a defensive position. Thus, this person may be overcome with fear that there is no way to fix what is wrong with the world. In other words, the analyst can’t make the world as good as he or she would like it to be.
The potential expression of unconscious emotions is most problematic for all people regardless of temperament. It is not so much the emotion that we are good at that causes us difficulty in life but the emotion that we are not aware of and hence not good at expressing. We can improve our expression of emotion by being aware of both of the defense-based emotions so that anger and fear do not operate unconsciously, immaturely, and out of control
Possibilities Related to Temperament and Emotion
While it is important to become increasing aware of our defense-based emotions, particularly the one that tends to be unconscious, it is even more important to become increasingly aware of our love-based emotions so we can enhance our lives. People can be at their very best if they become increasingly aware of their emotions, particularly the emotions that are largely unconscious. We suggest:
- Players mature emotionally as they become conscious of the potential sadness that is implicit in every moment of joy associated with having something rather than singularly insisting that every moment of life must be exciting
- Lovers mature emotionally as they become conscious of the potential of simply enjoying the connections that they have rather than worrying about the inevitability of losing a connection.
- Caretakers mature emotionally as they become conscious of the potential sadness associated with loss or damage of property rather than singularly focusing on protecting everything from damage or loss
- Analysts mature emotionally as they become conscious of the immense joy associated with understanding things and allowing themselves to simply enjoy it rather than focusing on the potential problem with something
- We all feel deeply, feelings that erupt from our central core and are experienced first physically followed by feeling emotionally, cognitively, and in action
- We all experience all four emotions associated with the second experience of feeling
- We tend to be more aware of and expressive of one of the two defense-based emotions and one of the two love-based emotions
- The more aware we become of the emotions that are unconscious, the less these emotions will dominate us because of their immaturity.
- If we focus first on our strengths of temperament and associated emotion, we will be able to augment these strengths, have a better appreciation for all four emotions, and thus not be controlled by emotions but find ways to effectively express these emotions