Friday, 25 January 2013

Emotions - Primary vs. Secondary

A few months ago, my husband and I caught the tail end of something on TV. I can't even remember for the life of me, what it was. If it was a "Dateline" type show or a documentary. It was touching on Primary and Secondary emotions and it was very intriguing.

One that really struck out was Anger. Anger is a secondary emotion to a few primary ones such as hurt, humiliation and frustration.

Anger is often called a secondary emotion because we tend to resort to anger in order to protect ourselves from or cover up other vulnerable feelings. A primary feeling is what is what is felt immediately before we feel anger. We almost always feel something else first before we get angry.
We might first feel afraid, attacked, offended, disrespected, forced, trapped, or pressured. If any of these feelings are intense enough, we think of the emotion as anger.
As the drawing below illustrates, anger is like an iceberg in that only some of the emotions are visible. The other emotions exist "below the water line" where they are not immediately obvious to outside observers.

The hard part about being angry is the ability to control your actions. At least with me and I think, the majority  of the world. When we lash out, we're trying to make a point about how hurt we might be, or how you were humiliated.  Instead I think there needs to be a great focus put on the PRIMARY emotion. If you've hurt me, I need to let you know that you've hurt me and deal with it immediately before it turns into anger and with most people, there's not much time. 

I think there's many reason why we avoid addressing the primary emotion. Too embarrassed to tell someone they hurt you? I know for me, I'm sometimes too embarrassed to address my negative primary emotions as I think it makes me feel vulnerable. I'm a mama bear and when I feel like I've allowed someone to impact me negatively, I feel powerless. Not something I like to feel. Again, another thing to focus on my 2013 body, mind and soul transformation.  I have to let people know immediately that I've been hurt by them. Many times it may be a total misunderstanding, or not their intention in the first place. Or maybe I'm just hurt and really its superficial, and in that case, I need to keep my big mouth shut. 

So this year, things to keep in mind. Life is too short to live with hatred, anger and the primary emotion HURT. Deal with these things. Don't let them fester. Forgive those who have hurt you, apologize to those you've hurt. 

Some links on this topic for further reading:


  1. Where did you find this illustration? My husband teaches a batterer's intervention program and he draws the same type of concept during his lessons! Simple concept but the program participants love the illustration and concept every time.

    1. I found it here:

      I thought that I had linked to that site as well, but I guess I didn't. I'm going to update the links.