How Many Emotions Are There? A Comprehensive Emotions List

How Many Emotions Are There? A Comprehensive Emotions List

Woman enjoying life

Over the years, experts have tried to define emotion in a number of different ways. But today, the most widely accepted definition of emotion is a mental state caused by someone’s circumstances, thoughts, and relationships with others.

Emotions are what make us who and what we are. People, animals, and even plants can feel.

More often than not, emotions are pretty complex. In fact, it’s not uncommon to feel more than one emotion at a time, which can get confusing — quick.

To help you understand your emotional processes better, we’ve created a comprehensive emotions list that breaks down all the various ways we feel and react to different stimuli.

How Do You Define Emotion?

Over the years, experts have tried to define emotion in a number of different ways. But today, the most widely accepted definition of emotion is a mental state caused by someone’s circumstances, thoughts, and relationships with others.

So, what exactly do we feel? How do we feel? And how can we understand these processes better?

How many emotions are there?

Throughout history, many competing theories of emotion have emerged.

However, we now have a list of emotions that accounts for 27 different kinds of feelings. You might not be aware of all of them, but you’ve likely felt them all — in one circumstance or another.

But if we want to distill this emotions list down to its barest essentials, most experts agree that there are only six basic emotions. These are the emotions that blend and morph into more complex ones.

The Basic Emotions

Back in the 20th century, Paul Ekman introduced a theory of basic emotions that is widely accepted today. It outlines six basic human emotions:

  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Fear
  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Surprise

You’ve likely felt all of these before. However, emotions can get much more complicated.

One of the newest studies on emotion showed that we can feel 27 different emotions, some of which include:

  • Sympathy
  • Triumph
  • Desire
  • Awe
  • Calmness
  • Confusion
  • Horror

Many of these emotions are the product of a few basic emotions. For example, we can be broken down into surprise and happiness.

It’s important to understand that emotions are more than just feelings. In fact, emotions can also be found in the physical body.

Woman dancing

What Are the Basic Components of Emotion?

There are three components of every emotion:

The physical component describes our bodily sensations associated with different emotions. This is the first reaction to an emotional situation, but it can be hard to distinguish different emotions this way. For example, the sensations of excitement are very similar to those of anxiety, which also resembles fear and anger.

So, how do you know which one of these you’re feeling?

The answer can be found in the cognitive (thinking) component. This is arguably the most important part, as our thoughts and emotions are inseparable.

More often than not, it’s not external circumstances that dictate how we feel, but the way we look at them. This is good news is that we can learn how to control our feelings by changing our thoughts.

Finally, many of our emotions call for action. This is the behavioral component that dictates what you do when you feel a strong emotion.

3 theories Of emotion

People have been trying to understand human emotions for a very long time.

As a result, there are many different theories of emotion, which can be grouped into the main three categories:

  • Physiological
  • Cognitive
  • Neurological

Physiological theories assume that our emotions are a product of bodily sensations. External stimuli cause our bodies to react, which results in an emotional response.

Neurological theories suggest that all emotions are the result of brain activities.

And cognitive theories seek to explain how our thoughts connect to our emotions.

Emotion chart

As mentioned, there are many emotions that stem from the 6 basic emotions.

To help people understand them better, psychologists have created a variety of emotion charts and wheels. They’re often used in therapy to help people understand the root emotion behind the more complex ones.

For example, if you’re feeling happy, you also feel peaceful, accepted, or optimistic. Optimism can be a result of hopefulness and inspiration, while acceptance can stem from feeling valued and respected.

If you’ve never used an emotions wheel, you should give it a try! It might help you break down your complex emotions and put things into perspective.

Man on the street

Types of Emotions

We have two types of emotions: primary and secondary.

Primary emotions are our body’s first reaction to what’s happened. They’re very strong and easy to identify.

Secondary emotions are usually harder to understand, as they’re actually reactions to primary emotions.

For example, there’s a long list of emotions that surround fear, but not all of them have to be negative. To understand secondary emotions, you have to take a close look at your thoughts about the primary emotions.

Primary emotions

It’s believed that there are eight primary emotions:

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Interest
  • Surprise
  • Disgust
  • Shame

These occur immediately after a significant event. They’re instinctual and primal, and you can clearly identify them as soon as you notice them.

As time passes, connecting a primary emotion with an event becomes harder, which is when secondary emotions take over.

Secondary emotions

Secondary emotions dictate how we feel about primary emotions. For example, let’s say you get angry at your friend for being late. This is the primary emotion that is connected with the circumstance.

But what would happen if they didn’t show up for an hour? The anger would still be there, but it might be overshadowed by the fear that something might’ve happened to them.

Even though secondary emotions are harder to understand, they’re easier to control because they’re not a part of our primal instinct. By examining your thoughts, you can influence your secondary emotions.

Organs and Emotions Chart

Emotions are connected to our bodies. Various biochemical reactions in our internal organs cause our body to react to what we’re feeling. This is why your physical health plays a big role in your emotional responses.

Here are the organs and their associated emotions:

  • Heart and small intestine – happiness, joy, excitement, hate, impatience
  • Spleen, stomach, and pancreas – trust, openness, anxiety, worry
  • Lungs, skin, and large intestine – courage, sadness, depression
  • Kidney and bladder – calmness, gentleness, fear
  • Liver and gallbladder – kindness, anger, frustration

Know Yourself

Understanding your emotions is essential to living a fulfilling life. Once you know how your emotions work, you can find ways to control them and be in charge of your thoughts and actions.

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Written by
Irina Yugay