Emotional Style

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Emotional Style


Although most people use the terms feelings and emotions interchangeably, there is a difference between feelings and emotions. Feelings are the sensory experiences in one’s body activated through the autonomic nervous system. As we are all made up of an elaborate electrical energy system, another way we can look at e-motions is to think of them as energy in motion. Emotions are generally considered to be how one expresses what one is feeling.

Most researchers recognize that emotions are made up of three parts—the physiological/sensory experience, the cognitive (how we label/perceive/interpret) experience and the expression of the emotion either verbally or non-verbally through body language such as crossed or open arms and legs, facial expressions like eye movement, raised eyebrows, frowning, or smiling.

Researchers categorize between eight and twelve basic emotions: joy, interest/excitement, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust, contempt, fear, shame, and guilt. Some psychologists include love as a basic emotion. All other feeling words are considered a variation or a combination of these basic emotions. It has been noted, rather ironically, that there is only one positive basic emotion—joy; interest/excitement and surprise could fall into either the positive or negative side of the scale.

Anger, Fear, Sadness & Joy (and related words)

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Emotional style is how you interact with others and how you handle stress. Your emotional style is your instinctive emotional reaction to situations.  Mike and Karen Gosling suggest that there are only two emotional styles—avoidant or reactive, otherwise known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Most people believe that emotions are caused by events. They are in fact caused by our interpretations of events, sometimes so quickly as to be below the level of consciousness. How we think about something greatly affects what we feel, also, how we think about ourselves and the situation will determine how we express what we are feeling.

It is generally believed that both men and women feel the full range of feelings, but that men are either physiologically or socially wired to express their feelings differently. Researchers lean toward the theory that boys aren’t socialized to show and express their feelings in their developmental years, except through competitive sports, therefore, men tend to be able to express their ‘negative’ emotions such as anger and rage easier than their gentler and more tender feelings.

According to Tara Bennett-Goleman there are ten basic emotional styles that could be hurting your relationships, and ultimately keeping you from living your best life; these are: Abandonment, Entitlement, Subjugation, Exclusion, Mistrust, Failure, Unlovability, Perfectionism, Deprivation, and Vulnerability. Each of these emotional styles is based on one’s thoughts about themselves and their world—real or imagined. Most of these thoughts are unconscious and were acquired during one’s developing years through their interactions with their family and the society they grew up in.

Both partners must know themselves well enough to know what baggage, if any, they are bringing into the relationship. The older the individuals are, the more likelihood of unresolved issues from childhood and hurts from past relationships. There never will be a time when we are ever completely free from life experiences that have negatively impacted us, but an awareness of what those issues are can greatly improve one’s chances of having a happy, healthy, fulfilling relationship. If both parties can each take ownership of their own issues without projecting their ‘stuff’ onto their partner the relationship can succeed.


Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Own Emotional Style


  1. Am I aware of my feelings?
  2. How do I express what I’m feeling?
  3. Do I tend to react or retreat during a conflict?
  4. How do I handle stress?

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