When I wrote, Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings, which describes our eight basic emotions, I searched for a way to help kids remember them more easily. My solution was to group two emotions together based on how they affected our nervous system.
The first group of emotions I put together was Anger and Fear. I labeled them as emotions that make us TENSE AND TIGHT. Anger and Fear both pump up our nervous system. They energize us for fight or flight. Anger needs this increased arousal for potential protective maneuvers. Fear needs this as well to keeps us edgy so we notice everything and assess threats to our survival.
The second group of emotions I paired was Shame and Sadness. I labeled them as emotions that make you SAGGY and SLOW. These emotions represent a decrease in our arousal level and cause a temporary dip in energy. We are slowed down and loose enthusiasm for things that once pleased us. Shame makes us introspective and question ourselves. Sadness is our reaction to a loss or rejection; we withdraw to reflect and remember.
The next grouping is Happiness and Love. I labeled them as emotions that make you LOOSE and LIGHT. These are emotions that put us in a state of harmony where our body is relaxed and at ease. Things are working smoothly and we feel open and receptive. Happiness is a place of pleasure. It makes us cooperative and easy to be with. Love allows us to be intimate with others, to share ourselves and be caring and kind.
The last grouping is Disgust and Surprise. These are the emotions that make us UNEASE and QUEASY. Both these emotion cause immediate physical reactions; compelling us to react. Surprise is like an alarm that demands our attention. It stops us in our tracks so we can pay attention and assess what’s happening. Disgust is our automatic reaction to anything that seems noxious. We withdraw and try to avoid whatever smell, taste or touch might be tainted or unhealthy.
For more information on emotions and how to help children understand and express their emotions, visit my blog.