The Four Greatest Emotions of the Heart

April 19th, 2010   •   1 comment   •   Author: Walter Lim   

What emotion is she displaying here? (Designed by Freepik)

As a fairly prosaic person who thinks more than he feels, I am not naturally given to bursts of extreme joy, anger or sorrow.

Adopting a rather Zen-like philosophy in life, I try to stick to the middle path. If a particularly contentious issue comes my way, I normally try to resolve it in the most amicable and least conflicting manner.

Lately, however, I find that my emotions start to interrupt my thought processes a lot more often. Unlike the more carefree days in the past, I find that I cannot just sit back and use a purely logical approach to resolve them.

Fortunately, I haven’t exploded in a truly undignified manner in a crowd. Where possible, I choose to find a solution to an emotionally distressing situation rather than to just grin and bear it.

Blame it on Your Amygdala

Somehow or other, the heart gets in the way. Or more precisely the amygdala of your brain.

Interestingly, some have labeled the autonomic responses associated with intense and immediate feelings as a gut response. This all-too-familiar feeling is a description of the sensation you get in your abdomen (think of “butterflies in the stomach“) when faced with a particularly daunting challenge.

While your mental faculties of reason, logic, analysis and calculation may help you to rationally find the way out of sticky situations, it is often your emotion which ultimately decides.

Depending on your levels of self control, the battle between the heart (or amygdala) and the mind can be long and protracted, like deciding whether to leave a job or end a marriage, or instantaneous, like choosing between ice cream flavours – chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or cookies and cream?

The Four Most Powerful Emotions

What are your four most powerful emotional drivers?

#1 Fear

The greatest (and most primitive, since it originates from our early reptilian brain) is fear. Nothing drives human behaviour more than the fight for survival in the face of extreme danger.

Yoda said it right when he told young Anakin Skywalker, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

#2 Anger

Coming in at a close second is anger.

One of the reasons why the theme of revenge is so popular in movies and television is because people are driven by anger. Hopefully, the anger which drives them are the righteous sort of anger that seeks to right all the injustices and wrongs of this world.

#3 Sorrow

The third emotion is probably sorrow.

When you are afflicted by sadness, disappointment and depression, nothing else matters in your mind. The feeling of forlornness can sometimes be so significant that it overrides human survival instincts. This is why people who are in the trough of depression may forego the desire to eat, drink, or exercise to keep themselves healthy.

#4 Joy

The light at the end of the emotional tunnel is of course joy. Happiness and joy are often cited as the ultimate goal for all human beings.

The pursuit of happiness provides that energy which keeps us all going on the long road of life.

Applying The Four Emotional Drivers

Understanding the drivers of fear, anger, sorrow and joy are critical skills for today’s manager.

Handling the delicate emotional state of colleagues requires empathy, compassion, and tact, while still maintaining a clear head (don’t miss the forest for the sobbing tree).

If you’re seen to be uncaring or unfeeling by your team, it will be a matter of time before they vote with their feet.

Similarly, knowing these powerful drivers of your customers and stakeholders can make a critical difference between marketing success and failure.

You can list down all the joyful, happy and positive benefits of your product and service. You can paint that ideal scenario in their minds. However, nothing makes them beat a door down to your outlet than a 50% sale which ends tonight at midnight!

What are your thoughts on these emotions? Have you wondered how you can best manage them?


The seat of human emotions is not the heart but the pair of almond-sized amygdala in the brain (courtesy of In.com)

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One comment

  1. posted on Apr 23, 2010 at 4:19 AM

    I like this entry Walter…Well said.

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