Each bird sings its own song

Emotions are closely linked to the brain and nervous system. If I’m walking down the street and someone suddenly jumps in front of me, I know I’m in trouble and I will feel I want to fight, freeze, or run away. Emotions can influence – and are influenced by – what you think, feel and do. Luckily it doesn’t happen that often that someone jumps in front of us (although I sometimes freeze or want to run away when I open my Facebook timeline), but if we’re in real danger, this survival mechanism will automatically be activated.

There are many other and complex situations we encounter in our everyday lives where we think, feel and act in many different ways (other than fight, freeze, or run away). Emotions are complex, always subjective and purely individual. Even in the same situation, every one of us will think, feel and act in our own unique way. While I am the kind of person who may cover up difficult feelings with a (green) smile when I feel stressed or nervous, you could be someone who cries easily (even while you’re angry), or someone who’s used to get mad (to cover up shame or sadness, for example).

Here are a few nuances of (often everyday) feelings, tracked back to the 8 basic emotions: love, joy, fear, anger, sadness, surprise, shame, disgust. These basic emotions are universally recognized in every culture around the world.

  • Love: acceptance, friendliness, trust, kindness, devotion
  • Joy: happiness, pleasure, relief, satisfaction, rapture, delight, amusement, pride, sensual pleasure, ecstasy, satisfaction, reward, euphoria
  • Fear: anxiety, apprehension, nervousness, concern, distrust
  • Anger: fury, outrage, resentment, frustration, bitterness, irritability, hostility
  • Sadness: grief, mourning, joylessness, melancholy, self-pity, loneliness, despair
  • Surprise: shock, bewilderment, wonder
  • Shame: guilt, embarrassment, disappointment, remorse, humiliation, regret
  • Disgust: contempt, dread, scorn, abhorrence, aversion, distaste

Let’s have a look at an interesting YouTube video of someone who’s going through all basic emotions in one single talk, while she’s doing “The Work” with Byron Katie. There’s a lot of interesting, free stuff online about “The Work”, but for now you can just listen to her story and try to recognize all the emotions she’s having. While you’re looking at it, here’s a small exercise:

  • Listen to her story.
  • Look a 2nd time at this video and write down on a paper all the basic emotions you can recognize in her words and body language: love, joy, fear, anger, sadness, surprise, shame, or disgust.
  • Have a look at your paper and notice which emotion(s) she ends her talk with.
  • Look a 3th time and carefully look at how the expression on her face changes while she’s going through all the emotions until the end.

If you have 30 minutes to spill, I promise it’ll be the best 30 minutes you spend today.


Self realisation, until it’s lived, it has no power. And eventually it gets so clean that you have no past to clean up. And when you think of those days you just experience pure love. – Byron Katie

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