What are Emotions & Traits of Emotional Mind?

It’s important to look back on one of the most horrible episodes in world history to understand what are emotions and how emotional imbalance can have serious implications for humanity at large.

Advanced Psychology

The Holocaust

The period between 1941 – 1945 was the one when Nazis hosted Concentration Camps, Death Camps or Medicalized Killing of 6 million Jews. This mass killing was justified on the premise that people who were racially inferior, that is the European Jews, and physically impaired deserve to be killed.

Hitler was consumed by the idea of supremacy of pure German race. He held that “the life unworthy of life” must die for the pure German race to live and grow. This led to the horrible episode that is famously referred to as “The Holocaust”.

Under this, people who were considered as least useful, that is, those physically impaired, sick or the ones belonging to the Jewish bloodline were shifted to Death Camps. In these Camps, such people were denied of food and were used for conducting medical experiments.

In addition to this, the Jews in such Camps were, however, put into carbon monoxide gas chambers and were confined to death. Now, what was Hitler’s Psyche behind such a perilous act is something that Psychologists have been studying.

Hitler’s Psyche

According to a famous study by Henry A. Murray, Hitler’s Personality is a “Counteractive Type”. People with such a Personality Type make intense and stubborn efforts to:

  • Get rid of impaired self esteem during the early stages of their life. These include insults, incapacities, personal deficiencies etc.
  • Take revenge in order to overcome damaged self-esteem. Thus, revenge is undertaken by forming an ideal ego. This includes denying the weaknesses of one’s personality and putting in efforts to become someone who is entirely contrary to the one he was. This is known as ideal ego that involves a superior image about oneself that helps in achieving things that were earlier impossible to do. This way, the person is able to heal the injuries caused to one’s pride and earn the respect and fame.

Now, what made Hitler a “Counteractive Personality Type”?

Suppressed Emotions Caused Holocaust

It was his childhood experience. According to the studies, the origin of all the insults was Hitler’s father. It was believed that Hitler’s father was a rude man who used to beat Hitler to which he was not able to react.

This was because as a child, Hitler himself had weaknesses like timidity and submissiveness that resulted in his feelings getting suppressed. Thus, such a suppression made him admire strength and power, condemn weakness as well as people from other bloodlines such as the Jews and slaves.

As we can see clearly, Hitler’s childhood experiences with his father resulted in feelings of anger, revenge and aggression. These feelings eventually took the shape of mass murders and killings and his desire to rule the world.

In this article, you will learn, what exactly are emotions and what are the characteristics of our emotional mind.

What Are Emotions?

Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence defines emotion as

“a feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states and range of propensities to act”.

The word emotion comes from the latin verb motere which means to move. And the prefix ‘e’ means move away. Thus, to put it in simple words, emotions have implied tendencies for actions. In other words, each emotion results in action.

Further, there are a number of emotions that we experience as living beings. Each emotion plays a distinctive role in compelling us to act in a variety of ways. Thus, it makes us undergo psychological and biological changes.

Furthermore, a lot has been discussed about the key set of emotions that we experience as living beings. However, psychologists have not been able to define precisely the emotions that act as fundamental emotions in living beings.

The suggestions made in respect of the fundamental emotions are as follows.

Primary Emotions

1. Anger

Anger is an emotion that is experienced when one feels hurt, injured, mistreated, misused. It includes outrage, wrath, hostility and in its extreme form leads to hatred and violence.

Furthermore, the physiological symptoms of anger include increased heart rate, stimulating adrenaline rush and blood flowing to hands. This gives energy to the person to hit an enemy.

2. Sadness

Sadness as an emotion is marked by feelings such as despair, gloom, grief, sorrow, loss, etc. Person feeling sad experiences lethargy, loss of energy, and excitement to undertake pleasurable activities.

Further, continuous sadness leads to depression. This leads to low metabolism that allows the suffering person to mourn over the loss and understand its implications for oneself. Once the energy gets restored, the person is able to plan for future life.

3. Fear

Fear is an emotion that is felt as a result of something that is understood to be dangerous by a living being. This results in typical reactions like escaping, hiding, perspiring, or freezing from the upcoming threat.

It is further pronounced by anxiety, concern, dread, terror, and eventually results in panic or phobia.

When one experiences fear, blood runs into the legs of the individual thus enabling him to run. Further, the face goes pale as the blood moves away from it.

Also, the body of the individual freezes giving him time to think of the reaction to be given in response to the upcoming danger. Therefore, fear activates a host of hormones making the individual to take action and focus on the threat in question.

4. Enjoyment

Enjoyment is an emotion that makes the individual like what he is doing. It is a feeling of joy, bliss, amusement, happiness and in its extreme form results in mania.

As a result, the person feeling happy gets energized and is willingly able to take up activities at hand or make an effort towards various goals set by him.

5. Love

Love is one of the intense emotions that is marked by acceptance, kindness, trust, and affection. This feeling and the resulting sexual satisfaction stimulates a set of hormones that put the body in a state of contentment.

6. Surprise

It is an emotion that leaves a person shocked, astonished, and amazed as a result of the happening of an unexpected or a sudden event.

The physiological impact of such an emotion typically includes the lifting of the eyebrows. This allows for more input to be captured by the eyes leading to a greater understanding of the sudden event and coming up with the best response for the same.

7. Disgust

This is a feeling of contempt or revulsion that is caused by something offensive or uneasy. It becomes evident via the facial expression of the person feeling disgusted upon smelling something bad or tasting something unpleasant in taste.

8. Shame

It is an emotion when one feels humiliated or regrets a particular situation or an action. This emotion is marked by the feeling of guilt, remorse, regret, etc.

Given these primary emotions, let’s now have a look at the characteristics of our emotional mind.

Characteristics of Emotional Mind

Emotions have certain qualities that make them different from other aspects of the human mind. Our mental life is characterized by two minds: one that thinks and the other that feels.

The thinking mind also called as the rational mind that helps us to think, understand and reason. On the other hand, the emotional mind is impulsive, powerful and at times illogical.

The internationally renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman in his New York Times best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence, listed the following characteristics of the emotional mind.

1. Emotional Mind Responds Quickly But Carelessly

The emotional Mind is very quick in responding to various events as compared to the thinking mind. It does not believe in taking the time to understand what is going on at present.

Unlike the Thinking Mind, the agility of the emotional mind prevents a person to think, reflect or understand the given situation and thus compels the person to action.

Now, in primitive times, such an emotional response to the upcoming danger served as a defense for mankind.

It saved the living beings from dangers such as confronting an animal, as the emotional mind enabled them to take the decision of running or hiding within no time.

So, there is hardly any time between the event that stimulates the emotional mind and the reaction that results from it.

Therefore, the emotional mind doesn’t go into analysis or complications of thought. It looks at events in a very simplified way and thus directs actions with conviction. This is exactly the reason why many times we regret our emotional reactions when we sit back and think later.

So, the benefit of such a quick response is that it makes us aware of the upcoming danger. Further, it also helps us to understand quickly the emotional state of the other person, that is if the person is sad, angry, or happy, etc.

But, the disadvantage of such an evolutionary emotional repertoire is that it makes people form judgments or impressions in split seconds. Since it doesn’t allow the Thinking Mind to come into the picture, these first impressions, which can be misleading, become the basis for making decisions.

Thus, the agility of the Emotional Mind compromises accuracy or precision.

2. Heart Comes Before the Head

The Rational Mind takes time to assimilate, understand, and respond to the events as compared to the Emotional Mind. Thus, the Emotional Mind takes lead in emotional situations.

Further, the reactions of the Emotional Mind are quick and involuntary in nature, that is, they are beyond one’s control. Take for instance emotions like love, anger, or fear. These simply happen to us without our wanting them to happen.

People experiencing such emotions usually fail to give an explanation of their reaction to a particular event. They don’t know what actually encouraged them to behave in a particular way.

The other way of reacting to events is slower relative to the quick response. Thinking follows feeling in such emotional reactions as the individual is aware of the thoughts that triggered emotions.

Thus, complex emotions like feeling humiliated or anxious about the upcoming presentation are examples of emotional reactions where feeling follows thought.

Given this, one can say that it is impossible to know what emotions get triggered by a specific event. For instance, one cannot know in advance whether a given situation will make a person happy, sad, insane, etc.

However, it is certainly possible for one to have control over his thoughts. For instance, thinking about happy times makes you feel happy.

3. Emotional Mind is Associative & Childlike

When it comes to the emotional mind, there are no rules and there is no cause and effect. Everything is possible when it comes to the Emotional Mind.

Sigmund Freud describes beautifully how Emotional Mind functions. It follows the concept of “Primary Process” thought. Accordingly, Primary Process involves forming an image of the desired object in order to satisfy the urge for that object.

For instance, a travel buff sitting in an office might think of a beautiful island to seek pleasure and satisfy his urge of leaving everything to travel.

Similarly, people have sexual fantasies to derive pleasure and seek instant gratification to pacify their sexual desire.

Thus, in order to seek instant gratification, people form their own images or have hallucinations or dreams about a particular object they desire. The Emotional Mind builds associations and takes those associations the same as reality.

What About the Rational Mind?

The Rational Mind works on logic and builds reasonable connections between cause and effect. Whereas, the Emotional Mind connects events without careful judgment.

Similarly, the way the Emotional Mind builds connections, it is also childlike in nature. As mentioned above, Emotional Mind carries action with certainty. For instance, thoughts like “I’m always right” or “She’s always angry” or “I can never understand”, all are the actions of an Emotional Mind and show its underlying conviction.

Further, the Emotional Mind practices “Confirmation Bias”. As per this bias, the mind tends to understand or remember facts that favor one’s beliefs or thoughts and suppresses and ignores memories or facts that go against one’s beliefs.

Also, the opinions of the Rational Mind are temporary in nature. These change as new evidence comes up to accept or reject a particular situation.

Whereas, the belief of the Emotional Mind is permanent and certain. Hence, it tends to ignore the facts that could help in explaining the reasons for the occurrence of an event.

Thus, people facing emotional imbalance are difficult to deal with. It gets challenging to reason with them as no logic or reason works no matter how much sound it is. This is because they are in the grip of the emotions that compels them to ignore all reason.

4. Past Comes To Explain The Present

We often find ourselves reacting to an event or a person or a situation keeping in mind our prior experiences. That’s how our Emotional Mind functions.

The Emotional Mind responds to a given situation, person, or event, bringing in the past associated with it. This backfires in many situations because what was a reality in the past might not be so in the present.

For instance, a child who has experienced suppression of feelings on voicing his opinion during childhood learns to act submissively the moment he faces a situation when an adult. That is he behaves submissively even if the environment allows him to voice his opinion.

Thus, our Emotional Mind compels the rational mind to come up with justifications for the present situation without grasping the impact of emotional memory.

5. Emotional Mind Is Controlled By The Feeling of The Moment

The Emotional Mind works to a greater extent by the feeling of the moment. For instance, if one is feeling sad, he will think and react in a different way as compared to the time when one is feeling happy.

Therefore, every emotion has its own action, thought process, and memory. The moment an emotion gets triggered, the Emotional Mind looks for choices available for action. The most relevant options are then kept at the top of the order so that these can easily be implemented the moment emotion gets triggered.

Each emotion has its own impact on the psychological and biological state of the individual, thus making him act, behave, and go through the bodily changes accordingly.


Actions coming out of the Emotional Mind are automatic. Such an emotional repertoire became the cause of survival for primordial beings. However, with the civilization growing, living beings find it difficult to face the challenges of the current world with such an evolutionary emotional legacy.

The speed with which the Emotional Mind reacts compromises the accuracy, making living beings react in an impulsive way rather than responding rationally.

Advanced Psychology