What Are The 9 Basic Human Emotions?

basic emotions

The 9 basic human emotions can be classified as primary, secondary and tertiary. The primary emotions are love, joy, surprise, fear, sadness, anger, disgust, shame, pride.


Love manifests as a romantic emotion or feeling that someone has for a special person. It also manifests in non-romantic relationships amongst family members. Other manifestations of love are in religion, platonic friendships, philanthropy, altruism, and other forms of bonding. Love involves sacrificing time and effort and doing a favor to someone without expecting them to repay the favor. The three secondary emotions emanating from love are Lust, Attraction, and Longing.  These secondary emotions then birth passion, arousal, obsession, attraction, desire, and infatuation.

Some other bye-emotions from love include fondness, friendship, understanding, caring, sharing, adoration, and devotion alongside openness, warmth, humility, and sentimentality.



Joy is a feeling of happiness, contentment, and a sense of inner peace with one’s self, life, and circumstances. A joyful person dwells on positive thoughts and takes positive actions.

The nature of man and materialism makes it impossible to be in a state of perfect joy. Every person has an unending list of wants and needs that they struggle to achieve. When material possessions abound, other intangible needs such as love might be absent, and this would cause the joy to be incomplete. Many secondary emotions arise from the feeling of joy, including contentment, a sense of pride, cheerfulness, optimism, zest, and relief. Joy also brings about feelings like gratitude, tranquility, serenity, calmness, peace, elation, and enthusiasm.

Furthermore, delight, inspiration, excitement, thrill, bliss, comfort, freedom, a sense of security, satisfaction, and light-heartedness are all secondary emotions that arise from joy.

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A person feels the emotion of surprise when an unexpected event or result occurs. A surprised person is one who experiences an unplanned and unexpected occurrence, sees something they didn’t envision seeing, or realizes something previously unimagined.

A surprised person shows physical signs like an open mouth or jaw, eyes wide open, horizontal creases on the forehead stretched skin under the eyebrows, or raised brows.



Fear is a dreadful emotion that comes with the foreboding that something bad or negative is about to happen. In the face of impending danger, a person feels frightened and scared before any other feeling.

A person can experience the fear of death, people, or even animals. When a person is scared or thinking of something fearful, their skin will go pale, and you can see the dread on their face.

Some secondary emotions produced from a feeling of fear are helplessness, horror, nervousness, and apprehension. Distress, anxiety, dread, uneasiness, tension, and worry are also off-shoots of fear.

The worst case of fear is a phobia, and many persons have a phobia for several things. If exposed to such things, they will be alarmed, frightened, hysteric, terrified, and go into panic mode. People can also go into shock as a result of fear.



Sadness describes a person’s emotions and feelings when he experiences a loss. A person who experiences a disadvantageous circumstance will be less active and energetic and show signs of moodiness and quietness. In the worst cases, experiencing sadness for a long time can lead to depression.

You can identify a sad person by features such as a downcast head, a slumping body position, and puckered lips.  Sadness produces secondary emotions like disappointment, agony, shame, suffering, and neglect.

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Amongst the secondary emotions of sadness, shame produces tertiary emotions like regret, remorse, and guilt. Neglect also produces tertiary emotions like loneliness, rejection, humiliation, alienation, embarrassment, pity, sympathy, hurt, and unhappiness.

Agony brings about tertiary emotions like grief, misery, woe, melancholy, gloom, despair, and depression.



A person’s anger is stoked or invoked due to injustice, betrayal, humiliating circumstance, neglect, or negligence. Active anger causes the person feeling the emotion to want to lash out or attack his offender verbally or physically. On the other hand, when a person feels passive anger, he feels tense, hostile, and is often silent.

Sometimes, a person feels anger on behalf of someone who has been offended or wronged when they empathize with them.



Pride is an emotion that makes someone feel better or more superior than others. Sometimes, a person uses pride as a shield to cover feelings of inferiority and insecurity.

A proud person is constantly placing others in comparison with themselves and feeling superior over them. Also, a proud person lacks self-confidence, empathy, intimacy, and an understanding of other people around him.



Shame is an emotion that results from humiliation, disgrace, and embarrassment. It is a secondary emotion of sadness. Shame can also result from abuse as experienced by children who suffer from child abuse in several forms. Some forms of abuse that cause shame include sexual abuse and incest, and they lead to severe shame that is toxic.



Disgust arises from repulsion or repugnance towards something a person considers as unpleasant and offensive. Disgust is a secondary feeling from anger and primarily relates to the human senses like smell, vision, taste, or touch.

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Knowing the different categories of emotions, what causes them, and how they play out will help you know yourself better and understand your feelings and reactions.

What is the difference between primary and secondary emotions?

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