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Understanding Emotions Worksheet

Emotions describe the feelings or mood-states that we are experiencing, and they can profoundly influence our decision making. Understanding our emotions can be difficult as they are sometimes powerful, overwhelming, or unpredictable. Some clients find it hard to label or identify their emotional states which can be an obstacle to working effectively with them. This client information handout is based on Shaver et al’s (2001) identification of six basic or primary emotions and the attached secondary, and tertiary emotions. It can be used with clients to aid emotional understanding and expression.

Theorists have developed multiple methods for categorising emotions. Ortony & Turner (1990) compared the ‘basic’ emotions proposed by different theories (below). Shaver et al (2001) used data from a similarity rating task to perform a cluster analyis, the results of which form the basis for this worksheet. Shaver et al’s analysis identifies six ‘basic’ emotions, and organises secondary and tertiary emotions in a hierarchical structure.

Reference Basic emotions
Arnold (1960) Anger, aversion, courage, dejection, desire, despair, fear, hate, hope, love, sadness
Ekman, Friesen, Ellsworth (1982) Anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise
Frijda (1986) Desire, happiness, interest, surprise, wonder, sorrow
Gray (1982) Rage and terror, anxiety, joy
Izard (1971) Anger, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, guilt, interest, joy, shame, surprise
James (1884) Fear, grief, love, rage
McDougall (1926) Anger, disgust, elation, fear, subjection, tender-emotion, wonder
Mowrer (1960) Pain, pleasure
Oakley, Johnson-Laird (1987) Anger, disgust, anxiety, happiness, sadness
Panksepp (1982) Expectancy, fear, rage, panic
Plutchik (1980) Acceptance, anger, anticipation, disgust, joy, fear, sadness, surprise
Tomkins (1984) Anger, interest, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, joy, shame, surprise
Watson (1930) Fear, love, rage
Weiner, Graham (1984) Happiness, sadness

This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include:

  • Client handout – use as a psychoeducation resource
  • Discussion point – use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool – improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Teaching resource – use as a learning tool during training
  • Ortony, A., & Turner, T. J. (1990). What’s basic about basic emotions? Psychological Review, 97, 315-331.
  • Shaver, P., Schwartz, J., Kirson, D., & O’connor, C. (1987). Emotion knowledge: Further exploration of a prototype approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(6), 1061.

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CBT worksheet describing primary, secondary, and tertiary emotions CBT worksheet describing primary, secondary, and tertiary emotions CBT worksheet describing primary, secondary, and tertiary emotions CBT worksheet describing primary, secondary, and tertiary emotions

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