Level II: The Prime Six Emotions

To begin building a robust emotional vocabulary to increase EQ, there are a total of 75 emotions between Conversational EQ Levels I and II. The more you incorporate these emotions into your conversations, the more EQTunement towards Collaborative Change is possible.

Emotional Data

View emotions during a conversation like data. We are meant to make the best decisions using quality data. In the same way, the brain is designed to make decisions with emotions. So while emotions don't have to control us, we shouldn't ignore them. Therefore, developing an emotional vocabulary increases your capacity to gather and manage the best data.

There are 6 emotion cards that are marked with the words, "Prime Six". We use these cards to teach how emotions affect your brain and EQ. 

Prime Six

In the first years of life, babies are meant to learn how to navigate (completely non-verbally by observing facial communication) through six key emotions. These emotions are like primary colours on an artist's palette for a lifetime of rich and creative emotional expression. Unfortunately, depending upon our parental resources as children, we don't always get a chance to learn healthy skills to regulate these Prime Six emotions. The good news is it's never too late to learn!

The Prime Six emotions are:

  1. Anger
  2. Disgust
  3. Fear
  4. Sadness
  5. Hopeless Despair
  6. Shame

Mixing the Prime Six

Each emotion can be used to break down more complex emotions. For example:

  • Anger + Hopeless Despair = Enraged
  • Fear + Shame = Dread
  • Hopeless Despair + Shame = Overwhelmed

Knowing the Prime Six can help break down more complex emotions for healthier responses and regulation.

Prime Six and Joy

The only emotion that can appropriately address the Prime Six is joy.

For example, if a child feels afraid because their parent has disappeared from sight, it is the parent's role to help the child return to joy and reassure the child that they have not abandoned anybody. However, if the parent does not address this fear with joy, by being glad to be together, then the child may begin to believe their parent will actually abandon them, or worse, do it on purpose to be hurtful. To take it a step further, if the parent does not assure her child that it is perfectly OK to feel fear as long as the response is returning to joy, then the child will begin to experience shame. They will begin to believe they are "bad," and this type of toxic shame will have a negative impact on behaviour in later adult years. This will keep the child "stuck" in fear and shame without the capacity or skills to return to joy. Normal situations will trigger this fear of abandonment and the child will make inappropriate and irrational adult decisions with childish maturity as an adult.

A Little More on Shame

Shame is the feeling of wanting to hide. There is both appropriate shame and inappropriate shame. Appropriate shame (some consider this the emotion of guilt) is when you notice that people have lost the joy to be with you.

Let's say you made a joke at work that you didn't realize would offend a colleague. Using your EQ, you recognize from the colleague's facial expression that they are offended, which causes you a feeling of shame. The appropriate response would be to return to joy by apologizing, taking responsibility, and asking them to share the reasons they were offended. You can now avoid making the same mistake in the future.

The opposite of appropriate shame is "toxic" shame. Toxic shame is the difference between feeling you have done something "bad" and instead believing you are bad. Toxic shame causes us to wear inauthentic masks to hide our weaknesses and insecurities. Toxic shame causes us to respond inappropriately when people lose joy to be with us. In our example, toxic shame may lead you to accuse your colleague of being overly sensitive and to just "toughen up," or you may avoid the relationship completely to hide from confrontation or reconciliation. Whatever you do, neither of you will have true joy to be with each other from that point on.

Practicing the Prime Six

Lay out the Prime Six in order based upon the number scale (the number scale will become more important later). 

Each player, starting with anger, shares an "I feel" and "I think" statement on any subject they want. Keep going down the number scale until "shame."

Note: In general, as players move to shame, statements can become more emotional. This is perfectly OK. Remember, the key is joy, which comes from each player being glad to be together as people share their weaknesses. Nobody should respond or else the Corrective Complex can derail the entire group.

Next: The Emotions Scale >

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