Home Research Neurosciences: Brain & Behavior Understanding and Reconciling The Seven Primary Emotional Drives

Understanding and Reconciling The Seven Primary Emotional Drives

12 min read

Effective coaches assist their clients by helping them “learn to learn” — the topic of which is themselves and their relationships. Coaching, with its strong affiliation to organisational effectiveness and efficiency, can be mistakenly viewed as a practice that celebrates a narrow and analytical view of rationality.

This misunderstanding can be perpetuated by prospective coachee’s who may ‘only’ want to focus on the perceived keys to performance (perception, thinking), banishing emotion to the realm of the therapist. Whilst this is likely not the approach for any coach with a rigorous degree of psychological training, it can still be a mode of performance we are tempted to slip into when a client is impatient for results.

Emotions and Conscious Choice

Recent work in the fields of affective neuroscience, embodied cognition, and interpersonal neurobiology is revealing how important emotions are for the conscious choices we make. This article explores the foundations of this pioneering work, emphasising the seven primary emotional drives and the importance of understanding them for the purpose of our and our client’s emotional needs and development.

‘The Hidden Spring’

The word emotion comes from the French word émotion, a compound of old French and Latin terms meaning, “to stir up,” to “agitate,” and “to move.” By dropping the e from emotion, we are left with the word motion; a useful way of understanding how our thought and behaviour is driven by what we feel. Professor of Neuropsychology and Psychoanalyst Mark Solms argues in his book, The Hidden Spring, that our consciousness is rooted in this feeling. The title alludes to the fact that our conscious awareness, rather than being found in our more evolved, analytical faculties, emerges instead from the ‘hidden spring’ of our emotions.

How can you be unaware of a feeling?

Our brain is a hierarchical system with the most evolved faculties of language, conscious thought and self-awareness at the top, and the most ancient functions of body sensations and instinctive responses at the bottom. Our emotional experience springs primarily from the middle, the top of the brainstem and limbic system, what is referred to as the Mammalian Brain.

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