The Four Greatest Emotions of the Heart

The seat of human emotions is not the heart but the pair of almond-sized amygdala in the brain (courtesy of

As a fairly prosaic person who thinks more than he feels, I am not naturally given to bursts of extreme joy, anger or sorrow. Adopting a rather Zen-like philosophy in life, I try to stick to the middle path. If a particularly contentious issue comes my way, I normally try to resolve it in the most amicable and least conflicting manner.

Lately, however, I find that my heart starts to get in the way more often. I find that I cannot just sit back and use a purely logical approach to resolve them. Fortunately, I haven't exploded in a truly un-dignified manner and chose to find a solution to an emotionally distressing situation rather than to just grin and bear it.

Somehow or other, the heart gets in the way. Or more precisely the amygdala of the brain.

Interestingly, some have labelled the autonomic responses associated with intense and immediate feelings to the gut (ie a gut response). Its a description of that feeling you get in your abdomen (kind of like "butterflies in the stomach") when faced with a particularly daunting challenge.

While the mental faculties of reason, logic, analysis and calculation help one make sense of various situations, it is the emotion which ultimately decides. Depending on your levels of self control, the battle between the heart and the mind can be long and protracted (eg deciding whether to leave a job or end a marriage), or instantaneous (eg chocolate, vanilla or cookies and cream).

What are four of the most powerful emotional drivers?

The greatest (and most primitive, since it originates from our early reptilian brain) is fear. Nothing drives human behaviour more than the fight for survival in the face of extreme danger.

Yoda said it right when he told young Anakin Skywalker, "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

Coming a close second is anger. One of the reasons why the theme of revenge is so popular in movies and television is because people are driven by anger. Hopefully, the righteous type of anger that rights all the injustices and wrongs of this world.

The third one is sorrow. When one is afflicted by sadness, disappointment and depression, nothing else matters in his or her mind. The feeling of forlornness can sometimes be so significant that it overrides human survival instincts.

The light at the end of the emotional tunnel is of course joy. Happiness and joy are often cited as the ultimate goal for all human beings. The pursuit of happiness provides that energy which keeps us all going on the long road of life.

Understanding the drivers of fear, anger, sorrow and joy are critical skills for today's manager. Handling the delicate emotional state of colleagues requires empathy, compassion, and tact, while still maintaining a clear head (don't miss the forest for the sobbing tree). If you're seen to be uncaring or unfeeling by your team, it will be a matter of time before they vote with their feet.

Similarly, knowing these powerful drivers of your customers and stakeholders can make a critical difference between marketing success and failure. You can list down all the joyful, happy and positive benefits of your product and service. You can paint that ideal scenario in their minds. However, nothing makes them beat a door down to your outlet than a 50% sale which ends tonight at midnight!

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