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Universal feelings

Universal feelings

What are universal feelings?

There is a basic set of emotions common in almost all cultures across the world, known as universal feelings. According to Paul Eckman, an emeritus professor at UCSF tried to answer this question, and his focus was facial expressions. Initially, he suggested that there were 6 primary emotions, including happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust, fear. He later added contempt as a universal feeling.

But these are not the only feelings. In this article, I am going to share some useful information about overall universal feelings and how these feelings interfere with your daily life. So let’s get started:

Universal feeling meaning

Paul Ekman, PhD, says that:

“Emotions are a process, a particular kind of automatic appraisal influenced by our evolutionary and personal past, in which we sense that something important to our welfare is occurring, and a set of psychological changes and emotional behaviors begins to deal with the situation.”

Universal feelings list

Universal feelings all human share prepare us to deal with some really important events happening in our lives. These feelings are not in our control; we do not choose to feel these emotions; it is automatic. Among different emotions, there are universal feelings all human share irrespective of their cultural, ethnic, regional and language differences.

Every universal feeling has distinctive physiologies, signals and timelines. These feelings vary in their duration of onset and decline, but on average, these feelings do not last more than an hour. When any of these feelings persist more than this average time, these fall under the category of mood or disorder.

Here is the universal feelings list:

  • Enjoyment
  • Surprise
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Fear
  • Contempt

7 universal feelings

I have shared the universal feelings list above. Now let’s have a look at these 7 universal feelings in detail one by one:


We experience anger when we can’t do what we want or we feel mistreated. It can be the most dangerous feeling when a person is extremely angry; the chances of violence are increased. So a person may need help to deal with it. ANGER MANAGEMENT THERAPY CLICK HERE  The basic message anger delivers is “get out of my way” and communicates anything from including dissatisfaction and threats.

When we are angry, we may also feel other emotions like disgust for the person who is making us feel angry or fear of inflicting harm to others or ourselves. If you have been told that feeling angry is bad, you might feel ashamed or embarrassed.  Moreover, if because of anger you did something inappropriate, you might have a feeling of regret.

How is anger triggered?

In most cases, we get angry because of the same reasons, but triggers of anger may differ from person to person. Here are some common triggers of anger:

  • Deliberated interference can trigger anger, and in this case, anger will be stronger. It may be felt towards oneself as the individual is not able to remove the hindrance.
  • When someone tries to hurt us or a loved one, emotionally or physically.
  • It is easy to reciprocate anger. So someone else’s anger can also be a trigger for a person.
  • Rejection, abandonment, injustice or betrayal
  • Seeing someone breaking a cultural rule or law, for instance cutting a line or cheating in some way can trigger an angry response.

Emotional triggers play an important role in our lives. Instead of turning off these feelings completely, choose your response wisely.

Facial expressions

When a person is angry, his eyebrows come down, eyes are open wide and staring hard. Moreover, the lips are pressed together tightly. Facial expressions may be less obvious when a person tries to control his anger and tries to suppress it. Still, you may notice signs of anger initially in a split second.

How to make your anger constructive?

There is no doubt that anger is imposing harm not only to others but to ourselves. It is still unclear whether it is something we learn or it is embedded anger. But this is the factor because of which we get into trouble and find when we display anger it can be very problematic.

Still, it is thought that anger can prove useful if there is compassion, and a person expresses their anger with discernment. But a person must be really careful as it comes with violence. The best approach to make your anger constructive is by focusing on the action, not the person. Do not attack or accuse the character of a person.

“Keep your temper. A decision made in anger is never sound.” Ford Frick


It is the least researched universal feeling. It is a feeling of superiority or dislikes towards another person, group of people or their actions. Some emotion scientists or researchers do not consider it a universal feeling, but most experts accept it as a distinctive universal feeling.

Dr Ekman initially gave a list of 6 universal feelings after his remarkable research during the 1960s in New Guinea. Contempt was not added to this list, but then he added it during cross-cultural researched.

The feeling of contempt asserts status or power. That is why those who are not sure about their status may try to assert their sense of superiority over other people. In some cases, people who are subordinates may have feelings of contempt for others with superior ranks. Sometimes teenagers may feel contempt for adults, prisoners for guards and workers for their boss. The reverse can also be true where a person with a higher rank may feel superior over others. For some people, it may be embarrassing, and for some people, it may be a pleasurable experience.

How is the feeling of contempt triggered?

The main concept behind the feeling of contempt is that “I am better”. A common trigger for contempt is inappropriate action by people or a person to who you feel better than. It may feel like a standalone feeling, but often it is accompanied by anger which also includes a touch of annoyance.

Facial expression

In the case of contempt, facial expressions are not symmetrical. It can occur with or without an angry expression or a hint of a smile. You may notice a raised and tightened lip corner from one side.

How it affects relationships?

It may be an enjoyable experience for some people to feel superior over others, but it can negatively affect your relationships. It fosters a kind of mentality like you are wrong, and I am right. According to John Gottman, clinician and researcher, contempt in marriage can indicate serious issues. It is one of the most reliable predictors of divorce if not dealt with in time. So if you ever notice contempt in your significant relationships, it would be better to investigate it further and address the issue. This way, you can pinpoint the actual problem.


Disgust is one of 7 universal feelings and arises an emotion of aversion against something offensive. we may feel disgusted for something we experience with our physical senses, like smell, touch, taste etc. or ideas or appearance of people and also specific behaviours.

Feelings of disgust may include a range of states with different intensities from little dislike to serious loathing. Different states of triggers are triggered when a person experiences something repulsive, toxic or aversive. It may also alternate along with anger emotion when a person is made to feel angry about his feelings of disgust.

What triggers the feeling of disgust?

A common trigger for disgust is having a feeling about something that is poisonous, contaminating or offensive. We may have a feeling of disgusts about something when we perceive it via our physical senses, by ideas, actions and by the appearances of people. Some triggers are universal in the case of disgust ; on the other hand, some are individually or culturally influenced, like some types of food and viewpoints or customs.

There is a continuous debate between experts about whether some kinds of social and interpersonal disgust are learned by a person and specific to a culture, or these are found in cultures worldwide. For instance, all people may feel disgusted about morally tainted people, but the definition of morally tainted may differ from culture to culture. Some common triggers of cultures are:

  • products that are expelled from the body, for instance, vomit, mucus, blood, urine and faeces
  • Some food depending on the culture
  • Something rotting
  • Surgeries or injuries
  • a thing, animal or person someone considers ugly
  • actions of other people, for instance, torture, no moral code etc

Facial expression

The most obvious and recognizable facial expression for disgust is the wrinkling of the nose. In addition to this, slightly protruding lower lip, raised upper lip to form “U”, and lowered eyebrows collectively form expression of disgust.

How it is beneficial or dangerous?

One benefit of feeling disgust is that it helps us in keeping our selves away from damaging or dangerous things to keep us healthy and safe. For instance, avoiding interaction with open sores so that one may not catch the infection.

There are other benefits too, but sometimes it can be dangerous. Unfortunately, in some societies, people are taught to avoid certain people in society, which can be a driving force in degrading or dehumanizing others.



“There’s nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons.”― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Among all universal feelings, enjoyment is most desirable that typically arises from sensory pleasure or a strong connection. Word enjoyment and happiness are interchangeable. People usually prefer to choose the word happiness to explain their overall wellbeing.

What can trigger happiness?

Here are some common enjoyment triggers for you:

  • the happiness which is derived via five different sense including taste, touch sight, smell and sound
  • participating or witnessing little deeds of human kindness, goodness and compassion
  • relieving suffering in others or yourself
  • witnessing or experiencing something amusing or humorous
  • Achieving your own goals and seeing your loved ones achieve their goals
  • experiencing something amazing, surprising or beautiful
  • feeling connected to people, places, religion, cause or nature

Facial expression

When a person feels happy, his eyes are narrowed, cheeks are raised, and there is little wrinkling around the eyes. Moreover, the lips are pulled back, and teeth may appear(The smile).

How enjoyment functions?

As a social capacity, communicating pleasure plays a significant part in flagging disposition and guaranteeing that we are not a danger to other people. Numerous feelings researchers concur that pleasant feelings persuade us to do things that are, all around, useful for us and the endurance of our species (i.e., reproducing and kid raising). Numerous feelings researchers additionally concur are that the quest for delight is an essential inspiration in our lives.


Everybody around the planet experiences the feeling of fear and dread. Dread emerges with the danger of harm, emotional, physical, or mental, genuine or envisioned. While generally thought to be a “negative” feeling, fear serves a significant part in guarding us as it prepares us to adapt to possible risk.

Fearful experiences can be categorized into three forms:

  • The intensity of threatened harm
  • Whether the harm is impeding or instant
  • What is a coping mechanism, how someone can reduce or completely eliminate this threat?

When a person figures out how to deal with the threat, it becomes easy to remove the fear. And when a person is helpless in eliminating the threat, his fear may be intensified.

What are the triggers of fear?

The threat of harm, imagined or real, is a universal trigger for fear. This threat can be for our emotion, physical or psychological betterment. Certain things can trigger fear, but we may also learn to become afraid of certain things. Common triggers of fear are as follows:

  • Darkness
  • flying or heights
  • fear of rejection
  • social interaction
  • Rodents, spiders, snakes, or other animals
  • Death

Facial expressions

Eyebrows are pulled together and raised; lower eyelids are tensed while upper eyelids are raised. In addition to this, the lips are horizontally stretched backwards, and the jaw is dropped.

Is it a mood or disorder?

Tenacious fear can, in some cases, be alluded to as tension if we feel continually stressed without knowing the reason. The powerlessness to distinguish the trigger keeps us from having the option to eliminate it ourselves, or the genuine danger, from the circumstance.

While nervousness is a typically common encounter for some individuals, it very well may be viewed as confusion when it is intermittent, industrious, serious, and meddles with essential life undertakings like sleep and work.

What is its function?

The main function of dread is to maintain a strategic distance from or decrease hurt. We can do numerous things we wouldn’t normally be capable of doing or willing, to do to stop the danger based on our past experiences.

Fear can really save our lives by compelling us to respond without considering everything. The preset developmental activities of fear revolve around the fight, flight or freeze.

“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.” –Judy Blume


Sadness is something that is experienced by everybody around the planet coming about because of losing a significant thing or person. Causes of sadness can vary depending on personal thoughts about the loss of cultural notions. Sadness may be viewed as a “negative” feeling; it serves a significant job in flagging a need to get help or solace. A person may experience sadness along with other emotions like fear, joy, and anger.

What triggers sadness?

Losing a dear person or a very important object are the main causes behind triggering sadness. But it can vary depending on their personal definition of loss or sadness. Here are some common triggers of sadness:

  • Rejection from a lover or a friend
  • Goodbyes or endings
  • death of a dear one or their sickness
  • Loss of identity
  • Unexpected outcomes

Facial expressions

When a person is sad, his inner sides eyebrows are pulled up; eyes look down as upper eyelids seem to drop. Moreover, the lips are pulled downwards. ‘

How sadness is different from depression?

The critical contrast between mood and feeling is based on timeframe or how long it endures. Duration of sadness may be longer as compared to other emotions. Moreover, there is a continuous cycle of dissent, renunciation, and vulnerability. One thing to understand here is that sadness and depression are two different things, so do not confuse them; depression is typically lasting a long period of time and intense, however a genuine mental issue depicted by intermittent, tenacious, and exceptional sensations of bitterness and misery that meddle with everyday living.

How does sadness function?

Feelings of sadness is an indication that something went wrong and a person needs help. It can be assigned that a person wants you to comfort them or take a break from everything to cope with your loss. A professional mental health service provider can help you if you are not able to deal with your emotions of sadness. GET SUPPORT FOR DEPRESSION


It arises when we encounter something unexpected or sudden movements or sounds. The main function of this emotion is to make a person realize what is happening around and to focus. Some emotion experts do not consider it as an emotion, including Dr Paul Ekman. According to him, it is an emotion for most people but just for a moment before realising what is happening and moving to another emotion, good or bad or no emotion. Its duration is briefest of all.

What triggers surprise?

Some common triggers of surprise are:

  • unexpected movements or actions
  • loud sounds

Facial expressions

When a person is surprised, his eyebrows may not draw together but are raised. Upper eyelids are raised, too, but lower eyelids are neutral. The most common expression is that the jaw of the individual will be dropped down.

How does it function?

The main function of the feeling of surprise is to concentrate so we can figure out what’s going on and if we are in harm’s way.

A few groups of people do not want to get surprised ever, regardless of whether it is by a positive occasion. They advise individuals never to amaze them or plan surprises for them. Others love being shocked; they intentionally leave numerous things spontaneous with the goal that they can regularly encounter the unforeseen. They look for encounters in which it is likely they will be surprised.

Universal feelings and needs

It is said that:

“Feelings or emotions are the universal language and are to be honored. They are the authentic expression of who you are at your deepest place.”

Universal feelings and needs are interconnected with each other. For instance, we want to feel happy and enjoy life, and when such events happen, happiness surrounds us. Sometimes it becomes necessary to show a little anger so that we can convey our message effectively and may not get exploited. So universal feelings and needs go hand in hand.

Universal feel safe

Universal feel safe is associated with our comfort zone. We feel safe when we are at home, around people we know and can trust. Without universal feel safe, there is a sense of discomfort, no matter wherever we go.

Universal feeling called life.

Universal feeling called life as our whole life revolves around these emotions. Different events happen in our lives, and we choose to react differently. We get angry or sad when something bad happens and get happy when something good happens. Different events surprise us. Universal feeling called life  is because, without these emotions, our life will be incomplete and colourless.


Universal feelings include happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust, fear and contempt. All these emotions make life beautiful. Without these emotions, our life would be colourless. So this was all about Universal feelings. I have tried my best to share some useful information. Hope you will find it helpful.


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