Primary and Secondary Emotions

We are most successful in our life when we are emotionally balanced. It is when we are emotionally unbalanced that challenges us to find ways in our relationships to restore balance as to who we are as individuals. It is our responsibility to strive to be content in our emotional experience. When this happens our boundaries are not being challenged to the point that we need to take action in defending the boundary.
By being responsible for our boundaries, and how we are reacting socially, we understand that we experience two categories of emotions. Both categories protect us as individuals and influence us in different ways. One way is to protect our survival as an individual away from social relationships. Another way is forcing ourselves on others to insure our survival. These categories are defined as our primary and secondary emotions.
When we experience our primary emotions we are acknowledging and taking responsibility for our boundary that is being challenged. These emotions are comfortable for us to experience as long as we are getting our individual needs met. They become uncomfortable when we are connected to a social relationship that does not help us achieve our individual needs. In either case, primary emotions indicate that our boundary is being challenged. Consciously, it is our responsibility to defend, or not to defend this boundary. Understanding our primary emotions and what boundaries they are connected to will teach us who we are as individuals. By being responsible for what we have learned about our boundaries, we are accepting ourselves and not trying to change what we have learned about ourselves. We understand that we are alone and unique. There is no one that will be the same as us. The experiencing of our boundaries can lead us to identify how we can be individuals in our social relationships that we choose to be in. This means that we need to take responsibility for ourselves and how we are connected in our social relationships. An example of us experiencing our primary emotion which can teach us of our boundaries would be when we experience emotions similar to and including the emotion of disappointment. When we are experiencing these primary emotions we are not content as individuals in our current relationship. If we do not acknowledge and take responsibility for these primary emotions then they will transition us into experiencing our secondary emotions. This transition process can happen extremely fast.
Secondary emotions are defensive. We experience them when we are trying to superimpose ourselves on the individuals that we have a relationship with when we are not able to get our individual needs met. When we experience secondary emotions we are protecting our boundaries and attempting to change another’s boundaries to our own.  This happens when we are not accepting that another is defending their boundaries. When we experience secondary emotions we are not acknowledging their boundaries.  Our secondary emotions are trying to force another individual into our world view. An example of a secondary emotion is when we experience emotions similar to and including the emotion of anger. We are trying to force them to live beyond their boundaries.

When we experience our emotions both primary and secondary, it is not the other individual that is responsible for our emotional experience. They are separate from us and they have a right to be who they are. What we are emotionally reacting to is the relationship with that individual. We are challenged to redefine how we are going to be connected in a relationship with this individual.



© 2012 Therapeutic Process

David LaBonte, M.A.
Marriage Family Therapist
4540 Campus Drive
Suite 122
Newport Beach , CA 92660
Phone: (949) 400-2032