Characteristics of emotions

by Ian Heath

Emotions, Beliefs and Character Traits

The first article on emotion dealt with general theory and unconscious ideas. In this article, I turn to the differences between emotions. If I detect self-pity as my present emotion, how do I know whether it is Self-pity alone, or the self-pity mode of Guilt or of Jealousy ? . Emotions and their modes have definite characteristics which help to identify them.

These characteristics are beliefs and attitudes that ‘emanate’ from the motif of an emotion like an aura (this tangle of attributes is the reason that the definition of an emotion has been such a confusing issue).

I list those characteristics that I have discovered. These have been identified empirically, and not by using logical thought. My method of investigation is quite simple. When I am aware of what the present emotion is that I am experiencing, I consider relationships, views of reality, of politics, of religion, ideas of morality, how I feel about my own needs, etc, and then note what influence the present emotion has on this inquiry. I was often surprised by what I found. I start with jealousy.

Jealousy (= self-pity + love)

The self-pity mode of jealousy denigrates my achievements as an individual since it prefers to seek recognition and approval from other people; social (or group) conformity is the norm. Only social achievements are valued. I have to rely on others ; if I have no support then I experience loneliness. Therefore this mode creates a dependency situation for me, so social ties are cemented by concepts of obligation and duty (in other words, concepts of obligation and duty are ways of handling this type of self-pity).

This mode of self-pity generates the need to be touched or to touch (in order to evoke a response from the other person) ; ultimately, this kind of touch becomes the need for sexual intercourse. This mode also makes one homely : I may feel like baking a cake (when it has a social nuance, such as having tea with the neighbours), or I may feel like redecorating the rooms in the house where I invite friends.

The love mode of jealousy produces social involvement and a sense of caring. It encompasses all ways of making other people dependent on oneself. It leads to paternalism in social relations, and to ‘enlightened despotism’ in politics, and to the crusading drive of evangelists. It generates sexual love, but not to the desire for sexual intercourse ; however, sexual intercourse may be engaged in as a way of fulfilling the needs of a partner. Touch is only used as a means of consolation.

Guilt (= self-pity + self-hate)

Guilt prevents me from seeing life as good, as worthwhile in itself ; it neutralises aesthetic enjoyment of the world. Guilt focuses on my failures in life.

The self-pity mode knocks out all meaning in anything and my motivation collapses; to survive it I become rigid and accept dogmatic rules. I become a perfectionist in my work. In this mode arises the need for psychological support, for a confessor or a confidante, and I embrace authoritarian methods of control. Without support, life becomes unreal. I practise a different form of homeliness from jealousy – I keep my house tidy.

The self-hate mode belittles me as a person, I am not worth anything. My motivation is retained but my self-image is pitiable. I have no value (either individually or socially). My faith in my own abilities becomes eroded. I idealise the life of simpler, less intellectual (therefore more ‘grounded’) peoples as my life transforms into purgatory. To survive I develop concepts of purity and cleanliness ; only sexual practice that is ‘pure’ is acceptable. In my homeliness I keep my house clean. When self-hate is intense I feel sick of my past life, my life is a wasted life ; I wish that I could forget my past so that I can start afresh.

Pride (= hatred of others + vanity)

The presence of negative thoughts about other people indicates Pride , the vanity mode of which reflects a sense of superiority, and the hate mode originates destructive comments about them.

In the hate mode I seek freedom from social restraints ; I negate the value of social concepts and responsibilities since I value only my own independence. I prefer to be left alone ; if I am not, then I daydream of violence. I belittle the achievements of others. I see my past life as a dreary life, a life of obeying rules and regulations, a life of obeying other people. In the vanity mode I judge all issues in black and white terms, I have no moderation, no flexibility and no toleration to opposing views. I am dogmatic. My views cannot be wrong.

Narcissism (= vanity + love)

Narcissism puts a gleam in my eyes: in love mode the gleam is of joy, whereas in vanity mode it is of excitement. In the vanity mode of narcissism the quality of life is important, so I dramatise everything; life is a drama! I attune to heroism and romanticism. I act from philanthropic motives and desire to help other people surmount their suffering ; I help others to help themselves. I do not impose my views on them. However, I am sensitive to ridicule.

In the love mode I feel good, good in myself and glad for my life as a whole, even for the bad and sorrowful aspects of it ; I am glad for life itself – life is exhilarating. I become self-absorbed. I dance to my favourite music. I do not pass judgements on anyone. I prefer co-operation rather than competition ; in fact, competitiveness switches off the love mode.


This type of love can also be called mystical love, or just pure love. It is much rarer than the other two types of love. Whereas the love mode of narcissism is directed to oneself, and the love mode of jealousy is directed to another person, love by itself has no object. It is just a flux, just a flow of enchanting emotion to everything.

Usually the only time that a person feels such love for any length of time is when the person falls in love with someone. Then the world transforms magically into a wonderland (really the person has fallen in love with the world, rather than with the other person) ; however, soon the magic fades, the mood vanishes and is replaced by the love mode of jealousy – now love is restricted to the other person.

When pure love is my current mood, I have the same value as everyone else, so differences in abilities or in character development are unimportant. Uniformity is the rule (this should be separated from conformity, which is characteristic of the self-pity mode of jealousy).


Hate, as a mode of guilt or of pride, generates destructive thoughts (but at a lesser intensity than paranoia). Antithetical thoughts, when directed to other people, represent pride ; when directed to oneself, represent guilt. [¹]. At a much lesser intensity of denigration, criticisms of other people represent jealousy, whilst criticisms of myself arise from my sense of idealism.

Hate by itself is the emotional dynamic of the ability to sustain long periods of concentration and meditation. It does not require an object to focus on (it mirrors pure love in this respect) ; it is a general-purpose tool for cutting positive attachments, especially in relationships (for example, pride in hate mode rejects another person, whereas hate by itself rejects any pleasant attachment to the other person). Hate produces clear thinking and strengthens a person’s will power. It supports the desire for solitude. It cools the mind and may easily be mistaken for a mild sense of peace. It is likely to be the prevailing mood when a meditator claims that they are no longer acting from a sense of ego. The skilful way of using hate is to clear the mind of redundant attachments and desires.


In the eyes of vanity, life is matter-of-fact, neither joyful nor dramatic. Therefore I have to give myself importance, either physically by the way that I dress or socially by my status or romantically by my destiny, or by any other way. I desire fame, or to be a leader. I go my own way in life ; I am not a follower of anyone or any fashion. I prefer new horizons rather than traditional ones. Unfortunately I am sensitive to ridicule.

The three kinds of vanity all centre on the concept of importance.

  1. Vanity (as a mode of narcissism) implies the quality of life is important.
  2. Vanity (as a mode of pride) implies my world is important.
  3. Vanity implies self-importance.


Self-pity itself generates the inability to achieve anything. It differs from the other two modes in that I do not blame myself (as in guilt) nor am I particularly socially-orientated (as in jealousy). Also it differs from guilt in self-pity mode in that it enables me to identify with people who have made heroic efforts in life and yet have failed (for guilt, heroism is meaningless).

Self-pity makes me sentimental. When self-pity is dominant I deny responsibility ; one way of achieving this is the desire for endless travel – so long as I travel I have no responsibilities.In general, endless activity is usually a hallmark of the flight from self-pity. Despite the activity the person is never satisfied. For example :

  1. Self-pity leads to travel as the expression of endless activity.
  2. Self-pity (as a mode of guilt) leads to housework or business as the expressions of endless activity. [The workaholic person].
  3. Self-pity (as a mode of jealousy) leads to duty as the expression of endless moral activity. [²]

This endless activity is the attempt to overcome the sense of failure. That is:

  1. Self-pity implies the sense of social failure.
  2. Self-pity (as a mode of guilt) implies the sense of spiritual failure, or the failure of idealism.
  3. Self-pity (as a mode of jealousy) implies the sense of personal failure, that is, the failure to be an individual.


Envy is not always easy to separate from jealousy. Envy is behind the worst forms of destructiveness. Envy prefers to destroy, jealousy (love mode) prefers to control. Both envy and jealousy make the person seek social company ; but whereas jealousy seeks social involvement, envy lets the person rest content with being a social observer. When envy is dominant in me I like to have afternoon tea in a tea shop and watch the world go by (however, sometimes my mood then changes to jealousy in self-pity mode as loneliness arises).

In childhood, envy of the general character traits of a parent appears as a lack of attachment towards that parent (envy is one of the factors that underlie autism). The difference here between hate and envy is that hate can be considered to be a negative attachment, whilst envy destroys and neutralises any attachment so long as the child is in a position of inequality with the parent. [³]


Anxiety is a cerebral emotion: when it is intense it ‘fogs’ the mind, producing mental tiredness and the incapacity for intellectual work. I feel it most in my eyes as a regular ache, which generates a sensitivity to bright light. When I am writing or typing under a bright light I control the eye-ache by regularly splashing my eyes with cold water, perhaps every half hour or so. Both the mental tiredness and the ache are intensified when combined with any mode of self-pity.

In social company, anxiety (in vanity mode) stimulates a compulsive need to speak (I get embarrassed by my silence) or compulsive behaviour (such as smoking, drinking alcohol, nail-biting, over-eating). When I have this fuzzy head at home I usually relax on the settee and doze. The cessation of anxiety can be quite sudden and produces an immediate clearing of the head – I ‘wake up’ from my semi-consciousness. The need for a long sleep time each night is usually due to the presence of anxiety or to a mode of self-pity. Anxiety keeps the person focused on negative emotions ; if I am absorbed in narcissistic joy or jealous love, then if anxiety arises I usually switch out of them into self-pity modes or even hostile feelings.

The fear mode of anxiety is generated by a dictatorial conscience, or the ‘voice of authority’. This voice has two origins. It can originate from the family setting: the parents’ commands become internalised into an oppressive conscience – ‘do as you are told’. The voice of authority also comes from one’s soul: the soul directs oneself to practise self-control (here the ‘voice’ is not a clear verbal one but more like an intuitive prompting). If I do something that my soul does not like, then I immediately feel a burst of anxiety in my eyes. However, this ‘voice’ is a subtle one and is unlikely to be noticed by a person who has not developed sensitivity. More ideas on anxiety are described under the sub-heading ‘What is Anxiety?’, in the article Abreaction : A 1.

In general, narcissism and jealousy are the two avenues to power, the two ways to express and achieve power. Pride and guilt are the two avenues to ethics. Resentment arises when the person’s sense of idealism is restricted by guilt ; bitterness arises when idealism is restricted by pride.

What needs to be accepted is that emotions are not good or bad in themselves, but that the goodness or the badness lies in the context that we experience them and view them. However, since it is common practice to value things rather than contexts, I prefer to label emotions as either positive or negative, rather than as either good or bad.

How to identify emotions, and some notes on empiricism, are the subject of the third article: Emotion 3.


The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it. For the addresses of my websites, see Links page.

[¹]. See the article Antithetical Thoughts on my websites The Strange World of Emotion and Discover Your Mind and Patterns of Confusion. [1]

[²]. Duty, obligation, and morality in general, are the results of sublimating jealousy (self-pity mode). See the article Sublimation, on my websites The Strange World of Emotion and Discover Your Mind. [2]

V[³]. The negative effects of envy are described in two articles on my website Patterns of Confusion. The articles are : Depression & Autism & other states of despair ; and Envy and the Death Desire. [3]

Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath.All Rights Reserved.