images-742Emotion mastery, or the ability to regulate our emotions, is essential to our personal and relational health and happiness. It is a built-in capacity that must be cultivated, yet often ignored. No easy task, this inner work requires an ongoing willingness to develop awareness of our emotions and feelings, and an openness to feeling and understanding them.

Like gauges, emotions are status checks, personal messages our body-mind (subconscious) sends at any given moment to keep us (conscious-mind) informed on what most concerns us.

Essentially, emotions tell us where we are or how well we’re doing, so to speak, in relation to what and where we most aspire to be in life, with regard to the following:

  • Personal wants and aspirations
  • Physical sustenance needs
  • Emotion-drives or yearnings (needs) to matter

Emotions may be triggered by what’s going on around us, however, our emotion-responses are primarily activated by a combination of internal factors, that:

  • Motivate us to take action (more specifically, our personal wants and our hardwired physical and emotional-relational needs).
  • Modulate or determine how or what actions we take (mostly, a set of conscious or subconscious beliefs we hold about what is possible for us, what we deserve, how we “should” or “must” realize and meet our wants and needs, and so on).

This post zeros in on emotion-drives as hardwired yearnings — internal factors — that, directly or indirectly, motivate most all of our actions.

What are “emotion-drives”?

Emotion-drives are universal “yearnings” that are emotional (spiritual?) in nature that are as real and connected to our health and survival as our physical sustenance needs. They are action-motivating because they internally motivate us, as human beings, to take action to fulfill them. (Whether our actions are effective or futile is another matter.)

They’re connected to our overarching drive (need) to do more than merely survive, but also to thrive, that is, to matter and meaningfully connect to life in and around us. Human beings automatically strive for emotional safety, love, belonging, personal autonomy, esteem, acceptance, value, fun, contribution, meaningful connection, purpose.

We are hard-wired to automatically seek to fulfill these yearnings from the cradle to the grave. Far from simple “wants,” such as “I need to get a haircut,” they are hard-wired emotional (spiritual?) strivings that are as real and impact our health and survival as our sustenance needs for food, water and shelter.

These emotion-drives are also relational in nature, as they can only be fulfilled in relation to self and life or others around us.

Psychologists Alfred Adler and Abraham Maslow were among the first to note that human behavior is purpose-driven to find meaning in social relationships.

Some of the main emotion-drives include:

Safety (Security)            Belonging (Acceptance)        

Love (Caring)                  Empathy (Understanding)

Value (Recognition)        Contribution (Giving)             

Clarity (Knowledge)       Connection (Intimate Knowing)

Recognition (Value)       Personal Power (Free Will, Choices)

One reason we experience problems understanding or connecting to our emotional needs is that we’ve been conditioned to disregard or devalue these “needs” as “neediness” or signs of weakness or selfishness.

More on this in the next post along with an exercise to identify and rate how connected we are to our emotion-drives.




View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 0 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.

    Last reviewed: 30 Mar 2013

APA Reference
Staik, A. (2013). Emotion Mastery: Emotion-Drives as Action-Motivating Factors, 1 of 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 28, 2015, from



Subscribe to this Blog: Feed

Recent Comments
  • stillthere: Just reading through the comments about the article. I must agree with it for it has happened to me after...
  • Chelsea: I really disagree with this. I have male friends, I always have. I’ve always had to justify our...
  • Jorge: Excellent article, very accurate. We spent most of our day at work and is very easy to let one self go into...
  • Athena Staik, Ph.D.: Thanks for writing, Chely. I hope you are getting professional help, or will consider doing so....
  • Athena Staik, Ph.D.: Thanks for your comment, I Still Care. Beliefs are very powerful forces that, literally, both...
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!