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Emotion Mastery: Emotion-Drives as Action-Motivating Factors, 1 of 2

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.


Emotion Mastery: Emotion-Drives as Action-Motivating Factors, 1 of 2

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2013). Emotion Mastery: Emotion-Drives as Action-Motivating Factors, 1 of 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2013
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