Video: Appropriate Responses to the 5 Basic Emotions

Posted By: on November 11, 2015

I’ve been asked to give a talk this week to CASA volunteers. These folks forge meaningful relationships with children going to the court systems who’ve usually suffered from trauma of one sort or another.

What I’m hoping I can convey to these volunteers is the importance they have to these kids, an importance created through offering a reliable, dependable relationship.

We Are Naturally Drawn to Relationships

 Each of us, and each of these kids, are born relationship-seeking. Our natural inclination is to make internal contact within ourselves, becoming aware of what we feel and what we need.

From there, we reach out into the world with those feelings and relational needs in the hope of getting a caring response. When kids experience trauma, large or small, they lose the motivation to seek a relationship as a safe place to bring their feelings and needs.

How to Respond to the 5 Basic Emotions 

People tend to reach out using five basic emotions. Responding appropriately to these emotions can prevent them from pulling away from relationships. Those emotions and the caring responses to each are:

1. Sadness

The proper way to handle sadness is compassion.

2. Fear & 3. Anxiety

The appropriate responses to both fear and anxiety include reassurance and creating security.

4. Anger

Taking someone seriously and helping them correct their behavior are caring ways to respond to anger.

5. Excitement

When someone is excited, we must share in their excitement with an equal amount of joy and vitality.

What the Wrong Response Can Do

When a response is inconsistent with sort of care that is needed, people find themselves having to figure out what to do with their own needs and feelings.

Suddenly, they’re left alone, and that’s a very painful thing.

People compensate by finding adaptive methods to self-sooth and start believing that relationships won’t be there for them. As they turn away from relationships to self-soothing, they begin to feel no one is there for them.


So, the CASA volunteers are working to be there again and again. They offer an attuned response and invite the children back into the world of relationship. They are important people who allow these kids to believe that the world is a safe place where they can be seen and heard.

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