Emotional Competency

Explore the Logic of Passion

Impending gain

Good things are happening, you are smiling, having fun, and you pleased and feel happy and joyful. Alternatively, you may be feeling a deep sense of satisfaction, contentment, and gratification as a result of your hard work. There are many joyful experiences.


Young Smiling Boy Wearing a Typical Mali Hat and Holding His Mother's Hand, Djenne, Mopti, Mali
  1. Making progress toward your goals
  2. Impending gain
  3. A desirable event or outcome has occurred

Related Terms

English language terms for various forms of joy and pleasure include: amusement, bliss, happiness, joyous, carefree, jubilant, exultant, cheerful, playful, amused, fun, glad, gay, gleeful, jolly, jovial, delighted, enjoyment, euphoric, ecstatic, thrilled, elated, enraptured, comfort, contentment, harmony, satisfaction, and triumphant. Gratification is a deep satisfaction gained from becoming totally absorbed in a complex activity or by working toward meaningful goals. Zest, a joyous enthusiasm, has synonyms: enthusiasm, zeal, excitement, thrill, and exhilaration.

Paul Ekman provides this rich list of distinct enjoyable emotions:

Sensory pleasures: Including pleasure from each of our five emotions such as seeing a sunset, hearing beautiful music, feeling a caring touch or sensual pleasure, tasting good food, and smelling a flower.

Amusement: Laughing at a joke and having lots of fun expressed our amusement and simple joy.

Contentment: All is right in the world, and there is nothing else we feel we need to do.

Excitement: Intense interest, tempting fear with daring and exhilarating activities, rapid changes, or new challenges can cause the intense joy of excitement.

Relief: We feel relief when our frustration or fear has changed for the better

Wonderment: Wow! You experience something unusual, incomprehensible, and nearly overwhelming. You may get goose bumps, a tingling in the shoulders and back of the neck and you may shake your head in disbelief. Wonder is similar to awe, but lacks the element of fear sometimes associated with awe.

Ecstasy: An intense and profound feeling of joy. This may be brought about by a truly satisfying sexual experience, the wonder of nature, or deep meditation.

Fiero: This is an Italian word describing an intense sense of accomplishment from extending yourself and reaching a life long goal. Examples include winning an Olympic medal, or making a discovery worthy of a Nobel prize.

Naches: This is a Yiddish word that describes the intense pride a parent feels for accomplishments of their children. The parent feels naches when the child feels fiero.

Elevation: This is the warm feeling you get from seeing unexpected acts of human kindness. These experiences are often referred to as “uplifting”.

Gratitude: This is appreciation for an altruistic and beneficial gift.

Schadenfreude: This German word is similar to the English word “Gloating”. It refers to the pleasure you may feel about the suffering or bad luck of someone you dislike.

Happy for You

The terms listed above describe being happy for yourself; you have made progress toward your goal. A related but distinct emotion is being “happy for” someone else; we are pleased about an event desirable for another.  Words we use to describe this include: delighted-for, happy-for, and pleased-for.

Related Moods and Traits

Feeling happy describes a mood that lasts for minutes, hours, or days. This describes the foreground of your feelings.

Well-being describes your longer term  assessment of how well you are doing overall in your life. This describes the background of your feelings, and affects how you react to the foreground events.

Joyous Events

Many events universally bring people joy. When resulting from autonomous choice, these include:  reunions with people you are attached to, sexual relations, birth of a child, and being with a loved one.

Benefits and Dangers of Joy

Joy rewards us for making progress toward our goals. It is the limbic “gold star” we get for making gains. This contrasts and complements the negative emotions (fear, anger, jealousy, envy, hate, disgust, guilt, shame, sadness) that use negative sanctions such as pain to direct us away from loss and danger.

The danger of joy is that it tempts us to seek pleasure at the expense of gratification. We may be tempted to pursue an impulse rather than a goal that supports our values. We may become addicted to cheap thrills and get detoured from a more gratifying journey in life.

Authentic Happiness

The distinction between pleasure (hedonism) and gratification (eudaimonia) is important. Pleasure is easy: eat chocolate, see a movie, listen to your favorite music, go dancing, go shopping, gossip, go to a party, go to the beach, visit a water park, or do whatever is you consider fun. Money can buy pleasure, but it cannot buy gratification. Gratification is more difficult because you have to do the the hard work of increasing your stature and well-being. Gratification is a blend of pleasure and pride. The book Authentic Happiness describes in detail the following actions for increasing your gratification:

Move beyond the past

  1. Don't be mislead to believe that the events of your childhood determine your present behavior. Although limbic attractors are created throughout your life, they are not straightjackets and you retain your free will. Exercise your autonomy and take responsibly for all you do from now on.
  2. Increase your gratitude about the many good things in your life. Take pleasure from the many good things in your past, present, and future. Express your gratitude to people you love, respect, and appreciate who have helped you in the past. Express your gratitude for waking up this morning, generous and loyal friends, your determination and special talents, devoted parents, good health, good books, a beautiful sunset, the Internet, chocolate, and anything else that adds enjoyment to your life.
  3. Set yourself free and remove your burden of unresolved anger by forgiving the people you have been resenting.

Attain an accurate optimism about the future

Pessimists believe that the natural order of things is chaotic, destructive, frustrating, negative, and full of dangers. When good things happen, pessimists believe it is a rare exception. Challenge and dispute this pessimistic viewpoint to arrive at a more accurate assessment. Optimists believe the world is orderly, manageable, positive, and full of possibilities. When problems arise, these represent temporary setbacks and reasonable challenges to overcome.

Optimists are generally healthier and live longer than pessimists. But don't get carried away with the optimism and lose touch with reality. Continue to look at the evidence to make your choices and judgments. Don't fall victim to false hopes and the bad choices they can lead to.

Strive for accuracy; it is often found at a realistic balance between optimism and pessimism.

Enjoy the present

  1. Increase your pleasure by: 1) pacing pleasurable events to avoid habituation and get maximum enjoyment from each, 2) savoring pleasurable experiences, and 3) mindfully observing and focusing on the present.
  2. Increase your gratification by: 1) engaging in complex activities that totally absorb you, and 2) pursuing meaningful goals.

Identify, develop, and apply your Signature Strengths

  1. Identify your own signature strengths; your personal virtues and assets.
  2. Apply your signature strengths every day to increase your gratification at home, at work, with those you love, and to gain satisfaction from service to something larger than yourself.

Nonverbal Expressions

True joy is expressed by the Duchenne smileExternal Link where the involuntary muscles around the eye orbit are fully involved. Friendliness, but not heartfelt joy, is expressed by the “Pan Am” smile, which does not reshape the eyes or lift the cheeks.

The Duchenne smile expresses true joy with these distinctive features:
  • A smile, raising the lips at each corner of the mouth, and
  • The muscle that circles the eye contracts. This:
    • pulls down the eyebrows and the skin below the eyebrows,
    • pulls up the skin below the eye, and
    • raises the cheeks.
The Pan Am smile expresses friendliness but not joy with a smile lacking the contracted eye orbit muscle. It signals appeasement.


  • “A wealthy man is one who earns $100 a year more than his wife's sister's husband.” ~ H. L. Mencken.


[laz] Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions, by Richard S. Lazarus, Bernice N. Lazarus

[Ekm] Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life, by Paul Ekman

[OCC] The Cognitive Structure of Emotions, by Andrew Ortony, Gerald L. Clore, Allan Collins

[Gol] Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, by Daniel Goleman

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values, by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Arun Gandhi

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillmentby Martin Seligman

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, by  Martin Seligman

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill, by Matthieu Ricard

Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, by Dalai Lama

The World Database of Happiness is an ongoing register of scientific research on the subjective enjoyment of life.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, by Todd Kashdan

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

The Authentic Happiness Web site focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions.

Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt, Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness, Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience, Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach, Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification, Gratitude, Anger, Remorse, power, dominance, stature, relationships

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