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Researching some stuff for work I happened on a diagram that expresses a simple conceit: we all have 8 basic emotions and 8 advanced emotions (which are each composed of 2 basic emotions).

Truth be told, I fell in love with this diagram because of its overt simplicity, complete fallibility and because PhD Robert Plutchick (God rest his soul) was so optimistic that he firmly believed the complex wash of human emotions can be distilled logically into a pretty flower (where rage is a petal and that petal is fuschia). 

I don’t think it’ll ever be that simple. That’s why people like being human.

Maybe I suffer from a touch of synesthesia because I fell on my head when I was a kid but I’ve always thought of emotions as flavors. Like flavors, they’re hard to pinpoint and language tends to fall short when you try and express them. Even something as unmistakable as rage is different for everyone and it’s rarely as pretty as a tulip.

fear of butterfly kid

Don’t laugh.  Entomophobia is a very real fear of insects. While it might be hard to believe, I know it’s true because I once worked with an actress who was completely terrified of butterflies. Completely terrified. Even fake ones made her run away.

(whatever, as if you can’t laugh at that little dude up there)

When I worked as a tree planter I met a guy who was afraid of dead fish. Not live fish. Dead ones. And I don’t mean he thought they were creepy – it was raw terror.

I discovered his specific fear when I wandered back to camp one day after having gone fishing and proudly held out the pike that I’d caught.

He tried to climb a tree to get away from it.

Fear is amazing when you think about it. Unlike a lot of other emotions, it can be completely irrational – there doesn’t have even a hint of concrete causality to feel its full effect.

And people are afraid of the strangest things.

The good folks at have been cataloging human fear for years. 530 of them – each one confirmed with research or medical proof. While their site could use a design update, it’s well worth checking out. I mean macraphobia – who knew? Linky here.

One last example of how powerful and kooky fear can be. Meet Sarah Lister:


Yup, Sarah is currently receiving treatment for her fear of knees. Story here.

I’ve realized that I’m kind of a fan of fear. I do fear a few things but fear itself? Not so much.

We don’ t think of human emotions in terms of aesthetics because they don’t manifest in any physical way (we just get to see the symptoms of emotions – not the emotions themselves). But, if each feeling had its own flavor and we could choose them, I’m pretty sure I’d like the taste of fear.

It is one of the most “real” emotions. There is no mistaking it when it grips you, comes on with a huge rush and sweeps your whole being up in its wash. Powerful, vibrant (and to borrow a term from 80’s Prince) electric stuff.

Of course the only problem with fear is that it fear is where all anger comes from:

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