Scott McCloud, the ultimate source on comic book academia , broke down all human emotion to six basic expressions. Reprinted below are 5 pages from the head chapter in Making Comics by Scott McCloud. I have yet to find a better, simpler approach to breaking down emotions. Click to enlarge the pages.
I bring this up because we did an exercise in my Improv class last night where we were supposed to have a drastic over the top emotional reaction to an innocuous comment. (example: "Oh no, I dropped my pen." "WHAT!?! DO YOU PLAN ON DROPPING OUR MARRIAGE AS WELL?!" or something of the sort)
Rolland mentioned how he could only think of three or four emotions to go to, and the fact is, there's only six fundamental emotions to go to-they're the primary colors of emotion - anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. Everything else is watered down, mixed up, versions of those. For the full run down, and 230 more pages of brilliance, go get the book.
As an aside, I bought the book for a friend who let me stay at her place for free cat sitting for a month and a half in NYC. I bought it after hearing Scott speak in Syracuse, one day apart from Art Spiegelman giving a lecture. Scott was as much a fan boy of Spiegelman as I was of them both. This was right after I'd moved out of NYC and was stopping for three days on my way back to Michigan five months after graduating. This is a much, much longer story I'd love to share sometime, but I'll let the post rest for now.