Emotional Competency

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Disgust
Toxic Substance

We see, smell, or taste something revolting and we are disgusted by it.

Definitions

  1. Feeling aversion,
  2. Reaction to toxic substances,
  3. Reaction to morally objectionable behavior.

Root: Late Old French desgouster, to lose one's appetite.

Related Terms

Aversion, revulsion, and repulsive are close synonyms for disgust.

Common Triggers

Tasting or even thinking of tasting something unpleasant, a foul odor, the sight of something repulsive, and the appearance of people who may be deformed, crippled, or ugly can trigger disgust. Oral engagement of something offensive or contaminated is a particularly powerful trigger of disgust. Bodily products including feces, vomit, urine, mucus, and blood are potent universal triggers for disgust.

Foods commonly eaten in one culture can be disgusting to people who have not grown up eating them. For example, horse meat is a delicacy in France, and dog meat is often eaten in Asian countries. Most Americans find both dishes disgusting.

Fascination

Paradoxically, children, adolescents, and some adults are often fascinated with disgust. Novelty stores sell realistic plastic replicas of disgusting bodily products. Jokes, movies, and practical jokes often rely on disgusting features. Horror films, traffic accidents, violent sports, and sexually repugnant actions have their own goulash attraction for many people.

Fed-Up

Married couples, and others in close relationships, can become “fed-up” with their partners. This form of disgust communicates they have lost patience with their partner's offensive behavior or stonewalling.

Intimacy can Raise the Threshold

Parents change dirty diapers for their infants and lovers enjoy exchanging body fluids. It seems that what might cause disgust among strangers is not disgusting within an intimate relationship.

Benefits and Dangers of Disgust

Disgust serves to remove us from a revolting or toxic substance, including people who are behaving offensively. Disgust works to preserve purity; we become disgusted when we judge something to be impure. A danger is that our disgust with another person can dehumanize them and make empathy more difficult.

Facial Expression

The facial expression of disgust communicates the presence of toxins.

The facial expression of disgust has these distinctive features:
  • The upper and lower lips are raised,
  • Nostril wings are raised,
  • A deep wrinkle extends from the nostrils down below the lips,
  • The bridge of the nose is wrinkled,
  • Raised cheeks form crow's feet wrinkles.

References

[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

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