How to Provoke An Emotion: Grief & Ecstasy

In my last post I introduced the concept of emotionally provoking content and the theory that if you want your audience to take action, then you have to produce emotional content that falls towards the center of the wheel of emotions. Continuing my series, I have paired up the emotions and will explore them even further. This week GRIEF vs. ECSTASY:

 Emotion: Grief

A natural reaction to any loss 

Grief is a very personal emotion. It can be the loss of a possession, a person, or even a human right, and it can also manifest and be expressed in many different ways. The individuality of grief poses a challenge when it comes to content and pushing the emotional buttons of your audience. The even bigger hurdle to this challenge is provoking a large number of people with this emotion. I came to this conclusion after researching the stages of grief and scouring the web looking for content that would make me feel grief. But all I could find was content that made me sad.

I feel confident that I am in touch with my emotions. I balled my eyes out at the movie The Notebook and the Family Guy episode when Brian left home was pretty heart wrenching too. But why did none of the content online that was clearly really sad have the same effect on me?

Then I had an epiphany. Everything that has ever made me grieve in real life was not only a real life event, it was personal and ‘hit close to home’. Although nothing I found online made me grieve, a lot of content did make me sad, which led to my next thought:

Maybe content that makes many people feel grief cannot be manufactured.

Now if I am wrong, please interject. At the very least generating this emotion is far more complex than anyone expects. To strengthen my point, take the deaths of Steve Jobs or Whitney Houston. Both Jobs and Houston had thousands of mourners hitting their social profiles and expressing their grief. In these cases grief was not manufactured, these people actually died!

Should you gun down a bunch of people?

NO, that will not be necessary.

So What Should I Do If I Can’t Create This Emotion?

Although we may not be able to tap into the emotion of grief at its most intense degree as easy as I would have hoped, there is always sadness. An emotion that is most certainly attainable and also close enough to the center of the wheel of emotion to still provoke readers into an action.

If sadness is not your cup of tea then you can take the grief of others and outright exploit it.  Here is a couple of ways you can go about it:

  1. Create controversy by talking negatively, falsely or mocking the subject
  2. Pay your respects and celebrate the subject

The first option has short term value. It’s no doubt an attention grabber, but long term you are going to ruin your credibility. Dane Cook tried making a joke about the 2012 Aurora Shootings and it didn’t go down very well.

However, Option #2 has a lot more value and won’t upset the people you are trying to target. A successful example of this strategy came from The New York Daily News who created a Whitney Houston remembrance board on Pinterest. Similarly others took advantage of Whitney Houston’s death by celebrating her life and achievements via Whitney Houston infographics.

On a brighter note I researched the emotion of ecstasy.

Emotion: Ecstasy

A feeling of great happiness.

From the manufactured memes friends share to the real life underdog stories in news articles that make you ‘feel good’ about life and raise your spirits, I continuously find content online that makes me feel extremely happy. Beyond me, there is an entire market of people deliberately seeking ways to find happiness.

Give the People What They Want

People want to be happy. Unless your main audience and target market are sadists, it is safe to say that they do not want to be hit with sad story after sad story. Take the emergence of domains such as http://www.meyouhealth.com/. On this site you can take daily challenges to enhance your mood. Such a site is a testament to the ever increasing demand to feel happier.

As a writer it is your job to know what will make your audience happy, what they enjoy to read about, and what makes them tick. If you’re tech blogger then you might want to give a sneak preview on the latest video game and include an opportunity to win it within your content. If you have a blog for hard core animal lovers then maybe cover heroic animal stories or generate your own cat memes.

 Grief vs. Ecstasy

Almost everyone enjoys the feelings of ecstasy and happiness more than they do grief. That is sheer human nature that cannot be disputed. On that premise, I think that ecstasy is not only a much easier emotion to evoke and easier to fathom, it is also easier to provoke an action using this emotion within content.  This is not to say that you cannot or should not attempt to hone in on the emotions of grief and sadness, because I think you should. As humans we do not solely feel one or two emotions just because they are more favorable than the rest and I think that it’s important that your content reflects that notion as well, and takes advantage of unfavorable emotions.

About the author

Lizzie Seedhouse