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A framework to better understand emotions and their purpose

Millions of years of evolution resulted in human minds having a very clear focus. Keep me safe from harm and likely to perpetuate as a species. Don’t get eaten. Don’t get hurt. Don’t get thrown out of the tribe. Stick with the group. That’s the context within which our minds operate.

I therefore have a highly-evolved, automatic and ever-present alarm system designed to help me survive and thrive as a human being. With a tendency to be on high-alert more often than not.

And what are emotions?

They are impulses for action generated by this highly evolved, automatic and ever-present alarm system. A six second chemical burst from my brain delivering an important message. “Warning! That’s going to hurt! Don’t do it!”. “Amazing! That looks like fun! Do it more!” They focus my attention and motivate me towards doing things that will keep me safe and ‘happy’.

Importantly, emotions are neutral. Emotions are not good or bad.

Some may be more pleasant to experience than others, but even difficult emotions like Fear, Anger or Sadness have an important role to play in keeping me alive and well.

In trying to identify and classify different types of emotions, psychologists have not been able to reach consensus. Yet in the 1980s, Robert Plutchik introduced a classification system known as the ‘wheel of emotions’. This model demonstrated how different emotions can be combined or mixed together, much the way an artist mixes primary colours to create other colours.

The team at Six Seconds have developed an interesting and useful interactive version of Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions that is well-worth exploring to better understand emotions and their purpose.


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