Our emotions are a guidance system that can take us to what we really want

For many people, emotions are a mysterious impenetrable black box over which we have little understanding. For others, emotions are fluffy gushy things. For me, I see emotions as a guidance system that can take us to what we really want.

It was Charles Darwin who first understood the relationship between survival  and our emotions, which he developed from his study of evolution and the natural world.

More recently, Dr Paul Eckman’s study of  isolated indigenous people in Papua New Guinea, confirmed that emotions had the same purpose and meaning for all of us.

Eckman identified nine families of feelings, to capture the universe of human emotion. Eckman’s study confirmed that our emotions are not culturally imposed but a biological trait of all humans.

The “emotions as a guidance system” model

Below is my personal take on what the guidance system looks like. This has been developed through my decade of qualitative  and thought leader research into the emotional connections between people and their needs. This guidance system applies as much to personal growth as it does to business growth.

The key attributes of the “emotions as a guidance system” model are as follows:

Emotions are messages

All emotions are trying to tell us something, some emotional responses are from the here and now and some from other people or other times. When our feelings are overly intense they either belong to someone else or to our past.

Our emotions can belong to others

We pick up other peoples’ feeling through our gut, sensorial resonance (reference Professor Peter Levine’s, In an Unspoken Voice) or through a part of the brain called the Insula (reference Dr Dan Siegel’s Mindsight).

Our emotions are tags in our memories

Dr Joe Dispenza writes in Evolve your Brain, that emotions are tags in our long term memory through which we store our experiences. Emotionally charged experiences, ones that tells us whether we are getting our needs met, are the ones that we file away as memories, so our past can inform our future.

Specifc messages of emotions

Paul Eckman’s research published in Emotions Revealed tells us each emotion has a specific message. Hearts and Minds branding research has developed a framework to link our emotions to our wants, for example:

  • Sadness tells us we have lost something we want
  • Fear tells us there is uncertainty around what we want
  • Love tells us we are deeply attached to what we want
  • Hate says that something is intrinsically damaging and we do not want it
  • Happiness tells us we are getting what we want

Linking emotions to business and personal growth

So how we can bring all this back to ourselves? What does emotional mastery look like? How can we grow ourselves and our business, through a better understanding of emotions?

Emotions and our needs

In business, as in our life, emotions are how we make sense of the world. We need to ensure that we are fully connected to our feelings if we want to get what we want in life. We also need to know what others are feeling, if we are to give them what they want.

Journal to connect to your emotions

It can take time to access our or another’s feelings. If it is a challenge, journaling can help, as can indepth one on one interviews of others. Often there is a layering of feelings that unfold with reflection. Always ask yourself, are the feelings appropriate or too intense? If they are intense, ask are they mine, or do they come from the past?

Getting what we really want

It is from this process of being emotionally connected to oneself and others, that we are able to get on with the business of getting for ourselves and others, what we really want.

Louise Kelly

Managing Director

Hearts and Minds


The insula and “feeling the feelings” of others


Somatic resonance and picking up the feelings of others


The family of feelings


The brain, emotions and memory


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