[This post is part of a series on The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
We’ve presented all the elements of the Model, barely scratching the surface of what it all means or how to use it. Let’s start by understanding where our emotions come from.
We don’t have our emotions for the fun of it. Our emotions motivate our behavior. Each emotion has a function. Natural selection makes the system efficient. We descended from ancestors whose emotional systems motivated behavior that helped them survive in their environments.
For every environmental need our ancestors developed an inheritable behavior for, we inherited the motivation for it, though they can evolve away if they become useless or counterproductive from environmental change. Some are obvious, like the motivations to drink when low on water, to eat when low on energy, and to flee when a predator approaches. Those motivations exist in nearly all animals.
Some emotions and motivations exist perhaps only in humans, for example to listen and dance to music or to speak in language. Whatever emotion, it originated through the same process.
Likewise, we didn’t inherit emotions for things not in our ancestors environments, no matter how helpful they would be. For example, babies react fearfully to a piece of string made to move like a snake, but have no fear of electrical outlets, despite the negligible danger in our world of snakes and a huge danger from electrical outlets. Our ancestors’ environments had snakes but no electrical outlets so our ancestors evolved behaviors for snakes but not outlets.
Everything you do all the time results from your emotional system motivating you. Even things you don’t do, but feel like doing, result from your emotional system. Every emotion you can name originated from some behavioral reaction to your ancestors’ environments.
Tomorrow: examples of emotional cycles
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