Emotional Competency

Explore the Logic of Passion

Primal Messaging
Signaling our limbic systems

Why do so many people love their pet dogs so much? How does a dog communicate so profoundly with its owner? How does wagging a tail create such a strong bond of affection and attachment? The answer seems to be that the dog is signaling our emotional center in a very simple yet profound and powerful way. I call this messaging system “Primal Messaging” or “Limbic Calculus” Informally, people sometimes use words such as “chemistry” or “vibes” with a similar meaning.


Signaling between the limbic systems of two beings. This signaling is often non-verbal, and often takes place below the level of consciousness.

Semantics and Syntax:

We signal messages from our limbic system to the limbic system of others using a variety of symbols, including facial expression, non-verbal emblems, voice inflection, body position, etc. Most of these messages pertain to our most basic needs. Here is the basic vocabulary of those messages:

Need Syntax Semantics Semantics Syntax Dimension Need
Exploration Smile Approach

Retreat Distance Safety
Relatedness Smile Like

Dislike Frown Safety
Authentic Fake, phony
Safety Safe Unsafe Safety Safety
Optimistic Disagree
Understand Puzzled
Procreation Hot (sexy) Not Attractive Selection
Progress Continue Halt Safety
Competence Sure (confident) Unsure Confidence Competence
Interested Bored
Happy Sad
Pleased Displeased Judgment
Dominant Submissive Power
Strong Weak Strength
Know Don’t know Knowledge
Trust Distrust
Believing Skeptical
Rested, Vital Fatigued, Exhausted Energy
Friendly Unfriendly, Hostile
Proud Ashamed stature
Aggressive Passive, Calm
Respect Disrespect Esteem
Defiant Contrite, Apologetic
Thankful, Grateful No Thanks, Unappreciative
Relieved Concerned, Anxious
Relaxed Stressed
Procreation (Sexually) Available Unreceptive Procreation Selectivity
Empathetic, I care I Don’t care
Sincere Insincere
Warm Cold
Friend Foe
Fearful, Threatened Safe Safety Safety
Patient Impatient
Urgent Casual Time
Important Trivial
Approve Disapprove
Esteem Valued Worthless Esteem
Helpful Hurtful

Note that the signal may pertain to the self (1st person), you (2nd person) or a 3rd person.


  • Our brains are physically wired to develop in tandem with another's through emotional communication, beginning before words are spoken ~ Allan N. Schore
  • We are designed to be emotionally entangled. ~ Marc Ian Barasch


A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, Richard Lannon


Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt, Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness, Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience, Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach, Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification, Gratitude, Anger, Remorse, power, dominance, stature, relationships

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