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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