Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
Colored circles with names of emotions beside them.

An Atlas of Emotions

The Dalai Lama relied on some of the best researchers in the world to map out the possible continents of feeling.

There are emotions that visit all of us as if they were spirits calling upon a haunted guest house. These visits are always nomadic: they stay only long enough to change us. And we change entirely. Even after they’ve left, we, their temporary home, aren’t the same. The Atlas of Emotions was created by the eminent psychologist Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama to increase understanding of how emotions influence what we do and say. “We don’t always realize that we’ve secured an emotion until someone points it out to us, or until the emotional episode ends,” says Ekman. “Having the choice about when to experience an emotion and how to experience it requires that we introduce a foreign element to the start of an emotion: consciousness. The Atlas of Emotions was created to illuminate this.”

It all started in 2014 when the Dalai Lama asked Ekman to create a map of emotions, hoping that such a map could help people to have more constructive emotional experiences. “When we want to get to the new world,” said the Dalai Lama, “we need a map. If we are to reach a calm state of mind, we need a map of emotions.”

In June, 2014, Ekman, who was one of TIME Magazine’s 2010 “100 Most Influential People in the World,” sent a survey to 248 researchers working on emotions to build consensus to provide the scientific basis for this already fascinating atlas. 88% agreed that there are universal emotions: emotions that all humans have in common, no matter where they live or how they were raised. The consensus was: anger, fear, disgust, sadness and pleasure.

Chart showing emotions of disgust.

The Atlas of Emotions is a fantastic tool to travel the world of these five emotions, and into their many nuances and micro-expressions. Every emotion is referred to as a “continent” and each has states, actions, detonators and moods until one reaches a state of calm in the ocean of the mind, a state necessary for the evaluation and understanding of these changing emotions.

Rather than stifle this fantastic map with more commentary, we share the link here that you begin your own journey.

Related Articles