Emotions play a critical role in everyday life. The ability to express, regulate, and understand one’s own and others’ emotions – known as emotional competence – is linked to good social skills and to doing better at school or work. Indeed, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, believes that understanding and expressing our emotions on a global level could help bring world peace.
In partnership with psychologist Dr Paul Ekman, the Dalai Lama has launched the Atlas of Emotions (atlasofemotions.com), an online project that aims to map out all of the feelings that a human can experience. Over two years, Ekman surveyed leading scientists and psychologists in the field, synthesising the full range of human emotions into five core categories: anger, fear, sadness, enjoyment and disgust. The Atlas explains each, then maps them to different emotional states, triggers, actions and moods – you can explore the landscape of emotions, where they come from, and the effects they can have, and in so doing better understand why you behave certain ways in certain situations.
“We have, by nature or biologically, this destructive emotion, also constructive emotion. This innerness, people should pay more attention to, from kindergarten level up to university level. This is not just for knowledge, but in order to create a happy human being. Happy family, happy community and, finally, happy humanity,” the Dalai Lama told the New York Times when launching the project.
Recognising, understanding, using and discriminating between feelings can be complex – the goal of the Atlas is to simplify the process and make it relatable on different levels. A number of exhibition spaces around the world have the same aim.
A recent pop-up in New York, the Museum of Feelings reacted to emotions – and turned them into art. The building’s exterior changed colour to reflect the mood of the city by aggregating social media trends and analysing other real-time data. The Emotions Museum of Childhood in Athens uses interactive exhibits, games and stories to help children comprehend their feelings. And freshly minted in St Petersburg, the Museum of Emotions was opened to develop visitors’ “emotional literacy” by triggering intense reactions to various situations: you might experience joy lying in a meadow of daisies, or fear when doing the same in a coffin.
We’re not quite sure how we feel about that…