The Atlas of Emotions

In 2014, the Dalai Lama asked his friend, scientist Dr. Paul Ekman, to design him an Atlas of Human Emotion, and Paul asked us to help him. His Holiness was intrigued by conversations that he and Paul had been having over the years about their different views on the subject of emotion.

“What they do is not just illustration. It's illumination. Working with Eric and his team wasn't just about discovering things I didn't know about my own research, although it certainly was that. I also learned things that I didn't think it was possible to know about my work.”

Paul Ekman, PhD



The Five Continents of Emotion
Each emotion is represented as a continent. The movement of the continents reflects how emotions vary in strength and frequency in people’s lives.


Each emotion contains a number of related states, which differ in intensity. The states shown here are representative, not exhaustive.


An emotional state may lead to actions, which can be intrinsic or intentional and constructive, destructive or ambiguous, depending on the state. Actions shown here are intrinsic, happening without conscious choice. Click on a state to explore.


Triggers automatically bring forth an emotion without consideration. Awareness of the trigger usually takes place at the end of this process, if at all.


This is an example of a mood, a longer-lasting cousin of the emotion that causes the related emotion to be felt more frequently and intensely. It is not always apparent what triggers a mood.


Experiencing Calm
A calm, balanced frame of mind is necessary to evaluate and understand our changing emotions. Calmness ideally is a baseline state, unlike emotions, which arise when triggered and then recede.

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