Return to site

Emotional or Not:

One human design insight that can change everything

For many years, in my relationship with my husband, I expected him to listen to the intensity and minutest detail of all my emotions. This was fine when he listened to my joy or excitement, but it didn't work so well when I was sad, or especially when I was angry and enraged. Especially if it was about something he had done, or someone in his family had done. He was continually shocked when I would say, "I HATE that person." He believed that adults shouldn't speak that way. But when I was angry, I did. Because I understood the world from a conventional perspective, I believed that intimacy meant that he needed to hear the depth and pain of all my emotions.

This was hard, actually, it was impossible for him. My emotions, especially when my story was that he had caused them, were just too painful for him to bear. He would leave, I would feel abandoned, we would be disconnected, and both be in emotional pain. This dynamic happened over and over. We went to three different couples therapists in the span of six years, and nothing really helped.

Until I began to practice what I learned through human design.

Human design has a completely different way of understanding emotions, and how to interact with others around one's emotions. According to human design, 51% of the human population is emotionally defined, and 49% is not emotionally defined. What that means is that depending on whether you are emotionally defined, your nervous system will process emotions differently.


Those of us who are emotionally defined have the experience of feeling emotions in our bodies. Since I am one of those people, I will never really know what emotions are. I am always putting out my emotions into the field, and the emotionally open people around me are taking in those emotions, amplifying them, and distorting them.

If you are an emotionally-defined person, human design posits that you have an emotional wave. When you are down on your wave, you are down, and then you are up, you're up. You can be doing the same thing, like taking out the garbage. One week you could go out and think, "I love my town, I love this day. I'm so happy." One week later, nothing could be different externally, but you could be down on your wave. In that case, if you have the energy, you may drag yourself outside to take the garbage out. You may feel really bad, and think, "I hate my neighborhood. It's gentrifying. There is too much garbage in the world. This is all terrible."

Emotions are NOT You

For those of you who are emotionally open, emotions feel like clouds that pass through us. If you are emotionally open you might have had the experience of feeling an emotion really strongly, then leaving a place or moving away from someone's presence, and that emotion will be totally gone, poof!. An example: my emotionally-open neighbor, S., was walking toward me. When she arrived she said, "It's the oddest thing. I was so upset, and about halfway through walking I just started feeling so happy." There it is--she was amplifying my happiness.

For the emotionally undefined person, emotions feel really different. If you are emotionally undefined, try this on: you experience emotions as clouds. You are the sky. There could be a really dark cloud, and you can let it be there. That is like being in the presence of someone who is really down. There could be a beautiful, fluffy, brilliant cloud, and that is like being with someone who is really up on their wave.

A Different Model

Human design's understanding of emotions is a big corrective moment for our mainstream ideas about emotionality, that is, the understanding that everyone has defined emotions that they need to connect with and "discharge" in some way.

What is different? Only where you are in your wave. And when you are down on the wave, the only thing to do is hunker down: be alone, play the guitar, cook, or just lie in your bed and moan. Netflix is also good. If you have a meditation or inner life practice, let yourself, as my teacher John Martin says, "sink to the bottom of the ocean." Let yourself be down. Ra Uru Hu, founder of human design, used to say that this is where the creative juices come from. Melancholy is a natural part of the individual's life, and you need to learn to stew in it.

Regardless, there is nothing for you to do except for NOT IDENTIFYING WITH THE EMOTIONS. That is it. Once you leave the presence of someone who is having strong emotions, witness your body as it just returns to its nature, like the sky when a cloud passes. Learn what it is like for you to be in the woods, or near the ocean, with no one around you. That is your true nature, your balance. Then enjoy other people's emotions. You who are emotionally open are the ones who are here to learn about emotions--you will understand them in a way that no emotional person ever can.

This is really good news for everyone. For us defined emoters, it means that we can be present with ourselves (and maybe a close friend or therapist who is up for the task) in our emotional wave. We can sit and feel the depth of what it is to be an emotional being. We don't NEED our partner to witness us. And this can set us free.

For the emotionally open person, you can stop being traumatized by having to identify with your partner's, or parent's, or friend's wave. You can allow them to have their emotional experience, and kindly excuse yourself when you just can't take it anymore.

But, in the words of Kishnamurti, don't take my word for it. Or as he liked to put it, "Think for yourself!" Ra said that human design is a moment by moment experiment, and that it takes 7 years from the time when one first begins to experiment to really SEE what this is all about.

To discover whether or not you are emotional, get a free chart at:

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!