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Thought Experiment: If Emotions Change, Can Narratives Be Static? 

Today I want to write something brief about how thoughts/ narratives and justifications can be used to find clarity towards our inner selves, so that we can all have greater consistency to our personal branding journeys.

You see, yesterday I was reading various 2018 trend reports for the social media space on behalf of a digital marketing agency. Those include citations of fascinating articles about the growing importance and influence of the “consumer experience economy”.

According to this Forbes article:

Emotional engagement is the sister to rational engagement. Rational engagement is based on the stimulation of the mind, whereas emotional engagement is based upon the stimulation of the heart. In today’s age of brand experience, it seems that emotional engagement is proving to be more and more critical to achieving winning results and effective storytelling and digital marketing are at the heart of this movement.”

Intriguing. I love these concepts linking thoughts to emotions to actions. At Undelusional we speak a lot about the correlation/ relationship amongst the three elements.


Your Purchase Decision Process

You see, whenever a consumer buys something, we know that the inner processes are as follow. For the clarity of the proposition, I define “justification” as “the narrative you tell yourself”:

Proposition #1: Emotions >> Purchase Decision (Action) >> Justification (narrative)


Yet a really common mistake is that we assume that the inner process is like this:

Proposition #2: Narrative >> Emotions >> Purchase Decision (Action) >> More Emotions


Imagine yourself seeing this Juicy Couture bag with a unicorn.


  • [Emotion] You feel happy and excited.
  • [Action] You spend 3k on the bag while having clear financial constraints.
  • [Second Emotion] You feel guilt.
  • [Justification/ Narrative] You then justify the purchase as “But– it is limited edition” or perhaps, “But I love myself and I deserve this.”
  • [Justification/ Narrative] Conclusion, which really is a justification–“I must have liked Juicy Couture and/or unicorns a lot”.

The truth is that you don’t think “I must have liked Juicy Couture a lot” and therefore buy this unicorn-ish bag, do you?

So as a marketer I’ll need to give you reasons to make it easy for you to want to buy. But that marketing justification (as opposed to buying justification) is fundamentally based on emotions and not logic. 

It’s the same thing: In the buying, selling or social media context, how is it possible that thoughts come first? 

Conversely, if that’s the case, then how is it possible that we advocate behavioral change by asking people to change their thought, if the idea of a thought as a justification is true?


Thought Experiment: If Emotions Change, Can Narratives Be Static?

Emotions come and go in intensity and frequency, just like how feelings fade. Triggers, traumas, experiences and memories however, stay largely similar.


The question therefore to ask after asking oneself “where have you come from”–is not “why art thou so screwed up”. Rather, it is “where are we going from here”.

If traumas are the power behind emotions and scars are the evidence of them all, it is possible for defence mechanisms to be sky high.

So the next distinction we have to make is the question of exactly what defence mechanisms are.

If Emotions Change, How Can Narratives Then Be Static?

Can we imagine someone comfortably sitting in a hut and refusing to go out, therefore missing the greater pleasures and pain life could offer?

If I never had any delusions about my place in the hut but if I had sky high walls erected around myself… would it then make sense to adopt the diagnosis of the former onto the latter?

It’s interesting how people tend to think they know, when it’s really just all about their lack of context. We all see each other through our own root metaphors:

  • If you are sitting in a hut but think you’re sitting in a castle, you suffer from delusions of grandeur. Yet it’s a double-edged sword, so while suffering you enjoy the benefits of it too. Such as having a higher sense of self-esteem and having a thicker skin in general.
  • If you are sitting in a hut surrounded by walls because you’re so sick of being attacked by people, then those walls protect your authentic self. The next question or danger is whether you have frameworks to deal with how to get this self out safely to interact with people you want to engage with.
  • Perhaps you don’t even have that hut as a self-protecting mechanism. If you are always showing your true self to the world, then that probably makes you very endearing if you don’t have prior traumas or perhaps, biological “off-ness”? If you do, then perhaps loneliness will be a lifelong living condition.

So the next question is– Can we reverse engineer the buying process to get to the true you?

I think we can. So let’s reverse engineer the purchase decision process to the process of meeting your true self.


Proposition #1a: Emotions >> Action >> Justification >> Your Self Today

Reverse Proposition #1b: {Justification + Action} (ask why)>> Emotions (ask why)>> traumas/ past experiences/ memories >> the sum of who you currently are.

Proposition #1c: After having a perspective of who you currently are >> be aware of those underlying traumas/ past experiences/ memories >> make a decision taking into consideration those stuff in the direction of where you want to go.

Justification (the narrative you tell yourself)– together with a verifiable action– informs why you of your underlying emotions to great clarity.

Each step in the process is unlocked by asking “why”, and by asking “why” out of so many alternatives.

In other words, just ask why that narrative out of so many, and then just subsequently ask why that emotion out of so many.

And those answers will inform you of the underlying traumas/ past experiences/ memories, which you can then reflect upon/ choose to accept and let go– in order to move in the direction you want to go.

Maybe one day the pain will fade, but maybe it never will, and it is okay.


When Correlation Is Not Causation

So where do we go from here? We are terribly off if we think that changing our narratives will always change our actions. They won’t.


We are probably more on point and congruent within and out of ourselves if we follow our fleeting emotions/ triggers to track out our past traumas, experiences and learnings where we base present and future decisions on.

“It’s personal”— perhaps this is precisely what it means when people don’t want to share. Because gossip is cheap, and personal stuff shared freely and with so many people cheapens the depth and beauty of a person’s experience.

Gossip robs the original storyteller of the privilege of context–and it then becomes all about the people who indulge, all under a veiled narrative of “my intentions are right”. And then it becomes about people who propagate the gossip about the gossiper, again without proper context.

The irony of it all. And then we justify with “Oh it is the wrong context”, “Oh but it is about the right intention”.

It’s always so convenient, isn’t it. Ironic, too, akin to a betrayal of a so-called safe space then.

And then I laugh.

A person who wishes to be intimate with everyone –at the core –probably is a really lonely person. A person who wishes to be intimate with a few probably, at the core, is happy being in the hut around walls.

Both situations– though there are more–are informed by past experiences and traumas, and it really is okay. What a framing of perpetual loneliness for the former, though.

Can we therefore conclude anything about causation though? Or perhaps, is there even a need to convince? -Xx

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