This post is from the Human Design Basics Series covering the Human Design Signature and Not-Self Theme. If you don’t have your human design chart yet, you can get one for free on Genetic Matrix.
Human Design Signature and Not-Self Themes (The Traditional Interpretation)
In traditional Human Design it is said that by following your strategy and authority, you will experience your signature. When you do not follow your strategy and authority, you will experience your not-self theme.
The human design signature and not self themes are:
Generator: Frustration and Satisfaction
Manifesting Generator: Frustration + Anger and Satisfaction
Projector: Bitterness and Success
Manifestor: Anger and Peace
Reflector: Disappointment and Surprise
I see the human design signatures and not-self themes differently.
The signatures and not-self themes are an area where I am on a different page than “traditional” Human Design.
From my perspective, the way the signatures and not self themes are often described is oversimplified and misguided.
Without a deeper understanding, traditional interpretations of the signature and not self themes can perpetuate:
- shame, guilt, and despair
- disempowered attitudes
- and behaviors that actually take us away from our own internal wisdom.
Which doesn’t make any sense at all. The whole point of Human Design is to listen to your inner wisdom.
Here are the things I see in traditional interpretations that can be disempowering (I’ll cover them in detail below):
- You are meant to feel good all the time and certain actions can ensure that you do. (aka following our strategy and authority)
- Your signature is “proof” that you are doing your design (and life) right. Your not-self theme is “proof” that you are doing your design (and life) wrong.
- That someone else can know what your life “should” look like or what is “not-self” based on your design.
- The signatures and not-self themes always boil down to satisfaction/frustration, success/bitterness, anger/peace, and disappointment/surprise.
I don’t say any of these things as judgments about any specific person (dead or alive, lol).
I have judgments, of course, because I am human. But the roots of these ideas are collective issues that the Human Design system inherited.
They are emotional, mental, and spiritual issues that have been passed down for millennia; they have nothing to do with one single person. We are dealing with an epidemic of these things.
When we ourselves are soaked in unprocessed trauma, codependence, stigma, and dogma, we inevitably pass that on to others. Unless we make a conscious effort to choose a different narrative, we will keep passing them down.
As a society, we would do well to teach people, especially children, how to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually empowered.
I am here for that. Literally. I’m a Projector with half and half individual and collective circuitry.
So, with all that said, let’s take a closer look at these four disempowering areas. Then, I’ll get into my perspective on working with your human design signature and not-self theme.
Disempowering Idea # 1:
You are meant to feel good all the time and certain actions can “ensure” that you do.
There is often an assumption made that by following your strategy and authority, you will magically live happily ever after. Or that by “living your design” you should expect to experience your signature all the time.
Yes, your strategy and authority are wonderful ways to increase ease, flow, and synchronicity in your life. And, in my decades of experience in energy healing, coaching, and magick, they are the best way.
But Human Design is not a magic pill.
Happily ever after is a fantasy that happens at the end of romantic comedies and fairy tales.
Life, on planet Earth, is all about emotional contrast. It is about all that drama that happens during the full arch of the story.
We are “supposed to” feel the full spectrum of emotions.
There will be moments:
- bliss and torture
- joy and sadness
- satisfaction and frustration
- success and bitterness
- peace and anger
- surprise and disappointment.
And none of it will be right or wrong because all of it is part of the human experience.
Life is 50/50 and wanting it to be any other way is a perfect recipe for suffering.
There is nothing you can do to experience bliss, joy, satisfaction, success, peace, and surprise every minute of every day.
And, despite what you may have been conditioned to think, you don’t really want to feel good all the time.
Toxic positivity is, well, toxic.
- people die, you want to feel sad
- unjust shit happens, you want to feel pissed
- walking down a dark alley at night, you want to feel fear
- you treat a loved one like hot garbage, you want to feel shame
- a baby smiles at you in the grocery store, you want to feel joy…
- settling for less than what lights you up, you want to feel frustration…
- giving unsolicited advice falls on deaf ears, you want to feel bitter…
- your boundaries suck, you want to feel anger…
- surrounding yourself with assholes, you want to feel disappointed.
They are clues to help you:
- expand your capacity to experience life
- showing you where you are telling bullshit lies about yourself and your potential…
- and are offering you great guidance to carry you forward.
And that is true even if you have an undefined or open solar plexus.
Even if you do everything according to your design, you will still have a 50/50 life.
You will still experience “negative” thoughts and feelings. And, those “negative” thoughts and feelings will fuel “negative” actions.
Yes, you can start to live less out of unconscious emotional reactions and victim consciousness. You can start to live with more conscious intention and emotional maturity; you can move into I AM that I AM consciousness.
(I teach you how to work with your emotions in the Human Design Map.)
But until the day you die, you will still be a human being on planet Earth who is here to experience all the feels.
This is what it means to be alive! It is all grist for the mill (says my human design gate 51).
Disempowering Idea # 2:
Your signature is proof that you are doing your design (and life) right. And your not-self theme is proof that you are doing your design (and life) wrong.
For the love of all things Holy…
Please stop using your Human Design as proof that you are doing life right or wrong.
Your signature and not self themes aren’t moral measuring sticks.
“Living your design” is NOT evidence of your:
Or whatever other criteria you might be holding for your good enoughness.
I’d even go so far as to say that…
You are already living your design!
All of the energy in the chart is on a spectrum. It is just a matter of the frequency that you are on.
We live in a world where “negative” emotion is used as evidence that you are doing something wrong. We may have even been punished or threatened for expressing feelings like anger, fear, and sadness.
And all of that has roots in toxic patriarchal religion.
Somewhere along the way, humans decided that there was a test at the end. We conjured the idea that when you feel good, you are passing the test. And when you feel terrible, you are failing it.
The exact story looks different based on the culture it arose from.
No matter where, humans are fucking OBSESSED with the dance of “Good” and “Evil”. The human brain loves to categorize things and make “final” decisions.
And we have projected that dualistic thinking onto the Divine.
But what if there is no white-bearded dude in the sky?
What if there is no test at the end?
What if the only thing that makes something “right” or “wrong” is thinking it is so?
Disempowering idea # 3:
That someone else can know what your life “should” look like or what is “not-self” based on your design.
In a similar vein…
There seem to be people who think that you can look at a chart and decide how that person should live.
Or that you can decide what is “correct” and what is “not self”.
(AKA that they are doing their design, and life, wrong.)
Well, you can’t.
Beyond the whole spectrum/frequency + toxic religion thing, Human Design is a system that guides us into our own inner wisdom.
And that means it is never up to anyone else to decide what is “correct” for you and what isn’t.
Yes, people can decide if you are for them or not.
People are free to walk away from a relationship with you for any reason they choose.
They can ignore, delete, and block until the cows come home.
But other people are never the one who decides what is right and wrong for you.
It doesn’t matter:
- how many Ra Uru Hu lectures they have listened to
- the level of training they have in Human Design
- the number of years they’ve “been in the experiment”.
Other people are not your judge and jury.
At the end of the day, you are the one that has to live with yourself.
Your own internal sense of righteous shame, frustration, bitterness, anger, and disappointment show the way.
Human Design is not a weapon to use against ourselves or others.
Disempowering Idea # 4:
The signatures and not-self themes always boil down to satisfaction/frustration, success/bitterness, anger/peace, and disappointment/surprise.
This idea is rooted in the belief that feeling good is right and feeling bad is wrong.
Beyond what I have already said about that bullshit…
This idea cuts us off from nuance and emotional integrity. And a broader awareness of what is happening in our internal world.
Now, listen, I love a simple concept.
I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the human brain eats up simplicity like candy. And anytime we can simplify an idea to make it more digestible, that is a good thing.
So, I’m not throwing out the baby with the bathwater here. I do find the signatures and not-self themes to be incredibly valuable to pay attention to. (I’ll get to that shortly.)
But, there is a time for simplicity and there is a time for nuance.
The way we experience these themes cannot be boiled down to two words for everyone. Not if we want a practical application of them.
First of all, most people have a mix of projected, generated, manifested, and manifesting generated gates in their chart. And everyone has undefined gates in their chart.
A generator or mani-gen with mostly projected gates/channels may feel bitter about the way they are using their energy.
And a Projector, Manifestor, or Reflector with a ton of hanging generated gates may feel frustrated when things aren’t flowing.
But, more importantly than that…
The signatures and not self themes play out more like a collection of thoughts, emotions, and actions; they aren’t single emotions.
They are the stories we tell about the way life is treating us. And the lens that we see the world through. They are happening in the mental realm, first.
When a Projector says:
or “I’m bitter.”
They aren’t usually describing the emotional sensations that they are experiencing in their body; they are describing a collection of thoughts about their life experience.
And, since our thoughts create our emotional feelings, a collection of thoughts will come with a collection of feelings.
For example, a Projector who has been recognized and invited may be thinking:
I love helping people figure out their next steps.
When they think that thought, they may feel…
- a smile creep up on their face
- an expanded sensation across their chest…
- their eyes tightly focused
- their body leaning into the warm glow of the other.
They might call that feeling “curious.”
And with that curiosity, they will demonstrate true interest in the other person by:
- asking questions
- and when appropriate, sharing their perspective on the next steps.
This results in a beautiful exchange between the Projector and the person being guided. The projector is using their energy the way they love. And the other person is able to fully take in, and utilize, the guidance.
On the other hand, a Projector who is giving unsolicited advice and receiving no recognition or invitations may be thinking:
No one ever listens to me.
When they think that thought, they may feel:
- their jaw tighten
- a collapsing in their shoulders
- and an urge to cross their arms.
They might call that feeling “huffy” or “pissed.”
And with that huffiness, they might:
- complain about their life
- lash out at people around them
- stop delving into their zone of genius
- or hide from the world.
That, of course, results in even less recognition and invitation.
In the first case, we could, of course, call it a success. And, in the second case, we could certainly call it bitter.
But, on a day-to-day basis…
It is going to be far more useful to notice where they feel curious and pissed. As well as any other thoughts and emotions that fall into the broad categories of “success” and “bitterness.”
The same is true for all types. There is always a collection of thoughts, feelings, and emotions happening that are worthy of noticing.
I talk more about these collections of thoughts, feelings, and actions in the Human Design Map.
I honestly have a gazillion other points I could make about this. But, for now, let’s talk about how to use your signature and not-self theme.
How to use your human design signatures and not-self themes.
Despite all that ranting…
Our human design signatures and not-self themes are super useful concepts that can be holy beneficial in our lives. This is especially true once we remove any judgment. And open ourselves up to the beautiful (and nuanced) wisdom we can find inside of them.
Our signatures and not-self themes are clues to go within and see what is happening.
And that is it.
They aren’t proof or evidence of anything.
I’d even go so far as to say that…
As human design gate 30 shows us, we can even find ourselves reveling in our “negative” emotions.
For me, in some situations, there is something deliciously bitter about speaking my truth. Even when it falls on deaf ears.
And, as human design gate 29 shows us…
There is a certain kind of pleasure to be found in the devotion to the frustration of overcoming obstacles.
Sometimes, frustration, bitterness, anger, and disappointment are more than worth it.
They can simply be clues to embracing being alive, here, and embodied on this crazy green spinning rock of contrast.
But, of course, in other cases…
They are clues that we are:
- toning ourselves down
- and keeping up with the Jones.
Or where we are wasting our precious energy on the people who would be better served elsewhere. Maybe revealing where our boundaries could use some tightening up. And where we might be settling for relationships, places, and lifestyles that are not on a frequency band that we enjoy.
They can show us where we aren’t receiving our Divine Birthrights and the abundant bounty of our highest potential.
But, no matter where they lead, our signatures and not self themes open the doorway into our awakening and expansion.
They show us where to look inside and, potentially, where it is time to make a new, bigger, bolder, wiser choice.
Contemplations for each of the Human Design types – based on the signatures and not self themes:
Use the doorway that is your signature and not-self theme by sitting with these questions…
Generators and Manifesting Generators | Signature: Satisfaction | Not-Self Theme: Frustration
When you are looking at the big picture of your life, where you do experience your signature of satisfaction? And how about your not-self theme of frustration?
Where are you people-pleasing, toning down your light, and trying to keep up with the jones? Where do you keep doing things that you don’t love doing? Why?
When do you go to bed “good tired” and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you did amazing work? How might you create more of those kinds of days?
What do your experiences of satisfaction have in common? And the frustration experiences?
What are some of the thoughts, emotions, and actions that create satisfaction? Frustration?
Projectors | Signature: Success | Not-Self Theme: Bitterness
When you are looking at the big picture of your life, where you do experience your signature of success? And how about your not-self theme of bitterness?
Where in my life does it feel like you’re wasting your time and energy? Where do your feel pissed that you aren’t being noticed for your insight and guidance? Why?
What is your idea of a perfect day and where is your life already matching that vision? How might you lean into your perfect day…today?
What do your experiences of success have in common? And the bitterness experiences?
What are some of the thoughts, emotions, and actions that create success? Bitterness?
Manifestors | Signature: Peace | Not-Self Theme: Anger
When you are looking at the big picture of your life, where you do experience your signature of peace? And how about your not-self theme of anger?
Where in your life are your boundaries out of whack? In what situations are you constantly being interrupted or told to be less than yourself? Why?
What river banks empower your creativity to flow? What feels like a restful womb of gestation? How might you create more of those containers?
What do your experiences of peace have in common? And the anger experiences?
What are some of the thoughts, emotions, and actions that create peace? Anger?
Reflectors | Signature: Surprise | Not-Self Theme: Disappointment
When you are looking at the big picture of your life, where you do experience your signature of surprise? And how about your not-self theme of disappointment?
Where are you settling for relationships, places, and lifestyles? What would you walk away from if you believed that you are fully supported by life? Why?
Who, what, and where brings out your delight? Where do you feel like a true embodiment of my multi-dimensional self?
What do your experiences of surprise have in common? And the disappointing experiences?
What are some of the thoughts, emotions, and actions that create surprise? Disappointment?
And, to be clear…
Don’t limit yourself to just the questions that relate to your specific type. As I mentioned in point 4, we have the whole chart inside of us.
They are all clues for your awakening and expansion, no matter what your type.
And, as always, above all else, trust your inner knowing.
p.s. If you want more details about the collection of thoughts, feelings, and actions of your signature and not-self theme AND you know you are ready to uplevel your “inner work” skills, the Human Design Map is for you.