Can you trust your feelings?
Let’s talk about expressing your feelings. Emotions and feelings have work to do. Part of their job is to provide the energy and motivation that lets us meet our goals and needs, and despite the occasional fail, they often improve our performance in a given situation. Emotions and feelings play an important role in how we think and behave. However, when they blow up in the heat of the moment, then you're outside of the normal emotional state which can easily bring undesirable consequences upon you.
Definition of emotionality
Emotion is the mind's and body's integrated response to a stimulus of some kind. Emotions involve physiological arousal, expressive behaviours and conscious experience. These can be short flashes or long responses, and they can be very clear or very confusing. We know those elements are there, but how do thinking and feeling interact? Let’s have a look.
Emotion is arousal, a mentally blind impulse that is experienced in consciousness as excitement or surge of energy. Emotions motivate us to make decisions. Pure emotion provides internal activation and motivation for action and involves no thinking, no intellectual understanding. Emotions cannot understand. Emotions can only be aroused and experienced in response to a stimulus from the environment or from within your body.
If you have problems recognizing it, try to imagine what it feels like to fall in love at first sight. Falling in love with someone feels like your mind is totally occupied with that person, almost as if you were obsessed by the image of the other. You just feel emotionally attracted to a person and that gives you a pleasant feeling or sensation in your consciousness. You can’t really explain why, and even if you understood it, it wouldn’t matter, because feeling is so different than thinking.
That brings me to an important point: emotions are mentally blind. Emotions occur as a reaction to various impressions from the world, regardless of whether you understand them or not. Understanding is the ability of the mind, of your grey brain matter. But emotions arise from your limbic system, a very different part of the brain.
emotions + thoughts = feelings
Although emotions are mentally blind, usually they don’t manifest themselves in their pure and raw form. They rather intermingle with thoughts that we have about ourselves and the world. Our mentality, our mind, our thoughts intermingle with emotions. In this way thoughts tint emotions, and the result we call... feelings. When emotions intermingle with thoughts, they become feelings. You could say, feelings are ‘intellectualised’ emotions, a mix in which the emotion dominates. That’s why feelings are not truly rational. They can be rational, but for the most part they are vague and irrational. Whenever emotions are involved, vagueness is the defining characteristics.
Feelings emerged first among animals. We all know that dogs and cats, other pets and wild animals can show basic emotions of anger, fear, and even joy. Wild animals always aim for survival. In their struggle they express aggression and fear when they have to fight their way to claim food or to protect themselves from enemies. Fear and struggle played and still play a major role in primitive emotionality.
Human feelings are of course far more complex than in animals, because our emotions intermingle with thoughts, with the human intellect, adding a bit of rationality to what otherwise would be a purely animalistic, emotional experience.
classification of feelings
Feelings can be classified, but it’s not that easy or straightforward. The variety of feelings is clearly there, but when it comes to analysing the details, the boundaries between them become vague. However, emotions can be classified into two groups: EMOTIONS ARE EITHER POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE.
Feelings as emotional manifestations can be experienced as pleasant or unpleasant and in varying degrees of intensity. Enjoyable feelings which are pleasant to the body we can call positive, unpleasant feelings that cause pain or discomfort to the body we can call negative.
When the human intellect is weak and primitive, it’s possible to easily loose emotional control, because it’s the thoughts that can control feelings. And if the mind is weak, you your emotions will control you. An emotion can run along the whole spectrum of positive and negative experience unrestrained. If the mind isn’t strong enough, the emotion can overwhelm your thoughts easily under certain circumstances, with the result of e.g. an angry person becoming furious, a sad person sinking in depression, or a happy person becoming zealous.
You can observe it in yourself when you have a quarrel. Someone says something which hurts or offends you and you react forcefully and aggressively. You say things which you don’t really mean in a tone that you don’t really like, because some troubled part of your emotional self got challenged while your mind wasn’t vigilant enough to control the emotional response. You let loose and only after the quarrel your mind comes back and lets you process what has just happened.
That’s usually the moment where you start feeling sorry and remorseful about how things unfolded, because your mood calmed down and your rationality returned to your senses. Oddly enough, some people’s mood might even swing back to very happy and relieved after the heavy experience of a conflict. That’s because emotions can alternate unrestrained between positive and negative impulses and will always do it if you don’t control your emotionality with your mentality.
It's the main part of your task as an adult human being: you need to control your emotions. But there’s also another part: you can consciously create your feelings by deciding what attitude you want to bring into the conditions of your life and committing to it. Make sure that you only choose the noblest, the loftiest, the happiest thoughts, so that the noblest, the loftiest, the happiest feelings can follow. That’s the main task of emotional development: purge your inner life from negative complexes, so that you can express yourself freely and naturally the way you want. I know, this sounds easier than to do in practice. Still, this is the way.
Emotional self-control and spontaneity are not contradictions, though it’s a balancing act that is difficult to achieve. But it’s definitely worth it to try your best, because you learn a lot as a person while trying and failing. But what’s the alternative?
Well, you could neglect developing mental strength and noble feelings, and just strive mediocrity of mindless pleasures and emotional passions. Party, comfort, money, entertainment, sex would become your only motives to strive for. You would become so self-absorbed and shallow that as a result you would become angry and aggressively disappointed at the end. It’s not a bright and joyous alternative. You’ll find happiness and meaning in challenging yourself, testing your limits, overcoming obstacles, and disciplining your urges. That’s the secret.
emotion & intellect
What’s the benefit of controlling your emotions? Well, the process of self-control develops the capacity of your mind, your intellect. The mind develops under the influence of feelings and emotions and the ultimate goal is to make your intellect, your mentality independent of your emotional impulses. Only in this way you can see things clearly and unfiltered.
Perhaps you can recognize why people have so much trouble acknowledging simple facts of life and seeing things clearly in the world. It’s because our emotions can blind us terribly if we’re not careful and mentally vigilant enough. Our flawed character can often stand in our own way. Your worst enemy sits right behind your eyes. That’s the truth.
So folks, please choose emotional moderation, mental discipline, intellectual curiosity, and personal effort as your ideals to strive after in life. I hope you found this helpful and inspiring. I’ll see you in the next one.