Saturday, January 26, 2013

About Our Emotions

In this article a brief overview of emotions is sketched:


The range of Human emotions is great:
Love, pride, reverence, desire, shame, joy, security, satisfaction, surprise, despair, sentimentality, obsession, abandonment, self hate, self love, inadequacy, fear, hate, jealousy, guilt, anger, sorrow, regret, acceptance, sadness, anticipation, invulnerability, vulnerability, lust,  hope, envy, anticipation, patience, remorse, grief, elation, anguish, relief, rapture, submission, bliss, shock, depression, humor, indignation, disappointment, ambiguity, clarity, interest, confidence, friendship, triumph, admiration, repulsion, attraction, aggressive, passive, emptiness, richness, longing, caring, connection, exhilaration, dependence, independence, calm, openness, trust, distrust , helplessness, dread, suspense, immersion, distance, enthrallment, expectation, eagerness, anticipation, surprise, pity, envy, appreciation, detachment, kindness, contempt, irritation, caution, sorrow, tolerance, boredom, vigor, lethargy, generosity, impulse, instability, freedom,  restriction, playful, seriousness, equivocal, relief, frustration, gratitude, ingratitude, greed, anxiety, doubt, certainty, empathy, stress, serenity, ecstasy, vengefulness, homesickness, grounded, balanced, commonality, unity, disunity, strangeness, familiarity, insight, harmony, family, adventure, exploration, competitiveness, hesitance, connection, novelty, self identity, power, dependence, neglect, shyness, simplicity, complexity, mystery, striving, heroism, communication, retreat, egress, improvement, eternity, universality, confusion, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, loneliness, crowded, continuity, flow, kinetic, rebellion, conformity, truthfulness, discordant, descent, ascent, burden, obligation, abandon, goodwill, covetousness, hospitality and many, many more. 

Let's break the features of emotions into categories:


Ideas are abstract things that give us clarity and plans. But emotions have no analysis or concepts, they are simply feelings. Ideas help us understand reality but emotions help us change reality. An idea must pass to emotion or it cannot get anything done. Ideas are merely phantasms. Ideas are in a partnership with feelings to change reality -- but feelings are closer to tactile reality, to physiology, to energy, to action; contrarily, ideas are most distant from these phenomenon.


A Foundation emotion we share with animals such as anger or fear, comfort or discomfort, trust and distrust, hope and despair, gratitude and ingratitude, attraction and aversion etc.

We inherit these emotions from them. At the same time we have evolved out of the Nature so we have developed another level of emotions. These are the Conceptual emotions. These mix an idea with an animal feeling, mix the "human" with the primitive.

Examples of Conceptual emotions are:

Guilt which is the mixture of basic pain with a moral self assessment
Faith which is the combination of hope with a paradigm of belief.
Moral satisfaction which is pleasure taken to a higher level
Universal love which is the transformation of basic love into the Human idea of compassion for all things.
Spiritual striving which is the basic struggle to survive in the context of self growth.
A certain kind of depression in which one dwells on self failure as opposed to animal depression that is related to lack of activity, imprisonment, pain, lack of interaction and love.
Joy of realization
Self hate
Self love
Moral disgust
And many others: awe, the sublime, hubris, serenity, paranoia, moral outrage, righteousness


A transcendent emotion is a type of conceptual emotion, it stands at higher level. Guilt would be a conceptual emotion that stands at a more basic level because guilt arises as a result of having rules or a code that is violated, regardless of the morality of the code. For example, Nazis felt guilt, which proves that they were human but not "Human".

The transcendent emotion stands at a superior level of development.

The elevated emotions would include the themes of universal love and empathy, live and let live, the sacred, infinity and the eternal, charitable actions, self sacrifice, justice, sublime beauty, love and protection of Nature, self growth, humility, increase of self knowledge and worldly knowledge, the search for truth, the search for purpose, grand social vision, faith in evolution, creative joy, avoidance of catastrophe and other such lofty behavior.

This type of emotion does not appear frequently in the course of normal life in a modern culture because it interferes with business as usual, the preferred emotions of conventional society are "non-transcendent", that is, those emotions which do not cause you to seek goals outside given lifestyles provided by consumerism and media. To an enlightened person, these accepted emotions begin to appear shallow and manipulated.

While the spark of a transcendent emotion appears in everyday life, normal activities can easily dwarf one or even snuff it out. A transcendent emotion flourishes when we are engaged in a zone of transcendent activity, it mirrors and also drives the situation. The problem we face is the modern world is that a transcendent emotion may materialize but it cannot grow in this world, this demands that the individual must create an alternate world of transcendent activity.

Let's look at other features of emotions:


Emotions are quite dynamic. Feelings often come in sets of opposites, in dualities. The dialectics of emotions encompasses a vast array of types: anger/fear, comfort/discomfort, pleasure/pain, love/hate, serious/playful, strangeness/familiarity, vengefulness/forgiveness, repulsion/attraction, anxiety/serenity, sacrifice/exploitation, jealousy/benevolence and so on.


It is very important to note that emotions are both negative and positive, there is no escape from that.
Negative emotions are as necessary as the positive, and you cannot eliminate the negative from your neurology, it is hardwired into your brain. But we can modify or reduce them in certain contexts and even eliminate them in certain special cases.

We should note that positive emotions can transform into negative emotions quite easily and vice versa.

The brain is a highly mobile device and it goes positive to negative and back again over time whether in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years. This feature of our minds cannot be eliminated as some "positive thinkers" suggest. This process of the mind is actually an asset for it allows us many emotional perspectives to evaluate and judge. The mind is fairly dynamic whether by natural wandering or choices or chaos or unpredictable events or the active subconscious. In any case we cannot control the process, at best we can attempt to steer it.

If we study the cycles we can get a better understanding of how to manage our emotions, and the complexity of the general Human condition.

For mental health of course, we generally need the predominance of positive emotions because clearly too much anger, fear, hate, anxiety, self criticism etc. will undermine us. So a general management of emotions will put a bias on the positive.

In some situations, there must be a heightened stress on the positive, for example, with children. Many kinds of personality disorders begin in childhood where there is lack of love, an atmosphere of fear.

But for moments or periods of life for the adult, negative emotions may be necessary resulting from problems that must be dealt with. In these periods we may make our greatest advances.


Another feature of emotions is degree and form. One fundamental emotion may have many differing expressions showing degree and nuance and specific variety.

Anger for example comes as in many versions from annoyance to irritation to normal anger to rage. Fear has degrees such as anxiety, dread, panic, horror etc. Fear has forms such as nervousness, intimidation, timidity.

Many of our emotions can be classified into this scheme of degree and form. And it is important to note that a minor expression of an emotion is manageable but a strong degree of emotion is by definition not controllable: rage for example. These extreme emotions should naturally be avoided by pulling the intensity of them down a few notches into the realm of conscious direction.

Also, we have a great range of nuance available to us so that we can steer ourselves to the proper emotion for a situation.


In addition to the degrees and forms of one emotion, we also have the sets of different emotions.
Our feelings are not solitary, we have them appearing in groups or in sequence or groups in sequence.
Fear, depression and inadequacy may appear together. Then followed perhaps by anger, vengefulness and loneliness. And later perhaps by shame and despair.

And often we get mixed feelings or unclear feelings where an event or situation is simply confusing producing a fount of emotions that seem illogically connected, although our personal experiences provide the logic of their connection.


We can see that emotions are quite dynamic, one will transform into another. And cycles either long or short will provide us a process. This reveals that the individual probably has sub-systems of emotions, collections of emotions that may reveal "wholes" of a sort that relate to some source or cause, some specific life experience.


Emotions appear for all sorts of reason. This would include reactions to events or things, emotions of self perception, emotions of social perception, emotions of attachment and non-attachment.  This would also include the distinction between foundation and the higher conceptual emotions. In addition the transcendent emotions would arise from more elevated feelings having to do with moral, philosophical and spiritual themes.


We have all of these complicated and evolving emotions, but what is their basic function? Why do we have them? Below are some reasons:

Response. An emotion provides a reaction to an event, situation, thing or person or even an idea. While logic may or may not.

Energy. An emotion gives us the energy and drive needed to accomplish some goal. Ideas themselves cannot do this, they have little energy in themselves, their observations are passive and must be translated into passion and action.
Feeling and sensation. An emotion gives us sentiment, ambiance, sense, viewpoint, disposition and more. Thoughts give us concepts but feelings are a completely different state of experience, free of ideas and closer to the physiological, to objective reality, to action. Feelings come in an enormous range of specific identities that create an emotional universe.
Tone and Degree. Emotions not only come in types but also in degrees of intensity. The purpose of this is to vary the scale of a response so that we may put an issue in proportion, and not over-react or under-react.
Perspective. A feeling by its nature has a perspective. It offers its own kind of paradigm of posture and orientation. Through its lens the world has a certain spin. The object would be to have the feeling that best reflects the world, either external or internal. And when we abandon our feelings to the state of decision and judgment we are incorporating this emotional perspective into a list of other perspectives that the mind must assimilate.
Direction. Related to perspective is the notion of direction. Emotions aim to a certain goal. They are quite practical.
Orientation. Attachment, attraction, detachment, repulsion and so on are part of the dynamics of feelings. The emotions are polar and they orient us toward one opposite or another. Even when we are neutral or detached this in opposition to being attached or connected.


Having said some things about emotions, what should be our goals toward emotions?

The first goal is knowing our emotions. What is the cause of an emotion, what is the nature of the emotion, what is its dynamic, what other emotions is it connected too etc? This knowledge comes from the experience of an emotion, without experience of a feeling we cannot know it. 

Secondly, to observe an emotion in an objective way we must feel it and be detached to it at the same time. This requires the services of the prefrontal cortex, in this neuro-region we analyze and begin to manage our feelings.

In the management of our emotions we learn how to handle a feeling, our specific responses it, how we express it and when, anticipating the long arc of a feeling and its close connections to other feelings. When we have emotional problems we try to understand why a difficult emotion arises, its source and triggers whether it be feelings of fear, abandonment, dependence, depression, instability, anger, alienation, hate, lack of feeling, self absorption etc.

With knowledge and skills, we learn how to manage an emotion to minimize its negative consequences. In some cases we eliminate or "forget" the feeling with new environments, attitudes and behaviors.

At a certain point we develop a certain level of proficiency in handling emotions, and at that point a confidence develops that reassures us that we can get through the most difficult of situations and the worst of feelings with an increasing skill and ease.

The positive emotions should generally outweigh the negative emotions. The negative feelings will occur less frequently, and periods of high negativity will indicate new situations to learn about and cope with or periods where longstanding issues must be resolved and a time of self growth is in order.

In the course of our lives we will discover that emotions are good, both positive and negative, you cannot have the positive without the negative. We will enjoy them, need them and use them, even the painful ones can be appreciated because they are reaffirming.

And what we will discover is that our library of emotions is too small, that we will want to extend the range of our feelings, and build up the treasure chest of this unique form of wealth. Ideas, theories and information are types of riches we seek in life, emotions are another form of wealth that only living life can bring you.

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