Why do people and animals experience emotions, and what makes us experience different types of emotions. Ian Heath looks at emotional states, the link between the sub-conscious and our feelings.
The analysis of emotions has been ineffectual up till now since they are very difficult to identify, except for a few such as fear and anger. Many years ago I began an intense psycho-analysis (which I did on my own). It took me five years of constant awareness to finally identify the range of emotions that I usually experience.
The peculiarity of any particular emotion is that, whilst it is just an emotion, it is nevertheless intimately associated with specific mental attitudes and ideas that have become characteristic of that emotion. In general, I found that each emotion acts as a nucleus for pre-set ideas about the world. This fact gives rise to a notable phenomenon. As one emotion fades away and the next one is generated, so the ideas in a person’s mind automatically change : the fresh emotion brings with it its associated ideas.
A person is always experiencing some emotion at any time, since when the present emotion fades away so another emotion will take its place and be felt by him / her. No single emotional response can be permanent. When any emotion, such as anger, is experienced the person can stay angry only for some time ; eventually the anger will fade away and a fresh emotion will arise.
Many people orientate on feeling responses to the world: an abundance of good feelings, and emotional satisfaction, become the criteria for a successful life. However, emotions present problems for the ego. When emotions become intense they neutralise intellectual concerns. In fact, common negatively-valued emotions such as self-pity, fear, anxiety, as well as moods like depression, actually tend to inhibit rationality � in particular, intense anxiety seems to produce a mental fog in one’s mind, making it impossible to study.
Understanding the nature of emotions has profound implications for psycho- therapy. In this set of three articles I present my ideas on emotion. In the subsequent set of five articles on abreaction I focus on their relevance to psycho-therapy and the development of self-awareness.
How do we define emotions?
One area of confusion is that feelings are often loosely equated with emotions. This is all right for colloquial use. I can ask a friend how he is feeling today ; it would be awkward to ask him how emotional he is being today. Some people might take offence if they were thought to be emotional, whereas it is acceptable for them to show feelings. However, there are fundamental differences between feelings and emotions.
There are just three feelings : the pleasant one, the unpleasant one, and the neutral one. This is the Buddhist understanding and I verified this fact directly during the time when I used to practise meditation. In the past, some moral theorists believed that the neutral feeling is only an equal mixture of both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, so that the net effect is zero. But meditational awareness disproves this assumption.
Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath. All Rights Reserved