posted on Jul, 13 2013 @ 08:57 PM
Is it possible to conceive of life without emotion? Whenever we do anything, were seemingly being led by emotion. If you're aware of this process,
you'll acknowledge that we aren't in conceptual control of why we respond "this" way instead of "that" way. The very act of "choosing" is a
different type of thinking altogether. When we move - when we get up - the manner of our walk around the house, or in public (if you aren't the self
conscious type) is regulated by a type of being that has us being led by "charges" that come in and out without our conceptual awareness.
The psychologist Daniel Kahneman breaks the mind into two types: system 1 and system 2. System 1 is fast, automatic and intuitive. By it's very
nature, system 1 thinking is emotional thinking. System 2 thinking, on the other hand, is slow, logical, analytic and methodological. But it too is
subserved by emotion. Albeit, an emotion restrained by a self conscious mind.
It's only from the perspective of system 2 thinking that I am even able to make a thread about such a subject and discuss it's significance. But are
most people able to conceive of life without emotion? In my experience, most people have trouble understanding the basic components involved in our
day to day sense of being.
For example, it is a paradoxical fact that "embodied self awareness" - another term popular with modern psychologists - involves two directional
opposites. Generally, when we speak or move, we are relating with some environment: some "object" "out there" in the world. When I say hi to
someone, I am briefly immersed in another reality. Concurrent to this ontological immersion in the "other", is my feeling of an emotion. Typically,
this is all were cognizant of. Emotion flies in and out - we say "hi, How are you? Long time no see" without considering the two parts involved in
this psychological process. It is paradoxical that emotion and feeling - the essence of living - is so conceptually intertwined with engaging
something other than ourselves.
People who have experienced intense shyness or anxiety in social situations can probably conceive of this process, but from another angle. The
presence of new faces makes you feel uncomfortable; this discomfort is bad - to be feeling this way in front of others feels embarrassing. But what is
embarrassment? Embarrassment is a concept that arises from a conceptually self aware mind. When the mind becomes aware of it's emotional discomfort,
it leaves the experience of "feeling" (an ontologically different way of being) and enters the mode of "thinking". It begins to ruminate and brood
about it's discomfort. In this new situation, because the mind is no longer completely absorbed in it's environment, but has become anxiously
involved with it's own internal feelings vis a vis an external impetus - it can no longer feel and connect with it's true self. The self
paradoxically requires the mediation of the environment, the world, the "other", in order to most feel itself.
Another person graced with an ability to sense this reality are people with PTSD. Of course, PTSD is mostly bad. But it does provide advantages by
making the mind more sensitive to the interoceptive terrain of the human psyche. PTSD tends to create a condition called "dissociation", or
hypo-emotionality. In short, people with PTSD are afraid of experiencing intense emotions. For understandable reasons, even an intense positive
emotion reminds them of the vulnerability they experienced during the originating trauma.
When an animal is about to be killed, the bodies fight or flight chemicals (adrenaline, gluco-cortisoids) are replaced by endogenous opiates released
by a region in the brain stem called the periaquaductal grey. In order to "numb" the pain of being eaten by another animal, the opiates create a
dissociation effect that inhibits the minds ability to "feel" it's body or its emotions. Unfortunately, this mechanism which has such obvious
evolutionary value is also the main cause of post traumatic stress disorder. After experiencing trauma, the persons nervous system over-responds by
releasing huge amounts of endogenous opiates, preventing the person from fully experiencing the event. This is important because parasympathetic
restoration is only possible after the mind fully experiences sympathetic arousal. For some unknown reason, some people simply do not respond this
way. Their nervous systems seem to be acutely sensitive to certain emotional experiences, preventing the body from feeling parasympathetic
restoration. This means that the trauma becomes "frozen" in them.
In any case, being hypo-emotional i.e. having very low emotional arousal, enables someone to parse and analyze the components involved in basic human
relations. It can also help one better appreciate the unfathomable nature of emotion.
Trauma is feeling intense emotion. People with PTSD fear the vulnerability of this state; ergo, they fear emotional arousal. What can this teach us
about emotion? When emotion is present, the conscious mind, the "I", is temporally absent. It is not aware of it's experiencing emotion, but
rather, is involved with the "object" that emotions spurs it towards. Emotion means not being in control. In effect: Life, living, means sacrificing
our need to be in control. I think this is the meaning. Life is a process, as Carl Rogers was fond of saying. In it's deepest possible sense, were
pulled along into a motion and current which seems to be completely beyond our conscious ability to control. We can't predict or anticipate our
emotional arousal. If we did, we would in effect be impeding the flow of emotion.