Emotions vs. Feelings

(oh, I love a good fight!)

“You hurt my feelings.”

Part of the problem we have with discussions of this nature is the imprecise and inconsistent use of language; it was the root of my complaint about getting lost in Kant earlier.  We use the word “feelings” nearly indiscriminately, to designate an internal state, regardless of its nature, yet we only recognize the difference when we make the distinction between the nature of one internal state from another.

When I refer to “emotions”, I am referring to the phenomenon that occurs at the interface between body and mind; emotions as the ‘physio-logical’ response to mental events.  Emotions are physical responses to our reactions to mental events (the reactions themselves are mental events, they take place in the mind, during the processes of choosing and thinking); but emotions are rooted in the body, in the physical system.  That is both why we can learn to control our reactive responses, and why it is so hard to learn to control our emotional system – because it is, in fact, hard-wired into the physical system.  And of course, the whole system is run on a dimmer system, based on an on/off system of impulses.  This is why emotions can change in a flash – the signal changes, perhaps even literally.

Emotions exist because of the interrelation between mind and brain.  We have learned to recognize the physiological aspect to emotional states, we can mechanistically register changes in the body’s autonomic system that result from emotional stimulation.  We “know” the physical aspects of emotion, we recognize the internal experiences of emotion, but without a context to address them, we have no way to understand them.  Emotions can be so overpowering, so overwhelming as to seem to take on “a life of their own”, their own motive force can be stronger than our rational motive force trying not to be overcome and overloaded.

“I have a bad feeling about this.”

Anything that is not a physical response to a mental event is something else; let’s call that feelings, which we will further distinguish between perceptions and sensations.  Sensation is awareness we have have external events – colors, sounds, sights; the sensory data of the five input processes why recognize as physical.   Perception is awareness of internal events – thoughts, impressions; perhaps this is the mechanism of receiving intuitions from the larger activities of mind and consciousness.  Sensations and perceptions  become “feelings” when we attach value judgments to them – this “feels” bad, or this “feels” good.

… along a pair of opposite poles:

Attraction – Repulsion  / Good – Bad or Postive – Negative (?) or Constructive – Destructive …moving upward or downward (regression is an option) …  I like the attraction-repulsion construction vs. good-bad because it allows for attraction to the bad, which we know operates full-tilt, more often than not, or attraction to the negative, we’ve all seen it.

When perception is mistaken for sensation – if our expectation overrides the information, if what we perceive doesn’t match the actual sense information, that mis-perception is labeled ‘crazy’, ‘insane’, or in a slightly better interpretation, “sensitive”.

“I had a feeling something like this was going to happen.”

Then, there is the other kind of authentic information that comes in symbolic and/or analogical form, which makes no direct sense to the rational mind, because it has to be interpreted and analyzed, broken down and compiled by the rational mind before it can be ingested and internalized. 

Then there are genuine intuitions, concepts, ideas that emerge from the ‘other side’ of consciousness, the wholistic aspect of mind.  We often lump them all together, and speak of them as if they were identical when they’re not even, truly related.

That’s a lot of ground covered, in a very short time.

2014 0405 11:17 hrs on Saturday morning

Something very personal and very pressing has come up; rather than hold off on posting this until I’ve had more time, I’m going to post this and take a brief break, and get back to work as soon as the situation stabilizes.


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