Emotions: Fight Fire with Water
Emotions are natural, instinctive states of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.If Reason is what separates us from animals, then emotions are what bring us back together. Sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere, are impossible to control, and make us do things we normally would not.
Emotions affect us all the time. Even when dealing with unfeeling machines we are struck by emotions. Who hasn’t yelled at the hourglass icon on their computer, or the ATM that coldly explains how poor and/or irresponsible you are? But the head of emotion is reared highest when we interact with other people. Even the most rational, detached human can have his mind clouded by an intense argument, thoughtful insult, or depressing story. Even stoic Vulcans can be brought to tears or violence by extenuating circumstances.
That we are controlled by emotions can be seen as a terrible curse, especially when we want to surpass our human perceptions and see the Truth of reality. But emotions affect us all the same. Is this just the condition of consciousness? Is there any way to keep our emotions in check, in ourselves and in others? As is the case in many social situations, manipulation may be the key.
When we are faced with emotions, both inside our own head and spewing out the mouths of others, the instinctual reaction is often to employ the same emotion. In this way, emptions are like viruses. Not quite alive, but able to infiltrate living things and reproduce inside them. When we are sad, sometimes we respond by doing sad things, like hanging out in the rain while longingly looking through windows. When we are angry, we respond by shouting or smashing things. When we are envious, we tell ourselves, “That guy’s not so great.”
So too do we react to the emotions of other people. When faced with an angry person we respond with anger. Sad people have a way of making us sad, and happy people can induce more happiness. Just as long as they’re not too happy. Responding to emotions with the same emotion is a brilliant strategy. It’s just like fighting fire with fire. There is no way things can get worse or out of control. No way at all… Perhaps a better strategy, though, would be to respond with the opposite emotion. Sort of like fighting fire with, I dunno, water or something.
When faced with sadness, there is nothing stopping us from singing a happy song or telling a stupid joke. When faced with anger we can respond with temperance. Fear can be met head on with brave ignorance. The opposite emotions will cancel each other out, and like all good manipulation, no one will be the wiser. Of course, going against our instincts is easer said than done. It requires constant vigilance. It takes awareness of what we are feeling and why. Even if we are able to neutralize emotions, is it worth all that work? Is it really a good idea? Without emotions, we would be separated from our animal roots, and maybe become more machine than man.
Yours was the most thorough analysis of emotions that I’ve ever read.
If a person doesn’t have emotions I would judge from your analysis that they aren’t human. But maybe I overreach myself. Apparently when an elephant dies the rest of the heard goes into mourning not unlike most of us humans.
You’re right about the elephants. The fact that they demonstrate what appears to be mourning reminds me of the Elephant Graveyard in The Lion King.
If a person did not display emotions, ever, I would think they are maybe a bit creepy, but I wouldn’t say they are not human. We can’t know whats going on in another head, and some people are better at keeping their emotions in check then others.
I believe what makes us human, and not animals like elephants or lions, is the blend of emotions and reason. Elephants mourn, but can they snap out of it for a higher purpose? Can they put emotions aside, or try and control them?
Maybe humans are not unique in the emotion-reason combination, but the available evidence does seem to point that way.
Thanks for the Comment!
I can’t think of a better analysis of emotions. Sorry I didn’t pick up your message earlier.