The Interface: Relating to the external world

My friend Dave Fortna sends a chart comparing feelings and emotions; Dirk has been researching the distinction as well. It appears that the common understanding is the opposite of what you are giving us. Common definitions make the emotions primary and longer lived, and the feelings secondary and shorter.

Partly this is because we and they are using the same words to mean different things. Mostly, though, we have to say, we don’t care. Our scheme is self-referential, consistent unto itself, and needs no external agreement in order to explain. Surely you see that what the authorities explain is not the same things we are examining. They are treating feelings and emotions as if part of a closed system, while we are doing very much the opposite. Our scheme is relational.

In any case, let us continue with it for the moment, lest change at this stage throw all the relationships we are establishing into confusion.

At some point we’ll want to clear it all up, in the way Rita’s questions penetrated ambiguity and led to resolution of apparent contradictions.

Yes, but until Dirk and others interpose as she did, we will continue our line of development.

Fair enough.

Last time we promised to look at emotions in contrast to the sketch of feelings that we had just drawn. So let us do that, and proceed to larger questions.

Now, if feelings are your background orientation – if they are your usual stance in the world – emotions are the results of momentary adjustments. That is, they arise from things of the present moment, not primarily from an accustomed reaction to the world.

A quarrel results from an emotion, not from a feeling.

Let’s leave out the verb “results” and say, instead, that it “relates to,” because it isn’t exactly a cause-and-effect situation. But that isn’t a bad example. No one gets violently angry as a feeling; it is an emotion. When a child is swept by gusts of sorrow and sobs its heart out, that isn’t feeling, it is emotion.

Well, that’s how I would see it. Not sure what the authorities can mean, looking at it the other way around.

It isn’t quite the case. Again, we and they are measuring different things and the nomenclature is confused. Try not to worry over that. Neither you nor we have to be respectable in our exploring or in our explaining. If we’re talking through our hats, it will become obvious soon enough.

To continue. Your basic orientation to life is formed initially and is enhanced or modified or contradicted by the life you live. But at any given moment, the immediate incidents through which you interact with the “external” world are emotional in nature. If you get involved in a car crash (with or without serious consequences) your reaction is an emotion, a short-term intense feeling. Anger, fear, puzzlement, despair – whatever you feel is rooted in how you see the world, but it manifests as an immediate reaction. You don’t (presumably) live continually in a state of anger or fear or puzzlement or despair – you live in a complex of attitudes that express as these emotions under the stimulus of a given situation.

Well, I see the distinction you are drawing. Not sure why accepted understanding differs, but I’m willing to wait for a clarifying question or objection.

So let us pass on to the larger question of how feelings and emotions relate you to the “external” world. This is really what you need to know, if you are to understand yourselves as part of a wider system, rather than considering yourselves as if you were islands in a vast ocean.

I presume that the reason we are putting quotation marks around the word “external” is to remind us that it is not really separate from us nor (therefore) we from it.

It is a way of providing you with an ongoing reminder without continually interrupting the larger explanation.. But it is necessary to keep in mind the fact that it and you are not separate, if you are to escape the common error of defining yourselves as isolated bubbles and then bemoaning your isolation.

I have just been reading Bernard Bailyn on the civilization of the American Indians as it existed prior to the coming of the Europeans. He makes it clear that they lived in a very different world, in which everything related to the human individual and the human community. When everything has spirit, when nothing is “dead matter,” when any attitude toward animals or plants could bring consequences, the humans lived in a world entirely of relationship; there was no isolation. Of course to the Europeans of the day, this looked like superstition, even over and above questions of deviation from Christian assumptions.

You mean, the invading Europeans were challenged not only by the Indians’ lack of Christian belief and practice but, even more fundamentally, by their perception of the world.

Yes. The Indians were far more like us in some ways than they were like 17th century Europeans. We with our beliefs and perceptions would have been persecuted and suppressed by those Elizabethans, if they could have gotten their hands on us, and those who didn’t persecute us for heresy would have persecuted us in the name of science and rationality.

Bear in mind, the Elizabethans as children of their culture would have assumed that their way of seeing the world was mere common sense; it was accurate seeing of what was to be seen, as opposed to the inaccurate (superstitious or devil-inspired) views that blighted the lives of those not so favored by life as to see things clearly. And of course this complacent and aggressive attitude was not peculiar to the Elizabethans. Their descendants changed beliefs in different ways, as the years rolled along, but no matter how things changed, the person of any given moment assumed that his (or her, of course) beliefs and perceptions were correct. So a child of the 1800s might disregard the Puritan religious belief entirely – might scorn it as self-evidently superstitious or, let’s say, in error – while continuing to live in other assumptions this world-view had accepted, such as a rejection of what it would call animism.

Not news to me.

Therefore, we put the word “external” in quotes. It seems a simple enough way to insert a continual quiet reminder.

All right.

Very little of our explanations can be truly understood if you cannot bear in mind that the world around you is not separate from you, is not dead, is not unconscious, is not meaningless, is not you. It isn’t only you, but it is you. That’s why we have taken to calling it a shared subjectivity. You may understand other things that we say, but if you don’t understand them in this context, you will be understanding them probably in a way different from what we mean.

It is only when you lose the reality of the fact that the “external” world is a shared subjectivity that you can be led to conclude that “All is not well,” that “Life is unfair.” Such judgments are inevitable when you see the world as external, contingent, with a  life of its own. See yourselves as orphans, and the world is a world that produces orphans and casts them out. See yourselves as islands or bubbles of rationality in a sea of ignorance, or as bits of mind among cold dead matter, and of course everything around you is going to look like a train wreck. But it is not so. despite any evidence provided by your 3D senses and your materialist civilization. All is Well, because it cannot be otherwise than well, appearances to the contrary.

But we have somehow burned our hour without getting to your explanation of feelings and emotions as they relate us to the world.

It’s all part of the same discussion. This was not a detour.

3 thoughts on “The Interface: Relating to the external world

  1. I find that, for me, TGU’s use of the words “emotion” and “feeling” has clarified how we experience life–how and why we are changed by it and how and why we make the choices that create our reality. Thanks for an illuminating post.

  2. I’m getting that feelings are part of the fabric of our being – our self identity. We get our feelings hurt, not our emotions. Emotions are the reaction of our sense of self to “external” events.

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