Emotions are not things, so naming them is misleading if nonetheless necessary for the purpose of discussing them. And anything we say about emotions, we can pretty much say of feelings, too. The reason there is so much confusion about the difference between the two is that the distinctions are largely arbitrary. To name something is to accept that it is in some way a “thing,” a separately existing something. But naming a something doesn’t make it a something.
The old distinction between nominalism and realism.
Let’s not go off on a tangent. Our point here is that trying to carve up emotions or feelings as if they could be displayed on a rack is misleading and a waste of time. It is like trying to treat the evanescent colors of a flame as if each color were a separate, distinct, solid something.
In considering emotions and feelings as they manifest in your lives, forget about labeling except as a rough – a very rough – orienting device. The fact is, any emotion you will ever feel will be in the context of two forces, one of which will never be the same as in any other instance, and the other of which usually won’t be quite the same.
I hear that. Every time we deal with the shared subjectivity (the “external” world), it is different from what it was before or will be next time. And we ourselves, though we may be the same, usually are different too.
Yes, so the jealousy, or anger, or insecurity, or satisfaction or elation. Anything, everything. They will be experienced as the interface between inner and outer subjectivity, or you might say between 3D and non-3D (though that is less accurate), or between you now and you the previous times you experienced them. The air between the returning spacecraft and its descent path is never the same twice. The canoe paddler never dips into the same water twice. You know the analogies, no need to spell them out. At least, we hope not.
As is true for any given feeling or emotion, so is true even more for any combination of them felt in the same circumstances. You know the terms “mixed feelings.” What is that, but an expression of the fact that one’s circumstances may evoke many emotions at the same time – even contradictory ones.
But those emotions don’t come off the shelf! You don’t hold them in inventory! They are sparked from the interface. The space program didn’t stockpile ionized atmosphere, it manufactured it anew, each descent. We know this is a different way of thinking about emotions, but doesn’t it bring new clarity?
It does for me, anyway.