Archive for September, 2013

September 26th, 2013

Your Feelings are Out to Get You

I couldn’t tell you when it happened, exactly, and in truth there’s no reason to suspect that its growth was unlike the spread of a fungal colony; deep underground somewhere, the notion that what people “feel” could possibly bear as much as or more importance than what they think (assuming they actually possess the ability) acquired more and more mass, sending poisonous mushrooms above ground here and there until at some point those enjoying the forest found themselves knee-deep in rot.

“I feel that you are wrong.” “I feel that the company owes us retribution.” “I feel” this, “I feel” that, and it’s almost never about anything to do with that amorphous realm of emotion in which expressing a feeling could be at all relevant. It’d seem that people are being taught that their feelings matter so generally and in such an unexplained and imprecise manner as to lend credence to this idea –or moreover, this feeling– that there’s no real need to consider facts, to understand context, or to otherwise engage in thought. An alternative or even cooperative explanation could of course be that this broken feeling is simply never checked, or at least, not enough, by others (such as, for instance, parents, teachers, and others tasked with responsibility for the education of children).

An early lesson I struggled with was the notion that my feelings do not matter. On the first pass, it was knee-jerking. It sounded felt like a personal insult. Surely how I felt was important, not only to me but to those around me. I was a person, my feelings shouldn’t be hurt or denigrated! But these very feelings were a kind of blanket spread over the truth: a feeling doesn’t matter within the context of thought, and has no impact whatsoever on anything at all unless I choose to act upon it (which in turn is no guarantee that an impact will be made, and it’s even more unlikely said impact will affect anything other than my –you guessed it– further feelings). This isn’t because I am more or less x than anyone else. It’s just what it is.

Now, I could certainly construct a false sense of reality for myself in which my feelings mattered very much, dictating what was correct and what was not, along with a laundry list of shoulds and becauses and on and on. And while I’m certain that a growing number of people (and especially those who have excessive time for musing over such things because they’ve been born into situations that do not require them to focus instead on how to get what to eat) are constructing these false realities for themselves out of a desire for emotional comfort and a sense of control, this construction in fact produces the exact opposite.

For even if one endeavors to surround oneself with like-minded feelers who “support” each others’ “rights” to these feelings in an attempt to reduce the checks that reality itself will impose, there’s no absolute escape from reality, leaving aside the gray areas of actual brain damage and the like. In fact, the more ardently someone works to weave this blanket, the more disruptive such inevitable checks will be, and the more those feelings will be hurt.

This problem constitutes reason enough to acknowledge that while feelings may be felt, they have no bearing on the truth. But it is far from being the only, or even the largest, problem. Relying on feelings to perform as one’s compass has the nasty, ultimately life-destroying effect of keeping people from learning. After all, you cannot very well understand something new if the fact that it’s new and so disrupts your feelings results in your rejecting it outright. Moreover, there’s little if any learning to be done in life without the involvement of some agent; a teacher, a writer, a drill sargeant, someone has disseminated information that’s graciously been made available to you. There’s no guarantee you’ll “feel” that this agent is kind or considerate or understanding or whatever it is you liked about your kindergarten nanny. And again: that doesn’t matter. If you go through life selectively reading, selectively hearing, and selectively thinking you’ll end up living a far weaker, blander, emptier, and hurt-filled life than you reasonably could have, no matter where you started, no matter what other circumstances were present for you.

Your feelings, should you attempt to position them as anything more than that, should you attempt to impose them over the truth, should you abuse them as shelter, will necessarily hurt you. The next time you find yourself beginning an argument with “I feel…”, literal or not, consider whether this shroud of yours is worth sacrificing the bliss of learning, knowing, and of being real.