As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on these pages, I do not believe emotions themselves to necessarily be detrimental to us. I think it’s our lack of selectivity in choosing to induce our emotions that leads to our uncontrollable addictions. In pursuit of this idea I’ve found it useful to break down the kinds of emotional reactions I experience to better understand why I do it. What I’ve found – at least a simple model that works for me – is to accept two major kinds of emotions: Those that derive from my capacity for conscience, and those I induce in furtherance of denial.
It’s the flow of substances responsible for our emotions that are so overwhelmingly addictive to us, not our motivations or inducements to experience them. Our addicted brains don’t care whether we’re happy or not; they don’t care on any conscious level, on this scale. What our brains crave is repetition, stability, and easy reproducibility of the emotions we think we use to cope with our existence.
I think this process started a couple of million years ago on the Savannah when our earliest ancestors’ lives were predominantly ruled by the terror of their natural ignorance of themselves and our world. I think the trauma led us to break our brains in such a way that we became able to consciously drug ourselves with emotional reactions hitherto reserved for situations of survival. We took the process and the disorder of it further by adapting our emotionalism to entertainment, and our entertainment to our emotionalism.
What this means is that in two million years, and certainly within the ~70,000 years since the cognitive revolution, we have only made matters worse for ourselves on these scales. We deeply ingrained the “necessity” of selective denial and our brains adapted. In modern times, even as technology raced ahead we clung to old, obsolete and observably untrue ideas about ourselves. We have difficulty imagining any other way to be due to the restrictive expectations we internalize. This is one example of how addictive our own brain chemistry is to us, and this is the magnitude of the problem we’re each up against in our quests to feel better.
Dishonest emotions have been much easier for me to address than are conscientious emotions. With effort and practice it has become possible for me to intercept my own emotional responses to familiar stimuli and familiar issues, to briefly analyze whether the emotion in question is honest or in furtherance of denial, and to choose to think and feel something else if I’m compelled by conscience to accept that I am attempting to engage in denial.
I think this kind of tactic is key to learning emotional self control because the common alternative, repression, simply does not work. It can’t work because by the time we start to perceive an emotional reaction beginning in ourselves the molecules responsible for the release of the substances of emotionalism are already coursing through our bloodstreams. I think the more correct method is to consciously interrupt the flow of these substances by challenging ourselves on our own self honesty.
But what are we to do with conscientious emotions? What am I to do with them? I’m still working on this aspect of my philosophy. These emotions still torment me sometimes, particularly when the source of the injustice witnessed or experienced cannot be remedied, and even more particularly when such remedies “should” exist. I’ll return to update this post as I develop my views on this issue. In the meantime I advise myself caution in the doses of any emotions I permit myself to experience, because at this time I suspect this plays a role in the abuse of conscientious emotions.