Untrue Things People Believe
This is the nineteenth article addressing those things most people believe that are not true introduced in the article, "Most Of What You Believe Is Not True." To see all the articles, or any other one, please see the Index.
We certainly have emotions and they are very important. They are, in fact, necessary for our enjoyment of life. Unfortunately the emotions are not a source of enjoyment for most people, because what most people believe about them is not true.
Wrong Views of Emotions
The Emotions, which we also call feelings, including the feelings we call desires, are our nature's way of providing us a direct visceral experience of the most important of human attributes, the mind. Since I've already covered in detail the nature of human emotions in the two articles, "Feelings," and "Desires," and a briefer overview in the article, "Emotions: Their Importance and Control," I will restrict my remarks in this article to all the wrong and absurd things people believe about feelings.
Since most people never give much deliberate thought to the nature of their emotions, the beliefs they have about them are not always explicit. Most people could not say what they really believe about their emotions, but what they believe is implicit in they way they regard their emotions and how they react to them.
- Causeless—Most people just assume their feelings are there, without reason or cause, as part of who they are, like the color of their eyes, or their stature. "I have very strong feelings about justice, it's just the way I am." The fact that they first had to have an idea of what justice means before they could have any kind of feelings about it escapes them. When someone says they are just naturally "compassionate," or, "loving," or have a natural aversion to something (fighting, democrats, religion, or smoking) for example they are not talking about their reasoned opinions, they are talking about their emotional reactions, their feelings, and it would never occur to them to ask, "why do I have the feelings I have?"
One does not just have feelings. There is always a reason, something responsible for them. One is not born with any feelings, they must all be developed. Before anyone has feelings about anything, they must first learn what those things are and what their nature is. Knowing that alone, still does not produce any feelings. They must also develop some opinion about those things, some view that regards those things they have feelings about as good, desirable, right or bad, undesirable, or evil. The feelings are determined by what one thinks and believes about things, they do not just happen.
- Caused by the Subconscious—Many people believe their emotional feelings are cause by some mysterious, "subconscious," where ideas, desires, and thoughts they do not know they have nevertheless make them have feelings, usually very unpleasant feelings. I explained in the article, "Untrue Things People Believe: Psychology," that there is no such thing as a subconscious. All human emotions are caused by conscious thoughts, beliefs, and ideas.
- Caused by External Influences—The idea that one's feelings are caused by external factors such as one's culture or one's experiences growing up is another excuse for claiming one can't help what they do, because they can't help what they feel. Such excuses are always wrong, no matter where someone's feelings come from, because all human behavior is determined by one's conscious choice, not their feelings. External influences may contribute to one's feelings, but it is their own thoughts, beliefs and ideas about external influences that determine what their feelings will be. The external influences have no power to produce any kind of feelings on their own.
- Caused Biologically—The belief that one's feelings, especially those feelings we call desires or passions, are caused by their biology, especially, these days, by genetics, or worse, how they evolved is a similar mistake to the belief that feelings are caused by external factors. Both views are wrong because nothing determines our emotions but what we choose to believe, think, and do. Nobody's genes or ancestors are responsible for what they feel. How one uses there own mind is responsible for every individual's feelings, and if they are not good feelings, there is something wrong with how they are using their own mind.
- Ineffable—The feelings are not like other perceptions which can be easily identified, because what is perceived as emotion or desire is the reaction of one's physiology to what one believes and thinks. This "general," almost, "ineffable," quality leads to much misunderstanding of the nature of the emotions or feelings. The emotions do not have some mysterious or mystic cause, they are perfectly natural and are quite real, and what is being perceived as the emotions as the body's own reaction to one's thoughts, beliefs, and choices.
- Provide Knowledge—The belief that feelings and emotions provide any kind of knowledge, guidance, or insight is very dangerous. The feelings provide no knowledge about anything except the feelings themselves. They do not even provide knowledge of why you have any particular feeling or desires. One must use reason to discover why they have the particular feelings they have. One feeling most people believe provides some kind of knowledge is "conscience," which perfectly exemplifies the true nature of feelings. Conscience does not inform anyone about right and wrong. The emotional feeling that is called conscience is an emotional reaction to doing or contemplating doing something one believes is wrong. No matter what an individual does or thinks about doing, if they do not believe it is wrong (even if it is ethically evil), they will have no, "pangs of conscience," about it. Conscience is not some mysterious guide to right and wrong, it is an emotional reaction to what one already believes is right and wrong.
- Have Essential Importance—Except to one's own conscious experience, feelings otherwise have no importance whatsoever. Their only significance is as indicators of one's own views and thinking, because one who's views are unrealistic, and whose thinking and actions are determined by those unrealistic views will have a disastrous emotional experience.
To reality, one's feelings simply do not matter. This is important in two ways. It is important to the individual to understand it does not matter how he feels about anything, whether he likes or dislikes it, whether he is happy or disappointed, whether he is frustrated, angry, or disgusted, reality is what it is and no feelings can change or affect it in any way.
With regard to others, one's feelings in reaction to anything others do or say is not determined by others, but by one's own attitudes and thoughts about what other people say and do. No one else can, "hurt one's feelings," or make them feel anything else. If you feel badly because of what anyone else says or does, it's your own fault.
Human beings have only one faculty for making correct choices, the human mind, their ability to consciously choose (volition), to think (rationality), and to gain knowledge (intellect). The feelings are non-cognitive and no part of the mind. They are conscious experiences just like seeing, hearing, and tasting, and what they are consciousness of is the body's reactions to the contents of the mind. If for any reason one allows the feelings to interfere with their best ability to reason clearly about all they think and do, they are letting their blind feelings lead them, and they will surely lead them into a ditch.