Selfish Feelings

Are we our feel­ings, or we just have them? Some­times it seems that we are made of them.  Feel­ings per­vade our every day lives. How do we man­age them and how we use them or abuse them? We have good feel­ings and bad feel­ings. When we feel good we appear to be a totally dif­fer­ent per­son than when we feel bad. How do we man­age them and how we use them or abuse them? This is the sub­ject of today’s article.

We feel and express our emo­tions all day long. Whether we com­mu­ni­cate them by words or behav­ior, we make sure other peo­ple know how we feel. Or do we? We also try to hide our feel­ings for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, be it fear, polite social con­duct, inap­pro­pri­ate­ness of the moment, strate­giz­ing, etc.

It has been shown that if con­nect­ing path­ways in our brain, from the lim­bic sys­tem and amyg­dala in par­tic­u­lar (the emo­tional cen­ter of the brain) are sev­ered, a per­son is com­pletely unable to make any deci­sions at all.  So, emo­tions seem to be an insep­a­ra­ble part of our every­day expe­ri­ence, and for good rea­son, as you can see.

How is it then, that these same emo­tions often make our lives mis­er­able? Can we do any­thing about it? Let’s first see how emo­tions play out in our rela­tion­ships and if there are any dif­fer­ences in their influ­ence on people’s lives.

One way to approach this issue is to make a sim­ple dis­tinc­tion between hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal dif­fer­ences as to how peo­ple man­age their emo­tions. Hor­i­zon­tal refers to peo­ple who are mostly on auto­matic, express their emo­tions with­out a sec­ond thought, or on the other hand, hide their emo­tions out of fear. There also seems to be a nat­ural and con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ence between male and female feel­ing man­age­ment, with which we will be more con­cerned here.

Ver­ti­cal dif­fer­ences are more con­cerned with the level of aware­ness, our abil­ity to observe our­selves objec­tively, our emo­tional intel­li­gence and level of per­sonal devel­op­ment.

I would like also to dis­tin­guish the dif­fer­ence between feel­ings and emo­tions, i.e., between feel­ing some­thing and emot­ing it. This dis­tinc­tion may not be com­pletely accu­rate, but it cer­tainly is very use­ful: feel­ings are an inter­nal affair while emo­tions are a behav­ioral issue. Our feel­ings are “felt” in our bod­ies as an energy field, in our plexus area, our throat, our limbs, our head, etc. Feel­ings are con­strained within the para­me­ters of our body; they are ours. When, on the other hand, we act upon our feel­ings, we show emo­tions, we emote, we cry, laugh, smash things in anger, show love, etc. In other words, emo­tions are the expres­sions of our feelings.

Men and women are pro­grammed dif­fer­ently the way they process their feel­ings. (By ‘man’ I mean mas­cu­line and by ‘woman’ I mean fem­i­nine; both gen­ders have a mix­ture of both to dif­fer­ent degrees in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions, so do not take this per­son­ally, and at the same time it may be use­ful if you indeed do so.)

One of the major gen­der dif­fer­ences in the realm of feel­ings is that women are feel­ing crea­tures and men are ratio­nal crea­tures. This comes from the appar­ent inabil­ity of women to con­trol what thoughts come into their mind. Since thoughts in most cases are trig­gers for feel­ings, women seem to not have con­trol of what they may feel at any moment. Since feel­ings are heav­ily involved in the deci­sion mak­ing process, women’s emo­tions may seem erratic to a man, incon­sis­tent, illog­i­cal, inap­pro­pri­ate, thought­less, etc, (add your own if you are a man.) That’s why it is thought that it is in a woman’s nature to change her mind often! No won­der this dri­ves men insane, but to a woman it is quite “log­i­cal and reasonable”.

If you were to pay atten­tion to the dif­fer­ence between a man and a woman’s vocab­u­lary, you may notice that women use the verb “to feel” and “a feel­ing” as a noun much more often then men. Guess why: Because feel­ings are much more impor­tant for women than for men. That does not mean that men do not have feel­ings, as many women pre­sume that men are defi­cient in the feel­ing depart­ment. In fact, men have just as many feel­ings as women; they just man­age them dif­fer­ently. Men, being hunters by nature, can­not afford to have emo­tions freely expressed while stalk­ing a deer, because the deer will escape, thus no food for that week. Men are much bet­ter at keep­ing a sin­gle focus and not allow­ing unwanted thoughts to enter their minds. (See The Game­less Rela­tion­ship.) On the other hand, a con­stant broad view and dif­fused focus allow­ing every­thing to come into the sphere of a woman’s aware­ness was a means of sur­vival in a hos­tile envi­ron­ment mil­len­nia ago. Thus, a man’s rela­tion­ship to feel­ings is dif­fer­ent than a woman’s, and although largely incom­pre­hen­si­ble to the oppo­site sex, is equally use­ful as a sur­vival tool. This is one of the rea­sons why a couple’s chance of sur­vival is much higher than a sin­gle person’s (not to men­tion repro­duc­tion opportunities).

In our rela­tion­ships, our roles have been deter­mined by thou­sands of years of evo­lu­tion. Just because we have lived in “mod­ern times” for rel­a­tively few years does not free us from our genet­i­cally pro­grammed roles. We, for instance, often hear of late that women want a ‘sen­si­tive man’. The moment a man becomes ‘sen­si­tive’ a woman does not like him any more because he is not ‘man enough’. I see it too often in my prac­tice. A whole new lan­guage has devel­oped about this, like “we are preg­nant”, not uttered by two women, but by a man in a mar­riage. Many ques­tions come to my mind such as, “How did these men get pregnant?”

What a woman means by want­ing a sen­si­tive man is one who is able to per­ceive what she is feel­ing. Men are prac­ti­cal. They want to solve prob­lems, not lis­ten to someone’s out­pour­ing of feel­ings about an issue. It is impor­tant for both sexes to edu­cate them­selves on the gen­der dif­fer­ences. Many rela­tion­ships could be saved if only we knew some of these secrets. Why they are still secrets, beats me. After all the knowl­edge we have accu­mu­lated, most peo­ple seem to be igno­rant about this subject.

So, why did I title this arti­cle Self­ish Feel­ings? It is about the ver­ti­cal dif­fer­ences of emo­tional man­age­ment.  Feel­ings are very per­sonal and par­tic­u­lar to every­one and for every sit­u­a­tion, yet we use and abuse our feel­ings to express our emo­tions in order to manip­u­late, blame, credit, cre­ate guilt in oth­ers, etc. Granted, we often do it with­out even being aware of it. Two year olds may be for­given for doing it uncon­sciously (although I’m not sure that it always uncon­scious even at that age) but with adults it is a sign of being irre­spon­si­ble and unaware or mind­less. Not being respon­si­ble for your emo­tions can be very destruc­tive for a rela­tion­ship. You can­not have your emo­tions run ram­pant and dump your feel­ings onto oth­ers when­ever you “feel like it”. It is a sign of infan­tile behav­ior not suited to fully devel­oped adults. I hope you real­ize that to be only con­cerned about how you feel, how oth­ers feel about you, or how you want them to feel or not to feel about any­thing or any­body else, includ­ing them­selves, is sim­ply self­ish. This world does not revolve around you although it may seem like it to you. Such ego­cen­tric behav­ior is nat­ural for chil­dren at a cer­tain devel­op­men­tal level. It is time to real­ize that a human being can go through higher lev­els of devel­op­ment past the ego­cen­tric, namely ethno-centric, world-centric, cosmo-centric and fur­ther, which we are yet to discover.

So, whether you are a man or a woman, it may be time to start work­ing, if you already haven’t, on becom­ing self-aware instead of being self­ishly self-conscious and notice where your self­ish feel­ings are at work and are inappropriate.

Feel­ings are such a huge sub­ject that I’m sure we will return to it. In the mean­time please post your com­ments, thoughts and ques­tions so that we can learn from each other.

Happy feel­ings!




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