“Central to the science of emotion is the principle that emotions are centered in subjective experiences that people represent with language”
Reported in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of The USA, Alan Cowen and Dacher Keltner write that we have 27 varieties of reported emotional experience. You can read their report here because two years studying Science at Uni has proved to me that I’m not a great extrapolator. (I’ll try)
This study, by their own accounts, is the richest in their field to date. I have studied thousands of alcoholics attempting sobriety but I didn’t have a spreadsheet with me at the time.
Nor have I any special skills in garnering the true emotional state of a person as they respond to me.
You see, I have found people to be remarkably adapted actors.
As attentive as I am, I find it hard still, to determine someone else’s Bullshitability. This is a really handy skill to have. Mine is getting better, but I think I shall die before it’s 50% effective.
Why else would my phone ring five to ten times a day with people trying to test my Bullshit-o-meter? ‘They’ know that it’s not very good yet!
I went to see my Mum in her High-Care Dementia Home yesterday. Her Bullshitability has gone through the roof. “Truth” has left the building.
I love her so much – I was her ‘Spouse Surrogate’ for much of my life after my little brother died, and Dad, having cheated on her AND lost his little baby went ‘missing’ emotionally.
There’s not much to brag about being your Mum’s Spouse-Substitute but we had a lot of fun gambling on racehorses and watching Audie Murphy reruns on Sunday afternoons. Now, she holds a life-size baby doll all day and tends to it’s every need as if it was alive and real.
It’s remarkable to see her enthusiasm for an idea or memory she wants to share, only to watch her concentration dwindle before the fourth word of the sentence leaves her lips. Finally, she makes up words with unlikely sister-syllables and smiles as if we understand the meaning and import of what she has just muttered.
Emotions are high in the High Car facility.
My partner is with us and she has a lot of experience with dementia, both from home and work. We take turns feeding Mum her lunch of mashed potato, shredded cabbage with bacon and carrots. It looks yummy, but Heather and I resist.
After lunch in the garden, we escort her back inside (with the baby wrapped in a paisley lilac scarf, for dessert with the other inmates. The nurse says kindly that Mum is her favourite because she is always happy. I know she means well but Mum has attacked a few of them, once with an instrument of mass destruction.
Here is the list of emotions that the good Dr’s ascertained. (In alphabetical order, not rank)
Can you pick 4 of these and say that you would be better off without them? I can, but upon reflection, I am pretty certain that my life would be less rich if I didn’t feel everything. It’s like saying your life would be better without these four colours, or I don’t like these high-pitched sounds – take them out of the symphony.
Dr. Brene Brown in ‘Daring Greatly says, “I know this is hard to believe, especially when we’ve spent our lives thinking that vulnerability and weakness are synonymous, but it’s true. I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s talk about love.”
The confusion that I have had and most people seem to as well, is confusing these ideas of weakness, love, risk, and uncertainty – with emotions. They’re not.
It is a fascinating study in being completely wrong about life, god, and the universe.
What astounds me most about being in my sixth decade of this extraordinary life is finding out about how much that I took for granted the was simply erroneous pig fodder.
Darren Rowse speaks about having his third mid-life crisis at the age of 46. I can totally empathise (is that an emotion?) with Darren here. Married at 17, Near-Rock-Bottom at 37, Sober at 45 – it’s been one hellovaride. (that’s not an emotion!)
What 4 emotions should you avoid?
Well in my opinion after 54 years including 10 in recovery and lots of navel-gazing and book reading, I’ll go out on a limb and say avoid these.
These are the ones that have caused me more pain then they are worth…and I didn’t even know I was emoting them!
If you like the feel of this article and are thinking you would like to give sobriety a go, try my FREE 5 part course, “Stop Drinking – Start Living”.