Thursday 19 February 2009

Emotional Incontinence Versus the Spirit of Martyrdom


I frequently discuss with people how we define good and evil.

I'm fairly satisfied with my definition of good being the drive towards harmony and efficiency, towards greater human happiness.
And I'm fairly satisfied with my definition as being primal instincts that corrupt that objective.

Neither are static concepts, as I have argued. They evolve. What is good in one epoch, may be evil in the next. And vice versa.

But as far as we humans are concerned- now- we can fairly and safely say that good is logical and evil illogical. That isn't to say that evil cannot present itself as logical- the Nazis did- but one must remember that that logic is flawed somewhere. There is a logical fallacy hidden in the argument of evil at some point.

And I realise of course, that one of the cardinal errors of our age is to present emotional decisions as being inherently good. The logic is flawed.

If we had two extreme human beings, one totally devoid of emotions and one totally devoid of logic, which of the two would be evil, in the sense we know it?

Which of the two would be more likely to be, say, a serial killer?

Hardly the first. To be a serial killer, you would have to have emotions. Ones that drove you to kill indiscriminately. You would also need to lack logic and control over your warped emotions.

So the point about evil people, the point about the most dangerous individuals that society keeps locked up in the most high security criminal psychiatric units is not that they lack emotions. It's the reverse. The problem is that they are what I call 'emotionally incontinent'.

Which is what they are. Essentially, that is the difference between people who are a force for ill in the world. The ability or otherwise to make rational decisions.

An emotionally incontinent person is incapable of that.

We have emotions for a good reason. We evolved them to enable us to make decisions. Our shrewlike ancestors had no social structure and no logical methods of making decisions, no way of communicating to eachother the store of experience they had built up. So those survived whose internal chemistry prompted them to do certain things. Run when a predator appeared. Mate when they found a partner. Eat when they were hungry.

One thing we humans have evolved, for the most part, is the ability to communicate to eachother systems of doing things which work and create greater efficiency and harmony. These chemicals are primitive things, their logic is short term and often unrelated to the complicated intricacies of our existence. Our shrewlike ancestors didn't sit at desks analysing spreadsheets. So our emotion of boredom isn't in fact much use to us. Had we been designed by a benevolent creator, he'd have made us find spreadsheets fascinating. Sadly, we weren't and therefore we don't. Throwing blue tack round the office is much more fun, but far less useful. So our emotions are largely useless here, yet we manage to get our heads round the fact that we have to suppress our instincts to some degree.

Without emotions to guide us, we probably wouldn't get too far. After all, it is our emotions that drive us. However, as rational human beings, we are capable of ordering our emotions into systems we believe will work best and give us the ultimate payload; the greatest long term happiness of the greatest number. That is our highest goal, the one which, by common consensus, we are all continually striving for. Sure we want to tweak it along the way to deliver moments of personal short term happiness, but most of us appreciate that it's a balancing excercise.

And what makes us good- or bad- people, is our ability to control that system of balances.

Without being able to feel at all, we would be incapable of empathy and incpable of conceiving of the greatest happiness of the greatest number and therefore, we would not ever be able to form a harmonious part of the whole. So yes, capacity to feel and emote is perhaps a crucial part of being a good person.

But in itself, it's not enough. A person incapable of feeling is by and large neither good nor evil- they are neutral. Totally disassociated from the world. They cannot give, either positively or negatively.

It is my belief that the main evolutionary development taking place in humanity as civilisation as it stands, is an emotional one. The ability to be an empath, basically.
The ability to control one's own emotions, to be able to connect one's own emotions to a group emotion and to suppress emotions at will.

I say that, because it is my belief that significant numbers of us can do that and significant numbers of us cannot. And it is, to some degree, a major part in our development.
I say that, because I realise that a major part of my character is defined by the fact that whilst I clearly can be a very passionate person with quite powerful strength of feeling, I can at will totally suppress almost any emotion I choose. This, of course, leads to allegations from those who haven't that sort of control to accusations that every emotion do show is fake.

Which they're not of course. I react spontaneously generally, but I also seem to have a switch I can press at will, which simply shuts off emotions which might be a danger to me.
People sometimes say 'Why did you lash out there, but you didn't react at all to such and such?'
The answer would seem to be that I have in instinct beyond the instincts. It's why I've never been in a physical fight, never been hurt physically, but yet still manage to convey the impression of someone you don't mess with. I have this instinct which know when it can release my anger and when my anger will potentially get me killed, or would ruin my career, or even ruin a friendship. I really seem to only get angry when it is in my interests to do so. Which leads some to say my occasional temper tantrums are all an act.
It's as if my internal workings are capable of assessing the environment and know when to disable the function which would release anger.

I can't control the emotions I feel. I can't create emotions that don't exist. What I can seemingly do, is disable them. Pretty much at will. I realise that not everyone can do this.

But of course, I did it in gaol. I switched my entire emotional framework over. It wasn't switched off, just for two years there were a whole range of emotions that were disabled. Whereas others seemed to be enhanced. I suppose one could say that whilst in there I heightened the ability to switch emotions on and off at will.

But I believe I could always do it, from adolescence onwards. And I know many people who can. And I think it's the main distinction between those of us who can and those of who can't. I even have a theory as to how this ability forms itself in terms of psychological development. Because all the people I know with the ability have several things in common. A reasonably high IQ. My theory is that it is kind of a neotonous development in some ways, but the mechanics of it and why I think evolution favours the survival of this mechanism, will have to wait till another post.

Haydee, I think, possesses it.

One major implication, of course, is that for someone with this switch a statement such as 'You can't help who you fall in love with' is not true. I can't make myself fall in love with someone, I can't make myself be attracted to someone. But I most certainly can decide NOT to. I can do that bit.

I suppose, of course, this does majorly affect one's outlook on life and the people one has sympathy for and why. I find it almost impossible to have sympathy for people I see as being emotionally incontinent. People who seem incapable of using logic to control and moderate their emotions. People who seem to lack that 'override' function.

And I suppose it does lead to some confusion, in the sense I've often been accused of being a cold blooded heartbreaker. One woman in particular devotes her life to believing I feign my entire set of emotions for no other purpose than to hurt women.

The reality, of course, is different. I most certainly am a sensuous individual, beloved of experiencing life to the full. But I'm also a person capable of cold, logical, dispassionate thinking when the need arises. I know when to over-ride my passions.

I cannot create sentiments that are not there, but I can over-ride almost any sentiment I choose, if I believe that to be the right course of action.

The problem with the woman in question- with the greatest possible respect- is emotional incontinence. The inability to weigh up her own emotions against the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number. An inability to over-ride emotions and analyse things logically and objectively.

One thing I've noticed is that my over-ride function in terms of attachment to someone is quite efficient. It really does seem to governed by matters of logic. If my mind tells me that it is unwise to be attracted to someone for various reasons, then the over-ride function will simply kick into play.

From my point of view it has to be said there is nothing more horrific than realising that someone is obsessed with you to the degree that their feelings are having a malevolent effect on the wider world but really is incapable of over-riding those sentiments in the interests of overall human happiness. I guess to me I still find it hard to grasp that there are people out there who can't simply press that switch inside them and simply over-ride their sentiments.

For example, my feelings to Haydee. If I really wanted to, I could switch them off. I don't. Because I don't want to. That I guess is kind of the point. The emotion is a nice one and I don't see it as being harmful. So I don't want to switch it off. Not really. Sometimes I tell myself I should, but the will isn't there. With sufficient will, I could do it. In a matter of hours.

I couldn't, of course make myself love someone if I didn't. I've tried that, it doesn't work. But one can decide to simply stop being attracted to someone. Simply suppress the sentiments.

But- and here's the oddity, though if you think about it, isn't it- when you succeed in successfully suppressing an emotion, you get an emotion all of it's own. As a kind of reward. And actually, it is more powerful than any other emotion there is.
I suppose that's only natural really. Our own systems have to give us some kind of reward to incentivise us. Otherwise we wouldn't do it. That's how the switch works. It's what makes us want to press it when our brains tell us it's right to do so. And why why we don't press it otherwise, why we trust our normal emotions for the most part. Because if we wrongly press the switch, we don't get that special emotion that we only get when we're right to press it.

And I realise this what the emotionally incontinent lack. That higher emotion. It is, in my view, the highest evolved of all human emotions and the ability to feel it isn't present in all of us.

But in today's world, I would say it's presence or absence, is fast becoming- if it isn't already- the defining characteristic between good or evil.

You get it every time your head suppresses your emotions for reasons of the head. It is the only emotion that proceeds solely of the head. And yet you feel it. It flows through you, not like a wave, not passionate, not stormy, but calm, tranquil, it is still.
The world stops and whilst you feel it, you feel that you transcend your pathetic organic form. If there is a God, that is when you are close to her.

It is the sense of total mastery over your emotions.

I know not what to call it.

Except it is the most powerful inner peace that there is.

And the rare moments in life we get to experience it, it exceeds any feeling we can ever experience.
So I pity the emotionally incontinent that are incapable of being able to experience this highest and most beautiful of all feelings. Because to be able to feel it all all, your feelings and passions do indeed need to be strong. That is what makes the sense of stilling so perfect. It is like walking across a perfectly still ocean.

The triumph of head over heart, the sublimation of the organic, the ascension of pure reason, the joy of feeling at one with the greater unity, that at this point, whilst you feel like this, you see with the eyes of the universe and not through the skewed and warped perception of organic matter.

The spirit of martyrdom.

1 comment:

Judith said...

I think you call it "holier than thou."