Thursday, October 26, 2006

Roller Coaster, i want off.

Somebody told me a story this morning, a very personal, painful and in some ways a beautiful story. It was a story about out-of-control emotions that had a devastating effect on judgment and had consequences for several lives. It is not my story to tell. But it reminded me of a question that i used to ask myself.

It is a question that only a person who thinks that there should be a logical answer to everything would ask. (Think geek.) I gave up on answering because i sure don't know.

I want to know what evolutionary purpose the presence of strong emotions serves. I just don't understand why we have to be so damn complicated. What possible reason could there be? Maybe it's just a byproduct of the complexity of our brains.

Someone might answer that without the lowest lows, we couldn't have the highest highs. For myself, i would trade the highest highs for life without the lowest lows. And i have a wonderful life and no reason to ever be unhappy. I also believe that many of the horrors of the world, caused by religious righteousness, jealousy and ego, would not have happened without our emotions screwing us up.

Being an atheist, i can't accept a religious explanation either, about free will.

Are we (let me personalize this by talking about myself) Am i just a whiney ass bitch? (That was a rhetorical question, so don't answer.) What about the rest of you? Are you just a bunch of whiney ass complainers too?

Well, just cut it out! As we say in our house, and as more evidence of my Monthy Python geekery, "I sentence you to hang by the neck until you cheer up."

Now i'm thinking about all the science fiction movies i've seen where the populace was drugged or propagandized somehow into sheeplike behavior. I know these are fiction but they are serving as an object lesson about the gloriousness of our good and evil natures. But really would it be so bad if some of our more out-of-control emotions were lesser?


Anonymous said...

meno, from an atheist "we're fancy animal" perspective, strong emotions serve procreation. Those make ya crazy home-grown drugs like oxytocin and dopamine focus us on the object of our affection long enough to bring babes into the world and toddling on their own. And that's our animal purpose. It doesn't matter if the emotional current we're asked to carry frays and burns our circuitry, as long as we reproduce.

We might abandon our girlfriends.

We might tolerate a beating.

We might live a roller coaster life, with the rise of "He loves me" and the plunge of "He loves me not."

Our biology doesn't care a whit about our comfort. We are a means to an end. We are the conduit for biological traits.

Josephine said...

I think Holly outlined a well supported scientific explanation of emotions.

This is a very interesting topic, and I've seen those movies too and it really makes you think of what life would be like if we were all on high doses of SSRUIs.

If you think of the human animal, we have an incredibly long mating cycle. Each woman is fertile for 20-30 years. That's some really powerful genetic engineering on the part of nature to ensure the continuity of our species. I think that emotion and brain chemistry is completely tied to that.

Eat. Sleep. Fuck. Attend the theatre once in a while.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in something similar and intend to do a little research when I make the time. Dispositional optimism and pessimistic bias. Has anyone read the book The Evolving Self by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (if that's spellled right, I get a gold star)? I believe it was he who described worrying about possible outcomes as a roulette wheel with one white slot (the good thing that can happen) and all the rest black (the bad things).

thailandchani said...

For me, a wide range of emotions seems to be "normal". The key to it is using them as a barometer, not allowing them to overtake common sense.

In general, I agree that emotions are largely chemical and we have them for a reason. Some of us produce more of those chemicals than others.

Could I live with less intensity? You betcha! LOL


Thailand Gal

Girlplustwo said...

i agree about passion driving biological forces keen on survival. that said, i think the whining you speak of (because our whining is not about survival, it's about comfort) is artificially produced and generated by the need for us to produce and consume. we are but feeder fish in the matrix of capitalism - it's to their benefit to keep us in high performance...and the lows can be quickly aided with an array of pharmaceuticals. lather, rinse, repeat.

Maya's Granny said...

I think that every emotion we have is trying to tell us something that we believe is for our survival. The problem arises when we ignore the feelings. If someone does something that makes me angry and I believe that "nice women" don't get angry over little things like that, then the anger keeps coming back stronger and stronger until we are forced to deal with it some way. Like a child screaming because I won't listen to her.

We can also hold irrational values, in which case our feelings get attached to those values and everytime we see something which goes against those values, we get upset. People who believe that group X is evil, get upset whenever they see or hear about group X.

amusing said...

Huh. Was just thinking about emotions this morning. Whether I have them. Well, I do. But I've had years of training to shove them in the bottom drawer and move on. Will probably do a post about it when I have a chance.

Lucia said...

I do think it would be great if life, at least sometimes, was as simple as Josephine's statement. Eat. Sleep. Fuck. Attend the theatre once in a while.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Josephine said it better than me: "Eat. Sleep. Fuck. Attend the theatre once in a while."

Drama does distract. I'm a drama queen. A drama junky. But as best we can, I think drama belongs on the stage. Our lives are so brief and we can waste years on the roller coaster.

Mother of Invention said...

I think having emotions expresses our higher evolutionary status. We are able to reflect upon our actions and make decisions based on feelings. We can express our thoughts ore completely and at a higher/deeper level of meaning/intelligence by using our emotions. Our emotions have huge impact on our actions and in that way, it'd just be ideal if everyone's emotions were perfectly balanced, but we women know that during various times of the month, this is virtually impossible. Hence, sometimes having an over-abundance of emotion is not a desirable state as it impedes our rational and sensible judgment.
As in all things, a happy medium would be the best!

(I, myself am ruled by the heart over the head, and am a virtual open book as to my emotions and feelings, both of which are very close to the surface.

Julie Q. said...

I think Aristotle had a good idea when he said we ought to balance out the extremes. Too much fear and you are a dufus coward (or the Greek equivalent of dufus coward) and too much courage and you get yourself wiped out in battle. I agree with you that if we could find moderation in own feelings, life would be more enjoyable all around. But, alas, it's all woulds and coulds because we are a monstrous bunch of extremists.

Good, thought-provoking post.

meno said...

holly, i know you are right, but really, do the feelings have to be so intense? Couldn't we still fulfill the biological imperative with a little less sturm und drang?

josephine, "Eat. Sleep. Fuck. Attend the theatre once in a while. " That's the best. really.

de, I haven't read that book, will add it to the list.

thailand gal, i could live with some less intensity myself.

jen, ah, the influence of marketing, and people telling us what we need to be happy. nice comment.

maya's granny, i guess i am not a nice woman. Ok, honestly, i can supress my feelings in a attempt to be nice. I'll have to think more about irrational values. Although we sure see a lot of it these days.

amusing, i know you have feelings as I've been reading about them. I look forward to your post, as i look forward to all of them. (Ha, a compliment, take THAT!)

lucia, isn't that a great thought? If only we could make it that simple. And really it is, we just have to go and complicate it.

holly, you a drama queen? I am shocked! :)

MOI, Higher evolutionary status? Yes, but no blessing that. Good thoughts.

julie, a greek dufus. I love that. That Aristotle, he was a wise man. Thank you for the compliment.

Bob said...

I agree that strong emotions are nature's way of ensuring the survival of the species. not only for procreation, but firstly for preservation. fight or flight. fear of heights - which unlike most phobias is inbred in us. we can use our higher intellegence to override/control these emotions but I beleive they still serve a purpose. high highs may not pay for low lows, but life would be uneventful if we didn't have them. when I read this post and the responses I was reminded of Brave New World, where humans were engineered, not birthed naturally, and took soma - a drug that induces pleasure and a desire for sex. there are societal pressures to conform and to suppress emotions. when a "natural" man is introduced into this controlled society, he winds up killing himself for despair of it all. I admit that I totally abhore my lows, but I love my highs (few and far between) and envy those who experience them more than I do. It is our task/fate/gift as intellegent beings to struggle with our base emotions. Maybe joy in life is in the fight.

Mignon said...

Yeah, Bob, I thought of Brave New World too. And ditto about the evolutionary purposes of emotions thing, except, my god are there a lot of times when I just want to turn mine off. I was trying to read a book on the plane last week, nothing too moving, but because of PMS, I kept bawling at the slightest turn of the phrase. It was really embarrassing, and I finally just put the book down and read Sky Mall instead.

Dick said...

A good, thought provoking post. I'd say there are a number of factors here. Some are probably carry overs from our survival days, some may be mainly because we like them. I do think there is some truth to the idea that those we enjoy (the good) and those we don't (the bad) are both necessary. But they do somewhat vary from person to person. Especially some of the more suttle ones.

karmic said...

Meno loved your post.

science fiction movies i've seen where the populace was drugged or propagandized somehow into sheeplike behavior.

Is that really in the realm of fiction? There are times I look at our nation and wonder if some of us aren't like sheeple?

I don't get the folks with extreme emotions either. We could all cool down a bit and think before we succumbed, the world might be a better place to live in as would our loved ones who some times have to bear the brunt of it all.

karmic said...

Meno loved your post.

science fiction movies i've seen where the populace was drugged or propagandized somehow into sheeplike behavior.

Is that really in the realm of fiction? There are times I look at our nation and wonder if some of us aren't like sheeple?

I don't get the folks with extreme emotions either. We could all cool down a bit and think before we succumbed, the world might be a better place to live in as would our loved ones who some times have to bear the brunt of it all.

karmic said...

Sorry about the double comment, the first time it took too long and threw an error message at me.

Lynnea said...

Maybe the emotional thing is evolutionary but from a different angle. I mean yes, we need "entanglement" of many sorts, mental, emotional and physical to reproduce. But maybe the survival of the fittest is weeding out the weaker by making them more emotional and therefore less likely to reproduce on a large scale. Now I know that highly emotional people have children, but maybe they are less likely to have large broods? Now I think about it, I'm not so sure that's true. I've seen large broods from emotional people.
As for me, I think I'm way too emotional. I think I whine way too much. But, I figure as long as I remain aware of it, I can check it. Hang on, gotta go tend my brood...hee hee.

Anonymous said...

meno, I'm a dry drama queen, which can be compared to being a dry drunk. I'm off the sauce of drama, but since a slice of me is always looking for some replacement, I must be vigilant. As I already wrote, we die and rot so soon and so I want to choose what I do with my ephemeral minutes, rather than be a beast ruled by chemical-enduced-emotions. It's a daily struggle. It helped that I hanged with some folks who were operated like computers, analyzing their emotions with the same dispassion that a mathematician employs when analyzing numbers. So, I've had role models. This might sound like I'm now bereft of emotion, but that tide is too strong. Emotions are liquids and liquids, sooner or later, flow.

meno said...

bob, i don't feel the joy of the fight myself. I have read Brave New World. That was one of the science fiction stories that i was thinking about as well. I just wish, for myself, that my emotions were a bit less sharp, sometimes.

mignon, maybe somone could invent a dimmer switch for the times when emotions threaten to overwhelm. I love Sky Mall! I don't fly very often, so it's all new stuff every time.

dick, i think you are on to something with the statement that we like them (our emotions). I do know people who seem to invent reasons for drama.

sanjay, oooh, that's a bleak view! Sheeple! But you have a point. My emotions don't really get out of control all that often, but when they do, i need to go and hide for a while until i can get myself under control.

maggie, Good luck with those 15 kids....

holly, i can see you at the DA meetings. "It's been 3 weeks since my last drama" *applause* "Hi Holly" It is a daily struggle, so i understand you on that.

freethoughtguy said...

While I'm often called "Spock" because of my seemingly emotionless nature, I really do have emotions -- I just don't cry or get mad often. I'm basically a happy guy, yet I like sad songs sometimes. Like you said, without the lowest lows, we couldn't have the highest highs.

meno said...

hi free (or Spock), thanks for commenting. I don't believe that very many people are truly emotionless, just that some are better at controlling emotions. I'm pretty even-tempered most of the time, but when i do lose it, i hate myself. You should give lessons.

Bobealia... said...

Um. All I can say is that I remember I'm living when I'm low. Sometimes when I just float along... I loose that feeling of being alive.