A Serious Problem

This is a guest post by imnotme.

I imagine that more and more heterosexually coupled males and females are going to be running into a serious problem that my feminist wife and I have discovered: the battle of emotions versus rationality.

I believe the reason this is going to be made apparent, soon, is because it’s a discussion that is appropriate for modern young couples faced with this seeming dichotomy. I leave out homosexual couplings because I am not familiar enough with homosexual relationship dynamics to either include or exclude them with any intelligence. However, I am sure something similar could crop up in any relationship where one person approaches conflict emotionally, and the other rationally.

I want to quickly stop you here and clarify the question already forming in your mind; is this guy about to assert that one is better? No. The first mistake my wife and I have discovered about this discussion is that the initial problem is having emotion pitted against rationality in the first place. It is counter-productive to start from there. Both emotion and rationality have distinct and necessary functions in our human development. However, one theory I am now leaning heavily toward, is that emotion is also a sort of genetic leftover from when humans were subject to more predators than Big Business or general systematic oppression. I’m talking about the days of “I win because I am larger.” You know, before we realized we could flourish with technology rather than our biology.

Understandably, you are thinking I just shot myself in the foot by suggesting that emotion is an antiquated, useless leftover of our primitive ancestors. Maybe, but before you react, do YOU know anything about our historical and genetic development? Additionally, both emotion and rationality have a dynamic weakness in communication when used one without the other. For example: in an argument, person X becomes emotional and begins yelling insults. While the insults do not invalidate person X’s need to communicate, person Y has an easy rational out by simply criticizing person X on the grounds that they are simply excited and acting irrational. But… but: person Y didn’t actually say anything at all to the point of person X’s initial concern. Likewise, if person Y attempts talking about their feelings rationally to person X, who is more resonant with emotion, person X will more often than not try to re-orient the discussion around emotional realities, when that is not what person Y wanted to discuss; therefore, they both lose.

So what should the modern heterosexual couple do about this problem? Shut up. Both of you, shut up and think about what you are ACTUALLY TRYING TO SAY.

Good luck.

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38 Responses to A Serious Problem

  1. Melissa says:

    I realize you’re trying to be non-homophobic by not trying to speak for LGBT couples, since it’s out of your experience. And that’s certainly a valid and good thing to do. However, by limiting the discussion to heterosexual couples, it almost seems as if you’re making the implication that gender has to do with which member of the couple is the “emotional” one and which one is the “rational” one. Was that what you’re trying to say here? If not, go ahead and say so…but that’s just the impression I got from your assumption that this is a common problem for heterosexual couples, whereas it may or may not be for homosexual ones.

    • April says:

      it almost seems as if you’re making the implication that gender has to do with which member of the couple is the “emotional” one and which one is the “rational” one.

      I think he addressed the potential for this misunderstanding at the end of that paragraph:

      “However, I am sure something similar could crop up in any relationship where one person approaches conflict emotionally, and the other rationally.”

    • Melissa says:

      That’s certainly true, but then that brings up the question of why the post was limited to heterosexual couples in the first place. After all, wouldn’t it have gotten the point across much better to write the whole post about relationships where one person tends to approach arguments more emotionally and one tends to approach them more rationally…regardless of the nature of the relationship or the people involved?

    • Melissa says:

      *gender of the people involved, I mean

    • imnotme says:

      Melissa, that’s a good point. I am guilty of writing my own experience into the post, however, I did mean for a certain level of assumption with regards to which role would be played by which member of the relationship. Typically women are put in the emotional box, and men in the rational. I haven’t known this to always be the case, and that is why I tried to disambiguate the gender of the “example people.”

  2. Innocent Smith says:

    Usually, I think the only feasible solution to the type of conflict you describe is a change of behavior. Just listen to each other, and figure out what you could do to better express your love next time.

    Sometimes when my “person x” gets upset, it’s just like a storm passing. I may get pelted by the rain; I may take refuge in the basement; but the thing, which targeted me only insofar as I happened to be in its path, will pass. But more often than not, I realize that there are simple things I could do to help — like paying the bills, taking out the recycling, or getting out of the house once in a while.

    As for rationality, I’ve generally found it to be of little use in marriage.

    • imnotme says:

      I’m curious, Mr. Smith, if maybe that is a hyper-rational reaction. In your case it sounds as though the storm passes and no residuals follow (collateral damage if you will), which is great if it consistently works for your relationship dynamic. In my experience, though, there are consequences for not directly engaging the storm. No fight = you don’t care, type of thing.

  3. Dan_Brodribb says:

    There’s a book called ‘Destructive Emotions’ about a number of Tibetan Buddhists and Western scientists that has a lot to say about the nature of emotion.

    It’s good reading, if you’re into such topics.

    Dan

  4. Melissa says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any actual advice. With most of the men I’ve dated, trying to use logic and reason when they’re emotional is totally futile–all it does is get me yelled at. (Which is part of the reason I’ve just given up dating altogether. So many men are just so terrifying when they get close.) So…yeah. No actual advice to offer.

    However, I would like to add that it’s also dangerous to talk about “logic” and “emotion” as if they are a dichotomy. They’re two separate characteristics that can exist with or without each other. Emotions, for example, can be rational or irrational. Similarly, a person can be unemotional but rational, or unemotional but irrational. A lack of strong emotions doesn’t necessarily guarantee logic, nor do strong emotions preclude it.

    • imnotme says:

      Melissa, I am not so quick to agree that emotion can be rational or irrational, and I don’t believe there is any supporting evidence for this. I am even wanting to suggest that emotion exists at a pre-rational state, which is why it must be self monitored and regulated. Emotions, after all, are very dangerous when left unchecked and it is the rational mind only that can check them. This is why some people plea temporary insanity in a murder case and mean it. They may have quite literally been so overcome with emotion, that all rational function was temporarily suspended.

    • April says:

      Well it sounds, then, like the two are supposed to exist together. I’d like to know what your theory is about the past purpose of emotion? Why do you think it’s a genetic leftover, and no longer needed, and do you think that the prior need for emotion, whatever it was, is no longer something we need to address?

    • Melissa says:

      “Melissa, I am not so quick to agree that emotion can be rational or irrational, and I don’t believe there is any supporting evidence for this.”

      Really? The human experience is supporting evidence for this. Think about the last time someone you cared about died. You probably experienced a lot of rational emotions. For example, you probably had the thought that you were never going to see or talk to the person again (or at least not in this life, if you believe in an afterlife). This thought is an entirely rational fact. However, this thought probably caused you to experience an emotion: sadness. Your sadness, however, was rational. It was based on rational fact and truth. In fact, if you had believed that you WOULD somehow talk to the person again in this life, and had therefore not been sad at their passing, then that lack of emotion would have been irrational. The person who is sad after the death of a loved one could actually be described as MORE rational than the person who is unemotional, based on the belief that the loved one is still alive.
      However, when that person died, you may have experienced some irrational emotions in addition to your rational ones. Most commonly, you may have blamed yourself for their death, resulting in the (in this case) irrational emotion of guilt.

      Being rational enough to understand that death is permanent does not preclude being emotional enough to feel sadness. In fact, being rational enough to understand that death is permanent can CAUSE the emotion of sadness. Rationality and emotions can, at many times, be inextricably linked. In many cases, they are not the least bit opposed.

      And again, similarly, being unemotional does not necessarily imply the presence of rationality.

    • Motley says:

      I can’t agree. Under particular circumstances, sure, your average person experiences particular emotions. That doesn’t make the emotions somehow rational, though, just common. It does make it rational to expect someone to feel that way (because most people will), of course, but a response being predictable doesn’t make it rational.

      It’s certainly the privilege of the majority to declare that their emotions, and predictable emotional responses, are somehow rational, just as it is to declare that the majority religion is somehow more rational than another religion, or that the majority’s preferences in food are somehow more rational than other preferences.
      But it doesn’t make it so.

      (I suspect this comes from a popular conflating of “irrational” and “unacceptable,” driving the urge to declare everything acceptable to the declarer to be also rational.)

      It gets even sillier when someone decides that they (and therefore they alone) are qualified to decide which emotions are rational under which circumstances and which aren’t.
      Erm, no… no you’re not.

  5. Innocent Smith says:

    Yeah. I mean, at a certain point the analogy breaks down. It’s not simply a matter of “taking shelter” every time person x gets upset! What I meant was that there is (in my case, though perhaps not others) no use in fighting, since there is no way to win, and since, moreover, fighting would imply that the anger has something to do with you, which it doesn’t. And when it does have to do with you, usually you are in the wrong (ignoring person x, slacking off on household chores, and so on), and should take heed.

    The main thing to do is listen. Or, if necessary, leave the room.

    On the other hand, there are instances in which I know myself to be on the receiving end of an unjust accusation or an unrealistic expectation. In those instances, I try to lay out my case as respectfully as possible, and then stand my ground. This may be a hyper-rational way of managing conflict, but it does seem better than the alternative; venting frustration seems only to escalate things.

  6. Like Melissa, I am concerned about the tendency to present emotions and rationality as diametric opposites. To my mind, reason (and therefore “rationality”) is properly the way we decide how we are going to do something. Emotion is the basis for deciding what we want to do or achieve. That means reason takes emotion as its starting point.

    This view means that when someone says “I am thinking rationally about this”, there is an emotional subtext to that statement – in other words, rationality is itself a type of emotion, with an emotional pay-off.

    When we say someone is acting emotionally, or “becoming emotional”, what this often means is that we do not understand the emotional display – that the reasoning behind their behaviour is not clear to us.

    The false dichotomy leads to the communication problem: when Y responds “let’s be rational about this”, X hears “Your motivations and desires are not important to me.” When X responds “How do you feel about that?”, Y hears “Let’s go back to the drawing board” (or even, “My motivations are more important than yours”). The issue is not that “One person is speaking emotionally while the other is speaking rationally” but that both are speaking only to their own emotional paradigm (remembering that “I am being rational” can be its own emotional state or paradigm) and not taking into account the other person’s point of view.

    So, the starting point for resolution is to centre the other person’s concerns. Not “Think about what you are ACTUALLY TRYING TO SAY” but “Think about what the other person is trying to say”. Acknowledging the other person’s state is the first step to defusing a problem. Acknowledging one’s own state is also helpful! That way, you don’t get “let’s be rational (your emotions aren’t important to me)” but “I can see you’re upset, what can we do about that?” (of course, sometimes displays of emotion have no other purpose than to elicit sympathetic expressions – there is no “what we can do about that” needed). Similarly, you don’t get “How do you feel about that?” (I think you should do something else)” but instead “Would you like some help?”

    One other thing: you do privilege “rational” over “emotional”, here:

    Likewise, if person Y attempts talking about their feelings rationally to person X, who is more resonant with emotion, person X will more often than not try to re-orient the discussion around emotional realities, when that is not what person Y wanted to discuss

    I fail to see the distinction between “emotional realities” and “talking about their feelings”. A person’s feelings constitute their “emotional reality”, surely? So person Y, the “rational” one, is here presented as being more balanced than person X.

    • April says:

      To my mind, reason (and therefore “rationality”) is properly the way we decide how we are going to do something. Emotion is the basis for deciding what we want to do or achieve. That means reason takes emotion as its starting point.

      I completely agree with this statement. I’ve been mulling it over trying to figure out how to work it into a comment here, but haven’t been able to get the wording right.

      Once I’m home from work, I want to respond more to this.

    • imnotme says:

      Snowdrop,

      I do not believe that you have, here, proven that reason is an emotion. I am inclined to stay my course on the theory that rationality is the destination of human consciousness, and emotion a record of our past, and that is why my advice is still for both parties to shut up until they have thought about what they want to say (for, that is the only way both the rational and emotional person can be sure they have considered the all important ‘other perspective’)

      The real problem here is that my piece was never intended for a feminist blog, it is just something I wrote some time ago to help myself explain why it is that no progress is made when either person (X or Y) remains stubborn in their emotional or rational state. Having this posted on a blog that generally deals with gender, is where I think the connotations and assumptions I did not put into text came from.

    • April says:

      I am inclined to stay my course on the theory that rationality is the destination of human consciousness, and emotion a record of our past,

      This part tells me that you think that rationality is superior to emotion. While you may treat them differently because you accept, as per your theory, that it’s an evolutionary process, you still feel as though the more actively rational of the two people would be, literally, a superior human being, closer to our species’ ideal form.

      That could certainly come across as condescending to the emotional party in the midst of an argument like the one you describe in your post.

    • Caitlin says:

      Hmm. I feel compelled to point out that likening emotions to a “pre-rational state” or “temporary insanity” has a long, ugly, sexist history. The distinction between “reason” and “emotion” (and specifically, labeling reason as a more mature response than emotion, which you really are doing) has been used for centuries to “confirm” male superiority and female inferiority. It’s still an enormously troubling issue today. Though you used neutral terms in this piece, the rational-male/emotional-female stereotype is so popular that it can’t be ignored — even though you didn’t initially write it for a gender-focused audience, I’m glad you posted it here, because the context of gender can’t be ignored.

      Also, I think your examples of an emotional response are actually examples of a nasty, abusive response… so maybe we just have a difference point of reference for “emotional.” If my partner started hurling insults I wouldn’t really label it emotional, I’d label it “being a jerk.”

    • April says:

      I feel compelled to point out that likening emotions to a “pre-rational state” or “temporary insanity” has a long, ugly, sexist history. The distinction between “reason” and “emotion” (and specifically, labeling reason as a more mature response than emotion, which you really are doing)

      This is a good point. I think Aristotle made it pretty clear that he thought this to be true, as well. Wasn’t he the one that said that semen is the only thing that makes you a grown person? That little boys and women are inferior because they lack semen? I see a parallel, and that can’t be too far off, given the inferior status of women in that time/place, and the stereotypes that all women = emotional, all men = rational.

      And, in further agreement with this comment, it is also entirely possible to be emotional without being abusive or insulting.

    • imnotme says:

      Caitlin, that is a good comment. It’s true, that even though unintended, gender assignment is somewhat inescapable in this forum.

      One counter point, however, that I would like to make about emotion (with full disregard of gender/sex) is the rarity with which it yields a positive outcome in a conflict. I can’t think of one situation where rationality would fail to solve an issue, yet emotion readily causes or escalates them. People take their feelings too seriously, in my opinion, and use them as justifications for their behavior.

      Now and then I’ll employ a bit of anger to get myself motivated enough to make changes when needed, but I am loathe to employ it during conflict.

    • This depends on what we mean by “a positive outcome” to a conflict (and surely, as Sun Tzu wrote, if you get to the point where there’s a conflict, that is already not a positive outcome!)

      If “a positive outcome” is to be measured by some material, external reality (e.g. “we have more money because of how we resolved this argument”) then sure, you can use rationality to decide what course will be most profitable. However, what is profitable might not make people happy.

      But if “a positive outcome” depends upon the emotional state of the participants (e.g. “we have less money, but we are happier and less stressed than before”) then finding a positive outcome has to focus on emotions. You can use rationality to work out how to get to an emotionally positive outcome, of course, but to say that emotions don’t help is absurd.

      This is, of course, how we get to the parody of therapy sessions where it goes back and forth, “your A makes me feel B”, “I recognise your B as a valid reaction to my A, and that makes me feel C” etc.

      Sometimes it is precisely by being honest about our emotions and where they come from, that the source of conflict is exposed and can be resolved by emotional responses rather than coldly rational ones. Indeed, sometimes in my experience, trying to use rationality to solve a conflict ends up with everyone feeling worse than when they started because the “rational” solution doesn’t work properly for anyone, but because it is “rational”, they feel they have to go along with it, even though it makes them unhappy. This leads to resentment and stores up conflict for the future.

    • imnotme says:

      “Sometimes it is precisely by being honest about our emotions and where they come from, that the source of conflict is exposed and can be resolved by emotional responses rather than coldly rational one”

      I couldn’t agree more, but by switching the paradigm from active to passive you have also changed the argument. It is a rational behavior you described which leads to the emotional resolution you are talking about. However, action and resolution are, in a linear sense, never to know one another. What I am arguing is not that an emotional resolution would be inferior to a rational one, that is already one step in time too far past the point. That being: where one feels an emotion coupled with the desire to express it before it is rationally brought out to the precise effect the speaker would wish were they calm, it should be deemed “emotional” and easily forgiven when the outburst is over (relative to the offense, of course–I am slower to forgive screaming, or it would require the evidence of greater suffering on the speaker’s part; one who has last his or loved one, e.g.).

    • I simply can’t accept your definition of “emotional”. At least partly because I cannot imagine behaviour that is not calculated to achieve a precise effect. (Admittedly, throwing crockery at another person, for example, might seem as though the effects will not be precise, but the imprecise effects are side-effects, and all behaviours are prone to imprecise side-effects; the desired effect is precise – to scare or to injure the target of the crockery and thus drive them from the scene while simultaneously communicating extreme disgust or anger at their behaviour.) In adding the clause “would wish were they calm”, you are privileging one emotional state over all others, and saying that only those desires and aims we have when we are calm are legitimate (and how calm is calm enough for a desire or aim to count as a legitimate one?) What makes a calm desire or aim better than an emotional one? How can we know that a desire or aim is a “calm” one?

      You seem to be trying to say that “emotional” only refers to instantaneous reaction without any thought or consideration, but I do not accept that this is the common usage. For instance, is “righteous anger” any less “emotional” a reaction even when it is based on a considered response to something? Does the fact that it may be expressed loudly (yelling/screaming) have an effect on this judgement?

      As I said before, it seems to me that mostly behaviour that we term “emotional”, we only do so because we do not appreciate the reasons for that emotional display. Therefore, we might conclude that “zie would never want that outcome if zie was calm!” And it may be that later, the person does wish zie had not behaved in a certain way; however, we can behave with calm rationality and still later regret the outcome of that behaviour (e.g. the Prisoner’s Dilemma game theory experiment, a variant of which is also the basis for one or two game shows). So I do not think that using hindsight is a good way to determine what counts as “emotional” or an illegitimate aim.

      It is a rational behavior you described which leads to the emotional resolution you are talking about.

      Well, yes and no. As I said before, rationality or reason is the process by which we decide how best to achieve our aims. But is “deciding how best to achieve our aims” a behaviour, or an internal process that leads to a behaviour?

      I would guess that when two people are having a heart-to-heart about some emotional situation or crisis they are having, a talk that you would (by your definition above) describe as a “rational behaviour”, those two people (even though I agree that on some level their brains are processing the emotion data according to rational principles) would not say “we rationally discussed the matter and came to an acceptable conclusion”. They would say “we were both very emotional, but we got there in the end”. The data both from their own emotions and what they were receiving about the other person’s emotions would be being processed through an emotional state that set out the parameters for the rational (unconscious or subconscious) processing for them to be able to reach a conclusion.

    • imnotme says:

      You’re correct in asserting that we are using language differently here. I insist on denotative speech to a detriment and have a very difficult time succumbing to common usage. I’m sure that “all in all” there is less disagreement here than it would seem. Semantics I suppose… though I am also troubled that the word semantic has become dirty. I love semantics and will probably never bow to connotation.

      Therefore, when I say “emotional” I am using the word as though it were magically stripped of all connotation and simply a functional word used to convey a dry axiom. Emotion comes from emote, which is more or less the expressive quality of ‘feeling.’ So that with its suffix ’emotion’ is the end product, or has been. I do not separate emotion from expression, because in a denotative sense, it is much more accurate to keep ‘feelings’ and ’emotions’ separate in order to keep our shared concepts consistent.

      To say that “Cassandra is being emotional” in common usage is an attack on femininity. To say “Your emotions are distracting us from the conflict” is an attack on ego above all else. Emotion comes from the deep sense of ‘me’ like a child feels and cannot control. Over time, we learn to put less emphasis on that ‘me’ feeling, and we curb our emotion for the sake of others. Or we don’t, and wind up throwing crockery.

  7. desipis says:

    I think you’ve got an interesting perspective there Snowdrop that rationality it simple another emotion. I think though, that if it is just an emotion that is has to be a unique and privileged emotion as far as conflict resolution is concerned. It’s the only emotion that is about putting our own concerns aside (as you alluded to) and focusing on a dispute from an objective or neutral position (not that being rational means we’re any good at that, or that other emotions don’t creep into our supposedly rational arguments).

    Where I think the descriptor “rational” is used in this context is where their rational assessment (or communication there of) excludes or underrates the impact of emotions on the situation. As with any situation where someone’s needs or wants are ignored, conflict will occur.

    We’re all under the influence of one or more emotions at any given moment; where I think the descriptor “emotional” comes into common use is where someone is focused on one emotion to the extent they become (directly or indirectly) self destructive in some way. It can be difficult to deal with someone in this frame of mind especially for someone who normally discusses things from a neutral or rational perspective.

    • imnotme says:

      Desipis,

      Thanks for that reply. You’ve shown me a quick way I can clear up the confusion: “We’re all under the influence of one or more emotions at any given moment; where I think the descriptor “emotional” comes into common use is where someone is focused on one emotion to the extent they become (directly or indirectly) self destructive in some way”

      I definitely could have been more clear that this discussion does revolve around emotion and rationality DURING a state of conflict. I also think that someone focused on their rationality, like your example, will quickly frustrate a partner who normally discusses things from an emotional perspective.

      Cheers

  8. imnotme says:

    Melissa and Snowdrop, just wanted to clarify that I agree(d) already:

    “The first mistake my wife and I have discovered about this discussion is that the initial problem is having emotion pitted against rationality in the first place.”

  9. I can see some clarification of my thesis is needed.

    I did not say that “rationality (or reason) is is an emotion”. The argument I made is that the statement “I am (being) rational” implies an emotional state, or at least, an emotional pay-off (which might, for example, be “therefore I am right and you aren’t”). That means that when we see two people where one person is cast as “emotional” and the other as “rational”, then there is a subtext going on for each person of trying to “win” (gain their own emotional gratification at the expense of the other).

    The resolution therefore comes from recognising the emotional state of the other and denying them the conflict (“you just aren’t as clever/right as I am”, “you just don’t care about (what’s important to) me!”) that gives the argument its pay-off. As I said, that means not “think about what you are trying to say” but “hear what the other person is saying”.

    I notice that so far there has been no explanation of the distinction between “emotional reality” and “how [a person] is feeling”, which was made in the OP? I really would find that helpful, because without it there is a clear bias towards “rational” over “emotional” in the way the advice is presented.

    …where I think the descriptor “emotional” comes into common use is where someone is focused on one emotion to the extent they become (directly or indirectly) self destructive in some way.

    I disagree with this statement. To the extent that such a situation is what we are discussing, can we determine what the equivalent state of being “rational” would be? At a first glance, the equivalent would be “someone is so focussed on (one line of) reasoning to the extent that they become (directly or indirectly) self-destructive in some way”. What I think is more commonly presented is that they become so focussed that they become other-destructive in some way (e.g. the science fiction robot/super-computer bad guys) or so that they trample over others’ feelings (at the extreme level, this is a description of psychopathy).

    Again, is it worth discussing such situations? Do people become “focused on one emotion to the extent they become (directly or indirectly) self destructive in some way” a lot, or is that something that is actually quite rare?

    In my experience, people are described as “emotional” either because the emotional expressions are not understood (i.e. “I don’t know why you are acting angry/upset/hurt, therefore your emotions are not rational”) or to dismiss them (i.e. “your emotions are not important because they are not rational”). As you can see, these often go hand-in-hand. In this interpretation, it is not that person X “is focused on one emotion to the extent they become (directly or indirectly) self destructive in some way” but rather that person Y is focussed on a single emotion felt by person X because that emotion is, from Y’s perspective, least understood (and therefore most in need of attention). Typically, it is Y who describes it as “directly or indirectly (self-)destructive” of X to feel that way, but it is actually Y’s fear of not understanding the emotion that causes this sense. Y has transferred hir fear for hirself and presented it as a fear for the safety of X.

    Since we’re in a feminist space, it’s worth noting that these scripts are writ large in Patriarchal society, and have a long history of being used to control women (as observed by Caitlin above).

  10. Motley says:

    I’m overall impressed at this, imnotme; I’m married, and a lot of it rings true. And dovetails nicely with my* pet theory on gender-differences in brain function. I don’t buy the men=rational/women=irrational idea, but I do understand, I think, where it comes from/why it looks that way to the people who believe it.

    *Well, not exactly mine, but close enough.

    To summarize the pet theory: Men tend to alternate between “mostly rational” and “almost entirely emotional” while women tend to be some of both, most of the time. Whether these traits are innate or learned, I don’t know (and when you’re dealing with the structures of the brain, I’m not convinced there’s a meaningful difference between learned and genetic).
    I think most men aren’t aware of how much time we spend being near-completely irrational, since during those times our “how rational am I” functions aren’t exactly operating at peak efficiency.

    (And you get weird stereotypes about women, because when you’re a guy in that rational-zone, women tend to seem highly irrational; when you’re a guy in that hyper-emotional zone, everyone else seems irrational as hell, since they all just don’t understand! And since stereotypes about women tend to come from men…)

    While I’m here, I’d like to second SnowdropExplodes’

    To my mind, reason (and therefore “rationality”) is properly the way we decide how we are going to do something. Emotion is the basis for deciding what we want to do or achieve. That means reason takes emotion as its starting point.

    I’ve believed this since… well, since forever, but haven’t had much luck explaining it. I’ve come to believe that neurotypical people are very bad at differentiating between when they’re being rational and when they’re not. Because most people never have to learn to analyze themselves that way. It’s perhaps the only thing I envy, there.

  11. imnotme says:

    Ooh! Intercourse is an interesting wrench… there’s something unsettling about the idea of making rational love.

    ?

    • Melissa says:

      Lol, not to mention that if you didn’t have a strong emotional side, you probably wouldn’t be in a relationship in the first place. At least not a romantic one. If your relationship was intentionally arranged by you or someone else in order to form a certain arrangement with regards to income, child-rearing, etc, that’s one thing…but assuming your relationship is a romantic one, then chances are you’re in love. And valuing that love above a lot of other rational considerations.

    • imnotme says:

      Too true!

  12. imnotme says:

    You know, I could probably shorten the entire original post down to one sentence:

    I predict that this very dialog we’re having now is going to be had on a mass scale, and soon.

  13. Melissa says:

    Since when did the concept of “emotional” get limited to anger anyway? If your partner ever sighs and tells you zie’s “so happy right now,” that’s an emotional reaction. If zie gets excited for your upcoming vacation, that’s an emotional reaction. I can’t imagine what problem rationality would have with those things unless you’re a total douche.

    • imnotme says:

      Who are you addressing? I mentioned anger in a previous comment, but it was in no way used as a landmark for emotion.

      At any rate, I now see where we are disconnecting. I disagree that saying “I am so happy right now” is an emotional reaction. Speech and emotion are only complicit, not bound to one another. Emotion is the expressed feeling, yet, how the expressed feeling reaches an audience is determined by the level and quality of rationality applied to it before it is fully expressed. Many good actors will tell you that emoting will kill a performance, for example (overacting) while in music, emoting is the end-all necessity for a good performance. The calibrating of emotion (rational) affects the success of the emotion.

      Again, emotion is here being used as distinct from an internal feeling, which is what has been used as synonymous with emotion, wrongly in my opinion.

  14. You’re correct in asserting that we are using language differently here. I insist on denotative speech to a detriment and have a very difficult time succumbing to common usage. I’m sure that “all in all” there is less disagreement here than it would seem.

    Your use of language at the moment seems so different that I cannot figure out in what ways we are expressing the same idea and in what ways we are expressing different ideas. Every significant term seems to mean something sufficiently different to you than it does to me that translation is very difficult.

    For instance, if you use “emotion” to mean “the expressive quality of ‘feeling.’” and “the end product (of that)”, then it seems to me that almost every behaviour is “emotion(al)”, because almost everything we do is in some way expressive of feelings.

    In my definitions, emotions mean what you mean by “feelings”, and I think the distinction you draw between “feeling” and “emotion” is a false one. The reasons I think this I hope are clear from the case that I have put so far. This meaning is, as you put it, one “magically stripped of all connotation and simply a functional word used to convey a dry axiom”. So, when I say “emotional state” I am describe the specific feeling or set of feelings that a person is experiencing at a particular time. I gather that you must have been reading it as either “the final expression of a feeling that a person is exhibiting”, or possibly as your “Cassandra is being emotional” example (i.e. as “C is in an emotional state”).

    To say “Your emotions are distracting us from the conflict” is an attack on ego above all else. Emotion comes from the deep sense of ‘me’ like a child feels and cannot control. Over time, we learn to put less emphasis on that ‘me’ feeling, and we curb our emotion for the sake of others. Or we don’t, and wind up throwing crockery.

    I disagree with just about every point in this. To my mind, if there is conflict then emotions (whether my definition or yours) cannot distract from the conflict, because a clear expression of a feeling (that is, an emotion by your definition) is communicating about the source of the conflict; and by my definition emotions are the source of conflict in question: and resolution of conflict only comes by resolving the conflict between two people’s emotional states (or feelings – this also helps explain why a person can say they feel emotionally conflicted; their emotional state involves two feelings that are contradictory). The statement “your emotions are distracting us from the conflict” is therefore a use of emotional weaponry, and it is itself (in your terminology) an emotion (which is the statement I came in with, if you remember, that “I am being rational” is itself an emotional expression). In a sense, you are right that it is an attack on someone else’s ego, but its purpose is to say “your feelings (and by implication therefore, your ego, i.e. you) are not important to me”. It is designed to hurt, and to browbeat another into submission. This is not a good way to resolve conflict.

    “Emotion comes from the deep sense of ‘me’ like a child feels and cannot control.” Again, I disagree. (Incidentally, you appear to be saying here that being emotional is being like a poorly socialised child – how’s that for an attack on femininity?) While I would agree that a sense of “me” is a part of emotion, I would say that the source is instead an awareness of oneself and how the external world can affect one. Thus, the thing that a child (and indeed an adult) cannot control is not their sense of “me” but rather the world outside, which is big and indifferent to us.

    “Over time, we learn to put less emphasis on that ‘me’ feeling, and we curb our emotion for the sake of others.” By your definition of emotion, I would have to argue that in healthy relationships, we learn not to curb emotion but we learn different forms of emotion that are less harmful to ourselves or others. But when we curb our emotional expression, what happens is that the feelings remain but do not get processed adequately. One becomes subsumed by others and frustrations and unhealthy expressions are inevitable. Thus, I would argue that “Or we don’t, and wind up throwing crockery.” has it back-to-front. Throwing crockery is the final result of when a person’s feelings and expressions are sufficiently suppressed or ignored (i.e. “curbed for the benefit of others”) so that ultimately the only way those feelings can be acknowledged in any way is by dramatic, demonstrative action. Thus, throwing crockery can be a perfectly rational action in terms of a response to an intolerable situation of emotional denial.

    Of course, it can be that if a person has their emotions suppressed so effectively that the only way to get any attention in their youth was to throw a tantrum, then that person may grow up with the impression that even the smallest perturbation in their feelings should be demonstrated in such drastic ways; however, that is still not a case of “if we don’t” – it is instead that this person has learned to adjust/”curb” their emotions (still using your definition), it is just that what that person has learned is different from what we would consider positive expressions – they have learned to curb their less demonstrative emotions (your definition) in favour of more demonstrative ones.

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