Your Mind and How to Use It

Chapter X

The Feelings

In thinking of the mind and its activities we are accustomed to the general idea that the mental processes are chiefly those of intellect, reason, thought. But, as a fact, the greater part of the mental activities are those concerned with feeling and emotion. The intellect is the youngest child of the mind, and while making its presence strenuously known in the manner of all youngest children so that one is perhaps justified in regarding it as “the whole thing” in the family, nevertheless it really plays but a comparatively small part in the general work of the mental family. The activities of the “feeling” side of life greatly outnumber those of the “thinking” side, are far stronger in their influence and effect, as a rule, and, in fact, so color the intellectual processes, unconsciously, as to constitute their distinctive quality except in the case of a very few advanced thinkers.

But there is a difference between “feeling” and “emotion,” as the terms are employed in psychology. The former is the simple phase, the latter the complex. Generally speaking, the resemblance or difference is akin to that existing between sensation and perception, as explained in a previous chapter. Beginning with the simple, in order later on to reach the complex, we shall now consider that which is known as simple “feeling.”

The term “feeling,” as used in this connection in psychology, has been defined as “the simple _agreeable_ or _disagreeable_ side of any mental state.” These agreeable or disagreeable sides of mental states are quite distinct from the act of knowing, which accompanies them. One may perceive and thus “know” that another is speaking to him and be fully aware of the words being used and of their meaning. Ordinarily, and so far as pure thought processes are concerned, this would complete the mental state. But we must reckon on the feeling side as well as on the thinking side of the mental state. Accordingly we find that the knowledge of the words of the other person and the meaning thereof results in a mental state agreeable or disagreeable. In the same way the reading of the words of a book, the hearing of a song, or a sight or scene perceived, may result in a more or less strong feeling, agreeable or disagreeable. This sense of agreeable or disagreeable consciousness is the essential characteristic of what we call “feeling.”

It is very difficult to explain feeling except in its own terms. We know very well what we mean, or what another means, when it is said that we or he “_feels_ sad,” or has “a joyous feeling,” or “a feeling of interest.” And yet we shall find it very hard to explain the mental state except in terms of feeling itself. Our knowledge depends entirely upon our previous experience of the feeling. As an authority says: “If we have never felt pleasure, pain, fear, or sorrow, a quarto volume cannot make us understand what such a mental state is.” Every mental state is not distinguished by strong feeling. There are certain mental states which are concerned chiefly with intellectual effort, and in which all trace of feeling seems to be absent, unless, as some have claimed, the “feeling” of interest or the lack of same is a faint form of the feeling of pleasure or pain. Habit may dull the feeling of a mental state until it is apparently neutral, but there is generally a faint feeling of like or dislike still left.

The elementary forms of feeling are closely allied with those of simple sensation. But experiments have revealed that there is a distinction in consciousness. It has been discovered that one is often conscious of the “touch” of a heated object before he is of the feeling or pain resulting from it. Psychologists have pointed out another distinction, namely: When we experience a sensation we are accustomed to refer it to the outside thing which is the object of it, as when we touch the heated object; but when we experience a feeling we instinctively refer it to ourself, as when the heated object gives us pain. As an authority has said: “My feelings belong to me; but my sensations seem to belong to the object which caused them.”

Another proof of the difference and distinction between sensation and feeling is the fact that the same sensation will produce different feelings in different persons experiencing the former, even at the same time. For instance, the same sight will cause one person to feel elated, and the other depressed; the same words will produce a feeling of joy in one, and a feeling of sorrow in another. The same sensation will produce different feelings in the same person at different times. An authority well says: “You drop your purse, and you see it lying on the ground as you stoop to pick it up, with no feeling either of pleasure or pain. But if you see it after you have lost it and have hunted for it a long time in vain, you have a pronounced feeling of pleasure.”

There is a vast range of degree and kind in feeling. Gordy says: “All forms of pleasure and pain are called feelings. Between the pleasure which comes from eating a peach and that which results from solving a difficult problem, or learning good news of a friend, or thinking of the progress of civilization–between the pain that results from a cut in the hand and that which results from the failure of a long-cherished plan or the death of a friend–there is a long distance. But the one group are all pleasures; the other all pains. And, whatever the source of the pleasure or pain, it is alike feeling.”

There are many different kinds of feelings. Some arise from sensations of physical comfort or discomfort; others from purely physiological conditions; others from the satisfaction of accustomed tastes, or the dissatisfaction arising from the stimulation of unaccustomed tastes; others from the presence or absence of comfort; others from the presence or absence of things or persons for whom we have an affection or liking. Over-indulgence often transforms the feeling of pleasure into that of pain; and, likewise, habit and practice may cause us to experience a pleasurable feeling from that which formerly inspired feeling of an opposite kind. Feelings also differ in degree; that is to say, some things cause us to experience pleasurable feelings of a greater intensity than do others, and some cause us to experience painful feelings of a greater intensity than do others. These degrees of intensity depend more or less upon the habit or experience of the individual. As a general rule, feelings may be classified into (1) those arising from physical sensations, and (2) those arising from ideas.

The feelings depending upon physical sensations arise either from inherited tendencies and inclinations or from acquired habits and experience. It is an axiom of the evolutionary school that any physical activity that has been a habit of the race, long continued, becomes an instinctive pleasure-giving activity in the individual. For instance, the race for many generations was compelled to hunt, fish, travel, swim, etc., in order to maintain existence. The result is that we, the descendants, are apt to find pleasure in the same activities as sport, games, exercise, etc. Many of our tendencies and feelings are inherited in this way. To these we have added many acquired habits of physical activity, which follow the same rule, _i.e._, that habit and practice impart more or less pleasurable feeling. We find more pleasure in doing those things which we can do easily or quite well than in the opposite kind of things.

The feelings depending upon ideas may also arise from inheritance. Many of our mental tendencies and inclinations have come down to us from the past. There are certain feelings that are born in one, without a doubt; that is to say, there is a great capacity for such feelings which will be transformed into manifestation upon the presentation of the proper stimulus. Other mental feelings depend upon our individual past experience, association, or suggestions from others–upon our past environment, in fact. The ideals of those around us will cause us to experience pleasure or pain, as the case may be, under certain circumstances; the force of suggestion along these lines is very strong indeed. Not only do we experience feelings in response to present sensations, but the recollection of some previous experience will also arouse feeling. In fact, feelings of this kind are closely bound up with memory and imagination. Persons of vivid imagination are apt to feel far more than others. They suffer more, and enjoy more. Our sympathies, which depend largely upon our imaginative power, are the cause of many of our feelings of this kind.

Many of the facts which we generally ascribe to feeling are really a part of the phenomena of emotion, the latter being the more complex phase of feeling. For the purposes of this consideration we have regarded simple feeling as the raw material of emotion, the relation being compared to that existing between sensation and perception. In our consideration of emotion we shall see the fuller manifestation of feeling, and its more complex expressions.

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