We care a lot about each other’s feelings. Most conversations begin with an inquiry about the other person’s emotional disposition. “How do you do?” “How are you today?” “Are you well?”
We are so committed to knowing the moods of others that we call people sociopaths who don’t give a care. “Oh that person must be insane to not be concerned about my state of being!” But you know what I am beginning to think? Maybe giving a shit about how people feel is way more crazy than not.
Essentially feelings are a chemical cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters that can only be felt by the person feeling. These personal reactions we have to the world should theoretically only impact the person who is feeling the feelings – because they are contained inside our own minds. It is not like emotions manifest as a noxious gas that is distributed through our nostrils.
Yet even though we technically should be able to keep our feelings to ourselves, we instead project them out into the world for other people to feel as well. “Ha world… I am in a bad mood, and I am going to act like it too. So deal with it!”
Emotions are inherently irrational because they are a subjective experience. Even though we know everyone else has them, we can never truly compare because we only experience them in our own heads and bodies. The only commonality is how we choose to express them. “Ahhhh yes, Chip must be angry because he is foaming at the mouth when he yells. I too have done that when furious.”
We project our understanding of our own emotions onto others, and we give value to this process because it legitimizes our own feelings. I take your feelings seriously to justify why I take my own feelings seriously. But what if feelings themselves are ridiculous?
Okay fine… you got me. I am obviously the parent of a toddler who has to deal with a variety of feelings every day and maybe, just maybe, that is skewing my perspective. But hear me out.
When The Munch was a baby I responded to everyone one of her needs – but that is because they were actual needs. I am hungry. I am thirsty. I am hot. I am tired. I am sick of you. Her cries were actual cries for help!
But now, 98% of the shit The Munch cries about, or gets angry at, is literally ludicrous. I want to sit in my travel car seat, not that other car seat. I want 5 cookies not 4. I want to play with my blocks, but I don’t want my blocks to play with me.
When I take a step back and look at most of the things that adults get all riled up about, myself included, it is most really petty shit. Yeah maybe every once in a while something profound and meaningful will happen, or we will experience a real crisis. But most of the time we are just bitching about the little things.