In this three-part series, Kaiyum clarifies widespread confusion about the difference between feelings and emotions.
Part 2: More facets of the subject of feelings and emotions that make it even more colourful!
All too frequently the states of Being called shame, guilt and fear are erroneously called ‘emotions’.
These three are neither feelings nor emotions; they are physical reactions to behavioural rules which are part of the conditioning.
Let’s start with ‘fear’. The reptile brain is biologically programmed to support us in dealing with dangerous situations – the famous fight-or-flight syndrome. Luckily for us, this mechanism is still effective in genuinely dangerous situations; it can save our lives – or rather, allow us to live longer!
But this part of the brain does not differentiate between the wolf appearing from behind the tree and a room full of listeners for a speaker. The physical response (‘conditioned reflex’) is identical, namely an instantaneous boost of adrenalin with various accompanying physical reactions: need to urinate and/or defecate, sweating, breathing quickens, becomes shallower and higher in the chest, vision sharpens and at the same time the focus narrows on what is genuinely important at that moment. All these physical symptoms lumped together are called ‘fear’: “Oh, I’m so afraid to get up there in front of the group!” True, it is possible to learn to control the physical symptoms – remember, you actually need some adrenalin in order to carry out the task, to meet the current challenge – but it’s up to you to take charge of both Mind and body.
False feelings result from conditioning.
Kaiyum (aka David Bloch)
Shame and guilt work slightly differently because the biological programming – the conditioned reflex – is lacking; in this case, it’s the social programming that’s at cause.
In his family of unskilled workers John gets told he should be ashamed of doing something which Frank, brought up in a family with academically successful parents, never hears about or is even praised for doing.
Suzan grows up in a family where her mother uses expressions such as: “You ought to be ashamed of yourself for doing that!” Hearing her mother’s disapproving voice and words, and being looked at so harshly, Suzan feels very small and vulnerable.
The need to be loved, accepted and appreciated ensures that Suzan withdraws into herself and ‘behaves nicely’.
Elisabeth grows up in a family where her independence and original thinking are praised. Because her parents have different values and use different vocabulary, it is only when Elisabeth is older that she hears language such as that used by Suzan’s mother. By then she has a stronger sense of her own truth and is insensitive to such disapproving terms.
The situation is similar with guilt. In a specific social group (immediate family, extended family, social class, school, religion) there’s a more or less clear standard of unwritten rules about how to behave. For example, in many Christian circles, the concept of ‘original sin’ (‘sex is bad’) is still believed, let alone the seven primary sins as formulated by the Pope in the 6th century.
The deep-seated, inherent and basic need for children to survive, to be validated, to get affection and appreciation somehow, all too frequently leads to twisted ideas, sickness (‘dis-ease’) and the need for therapists who with any luck will help them on their path to freedom – ultimately, freedom from the Mind.
‘To be in love’ describes the situation perfectly, as if ‘in love’ describes how it is to stand steadfastly in a stream, the flow or current of Life. Standing, yes, preferably immersed. Then there is only one feeling, that of bliss. But what is bliss? Nothing more or less than the sensual experience of love and the Being in love, the basic energy of Life, the Universe and – for many – God. For this feeling, it is enough to be just as you are in your uniqueness – no one else is needed.
Think back for a moment to that image of the current or river of Life: step out of the river, even if it’s with just one foot on the bank, and there you will meet the Mind again and all the other daily feelings. Step out completely, get involved with the daily doings of the masses and the Mind will immediately ensure that you are reminded what fear, guilt and shame are.
Love is not an emotion. It is your very being.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
There is a myth that those who achieve freedom from the Mind become insensitive… because their lives are so much in balance and they are beyond being disturbed by the ripples that affect most people.
They have freedom in their ability to recognise ‘ordinary’ feelings for what they are and to distinguish them from the primary feeling of love. Above all, they see emotions for what they are: ripples on the surface of an infinite ocean of love.
Is physical pain a feeling? Most definitely. Are the tears of physical pain an emotion? No. The experience of physical pain involves a totally different sort of ‘feeling’.
Identification with the body leads to language use involving ‘feeling’: “I feel sick.” (I experience that I’m unwell.) “I have a stomach-ache.” (I experience that my stomach is out of order.) “I’ve got a back-ache.” (My back hurts and I can’t stand up straight.)
The following three questions help in understanding this point better. It’s up to you, the reader, to answer them:
Are you your body… or do you have a body?
Are you your feelings… or do you have feelings?
Are you your thoughts… or do you have thoughts?
Be assured that one verb indicates a path of freedom and potential enlightenment while the other verb leads to a life of a degree of enslavement.
To expand this point more fully, what is more correct: “I’m hungry” or “My body is hungry”? With good reason, perhaps, J. Krishnamurti never spoke about himself using the personal pronoun, but always about ‘this person’.
Back to pain and physical discomfort. Yes, we use the verb ‘to feel’ because it exists in the language and because it indicates a certain degree of ‘body awareness’. But in this context it’s being used to describe signals which the body is giving (presumably in order to attract attention) – it’s the language of the body externalising inner processes.
This language is quite different from the common use of the term ‘body language’ to summarise gestures, facial expression, posture, movement and voice. There are now specialists who, using high-speed cameras, are able to read this form of body language with remarkable precision, especially the most subtle signals that betray repressed feelings.
Part 3 will expand on the one key feeling and some additional themes around the heart and Truth.
Kaiyum is a regular contributor to Osho News
All articles by this author published on Osho News
All articles of this series can be found in this section Feelings/Emotions