Sunday, February 14, 2010


"Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent --?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person;

...but this what young people are so often and so disastrously wrong in doing; they (who by their very nature are impatient) fling themselves at each other when love takes hold of them, they scatter themselves, just as they are, in all their messiness, disorder, bewilderment...: and what can happen then? 

...each of them loses himself for the sake of the other person, and loses the other, and many others who still wanted to come.

...if we nevertheless endure and take this love upon us as burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in the whole easy and frivolous game behind which people have hidden from the most solemn solemnity of their being, -- then a small advance and a lightening will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us.

...and with great struggle: the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other."

--Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, February 5, 2010

emotion of body and mind

It's impossible for me to stay upset when I am taking a hot shower.

I always assumed the bodily manifestations of my emotions (crying) were the result of the mental (feeling upset) --- it's actually the exact opposite; I am upset because I am crying.

Let's start with William James:
"Our natural way of thinking about these standard emotions is that the mental perception of some fact excites the mental affection called the emotion, and that this latter state of mind gives rise to the bodily expression. My thesis on the contrary is that the bodily changes follow directly the PERCEPTION of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the [p.190] same changes as they occur IS the emotion. Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike. The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect, that the one mental state is not immediately induced by the other, that the bodily manifestations must first be interposed between, and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and not that we cry, strike, or tremble, because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be. Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colourless, destitute of emotional warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we could not actually feel afraid or angry" (What is Emotion?).

The theory is that we have reflex physical reactions to a situation, which stirs up certain emotions. So my becoming upset is actually a result of my FIRST feeling physically upended, trembling, crying, etc.

Let's take this to the next step then.

James more or less proves my theory of "fake it 'til you make it" as being valid. When I need to be confident for a class presentation, I pretend to be and I am. When I am feeling morose and want to snap out of it, I pretend to be happy and I become happy. As James says, the "voluntary path to to sit up cheerfully, to look round cheerfully, and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there" (The Gospel of Relaxation). Why? Because emotions are just the result of our physical state. So to change our physical action is to change our feelings -- "...action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not" (The Gospel of Relaxation).

We are the combination of our body and our mind. BODY + MIND = US.
(D&C 88: 15 spirit and the body are the soul of man)

So when I climb into a hot shower and relax my body -- the emotion of being upset is no longer being stimulated by my physiology.  In fact, as my physical state is changed by hot water and steam it results in my no longer being upset. It's not my emotions that are in charge. It's still ME -- because I choose how to change my physical state.

That's why deep breaths help when you are angry and hugs help when you are sad.

That's why I AM IN CONTROL of my emotions. Even when I think I am not.


While I don't agree with all of his points, in The Feeling of What Happens Antonio Damasio makes an interesting argument for the evolution of emotions (excerpt here).

Also NPR's Radiolab does a bit on emotion and physiology in connection with phantom limbs (listen here).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

human suffering

Last night my family and i were talking for a bit about why bad things happen in the world. specifically why innocent and good people suffer. Today while i was doing my reading for my institute class I came upon this:

"For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefor ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain but behold they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God" (Alma 60:13)

This breaks down into two parts -- the first being that God allows bad things to happen to good people so that "justice and judgement" will come upon those who chose to cause those bad things. This connects to another story in Alma where a prophet who had the power to save some innocent people from death said that "The spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand" because God was allowing this to happen for a reason -- allowing the wicked to harm the righteous, "that the judgements which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day' (Alma 14:11). 

Of course, this doesn't seem like enough... to think that so many have to suffer because of evil people JUST so that justice can be fulfilled. But that's where that second part comes in -- that the righteous are not lost nor are they necessarily in a bad place because they suffer and/or die. In D&C 42:47 it says that for those that die in God, death "shall be sweet unto them" -- why? because of John 11:26 where Christ says that whomever "believeth in me shall never die" -- i.e. victory over death comes through Christ (1 Corin.  15:53-57)

We see suffering and death in such a negative light -- but if you start to try to see them as God does... then that changes. Because death is only unfortunate for those who haven't repented and tried to serve the Lord -- for those that HAVE, it is just a happy stepping stone into a new sphere of existence. And any suffering here, even a lifetime of it, in comparison with the eternity that comes after earth life, is such a SMALL moment ---- and as we've been told over and over again "all these things shall give [us] experience, and shall be for [our] good (D&C 122:7) because that is part of the purpose of life. to have experiences in suffering. some have MUCH MORE suffering than others, but if you believe and trust in God... if you have faith that He knows best... then you learn to accept in that faith that He has a reason for the differing amounts of suffering we all experience and that for enduring it well, we will be blessed. 

Anyways, there's a LOT more to this. For a more complete (and better written) treatment of this topic, read Truman Madsen's essay "Human Anguish and Divine Love"