Definition: The Two Types of Emotionalism
Emotionalism as an action, is the mental translation or interpretation of information by means and/or in terms of emotions as opposed to conscious reason or thought.
To break that down a little, there are two types of emotionalist thinking: interpreting, (1) in terms of, and (2) by means of--emotions.
Interpreting in terms of emotions consists of a rationalization: logic or reason that is based on emotions or for emotional reasons, where the logic is the subject, and emotion the real motivator.
Interpretation that comes by means of emotions is using emotions as a mental tool to interpret directly, rather than conscious conceptual logic, and more often consists on fixating on the emotion itself, where the emotion is the subject.
Emotionalism as per definition of on-going behavior incorporates this action into also being an overly avid frequency to become too emotionally involved in a way disproportionate to a given situation, as measured over a good span of time.
As per my own experience, I know we have all been emotionalists at some point, and always are to some extent--but I have had a great deal of experience with people who could be called emotionalists as a primary character trait, and this is quite a different thing altogether.
Emotionalism works as stated, by translating emotions into an interpretation of reality in some way, either by means of or in terms of emotions.
When situations arrive where emotions are at odds with causes for a certain effect in reality, that desired effect, on the part of an emotionalist is censored and blame goes directly to the nearest thing emotions are able to understand: perceptual rather than conceptual data. Mind the fact that both types of emotionalism regardless of whether it is by means, or in terms of, behave by latching onto the nearest perceptual element in some form.
At the most basic level, emotionalism works by the fact that emotions can't understand anything abstract like "I can't come over today to play today because I have to do my homework." The reconciliation of a given person having to deal to this, comes through reason's intervention: "I know David can't come and play today, cause it's important for him to do his homework."
This is a very simplistic example, but for an emotionalist, the process of conscious-intervention-to-reconciliation, let's call it CIR for short, never takes place in a given instance, and in general, doesn't take place very often. (Remember this matter of frequency when we get further along.)
In the mind of a reasonable, objective person, "David can't play, cause he has homework to do that is important" becomes "it is not because David doesn't want to play with me, it is because homework must come first," which means that "I should not feel hurt or upset." The emotional response of the objective person is then applied: he ceases to feel upset.
In the mind of an unreasonable emotionalist, "David can't play, cause he has homework to do that is important," becomes "David can't play, cause he has homework to do," which becomes "David can't play, and I'm upset and angry at David." The emotional response of an emotionalist doesn't have anything to apply, and remains the same.
Now consider that this is beyond over-simplified and is in fact a child level example. But it illustrates the principle well, now we can look at more complex manifestations of this.
My Own Experiences With Emotionalism
I was once dating a girl from San Fransisco, her name was Sarah. We talked and talked and talked and got along well over the phone, after we'd met online. She was quite intellectual in certain ways, and actually seemed to be very kind too.
I did notice how things for her were very intense and the same sort of things seemed to be more intense for her than for me on an average given basis. She would be fine until something I said (I noted that usually it was me) could spark her to get upset very, very quickly--often instantly it seemed. She could be in tears in a matter of a few moments for things, that didn't always seem to be warranted. That is, I didn't think I myself in her shoes, wouldn't have reacted the same way. Conversely, she would tend to get elated quickly, and joy and satisfaction would come at a manic pace from things that were also out of proportion. Things just seemed more intense for her, all around.
There were times, of more than a few over the course of three months that I couldn't come to visit, for good reasons, scheduling mainly. Each time I would 'promise' to come, something would come up. After this, there were a few times when she herself couldn't do it for other various reasons. In all cases, the reasons were good, and I thought we'd understood and had reconciled ourselves that we would in fact see other at some point, when it was a better time, but that we could wait. Apparently I was, for some reason, though I felt strongly for her too, was more patient.
Finally we arranged to get together a following time, and I couldn't come again, because of work. Her response was similar to other times this had happened: she even described the emotion as being that of hurt and rejection, we'd go through what could be more than an hour of conversation about HER emotions-each-time--all in spite of the fact that she knows I did not intend to hurt her, even if it did seem like that.
"It's just the way I feel," she would say, and each time before, she reassured me that she knows her feelings are her own perception and that she must get over them. I always thought that this was mysterious: I never had to tell anyone else in this sort of instance that I was hurt and rejected for something so common as successive delays due to scheduling across great geographic distances.
I knew better when it came to girls who talked to me, when I was the one dealing with disappointment. Where I believed they wanted to see me, and things would successively get in the way, I always knew how to reconcile. This sort of big delaying happens a lot as a matter of fact with online dating, since the internet can be so irrespective of geography.
If I suspected that they themselves prioritized me as being beneath them or disproportionate to how much I valued them, and were merely dealing out excuses, I could feel quite hurt, but I would call them out on the excuse and debate the excuse's validity rather than focus on how I felt.
Depending on the response, I would either deal with them further or not, accordingly. I would often have horribly enveloping emotions, but I would deal with my feelings not as things they are supposed to handle, but things that I am responsible for.
This last time that I couldn't come because of work, she was extremely upset and hurt, far more than before, and this time even told me what basically amounted to: "If you really loved (or liked) me (enough) you'd come and visit."
I explained to her that it wasn't possible for yet another legitimate reason, being that I can't lose my job right now, and circumstances got in the way, yet again.
Her feelings on the matter, to my surprise this time, still didn't change and even got worse. She said "Someone who told me, just a day before this came up that 'nothing in the world would keep me from coming to see you' turned into something as common as: 'I can't lose my job, I'm sorry, but I can't come.' " --As if I had to be responsible for promises, even outside the realm of what can't possibly be known at the time. Literally, this means that I am responsible for what happens when I make a promise, regardless of the fact that it was outside my control.
I don't care how well read or sophisticated a person otherwise is or might seem: It's an immature mentality that quotes your own words with promises you couldn't keep because of valid logistics, and yet still holds you accountable. Let me say that again more simply and directly: It is an emotionalist, immature mentality that holds you accountable for things you can't help.
The same sort of thing has happened with other girls actually, at longer durations of time, in multiple examples. There are people that handle it, and deal with things consciously, and then there are people, who must get emotional rather than reasonable.
How Do We Know We Aren't the Ones?
But how do we know that we are, ourselves, being reasonable? How do we know that we wouldn't get emotional had it been us who were in the shoes of someone getting hurt or being 'overly' emotional?
Here are some good indicators that we are the ones most likely to be more rational:
1) The CIR - Conscious Intervention to Reconciliation process tends to be overlooked rather than practiced avidly. Look for its convenient omission, remembering that a reasonable person has reasons, causes they identify consciously for why they're emotion is valid and is willing to explain this to you, calmly, dispassionately or at least detached--most of the time.
2) Inability to detach avidly. A chronic ability to detach emotionally is rational and makes sense. An emotionalist will often make excuses for this, especially if they're smart, by means of saying something like "well you're just as emotional when it comes to X," when that may be the case, but they're using a snap-shot fallacy to take the entire issue off how frequent they get emotional by focusing merely on its depth and intensity, while omitting the fact that they are getting riled up about things all the time, at every corner, whereas you are most of the time, pretty balanced.
3) Chronic focus or preoccupation with how THEY are feeling, often with neglect to how YOU are feeling. For a rational person, disappointment is normal and feelings are accounted for by themselves, even intense emotions are not always rational to project at another person. A rational person doesn't talk over you all the time, and bombard you with their problems, i.e. emotions.
4) Over-Emotional Involvement: They have a tendency toward histrionics, or a history of drama and/or fits of rage, anger, despair or some other overinflated emotion that is chronic:
Things seem to feel and be overly intense for them in comparison to yourself and others, they have stories that highlight their own extravagant happenings--even going to work in the morning can be recounted on how dramatic it was to have almost have gotten into an accident, when they seem to 'almost have car accidents' a little bit more frequently than most people. Or days like when they got their backpack or purse caught in a subway door becomes the troubadour's tale of how they escaped by forcing the doors open, evening as the train moved steadily forward, a daring feat.--When it's more likely the train might have nudged forward, it was scary for them, but stopped and the doors merely opened, they got free and the train kept going.
The other side of this principle that I've seen are fits of rage, anger or despair and sudden helplessness, crying etc. that quickly explodes. Anger, or despair, a fit of some emotion comes to deal with what they cannot. I've seen this most often in the face of conflict resolution where someone is suddenly crying, or in a fit of rage, or ease of aggravation in the face of certain things, in repetition.
Too many near accidents or troubadour narratives that suggest a drama queen, or emotional fits to deal with conflict resolution---that is, the INVOLVEMENT with emotions as a chronic and compulsive fixation is one of the prime signatures of an emotionalist.
5) History of imbalance: Broken homes, addictive behavior, compulsive behavior, and depression are all red flags that signal a likely emotionalist. What is a person's life comprised of? What are they DOING most of the time? Something productive or something compulsive?
6) Lack of a productive or creative life centering focus. The person might be intelligent, intellectual a great cook, or singer, whatever else, but if they lack a single center on which they focus, namely a career would take this place--they are imbalanced and incomplete, with a very likely low-self esteem.Low self-esteem individuals tend to seek blame and tend to regard their own mind as impotent--hence the regression from reason to emotions.
7) The practice of rationalization, making excuses through twisted reason, is frequent. But how do we know that reason has been twisted?
A rationalizer, who is also an emotionalist is very hard to deal with and can be extremely maddening, especially if you disagree with them on pertinent issues. Rationalizers tend to have very good memories because they are and always have been in the business of getting away with behavior others feel is wrong, forcing them to take lying to a pervasive level.
This memory often takes the form of a good debator who will be able to turn things around and make you feel you are the one to blame.
The emotionalism inherent in these people is not always obvious. For the rationalizer, it takes the form most often, of interpreting in terms of emotions rather than simply by means of them directly.
For example, I have known people to be late for something and then find a reason why you failed to communicate how important it was that they be there on time, never mind the fact that they were the one who is late, not you. No apology usually comes out first from a rationalizer, though it almost always seems to, once you apologize.
I had another girlfriend, the most emotionalist of them all actually, who I dated for about 2 years. She insisted, that no matter who was at fault, in any conflict it is always all parties that have blame in some way, and hence, any apology on her part necessitated one on mine. In other words, if apologized she would, and if she did, I must then apologize too--whether or not I think I should.
The girl from SF was a rationalizer as well. She would get upset about something, understand the reasons behind why she was upset, even seem to believe it, and yet would say that she can't help being upset anyway.
Remember the more basic principle: "It is not because David doesn't want to play with me, it is because homework must come first," which means that "I should not feel hurt or upset." To her, it is not this way, she feels upset, period, regardless of why, how or whether or not she should.
This is a prime trait I'd like to point out. It is tricky (perhaps part of why she did it) because on one hand, it is good to tell another person how you're feeling and why, and be expressive. On the other hand, one's own feelings aspire, or should aspire to conform with reality, not with themeslves.
She would claim that despite the fact that I said to her how I felt about her, and that I wanted to come and it was obvious, that she couldn't help feeling hurt when I didn't, despite her knowing that there is a valid reason.
This alone might have been okay, but it came up in other areas, I didn't notice this at the time, but it was often when she wanted something. The excuse of "this is just the way I feel, despite the fact that I know better" would extend itself to the apartment she wanted: "I'm sorry to get upset around you, (she was balling) I just always had dreams of living in this apartment." (vs. the one I wanted to move into) Or "I can't help it, I would feel lost living in the city, it's so far to everything you need to get to, I would need a car, and I don't have one."
This last one is one I remember that was particularly emotionalist, even to deny reality she would come to see. I would constantly tell Sarah that living in the city wouldn't be a bad idea because we can walk everywhere and not need a car." To which she would protest: "No way, you say that but you really need a car to get around everywhere."
In fact, you don't-- most American cities are pedestrian by nature, and in fact, you often don't want a car. I asked her if she'd every lived in a city, and she said she had seen them and been to them, but never lived in one.
Once I explained this to her, she would correct herself in trusting me, and say "okay, then living in the city would be an option." But then when the subject came up again, she would tell me virtually the same thing in another way: "Oh, I just don't know about living in the city, it's, I mean, I know you say we could walk there, but I just don't see how I could get to my job which is at one end of the city everyday, and live on another." With a maddening tone, I replied with asking her if she knew the diameter of the average city, and that it would be 10 miles, maybe, at most. Manhattan is itself only like 8 miles long!
What was her response to this incontrovertible evidence?
"Oh, yeah, well, I just don't know."
We ended up spending a week in SF together and stayed at a hotel, night and day with each other. She saw the city, and even changed her mind a bit, told me "you know, maybe it won't be so bad to live in the city after all, it's not so big is it?"
I was astonished when this concrete witnessing of how small and pedestrian SF really was, relapsed when she got back to the suburbs of where she lived. I came back to D.C. after the trip.
She said to me over the phone again:
"I don't know, you know it is quite a ways to and from anywhere we could live inside SF, versus, the outskirts where I'd be working. I reasoned with her one last time that there was even a subway that went straight there, not even 12 miles away! "I think I just ought to go into the city again, maybe plan a day to stay at a hotel to see what the trip is like..." She ended up refusing to move to New York with me, and wouldn't even budge when I comprimised to SF itself--she had to live in the suburbs, where she was.
Notice that she was trying to INTERPRET the distance between where she'd work and where she'd live by means of emotions! Rather than getting out a paper and pencil or just going onto Google Maps (which mysteriously she never did) and calculate the distance. Google Maps wouldn't have been enough because it takes conceptual thought (admittedly low) to conceptualize or imagine the distance.
I found out later on how much she had been a shut away. Of course, 12 miles to her, someone who'd shut themselves away and been a hermit for so long, had to be conceptualized all over again, because she had no concept of it.
But this is the real key: for things about which an emotionalist person has little experience with, or little concept of--will necessarily most often be interpreted by means of emotions. That is, versus basic math, for example, in this case.
In the Office
I remember an office job I worked at as graphic designer. My boss, though I will not mention his name, got angered easily, was tempermental and would often go into tirades if a project was late. This is a man who spent his life dealing with incredible skill, things that required conscious reason to interpret--deadlines, work schedules, turning time into energy via math and concepts, brainstorming ways to innovate and make his company (he was once the owner) more efficient at all times!
And yet, when it came to interacting with people, fear and anger seemed to get a lot of things done. And it did. In fact, I and others around me in this situation and environment, didn't want to work harder for him, unless we feared getting fired. When things dipped below his liking, a tirade or calling us names would be in the works for sure. This kept us on our toes and kept us working pretty hard actually. It was because it was also coupled with an apology afterwards and the every present old question "can you get it done?" "Can it be done, Neal? Can you get this project in on time!?" "YES!" I would say, "Of course I can!" And I would too! And did.
I had a great stark realization when I had another boss at Kinkos Computers, several years later.
Donald, my Kinkos boss, was fairly calm at all times. In fact, I think he was always calm, I never really saw him be otherwise. Things would come down to crunch time, he'd get stressed, but the stress was always his own, and always seemed to never extend itself beyond that private realm where you could see the expression on his face was not good.
And rather than throw out tirades to make you feel guilty initially, followed up by profusely emotional apologies that got you inspired to work harder for personal approval, Donald would ask you the internals of WHY something went wrong, and what we could do to fix it. There was troubleshooting and then resolution, that could take hours, if not days if not over weeks. But it got done. I noticed that we got a lot done in fact, more than anybody else I ever worked for.
How I Feel Is How I Feel Is How I Feel
To the emotionalist, their emotions and reality so selectively designated, do not change--how they feel about x--is how they feel, period. But it is most important to remember that they are constantly in the business of trying to cover this up or instill you with the feeling that its something else, or even you who are doing it, making it often hard to nail down as definitely repetitious behavior
Why? They may even be able to list up a storm that sounds reasonable at the time, until you get to know them and realize that despite their constant denial of it--they are an emotionalist.
To the emotionalist most things, if not everything is personal, and on personal terms. Remember that emotionalism is a desire, not necessarily just to get their way, but to interpret things by means of sensations.
That is, in other words, emotions are being used in place of the frontal lobes of our brain as another type of intelligence, which is wholly inappopriate, I would say even emotions are the subject.
What they do not understand via reason, is substituted via feelings and impressions.
The next, and I think, most crucial question discriminating hard-bound emotionalists from rational people must have to do with frequency. This is where the fact that the cultural norm is itself highly irrational is particularly important to be identified as such. We live in a culture that nurtures and facilitates emotionalism on virtually all levels of life, save our work environments, which have, for obvious reasons, a completely different standard, generally speaking.
The modern cop-out you will hear from virtually anyone unitiated into objective philosophy, which is the vast majority of people, will be: "We can't make everything conscious can we? I mean, every emotion can't be monitered at all times?!"
This is a smear to make excuses for why leading a conscious life is not even desirable. Every emotion does not need monitering all the time, if one deals with emotions and treats them as they come. It is only because people do not deal with emotions by means of reason very much at all, and are raised this way their entire lives, is why there is so much work that is to be done in this realm.
You will also hear "girls are irrational by nature," or "give her a break, she is a girl." Or: "don't worry, guys just get angry."
These cultural bromides are tolerated and even endorsed in an endearing way. Such is the cultural difference between an objective person and a subjective one, and is nothing less then blatant sexism.
In the end, being objective on even most levels of application is seen as too much work.
By means of an ongoing series of little cultural bromides that add up--basic rationality is made to look like a technical practice reserved for specialists, namely shrinks. Or is made to look like some sort of special thinking, reserved for special cases. Nothing could be farther from the truth: the pervasive application of reason to most levels of life in all ways, is what human beings should be doing anyway.
We can live consciously on a pervasive, meaning all-encompassing level, and we'd be better off for it. The next time you think someone is being disproportionately intense about something, name it, call them out on it in a reasonable way. Observe though, that their reaction will most likely be some level of personal violence. Such is the world an objective person must deal with. The discipline of living objectively is not an easy one, and takes much work and is most often quite alienating.
I'll be frank, just about everyone I am meeting out there borders on being an emotionalist as per this definition. This is not because my definition is too broad, I believe this to be a cultural phenomenon getting worse and worse.
It is no longer in my view, a matter of finding emotionalists, but of finding rationalists. Most often, when you do get someone who isn't quite emotionalist, you will get a person who is calmer and more rational, and then, emotionalist in specific areas. Self-described objectivists are no exception to this. Just because someone strives to be objective, isn't the equivalent to its success. Most objectivists I seem to meet, tend to be ardent emotional rationalizers in fact, and then, rigorously lucid in certain regards.
Every other time I think it to be most likely a precarious mix of rational and non-rational response. You will find that once in a while hard hitting emotionalist who is just a more extreme version of the common emotionalist.
Emotionalism is a subject that is probably explainable through some scientific form of research that has already been done. This is merely the philosophical interpretation of what in reality is being identified. An incorporation of how the brain works, and the nuero-psychological reasons for it remain a mystery to me. Such research would be invited and anyone reading this blog is encouraged to be scientific about emotionalism. I personally think this is a good guide to start thinking about identifying inappropriate emotional response, and will be continuing to track this phenomenon in terms of my experiences.
*Scroll Down Below the Commenting Section For Disclaimer of Personal View