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Do emotions require linguistic expression for their actuality?

 
 
Reply Mon 21 Nov, 2011 02:54 pm
This is a question I would like to ask to people who meditate and also anyone else who wants to join in.

We are meant to 'feel' emotions but can they occur in the absence of a mental narrative?
For example: I am walking down the street and I'm angry about something that has happened, I am talking over the situation in my mind, and reinterpreting what someone has done to me. With every 'reinterpretation' of their actions, in relation to a perceived intentionality to harm me, my rage grows and propels itself. 'The fact that they did that probably didn't even mean what they said it did, it meant THIS other thing that I am hurt by, the fact that they told my other friend meant they were trying to turn them against me, how dare they", etc. etc.
Alternatively I could be talking about my future plans, with a sense of joy: 'If I manage to get that sum of money from that job, I could do this with it, then THIS." etc.
With every new realisation formulated by language, my emotion intensifies until I become bored or distracted and the shade of my emotion changes to something else.

My question is, if the linguistic aspect was not present in my mind, would the emotion still exist? Is it possible to feel 'rage' in a non-linguistic, meditative stance, or is it an emotion which is dependent on language for its creation and propulsion? What is the relationship between emotion and language?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 11 • Views: 5,376 • Replies: 75

 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Nov, 2011 06:38 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
A very difficult question to answer. In meditation as soon as a story line, or "narrative," begins the meditator returns to her prereflective (non-narrative) posture in consciousness, but feelings (i.e., sensations) continue. I suspect the latter may occur without meaningful categorization but "emotions" are always meaningful as linguistically-grounded, or perhaps culturally categorized, feelings.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Nov, 2011 06:53 pm
This is a subject which has been the object of a great deal of study recently. I did hear a piece on the CBC to the effect that people who vocalize their emotions, even if it means shouting, cursing, weeping, etc., are healthier. I could not find anything on that, though.

If this link works, it will take you to a Google Scholar search for scientific studies of emotional expression. (The link does appear to work.)
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Nov, 2011 06:54 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
"We are meant to 'feel' emotions but can they occur in the absence of a mental narrative?"
Of course. The emotions are usually first.
edit to say, often

backing up, I'll say usually or always.
Words are later.
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Nov, 2011 07:19 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
The Pentacle Queen wrote:
We are meant to 'feel' emotions but can they occur in the absence of a mental narrative?


The emotion must be felt before it can be articulated, no? In fact, I would suggest that verbalization of one's emotions always results in a watering-down of the actual emotion. Using language doesn't help one to understand what one is feeling; that's because an emotion is not a phenomenon of the intellect. Anyone who practices any sort of 'meditation' knows that one of the primary objectives of such meditation is to get to a state which is quite beyond words, a state where no words are needed and where words just become stumbling blocks to any attempt to reach a truly insightful meditative state.
vikorr
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 01:02 am
@The Pentacle Queen,
I always like the behaviour of dogs to illustrate such points - whack a dominant dog and what will it do?

Can you see signs of 'aggression' (specifically, anger) in dogs?

Are some more likely to attack than others (especially if they've been treated badly in the past)?

As for what you tell yourself - why do you tell yourself certain things? Isn't language only the expression given to something else within you? When you go down to the deepest levels, what is the motivation for the language used - is the motivation itself (or 'are the motivating factors themselves') language based?
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 01:43 am
@The Pentacle Queen,
Quote:
My question is, if the linguistic aspect was not present in my mind, would the emotion still exist?


Consider the definition of "existence" as "relationship". Verbal language is just one form of relationship. Babies cannot be said to be devoid of emotion. (And note that relationship can be between internal "selves")
saab
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 02:24 am
@fresco,
You can show emotions without words.
You can talk without showing emotions.
Which do you prefer ?
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 03:55 am
Quote:
Do emotions require linguistic expression for their actuality?
No
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 07:06 am
@saab,
Not sure what you mean by "prefer". Both are valid.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 01:28 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
PQ, I think emotions can to some extent occur in the absence of a mental narrative, but on those occasions language (meaning?) is involved if only sub-consciously. And we can feel distress and disorientation when we cannot identify our emotions--i.e., when we fail to meaningfully categorize our feelings. Lustig notes that language is not a phenomenon of the intellect. Poets might disagree, insisting that poetry operates by means of both emotion and intellect. But, as Lustig also notes, meditation often permits a capacity to go beyond words, that it reveals an activity of mind beyond both intellect and emotion. I agree.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 01:41 pm
Pentacle Queen, are you aware of the thread, "Emotion: humanities friend of foe?" It strongly overlaps with this one.
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Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 01:52 pm
@JLNobody,
JL, I don't believe I ever said that "language is not a phenomenon of the intellect." I certainly did not intend to either say or imply that. If memory serves, I said that emotions are not phenomena of the intellect. Once we verbalize them, use language to articulate them, I believe they lose some of their original intensity and meaning. To say "I love you" is largely meaningless unless that emotion of love is demonstrable and gets demonstrated.

Language is definitely a phenomenon of the intellect; that's why its use gets in the way of honest emotion.
Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 04:39 pm
I've certainly noted the quality that different sessions of meditation have from one day to the next. Sometimes it is quite disconcerting. What to extrapolate from that I'm not sure. Maybe the lesson learnt from a meditational perspective is "there is sadness", but the habitual verbalization tends toward making it concrete, i.e. "I AM sad".
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 05:32 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Sorry, Lustig (you actually said "... an emotion is not a phenomenon of the intellect"). You must admit that it's both easier and more fun to respond what one hopes the other meant.
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failures art
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 12:01 am
I've had emotions (feelings), and despite linguistically expressing them, my expression has often lacked the ability to convey my feelings fully. If emotions hinge on linguistic expression, would that then mean I'm only capable of feeling what I can accurately describe/express? What about the degree of emotion? Would that additionally be linked to some element of linguistic expression?

There are cultural questions here. What about cultures that sort their emotions differently? What if they use different words (or more words) that would potentially open up the spectrum of emotion*. If a culture had three different words to three different types off anger (for example), and you have one. Conveying your anger linguistically will be be the same despite which anger they individually assume you mean.

I imagine there is some connection, but I feel the emotion informs the action. A person's communication fitness may determine their print receipt in such a transaction.

(*perhaps this is a poor metaphor. The idea that all emotions progress linearly is admittedly limited and forces relationships that may not truly exist)

A
R
T
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Procrustes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 01:38 am
I think that an 'authentic' emotion doesn't neccesarily need 'expression' for it to be an actual emotion (I think it is more likely that an 'authentic' emotion is 'authentic' when 'felt'). We can use veiled expressions while the 'authenticity' of an emotion remains unexpressed. I'm sure actors have to deal with this intense practice all the time.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 01:41 am
@Procrustes,
...well...that is more tricky then it seams...an emotion by definition must be expressed when felt ! Feeling it is already expressing it....precisely why it is so hard to conceal true emotions !
(the expression of course is prior to linguistic rationalizing of it)
Procrustes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 01:58 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
Ah, but how can you tell from an 'authentic' emotion from one that is 'performed'? Where does one draw the line? I'm sure people out there in this world have been moved by performances and so 'emoting' doesn't neccesarily mean it is expressed by feeling, rather, some other controlled subjectivity (this may not be true of all cases). And out in the world I'm sure there are con artists whose beguiling ways catch people off guard. There are chameleons out there in the world and how one interprets anothers expressions (given contexts etc..) does not neccessitate 'knowledge' of anothers 'authenticity', merely ambigous expressions.
Procrustes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 02:11 am
@Procrustes,
Just read the thread question Embarrassed

If you took away the linguistic aspect of 'thinking' one might be able to 'conjure' imagery that might affect ones feelings. If you took away 'mental imagery' aswell, perhaps you need a brain scan to see if anything much is 'lighting up' in there.
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