Monday, October 24, 2005

how do you feel?

"Depression is a choice."

"What the fuck are you talking about? A choice? You think we evolved serotonergic systems due to free will? Fucking ridiculous."

"Sure, but yesterday you were fine."


"And today you're in the shits."


"And what has changed?"


"Nothing at all. She left you just as much yesterday as she did today. But today you're depressed."

"Yeah, but I didn't choose to feel like shit today."

"And I think you did."


Blogger DC said...

I hate the idea that you can choose which emotions you feel. I see it used in ways like:

"Well you'rr choosing to feel exploited" to the person whose had all the energy sapped from them from being exploited for years.

"You are choosing to feel hurt" to the person you've just emotionally gutted.


Feelings and emotions have no rational component. Like Hume's desires, they just are. There is no choice involved in them. Either they are there, or they are not there.

You can't choose something which just exists, like a tree, or a house. They just are.

The only thing we can choose is between options or alternate paths. For example, I can choose to try to repress that emotion or I can experience it. I can choose to do X or do Y. DO is the operative word.

You cannot choose to feel happy or sad. You can only choose what course of action you can take.

Yes, these may result in happiness or sadness, but that's a different story.


Also, I think it's important to note, that feelings, emotions and states also play havoc with choice. They can limit the options available, which further complicates the choice mechanism. For example, if a person is depressed, they may not have the mental energy to form options or ideas, hence they may have no options to chose from.

Feeling affects choice.

2:23 p.m.  
Blogger socialsomatic said...

Hey David,

Thanks for all the cool comments (do I remember right that you used to be the Unexamined Lifeboat?).

I take your point here, and especially agree that we have more choice over courses of action than over feelings.

But I did write this at a time when I had decided not to wallow in my own depression, and the depression was lifted, at least for a while.

I'm sympathetic to cognitive-behavioural approaches that argue that all feelings are a result of thoughts. In this sense, feelings are actually the MOST rational thing we have. We feel the way we do because it is an honest reaction to our thoughts. In this sense, our feelings are never wrong but our thoughts often are.

So, I tend to believe you can change the way you feel by changing the way you think. Think about someone you dislike, and think about why you dislike them. Now think about that trait from their perspective - why they might value the trait you dislike and why that trait might be functional for them. Does this change the way you feel about them?

Food for thought.

10:06 p.m.  
Blogger DC said...

Yep. From the life boat.

I can support the idea that thoughts can give rise to feelings, and that irrational thoughts give rise to irrational feelings. For example, thinking all dogs will bite will create an irrational fear of dogs. CBT is a good way to work through these issues.

The idea I object to is that one which says all feelings are based on thoughts. For example, I feel tired not because I am thinking tired thoughts, but because my body needs sleep.

And all bad feelings are based on bad thoughts. For example, my feeling that I'm bring exploited does not arise from irrational feelings of exploitation, but from real exploitation.

To make me responsible for all my feelings, seems to be a form of oppression. For example, it allows a employer to say that the reason I feel exploited is because of a flaw in my thinking, rather than a systemic problem with his business.

As such, the people saying you can choose what you feel is problematic for me.

1:02 p.m.  
Blogger DC said...

I think the words "for example" would be better written as "As a counter example,"

1:04 p.m.  

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