Updated: Apr 28
Here, among us, in this environment of adult and intelligent people, we can agree with the statement that we all have an idea, however vague or ambiguous, about what we mean when we use the word "EMOTION".
This is, in fact, a topic of great interest to most people. It is a volatile field, object of great reverie by romantic and passionate souls, and of scientific interest to scholars or professionals. It is with this scientific curiosity that I invite you to examine the schema I present below.
Examine how we function:
1- In the face of any event that changes the natural course of circumstances that affect us; 2- Our interpretations about it, 3- They reveal our observer (our eye, the way we see the world, our belief system) 4- And generate in us emotions, 5- Which are coherent with our language (mental processes) 6- And equivalent body dispositions. 7- This coherence between our observer and the unity we are (emotionally, mentally and in our body) may culminate in actions, 8- Which generate results, 9. That will be interpreted by other people, 10 - Each one through their own lens, eye, observer. 11- This will also generate in them a coherence of emotions, mental processes and equivalent body dispositions, 12- culminating in reactions and so on.
Except from conditions such as depression, where negative emotions can be generated due to a chemical imbalance in our brain, it is interesting to notice that we can always ask, in the face of any emotion, to which world does it belong, or which believe system is feeding it. However, despite this introduction addressing emotions, this is not the topic I'll tackle in this short conversation. Today, I talk about something which, very close to emotions, is distinguished from them for essential reasons that will I present below.
In addition to the emotions, that are punctual and specific to each situation, we are also driven by moods, which are soul states establishing the context in which we interpret the events around us. I like to imagine moods as "contextual bubbles," or as the musical background in which we interpret the world and produce our emotions. We can then metaphorize by saying that if my mood defines my field of action, or my world of possibilities, being thus on the dimension of the observer or of the context, emotions, in turn, are found on the dimension of the language, of the text itself, as punctuations of it. Bringing our metaphorical inclination to the musical field, we can say that moods are for the whole of a melodic composition, what emotions are for each singular note of this melody.
Have you noticed that what seems easy to an enthusiastic person, to another one, immersed in a state of resignation, isn't even shown as a possibility? Our observer is colored by our moods and it is from this point of observation that we interpret life, act in the world and achieve results. I think that this point has been made clear already. Let's proceed.
As I write this, I'm in Bahia, Brazil, on holiday and therefore in the possibility of enjoying plenty of free time to just watch people, how they move, sit, get up, how they dress, how they hug each other, drive their cars and so on. What I see are individuals communicating in every movement, a particular mood, but also, or mainly, a collective spirit, a cultural, regional, social or family mood in which they are immersed. In this regard, I would like to mention the reading I did of Freud, at the end of the holidays, which touched me, confirming some of the observations I had previously made. According to him:
"Every individual is an integral part of many masses, it is multiply
connected by identification and built his ideal of self according to various models. Thus, each individual participates in many masses psyches, the one of his race, his class, his religious community, his state etc., and can, going beyond them, rise to a little fragment of independence and originality"1.
Brazil, actually, is so great in its geographical proportions and its regional diversities are so striking that is worthy to make a note here. We not only have several federal states that stand out enough from each other in accent and ways of being, as we also have a large difference between social classes, each one with their own culture, atmosphere and etiquette.
This “sea”, or let's say this "force field", which permeates the way of being and acting of an entire community "catches", or in other words, is communicable, transmissible by social contact and generally transparent to those who live in it. To gain awareness about it, recognizing where each spirit comes from is to conquer liberty, independence. It means to position yourself ahead of that organism. By the way, who walks "ahead of his time" always lives between leadership and marginality, since in not recognizing systems, circulates in an environment of freedom and creativity.
We can conclude then, that moods or soul states
1- Act within the dimension of our observer;
2- Differentiate themselves from emotions, functioning actually as the context in which these arise;
3- Can be individual or collective;
4- Are transmitted through contact;
5 - Usually invisible to those who are immersed in them. 6 – And that we can free ourselves, as we gain conscience, at least to a minimal degree, from the domination imposed by the collective.
There is one thing I want to point out in this analysis, which is the fact that to have dominion over the discourses within which we operate, we must first gain awareness about ourselves, our limits and our context, which is, we need to see what was before invisible to us. The processes that lead us to this discovery are often painful, because they take us out of our comfort zone, however, in this journey our consciousness expands and we find, at each transparency that we manage to see, more freedom, more soul and therefore, more space for compassion.
The challenge I faced during my stay in Brazil and the learning process to which I invite you, my reader, is to develop the habit of being more attentive to our individual moods, to the collective spirits which rule our families, communities and nations, as well as to the implications of this submission in our emotions, mind, body and in the world we create with our actions and consequent results.
1 FREUD, S. Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. 2014, p. 140.
Paula Kelder is a Lawyer, a Human Rights activist and the founder of the Amsterdam International Women Network.