About Emotions #7 – Confusion Among the Experts… And A Path Forward

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I have learned over my life that to survive as a deaf person on the Spectrum, I need to control my emotions. That doesn’t mean to stifle them, but to instead understand where they are coming from and to try to focus them in a positive direction. A central part of this Emotion series is about my life experiences with emotions. I have been studying the scientific side for about a month now, and I surprised to find just how unsettled the field of study is. That is what this post is about.

The best I can say is that the topic of emotions in the scientific community seems to be in a total state of confusion. Many emotion theorists, including psychologists, neuroscientists and philosophers, use the term emotion to refer to mental states that others believe are not emotions at all. All of these conflicts indicate that many people think they know what emotions are, but they don’t.

If you ask someone to explain to you what an emotion is, they will probably start by offering a few examples, listing mental states such as happiness, sadness, anger and fear, hoping that you’ll get the general idea. I could say “that’s fine, to each his own”, but that doesn’t help me understand my basic question of how people on the Spectrum feel emotions differently than others.

Here is a quote from the website Psyche.com that sums up all the confusion for me.

So, whether a more realistic understanding of emotions will benefit psychotherapy or human-machine interaction or security surveillance techniques remains to be seen, but we should at least aspire to getting the science right, even if only for its own sake. Meanwhile, the average person has every right to be confused (a cognitive state) and disappointed (an emotional state) by the fact that such an important aspect of everyday life is not better understood by those who spend their lives studying it.

With these words, I am going to stop trying to determine what the many emotion theorists, including psychologists, neuroscientists, philosophers, and such, believe are “emotions”. Instead, I am going back to my basic feelings on the topic and follow my own path. I will try to find any tools that might help me in the journey. In my Emotions #5 post, I jokingly compared the study of emotions to the Christian church. At the time I didn’t realize how true that was.

Next week I am going to give you a glimpse of “Emotion Wheels” and show you the one I have chosen to use for the remainder of this series. I will also change the basic topic to “Happiness”, that was the goal all along, but I just never realized it. My attitude towards many things in my life is in a current state of flux (thankfully, finally getting better) so I am seeking something positive to come out of these discussions to help me understand and control my emotions and to turn them positive whenever I can.

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