How Do We Define Emotions?


The Atlantic reviews years of efforts by scientists to understand human emotions, and to determine how we interpret each other’s emotions. Why have cross-cultural studies often found commonalities that are barely above chance?

Hard Feelings: Science’s Struggle to Define Emotions (The Atlantic, February 24, 2015)


  1. “Science is not always a set of answers to questions, a collection of hard-won facts about how the world works. Sometimes the scientific method spans decades, centuries even, every study a drop in a bucket that might never be filled. It’s hard to know how close emotion researchers are to a solution, or if there even is one. “Philosophically, it’s arguable that ‘experience’ is not anything intrinsically measurable,” Fridlund writes. “This may make it forever off-limits to science.”

    Robert Whitaker may wish to “contemplate” (felt-sense) this view of science and its modern day mythology, when he confidently endorses the science of a “super-sensitivity” affect from neuroleptic compounds. While even though he acknowledges the original meaning of neuroleptic: “take hold” (lepsis) of the central nervous system to suppress …, he fails to see HOW my repeated mention of our autonomic nervous system, fits into John Weir Perry’s understanding of psychosis, as “natures way of setting things right.”

    While, like the author of this article, Robert begins in the middle of the “epidemic problem” never once having the courage to question what brings any individual before a prescribing medical vacation, for the very first time. Perhaps, that because he suffers from the vocational world view of his own profession, which has never let reality stand in the way of a well “sold” story?

    I urge readers to investigate further the source of wisdom in this article about our guiding motion & e-motion sense of survival. And explore Ekman’s mentor Silvan Tomkins, as I have tried to articulate here:

    “Its an ability we learn in the first years of childhood, in what the developmental experts call the practicing phase of life, the first three years. We learn so much, and promptly forget the learning, as our brain creates patterns of expectation which become our unconscious motivation, or motor-vation, as I’ve come to understand. The primary processes of unconscious expectation, which guide us through life. This is the main reason why fundamental change is so difficult to achieve, until we find a way of bringing the unconscious motivation into conscious awareness, and begin to dissolve old habitual patterns. Its also why traditional talk therapy is so limited for serious mental anguish, and why the mad behavior of psychosis is so misinterpreted and misunderstood by our rational mind. Let me share an explanation of primary process and how my constant reading and re-reading over the past five years has fueled a steady organic process of natural transformation, including four episodes of euphoric “state,” psychosis. Reading people like Murray Bowen, Jaak Panksepp, Silvan Tomkins, Paul Ekman, Allan Schore, Stephen Porges and Peter Levine in a short list of the most important contributors to my slow, yet steady paradigm shift in self-awareness and self-definition. Examples;

    “Emotions, the Higher Cerebral Processes & this Sense of Self:

    Evolutionarily, the brain mechanisms for language were designed for social interactions, not for the conduct of science. Indeed, words give us a special ability to deceive each other. There are many reasons to believe that animal behavior will lie to us less than human words. This dilemma is especially acute when it comes to our hidden feelings that we normally share only through complex personal and cultural display rules.”(Panksepp, 1998).”

    You can read more of this, from the inside-out understanding of the “nature” of psychosis here:

    The title Born2Psychosis is chosen deliberately, to ask readers to question their attachment driven acceptance of a consensus reality, which now inhabits an existential, mass-delusion.

    Sincere regards to all,

    David Bates.

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