william clegg


This conversation is closed.

Feelings, we all have them, but who is responsible for them?

I have opined in other Ted links and else where that my feelings are my own. That they are derived from the total of my life experiences. That the origins of a particular feeling may lie in my distant past, but that the way I express that emotion today is my own responsibility. That is to say, I own my emotions and no one is able to "make" me feeling anything. What I feel is mine own and the way in which I react to a particular stimulus.

However, our language is riff with references to influences outside ourselves as being responsible for our feelings. Statements such as "you make me so sad, happy, frustrated, loved" and so on. Or "that thing/event/object/time makes me feel so....".
you get the drift I think.

So, are we all really responsible for our feelings or am I an oddball? By that I mean are we responsible for the feelings, especially those that are negative such as fear, prejudice, anger, hatred and so on as well as the positive ones of love, happiness, joy, contentment and so on.

Or are others capable of invoking feelings, both negative and positive in us?

Closing Statement from william clegg

While there was much debate about the origins of one's feelings, there does seem to be a majority consensus that, yes, we are responsible for how we express our own feelings.

But it seems that there is still a gulf of difference between those who "own" their feelings as so succinctly stated by Joshua Bond and those others who still see outside influences having some measure of influence on 'how we feel..

My sincere thanks to all those who participated in this discussion.

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    Oct 22 2013: All feelings are our own emotional property. They are already latent inside of us. What other people do around us can trigger them, but cannot "make us have them" because we already "have them" inside of us.
    So yes, we are all responsible for our feelings, all of them, negative and positive.
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    Oct 22 2013: we are responsible for our feelings, as we grow older our fears and negative feelings can with experience change so do our positive ones and how we approach situations...

    yes... there catalyst and antagonist which challenge our equilibrium

    we all need a jolt out of the comfort zone... it is how we choose to react which makes us the owner of our emotions
    i.e. it does not matter what feeling is provoked, it is how we express that feeling: hugging, walking away, retort...
  • Oct 22 2013: William,

    I believe that we have base instincts designed into our genes. Upon that base, society programs us, both subconsciously and consciously. How we act upon that programming and how we change it at both levels is up to us.
  • Timo X

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    Oct 22 2013: Free will is an illusion. Sounds grim, I know, but the hypothesis of free will as an uncaused cause is simply untenable. This makes sense from a theoretical point of view: feelings and thoughts are nothing more than electrical impulses in our heads, a process governed entirely by natural laws. There is also plenty of direct evidence on the subject, see Libet et al. (1983)* for a seminal work or try Wikipedia** for an overview.

    The fact that free will is an illusion has the capacity to muddle the concept of responsibility. If you ultimately do not have any choice over the matter, who or what is responsible for your thoughts, emotions and actions? Can the illusionary nature of free will justify any thought or behaviour as an amoral act of compulsion? I don't think so. Certainly, free will does not exist, but this realization does not affect my experience of it in the slightest. Therefore, the responsibilities do not change: the responsibility for my feelings and actions is ultimately mine.

    So, to answer your question more directly: I know that I ultimately have no control over my feelings, that they are just electrical signals, and it follows that any physical process in- or outside my head can affect those signals. At the same time, I believe that this knowledge about free will is non-reductive, I am not less of a person just because I came to realize it. And finally, I believe that letting the negativity of others rule your life is a bad way to live it.

    * http://trans-techresearch.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Brain-1983-LIBET.pdf
    ** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_of_free_will
    • Oct 22 2013: I'm sorry Timo that you see humans as nothing more than computers. I agree, computers do not have free will, but you had the choice to react to this subject or not, what to write, to leave links in your message etc. etc.
      Anyone not having free choice is a robot. We have choice with every thing we do, with every move we make.
      If someone cuts us of in traffic we have a choice of which finger we will use.

      I have the suspicion that you do not know what free will actually is, when you say:
      --"If you ultimately do not have any choice over the matter, who or what is responsible for your thoughts, emotions and actions?"--
      Having free will means we have NO compulsion to do one thing or the other. We have the choice. We are responsible for how we react to our thoughts emotions and determine our actions according to our fee choice. The thoughts and ideas that jump up, come from our spiritual environment, from those spirits around us. When we walk around in a shop, the thought may well jump up to take something because we like it. That is not us but our spiritual influence generating that thought. BUT it is up to us how we react to that thought or impulse. We are responsible for how we choose to react. If someone in the shop has been rude to us, we may feel we have every right to shoplift there. The feeling does not make it right, or justify our stealing.

      --"Can the illusionary nature of free will justify any thought or behaviour as an amoral act of compulsion?"--
      Free will is the opposite of compulsion! We do not have control what happens to us, and even what thoughts pop up, but we DO have the choice how to react to them. That is what makes us human.

      If you were right, then why have prisons?? or counselling, mental rehabilitation?? etc. Why have commercials if we do not have the choice where to buy stuff? Why have the 10 commandments or even the whole Bible? etc. etc. Because of our free will WE are responsible for the actions we choose to do, the way we choose to react.
      • Timo X

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        Oct 22 2013: Four misunderstandings here:
        1. What I said regarding free will is not an opinion, but the most straightforward interpretation of facts. So I encourage people to not just take my word for it, but actually look up the research.
        2. Arguing that free will exists according to some alternative definition (e.g. freedom from compulsion) does not change the facts, it's just semantics.
        3. I don't see human beings as nothing more than computers or robots. In fact, I believe that illusionary nature of free will does not deprive humans of their humanity.
        4. None of the things you mention in the last paragraph require free will. Nobody in the history of mankind ever had free will, yet the things that you mention have arisen, proving that free will is not a necessary condition for them.
        • Oct 22 2013: Then what is it that makes us human? What sets us apart from animals?
      • Timo X

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        Oct 22 2013: Humans are a species of animals.
    • Oct 22 2013: So how then do we differ from computers, as to using and processing information? (I know they don't breath :)

      BTW do you accept the concept of humans having a conscience? If so, do animals have one?

      For anyone who wants to read an article about this concept, this one is from a university in Hawaii
      • Timo X

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        Oct 22 2013: The way a human mind processes information differs in many ways from how a computer processes information. For example, human beings have feelings, bringing us back to the original subject.
        • Oct 22 2013: --"..feelings and thoughts are nothing more than electrical impulses in our heads, a process governed entirely by natural laws."--
          Sounds the same to me. There is a purpose for computers, what about us?

          Would you say, our conscience is part of, and is also connected with our feelings?
      • Timo X

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        Oct 22 2013: What sounds the same to you? And why?
        • Oct 22 2013: That sounds exactly how computers work, it is all about electrical connections amd how they are 'programmed.'

          What do you base your saying on that "free will is an illusion"? How, if you could, would you define the concept of free will?
  • Oct 22 2013: Hi William, yes they can. :)

    I have not read any posts and start from scratch, and basics..
    We live in two worlds at the same time. In the physical realm and in the spiritual realm.

    In the physical realm we have our senses that tell us if there is noise, darkness or light, smells, etc., and that's it.

    But whatever our senses 'tell' us, our spiritual environment interprets and deals with, and reacts to.

    Of course the big question emerges, What is our spiritual environment??

    As most will support, as humans we have free choice. How does that work? How do we choose one think over the other? Where does the 'pressure' come from?
    This book says it all, but basically we are in a spiritual equilibrium. We are being influenced from two sides, good and bad, by people that are actually in the spiritual world already.

    Just as people, that we can see around us here, have an influence on us, so do people that we cannot see that have an even stronger influence upon us. That influence is stronger because we have invited them because of our preferences. We have people around us on the spiritual level that believe and love the same things we do. Through our loves and affections we have invited and attracted them. If we change what we love, we change who is 'around' us. Those around us are the ones that cause our feelings.
    If we like to dominate others, those around us like to dominate others as well, and they will cause feelings of excitement in us when the opportunity arises to tell someone what to do, or where to go :)
    In fact when our body dies, we will 'wake up' in exactly that same environment, which we have created for ourselves.

    So the only way to change our feelings is to change what we love. By doing that we change our spiritual environment and its influence on us.
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      Oct 22 2013: agreed, there are many influences and one's perspective has to be central to choosing how we well "feel" :)
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    Oct 22 2013: I think having your feeling is just like cooking. You are the cook to make it, all kinds of food materials and cooking tools are needed too, which is to say your external conditions are also important.If you want to be a good cook, you can find the best conditions for your cooking.Same as finding a good feeling.∩_∩
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      Oct 22 2013: a delightful reference, sadly it is lost on me since I am no cook... sandwiches, salads simple fair :(
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        Oct 22 2013: ^_^I don't cook either~.You can imagine the delightful things described by others, you can enjoy the aroma of the foods instead of making it, you can seek the good feeling that is available for you.Because it's your call to decide.(^-^)
  • Oct 21 2013: From the wiki for feeling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feeling)

    "In psychology, the word is usually reserved for the conscious subjective experience of emotion.Phenomenology and heterophenomenology are philosophical approaches that provide some basis for knowledge of feelings. Many schools of psychotherapy depend on the therapist achieving some kind of understanding of the client's feelings, for which methodologies exist. Some theories of interpersonal relationships also have a role for shared feelings or understanding of another person's feelings."

    "A gut feeling, or gut reaction, is a visceral emotional reaction to something. It may be negative, such as a feeling of uneasiness, or positive, such as a feeling of trust. Gut feelings are generally regarded as not modulated by conscious thought, and as a reflection of intuition rather than rationality.

    I think feelings are related to emotions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion):

    In psychology and philosophy, emotion is a subjective, conscious experience characterized primarily by psychophysiological expressions, biological reactions, and mental states. Emotion is often associated and considered reciprocally influential with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation. Emotion is often the driving force behind motivation, positive or negative. An alternative definition of emotion is a "positive or negative experience that is associated with a particular pattern of physiological activity."

    "The physiology of emotion is closely linked to arousal of the nervous system with various states and strengths of arousal relating, apparently, to particular emotions. Although those acting primarily on emotion may seem as if they are not thinking, cognition is an important aspect of emotion, particularly the interpretation of events."

    I do not think we can control our feelings, since one of the contributing factors is a biological reaction. However, we are responsible for actions based on feelings.
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      Oct 22 2013: You make some very valid points by illustrating just how seriously others have taken this subject. And I am glad to see we agree that we are responsible for our actions or responses as related to our feelings. However, I disagree that we cannot control our feelings.

      The method of desensitization of phobias offers excellent proof of this. One common example relates to the fear of spiders being overcome by gradual and supportive interactions over an extended period of time with a spider, beginning in a jar and eventually in the phobic's hand shows us that the 'feelings' can not only be controlled but overcome as well. .
      • Oct 22 2013: Yes, perhaps I was too definite in my response. Your example of how we can learn to control our feelings is certainly a good one.

        I wanted to point out that your initial feeling or gut feeling to something was not under control if it had a biological component to it, as " it is generally regarded as not modulated by conscious thought and is a reflection of intuition rather than rationality".

        So perhaps I generalize a bit and say in general, we cannot control all our feelings. This may be more correct by making allowance for learned control over specific feelings and perhaps even those people that have learned how to desensitize themselves to some level.

        Now getting back to your question, 'should we be expected to control or suppress these feelings or the emotions the provoke?' No,I do not think so. While, as you point out, it may be possible to learn how to do so in some instances, it is not normal behavior. However, we are responsible for the responses to these emotions that involve actions, such as bad behaviors, and should be held accountable for them as they influence the lives of other people.
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    Oct 21 2013: There may be a semantic issue at play here. Your feelings likely depend on the circumstances in which you find yourself. For example, when you see a person trip and fall down in the street, that image triggers something in you. Your response to what you saw is driven, as you write, by your life experiences and temperament. But the person falling set off the cascade of responses in you.

    When someone says you have made him happy, I think he means only that something you did has triggered within him the sequence of feelings he calls "happy."
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      Oct 22 2013: If I have it right, you wish to separate the two experiences, one where an observer has a feeling response unrelated to anything that the observer has done and the other where one person has a 'happy' response to another person's action.

      In the first instance we seem to be in agreement that the observer's internal 'feeling' response to someone falling down is going to be a result of the observer's life experience.

      In your second instance it seems you wish to draw a direct link from what person A does to person B's feelings, in this case B is happy, suggesting that A's actions are responsible for B's feeling of happiness. This then begs the question of just how was A able to create that "happy" feeling in B?

      I agree semantics is involved here and that lexical semantics or 'the meaning of words and their relationships' is central to the question I posed. Therefore if A is capable of "making" B experience a feeling - in this case happy - does this mean B is dependent upon - or perhaps at the mercy of - A for her/his feelings in any particular instance?

      If so then B is not responsible for their feelings. Instead B sees A being responsible, a belief that I find disempowering and a very slippery slope indeed.

      Conversely, if A "makes" B angry, frustrated or despondent can A ever recover from these 'feelings' or is A also responsible for and/or capable of changing or improving or even worsening B's feelings?

      Where then does one's own empowerment to choose an emotional response come in?
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        Oct 22 2013: In both cases someone outside of the observer- say, you are the observer- has influenced your feelings.

        One did so by falling. The other may have given flowers.

        They did something. You reacted. Both are involved.

        I hope you are not considering a case in which A has been bullying B mercilessly and B tells him he has upset her and you are thinking B should recognize that her response is entirely her choice- that A bears no responsibility in the matter.
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          Oct 22 2013: to clarify, it is the origin of the "making" of feelings that is in question here. If A can make B feel anything then B appears to have no choice over what that feeling will be. A must have some force or ability to create that 'feeling' that goes beyond B simply responding to external stimuli.
          Perhaps Robert Galway's thoughts and my response will help with the clarity?

          btw...As an adult who was bullied throughout his youth, my response today to a bully is confidence and calmness, a response that can easily disarm a bully and ends the tension. I choose this response over the fear and anger that I used to have. I feel empowered :)
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        Oct 22 2013: That's great that you have dealt successfully with the bullying of your youth. Does this suggest to you that bullies and abusers should be empowered to just go ahead with however they want to treat their targets (as the target's response is in her own control)? Does the situation in which they place the target matter, in your way of thinking?

        (I noted earlier, and I don't think it is actually disputable, that the word "making" is an inaccurate semantic choice, as it might out of context suggest that the target has no participation whatsoever in how she feels in the moment. If your only concern is with the word "making," I think you could try to interpret it the way it was probably meant rather than narrowly).)
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    Oct 22 2013: We have a double nature: biological and social. I think the biological part works like Timo said, through electrical impulses but trough our social upbringing we learn to translate them into 'feelings' and feelings are thought to us. Remember seeing babies cry bloody murder and mom picking them up and saying 'it's ok"...or little toddlers fighting and snatching things from each other and moms saying: be nice, ...let Alice hold your teddy bear....Others are quite capable of invoking feelings but it's through the social norms that are fed to us from the day we were born. By our biological nature others can threaten our well being trough violence, starvation, excluding or including us in the reproductive process....every thing else it's just 'icing on the cake'...
    Just a thought...
    • Oct 22 2013: Hi Anairda, would you say that what moms do with kids that "cry bloody murder" is useless because a kid does not have the free will to change its behaviour?
      Wouldn't you agree that is what raising a child is all about? To teach and hope for a change in behaviour?
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        Oct 22 2013: I am saying that the way we feel about the world is shaped by other humans from the day we were born . Sure that is what raising a child is. But what I really meant is that the child might cry due to some internal (electric signal that Timo was mentioning) but if mother said it's ok she translates that internal feeling into an outside , socially accepted feeling. In a disadvantaged society the mom might not say 'share your teddy bear' so if the kid will steal an apple she will not say stealing is bad and shameful because you do what you need to do to survive. Again, it's just a personal thought. I guess I am under the spell of a book I am reading that I highly recommend "Crazy like us".
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    Oct 22 2013: William very beautiful question you have brought up.

    For me Feelings are something that confuse us.

    Feeling is like a coin with two side (my feeling and what others make me feel) I often feel that when I feel of what I feel I stand out of the group, and when I feel of what others make me feel I am overpowered by the person or by group.

    I hope I have not confused you :)
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    Oct 21 2013: it can be the femininity of the woman?