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kightp and I were discussing something today. Upon reflection,… - John [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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[May. 28th, 2006|12:04 am]
John
kightp and I were discussing something today. Upon reflection, who out there thinks that sensing one's own emotional state could be thought of as a sense, like, e.g., the kinesthesic sense (I think that's the name of the sense that lets you determine your body's position)?

Do you think that thinking of it in that sense might mean something? i.e., it'd be useful to think of it as a sense one can develop/sharpen... or think of it as something that could be sharper or duller in different people, etc.?
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From: gh4acws
2006-05-28 09:15 am (UTC)

yes( to all I think )

( to all I think )
While I suspect that some people would argue an essential difference to the classical senses : sight, sound, taste, smell, touch in that this ( and the kinesthetic sense ) cannot be properly localized, at the very least giving it a name makes referencing to it easier.

The sense would be useful because being aware of ones emotional state one could compensate for the bias that induces: "Just because it is spring and I am in love and happy I do not need to subscribe to that magazine that 'poor student' is selling".
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-05-31 05:49 pm (UTC)

Re: yes( to all I think )

Nod. I was also thinking that it can be an important thing to think about simply because it suggests that it's not always an automatic process. Sight is one of our most used senses, but even then, sometimes folks have to look carefully for their car keys, because the keys are right in front of their faces, but not being noticed.

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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2006-05-28 02:02 pm (UTC)
I'm thinking you meant proprioception. But here's an excellent discussion of the two: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinesthesia
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[User Picture]From: kightp
2006-05-28 04:58 pm (UTC)
Oooh, great link!

The discussion came up, IIRC (and we'e been having one of those wonderfully rambly weekends, converstion-wise, so I may be wrong) with johnpalmer's observation that certain physical senses (in this case, the sense of smell) can be blunted by depression, and reawaken when the depression lifts. Which got me wondering about feedback loops between mental/emotional/physical systems and states, and, well, the discussion just rambled along from there. (-:
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2006-05-28 05:06 pm (UTC)
It's an interesting discussion. I felt that all this kind of awareness was blunted when I was depressed. I think that exercising these sorts of awarenesses can help delay us from falling into the abyss-- but when you're teetering on the edge is the time that you are least likely to be aware of anything besides your own misery. Which is where a trainer or therapist comes in handy, I guess.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-05-31 06:03 pm (UTC)
Nod. I stop thinking about a lot of things when I'm depressed or tired, and one of the things is my own emotional state. I think maybe, if I were to recognize that I wasn't exactly sad, or in pain, or really, not feeling miserable at all, it might help.

I also can't seem to focus as well on good feelings, to evoke them a bit more.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2006-05-31 07:16 pm (UTC)
Yup. BTDT, happy not to be there any more.:)
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-05-31 05:57 pm (UTC)
Chuckle; I couldn't remember which senses were which. I've heard some people refer to I-don't-know how many senses we might have. (Thanks for that link; it's interesting, BTW.)
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2006-05-31 07:17 pm (UTC)
And then there's synesthesia, where senses are interpreted in terms of each other--you taste colors, hear flavors, and so on.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2006-05-28 02:08 pm (UTC)
And yes, I agree.

Since I recently re-started with a Pilates trainer, this has been on my mind a lot. The trainer was impressed with how well I feel and understand my body, and she characterized this as learned. I explained that it wasn't learned, but that Pilates gave me vocabulary and expression of what I have known all along. You CAN learn this, I guess. And I suppose I have learned some. But it was mostly all there for me.

I think that emotional state is like that, too, that sometimes you CAN sense it yourself, but don't have a way to describe it or articulate it. And sometimes, of course, you have to learn to sense it. And some people just know.

I just looked at the discussion for the wikipedia article, and someone posted this: "Kinesthesia is one aspect of proprioception, just like hot/cold discrimination is one aspect of the sense of touch." I think that's useful.
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[User Picture]From: teddywolf
2006-05-28 02:58 pm (UTC)
For some reason, two quotes come to mind in response:
"I don't need a course in self-awareness to find out who I am
and I'd rather have a Big Mac or a Jumbo Jack than all the bean sprouts in Japan..."
- Weird Al Yankovic, I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead

"You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension of sight, a dimension of sound, a dimension of mind."
- Rod Serling, intro to The Twilight Zone

I consider being aware of your own emotional state to be self-awareness - you could call it conscious awareness or meta-awareness, I suppose. I'd say that awareness can be inborn or can be cultivated, but it can also be ignored or turned off and in some cases unlearnable. Sometimes it's good to do turn it off. The soldier on the battlefield is a prime example. More often it's dangerous to do it but likely a survival mechanism for keeping in a rut, and there are far too many depressing examples to list.

I don't know if I've added anything beyond the two abovementioned gentlemen.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-05-31 06:11 pm (UTC)
Well, re: turning it off, that's long been one of my theories of depression. I think that, once you hit a mild depression, you've blunted a bit of the pain you'd be feeling otherwise... but in exchange, you've made the rest of the world a bit greyer as well. The problem is, it doesn't turn on again once it's no longer necessary.

There's another aspect to depression, as well... it dulls my expectations. I know that exercising will feel good... but it just doesn't seem important, or not important enough. The idea that it'll make me feel better is a purely intellectual statement. It's true... but it's as true as "statistically speaking, someone worthy is feeling great joy right now." It doesn't have any meaning.
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[User Picture]From: kyra_ojosverdes
2006-05-28 04:05 pm (UTC)
Yes, totally.

I'd add "sensing another's emotional state" as another sense... some people are more open or closed emotionally (not necessarily in terms of facial expression, body language, and such, but something else). When I'm talking with someone who is especially closed that way, I am acutely aware of the lack of input. It's every bit as disorienting as if one of my physical senses had abruptly disappeared or greatly decreased.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-05-31 07:11 pm (UTC)
Nod. One of the things I've noticed is that some people are just natural energy projectors (some people are that way all the time, others just some of the time) and that can affect my comfort level with them. I have to shield around certain people, or I just get a strange feeling.

I'm not always able to interpret it as emotional states... but I do feel that there's more than just body language, facial expression, etc..
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[User Picture]From: ccprince
2006-05-28 06:15 pm (UTC)

Another perspective

I actually tend to think of keeping track of my emotional state more as a skill than a sense. Perhaps that's just because it's a more conscious process for me than for others, and one I've had to develop after some pretty crushing depression of my own.

As such, I definitely think it's something that can be developed, to a much greater degree than senses. For instance, my sense of smell really (ha, ha) stinks. If there's something that I can't smell, no amount of practice or analysis will get me to be able to smell it.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-05-31 07:16 pm (UTC)

Re: Another perspective

"Skill" works too, but I like the idea of "sense" because it suggests something is already there, inborn (unless it's damaged) and the real skill is in learning to interpret it.

It's like color sense; if you see teal, and are told it's teal, often enough, you can recognize it... unless you're color blind (or not color-sighted well enough to differentiate teal from whatever other color you're calling it).
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From: penitence69
2006-05-30 11:22 pm (UTC)

spiral?

interesting thread.

i've always found it off-putting to know our language defines "self-conscious" as a negative thing. if one were conscious of the self, say in the way you're suggesting, one would think it would be a positive thing.

and intuitively understanding someone else's emotions i believe is called empathy. having been abused as a child, i find i can "read" people's emotions very well. we develop that skillset to avoid upsetting abusers. my problems come from assuming i know *why* they feel certain emotions at a given moment in time and then trying to lead the person to seeing it themselves. like anyone needs to be "led" to self-awareness by someone else?!

empathy leads me to see others' motivations fairly clearly, and years of therapy led me to some decent understanding of what they usually cannot see themselves. can i do that for myself? most of the time, i can. but i still can't seem to change my own behaviors, even with the knowledge of why i'm in a given emotional state. i hate that. i know *why* i do something, but can't get out of the emotion i happen to be in at that given moment. it's torture. knowing the emotional state does give it perspective, though. so could a person call that self-empathy??? do i smell a new buzz-word??

someone recently mentioned i have a tendency to be too concerned what others think. that's the part of me that was abused and always attempts to placate others so i don't get beat. but any given emotional state can change my reactions to any part of the equation, and i can usually tell which state i'm in. i still think it doesn't seem to help me.

a comedian once said "i used to think the human brain was the most amazing and intelligent thing on the planet, but then i thought, look what's telling me that. . ."

talk about a spiral dance.
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[User Picture]From: kightp
2006-05-30 11:57 pm (UTC)

Re: spiral?

Hm. Now I wonder if there's a word, or even a concept, for self-empathy. Because I do think it's possible to train and develop one's empathetic response to others - so why couldn't that same skill set be applied internally?

John, are we wandering too far afield from your original question? Or does this ring any bells?
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From: penitence69
2006-05-31 02:16 am (UTC)

Re: spiral?

right! there are some really astute people in my life who help me ask and answer my own questions, so much so that i can often do it on my own now. i know what my emotional state is at most points, i know what my issues are and i know when i'm making good choices, irregardless of what others think. (asking people who will be totally honest for an unbiased outside ovservation is helpful, too) but being aware of my own emotions and current state of mind is the important factor. i can say "i'm seeking a strong male in my life because i'm having control issues", but that's just a symptom. knowing i seek power struggles because it's a learned behavior that feeds my own desire to please a male figure, due totally to the abandonment of my male role models, doesn't help me much. *But*, knowing i'm feeling particularly *vulnerable* and *self-depricating* on a particular day (due to the thyroid meds or an impending cycle or whatever) makes me more apt to go easy on myself and others on that day, hence avoiding the emotional or sexual power struggles to begin with! it also reminds me to do something for myself like paint my toenails or something that makes me feel worthwhile, to prevent myself from seeking attention outside myself. i'm a leo, so i still seek attention, but not as often and not in ways that cause big, stinky drama. is that what you mean by being self-aware, john? because i'd call that my life's goal. to know what i'm feeling. to figure out what makes me and everyone else around me tick. and to evolve. to ask myself what my contributions are to every situation i'm in. take full responsibility for everything, not in an egotistical way but by recognizing my own agreements with myself and my surrounding situations. well, okay, that and figuring out the meaning of life, the universe and everything. without using the number 42. and i think self-empathy would be a good word if it could be used without being branded as hocus pocus or as a negative thing.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-05-31 07:37 pm (UTC)

Re: spiral?

Well, that makes me think of something that's bugged me for a long time. We're not supposed to really care about our emotional states. Or, at least, we're not supposed to talk about them (unless they're positive). I think that might be part of what ties in with the idea of not recognizing one's emotional states. Not saying "I'm unhappy" could lead a person to decide that unhappiness is better described as being "tired" or "frustrated".

Of course, another side of the coin (maybe we should make this a die, just to prevent running out of sides too quickly :-) ) is that the idea of shaping one's emotions isn't well understood either. Being "unhappy" might not be seen as useful information since there's no well-established, objective path to travel to get "happy".
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[User Picture]From: kightp
2006-05-31 08:21 pm (UTC)

Re: spiral?

Yes. And to be honest, I think men get the short end of the stick on this front. The culture I grew up in encourages girls and women to explore talk about their emotions - in detail, and sometimes to excess - and a high proportion of "girl talk" is feelings-focused.

That's not an entirely positive thing, mind you: I sometimes think I'd be better off with a bit less emotional introspection, myself, because it can lead to wallowing and head-spinning when I'd be better off just sucking it up and getting on with things.

I'm sure there are plenty of counter-examples - enough to make a die a whole lot more useful than a coin, yep - but it seems to me that men, more than women, struggle to even acknowledge their emotional states, much less naming and understanding them.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-05-31 07:29 pm (UTC)

Re: spiral?

Nod. The negative "self-conscious" is when you start thinking about how others might view what you're doing/thinking/feeling, and then try to change it.

The positive is when you think about what you're doing/thinking/feeling, and accept it, and are there, in the moment, with it.

So, really, the difference is when you stop worrying about "should". "Should I be goofy-happy over this thing?" can make a person feel embarrassed, when just *being* goofy-happy is a good feeling.

And honestly, anyone who would rip apart such a nice feeling with negative criticism should be seen as doing some damage to something beautiful.

When it's an external critic, the person is being cruel. When it's internal, well, it's not the same kind of cruelty... but it's still a bad thing. It's still crushing some happiness in a world that needs all it can get.

I've been doing some work at handling my own emotional states... I could tell you what I've been doing, if you're interested.
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From: penitence69
2006-06-01 04:30 am (UTC)

Re: spiral?

i'd love to hear about it. just when i think i'm getting a handle on my own emotional stuff, i step up or down a level into higher or sub-consciousness and suddenly see things from another perspective. sometimes, that can make me feel like i'm in one state, when really i'm in another. i'm pretty gregarious when i'm out, but when i'm at home i'm broody, philosophical and moody. i have to keep track of that or i can spend an entire evening making no sense or biting my cheek and thinking a million miles a minute without ever making a sound. ever do that? do you journal privately in a book to help you keep track of your emotional stuff? do you ever ask for input from outside yourself? i know that's a slippery slope! and i love your analysis of negative criticism! sometimes i wanna be goofy-happy and don't want cynics to rain on my parade.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2006-06-09 12:11 am (UTC)

Re: spiral?

The biggest thing, for me, was to start thinking of emotions as an energy state. Now, some woo-woo folks talk about "negative energy" and stuff that makes it sound like it's a bunch of new age crap.

But it doesn't matter. If you learn to think of an emotional state as an energy state, and learn to change that energy state by 'talking' to your body and brain, it doesn't matter how you do it, or what you call it.

If you learn to focus, take a deep breath, and pretend to let negative emotional energy drain from your feet into the ground, and it stops you from feeling angry, cranky, sad, ot whatever, it doesn't matter if you think about it as having "drained out the energy" or think about it as having used self-awareness to change your mental/emotional state.

So, what it comes down to, in excruciatingly short form is, I did the kind of things people call magic or energy work, only with my emotions. I worked on using my responses as a form of biofeedback, and started learning how to deal with intense emotions, and how to shape my emotional states the way I wanted to, as best I could. This doesn't mean ignoring how I feel... it just means "being tense and angry isn't doing me any good right now, so let's relax, and let the anger come forward only when it's helping."

Just knowing that I have a bit of control over my emotional states helps, because that means I'm no longer afraid of my emotions pushing me around.
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-06-12 06:46 pm (UTC)

Re: spiral?

very interesting. a couple years ago during my divorce, i went to a therapist who was into biofeedback. after years of telling therapists about my mother or my childhood or whatever, it was refreshing to simply alter my physical states by conscious will and thereby initiate changes in my emotional states. i'm still amazed at how integrated these things are.

the body and the mind are so linked, more so than the obvious i mean. there's a theater guy who recently had some physical issues and, being the OCD gal i am, i looked into it online. i kept coming up with the same layman's diagnosis after process of elimination: he was suffering from hysteria. kid you not. actual hysteria. the body had nothing wrong but the mind was shorting out and it manifested in the body. no seizures; just emotional shit backing up! a doctor friend confirmed this theory and later his doctors said the same thing, essentially.

i am an emotional creature. i used to be much more reactive. these days, i've learned to do exactly what you're talking about, i think. for example, when i get pissed off and i feel like i'm gonna lose control, i breathe deeply. i calm my body. i do the self-talk internally that says "okay, getting upset isn't gonna help me here. relax. let go." it works. people don't get me all riled up like they used to be able to do.

it is hard, though. when my body goes into fight or flight, which seems to happen when i'm afraid or angry, my initial reaction is to do one of the two. i have to methodically practice the calming stuff you're talking about without defaulting to the lowest common denominator.

why did i used to feel that fight or flight so intensely? do you know what i'm talking about? that shaking, sweating feeling of absolute fear? my ex used to be able to scare me like that with a look and a word. very few people have seen me that scared, because i default to rage when it happens and that's never fun. it's not that i don't still feel that fear(especially when my lawyer tells me i need to be cautious and watch out for myself at the moment) but when i do feel it, i know what it is and how to reign it in. maybe it comes from being abused as a child or emotionally abused as an adult. do most people learn how to do this calming thing early on, and i'm just a late bloomer??? it's liberating to be given the tools to NOT be reactive, rather than accused of being reactive like i'm a bad person. now i can laugh it off when i'm accused of being overly emotional because it doesn't trigger my defenses.

is this what you feel sometimes or am i alone on this?
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-06-12 11:01 pm (UTC)

Re: spiral?

also, we saw something interesting recently. there's a show called TAPS, The Atlantic Paranormal Society, we watch when we catch it. the folks on the program are fairly skeptical, which is nice. not like watching most haunted where the entire show is based on. . .as you called it, "new age crap." anyway, one of the most interesting things we'd seen on TAPS was when a self-proclaimed "psychic" was trying to read one of the hosts. the host was mentally actively "blocking" the attempt, just for fun. the thermal imaging cameras caught this bizarre temperature exchange between the host and the psychic, that eventually led to a bob of color flowing from the host to the psychic, who actually came up with some accurate information about the host, btw. it was cool. reminded me of the kinetic photography that indicated the outline of a cut leaf, with the original outline being present as a visible image AFTER leaf had been cut and THEN photographed. fun. but it brings to mind the possibility that there could be a state wherein the human mind might perceive the energy of any emotional or mental state or process. maybe by perceiving heat exchange or something. hmn.

now, pat, am i getting WAY off-discussion here?
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