2002.11.26 Emotional Meaning

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When he looked at me with uncomprehending horror, I knew I had been misunderstood.

Before he can start asking misleading questions, I try to explain myself. "I'm not trying to be nihilistic, just objective." Obviously, that made things worse. I never seem to learn that when I attempt to explain one of my blunt statements I generally need to avoid using uncommon words. Fending off the wince reflex, I wait for him to just ask his stupid question so I can guide him slowly from that point.

"Are you sick or something? How can your feelings not matter to you? That's just wrong!"

"You misunderstand me." So far so good, though I suspect he thinks that I'm just being defensive. "When I said 'My feelings don't matter,' I did not mean that they are meaningless to ME." Unblinking stare, mouth slightly agape, and a complete lack of fidgeting - he has no idea what I mean yet, but at least I still have his attention.

"My feelings are a part of who I am, so of course they mean a lot to me." Nods; so far I'm preaching to the converted here. How can he not get where I'm leading this? "All I meant is that: because my feelings are unimportant to other people, and as a ratio of total people I'm a very small portion, I conclude that overall my feelings don't matter much." Somehow, he still didn't get it; his intensively knitted eyebrows seemed better able to communicate than my verbalizations.

"How can you live like that?" The obvious answer that I just haven't died yet didn't occur to him, I guess.

"Look, it's just my personal judgement of the situation. If I feel cold, I don't expect the rest of the world to start shivering. To me, emotions are just feelings that convey internal senses instead of external ones. If I feel cold, I assume that whatever is touching me is colder than my skin. That's it. If I'm sad, it's just my internal senses telling me that some part of me is not happy. That's it." A couple of rapid blinks, and a pursing of his lips while I rant tell me that he grasps that part. Maybe he's getting it.

"So, you're saying that you're some kind of robot?" OK. I was wrong.

It's generally a bad sign when I do most of the talking. I'm a much better listener, socially speaking. When what I think becomes the majority of a conversation, it's pretty certain that either I'm frightening someone or I'm talking to Dave. Or, maybe both. Dave doesn't show his fear much; he seems to keep it safely tucked away with the rest of his feelings, with Bonnie.

"No. I don't mean that I'm a robot. I've just been humbled." I really should learn to avoid that word. 'Humble' is to often interpreted as 'un-diagnosed ego problem'. That unimpressed look I'm getting leads me to suspect that I'm not winning a lot of awards for meekness or humbleness just yet. Oh well, best to just forge on.

"At heart, I've always been a hopeless romantic. Teenage angst and hormones were as feverish and intense for me as I imagine they were for most people. Then, as I grew more worldly [stifled snicker], the extremes faded away until I could see that much of what I had experienced before was likely chemical in nature. So, in that cynical state, I was suddenly plunged into feelings so extreme that they made my previous emotions seem like goldfish fleeing from a shark." I pause for dramatic effect, and am relieved to see that he is enraptured with my confession. What is it about emotional admissions that humans find so enthralling?

I let my large blue eyes convey a sample of my pain. "The sky didn't fall. The earth didn't tremble. In fact, if I hadn't ranted about it continuously, I'm pretty sure that most people around me would have not noticed." He plainly does not want to admit that can be true, but I think he believes it. "When I was able to cover that portion of my feelings, people were more than happy to assume that there was no problem even though I'm certain they knew it was just an act." I think I've got him following along now.

I shrug and look wistful. "Seems to me, when you deal with other people, things tend to work better if you are calm and collected. So, generally, in public, I try not to let my feelings matter." The lightbulb in his brain shines with a thready light as a sparkle in her eyes.

"Don't you want your feelings to matter to someone else though?"

Well, of course I do. I also wish I had a real person to talk to about this shit instead of having to vent it as obscure web postings about a fictional conversation. That's just how life goes sometimes.