Emotions get a bad rap, but that is only because people don't quite know how to think of them. Emotions are fucking great and I'll cover what they are in this very short paper. Short because the concepts are simple and quickly explained, and because I want this to stick in your head during your day.
Lesson 1: Emotions Are Reactions
Hang in there, we're almost finished. Seriously. This is the single most important aspect of emotions, and it covers most of what you need to know. An emotion is my reaction when I mentally assess some thing. That thing might exist externally, or it could be in your mind. The thing could be a person, an inanimate object, an action, even an imaginary object. The emotion is your answer, the result of your assessment. Good emotion, you think the thing is good. Bad feeling, the thing is not good.
It's crucial to note that the emotion does not indicate whether my assessment was accurate; only that it occurred. Often my assessment is correct, but it can be wrong. If I was informed that my mother had died I would feel very bad. Later I learn that she is actually alive and well. My emotions were very powerful, but they didn't make the thought that my mother was dead any more accurate. Emotions don't tell you anything about reality, they only tell you what you think about reality.
(One exception is anger. It is a derivitive emotion. Secondary, not primary. It is a feeling about a feeling, instead of a feeling about a thing. One nice thing about that is that we have more control over its coming and goings than we do primary emotions.)
Lesson 2: Emotions reveal deeply personal information about yourself
Your level of certainty of a man's opinion about some thing is never higher than when you know how he feels about it. I am probably a smidge more private than your average joe, but still open to a degree around people I trust. When it comes to revealing personal information I take the "opt in" approach: if there is a reason this person should know this thing about me then they will. (The "opt out" approach is over-sharing until your audience begs off.)
If I treat emotions like they are pieces of my personal information and apply the above principle, it means limiting my display of emotions to times when there is a specific reason I need my audience to know how I feel. Now, emotions are a major part of non-verbal communication and come and go quickly in that context and they would be a serious challenge to micro-manage. But I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about feelings regarding substantive or personal matters.
That is the end of the lessons.
Ruminate a little on those today. Are emotions reactions? Does that seem like a reasonable way to think about them? Do emotions really reveal all that about me? If they pass the smell test then begin thinking about what they mean for your life and how they might be utilized.
I didn't mention it before to avoid a big build-up, but these two principles provide the fundamental structures for both frame and stoicism. That's a BIG statement. The next piece I'll go into those and other ramifications, and show how emotion is perhaps the most efficient self-actualization tool that we have.
Like, if good emotions represent success and bad emotions failure, should we ever display negative emotion to a woman? What does the 'anger phase' look like through the lens of reactions and secondary emotions? How does one not show a really strong emotion, or have fewer emotion, period?