LIFE WITHOUT EMOTIONS
Can you imagine life without emotion? What would you do? According to modern psychology, you’d probably do nothing!
Imagine yourself as a person with no emotions whatsoever. You don’t hate anything. You don’t love anything. Nothing scares you — nothing thrills you. You never get excited — you never get depressed. You’re never elated; you’re never sad; you’re never angry; you’re never entertained. You don’t even feel the most rudimentary emotions of pleasure of pain. Basically, you don’t feel anything about anything.
Now imagine all this, and further imagine that somehow you find yourself sitting on a railroad track with a huge freight-train barreling full speed towards you. Your life is in imminent danger! Doom is only a minute away! Yet you’re just sitting there, completely uncaring and unmoved.
Fortunately, however, a friend of yours spots you there — a friend who feels normal emotion — and he rushes toward you (feeling alarm and panic) in an attempt to save your life.
“Hey,” your friend exclaims, “don’t you see that train? It’s going to kill you.” But you don’t move, you don’t even acknowledge him. “Don’t you want to live?” your friend pleads.
“Want?” you think, “I have no wants.”
“You’ll get hurt!” Your friend says.
“Hurt?” you think, “I feel no pain. Nothing hurts.”
“Well, do it for me!” your friend says, “don’t you care about my feelings?”
“Care? About your feelings? I don’t even have any myself.”
“What about your family?” your friend pleads. “Don’t you love them?”
“Love?” you think, “what is that feeling?”
“Hey, think about all the fun you’ll miss.”
“Fun? What’s that?”
Your friend sits back a minute, and decides to take a more logical approach. “Look, you, there will be no meaning in your demise.”
“Meaning? What is that?” you ask. Nothing has meaning without emotion.
“Look dummy,” your friend says in exasperation, “That train is going to kill you, it’s going to keep you from the ones you love and care about, and what’s more, letting it happen is not meaningful, it’s not even logical!!!”
“Logical? What is logical?” you ask.
And now your friend is totally stymied. It was becoming obvious to him that emotional appeals wouldn’t work on you, the person with no emotion, but why did the logical appeal fail? After all, emotional thinking and logical thinking are opposites, aren’t they?
Well, strangely enough, they are not. Even logical and rational thinking is, in the final analysis, based on emotional values. As cold and impartial as logical thinking appears to be, even it is founded on emotional underpinnings. What, for example, is logic? It is only an objective, non- passionate way of evaluating how practical or useful a particular strategy is in achieving one’s goals. But why would one want to achieve a goal in the first place? The answer is: only for emotional reasons.
So there you remain sitting on the railroad track, as your emotional friend tries to think of his next entreaty… And the train rolls right over you!
Yes, without emotion, we humans would not survive very long. There would be no reason to act at all. There would be no desire, no need, no joy, no fear, no pain, no pleasure, no meaning, no basis for judgement — there would be nothing at all. As William James, the father of modern psychology put it years ago, “our mental lives would be truly dead and insignificant if the emotions were stripped away.”
Yet, with a few pleasant and unpleasant emotions built in, you have a hopping, active, striving organism. Emotions turn on our switch, so to speak. They provide the spark of Life.
Psychology finds that emotions and feelings are at the very core of all psychological processes. Emotion is at the heart of every human behavior: they goad us into action, they motivate and sustain our effort along the way, and they provide the felt reward when we arrive at our goal. And happiness is the finest emotional reward of all.
We’ll return to a more detailed discussion of emotion in later chapters of this Volume. But for now, let’s end with one fundamental idea. Happiness exists simply because, without it, the human organism just wouldn’t function. The great philosophers and thinkers over the centuries often pondered about happiness, attempting to determine why it existed and the function it might serve. Their answers were often quite complicated and metaphysical. Yet, psychology sees happiness in a simpler way:
Happiness is Nature’s basic incentive for living.