PsiTek home page

The Mental Highway


The Mental Highway contents page

The Psychology Of Feeling




Text size:



The second psychological element is feeling, which we shall study under the divisions of feeling and sensation and ideation. We have to distinguish between the two, for while the elements of feeling always predominate in the primitive stage, the cognitive elements are also present.

Strong contrast between pleasure and pain marks every feeling, and such a contrast would not be possible without some memory of a pleasant or unpleasant sensation. Contrast or associations in memory produce the very intensity of pleasure and of pain. Real feeling is mental.

Even physical pain is possible only after some form of mental activity. A pin prick is a sensation carried to the brain and associated with present or past experiences of similar kind to detect whether it is pleasant or otherwise. An elemental form of pain, like the toothache, as compared with the pain that arises out of sorrow, has this distinction: Sorrow involves memories and association with the past in the sense of something lost that cannot be returned, and from which there is no reaction. We react from the toothache, and no particular central process or thought is passing through the brain.

Central processes in the brain itself generally play a large part with sorrow and trouble. Sensation itself may be perfectly simple, but the feeling that arises from it may be complex and be produced later. For example a person puts his hand suddenly into hot or cold water.

First is the sensation of touch, sensation then recedes, and the feeling of heat or cold arises. The element of time must separate sensation and feeling, or else what we call feeling would probably not exist. It follows that we could feel no pain without memory. No sensation would be reported as pain unless it is associated with the same sort of memory. Pain, to be noticed as such, must spread and it must have duration. The previous illustration of the hand in hot or cold water includes all these conditions.

We have studied the psychology of pain more than we have the psychology of pleasure. Few people become introspective concerning their pleasures, while the vast majority become introspective concerning their troubles and pains. Exuberance marks the experience of joy or pleasure, but pain or trouble causes us to dig into it to find the cause. We often become morbid and say, "If I had only done it this other way."

The absence of any individual local sensations marks general sensations of comfort or discomfort, and we call the result the vital feeling. Hope and fear is bound up in the vital feeling. If the general vital feeling is comfort, attended by the mental feeling of ease and pleasure, then hope is in the forefront. If the general vital feeling is of discomfort, then a sense of being ill at ease comes, bringing fear, despondency and despair.

General sensations develop into specific ones. The general sensation of hunger at first is not localized, but later a sensation of oppression arises, then the stomach growls, the mouth dries, we distinctly sense the need of food and water. We thus pass from general to particular sensation and have localized pain and discomfort. Our self-preservation instinct is aroused, prompting us to secure relief.

Similarly, the general sensations of touch and movement may easily become particular distinct sensations of comfort or discomfort. Touching soft velvet produces a sense of smoothness, while the other gives the sense of roughness. In either case, the sensation is carried out of its original class.

Other sensations, such as taste and smell, pass easily from the character of general to particular sensations, and by so doing they preserve the individual welfare. For instance, we may eat without any particular sensation, delight or otherwise, until we taste something bitter or unusual, then self preservation immediately calls the taste sense into its service. Smell is also a general sensation that protects and preserves the welfare of the body.

Sight and hearing serve the purpose of self preservation, too. Yet since the things we see or hear may also introduce either pleasurable or unpleasant elements, we class them in a higher order of sensations than smell and taste, etc. The special forms of sound, silence, light and darkness exercise a finer play of feelings than just the preservation of life. We relate them to the vital feelings, as we see in the pleasure we experience in the light, the play of colors, etc.

The effect of light is to increase activity. The impulse to act is a first form of the impulses of life. Plants in a room turn toward the side that provides the strongest light. Mental and physical activities are more pronounced in the light than in the darkness. Light stimulates the activity of the body and mind, while darkness lowers their activity. Too much light during sleeping time is not good. Some people would sleep better if they wore a mask over the eyes.

This leads to the psychology of color. Reds, purples, orange and yellows are all stimulating colors, while blue is cooler and subduing. Yellow and dark blue are the two opposite poles in the psychology of color. Green produces the impression of great repose without the cold of blue or the excitement of red. ("He makes me to lie down in green pastures.") Violet has more soberness and depression than the blues, and more liveliness than the reds. We distinguish red in its greater restlessness and force in its influence on the feelings. One "red room" may be permissible in a home, but only the phlegmatic should frequent it. A general red scheme of color will affect a family as a red rag does a bull! The color irritates the path through the nerves of the eye, thence to the feelings and emotions, people "see red," and go on the rampage.

Sound affords pleasure because it stimulates activity. Nothing is more depressing than a soundproof place, for mentation comes to a standstill, and sensation eventually ceases. Sounds are pleasant or unpleasant, as they combine in one way or another. Coming from silence, any sort of noise is a relief, but soon one develops a desire for more harmony and less noise. We can stand total silence less than anything else. Heaven itself could stand only half an hour of it.

From this analysis, we may conclude that activity in the sensations is bound to cause a corresponding rise in the feelings. So we may trace a gradual rise of the general sensations into the particular, and in harmony with it, a series of stages of the vital feeling, up to the finer shades of feelings in the higher senses. The rule is that the higher the feeling element becomes, the more the sensation and cognitive elements disappear. What the sensation loses in strength, it gains in richness of feeling.

Feeling and Ideation: Sensations, and ideas develop feelings. Without ideas, feeling has no direction, that is, it is not about some particular thing. Pain becomes, for instance, aversion when associated with its cause. The next step in the development of feeling after aversion is anger, then hatred. A child cries at the sight of a cup from which he has tasted nasty medicine. That is a form of sorrow, determined by the idea of cause, and the contemplation of its possible repetition.

The psychology of love is the development of a general feeling of pleasure. It is inseparable from impulse or desire. Desire is impulse directed by ideas. We first find pleasure in the presence of another. We probably cannot define it, but we find an egotistic desire to continue that pleasure. The next step is to possess the cause of the pleasure to prolong that pleasure. The sense of a proprietorship arises, then responsibility and protection, as the process grows into what we know as love. Anyone who "falls in love at first sight" passes through these same steps quickly, although most of them are intuitive.

Feelings arise more slowly than ideas. Having the feeling of sorrow is much easier than it is to conjure up what the feeling of sorrow is like. You can recall the fact of sorrow a great deal easier than you can recall the exact feeling.

We develop hope and fear in the same way. Hope is based on certain expectations from which basis it reaches a certainty of things that are not yet in sight. Fear grows from the idea that we will be unable to meet certain contingencies, then resignation and despair follow.

Sometimes, when hope and fear alternate, they produce a mental state called melancholy. It may have a very pleasing side to it, so that arousing the person is often difficult. The delight is not in the fact that they are miserable and making all around them miserable, but in the contemplation of the character and good points of the person or thing lost, and the hope of possessing, of being with him again.

We come to the egoistic or personal and sympathetic. Pleasure and pain depend very much on whether the experience favors our self-preservation or not. That seems to make life a quite selfish thing, but we cannot eliminate it from the equation. The sense of personal power is essentially the sense of self-assertion, the conscious ability to achieve. That is the egoistic feeling, which enters all life. It furnishes the measure of love for our neighbor, and is to some a sufficient motive for enduring a cross.

Sympathy is a feeling based on memories of experiences, good or bad, which comes up when we find another having a parallel experience. We commiserate with them. Empathy is a sort of transition by which we place ourselves in the other person’s condition. From this arises one of the higher feelings, classed as altruistic, such as compassion. An effort to understand another’s trouble may lead to sympathy, and empathy arises from that. Sympathy leads to idealistic love, from which all the social instincts grow, the impulse to feel, and suffer, and rejoice with our kind. Those who give feel sympathy much more quickly than those who receive benefits. A nurse usually has more sympathy for a patient than a doctor, because she gives more.

Sharing sorrow is a more primitive form of sympathy than sharing joy. Sympathy is idealized in social, family, and patriotic directions, its one impulse being to embrace the object and protect it from further trouble, or to serve in official capacity, or to fight for the benefit of the State.

Sympathy delights in dwelling on adversity with all it causes. Empathy is exactly the reverse, for it objectifies any fact, good or bad, looks it over, and determines whether it has a right to call upon our higher feelings or not. While we cannot safely feel sympathy, anger, or love without in some sense expressing it, hating or loving without any thought of reward or return is possible.

This brings us to what we call ethical feeling, which consists in considering what is the effect of sympathy. How does sympathy advance the public welfare, justice, righteousness and the comfort of the few or many? Conscience, which we call the ethical memory, is the next step in this development. It weighs facts solely concerning their worth from the highest standpoint. From this ethical feeling grows the religious feeling and the religious feeling primarily produces fear. Fear created the first wrong notions of God. The Bible begins with a question of fear, "Where art thou?" This fear takes on the form of reverence when we discover that God is interested in our welfare and is working with us. Finally we reach the conception that God is Love. The first question of the New Testament is, "Where is he?"

All of the forms of feeling are traceable to the sense of self preservation, which is served when the general vital feeling is normal.

Abnormal feelings and mental states are merely the misguided efforts of the sense of self preservation to right that which is wrong, while all normal development of feeling psychologically tends toward the personal knowledge of the God of Love.










Privacy Policy/Affiliate Disclosure