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The Mastery Of Emotion

Manifest Your Desires Effortlessly

The average person is likely to regard the emotional phase of mental activity as merely an incidental and subordinate one. He is in the habit of thinking that men and women go through life guided by their reason and intellect, steering their bark by the compass of understanding and judgment; he is apt to think that while they experience more or less Feeling and Emotion, as their bark of life proceeds on its journey, still these play but a subordinate and comparatively unimportant part in the work of mapping out and steering the course of the ship.

But the above stated general opinion of the average man is sadly in error. Instead of being an unimportant and subordinate phase of the mental life of the individual, the psychologist knows Feeling and Emotion to be the great incentives to action, and the great motive-power of mental and physical manifestations. Even Intellect, that supposed monarch of the mental world, really is "under the thumb" of that "power behind the throne" which we know as Feeling and Emotion. Not only do we act according to our feelings, but in most cases we also think according to them. Instead of reasoning coldly and without prejudice, we really generally reason along the lines of our strong feelings. Instead of finding real "reasons" for our actions, we usually seek merely for "excuses" to justify our actions in accordance with our feelings.

A writer has said on this point: "There are but few persons who are able to detach themselves, even in a small degree, from their feelings, so as to decide questions cold-bloodedly by pure reason or intellectual effort. Moreover, there are but few persons whose wills are guided by pure reason; their feelings supply the motive for the majority of the acts of will. The intellect, even when used, is generally employed to better carry out the dictates of Feeling and Desire. Much of our reasoning is performed in order to justify our feelings, or to find proofs for the position dictated by our desires, feelings, sympathies, prejudices, or sentiments. It has been said that 'men seek not reasons, but excuses, for their actions.' "

In the preceding chapters we have seen the important part played by Interest in the activities of the Attention; and we have seen that Attention was the ruler of Perception. This being so, it follows that Interest is largely influential in determining what perceptive-impressions we shall accept, and which we shall refuse to accept. And as these impressions are really the material from which we weave our thoughts, it follows that our thoughts and ideas are largely determined by our Interest. And, when we begin to analyze Interest, we find that it is the child of Feeling and Emotion. We like certain things, and our Interest follows our likes; then our Attention follows our Interest; and our Perception follows our Attention; and our thoughts and ideas are built up out of our Perceptions. So we find that our thoughts and ideas have been influenced, even before their birth, by Feeling and Emotion.

A writer says of this: "Feeling guards the very outer gate of knowledge, and determines largely what shall or shall not enter therein. It is one of the constantly appearing paradoxes of psychology, that while feelings have originally arisen from attention, it is equally true that attention depends largely upon the interest resulting from the feelings. This is readily admitted in the case of involuntary attention, which always goes out toward objects of interest and feeling, but it is likewise true of even voluntary attention, which we direct to something of greater or more nearly ultimate interest than the things of more immediate interest.''

Another writer says: "By an act of will I may resolve to turn my attention to something—say a passage in a book. But if, after the preliminary process of adjustment of the mental eye, the object opens up no interesting phase, all the willing in the world will not produce a calm, settled state of concentration. The will introduces mind and object, but it can not force an attachment between them. No compulsion of attention ever succeeded in making a young child cordially embrace and appropriate, by an act of concentration, an unsuitable and therefore uninteresting object. "We thus see that even voluntary attention is not removed from the sway of interest. What the will does is to determine the kind of interest that shall prevail at the moment."

The memory, as is well known, will store away and recall more readily the items which prove interesting to the feelings than those which are the contrary. So true is this that it is one of the cardinal points of memory training that one should endeavor to arouse an interest in the things to be remembered; or at least to associate them with things which are interesting. Likewise, psychologists know that the imagination prefers to work with interesting materials stored away in the memory, and usually balks when required to build with materials of the opposite character. In these two fields of mental activity, Interest (and consequently Feeling) is the principal determining factor. And as our thinking is largely dependent upon these two phases of mental activity, it is seen that Feeling is all-important in deciding what we shall think of.

And, not only what we shall think of, but also how we shall think, is seen to be determined by our Feelings. As a writer says: "Our judgments are affected by our feelings. It is much easier to approve of the actions of some person whom we like, or whose views accord with our own, than of an individual whose personality and views are distasteful to us. It is very difficult to prevent prejudice, for or against anything, from influencing our judgments. It is also true that 'we find that for which we look' in things and persons, and that which we expect and look for is often dependent upon our feelings. If we dislike a person or thing we usually perceive no end of undesirable qualities in him or it; while if we are favorably inclined we easily find many admirable qualities in the same person or thing. A little change in our feeling often results in the formation of an entirely new set of judgments regarding a person or thing."

Another writer says: "On the one hand the emotions are favorable to intellectual action, since they supply the interest one feels in study. One may feel intensely concerning a certain subject, and be all the better student. Hence the emotions are not, as was formerly thought, entirely hostile to intellectual action. Emotion often quickens the perception, burns things indelibly into the memory, and doubles the rapidity of thought. On the other hand, strong feelings often vitiate every operation of the intellect.

"They cause us to see what we wish to, to remember only what interests our narrow feeling at the time, and to reason from selfish data only. Emotion puts the magnifying end of the telescope to our intellectual eyes where our own interests are concerned, the minimizing end when we are looking at the interest of others. Thought is deflected when it passes through an emotional medium, just as a sunbeam is when it strikes water.''

And, finally, when we come to consider that high mental phase which we call "the will," we find that it is practically entirely dependent upon the desire mental states for its motive-power. The will operates in accordance with the strongest desire of the moment, or the average of the strongest desires of the moment; and Desire is the offspring or development of Feeling and Emotion. So that, in the end, the will is perceived to depend upon the feeling and emotional phases of mental activity for its inciting motives and for its direction.

In view of the great importance of the Feelings and Emotions in the work of our mental activities, it surely behooves the individual who wishes to develop, cultivate and unfold the Master Mind to carefully study, analyze, and consider the nature and character of Feeling and Emotion, and to seek to discover the principles, which actuate their activities. This he must do if he is desirous of mastering, controlling, and managing them. The feelings and emotions are excellent servants, and may be set to work by the Master Mind with the greatest effect. But, at the same time, if allowed to exercise unrestrained and unqualified mastery themselves, they will prove tyrants. If the Master Mind permits the Feelings and Emotions to exercise unqualified control over the mental kingdom, then it is not truly a Master Mind. The true Master Mind impresses its dominion upon the Feelings and Emotions, and then sets them to work in the right direction. In fact, it is by means of the powers of Feeling and Emotion that the Master Mind accomplishes much of its best work. This fact should be borne in mind by the reader of this book who is desirous of developing the Master Mind.

Particularly in its phase of Desire does the Master Mind make use of Feeling and Emotion. Desire may be said to be concentrated Feeling. Before we can have ambition or aspiration, there must be desire. Before we can manifest courage or energy, there must be desire. Desire for something must underlie all life-action— desire conscious or subconscious. Abstract thought is a cold bare thing, lacking vitality and warmth—desire is filled with life, throbbing, longing, wanting, craving, insisting, and ever pressing forward into action. Desire, indeed, is the motive power of all action. "We may call desire by the favorite terms of 'ambition,' 'aspiration,' 'longing for attainment,' etc., but desire is ever the basic principle of all longing, all wishing, all wanting." And this being so, let us now consider the nature of that root of desire, which we call Feeling and Emotion.

It is very hard to correctly define a "feeling." All of us know very well what is meant by the term when it is mentioned by ourselves or by others, but we experience the greatest difficulty in defining it when asked to explain just what it really is. We know what is meant by it, only because we have experienced "feelings"; if we had never experienced these we would not be able to understand what others meant when they used the term, and, likewise, we can never expect to be able to explain the same to any other person except in relation to his own experiences thereof.

Perhaps the nearest that we can come to a definition of "a feeling" is that it is a pleasant or an unpleasant mental state. A sensation may arouse a state of feeling, or it may not do so. There are many sensations that are neither pleasant nor yet unpleasant. I touch the desk before me, but the sensation of the touch thereof is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. I may touch something else, and the sensation results in an unpleasant feeling; and the touch of a third thing may awaken a pleasant feeling. As a psychologist has well said: "My feelings belong to myself; but my sensations seem to belong to the object which caused them."

Feelings may arise from either (a) one's own bodily states, or else (b) from ideas already in the mind, or called into consciousness by the sense-impressions caused by outside things by the law of association. Likewise, feelings are said to be capable of measurement according to the standards of (a) quality, or (b) quantity. In both of these measurements the basic standard of "pleasantness and unpleasantness" is involved, of course. And these standards are constantly being used by us in determining the nature of our feelings.

We often fail to recognize the vital importance of our feelings in our everyday life, thought, and actions. As the old stoic philosophers pointed out, if our sensations were robbed of the element of feeling, we would never make any choice between things or actions, for all things would seem alike to us, and all of equal value. The "feeling value" of sensations determines our attitude toward them and the things they represent in our minds. As a writer has well said: "The phenomena of the world have value for us only insofar as they affect our feelings. If a thing fails to interest us, that is, fails to touch our feelings at any point, we pass by that thing unheeded. Much of what people say to us passes in at one ear and out at the other; but if we are told of the death of a parent, the effect of the announcement may never pass away. Our feelings have been touched, and we shall never again be the same persons. A studied insult or a signal triumph affects us more powerfully than many other things, only because it appeals more deeply to feeling. Decisions in this world are generally, at last, made at the bar of feeling. It is a severer impeachment to say that a person outrages our feelings than that he is illogical."

The quality of feelings is determined principally by the fact of their respective pleasant or unpleasant effect upon us. We gauge sensations, perceptions, and ideas by this basic standard; and classify them as either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, in quality. A writer says: "Life is largely a struggle to secure a pleasurable quality in feeling, and to rush away from a painful attribute. Almost anyone will go to a window to look at a bright rainbow, because it gives him pleasure. We do not look straight at the sun, because we wish to avoid a painful feeling. Many of us dislike to see ulcers or deformity for the same reason."

The same sensation or perception may awaken different qualities of Feeling in us under different circumstances. For instance, as a writer has said: "You drop your purse, and you see it lying on the ground as you stoop to pick it up, with no feeling of pleasure or pain; but if you see it after you have lost it and have hunted for it for a long time in vain, you have a pronounced feeling of pleasure." And, again, one may find pleasure in the taste of a certain food at one time, but after having eaten a large quantity of the food you may lose the pleasant feeling and experience merely a neutral feeling toward it; and, finally, if you have over-eaten of the food, and have been made nauseated by it, you may for some time afterward experience an unpleasant feeling toward it—the very thought of it may make you feel uncomfortable.

Then, again, there is a great difference in the quantity or intensity value of the same class of feelings. A writer illustrates this as follows: "The discomfort from the bite of a mosquito is not so massive as the pain from a large bruise or a broken limb. Any boy would say that a heaping teaspoonful of ice-cream would give him more pleasure than an amount the size of a pea." In the same way, some ideas, recollections, or results of the imagination, will be found far more intensively pleasant than others in the same class; and the same is, of course, true regarding the unpleasant mental states of this kind. In either of these instances we will find that we will move in the direction of the feeling giving us the greater degree or quantity of pleasant feeling, and that we will move away from the feeling giving us the greater degree or quantity of unpleasant feeling. In fact, practically all of our changes and choices follow this rule.

A writer has said: "All forms of pleasure and pain are called feelings. Between the pleasure which comes from eating a peach, and that which results from solving a difficult problem, or learning good news of a friend, or thought of the progress of civilization—between the pain that results from a cut in the hand, and that which results from the failure of a long cherished plan, or the death of a friend—there is a long distance. But the one group are all pleasures; the other all pains. And, whatever the source of the pleasure or the pain, it is alike feeling." Another writer has said: "The feelings depending upon bodily states arise either from inherited tendencies and inclinations, or from acquired habits and experience. A physical activity that has become the habit of the race, and which has been conducive to the welfare of the race in the past, tends toward pleasurable feeling in the individual; as for instance, hunting, fishing, traveling, swimming, etc., as well as the fundamental wants of the physical organism, such as eating, drinking, rest, sleep, etc. Many of our tendencies and feelings are inherited in this way. The feelings depending upon ideas which may also arise from inheritance, and many of our mental tendencies and ideas have come down to us from the past in this way."

"Other feelings arising from ideas and memories depend upon our individual past experience, influenced largely by association, suggestion, and similar causes. The ideals of those around us have a decided influence upon our feelings concerning certain things concerned therewith; the force of suggestion along these lines are very marked. Not only do we experience feelings in response to present sensations, but the recollection of some previous experience may also arouse feeling. In fact, feelings of this kind are closely bound up with memory and imagination. Persons of a vivid imagination are apt to feel more keenly than do others; they suffer more and enjoy more. Our sympathies, which depend largely upon our imaginative power, are the cause of many of our feelings of this kind.

Some psychologists make many elaborate distinctions between Feeling and Emotion; but many of those distinctions may be practically disregarded. The reader may be assisted in forming a correct idea of the true distinction by reference to the distinction between Sensation and Perception. Just as Sensation is a simple mental state which may evolve into a more complex mental state called Perception (particularly in the phase of Apperception), so is Feeling a simple mental state which may evolve into n. more complex mental state called Emotion. And just as Apperception necessitates the presence of representative ideas (i.e., the ideas arising in memory or imagination), so does Emotion require the presence thereof. Moreover, Feeling may arise from either a bodily state or an idea, while Emotion, as a rule, is dependent upon an idea for its full expression and particularly for its direction and continuance.

The following quotation from an eminent psychologist will perhaps give a clearer idea of the relation of Emotion to Feeling: "Feeling is a simple, primitive, mental state. Emotion is a more complex mental state, and it demands the presence of a representative idea to guide and prolong it. Feeling is present in all emotional states. It is a thread on which all other states are strung like beads. When representative ideas appear, the Feeling in combination with them produces Emotion. After the waters of the Missouri combine with another stream, they receive a different name, although they flow on toward the Gulf in as great body as before. Suppose we liken the Feelings due to sensation to the Missouri River; the train of representative ideas to the Mississippi before its junction with the Missouri; and Emotion to the Mississippi after the junction—after Feeling has combined with representative idea. The Emotional stream will now be broader and deeper than before. The student must beware of thinking that we have done with Feeling when we consider Emotion. Just as the waters of the Missouri flow on until they reach the Gulf, so does Feeling run through every Emotional state."

Emotion tends toward expression in physical action. Thus we frown, or smile, clench the fist, or extend the hand—or find expression of the Emotion in more complex physical actions. And, likewise it is true that the manifestation of these physical forms of expression tends to fan the fire of the Emotion. In fact, the best psychologists hold that the full force of the Emotion does not manifest itself unless the person also manifests the physical expression. And, likewise not only is the flame of the Emotion fanned and strengthened by the physical expression, but it is also prolonged and continued by the continuance of the physical expression. Consequently, a repression of the physical expression tends to deaden repress, and inhibit the full expression and manifestation of an Emotion.

Feeling and Emotion reach their highest point in the mental state which we call Desire. Feeling and Emotion are essentially inner states, while in Desire we find a state of tension in which the inner state seeks to transform itself into an outer action. Feeling and Emotion may be compared to the condition of steam in an engine before the pressure is sufficient to generate the power necessary to move the engine; when the pressure becomes sufficiently strong, the steam begins to "want" to find expression in action, and accordingly strives to force itself into the mechanism of action. Whoever has felt the pressure of a strong Desire—and who has not?—will appreciate the fitness of this illustration.

Desire is the great motive power of life. It is the great incentive to action. A man is largely what the quality and degree of his desires have led him to be. Desire is the fire which produces the steam of action. No matter how well equipped intellectually a man may be—no matter how great may be his powers of perception, reason, judgment, and discrimination—it is true that unless he also possesses a strong desire for accomplishment, the other faculties will never be brought into action. Desire is the great inciter of mental and physical activities—the arouser of the will.

Not only is our life largely determined by the nature and quality of our desires, but our accomplishments and attainments depend very materially upon the degree of our desires. The quality of desire determines in what mental path we shall travel, but the degree determines how far we shall travel. The majority of persons manifest but little desire—they want many things, it is true, but they do not want them "hard enough." Their desires end in mere wishing, and wanting—they do not reach the stage of action. Desire unexpressed is like steam in a boiler that has not reached the full intensity required to drive the engine. Increase the intensity and degree, and the steam rushes out, and in a moment the pistons are moving and the wheels revolving.

The great men in all walks of life have possessed strong desires for attainment, accomplishment, possession—the principle being the same in all these cases. Their desire was of such a degree that it reached the explosive point, and manifested in action. It is generally taught that Will is the great motive power of the mind. But this is not correct unless it is also stated that Will is but the active phase of desire. Desire is the motive power that imparts the energy to the action. The will is more like a guiding, directing force which applies the energy of the desire. Will is cold, and steely—desire is glowing with heat. The will may, and does, guide, direct, restrict, hold back, and even destroy the desire in some cases—but, nevertheless, desire supplies the energy for action.

No matter how strong a will the individual may have, unless he has a strong desire to use the will he will not use it. No matter how clearly a man may see how a thing may be done, no matter how well his reason and judgment may point out the way, no matter how clear an imagination he may possess to picture the plan of the action— unless he be possessed of the desire to act, and that in a goodly degree, then there will be no action. The individual who allows his desires to master him is to be pitied—he, alas! is not a Master Mind. But this is true of the great majority of the race, who are swayed this way and that way by their desires, and who have not as yet acquired the art of submitting their desires to the judgment of their reason and the control of their will. The man who has acquired the art of controlling and directing his desires has traveled far on the road to attainment. For, to such a man, desire becomes a faithful and efficient servant, inspiring action and interest, and therefore all the other mental faculties.

Desire, of course, is the evolved stage of Feeling and Emotion. It is the link between Emotion on one side, and Will on the other side. On its inner side, desire is but the product of various states and combinations of states of feeling and emotion; and on its outer side it merges and blends into the activities of the will. As a writer has said:

"All feeling tends to excite desire. In one aspect, desire is feeling; in another, desire is will, or an active tension which passes imperceptibly into will. How shall we distinguish between feeling and will? There is no more precise line of demarcation than exists between the Atlantic Ocean and Davis Strait. The difficulty of separating feeling from will is especially great, because there so often seems to be no break between the two processes. Whenever there is in emotion a motor element which tends to go out in action, that element is will. In some emotions, the voluntary element may be so small as to baffle detection, but the germs is there. At the threshold of each higher act of will stands desire. This is a complex mental state, and it contains the elements of both emotion and will. In every state of desire is (1) conscious feeling, and (2) conscious tension which easily passes into action."

There have been many attempts to define Desire. Perhaps the best, and clearest in its analysis of the essential qualities of Desire is that of Halleck, the psychologist, who has furnished psychology with the following definition: "Desire has for its object something that will bring pleasure or get rid of pain, immediate or remote, for the individual or for someone else in whom he is interested. Aversion, or a striving away from something, is merely the negative aspect of desire."

Halleck also explains his definition, as follows:

"Desire is not always proportional to the idea of one's own selfish pleasure. Many persons, after forming an idea of the vast amount of earthly distress, desire to relieve it; and the desire goes out in action, as the benevolent societies in every city testify. Here, the individual pleasure is not the less real, but is secondary, coming from the pleasure of others. The idea of the near often raises a stronger desire than the remote. A child frequently prefers a thing immediately, if it is only one-tenth as good as something he might have a year hence. A student often desires more the leisure of today than the success of future years. Though admonished to study, he wastes his time and thus loses incomparably greater future pleasure when he is tossed to the rear in the struggle for existence."

Many persons, particularly those of untrained will and uncultivated intellect, are moved to action upon the desires along the lines of pure impulse. A psychologist says of impulsive actions: "The psychological condition of impulse is, that with the momentary feeling and sensation should be combined a more or less clear idea of something which may augment the pleasure or diminish the pain of the moment." Persons who have trained the will, and cultivated the intellect, however, are not so apt to be moved into action upon the momentary impulse. On the contrary, those persons bring the intellect into play, and bring before the Ego other ideas concerning the value and effect of the proposed action. They balance one set of ideas against another; they deliberate over the matter, and weigh the advantages against the disadvantages of the proposed action. Here, of course, is performed the act of comparing several sorts of feelings, emotions, and desires, to the end that the most desirable one presenting itself is chosen.

A writer has well illustrated a conflict of desires in the story of Jeppe, a character in a well-known French comedy. Jeppe, who is very fond of tippling, wants a drink very much. His wife gives him money with which to buy a cake of soap. He knows from experience that if he wastes this money in drink, he will be soundly beaten by his wife. He wants the drink, but he wants to escape the beating—and then begins the fight of desires in his mind. Jeppe says to himself: "My stomach says drink, my back says soap." Jeppe has a hard time trying to decide which desire is strongest. He compares the idea of the pleasure, with that of the pain, and tries to find out which is the strongest in his desire-world. Finally he asks himself: "Is not my stomach more to me than my back?" Then he answers himself: "I say yes!" And he buys the drink, though knowing that he will get a beating from his wife when she catches him. But, as a writer has well said: "Jeppe's decision to drink might not have been carried into action, had he seen his wife waiting for him with a club at the tavern door."

As we have seen, human beings are moved to action by their Feelings, Emotions, and Desires—and that the essence of the said mental states may be summed up in the statement that: Men act from motives of securing that which will bring them the greatest amount of pleasure, or the least amount of pain, immediate or remote, for themselves or for others in whom they are interested. In short, men ever strive for Pleasure, which means: "that which pleases, gratifies, satisfies, comforts, or makes happy, joyous, or glad''; and away from Pain, which means: "that which displeases, fails to gratify, produces discomfort and dissatisfaction, or makes one unhappy, sorrowful, or sad." Pleasure is always a profit to the individual; and Pain always a loss: at least in the ordinary estimation that men place upon emotional-values.