Perhaps the most difficult and contentious thing about my life, values, and interactions has always been the apparently obvious fact that emotions are completely internal. People can communicate about what and how they feel, but this is still separate, since there is no direct experience of another’s emotions. Most people who I have ever discussed this with react to the notion with extreme distaste and even visceral horror, offering that the notion strikes them as cynical or misanthropic. Equating this with disregard, wilful ignorance, solipsism, selfishness, or other problems associated with a lack of emotional intelligence or maturity. But this I think presupposes the norm that emotional states somehow are naturally communicated between people, despite a lack of evidence of the actuality behind this. It has always seemed to me that I live in a culture which normalizes emotional contagion and expects this of people. Anyone who sees the impossibility of “playing along” gets derided as either being a callous jerk or otherwise spoiling the illusion.
I think of emotions as being of paramount importance, and I think that it is compassionate to hope that people are well and offer any help that I can. Emotions can be a significant indicator of the health of the organism. But that can also be said of blood and urine, and I do not wander through my life spraying those upon people, either! I do not “share” the emotions of those who I care about any more than I share their blood. It represents the inner state of a person, I can care about it, but I cannot possibly experience it. This seems obvious to me, but so many others seem to find this troubling, deriding it as being an affected detachment. As if an illusion of direct experience of another’s feelings would somehow be more accurate or helpful.
To me, intimacy has always seemed to be fundamentally a matter of communication. And that can be communication about (as opposed to communication of) their emotional and physical health - as well as concerns of the intellect, society, arts, sciences, etc. Somebody who idly “hopes” that I might understand how they feel without any deliberate communication strikes me as being lazy and obscure - I perceive this as a lack of intimacy. In daily life, I often like others, and they like me - yet our interactions are strained by pursuit of a specific ideal of connection/contact/communion which people presume exists because they feel emotionally invested in that being the case, despite a lack of insight as to how this would ever possibly work in practice.
What do you think? Do you relate? Does this sound like a bogus assessment? Are your emotions self-contained, or do they exist outside of yourself as well? Are some definitions of intimacy heavily stereotyped or dysfunctional? Must everybody get stoned?