The philosopher Aristotle divided emotions between ethically good and bad states. He extolled emotions, such as self-belief, elation and cordiality as ‘good’ and fear, envy and hatred as ‘bad.’ Ironically, the wisest of Greeks did not include eudaimonia, a distinctive form of happiness, which is synonymous with the modern concept of mind-body, or subjective, wellness. The reason, perhaps, being Aristotle visualised that happiness, achieved through a life of virtue and meditation, along with good ‘control’ over one’s tongue, not to speak of a calm disposition, exemplified a state of bliss, or what is referred to as nirvana in Eastern thought.
You may certainly think of what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ effects, in consonance with present-day analyses, or goodness against anger, or fear — more so, because of the implied underpinning that depressing emotions affect happiness and also wellness. While it is agreed that such emotions may not always relate to our bio-psycho-physiological states, they may certainly have a basis in one’s thinking, or thought patterns, in a given or not given situation. You’d, of course, connect them to one’s soul’s passions, or profound feelings of natural response, triggered by either a liking for someone you may be close to, or dislike for someone who you don’t ‘relate’ to, no less.
From a psychological context, ‘bad’ emotions can be restrained, if not controlled, through reason, or rationale — this could correlate to repression, or ridding oneself of despondency and emotional illness. You get the idea? Yes. Because, you can now contextualise the two sides of the same coin — love and desire for good emotions and hate and antagonism for bad emotions. It is only when you are able to replace hate and despondency with hope and courage, would you be able to overcome despair, fear and anger, while cultivating the aptitude to managing negative emotional states.
What we have today, in an increasingly conflicting world that has gone mad, is extreme angst, hate, violence, greed, power and ambition, not to speak of countless ‘scams’ — these negative states are formidable to curb, albeit they all rattle the idea of righteousness. This is reason why we need to return to the wisdom of ancient philosophy, which always celebrated the principle of harmonious living within the community, or society. Put simply, it means that we should preserve our societal virtues by redirecting our physical and emotional energies against unsettling emotions that have become the ‘ghosts’ of everyday life — not just newspaper headlines.
Many contemporary thinkers discuss emotions as a host of involuntary muscular ‘synopses,’ or signs of innumerable emotional states — either way they embrace expressions such as happiness and love, grief, anxiety and despair, among other emotions. Add to it conscious feelings, such as emotionally-charged active thoughts, not just objective physical patterns, and you will connect pronto to emotions that follow the sensitivity of mind-body changes.
All of this and more brings us to ‘organic’ feelings that emanate in the senses and/or our biology. These feelings relate to ‘formal’ emotions, such as despair and disgust as against surprise or ‘bolt from the blue’ and affability. In like manner, we are endowed with ‘qualitative’ feelings — humility and pride — although the difference between them is equivalent to the diverse perspective of ‘judging’ someone who catches the train to go to office, while another boards a chartered flight to canter through yet another round of endless meetings — on the other side of the globe. This, again, brings us to the fundamental premise of this piece — one that hankers on channellising positive over negative emotions, while bringing about a sense of balance in life and every other activity.