Guest post: On the utility of having a full range of emotions

A post Bruce Everett wrote on Facebook and gave me permission to post here.

I find it a bit funny (not “haha funny”), all of this assuming-everyone-else-is-irrational business that’s going on amidst discussions of trauma. It’s also especially not-haha funny when people assume that I’m being overly emotional myself, when in actual fact I have a good degree of difficulty in experiencing a wide range of emotions on account of my clinical depression.

They might as well be accusing me of being in North Korea – it’s another country I can’t get to. And of course, if they’re going to accuse me of something this absurd, you know how they’re going to treat people who quite understandably have strong emotional responses to discussions of traumatizing experiences (e.g. people who have experienced trauma).

Having emotions doesn’t mean that you’re automatically compromised, and not having a healthy range of emotions can make facts about other humans harder to appreciate (i.e. facts about the genuine psychological states of other human beings).

A may = B, and you may be pissed off that A = B, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t recognise that A = B or place the fact into a useful context – your emotions may very well help you put such facts into context. This seems obvious to me only because I have to constantly work at it on account of having stunted emotions – I can’t take it for granted.

I may indulge in the occasional pithy remark, or the occasional bit of sarcasm, but outside of the rare event of being triggered myself (in which case I usually get angry in a way people don’t understand, and wouldn’t want to if they did*), thinly spread pith, sarcasm and wry smiles is almost all I’ve got when it comes to emotional responses to the discussion of trauma. I don’t think this is the ideal mix of logic and emotion, and I don’t recommend it to anyone.

* Unless perhaps they’re Jeff Lindsay.


  1. Jason Dick says

    Yeah. It does seem that the default assumption for a woman who is speaking out is that she is being overly-emotional, doesn’t it?

    I think you’re 100% correct, though. Furthermore whether or not you are actually angry about this whole thing is utterly irrelevant. It’s the content that should matter (for the most part), not the person making the argument, or their state of mind. Making aspersions about the speaker’s character or their state of mind comes across as a method to ignore the speaker. And that’s bullshit.

    There are a lot of fucked-up things in this world, and a lot of good reasons to get angry. We should not ignore people just because they have gotten upset.

  2. johnthedrunkard says

    The whole point of something being ‘traumatic’ is the emotional impact. And it is the emotional appeal of false beliefs that makes them so resistant to alteration.

    And the emotional rewards of removing old blinders, of leaving behind the beliefs that raw emotion reinforced, are very great. Dawkins’ doubling-down on his errors is ITSELF an emotional symptom. In a way, it is only when our emotions are contextualized with those of others that we can begin to have ‘informed’ emotions. Just as our understanding of the Universe only began to grow when intellectual sharing started the process of peer-review and collegial investigation.

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