What Are Emotions? A Physical Theory

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This article suggests a way of defining emotion on the basis of the work of John Dewey and Nina Bull. Oddly, emotions go undefined in most current emotion research, creating chaos. Unlike Dewey, Bull provided a useful example of the application of her definition to a particular emotion: grief. This step enables the reader to understand her theory, even though, like Dewey, much of her discussion is not clear or neglects crucial matters. She provides a 2-part model of grief, but only 1 part for anger and fear. However, her discussion of the mammalian pattern of fight or flight/freeze can be taken as a first step toward the second part. She leaves out pride, shame, and “efatigue” (excessive fatigue) entirely, which this article introduces. She also doesn’t consider why emotions can be experienced as “good” or “bad.” The drama theory of emotions developed in the theater suggests that backlogged emotion can either be merely relived (a bad grief, anger, shame, efatigue, or fear) or, at what is called aesthetic distance, as a relief from pain. Examples are given of the author’s experience of a good anger, fear, shame, and efatigue. This approach suggests that the idea of negative emotions is an illusion: experiencing emotions may be like breathing; it is only troublesome when obstructed. Even if true, it will difficult for it to be considered because the belief that some emotions are inherently negative seems to be a powerfully defended trope in modern societies.

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