I find it interesting how logical ‘thinking’ and rationality is given precedence in every-day life but every time I have attended an ‘intervention’ (training/workshop) it is always the role of ‘feeling’ that is highlighted as a key area of work. We always find it safer to state our beliefs by saying – ‘I think’, I have noticed myself and others switch to this line after saying ‘I feel’ lest others think we are governed by some ‘unpredictable’ emotions and that we haven’t ‘thought through’. I also find the whole chicken and egg syndrome with thought and feeling (what came first?) quite amusing. Though this piece is not an exploration of the syndrome.
I may as well have called it – ‘In Defense of Feeling’, which for me is remarkable since I have lived practically my whole life devoted to the altar of logical thinking. I would suspect anything that would be lacking ‘consistency’ or ‘evidence’. I consider myself no less than a convert as I have found new gods in ‘intuition’ and things which may not be backed by historicity but ‘personal experience’.
So here’s the question that bothers me – why is ‘feel-good’ relegated to realms of superficiality when actually at some level that is the very purpose of why we live – to feel good. I looked up the Merriam-Webster which explained ‘-feel-good’ as “relating to or promoting an often specious sense of satisfaction or well-being <a feel–good reform program that makes no changes>”. The synonyms for specious include “false, hollow, phony, erroneous, baseless, fallacious, inaccurate, unfounded”. I am not sure which part of the phrase is considered more legitimate target of the attack – ‘feel’ or ‘good’ – after all both in isolation itself represent capriciousness of the highest order, together they seem even more elusive and whimsical. At the heart of the attack appears to be a belief that ‘feeling good’ would drive inaction since once experienced as an ‘individual’ it will leave one with no motivation to drive that change for the ‘collective’. It is ‘selfish’ to ‘feel-good’ and as an individual you need to stay discontent to be able to externally drive that sense of dissatisfaction and lead to change and affirmative action in the outside world.
As a convert, I sense something not quite correct with the set of assumptions at play here and fear that they in fact may work to the contrary. Since ‘feel-good’ is superficial, we need to engage in something beyond the surface and deeper (think good?). To go to depth of the matter, we need to abandon these –non-empirical’ beings called feelings. It’s even ‘okay’ to ‘feel numb’ but not ‘feel good’. In case of former, we somehow seem to retain the agency of control (“look, I could put my feelings on mute mode, yay I am in control!) while in latter something inexplicable within us seems to be in-charge.
As an ex-rationalist, with some vestiges of ‘logic’ still intact, I am left to wonder if the reason for relegating ‘feel-good’ to the pits of the moral order is because ‘feeling’ is an individual act and lending it a free hand may bring it to clash with ‘collective’ good which far from being intuitive is extremely contrived. An individual’s ‘feel-good’ may be impulsive and morally incorrect. In a society with set rules and structures, where morality has been arrived upon with much deliberation, the ‘larger good’ has got to take precedence over ‘feel good’ to maintain order and avoid chaos.
What do you feel? J