The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Do you trust your feelings?  (Read 2594 times)

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 116
    • View Profile
Do you trust your feelings?
« on: 28/01/2013 15:50:59 »

There is some Benjamin Britten anniversary, the centenary of his birth, perhaps, this year, so R3 is playing more of his music than usual, and particularly stuff that is sung by his ‘partner’, the tenor Peter Piers.

It’s a while since I heard Piers singing Britten, but he featured on the radio this morning.  Almost instantly I began to feel queasy.  I have always had this reaction to Piers and Britten.

In my youth I would have told myself not to be silly and that whatever caused that reaction was just nonsense. 

I was more accustomed to experiencing it in connection with visual art, but then it is often obvious why.  For example, when you see images of saints with worms crawling in and out of their eye-sockets your skin crawls.  And then there is the contemporary German (?) artist who ‘models’/’sculpts’ real human bodies – yeuk!  Then there is the one who makes works of art out of his own blood and excrement!!!

In the past I took the view that my feelings of queasiness and disgust were ‘childish’ and I should ‘grow up’ and grow out of them i.e. suppress them.  After all, it’s what the ‘experts’ seemed to be saying one should do: ART has a higher purpose and all that.

Also, this attitude was appearing all over the place, including in the medical professions, where, increasingly, one has been, and is being, encouraged to lose all ‘shame’ and to suppress one’s sense of disgust.  We are being encouraged to think we should not be ashamed of our own bodies, and should be happy to examine our own excrement etc.

So all my upbringing has taught me to suppress such feelings of disgust and shame.

One can take an entirely different view of this situation, however.  One can say that one’s feelings are authentic and should be trusted, even when one does not understand why one feels what one feels.  One might go further and say that it is BECAUSE one cannot always know WHY or WHEN one SHOULD feel disgust, and avoid a thing, that one has those feelings.  In other words, those feelings are one’s guides through a world that one cannot always understand, feelings that allow people to function safely BEFORE science.  Could it really be the case that nature designed human beings so that they would not be equipped to deal with the world until they had discovered science?  This seems unlikely to me.

This does not mean that science could not SUPPLEMENT or AUGMENT a person’s natural abilities, but it would relegate science to a SECONDARY position in that one would put one’s own feelings and intuitions first, and if science disagreed, then one would assume science was wrong.  Science itself, then, would have to start from a position of assuming that human feelings and sensations and intuitions were correct, and then work from there.

(A bit of pointless speculation inserted here.  If you’re not interested skip to the next paragraph.
It is interesting to wonder what would become of science if it went down this road.  For a start, the major part of modern physics is notoriously ‘counter intuitive’.  On the face of it, then, we would have to throw out all of modern physics.  That would be kind of drastic.  On the other hand, maybe modern physics would become ‘wrong’ only in the same way as classical physics became ‘wrong’ when quantum theory was introduced.  Classical physics is, of course, not ‘wrong’, only limited. i.e. quantum theory is needed for very small things, like atoms and particles, but in the limit of large things, like billiard balls or planets, quantum theory ‘reduces’ to classical theory.  So, if we introduced a theory that was in tune with intuition, then maybe quantum theory would reduce to some limiting case of this broader theory.  One very attractive possibility that might then open out would be that quantum theory and general relativity would lose their ‘unique’ status, and all the theories which were proposed in competition with them and which have now been ‘lost’ could be resurrected.  The point of this would be that it would make more work for physicists, (The TOE would not hang like a death sentence over them) and that the different theories would hopefully open up more kinds of technology – in other words, it would lead to a much richer world.)

On that basis, if I return to my reaction to Piers singing Britten: if I trust my feelings then there is something wrong, something psychological or emotional, that is poison to my mind in those recordings.

Piers and Britten were a homosexual couple, but I don’t think that has anything to do with it since that is not my usual reaction to homosexuality.   I do remember hearing Piers and Britten doing a recording session, and my memory is of the relationship being ‘off’.  Britten seemed to have Piers under his thumb, and was using his position of dominance to tease and humiliate Piers.  If this was the case, then that ‘bad spirit’ would infect the music and so that may be what I am sensing and reacting to.

The radio is on while I write this piece and I have just heard another relevant example.

A guest on the show described a recurrent nightmare she had as a child, and from which she awoke screaming.  In the dream someone says something ‘truly terrible’ to her.  When she awoke she could never remember what that was, but it was said in an extremely gentle and kind voice.

This nightmare might well have been representing something that was happening in real life, something like the following:  suppose you are going to some event.  It could be a business meeting or a social occasion – anything, but it is something you have never been to before so you do not know what to expect.  Nevertheless, you do not anticipate any difficulties and are confident and happy and looking forward to the occasion.  You have arranged to meet someone before you go; perhaps you are sharing a car.  This person asks if you have ever been to one of these events before.  You say, “No.”  The person responds with, “OK.  Don’t worry.  I will look after you”, and they say it in the friendliest, kindest, most helpful possible way.

Suddenly your confidence drains away.  You feel nervous because that remark actually IMPLIES that there is something to worry about.  That they keep you in the dark as to what that something might possibly be just adds to your unease.  Then the, “I will look after you”, contains the suggestion that you cannot look after yourself.  It has put you in an inferior, almost childish, position with respect to the other person.  This, too, adds to your unease and erodes your self-confidence.  And to build fear upon fear, the fact that you have suddenly had an attack of nervousness without any apparent cause just makes you all the more fearful: to be subject to random fears and other negative emotions for no reason at all just undermines self-confidence.  In extreme cases where a person becomes subject to overwhelming bouts of negative emotions, such as fear, which can come on without any warning at any time and any place, that person can become house-bound because it just gets to being too risky to go out.

Thus an apparently innocent remark made in the kindest of voices can disguise a malevolent purpose.

I suspect, therefore, that the radio guest had been encountering, as a child, someone, or some people, who wore all the trappings of kindly good intentions, but, mysteriously, they frightened her.  They would have made the same sorts of remarks, perhaps, as I have instanced above, remarks which are ‘truly terrible’, but in which the terrible bits are not heard because they are implied rather than spoken.  Then if she was asked afterwards why she was so frightened, she would not have been able to say.

So, do you trust your own feelings, or have you found yourself dismissing nightmares, perhaps anger, and other negative emotions, as unreasonable?


 

Offline RD

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8127
  • Thanked: 53 times
    • View Profile
Re: Do you trust your feelings?
« Reply #1 on: 28/01/2013 17:47:47 »
It’s a while since I heard Piers singing Britten, but he featured on the radio this morning.  Almost instantly I began to feel queasy.  I have always had this reaction to Piers and Britten.

Could be due to Pavlovian conditioning: that there is some, possibly very tenuous, association between this stimulus and an unpleasant experience you've had during your formative years. The singer could sound or look similar to someone you didn't like, or the song was playing when you were given horrible news. There need not be anything inherently unpleasant about the stimulus, it’s just that it is was associated with something which was dreadful, e.g. many people complain the smell of hospitals fills them with dread. Logically the smell of disinfectant should be reassuring: evidence the hospital has been cleaned recently, but because the smell is associated with illness/death in ones family it can trigger feelings of dread which accompany such events. 

… And then there is the contemporary German (?) artist who ‘models’/’sculpts’ real human bodies

That could be a description of Dr Gunther von Hagens  ...
http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=43725.msg384990#msg384990
Although the primary purpose of his dissections are educational rather than artistic.


... relegate science to a SECONDARY position in that one would put one’s own feelings and intuitions first, and if science disagreed, then one would assume science was wrong.

As you've already illustrated with your peculiar reaction to a particular singer / song, how people feel can be arbitrary, which is not a basis for making important decisions, e.g. the feelings of a person who is needle-phobic may prevent them from having life-saving treatment because it requires venipuncture. Should their feelings take presidence over logic ?.
« Last Edit: 28/01/2013 18:07:32 by RD »
 

Offline BenV

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 1503
    • View Profile
Re: Do you trust your feelings?
« Reply #2 on: 28/01/2013 18:33:35 »
I trust my feelings at times, and others I acknowledge that they are unfounded.  A good example would be when abseiling - the height and risk of falling makes me nervous, but I know through my own experience and through testing the ropes that I will be safe.  I enjoy abseiling, and it's a healthy activity, but if I simply obeyed my feelings I would avoid it.

Live radio is another good example.  I do get nervous, but I know that my feelings are wrong.  Nothing really bad can happen, the consequences of a mistake are not dire.
 

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 116
    • View Profile
Re: Do you trust your feelings?
« Reply #3 on: 31/01/2013 15:51:00 »
RD: As you've already illustrated with your peculiar reaction to a particular singer / song, how people feel can be arbitrary, which is not a basis for making important decisions, e.g. the feelings of a person who is needle-phobic may prevent them from having life-saving treatment because it requires venipuncture. Should their feelings take presidence over logic ?.

I think the doctor you referred to is probably not the artist I am thinking of, but I could be wrong.

The issue of needle phobia is much too complex and raises too many other issues concerning the use and abuse of medicine and I shall not go into it here.
 

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 116
    • View Profile
Re: Do you trust your feelings?
« Reply #4 on: 31/01/2013 15:56:18 »
I trust my feelings at times, and others I acknowledge that they are unfounded.  A good example would be when abseiling - the height and risk of falling makes me nervous, but I know through my own experience and through testing the ropes that I will be safe.  I enjoy abseiling, and it's a healthy activity, but if I simply obeyed my feelings I would avoid it.

Live radio is another good example.  I do get nervous, but I know that my feelings are wrong.  Nothing really bad can happen, the consequences of a mistake are not dire.

I would suggest intuition would take you rather further than the appliance of science.  For example: a friend of mine had been trying to get hold of a PS3 console for his son at Christmas.  They were as rare as hens teeth at the time, having just been put on the market.  He had scoured the shops and been told he had no chance of getting one any time in the near future.  In the shower one morning he had a sudden, unaccountable, impulse to look in a particular shop.  He followed up on it, and lo and behold, he found the hen's tooth in time for Christmas!  There are also many anecdotes about people who have for some unaccountable reason decided not to go on a booked plane flight.  Lo and behold, the plane has crashed!

These are just a couple of examples but I could give endless more and many of them from my own experience.  Further, I can offer a theory as to why this occurs - but it isn't science as understood on this website.
 

Offline Ethos_

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 1277
  • Thanked: 14 times
    • View Profile
Re: Do you trust your feelings?
« Reply #5 on: 31/01/2013 23:44:13 »
Do I trust my feelings? I only invest trust in them when I've had time to digest them honestly. By this I mean; Sometimes we convince ourselves without proper evidence just because it feels right. Nevertheless, many times our intuition is the precursor to great discovery. So I suggest, we should always examine these feelings intelligently to determine their true value. 
 

Offline bizerl

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 279
    • View Profile
Re: Do you trust your feelings?
« Reply #6 on: 01/02/2013 02:48:34 »
The problem is, everyone "feels" differently about things. You mentioned that you don't react negatively to homosexuality, however many people do. Should they trust their feelings and deem it "wrong", or should everybody trust your feelings?

It concerns me greatly that what you are proposing would help justify, for instance, a school kid shooting up his school because it "felt" right. "Science" would say this is a bad thing because the evidence indicates that it caused a lot of death and grief and suffering, but if the kid says it felt right, who are we to argue?

This is an extreme case I know but it does illustrate the inherit problem with your proposal that if we are to live in a society and interact with people, we need to look objectively at what is the same for everyone.
 

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 116
    • View Profile
Re: Do you trust your feelings?
« Reply #7 on: 02/02/2013 15:59:32 »
Do I trust my feelings? I only invest trust in them when I've had time to digest them honestly.

.......which means you do not trust your feelings.  What you trust is your intellect.
 

Offline pantodragon

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 116
    • View Profile
Re: Do you trust your feelings?
« Reply #8 on: 02/02/2013 16:13:37 »
The problem is, everyone "feels" differently about things. You mentioned that you don't react negatively to homosexuality, however many people do. Should they trust their feelings and deem it "wrong", or should everybody trust your feelings?

It concerns me greatly that what you are proposing would help justify, for instance, a school kid shooting up his school because it "felt" right. "Science" would say this is a bad thing because the evidence indicates that it caused a lot of death and grief and suffering, but if the kid says it felt right, who are we to argue?


With respect to feelings about homosexuality, if someone reacts negatively to it, then it means that it is wrong FOR THEM and ONLY for them.  When people interact, they affect one another, sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes in very subtle ways.  Between some people that interaction can be harmful.  So if a person reacts negatively to homosexuality then they should understand that that means to interact with a homosexual person would be harmful to them.  This is a psychological defence mechanism.

As to the school child shooting up his school: the supposition is that this is inevitable in human society and is the result of human weaknesses.  I do not agree.  I think that this happens because society is sick.  In a healthy society this simply would not happen.  One reason that this is a sick society is that people do not trust their feelings.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Re: Do you trust your feelings?
« Reply #8 on: 02/02/2013 16:13:37 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums