Useless emotions

Guilt

For me a useless emotion is one that is used to manipulate the masses into behaving a certain way. Businesses like advertising or religion have utilized these emotions in order to get you to buy their product. In the case of religion, guilt is a heavily played upon emotion. Religion makes us feel guilty for committing acts that are within our own nature, then tells us that only by seeking forgiveness from the church can we be absolved of the very same guilt they, themselves have made us feel for our actions.

For me guilt is akin to crying over spilled milk. If I have done something to someone else that I feel bad about, I apologize sincerely. Sometimes I am forgiven, sometimes not. Forgiveness isn’t in my control and if that is my only reason for apologizing, then I’m not truly sorry. Once I have tried to make amends, whether I am forgiven or not, I move on. It’s a waste of time to dwell.

Shame

Shame is another useless emotion. It is the flip side of guilt. Guilt is something you feel over something you have done, whereas shame is something you feel over who you are.  Look at the seven deadly sins, anger, greed, sloth, envy, lust, gluttony and pride. They are all emotions that humans feel naturally. If we are to believe that we are made in the image of a deity, then why are these emotions somehow shameful?

Women are made to feel shame for everything from natural bodily functions like menstruation (the curse) and menopause (the change) to our sexuality (slut shaming). It’s a wonder we can leave the house at all.

Envy

One of the best marketing tools that is employed by advertising agencies around the world is envy. Ads that make you want what others have have proven to be very effective. Even ads that use the old adage of sex sells are using the envy model. They make you covet the lifestyle being shown to you… a lifestyle you don’t have. What’s wrong with what you DO have? I can guarantee if you don’t like your current lifestyle, that buying a new iPod isn’t going to fix it. In fact a new iPod may just magnify the situation (I have no friends to put into this huge address book, for example).

Jealousy

Jealousy differs from envy. With envy you want what someone else has. With jealousy you want to be what someone else is. It makes you ask, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ In marketing this is famously utilized by an ad for Pantene shampoo in which actress/model, Kelly LeBrock says, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”. This ad was meant to make women think that they could be beautiful too if they would just wash their hair with Pantene. If jealousy has to be used as a marketing tool, I’d much rather see a university advertise itself by having an accomplished woman like Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel or Christine LaGarde saying, “Don’t hate me because I’m smart.” At least that would send a more productive message to young women, but I digress. Jealousy is useless because you may never be what someone else is. Happiness is to embrace who YOU are.

There may be some of you who think I should have included fear on this list of useless emotions. It is used by both religion, and advertising, not to mention government to make the masses behave a certain way. But fear differs from the above four emotions in one very key way. Fear is a warning sign that can save your life. Yes most fears are needless or even irrational, like my fear of birds. But sometimes a little fear can stop you from rushing head first into a dangerous situation.

Guilt, shame, envy and jealousy are about as useful as our appendix. They are emotions that, perhaps, it’s time to evolve past.

7 responses to “Useless emotions

  1. Guilt and shame are useful because they make us fall in line with the morality of the masses. Granted – these morlities are sometimes flawed (like on the subjects of abortion, race or even education) – but the groundworks of these assumptions support “you shall not kill” and “stealing is wrong”. It’s what keeps our society going.
    Jealousy is most often mentioned to be useful because it drives people to want STUFF. It drives our economy, it motivates people to strive for better jobs, better social standing, higher education and presentable clothes.
    Granted – these things are often abused. But they have useful purposes as well. Or they would not have evolved in us they way they are.
    What about love? “Buy this chocolate and roses to make your lady feel special.”
    The exploitation of sympathy: They urge you to give money to the cause that seems most urgend – which, in turn, causes every cause to present itself as more urgent. This leads to lies being progagated by charities and scammers alike.
    Your self-worth is exploited by everything. Are you a good member of society if you don’t drive a fancy car / vote for this politician / have a small penis?
    No, seriously. Do you need this viagra or not? Are you sure?
    I guess my point is that you are
    a) only seeing those emotions as unnessecary that suite your thesis and
    b) ignore a host of corrupting features of “positive” emotions.
    I guess I am suspecting you of confirmation bias. :D
    Have a nice day.

  2. Boo-ya. Great post. My two cents would be: that before we “evolve past” these emotions, first we need to learn to integrate them, and understand their meaning. See my blog on “Irrational Feelings” — you and I are speaking similar language I think. Most people deny they even HAVE these feelings, or push them away. It’s like we are shaming ourselves for feeling shame, which is extra-ludicrous. We need to allow the feelings, understand what is behind them, and move forward.

    • Just read your post… and yes we are definitely in the same wheelhouse here. Excellent post, by the way. Thank you for your response. Especially like your point about shaming yourself for feeling shame.

  3. Fascinating examination of emotions. I can see what people are saying about them having their uses, but I think your central point is solid – either act on them and FIX IT, or let it go. To sit around and feel bad while doing nothing about it is a complete waste of time. (Side note – this is precisely why last boyfriend & I are no longer together.)

  4. Pingback: Happiness: Guilt, Criticism, and Projection | Social Behavioral Patterns–How to Understand Culture and Behaviors

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