I mentioned in my last post, that “I’m not an emotional girl,” continuing with, “but I enjoyed your compassion and kindness, oh so much.” After sending this post to publish, I qualified my statement to be incorrect because to enjoy something, to manifest happiness in my heart, to be so passionately inspired by fellow humans and their convictions, I can only define that state as emotional. Emotion, I rationalised, must therefore be classified as the part of the subconscious that permits one to feel pleasure or pain, and, this specific feeling is dictated by one’s value system, notably by the degree of success of living within its premises.
Take for instance sex. When I express the rare interest in a man, my sister will first question, “What do you like about his appearance?” and, before I can answer, follows that question with, “And what do you like about his brain?” She knows that both criteria must be checked, aesthetic and thought, before I’ll consider investing my time. And, for the record, I have invested my time, brain and heart, just once in thirty-four years.
It seems that with every philosophical discussion that occurs in my brain, Ayn Rand has already addressed the topic. She discussed emotion with Playboy in 1964.
“An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man’s value premises. An effect, not a cause. There is no necessary clash, no dichotomy between man’s reason and his emotions—provided he observes their proper relationship. A rational man knows—or makes it a point to discover—the source of his emotions, the basic premises from which they come; if his premises are wrong, he corrects them. He never acts on emotions for which he cannot account, the meaning of which he does not understand. In appraising a situation, he knows why he reacts as he does and whether he is right. He has no inner conflicts, his mind and his emotions are integrated, his consciousness is in perfect harmony. His emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life. But they are not his guide; the guide is his mind. This relationship cannot be reversed, however. If a man takes his emotions as the cause and his mind as their passive effect, if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow—then he is acting immorally, he is condemning himself to misery, failure, defeat, and he will achieve nothing but destruction—his own and that of others.” – Playboy, 1964.
This is why, during my 17-year battle with an eating disorder, I would not allow myself to be classified into the bucket of sufferers who perceived themselves as weak, as small, as sick, as needing of help, as needing a hand to hold. So many who suffer from eating disorders think that they belong in bed, crying, shielded from the world. Talking to a therapist. Being told what to eat. Etcetera. And from what I gather, those who suffer from eating disorders dedicate their entire lives to being trapped into the spinning web of feeling bad for themselves. To suffering.
My value system is one of succeeding. Of prospering. Thus with my brain as guide, I controlled my emotions, through all of the physical eating turmoil, until I could develop and maintain the solution that would permit me to achieve my values. And I have succeeded.
Even at my most reckless, I never manifested hate, jealousy, or yearning to possess something that I could not earn through hard work. For instance, I have never gone crazy over a man, like “normal” girls do. If I did not like the state of my relationship with Mr. Bikram, I would abruptly end it. I did this several times during the period of 12 years. At present, I cannot be friends with him. We are too different. But he’s a wonderful, high quality, kind man. And I shall always love him. That is emotion.
As previously cited, Ayn Rand stated, “If a man takes his emotions as the cause and his mind as their passive effect, if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow—then he is acting immorally, he is condemning himself to misery, failure, defeat, and he will achieve nothing but destruction—his own and that of others.”
I am applying this statement to another dear friend, Duchess Victoria, who passionately lives kindly, with her heart on her sleeve. Yet she is miserable, as it regards men. Very chaotic and lonely. Her new lover refuses a formal committed relationship with her, on the reason that she smokes. He will not date a smoker. This is his brain’s principle. Yet my friend believes that her lover should be thinking with his heart, rather than with his brain. She continues to engage sexually with him, and she anticipates a great broken heart when he eventually says goodbye. How is this rational? I sent Ayn Rand’s excerpt to my friend. And she replied that a human is born one way or the other, emotional or rational. And that she does not have a choice.
To counter this, I quote Ayn Rand’s comment in The Virtue of Selfishness: “Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are ‘tabula rasa.’ It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both. Man’s emotional mechanism is like an electronic computer, which his mind has to program—and the programming consists of the values his mind chooses.” Thus, it is, indeed a choice.
Furthermore, Duchess Victoria exclaimed that she prefers to live an emotional life than to live a rational life. This made me think: at present, I feel so emotionally happy yet I am living rationally. Contradictions do not exist, so what type of life am I actually living? Am I living a rational life? Or an emotional life?
It turns out, from writing this piece, that I know a life cannot be one or the other. It is a life of principles and emotions, with fireworks of happiness or sadness resulting from the choice of allowing the mind to guide, or emotions to guide.
What is your choice?