Emotion as a false positive.

The 1955 movie, Summertime, is described as a story about a lonely American woman who finds romance in Venice, Italy. It could just as well be described as the prototype for all movies with a female lead. From a cinematic perspective, whenever a lone woman ventures out into the world, she will, at one point or another, meet a man who will ‘change her life.’ Or, in more recently released movies, she may meet a woman who will lead her into the same kind of sexually charged encounter that will end in emotional pathos and tragedy.

What is important to see in all these movies is the ‘women are emotional’ archetype. If a woman is lone, she is assumed to be lonely, and the cure is emotional gratification/satisfaction/love. In movies about men, the emphasis is on action – men intiate action and keep the action going until one of them ‘wins.’ If emotion comes into play at all, it is a sexual conquest (another ‘action.’)

While a part of me wants to be an adventurer, to initiate action (typical of Aries), when I initiate action, I rarely win. I don’t get the expected payoff. Instead, I get highly charged sexual or emotional drama that leads nowhere. In the recent television show Feud, Joan and Bette, two fiercely ambitious Aries actresses try to win in Hollywood. Instead of winning, they both drown in their negative emotions and wither away in frustration and resentment. The world remembers them as domineering alcoholics who abused thier daughters.

A few months ago I had a conversation with my 25-year-old nephew. He had recently flown to another state to go to a motorcycle show because he likes motorcycles. He took a trip, alone, to have a pleasurable experience that had nothing to do with love, romance, meeting a woman or having sex.

If I had taken this same trip, I may have also enjoyed looking at the motorcycles, but I would have come home feeling something was missing. It would not have been enough to just look at motorcycles, I would have wanted something ‘emotional’ to happen. But if the ‘emotional thing’ had happened, it would have been ‘a false positive.’

To put this another way, if every action I engage in must deliver some kind of emotional high or charge, and this happens, I will feel a fleeting sense of satisfaction or gratification, even if the emotional high or charge is completely irrelevant or worthless.

Experiencing an emotion is not the same as completing an action. Emotions don’t result in anything. Feeling happy or sad is a passing state that, in and of itself, is nothing. So, if I expect that all my actions are going to result in feeling a certain emotion (rather than reaching or accomplishing a goal), then I will be relentlessly unsatisfied. I will end up with a lot of pointless and irrelevant emotion that will live on and on in a big container of regret, frustration, anger and depression.

In the recent movie, Certain Women, a young woman in a rural town sees people going into a building. Feeling bored and lonely, she follows them in and finds out they are attending a class. Even though she is not enrolled in the class, nor the least bit interested in the subject, she is interested in the young female instructor, who, over the next few weeks she tries to seduce. When her seduction fails, she goes back to tending the horses on the hobby farm where she is a winter caretaker. While she got a brief emotional charge from her failed seduction, in the end, it meant nothing. Because the woman she tried to seduce spurned her, she accomplished nothing.

Over the years, I have gotten weary of women taking about depression, because in my opinion, depression is an unconscious container that holds negative emotion. Depression is not something that can be used in any useful or productive way. If a woman has run out of options for getting an emotional charge, she can always be depressed, but from having felt this emotion myself, I think it’s a waste of time. Research studies have shown that depression often results from powerlessness which is the inability to take action, or to benefit from an action.

While emotions and feelings are worthless as an end in themselves, they are very useful if tied to action. If I see a vicious dog coming at me and feel fear and run, then the emotion had a purpose. If, on the other hand, I feel fear all the time for no specific reason, and do nothing to alleviate it, then I waste my life drowning in a sea of pointless emotion (like a frog trying to climb out of a vat of slimy butter).

The feminist philosopher, Mary Daly, used to disparage the New Age movement because it promoted “feeling positive” as an action at a time when women needed to be a lot more specific about improving their lives. Having fuzzy, ambiguous, feel-good moments is a paltry trade-off for true action towards liberation.

In Joni Mitchell’s famous song Blue, a woman doesn’t want to listen when an old lover tells her that all she wants is ‘roses, kisses and pretty men to tell her all those pretty lies.’ After I wrote this I thought about the advice men used to give to other men, ‘Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.’

Roses, kisses and pretty lies pave the way to destruction for far too many of us. In one scene from Feud, Joan and Bette, a studio head asks his underlings, “What do people want to see when they watch a movie with Crawford and Davis?” The repy was degradation, the audience wanted to see these two female titans of Hollywood, ‘brought down’ and degraded. At the end of their careers they were both forced into popularizing ‘hag-horror,’ a state that pretty much sums up the view society still holds towards lone, older women.

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3 thoughts on “Emotion as a false positive.

  1. Being a woman who is more interested in action rather than feelings has often put me at odds with other people.I particularly with women who think I m an uncaring person
    Women are disparaged for being “so emotional” and hated if they are not: so, what are we supposed to do?
    : – (
    Thanks for your thought – provoking posts and I love your definition of depression as a waste of time. I think of it next time I m feeling down
    Greetings from faraway Italy

    Like

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