Emotions are a fantastically bizarre and fascinating thing. Most interesting of all is the oddly quasi-behaviorist way in which we are trained in and construct our own emotional universes as a matter of the interaction between the culture(s) in which we are embedded over time, others’ interactions with us (which in turn depend in part on their own emotional universes), our individual biological uniqueness, the reflections of ourselves in others’ moment-by-moment gestures and responses, and the aggregate internal data that is our ongoing bodily state.
For a while in my twenties, I was very interested indeed in the sociology and anthropology of emotion, and a certain amount of that interest and emotion remain vestigially in play for me.
I’m most fascinated by the factoid that even after accounting for all the variations and empirical complexity in the factors at issue, there is an individual component to emotion that is both unavoidable and ineffable. That is to say that the bodily states, circumstances, and sensations that for one person might be experienced as “joy” can be experienced by another person as “terror.”
I know that is some bionormativity at play here, but it isn’t absolute; it’s the multifactor/multidimensional equivalent of a bell curve. This is where discussions of neurotypicality come into play.
Sure, it’s easy to say that people at the topological equivalents of the far fringes of the various curve(s) are probably maladapted or in need of particular kinds of sociophysical care, but what about those that are neither at peak nor at nadir, particularly given the complexity of the space in question.
That infinite and infinitely complex gray area is the space in which relationships, personality, and the indeterminacy of social interaction and social life play out, not to mention the little everyday misunderstandings and delightfully-wirecrossed-unconscious-semi-understandings that both bring people together and push them apart.
What am I saying here? That it’s so wildly wild that we can’t know what it’s like to be another person at the end of the day. And I don’t mean all that “having walked in their shoes” nonsense, I mean, we can have someone tell us that they are “very happy right now” and have absolutely no idea what that really means in their terms, physically, cognitively, etc.
We know it only in our own terms, but the experience of “happiness” might actually be a totally different thing for them qualitatively, as though if you could trade consciousnesses for a moment, you’d find yourself perhaps aware of feeling something totally different from what they felt even though all the inputs are the same.
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No, don’t ask me to try to disentangle everything I just said, it was hard enough to dump.
And don’t go on about it. Neurotypicality is so over.