Portuguese lyricist FERNANDO PESSOA puts it plainly:
“The world belongs to the one who does not feel.“
Something I am merely hinting at here is that in our society successful socialization is largely associated with the ability to ignore feelings. Later I will discuss in depth how socialization gives rise to a new kind of emotion, which I call secondary emotions.
The difference of primary feelings to secondary feelings
The crucial difference to primary feelings is that secondary feelings are predominantly cognitively influenced and thus no longer spontaneously body-related. Coupled with desires, traumatic memories and preconceived notions (belief systems), they exhibit a high degree of complexity.
How impressionable the basic pattern of emotional expression is and how easily it can be subjected to socializing influences has been investigated by DANIEL STERN and VIRGINIA DEMOS:
To a large extent the so-called affective competence of the infant depends on maternal affective competence. It is acquired by the infant only through a sophisticated learning process that largely determines its later feeling autonomy. The infant’s great openness results in a susceptibility to extraneous influences.
Lack of as well as excessive “mothering” and inharmonious tuning (tuning according to STERN) can lead to emotional programs which have a lifelong burdening effect. In discordant tuning, although there is a positive response to emotional expressions of the child, the response of the parent turns out to be somewhat stronger or weaker than it corresponds to the expression expressed by the child.
Failure to tune in abused children
The negative effects of a lack of tuning have been clearly demonstrated by CICHETTI and WHITE in maltreated children. They found that these children were severely limited in their emotional repertoire; in particular, they had a tendency to behave in a hyper-vigilant and over-controlled manner. While children who grew up in sheltered circumstances avoided exposure to aggressive stimuli whenever possible, neglected children responded with aggressive behavior patterns.
Neurobiologist ANTONIO DAMASIO sees fewer sources of danger in socialization, provided that both “the brain and the culture are normal,” that is, when neither the brain nor the culture is damaged. He writes: “In Germany and the Soviet Union during the thirties and the forties, a sick culture prevailed over presumably regular thinking and decision-making mechanisms – with horrific consequences, as we know.”
And with astonishing candor – even before the Yugoslav war opened the eyes even to the last – he concludes, “I fear that significant sectors of Western society are gradually becoming further tragic examples.“
Millennia of repression of being love
As I will elaborate, I personally believe that the occurrence of these culturally conditioned “tragic examples” is not accidental, but the consistent consequence of a socialization-induced repression of being love that has been taking shape for millennia.
Socialization unquestionably has developed an intellectual and cultural strategy for coping with the psychic experience of pain via the cascade of repression. Whether it has succeeded in alleviating the pain – at least in our Western society – I doubt. The social and the individual consequential costs of this repression seem to be too high.
The influence of fear during socialization
We should not miss the determining influence of fear on socialization. This fear generates an ever-increasing need for security, evidenced both in a flood of insurance policies and in military rearmament and the increasing importance of security systems offered on the home market.
From the perspective of socialization, emotions are always directed toward an immediate (survival) purpose toward a particular situation or toward an immediate reference person.
The “meaning” of an emotion lies in its foreign purposefulness. For DAMASIO, the (secondary) emotions emerged as essential instruments in the struggle for survival and for him it is primarily the negative emotions that are supposed to be involved in “progress”:
“It is barely conceivable that individuals and societies can survive which are determined by striving for pleasure as much or more as by striving for pain avoidance…
Negative feelings seem to have far more varieties than positive feelings, and apparently our brains handle the positive and negative varieties of feelings with different systems.”
And to prove the accuracy of his statement he quotes LEO TOLSTOI:
“All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Does this mean:
Rather being unhappy but “different/better than everyone else” – than “just being happy”?