The Echoes of the Mind (20) Positive Emotions

Positive Emotions

The secret of life is never to have an emotion that is unbecoming. ~ Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde

Potent positive emotions may be anticipated but they can never be convincingly cajoled, unlike negative emotions, which can be willfully aroused. A pleasant memory – nostalgia – is a modest emotional moment, whereas emotively negative recall can kindle an emotional fire.

Positive emotions warm with satisfaction. In contrast, negative emotions are bitter and corrosive, leaving one either hot or cold.


Happiness doesn’t depend on the actual number of blessings we manage to scratch from life, only our attitude toward them. ~ Russian historian and novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Happiness is a generalized feeling of well-being. Unlike other emotions, happiness is not directed toward objects or events, but instead is a mood.

(Though happiness and bliss are similar, happiness feels energetic, whereas bliss is passively contented. Bliss emerges as a blip of fortified connectivity with the unitary field of Ĉonsciousness. Happiness also involves this connectivity, but happiness is an expression of vitality: a positive impulse of the life force (lengyre).)

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Social psychologists long reported that conservatives were happier than liberals: an inscrutable finding given that conservatism is founded in fear (uncertainty avoidance). Instead, conservatives are simply more likely to report being happy – what psychologists call self-enhancement: evaluating oneself in an unrealistically positive manner. Self-enhancement is motivational and helps maintain self-esteem. It becomes particularly prominent in situations where one feels threatened, including facing failure or blows to one’s self-esteem. In sum, conservatives are, at their best, merrily delusional. Chronic fear warps the mind in subtle ways.

Research suggesting that political conservatives are happier than political liberals has relied exclusively on self-report measures of subjective well-being. This finding is fully mediated by conservatives’ self-enhancing style of self-report. Relative to conservatives, liberals more frequently used positive emotional language in their speech and smiled more intensely and genuinely in photographs. ~ American social psychologist Peter Ditto et al


There is only one kind of love, but there are a thousand different versions. ~ French author François de La Rochefoucauld

Love is an especially intoxicating emotion, albeit characterized by reserve. True love does not grasp, takes no possession, has no hold over its owner. It is merely admiration and appreciation for the existence of its object.

Appreciation, not possession, makes a thing ours. ~ American novelist Marty Rubin

The display of affection is the engine of all positive relationships, just as the expression of emotive empathy is the basis for trust. The foundation for human sociality is rooted in communication of these positive emotions.

A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you. ~ American writer Elbert Hubbard

Embracing the power of affinity, love is the most cherished emotion. Its pursuit is behind all meaningful social endeavors. Other emotions may be adjudged by their degrees of distance from love.

Life is love and love is life. What keeps the body together but love? What is desire but love of the self? What is fear but the urge to protect? And what is knowledge but the love of truth? The means and forms may be wrong, but the motive behind is always love – love of the me and the mine. The me and the mine may be small, or may explode and embrace the universe, but love remains. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj


The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy. ~ American actress Meryl Streep

Empathy has 2 aspects: emotional and rational.

Emotive empathy comes in understanding the emotional expression of another. This empathy involves emotional identification, though does not imply affinity. One may be empathic without sharing the emotion, even in the context of projecting oneself into the same situation.

By contrast, sympathy engages emotional affinity in witnessing a situation of suffering. Sympathy is an empathic projection of imagined pain.

The rational side of empathy is understanding another’s point of view, irrespective of emotional context. Rational empathy differs from empathizing emotionally.

Though personal perspectives are invariably emotively based, rational empathy focuses on the cognitive aspect of an individual appreciating a certain knowledge base: how one looks at a situation given the information available. Via rational empathy a person can understand how someone else may view events or contexts from a different perspective. This is mind perception in action. (Mind perception and mentalizing are synonyms for inferring the mental states of others.)

The youngest children have a great capacity for empathy and altruism. ~ Alison Gopnik

As social creatures our capacity for empathy is innate. Emotional empathy is typically exhibited during the 2nd year of life.

Rational empathy requires the development of certain cognitive faculties, particularly theory of mind and emotive empathy, without which understanding others’ motivations is hopeless. By presenting interpersonal relations as abstracted dynamics, reading literary fiction helps sharpen one’s mentalizing.

Empathy is easily the most employable emotion. Its social utility cannot be understated. In understanding a variety of worldviews different from one’s own, rational empathy is the tool to deciphering others’ minds.

Human morality is unthinkable without empathy. ~ Dutch ethologist Frans de Waal


Our human compassion binds us the one to the other. ~ South African politician Nelson Mandela

Compassion is empathic caring based upon identification with the target of the emotion. One may be empathic yet indifferent. Compassion engages the emotions in a motivating way.

True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain, but also being moved to help relieve it. ~ American psychologist Daniel Goleman

All religions make much of compassion. There is much personal satisfaction to be had in helping others.

The exercise of compassion opens one to a world larger than oneself, and so enlarges one’s worldview. Human societies would be much different if compassion was an operative universal value rather than merely the lip service it so often gets.

Compassion is the basis of all morality. ~ German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer

A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true. ~ Socrates