The Echoes of the Mind (21) Negative Emotion

Negative Emotions

All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you. ~ Bohemian Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke

Negative emotions encompass both attraction and repulsion. Regardless, every negative emotion carries the seed for a spiral toward mental illness.

Negative emotions flow from a lack of contentment. Interpersonally, negative emotions are the antithesis of empathy.

It is a common perspective, even among psychologists, that negative emotions can be powerful motivators for good, if properly channeled. That viewpoint is the metaphorical equivalent to trying to sew a silk purse from a sow’s ear – like telling an alcoholic that he needs to learn to drink in moderation.

Negative emotions are spiritual poison. The remedy is realizing that all emotions are meritless: that placing value in emotions is animalistic in the worst way. From that perspective feelings are properly understood as transitory biological phenomena that deserve all the treatment of an itch one shouldn’t scratch. To embrace negative emotions is to willingly be a prisoner of the mind’s nefariousness.


The strongest emotion is fear, and the strongest fear is of the unknown. ~ American author H.P. Lovecraft

Fear is the strongest negative emotion, and the most primal. Fear instigates an instantaneous survival response.

People react to fear, not love. ~ American politician Richard Nixon

Revulsion is the backhand of fear. Condemnation is the cognitive equivalent of fear.

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live. ~ American journalist Dorothy Thompson


Sadness is always the legacy of the past; regrets are pains of the memory. ~ Anonymous

If vocabulary truly expressed the wealth of human emotional experience, sadness would proliferate in dictionaries. Sadness has such a rich variety and history to have earned an abiding place in philosophy, psychology, religion, economics, and as a driving engine in the arts.

Both the ancient Greek Stoics and Buddha ascribed sadness as arising from unfilled desire, concluding that if desire were quelled contentment would be within reach. By the time materialism had sunk into the marrow of civilization the idea of deserting sadness by detachment had itself been abandoned. French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was typical in attributing sadness to wanting, which was, he supposed, part and parcel of the human experience.

The existence of desire as a human fact is sufficient to prove that human reality is a lack. ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Freud attributed all melancholia not to something missing, but to loss. Suckered successors in his wake carried the theme.

Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. ~ American writer Andrew Solomon

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Sadness is the emotion that most easily lingers; pooling into depression from indulging the mind in its imagined loss. In contrast, boredom is banished in an instant; swept away by interested attention.

Rumination is the central determinant of why some emotions last longer than others. Emotions associated with high levels of rumination will last longest. ~ Dutch psychologist Philippe Verduyn

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The Judeo-Christian tradition puts sorrow and suffering as the price paid for displeasing God. This guilt trip is especially well known to Catholics.

Guilt & Shame

Guilt has very quick ears to an accusation. ~ English novelist Henry Fielding

Guilt and shame are respectively the private and public peas in the same emotional pod. Both are evolutionary artifacts of being social creatures.

Guilt is the internal recognition of a moral violation. Guilt is married to remorse, which is the emotional facet of regret. Regret may take the public form of apology.

Shame is the public conveyance of guilt, extending from act to persona.

While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one’s actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person. ~ American psychologists Merle Fossum & Marilyn Mason

The lack of empathy that characterizes psychopathy means that the psychopathic are unburdened by guilt and shame. Whatever boon that may seem, psychopathy is small compensation for having humanity at large as a perpetual reference-group.

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. ~ American author Benjamin Franklin


Frustration is the father of anger, provoked by feeling of loss of control over something to which one is emotionally engaged.

It is the clash between desire and fear that causes anger, which is the great destroyer of sanity in life. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Anger is fear dressed in offense.

The angry people are those people who are most afraid. ~ American psychologist Robert Anthony

Anger can be instantaneous reaction, or it may rise like emotional magma. In other words, anger may be reflexive or cognitively cooked.

When anger rises, think of the consequences. ~ Confucius

As with fear, anger is especially corrosive, feasting on the quality of one’s life; but, whereas fear shutters aggression, anger is its kindling.

Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools. ~ German theoretical physicist Albert Einstein


All disgust is originally disgust at touching. ~ German philosopher Walter Benjamin

Disgust is a cognitive emotion, not primal. Infants may be instinctually repulsed by an object when it appears to present a danger or otherwise is not appealing, but that is not disgust. Children do not grasp the meaning of an adult’s facial display of disgust until about age 5; before then, disgust looks like anger.

Disgust is acquired with experience. Disgust often develops from social distaste. Disgust is often cultural, in that the accepted practices of some societies are disgusting to others.

Humans are not the only ones who experience disgust.

Animals evolved a system to protect against health threats: the adaptive system of disgust. ~ French Iranian primatologist Cecile Sarabian

Disgust drives one away from those whose opinions are morally repugnant. Political thought is loaded with disgust.

Disgust serve biology in contamination avoidance. The strong impulse in response to disgust is to cleanse oneself. But the incitation provoked by disgust can carry too far. Women who are sexually assaulted badly want to scrub off the attack: 25% continue to wash excessively up to 3 months afterwards.

Disgust is a formula for pathology. Sexually abused children often feel that they can never wash off what was done to them. When that occurs, their psychological troubles are unending.

As a social force disgust drive manners. Social etiquette evolved as a means of disgust avoidance. By adhering to convention, one may ingratiate.

Disgust shadows desire. ~ American songwriter Robert Wells


Hatred is the anger of the weak. ~ French novelist Alphonse Daudet

The pitch-black opposite of love is hate, which is a puissant brew of fear and loathing. Hate is the ultimate emotional irony: attachment to an object of disgust. That makes hate the stupidest of emotions. No intelligent creature carries hate. Those who bellow its sounds deserve a deaf ear to its substance, steady condemnation in response, and compassion for the abject ignorance displayed.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~ American Baptist minister and civil-rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.


Of all the worldly passions, lust is the most intense. All other worldly passions seem to follow in its train. ~ Buddha

The emotion of love is utterly non-sexual: love is admiration. In contrast, lust is intense carnal desire.

Other than being affinitive, the possessive nature of lust puts it at considerable remove from love. Whereas love is the most positive of emotions, lust is the intimate sister to greed.

In love the other is important; in lust you are important. ~ Indian guru Rajneesh

Owing to its feel-good power, lust is the by far the most popular of negative emotions. Lust slithers under the banner of passion, which is the generalized desire for animal satisfaction, geared up by adrenaline, aspiring a dopamine remedy.


It is not the man who has little, but he who desires more that is poor. ~ Roman philosopher Seneca

Greed is desire amplified: the inevitable mental product of embracing materialism. As materialism is culturally engendered, so too greed. Capitalism is a fertile breeding ground for greed.

In one having no regard for material goods beyond financial security, entertainment, and personal comfort, greed finds no ground in which to sprout. In such a person, contentment crowds out the prospect of greed.

When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses. ~ American politician Shirley Chisholm

Jealousy & Envy

Jealousy and envy spring from comparing our lot in life with that of others. ~ American psychologist Dan Ariely

Jealousy and envy are the opposite sides of a petty coin minted by social avarice. Both emotions promote malicious glee. An envious or jealous person positively enjoys hurting the object of its attention, or when the object suffers misfortune: schadenfreude.

Jealousy lives upon suspicion; and it turns into a fury or ends as soon as it passes from suspicion to certainty. ~ François de La Rochefoucauld

Whereas jealousy is typically based upon a sense of personal possessiveness, envy may be more abstract. People who identify with a particular group, such as a sports team, company, or nation, feel schadenfreude when the rival of that group suffers a mishap which lowers its standing.


To be embarrassed is to be placed in a temporary state of suspension by the unwanted scrutiny – sometimes critical, often not – of others. It is to be involuntarily placed at the epicentre of a particular social moment. ~ English cultural historian Stuart Walton

Embarrassment arises from an awareness of a social fact in which one is riding colliding head-on with a sense of propriety. Darwin rightly pointed out that embarrassment is an emotion that feeds upon itself.

Canadian American sociologist Erving Goffman suggested that blushing and other signs of embarrassment are an evolutionary adaptation which serves as a nonverbal apology, as well as an indirect statement of moral worth. Lack of appropriate embarrassment suggests sociopathy.

Embarrassment demonstrates that an individual is at least disturbed by the fact and may prove worthy at another time. ~ Erving Goffman