The rush-hour train on a weekday never fails to make me flustered. And when it happens, I feel even worse because I know the reason behind my frustration is as simple as being sandwiched by two fat men for the entire ride. This experience is actually so common that psychologists created a term for it: meta-emotions. As if feelings only aren’t bad enough, meta-emotions are the feelings about your feelings, and it is classified into four groups.
This one hits home for me personally. Self-loath is the condition of feeling bad about feeling bad. Have you been in a situation, where say, you feel upset because your mom scolded you, and then after huffing and puffing in your own room, you feel even worse for being upset, because other people in the world don’t even have the mother figure to scold them? No? Or say you feel like ranting because you have to stay home due to the pandemic, and then you feel bad because many people are struggling to even find something to eat?
To think more about those around you than your own personal disadvantages might be good, but that is not the case with self-loathing. It actually shows that you have excessive self-criticism and an anxious behaviour. I think it is important to acknowledge our emotions, and it is okay to feel bad at times because a small splinter still hurts, even if it is nothing next to another person’s broken arm. Therefore, only you can understand how much pain you are experiencing, regardless of the cause.
I think this one is a pretty common thing in our everyday lives. Remember that smart kid that had no clue that you cheated on his paper during an exam that got you excellent grades? It must’ve felt great to get good grades, but do you still feel great and accomplished on the car ride home, thinking about getting pushed upwards by other people’s hard work instead of your own? I guess this is a good example of guilt, as it shows that you still value the means of honesty deep down in your heart.
However, if, for example, you didn’t quite study for this one exam and you still got the highest score in class, it certainly feels great. Maybe you were just born with brains, or maybe it was just luck. But the other classmates, they don’t even pass the minimum score. The happiness bubbling inside you suddenly begins to recede, as you start to feel bad about feeling good, as you know for a fact that you binge-watched your favourite TV show all night while your classmates were struggling on their study desks.
While guilt as an emotion is feeling bad about the act of cheating itself, guilt as a meta-emotion is feeling bad about being happy that you get a high score, or in other words, feeling bad about feeling good. If you’ve felt something similar, it could probably mean that you feel like you don’t deserve happiness, or you often feel as though something should be wrong, even if everything is great.
This is the condition of feeling good about feeling bad, and it usually occurs on people who transform a certain righteous indignation into a sense of superiority. How so? You might ask. Some people who went through undesirable situations tend to portray condescension towards others, as they might think highly of themselves due to the aggrandizing events they went through.
For example, a hard-working person suffering from poverty his entire life might show a patronizing manner to the born-wealthy people as they think that these people are inferior for not having to carry a heavy burden like they did. These self-righteous people enjoy the thought of being superior in terms of hard-work and dedication as a reaction towards their sorrows.
The last meta-emotion is feeling good about feeling good. It might not always be negative, say, a person suffers from severe depression, and one day she begins to feel happy again. As a response, she will feel relieved that a good feeling is starting to spurt inside her—as she must.
On the other hand, people who have not felt a good feeling in a long time might become an egoist and will do anything to maintain their happiness, even hurting others around them as they drown in their self-absorption. To this extent, this meta-emotion is inadequate.
Above is the brief elaboration of the four meta-emotions within my personal understanding. So, which meta-emotion do you tend to find yourselves feeling most often?
Manson, Mark. Fuck Your Feelings. 27 Apr. 2020, markmanson.net/fuck-your-feelings.