Evolution of the Self

On the paradoxes of personality

Can You Feel Two Emotions at Once?

Have you ever felt happy and sad at the same time? Or experienced an emotion as bittersweet? Or had feelings so mixed that you were compelled to vacillate between two courses of action—or reaction? If you can relate to any of these possibilities, this piece should help you better understand those times when you're feeling uncertain, confused, or ambivalent. Read More

feeling two - or more emotions at once

Didn't Ralph Waldo Emerson say something aboutt the brains of youths differing from adult brains - in that youths can experience a number of different emotions at one time (and so have a better understanding of themselves) and that for that reason can be misunderstood, when for example laughing at an incident where someone falls - as they are not laughing at the person's pain but rather at amusement at the nature of the fall, while all the time also feeling sympathy for the person's pain - one emotion doesn't override the other. Mr. Emerson (I think it was he) went on to say that adults, forced to conceal "inappropriate" emotion tend over time to develop sets of composite emotions - resulting in kinds of a generic reactions, blander reactions which diminsh them.
I imagine that a youth's set of emotional reactions is like a wholre range of colourful sticks of plasticine laid side by side, while adults set of emotional reactions are mixtures of colours, resulting in less variation and less brilliance of colour

I like the way you remind /

I like the way you remind / distinguish the difference and complexity of young people's emotions.

Thanks Abigail

Thanks Abigail

I'm confused

This post seems to suggest that having two emotions about the same object is mentally/emotionally unhealthy, as it produces a sense of uncertainty, confusion, or ambivalence, which often leads to procrastination. Perhaps I misunderstand, or perhaps I am considering the issue from a different direction, but I often have different, sometimes diametrically opposed, emotions about a singular event that I don't believe cause me confusion or ambivalence. For example, I can be both grateful to find an 8-ounce glass with 4 ounces of beverage, because I am thirsty, yet be disappointed that it does not contain the full 8 ounces, because I need more to produce satiety. Technically speaking, having these two simultaneous, conflicting reactions constitutes ambivalence, but by definition ambivalence is "experienced as psychologically unpleasant" (which can then lead to avoidance or procrastination). In relation to the glass of beverage, I can choose to be more disappointed than grateful, or vice versa, which will determine whether my overall outlook on the object is positive or negative, but whether I choose gratitude or disappointment is not based on the conflicting emotions, but rather my choice to feel more strongly about one or the other. Nor does choosing one over the other produce avoidance or procrastination. Being a realist, if I am thirsty, I will (gratefully) drink the 4 ounces of beverage (unless it's not consumable for some reason) and if I remain in physical distress from thirst, I will scan my environment for more, realizing that further lamentation that the glass was not full will not reduce my thirst. How is the existence of simultaneous emotions in this example unhealthy, and how does it cause uncertainty and procrastination?

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Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., who holds doctorates in English and Psychology, is a clinical psychologist and author of Paradoxical Strategies in Psychotherapy.


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