Monday, June 13, 2011

what I'm reading: reflections on emotions and moods from Joe Forgas

I read an interesting article by Greg Bearup in Good Weekend the other day, about psychologist Joe Forgas' studies on emotions and moods - which, it seems, are not the same thing at all.

Emotions are usually short-lived and intense, and we're usually aware of them. There are 6 basic human emotions: fear, anger, disgust, sadness, happiness and surprise (try fitting all your emotions into these 6 categories and it will twist your brain a little...). Emotions are the extreme peaks and troughs in our emotional landscape.

Moods, on the other hand, are less intense than emotions, and we're mostly unaware of them. They fluctuate many times during the day as we swap between happy and sad, positive and negative. Moods are the gentle undulations in our emotional landscape.

We live in a society that pursues happiness with dedication; but it seems that sadness (not depression, which is intense and long-lasting) can be good for you. When we're happy, we're more free-flowing and creative. When we're sad, we're more perceptive, our memories work better, and we think more clearly. We might also be more interesting:

Being a bit glum can make you a more interesting person. 'I think most people worth talking to are slightly depressed...It is part of the human condition. It may be that people who are a bit on the negative side see the world as it really is...It tends to be these people who see the world clearly.'
In a world filled with real sorrow, all this emotional navel-gazing seems more than a little self-indulgent. 'Just go and put on a sad movie and you'll be a more interesting person.' But at least it might make us less impatient with feeling sad.

The article was by Greg Bearup, the quote-within-a-quote by Joe Forgas.


Gordon Cheng said...

He lectured me at UNSW! He had a rather loopy theory about bringing an end to the cold war by having the Americans blow up or scuttle their navy boat by boat as a gesture of good will.

Even as an idealistic second year uni student it seemed a bit optimistic.

But he was a nice guy.

Jean said...

:) that is very funny! He sounds like a nice guy with a difficult background. Sad enough to be interesting, maybe?