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The Not 100% Complete FAQs for the Pretty Fucked Up Person in a Pretty Fucked Up World

Emotions...Captain Kirk Loved Them, Mr. Spock Despised Them, Who was Right?

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And now we have a Handy Guide to Emotions here at for no other reason than I feel like giving you one.

What are emotions?

Emotions are chemicals your body produces for the purpose of helping you make decisions. These chemicals are based on the Compare and Contrast Analysis of the Pictures in Your Head. Like this:

At any given moment in time your body is humming along contentedly or not so contentedly generating pictures.

The most basic picture it generates is What I Think Is Going On Now or the Current Reality Picture. For example, if you are sitting in a screenwriting seminar in some little plastic seat, your body will say to itself "Well my goodness, it looks like we are in a screenwriting seminar." It will note the plastic seats and the tables and the podium where the screenwriting teacher will stand, and the glasses of water and the lights and the microphone and the other seminar attendees and it will say to itself, 'yup, just as we expected we are at a screenwriting seminar.'

Once it has generated the Current Reality picture it will generate more pictures that it finds useful. One of these will be the Expectations Picture. This picture is based on your experience. If your experience tells you that at seminars, someone gets up and talks about the topic of the seminar and people take notes and there is a break for lunch and so on, your body will generate a picture that corresponds with your experience. This will be its Expectations Picture and it will use it to formulate reactions and emotions as necessary.

The expectations picture correlates with your body's expectations of the future. So this is the Future Picture. Your body likes to have a Future Picture because it is a Decision-Making Machine. And in order to make decisions it needs to have some idea about what the outcome of those decisions will be or what's the fucking point of making the decision? And in order to forecast the outcome it needs to develop some sense of what the possible future will be in order to guide the decision. Your body does not like to operate without a Future Picture. Future Pictures are very important to its health and well-being.

Some gurus will tell you to Live In the Moment. They tell you this because you don't want to. Your body does not want to live in the moment, it wants to look at the future so it can figure out what the hell to do in the present. If your body is forced by circumstance to get by with only vague and depressing pictures of the future or Futility Pictures in which nothing it does makes very much difference it will get down-hearted and depressed. It is here to make decisions on your behalf and if none of these decisions are going to help you out, then what's the fucking point of it being around at all? It feels useless and unloved and unworthy. It usually combats these unpleasant sensations by generating Expectations Pictures which allow it to make a certain number of important and worthy and life-sustaining decisions on your behalf.

If you aren't sure what to expect, you will often find yourself looking around the room, saying to yourself 'I wonder what to expect.' You will search the room for clues, the little printed schedule, the way the other attendees act. You will ask yourself questions like 'Am I going to be called on? Will I have to talk? Do I know anyone here? When's lunch? Where are the bathrooms? Is it going to be this cold in here for 8 solid hours?' and so on.

Sometimes if you are in a situation where you don't know what to expect, you will make the No Expectations Decision. In this case, you tack up a picture in your mind that says 'no expectations. I will see what happens and whether or not I like it.' You will then generate only very minimal baseline expectations that you cart around with you in almost every situation, such 'the building will not blow up. I will not be raped. I am not expecting to be involved in a hostage situation' and so on.

When you do generate Expectations, which is most of the time, some of you are in the habit of generating very detailed pictures of your Expectations and some of you are content with a rough sketch. If you develop very detailed pictures, you run the risk that when Current Reality catches up with your Expectation Pictures, they will not be the same. You don't like this because when Your Pictures Contrast, your body generates an unpleasant chemical. In your body's Dictionary of Emotions Contrast = Bad. And Matching Pictures are Good! Your body's goal is to generate matching pictures.

On the other hand, if your pictures are very vague, when Current Reality meets up with Expectations, your body will peer at the two pictures, trying to compare and contrast. But the Expectations sketch it will be so rough it won't be able to fucking figure out if it matches up with Current Reality at all. It will scratch its head and just be at a loss as to what emotion to generate.

Your habits in generating pictures will have a big effect on the quality of your emotions over the course of your life. But that's a digressionary point for now.... more on that later.

Anyway, once your body has generated the Expectations or Future Picture and decided that it expects the advertised seminar leader to appear at some point and a lunch break and so on, it will briefly check on a couple of other important pictures it carts around with itself. These are Reference Pictures.

The two main reference pictures are My Ideal and Social Ideal. These pictures determine the bottom-line definitions of good and bad. Which is very helpful in generating emotions and making decisions. The My Ideal picture is your body's personal reference picture (or actually pictures) of what constitutes good and bad from its point of view. The criteria it uses to determine this is based on Feels Good and Feels Bad or That's Painful and That's Nice. It doesn't make these up on its own, it comes pre-loaded with a number of standard Good and Bad features. There's quite an extensive list of them in the basic Human Operating Software. For example, receiving love=good; bee stings=bad, tasty food=good, getting smacked in the face=bad, warm, cuddly sensations=good, cold, shivery sensations=bad, enough stimulation=good, too much stimulation=bad, no stimulation=very bad and so on and so on. Your body is pre-set by evolution to respond favorably or unfavorably to a whole bunch of things.

So you have this standard template of Goodness and Badness and then you have Special Pre-loaded Customizations. Each person's body varies so what's pleasantly bright to one person is unbearably garish to another, what's excruciatingly understimulating to one person is more than enough for another person. Some people's bodies respond ecstatically to music whereas others are like yeah, it's nice whatever, what's the big deal? Some people are maniacs for the social stimulation of Other People and others feel like a little dose of Other People goes a long way. Some people's bodies love contact sports, others think its horrifying. Some are pre-set with an abhorrence of dirt and mess, whereas others are fine with it. Whatever your body's personal preferences, it is basically trying to go for the right amount of stimulation. Since nervous systems vary, the right amount will vary, but regardless your body is pretty emphatic and determined that it likes the right amount for itself and it does not like the wrong amount. A whole bunch of your behavior and your likes and dislikes and personality and so on will be determined by what your body thinks is the right amount of stimulation for it. If this is convenient for you, you will be happy much of the time. If it is not, you will be in a very bad mood. It's not a matter of you being right or wrong or having the correct or incorrect preferences, it is a matter of whether those preferences are convenient for you.

If your body says "God, I fucking love a gray day! It's so goddamn peaceful and soothing, what a wonderful fucking break from that annoying entity in the sky, the sun. I like it when we have lots of gray days!" then you are going to be quite pleased with Seattle and not very happy with with the everpresent fucking sunshine of the tropics. If, on the other hand, your body says 'A day without sunshine is like a day I want to shoot myself in the head. How the fuck am I supposed to fucking function if I don't have the proper amount of sunshine stimulation? How the fuck am I supposed to set my body clock? Huh? Answer me that! Where's the fucking sunshine?' then you are going to find a winter in Minnesota to be both excessively long and quite excruciating. Your problem in this case is not your preferences - it is the fact that you have accidentally landed in Minnesota!

This type of 'fuck! I am in the completely wrong environment for my preferences' is very common and underdiagnosed. And now, courtesy of, we have an opportunity for you to diagnose yourself! If you are in a bad mood about something, say to yourself 'the problem is not me! It's the goddamn fucking environment! It does not suit my preferences! How incredibly annoying and inconvenient of it not to be exactly what I want! This is outrageous!' Feel free to blame accidentally being in the wrong environment on your parents, even if you are eighty years old and can barely remember what their names were. It's harmless and entertaining! Putting your hands on your hips and blaming the environment for not suiting your preferences is of course completely against your natural instinct to blame yourself and then feel guilty and defensive about not being happy and blaming everybody else as if they were going to do something about it. But your natural instinct is a pain in the ass and time consuming. Take a shortcut and blame the environment directly! It's fun! Narrow your eyes at some unattractive feature of your environment and announce to it in a very bold tone of voice 'You are not suiting my preferences!' The unattractive feature will immediately get nervous and suggest hesitantly, 'perhaps I could be changed' or if it is very stubborn and doesn't want to change it will suggest 'well perhaps there are other environments that would suit your preferences better and perhaps it would be worthwhile for you to spend some time investigating them instead of bitching and moaning at me all day like I am going to do something about it! Sheesh!' And then you will say 'Damn straight!' and your body with its preferences will peek out from behind you and go 'yeah, damn straight!' and you will be temporarily happy because your body will be looking at matching pictures for a moment. It loves that! Give yourself a treat and generate some matching pictures.

Okay, enough treats, back to the reference pictures. So your body carts around its pre-existing opinion or set of pictures as to what's good and bad and, as we already figured out, it will use these to Compare and Contrast to your Current Reality and all your other pictures to decide on the appopriate emotion.

Let's say for example that at that screenwriting seminar, the instructor drones on and on in a monotone voice. Your body will compare that Current Reality with its ideal picture of pleasant stimulation and start screaming - Boring! Too soft! Can't hear! Not enough stimulation! And so on. And you will think the instructor is going to drive you crazy and that you are going to die before all 8 hours are through as your body vigorously points out to you a mismatch between the Current Reality and the Ideal of Pleasant Stimulation pictures. If it is working properly and feeling energetic, it will strongly urge you to make a decision based on the mismatch and the negative emotions it generates by telling you to leave at the lunch break and never come back. This is what emotions are for - to vigorously encourage you to make decisions you are afraid you will later regret. That's their job! No wonder you have such a time with them.

If dealing with your own mysterious Body Ideal pictures weren't enough, the other reference picture your body uses is the Social Ideal picture. This picture is its handy guide to what it has been told society values as good and bad. For example, if you have been led to believe that in social terms, attending a screenwriting seminar is supposed to be a good thing, then your body will compare and contrast the Current Reality picture with the Social Ideal picture and come up with a match. It will then say 'Good! We are attending a screenwriting seminar. This is a good thing. We checked with the Social Ideal picture and this comes up as a very good thing.' And it will try to generate a pleasant emotion for you. It will make you say to yourself or someone else 'I'm really glad I get a chance to attend this seminar.' Or 'I'm proud of myself for finally doing this.' And so on.

On the other hand, if you have been led to believe by your social programming that attending screenwriting seminars is pathetic, then you will have a different reaction. Your body will compare and contrast the Current Reality with the Social Ideal and go 'Oh god. this is a long fucking way from the Social Ideal here. Fuck, this is a major mismatch.' And it will encourage you to say to yourself 'god, I don't know why I'm here. This is so pathetic. These things never work. Screenwriting can't be taught. God I feel like such a loser.' And so on.

Since people's social programming varies quite a bit, each person carts around a different Social Ideal picture in their head. On the other hand, since social programming is a community endeavor, there's bound to be some overlap as our individual unit selves come in contact with the same social programming. One of the things that makes life interesting is that you can never be quite sure whether someone else's Social Ideal is going to exactly match yours and lead them to share emotions with you, or relate, or understand where you are coming from, and so on. There is always the risk that they have a completely different Social Ideal and that theirs is right and yours is wrong! How humiliating! Maybe you are the only one stuck with some dorky hideously wrong Social Ideal and you are completely out of step with everyone else and doomed to a harrowing life of isolation and Being Misunderstood. Scary! This is why it is so inherently rewarding when someone else actually does share your emotions or understand them at least. You love that!

Some people are so frightened by this natural risk involved in sharing emotions that they spend a great deal of time being very annoyed that Other People are apparently allowed to exercise their right to have had different experiences and different social programming and even their own personal preferences. They hate that! They don't think people should be allowed to do that. They think everybody should automatically know what Social Ideal is in their heads driving their emotions, because if Other People don't there is the terrifying possibility that maybe their Social Ideal is Not the Only Ideal and that perhaps it could be even be changed to fit current circumstances.

If you meet people like this, you must say to yourself inside (not out loud) while you are dealing with them - 'God, you're so weird!' They will subliminally pick this up and freak out because that's exactly what they're afraid of. They'll hate you! But you'll have a certain amount of malicious fun watching them freak out. God, you're so superior.

If you are like this, and people never understand you, and you can't seem to communicate, then you might do yourself a favor and say 'Strangely, Other People don't know what's in my head that's driving my emotions. It would probably be handy if I actually said what was in my head out loud so they could tell and it might even be handy if I actually listened to what was in their heads so that I had some fucking idea what they were talking about.' On the other hand, you might say to yourself, "Everybody is wrong and I hate them and I don't know what the fuck is wrong with them and I'm so frustrated and I hate myself because I'm so lonely because I can't communicate and everything I touch gets all fucked up.' Either one. Or if you are creative, you might invest some time in coming up with a more complicated explanation. You've got plenty of choices!

Meanwhile, a major way your emotions get fucked up is when there is a large discrepancy between the Social Ideals you have been taught, and the Body Ideals you were born with and that belong to you. Because your body uses both.

Let's say your social programming tells you that it is a Good Thing to achieve vice president level in the company where you work. When you achieve that, your body will try to generate the applicable emotions by telling you 'That's good! I'm so happy for you! Congratulations!' and so on. It will have noted a match between your Current Reality and the Social Ideal picture and it will try to generate happiness for you.

On the other hand, if it turns out that actually being a VP involves a lot of really unpleasant things, like Conflict with Employees, Ever-Escalating Demands, Not Enough Time, Unrelenting Pressure, Being Overwhelmed, The Jealousy of Other Co-workers, Feelings of Failure, Excessive Stress and so on, being a VP will not match up with your Body Ideal. Because your body is pre-set to find unpleasant things....well, unpleasant. It had an entirely different ideal for you in mind.

In this case, you will experience severe agonizing cramp-like Conflicting Emotions. This happens to everyone. You will compare and contrast your Current Reality with Your Social Ideal and get a match. You will compare and contract your Current Reality with your Body Ideal and get a major mismatch. You will feel very unhappy at the same time you feel like you ought to be very happy. You will feel both. You will not know what decisions to make.

Precisely because emotions are there to help you make decisions, when you experience Conflicting Emotions, you will have a hell of a hard time making them. You'd love to quit being a VP but you really want to stay. You don't want to give up, but god you'd really like to and so on.

Handy Tip: The Body Ideal is stronger than the Social Ideal and Body Emotions are stronger than the Social Ideal emotions.

This is not to say that Social Ideal emotions are not strong. They are. It's just that Body Emotions are stronger.

There is a reason for this. It is that society is often wrong. Societies are not set up to be excellent arbiters of what is actually good and bad, they are set up to be societies. They are set up to protect their interests and not yours. It may be very much in society's interest to tell you that being a VP is a good thing, because it will encourage you to work hard and figure out more ways to sell SUVs, a vitally necessary ingredient of the economy. Society doesn't necessarily give a shit that being a VP actually sucks. Someone's got to do it. And if you're the sucker who'll buy in to the social programming, so much the better.

Meanwhile, the Body Emotions will not give up until they win. In fact, they never give up. No matter how you try to ignore them, they stick around. Society can tell you until it's blue in the face that Bad is Good and Good is Bad and you can believe them and twist yourself in every conceivable way in order to try to make that true - and it won't make a damn bit of difference. Your body will never believe it, and underneath it all, you will always be generating the emotions that go along with what your body thinks is good and what it thinks is bad. If your body thinks your mother-in-law is a bitch, it doesn't matter if she gets nominated for sainthood while still alive, your body will still fucking hate her and you will still generate those emotions. You can deal with your body emotions or not as you choose, but they will deal with you.

One of the major tasks of life is figuring out when the Social Ideal is right and when it is wrong. And the way you do this is by experiencing it and seeing what your body has to say. If it tells you, no fucking way I'm putting up with this corporate shit, quit, marry rich and be a landscape painter - well then you know. Painting is good, VPness is bad.

This is of course messy, annoying and inconvenient since the Social Ideal and your Body Ideal may not match up very closely. And just because it is wrong, doesn't mean that Social Ideal isn't important. It is. Your body may say swinging in a hammock while eating grapes is the Ideal, whereas Society may say 'get a fucking job or you're screwed.' And you will have the task, like everyone else, of figuring out how you can sneak as much fucking Body Ideal into your life as possible without totally fucking yourself over in terms of everyone else's Social Ideal. Always an interesting balancing act.

Yet another important picture your body uses in generating emotions and making decisions is the Trend Picture. Trend is your body's assessment of whether you are moving in the direction of an Ideal or away from it. Moving away is bad and generates emotions that feel bad. Moving toward is good and generates emotions that feel much better.

For example, let's say you are driving home from work with your 18 month old baby in the back, having just picked her up from day care. It is a gray, misty day and you are on a 2 lane road, 45 mph speed limit as befits your almost rural suburb. You've got maybe 15 miles before you get home.

You've got a nice Current Reality picture that tells you that you're driving home from work with your baby. You've got an Expectations Picture that says that in about 20 minutes you'll be home, which will mean dinner, warmth, conversation with mate, and playing with baby. Your Body Ideal values all these things, warmth, conversation, baby, home, dinner, all good, all pleasurable. And your Social Ideal is down with them too. Family Life After Work is Good. We're looking at a pretty good match between Expectations and Ideals and you're feeling pretty good. You also have a trend picture which tells you that you are heading towards goodness and ideals, in fact you are driving in that very direction even now. Happy Matches all the way around and no need to make any big decisions. In fact, you are driving on autopilot, not really thinking of anything consciously.

Bam! All of a sudden, a monster trailer truck appears, barreling down the two-lane highway, in the wrong lane! Whammo, your picture-generating ability blasts into high gear. Your Expectations pictures undergo an extremely rapid shudder. You did not expect a trailer truck in your life, barreling toward you. Expectations Mismatch - Bad! Your expectations rapidly alter, based on experience and you have now generated an expectations picture in an instant that involves a gigantic truck crashing into you, destroying your car and killing you and your baby. Frantically you deploy an urgent compare and contrast with the Ideals Pictures - Huge Mismatch! Major Bad! It's almost as if your life flashes before your eyes. You see your hubby or your wife, your house, your beautiful kiddie in the pink dress you got her for Christmas.

When you experience this flashing, your body is doing the compare and contrast and you are witnessing it in action. All those pictures of what you are going to lose when the truck slams into you, this is your body's method of generating chemicals. Your body is frantic now - the contrasts between the mangled steel and the happy warm home are huge - and big contrasts generate big emotions. It starts pumping decision-making chemicals into you as fast as possible and in large quantities.

Desperately, it checks Trend. The truck is getting closer! You are trending towards badness and away from goodness and very rapidly! Emergency! Major major bad Trend. Your body checks trend very briefly, to see if any new information came in while it was processing the other pictures. The answer in this case was no, still trending towards disaster.

Now it's time for your body to generate the proper emotion based on its incredibly rapid assessment of all the factors. In this case, it generates Fear. The purpose of fear is to get you to avoid something bad. It is the Avoid Motherfucker, Avoid! mechanism. The Avoid This Shit! Avoid, Goddammit! mechanism. A wise choice on its part in this case, because you really do need to avoid that truck.

Under your body's chemical influence, instinctively, you swerve to avoid. You drive into a ditch. The maniacal wrong-way truck roars past. You shake. You sweat. You breathe. You make large semi-sobbing heaving chest noises. Your muscles are all weirded out, tense yet weak. You have an incredible overload of chemicals and you have an array of physical reactions designed to process them out now that the danger has passed.

This little story of disaster averted is a good example of exactly the kind of situation emotions were designed for and why they have the properties they do.

Property #1: Emotions are designed to be generated quickly.

One of the alarming things about inconvenient emotions like embarrassment or rage, or shame or overwhelming patriotic sentimentality is that they arise so quickly - before you have a chance to decide whether they're welcome or not.

Emotions are really designed for emergencies in which quick action is needed. Your body does not ask your permission to scan its pictures in an emergency or a high-contrast situation, it does so automatically. Furthermore, it's familiar with its reference pictures and its standard expectations and it doesn't even need to look at them that closely to know when there's a Big Contrast Situation.

For example, you could be trying to have a student-teacher conference with a professor when the professor says something you find demeaning. Your body doesn't even have to look at or study your Expectation Of Being Treated Like You Are Stupid picture or the standard compare and contrast with your body Ideal of Being Respected and Listened To reference picture. It knows this shit already. And so there you are before you know, flush red, feeling huffy and indignant and powerless, all the standard emotions your body has learned to generate in the presence of these particular pictures. You didn't want to feel that way - you just did. This is because your body values speed when it comes to emotions.

Sure if there's a complicated situation where it's not familiar with the particular pictures in question, it will haul them out, spread them all over its drafting table and analyze them, trying to figure out where the matches and the mismatches are and how you should feel about them. In some circumstances, it may take you days to figure out that someone insulted you oh so subtly and now you feel very huffy, because you weren't familiar with that circumstance and didn't have any appropriate pictures handy for that situation.

But not when you're under pressure or there's an immediate decision to be made. Your body is designed to believe that life comes equipped with emergencies and that you'd better be prepared to make decisions in a hurry on very little information if necessary. That's why it keeps the reference pictures always on hand, and likes to generate Expectations pictures for virtually everything. And if necessary, it will slap together a decision-making picture so fast it will look like a blur.

Property #2: Sudden emotions are often wrong.

It's not embarrassing enough that you got all hot and bothered and flustered when you were talking to your professor, it's even more humiliating when you realize later that he was probably just trying to be nice or didn't say what you thought he said.

This is because your body is not interested in accuracy when generating a sudden decision-making emotion - it's interested in safety. It will draw a very bad picture, or look at an outdated one, it will do an incredibly cursory compare and contrast analysis and it will cheat on the side of contrast if it has the least suspicion.

Your body is designed to jump to conclusions. This is why you frequently make a fool of yourself by jumping to conclusions.

When there is something at stake, your body looks much more closely at its pre-drawn pictures than reality - because it likes them better. They're yours, they're homey, they're familiar, sometimes they are even useful. But best of all, they're fast.

This is just the way things work. You can mitigate the speed and the jumping to conclusions aspect of emotions - particularly if they are causing havoc in your life. You do this by training yourself to look at reality instead of your pre-existing pictures. This takes discipline, work, and willpower - or sometimes it just takes a series of situations where you'd really rather look at reality than those stupid pictures you are carting around with you. Sometimes you are just not in the fucking mood to look at your old outdated pictures - fuck 'em, they suck!

When your pictures work, use them. When they don't, haul them out into the light and say to them very sternly, You Need To Improve Yourselves. We are going to redraw you from scratch by using Current Reality as our model and not all that crap we learned a long time ago that we never liked anyway. This will scare your pictures so bad they will be shaking in their boots and sure they'll never live up to your expectations. And then you'll win them over, by suddenly dropping your stern tone and saying very kindly 'oh come on, it won't be so bad. You'll do fine. I'll help.' They'll be like putty in your hands in no time!


Oh goody! More emotions! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! ....


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