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The Feelings

( Originally Published 1899 )

THE state of the self produced by the excitation of the nerves is called sensation. The action of the waves of light produces the sensation of sight; the waves of sound, the sensation of hearing, etc. All these sensations are- called feelings. They are feelings, however, whose origin is purely sensuous. As was explained in a former chapter, the mass of physical feelings or sensations with which the child is constantly filled constitutes in large measure his conscious self. Feelings are the internal side of the self. They are the self alive internally with movement. As the pulse-beats are the sign of the existence of the physical life, so the feelings are the sign in consciousness of the existence of the mental life. They are al-ways forcing themselves into consciousness as a whole, making the tone or temperament of the child, and as individuals demanding particular attention to the exclusion of others. Feelings are purely mental states in distinction from mental activities. These " states " are, however, internal activities. They bear in a general way the same relation to the mental activities of thought and will that cellular activities do to muscular activities. Without the first in either case the other could not arise.

The second class of feelings is called emotions. They are produced by the presence of some thought in the mind. Their origin is wholly mental. They accompany all intellectual activity and owe their characteristics to it as sensations owe their characteristics to the nature of the physical stimulus. As some sensations are pleasurable and others painful, so also are the emotions. Both get their agreeable or disagreeable character from their harmony or lack of harmony with the self. If in harmony, satisfaction and pleasure result; if out of harmony, the opposite. Sensations pre-cede the thought, and are that out of which the mind gets meaning or thought. Emotions rise as the idea comes, and may be said to follow it. Hold an apple before a child; the sensation of sight occurs, and he interprets it as that of an apple; immediately an emotion of pleasure arises. Bring him some bitter medicine; following the sensation and thought of what it is comes a feeling of displeasure. He hears some one speak, and. recognizes the sound as that of mother's voice; emotions of pleasure fill his soul. He hears a bark, and recognizes it as that of a dog that has bitten him; fear at once possesses him. He is expecting pudding for dinner, and mother brings him pie instead; disappointment possesses him as he sees what it is. In all these cases sensations only would result had he not given them meaning. Emotions followed only after the sensations were interpreted.

Sensations always mingle more or less with emotions, each enhancing the pleasure or pain of the other according as they happen to be in or out of accord. The sound of a voice is more pleasing to the child as there mingles with it the emotion arising from the discovery that it is mother's voice. The bark of the dog suddenly becomes harsh as the child discovers that it is that of the biting dog instead of his own little pet, as he had supposed. A keepsake is more gratifying to the eye than its mate of the same material and form because of the emotions it begets. For this reason children's emotions and interests are aroused most readily by poetry and music. The jingle of words, the rapid recurrence of rhythm and rhyme, and the abrupt changes in movement, pitch, and volume excite sensations, sustain the attention, and quicken the emotions. Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle, has far more pleasure and interest for the child than the cat and the violin. Rock-a-bye baby upon the tree top would have died the day it was born had there been only the motion of ordinary prose in it.

Children's emotions usually reveal themselves in nervous activity of some kind. It does not take an expert to read a child's feelings in the expression on his face, the light of his eye, or the movements of his hands and arms. Only as a child learns to dissemble can he repress the revelation. In some children, as you will see by observation, the sympathy between the nervous system, both vegetative and cerebro-spinal, is much more intimate and responsive than in others.

A little nephew of mine had such a telltale countenance that even the slightest shades of emotion were constantly expressing themselves in the ever changing lights and shadows that played over his face. His complexion was as pure and clear as truth itself, and the freshness of each returning blush made me feel that I was nearer the actual soul of the child than I had ever been before. Wonder, pleasure, doubt, confidence, fear, anger, surprise, humor, embarrassment, annoyance, disappointment, weariness, supplanted each other in quick succession, outrivaling in variety and beauty the rarest combinations of tints that the most costly kaleidoscopes unfold. Discover how many of the children in your circle are " so nervous " that they become perceptibly or violently agitated as any of the above-named emotions arise; note how the. agitation expresses itself. Classify the results in each case, and, if possible, discover the cause. In fright, some will blush and some will blanch. Why? Discover how the emotions affect appetite, digestion, respiration, circulation, sleep, motor control in general, etc.

In your investigations you will find that the well-balanced emotional nature is usually a sign of a healthy, well-balanced physical organism, reaffirming the idea of their interdependence and emphasizing the importance of everything that has been said concerning the care and development of the body of the child. You will doubtless also discover that you have often dealt unjustly with children because of your lack of knowledge of this fact; that often the very evil you had been trying to cure had but been grievously aggravated by the methods you had pursued. Experiment now in controlling the emotions of the children by giving them appropriate things to think about, and note how promptly physical agitation subsides as some gentler emotion replaces a violent or an unpleasant one.

Many interesting reports have been published on inquiries made concerning the presence and origin of the different emotions in the child, and you will be pleased to make similar investigations in your circle. They seem to show in a general way that many children are entirely devoid of fear even after they enter their teens, and that a small per cent grow into manhood and woman-hood without knowing what fear is save by hear-say; others display fear when but a few months old. The emotion of fear is a stranger to some children until a serious accident has happened to them or their friends, and then they become very timid. Some fear animals, others ghosts, others burglars, others thunder and lightning, others father and mother, others a steam engine, a bridge, water, death, a gun, ridicule, darkness, etc. One colored girl reports to a friend of mine that she fears nothing except a feather! Each of the emotions afford abundant data in similar variety. They all throw a flood of light upon the course to be pursued in the care and management of the child.

You are referred to works more advanced for a full discussion of the various classes of emotions. Emotions may get their characteristies from the relation of the experience to the present time; those arising from a present experience may be called immediate; from recalling a past experience, retrospective; from looking forward to a future experience, prospective. They may get their general characteristics from the objects awakening them, as personal and impersonal. The personal emotions include the social, moral, and religious emotions; the impersonal include the intellectual and aesthetic. Some of these will be treated in independent chapters.

The third great class of feelings is the affections, or the loves and likes. Affections are to be distinguished from the two preceding classes in that they are feelings which result from the new adjustment of the self toward objects which have produced pleasing sensations or emotions. The self naturally goes out in a kindly flow of feeling toward that which produces either. Emotions and sensations are not thus projected. Love must have an object. Likes and loves are always pleasurable, reacting upon the self and intensifying the pleasure of the emotions of which they may be regarded as the overflow. Dislikes and hates are the result of painful sensations and emotions, and the flow of feelings is away from rather than toward that which causes them. Likes and loves identify the self and the object in interest. Dislikes and hates hold them apart. Likes and loves wish well and take pleasure in the well-being of their objects as they do of themselves. Dislikes and hates wish ill and take pleasure in the misfortunes of their objects persons or things.

Children respond in loves and likes with surprising promptness. They very early show a preference for the nurse who handles them so tenderly and hums to them so softly, as well as for the food that gratifies their palate and allays their hunger. Many a mother has found it extremely difficult to displace a nurse in the affections of her child, because the bias had already been given before she was able to give him her attention. In a similar way she finds it almost impossible to get him to eat a different kind of food from that which he has already learned to like. Subterfuges and imitations with no end of coaxing are necessary in many cases to overcome antipathy for other foods. A few sticks of candy, a merry romp, a buggy ride, a kind word in time of need, will, as any one knows, quickly kindle a child's love for the giver. That children's affections are very fickle and are easily transferred is probably due as much to lack of memory in the new pleasure as to anything else. Where the kindly treatment has been of long continuance, however, the affection even in very young children is not so easily disturbed as many people imagine.

If you will make inquiries concerning the children in your circle, you will find many interesting facts pertaining to the origin, development, and extinction of likes and loves. You will see on what slight provocation an affection may spring up and how intense it may be for a few days or weeks, and then how suddenly it may disappear. In some cases the cause of the affection may be discovered at once, and in others no special reason may show itself. Be sure to note the things which most easily arouse the affections of children, and what changes take place in their preferences as they grow older. Some children will be found to possess little or no affection in the true sense of the word, while others respond generously to every force that touches them kindly.

Loves may be classified according to their objects, as love of kindred, love of friends, love of home, love of country, love of society, love of property, love of power, love of action, love of knowledge, love of truth, etc., each having a variety of subdivisions which may readily be discovered by you. The undue preponderance of one of these or the absence of any one of them in a child should raise at once an inquiry concerning its cause.

The fourth class of feelings is called desires. Your investigations have shown you that the children not only love that which contributes to their pleasure and happiness, but that an impulse to possession, to the assurance of the continuance of that object in its present relations to them, is also usually' present in some degree.

Such an impulse is called a desire. Love responds more or less blindly to its stimulus, which is also true of desires in the earlier stages of the child's life. Then its impulsive character is more prominent; but later its object is selected with some discrimination, and its intellectual side appears. On account of the close relationship of the desires and affections, the classes of both are practically the same. Appetites are physical de-sires. Desires are satisfied in the sensation or emotion which their gratification begets. By experience the child learns what objects or classes of objects produce certain sensations and emotions, and he very early begins the regulation of his desires in accordance with that knowledge. Such regulation is naturally directed to physical desires first, and next to those of a higher order. Desires whose gratification produce pain, or less pleasure than others, are repressed, or subordinated to those whose satisfaction insures him greater enjoyment. He suppresses a desire for the time being, that its gratification may be more complete in the future. Gradually physical desires and those relating to the self alone become subordinated to the moral desires and to those affecting the pleasure and happiness of his fellows. This process of organizing the desires and its reactive effect on the character of the child will be treated further in the chapter on the Will.

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