Being Human

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Hemet-San Jacinto Democrats

If you Google “human being,” you will see the following: “a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.”

Britannica starts out: “Human being, a culture-bearing primate …..” and goes on to list items that make up human culture like art, dance, music, literature, and emotion among the things that make human unique among life on earth. These things make humans stand above other species, especially emotion.

Psychologist haven’t reached a consensus as to what are the basic human emotions. Googling “human emotions” will give lists of 4 or 6 or 7 or 9 basic emotions.

The concept of “basic” or “primary” emotions dates back at least to the Book of Rites, a first-century Chinese encyclopedia that identifies seven ‘feelings of men’: joy, anger, sadness, fear, love, disliking, and liking.

From Psychology Today, “It is said that basic emotions evolved in response to the ecological challenges faced by our remote ancestors and are so primitive as to be ‘hardwired,’ with each basic emotion corresponding to a distinct and dedicated neurological circuit. Being hardwired, basic emotions (or ‘affect programs’) are innate and universal, automatic, and fast, and trigger behavior with a high survival value.”

From kansashealthsystem.com, “Our bodies are hardwired to feel emotions – whether we express them or not is our choice. Feeling sadness, anger, or joy are natural responses to all the events our brains process every day. Throughout history, emotions have played a big role in human evolution. Going back millions of years, our brains developed emotions to pass along responses to certain events to help preserve the species. It’s why seeing a predator naturally makes us feel fear – so we know we need to run to save our lives. Emotional expression is simply the acknowledgment of these emotions we are built to feel. Healthy expression allows us to understand the emotions, truly feel them and move on.”

Beyond the basic emotions, there are many secondary emotions.

Among them are empathy and compassion.

Being able to sense, to feel what another human is feeling is part of our human nature, or it is for most of us.

There are a few among us that are unable to feel these emotions. They lack empathy. It is one of the signs of narcissism. From Psychology Today: “The hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships.

People with NPD often try to associate with other people they believe are unique or gifted in some way, which can enhance their own self-esteem. They tend to seek excessive admiration and attention and have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat.”

We have all witnessed these hallmarks of NPD over the past four years. Donald Trump provides us with a great example of narcissism or NPD.

It is easy to respond to this behavior with anger or hate, but pity would be a more appropriate response. Most of us will tear up while watching a sad story unfold on television or in a movie. We also occasionally tear up when we see someone else experiencing a deep feeling of love. We feel emotional. Those suffering from NPD often never feel these emotions. They go through life without ever knowing what compassion and empathy feel like, unable to enjoy the emotions and uplifting of others. It is these feelings, these emotions that make us human. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be devoid of these emotions. I do feel pity for those who lack these emotions. I also look forward to having a President who often shows he has these feelings. Now if we could only get rid of the other narcissist in Washington, the current Senate Majority Leader.

-Dick Gale, President of Hemet-San Jacinto Democrats

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