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An attempt...

...to draw some defining lines around the phrase "emotional extravagance."

In my brain, it's still a fuzzy concept of the "I know it when it irritates me" variety.

It's not just, or even primarily, about displaying emotions. It's also, or even more, about stuff like amplifying one's emotions, spending a lot of time and energy thinking about and talking about one's emotions, expecting/wanting other people to spend a lot of time thinking/talking about one's emotions, letting one's emotions be primary drivers of one's actions, letting one's emotions be primary determinants of the life story one carries around in one's head and tells others.

(All that stuff would be happening publicly/semi-publicly in order to count, since if it's happening only inside one's head, I wouldn't know about it and it wouldn't irritate me.)

Unpacking "amplifying one's emotions": In my experience, if I have a feeling of mild to moderate intensity, I can do three things: I can leave it alone, I can damp/suppress it (not snuff it completely, but lower its intensity), or I can increase it / whip it up. Amplifying an emotion would be deliberately increasing its intensity.

More as it occurs to me.

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
rmjwell
Aug. 8th, 2003 12:24 pm (UTC)
Don't mind me, I'm just noodling out my own thoughts
It's also, or even more, about stuff like amplifying one's emotions, spending a lot of time and energy thinking about and talking about one's emotions, expecting/wanting other people to spend a lot of time thinking/talking about one's emotions, letting one's emotions be primary drivers of one's actions, letting one's emotions be primary determinants of the life story one carries around in one's head and tells others.

Fascinating. What you describe here maps to my sense of people who seem to... process more than do anything with the results of their processing.

In that regard I find myself in agreement with you.
firecat
Aug. 8th, 2003 01:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't mind me, I'm just noodling out my own thoughts
Processing without doing anything with the processing is a form of extravagance or energy-wasting, but it doesn't map completely onto emotional extravagance because processing isn't always emotionally based and also because emotional extravagance can also be talking a lot about one's emotions without processing about them.

When you say you agree with me, do you mean you have a problem with gerbil-wheel processing that's your problem and not anyone else's? Or do you mean that you dislike gerbil-wheel processing?
rmjwell
Aug. 8th, 2003 01:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't mind me, I'm just noodling out my own thoughts
but it doesn't map completely onto emotional extravagance because processing isn't always emotionally based and also because emotional extravagance can also be talking a lot about one's emotions without processing about them.

Good points both. I wasn't as clear wth my language as I should've been. I didn't mean to say it was a one-to-one mapping, but your description seems to resonate with what I described. Does that make more sense?

do you mean that you dislike gerbil-wheel processing?

I dislike chronic gerbil-wheel processing; I understand how it can occur in a specific problem situation. But I get weary of witnessing it over and over and over for every problem.

And the weariness is my problem.
(Deleted comment)
rmjwell
Aug. 8th, 2003 02:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't mind me, I'm just noodling out my own thoughts
Trust me. I've gotten plenty of applications of real-world aversion therapy to keep me from trying to fix someone else's gerbil-wheeling (I'm sorry, I like the evocative quality too much not to verb it).

I think this thread highlights an area that I've seen (both in myself and in other folks) cause problems. Namely the difference in meaning between

I have a problem with my particular behavior.

I have a problem witnessing/experiencing a particular behavior.

&

I have a problem with my particular behavior when witnessing/experiencing a particular behavior (not necessarily the same particular behavior).

because all three meanings can be derived from the same sentence "I have a problem with [particular behavior]."

Again, just thinking out loud.
firecat
Aug. 8th, 2003 04:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't mind me, I'm just noodling out my own thoughts
Good point. I'm talking about #2 in my posts about this.
rmjwell
Aug. 8th, 2003 05:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't mind me, I'm just noodling out my own thoughts
Gotcha.

Now to scroll back and look at the prior entry armed with this new clearer understanding. :-)
firecat
Aug. 8th, 2003 01:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't mind me, I'm just noodling out my own thoughts
Yep, makes sense. And we agree (surprise!)
rmjwell
Aug. 8th, 2003 03:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't mind me, I'm just noodling out my own thoughts
This agreement thing seems to be breaking out all over. leandra333 last night told me something I said was almost identical to an utterance of your DH. :-)
firecat
Aug. 8th, 2003 04:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't mind me, I'm just noodling out my own thoughts
Heh. Actually, that seems to happen rather frequently.
rmjwell
Aug. 8th, 2003 05:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't mind me, I'm just noodling out my own thoughts
No surprise to me. I've often thought we are more alike in many ways than different. :-)
(Deleted comment)
firecat
Aug. 8th, 2003 01:52 pm (UTC)
I think of "drama queen" as a subset of "emotional extravagance" in which the extravagance is generated by making messes that create emotional responses.
tedesson
Aug. 8th, 2003 03:19 pm (UTC)
Daniel Goleman
He wrote _Destructive Emotions: How can we overcome them?: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama_

It is the report of a seminar conducted in the spring of 2000 where Western Scientists working in the areas of psychology, neurobiology, philosophy and other mind/brain sciences met with a group of Buddhist Monks, including the Dalai Lama, to discuss the different understandings they have of emotions.

I was impressed with the fine grained distinctions about emotions and the causes and effects of emotions that the monks were able to provide.

One of the images that sticks with me is that of the metaphor of the ocean. Negative emotions are like the storm waves on the ocean, moods are like tides, personality is like the currents, and the depths of the mind are like the depths of the ocean, calm and placid and not affected by the movement of the upper reaches very month.

Using this analogy, someone who is emotionally extravagant would deliberately whip up the waves at the surface.

I've known people who did that sort of intensification all the time. I usually call them drama queens, or people who enjoy chaos. I find being with them emotionally exhausting and frustrating. It's a particular sort of self deception which they want everyone to participate in.

Here's a newsletter which describes some strategies for dealing with people who may be like this:
http://www.psychologyforbusiness.com/DestructiveEmployees.htm

firecat
Aug. 8th, 2003 05:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Daniel Goleman
That sounds like a great book.

In my experience, not all people who are emotionally extravagant are unaware of it, and the emotions generated are not all negative. I seem to have a problem with extravagance of positive emotions too.

But yes, self-deceptive drama queens are part of the group.

The newsletter is interesting. I've known a few people who vaguely fit the description provided, but I haven't seen business units ruined by such people. Then again, perhaps I wouldn't know, because I tend not to be the prey of choice for people like that.
kightp
Aug. 8th, 2003 06:41 pm (UTC)
Just wanted to note
... that while I don't have anything productive to contribute (largely because of time constraints - it's not a subject about which I'd want to dash off a quick response), I'm finding this discussion fascinating food for ponderment. Thanks for opening it.
(Deleted comment)
firecat
Aug. 9th, 2003 07:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I've actually been handwaving about this one for quite a while.
bastette_joyce
Aug. 9th, 2003 03:10 pm (UTC)
emotional extravagance
I don't enjoy people who exaggerate their emotions deliberately in order to manipulate others in some way (to get attention or sympathy, or to get someone to do something they want, etc). I get impatient with drama queens who have no sense of perspective about what is or is not a true crisis, and who drain my energy by demanding attention, support, rescuing/favors, etc., especially when they don't give back.

HOWEVER, having said that, I do very much enjoy, and in fact, require, my connections with others to be based on *genuine* emotions. If I can't talk about personal/ emotional issues with someone, then I don't feel close to them. That's the dividing line for me between a close friend and an acquaintance. I have some people in my life where we don't get into "personal space", but those relationships are secondary in my life. Usually they serve some specific purpose (such as co-worker), but there's not a lot of depth there.

I also find it unsatisfying when someone else doesn't like to talk about their emotional issues with me. With those people, I feel shut out and often bored. That's kind of a shame, because I'm at my best when listening to others talk about what they're feeling about things, giving emotional support, insights, and advice when asked for it. Other things, that I'm not so strong in, might be asked of me while my best qualities are wasted.

The tough situation for me is when someone I consider a close friend (or lover) *stops* wanting to relate to me in a personal and emotional way. In that case, a relationship that once felt close stops being satisfying to me. Once closeness has been established, it's hard to regress to something that I consider inferior.

Sadly, our culture doesn't value this kind of connection. First of all, an emotion-driven relationship is considered "feminine", which is automatically devalued in a sexist culture. Subjective, emotional experiences are sneered at in favor of "objective" and "rational" experiences, which are usually considered the masculine view of reality.

I don't actually believe that all men are objective and rational, and all women are subjective and emotional, but there are trends in those directions due to socialization. In other words, that's how we're taught to conform to our gender roles. But then women get a double whammy: not only are we expected to use just one way of expressing ourselves, but as a special bonus prize, "our" way is also considered inferior! But personally, except for the inferiority thing, I think women have it better. I feel much greater personal strength and power basing my choices and perspectives on emotions than I would on theories - or even worse, factoids.

Another problem I've encountered is that lots of people look at those of us who like to talk about feelings a lot as being into "psychobabble", overly focused on navel-gazing, being too new-agey or flaky or something. Or maybe psychologically screwed up - focused on emotional problems because those problems dominate our lives. None of these images are very, um, flattering - and believe me, I've heard them all.

The bottom line for me is, for a relationship to be meaningful, emotional expression and sharing has to be at the center of things. I don't know if that would be considered "extravagant", but I consider it a necessary expense. :)

Joyce
gconnor
Aug. 10th, 2003 12:44 am (UTC)
What do you think of as the opposite of "emotional extravagance"?

It sounds like emotional extravagance is a combination of things:

Being over-expressive, like using broadcasting-type empathy and not really able to receive in turn.

"Acting out" emotions because one can't control them, or just to get a reaction out of someone else. This also includes: expecting others to react to your emotions without your having to *say* how you feel, because that would mean owning up to the feeling.

Reveling in any strong emotion, whether it is good or bad, and "indulging oneself" in behavior or thought patterns that make the feeling stronger. (Myself I seldom have really strong emotions any more, perhaps it is because my life is not filled with drama, but I like to think that it is because when I have a feeling, I acknowledge it and talk about it, rather than hoping it will just go away.)


All that said, there are still some emotions that I might indulge myself in, or even whip up, but they are usually good ones.
firecat
Aug. 10th, 2003 07:45 am (UTC)
Opposite of emotional extravagance: emotional minimalism. That is: downplaying feelings, considering logic/rational thought more important than feelings in making decisions, not having strong feelings, not talking about feelings.

Your list includes much of what I think emotional extravagance is, except "expecting others to react to your emotions without your having to say how you feel" doesn't seem to apply to what I'm thinking about.

I certainly indulge myself in and whip up some emotions. I don't do it frequently in public. I'm more on the minimalist side of things.

I'm aware that emotional minimalism comes with its own set of problems/flaws; mainly, sometimes people don't know how I'm feeling or how strongly I'm feeling when they should, I have a hard time knowing what I want because I don't have strong feelings, I have a hard time making decisions because ditto, sometimes people consider me boring because I'm not effusive.

But emotional minimalism doesn't bug me the way emotional extravagance does. (I repeat, it's my problem that it bugs me.)
bastette_joyce
Aug. 10th, 2003 01:32 am (UTC)
emotional extravagance
(Note: I'm not experienced at posting in livejournal, so I'm experimenting with putting in HTML codes. Sorry if it turns out they don't work and you end up just seeing the codes. Comments that are (or are supposed to be) in italics are quoted from the last post, which I am responding to.)

What do you think of as the opposite of "emotional extravagance"?

Emotional stinginess, uptightness, being repressed, being unexpressive, having a bland affect, coldness.

It sounds like emotional extravagance is a combination of things:

Being over-expressive


Who gets to define what "over" expressive is? What's the standard?

To me, emotional extravagance is: Being rich in feeling and not being afraid to express it, warmth, openness, intensity, magnetism, charisma.

Reveling in any strong emotion, whether it is good or bad, and "indulging oneself" in behavior or thought patterns that make the feeling stronger.

I think people who rely on artificial means to amplify their emotions are actually *lacking* a true connection to their feelings. They're people who have to create dramatic emotional scenes because they're so out of touch with themselves that they can't stand the emptiness and boredom. Whereas people who are experiencing genuine emotional extravagance don't need to create it - they already feel plenty strong enough.

But yes - strong feelings are certainly something to revel in! They're about being alive.

Joyce
firecat
Aug. 10th, 2003 07:51 am (UTC)
Re: emotional extravagance
I think people who rely on artificial means to amplify their emotions are actually *lacking* a true connection to their feelings.

This might be part of what bugs me about what I'm calling "emotional extravagance". I sometimes get a sense of "I'm trying to convince myself | my audience of my emotions, but I'm not sure I believe it myself."

In that case, it might come from the same place as material extravagance - surrounding yourself with expensive stuff because your life is really empty otherwise.
pir_anha
Aug. 12th, 2003 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: emotional extravagance
an aspect of emotional extravaganze that bothers me a lot is in this category. i don't necessarily know whether there is a missing connection to actual emotions, but the amplification seems to be done to get the maximum results -- extra-loud emotions to get people to pat one on the back, "attention-whoring".

i am not entirely sure where i am on the scale myself -- according to my own standard, i am more on the emotionally minimal side of the spectrum, because i prefer to act from reason, not from emotion, and i prefer calm expression of conflict over raw anger; that sort of thing.

but i actually communicate as a matter of course with friends about serious emotions, i do a lot of internal navel gazing, and relay the results to people it concerns. and i don't even mind discussing emotions of mine in public. i am not very likely, however, to do the actual emoting in public.

in response to somebody ... joyce (?) who asked who sets the standard -- i do :) i mean, in discussions such as this, i have an internal definition of "the standard according to me". i don't expect others to share it, and i engage in these sorts of discussions to find out where we differ.
kyubi
Aug. 12th, 2003 12:07 am (UTC)
a random phrase that boinged into my head
(courtesy, apparently, of "Language Geeks 'R Us"):

"emotions for effect, not affect"
firecat
Aug. 12th, 2003 01:38 pm (UTC)
Re: a random phrase that boinged into my head
as synonymous with emotional extravagance?
elynne
Aug. 12th, 2003 10:07 am (UTC)
Hm. I'm trying to figure out if I see myself as "emotionally extravagant" by your definition. I'm curious, and asking this in a completely not-upset *handwave* way: do you see me as behaving emotionally extravagantly? Consistently, or occasionally?

Sometimes I do indulge my emotions, and let them make decisions for me. Other times, not. I dunno. In poking at the idea, I find that I'm not bothered by emotional extravagance per se; mostly, I'm thoroughly disgusted with drama queening, which I see as amplifying emotions specifically to garner reactions from other.

If a person is feeling extravagantly emotional for whatever reason and wants to talk about it, that's one thing; if a person is feeling extravagantly emotional and wants to talk about it in order to get a specific response, that's another. I'll also add that when a person is up front about what kind of response they want - along the lines of egoboo, or just saying "I'm feeling fragile/happy right now, I'd like to get support in this way" - it doesn't annoy me at all. That gives me the option of not responding at all, if my reaction to the situation is not what they are looking for. It gives me the information I need to make an informed decision, as opposed to flailing around (heh), being excessively emotional, and then lashing out at people who give the "wrong" reactions.

More words later, maybe. :]
firecat
Aug. 12th, 2003 01:52 pm (UTC)
In my opinion, you behave in an emotionally extravagant way sometimes, and other times not at all. I'm willing to be more specific, but I won't without your permission.

I realize something about my concept, reading your 3d paragraph: I think feeling emotional - even intensely so - isn't "emotional extravagance" per se. Emotional extravagance is about how one behaves, not how one feels. Internally, I guess it's also about the level of reaction as compared to the degree of stimulus. If one gets very upset over a glass of spilled milk, I think that's emotionally extravagant. If one gets very upset over one's cat being sick, that's not extravagant. Just like paying $2,000 for a watch is extravagant, but paying $2,000 for a computer isn't.

(It's definitely a judgement call about whether an emotional reaction fits a stimulus. The whole concept involves a judgement call that it's probably not very nice to make about someone else. Which is why I describe it as "my problem.")

Regarding flailing/lashing, I think that qualifies as emotionally extravagant in that the flailing/lashing tends to end up creating more intense emotions and reactions all round. In some cases it's manipulative, and in other cases a person just acts from emotion without really knowing yet what response they want. Both bug me, but the manipulative variety bugs me more.
lcohen
Aug. 12th, 2003 12:50 pm (UTC)
i've been reading this with interest and trying to decide if i am emotionally extravagant under your definition or not. still not sure. i do share my emotions with people--i try to make sure it's consensual. one of the early focuses of my first go-round with therapy was to try *not* to have my emotions rule my behaviour--that is, for example, to do things even if i felt shy, scared, terrified. i think i've been somewhat successful with that although it's an ongoing process.

much to think about--this is being an interesting conversation.
firecat
Aug. 12th, 2003 05:42 pm (UTC)
To me, you don't come across as emotionally extravagant.

Yeah, based on what little I know about your life, I think you have been successful with doing stuff even if fearful.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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