We can’t turn off our emotional systems and we all share the same emotions.

December 6, 2023 by Joshua
in Awareness, Education, Leadership

I’ve held off on writing this post since I think some people may misunderstand me. My goal is to help raise self-awareness.

NYU has posted posters like this one all over campus. I think they are mostly responding to the Israel-Hamas situation, though could apply to others.

I grew up not learning much about emotions or making myself aware of them. Leadership classes in business school moved me to increase my self-awareness, by which I mean consciously being aware of what emotions I feel in a given moment and how the human emotional system works. I’ve found improving this self-awareness among my life’s greatest improvements. I consider it a big part of maturation.

As best I can tell, our emotional systems all share the same palette of emotions. We may feel different ones at different times for different reasons, but everyone’s emotional system can prompt all the same emotions. Have you heard of an emotion someone else felt but you never did? We all have the potential to feel love, anger, dismay, confusion, etc.

To say “Hate has no place at NYU” seems like saying “Thumbs have no place at NYU” or “Spleens have no place at NYU.” We all have the wiring to hate. To say it has no place at NYU means no human has a place at NYU.

To clarify: I understand they don’t mean it literally. I’m not trying to single out NYU. I hear these phrases everywhere. Overall, I’m confident I agree with their intended message, though I can’t be sure, since whatever they mean to communicate, they aren’t communicating it. I can’t imagine they mean to keep out an essential human emotion. I think they mean the expression or manifestation of hating people in a way that harms them, though, again, I can’t be sure. I don’t think they mean you have no place if you hate that it rained the day you wore your new outfit. I don’t know if they mean you have no place if you hate racism.

My point is that they are promoting lowering self-awareness. They are implying an emotion everyone feels can be turned off. Our culture makes self-awareness hard enough already. Why add to it? Why not express a point so easily misunderstood accurately?

You’re not a bad person because you possess the circuitry for hate. We all share it. You don’t choose to be born with a human emotional system. Personally, I consider the human emotional system beautiful and wouldn’t promote pulling any parts out.

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