In the dream, I was a passenger on a brightly colored cartoon railroad train. We riders were helpless observers to the chase scene involving the train and a black helicopter in pursuit. As the train traversed a very high trestel bridge, I awakened.
As I jotted down the few parts of the dream I could remember, I experienced a mixture of emotions I’ve never before felt. It wasn’t happiness, sadness, melancholy, humor, fear, nor wonder. Well, maybe wonder was involved, but the wonder was about the emotion, not the emotion itself.
I switched off the bedside lamp and began to contemplate the dream emotion. Was the emotion just a primal feeling without a name? Do animals experience this emotion? Do they feel the same emotions we do, or do we anthropomorphize an aspect that they don’t actually have?
By this time I was fully awake, alert, and flummoxed. I observed the various fresh emotions emerging and going away. I took a deep breath and asked myself why I thought it was important to label the strange dream emotion.
Does the name affect the emotion? When I see that a bowl of potato salad has been prepared with chopped pickles, I feel a mild disgust. Does this emotion arise from a memory of negative association with that type of potato salad? Or is the disgust an interpretation of a biological protective instinct? Can I simply feel the aversion without labeling it as disgust?
Just the process of remembering my feelings of disgust over chopped pickles mixed into potato salad makes me feel and taste the dislike of that recipe. The label certainly awakened the feeling. On a deeper level, is the emotion different from the label?
I soon relized that my mind was juggling two different emotions. There was the nasty potato salad reaction and there was the arcane dream emotion. My mind had gotten noisy because of my preference of labeling emotions. It seems that I like to name feelings in order to strengthen them and allow them some sort of continuity.
Once I can categorize them, I can communicate them. That’s how I can tell you that I do not like to eat potato salad that contains chopped pickles. This is also why I feel the emotion of frustration because I don’t have a label for the emotional state I felt after the cartoon dream. Furthermore, the more I attempted to find a category for the dream emotion, the less I felt it. Eventually, all I could say about the emotion was that it was one I’ve never felt before.
Again, why did I feel the need to find a name for the emotion I felt after awakening from the dream? Was it a desire for catharsis? I noticed that monkey mind threatened to confuse and conflate the process. I had grasped onto the emotion because it was unusual and fascinating. I was reluctant to simply let it go. Even now, it is difficult to let go of the need to describe it to you.
Even the complex nature of the English language and its vocabulary offers no name for the particular emotion that I experienced. This is quite a conundrum. Maybe the German language has a name for the emotion. If not, perhaps I can coin a new German compound noun.
The thought of German brings to mind the name of a different emotion. This new thought distracts me. I’ll write about that one, tomorrow.