Second hand feeling – feeling what others feel

4 januari, 2010

Ursprungligen publicerat på Inculture. Skrivet av Katarina Graffman.

Watching a beautiful reunion of a wild lion with its former owner brings many people to tears. Laughing at a little kitten or a cute panda sneezing, or the latest; a baby elephant sneezing and scaring itself. These are sweet little youtube-clips that may brighten our day.

There are of course millions – billions maybe?! – other clips that make us laugh, cry, feel sympathy, nauseaus or even disgust. The interesting part is that we get a second hand feeling.

Feelings are what thrive us when we communicate with people. As SvD´s 100 känslor Linda Backman and John Airaksinen explain; when one asks its friend how the weekend was, one wants to know the emotion the weekend gave, not what wine they had for dinner. The feeling is what gives us an explanation we can use and transform into an emotinal bond with ones friend.

But when we watch an emotional clip, the feeling that we get is more a reaction to the reaction of the people in the clip. We can´t feel the sadness that an old man feels while listening to Schumanns Träumerei. Instead we get a second hand feeling – we translate his sadness into our sadness; we borrow his feeling and we feel his feeling.
But which is more real? The authentic feeling or our second hand feeling? Or is both equally real?

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