Context and Emotion

A cliché: the person who volunteers in a developing country. When she returns, she beams gratitude for what we have and take for granted in our society.

Living and working with people who do not have enough to eat; who often do not have access to clean water – this context gives a different perspective to what “a hard life“ really means.

But this is the same mechanism we activate when we compare ourselves to someone who earns less than us, who knows less than we do, who is less capable than we are at any activity we value.

Both comparisons activate the same mechanism; however, one is admired; the other, unpalatable.

The difference is “gratitude.” In the first paragraph, I used the word gratitude to describe the feeling the volunteer has. In the third paragraph, I did not attribute an emotional state to the comparison with those who have less than us. It was the reader’s brain that filled this void.

What word did you choose?

Painting: Divas e Lazarus, by Leandro Bassano.