A good word for feelings that are real but not true?
October 5, 2015 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Is there a simple, pretty, clean, non-judgmental term that can describe the state of feeling something strongly that is not correct in a larger context? While I’ve seen terms that capture aspects of this, they have problems: Michael Kimmel’s description of “angry white men” as experiencing “aggreived entitlement” is tied to the decline of privilege. “Misapprehension“ and “misperception” capture the incorrect reading of reality but not the sentiment.
posted by Going To Maine to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
"Sincere"? (Doesn't imply accuracy.) Does that fit what you're thinking of?
posted by kidbritish at 2:47 PM on October 5, 2015

Response by poster: Something can be sincere while true, though, so not quite. I mean, this may be a quest that has to finish up in German.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:49 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Sincerely held belief" is one that comes to my mind, which doesn't imply anything as to whether the belief is true or not. Just that they really believe it is.
posted by zizzle at 2:50 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

can you explain what you mean by "true"? i'm having a hard time working out how any feeling can be true or false.
posted by andrewcooke at 2:51 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not catchy or concise, but I think I would use "emotions based on false beliefs" (or "false assumptions").
posted by jaguar at 3:02 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Delusion: an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument

Fallacy: a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument.
posted by melissasaurus at 3:13 PM on October 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: can you explain what you mean by "true"? i'm having a hard time working out how any feeling can be true or false.

The example in Angry White Men would be for men who are suffering from a misdirected rage at women. They are suffering because of economic decline, paying alimony they can't afford etc. - a number of very real problems that the system isn't taking into account. So their feelings are real. However, their outrage is misdirected at feminism and is, at least partly, less due to misandry and more to society becoming more equitable.

Delusion and fallacy can both fit the bill, but in the ideal case there would be something less judgemental - I wouldn't want to describe a friend as “delusional”. “Laboring under a misapprehension” is closer.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:17 PM on October 5, 2015

Best answer: Steven Colbert used the term "truthiness" for things that feel intuitively true, despite whether or not they are. That might apply here.
posted by Itaxpica at 3:18 PM on October 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Can you do something with the word "subjective"? "Subjective feelings" maybe?
posted by cecic at 3:21 PM on October 5, 2015

Best answer: fauxlings? ;)
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:23 PM on October 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

Misconception: a view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding.

Self-deception: a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument.

Mistaken belief
posted by melissasaurus at 3:36 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Misbelief
posted by melissasaurus at 3:37 PM on October 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't have *a* word for you yet, but what you're trying to describe sounds like... justified but misdirected anger. Is that what you're getting at?
posted by tel3path at 3:47 PM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Or if you had to choose a catchphrase, would "justified anger, misplaced blame" fit the bill?

If I can boil it down to few words, I might be able to articulate this one word that is on the tip of my tongue.
posted by tel3path at 3:48 PM on October 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: That also sounds pretty good, but yeah, it'd be nice to have a one word answer.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:48 PM on October 5, 2015

I tend to describe strong feelings I have but cannot intellectually justify as being non-rational. The use of non- (or a- for that matter) doesn't carry quite the same insulting denotation as irrational, yet makes clear that the feelings are not based in logic and fact.
posted by Vigilant at 6:09 PM on October 5, 2015

I think of aspersions or to inveigh against as blame that is not true but it is judgemental (to me at least). And spurious and traduce seem to be wandering too far away and malice and calumniate both sound judgemental as they imply purposeful malice in the wrongful asperations. The object of the blame is a whipping boy but I can't find what the "whipper" may be called. Missassesment seems a kinder way to point out they are mistaken in their interpertation, but doesn't label the blaming behaviour. I keep circling around to misjudge or misconstrue, but they do not capture the sentiment of "put two and two together and get five". In your example, it also appears there is causal simplification where a complex system has been reduced by the fallacy of the single causation, often using a hasty generalisation and misleading vividness.
posted by saucysault at 6:11 PM on October 5, 2015

Marxists (and later feminists) used the term False Conciousness to describe this. It tends to make people defensive though so perhaps too much judgement but I can't think of any way that can tell people they are wrong that won't come across that way.
posted by srboisvert at 6:15 PM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

In your example, I would call that using a legitimizing myth to reinforce hegemonic masculinity. Not punchy, I know, but it's not a socially value-neutral scenario, and the object of the anger is not coincidental. "Punching down" is probably the casual equivalent.

For something where the feeling arises in the absence of social structures supporting it (e.g., stubbing your toe and being mad at the ottoman), or where you just want to avoid connotations of judgment, "misdirected anger" as suggested above works, I think.
posted by thetortoise at 9:43 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

willful, steadfast, adamant, implacable, dogged
posted by maggieb at 3:04 AM on October 6, 2015

Ambrose Bierce suggested "Positive: Wrong at the top of your lungs."

It seems to me that you are asking for a word that embraces two ideas, sincerity and error. If I wanted to handle that in a non-judgmental way I believe I would need to explain why the error might be a reasonable understanding of the issue. This could take two sentences, or a carefully constructed compound sentence. ("...he mistakenly believed that up was down...." covers the ground, but it seems a bit spare.)

Or it may be more complicated, and require you to put you and the reader on the same page so that you could defend your idea using reason. However, this sort of argument is usually too annoying to both sides to be successful--all you can do is try. If you told me that 2+2 = 5, I might show you the error without insulting you if I could figure out a way to not sound condescending. If you refused to accept my argument, then I might have to dig up another, less neutral word to describe your stance. A mistaken belief is not the same thing as a willful error, but bridging the gap exposes you too many perils. A person may be resolute, stubborn, or a pig-headed fool. (I stole that, too.)

In a case where you are dealing with value-laden ideas, the ground gets soggy very fast. I don't believe it's possible to challenge certain basic underpinnings without insulting those who hold them dear. So, no neutral term exists that both you and the person you wish to persuade will accept. If you were to try to convince Catholics that Jesus was merely a deluded stone mason it would be easy to see why that might not work--dogma is a most resilient stone in which to scribe beliefs. Convincing a person that displaying the Stars and Bars is not a simple statement of pride works the same way, though you need to go through many fewer convolutions before you hit bedrock. At some point neutrality becomes moot.

Another useful word is "oxymoron." It's useful because, like most labels, it ends the discussion. They will know what you think of their ideas, and they aren't likely to continue trying to set your mind right about it.
posted by mule98J at 9:34 AM on October 6, 2015

I would describe this as holding a false conviction or being falsely convinced, I think.
posted by bluebird at 10:35 AM on October 6, 2015

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