We shall always tend to consider people’s distress objectively—that is, to place ourselves, with our own wants and sensibilities, in their conditions, and then to examine what occasions we should find in them for experiencing happiness or unhappiness. This method of looking at things, which seems objective because it ignores the variations in subjective sensibility, is, of course, the most subjective possible, since it puts one’s own mental states in the place of many others, unknown though they may be. Happiness, however, is something essentially subjective. No matter how much we may shrink with horror from certain situations—of a galley-slave in antiquity, of a peasant during the Thirty Year’s War, of a victim of the Holy Inquisition, of a Jew awaiting a pogrom—it is nevertheless impossible for us to feel our way into such people (I would argue for the highly aware/developed and stable empath that it is possible, though highly unlikely and highly improbable in general in regards to the masses – Cribb interjection) —to divine the changes which original obtuseness of the mind, a gradual stupefying process, the cessation of expectations, and cruder or more refined methods of narcotization have produced upon their receptivity to sensations of pleasure and unpleasure. Moreover, in the case of the most extreme possibility of suffering (I will add “experiencing” as a possible substitute – Cribb interjection), special mental protective devices are brought into operation.
Civilization and Its Discontents
Sigmund Freud 1930