I challenge readers to find an emotion that does not have “meaning.”
Emotions that have no meaning do exist, but are not common and are generally ignored.
What is “meaning” in this context?
Meaning here means, quite specifically, “that which is connected to (interconnected in) a semiotic network.”
Emotions arise due to bodily functions, metabolism, external events, communication events, life events, etc.
Once an emotion arises it is either discarded (given no “meaning”) or it is taken up into a semiotic network.
Once it is taken up into a semiotic network, an emotion will resonate within that network, have an import and “meaning” based on that network.
For example, a single impression of microaggression will almost certainly be defined by prior learning, by the prior existence of a semiotic network that accepts and defines this sort of perception.
That is to say, if the perceiver has been trained or self-taught to perceive and react to microaggression, their preformed sensibilities (its “meaning”) will respond to it, often far more strongly than conditions warrant.
A similar analysis applies to any emotion.
Watch yourself as you discard the brief feeling you might get from looking at a nondescript wall or a leaf curled on the ground. Compare emotional reactions you don’t discard, such as ones involving human expressions, tone of voice, things left unsaid, etc.
This shows that we will learn more about emotions by analyzing the semiotic networks that give them meaning rather than trying to trace them back to their intangible origins or follow their ambiguous development.
Emotions do develop as the networks that “hold” them develop and/or as the emotion itself is given greater or lesser prominence within its network(s).
In this sense, emotions can grow very large or become very small.
Ones that had meaning can and do disappear. But no emotion will appear and maintain itself for long without being taken into a semiotic network, given a meaning or assigned a meaning.
Notice how you have sensibilities and emotions connected to how you have been trained. And notice how these emotions and sensibilities are different from others who have not been trained as you have.
A trained gardener, salesperson, doctor, cook, surfer, etc. has emotions and sensibilities that are different from people who have not had their training, whether that training is formal or informal.
If you just spend time thinking about something you will be “training” yourself, developing different sensibilities and emotions about whatever it is.
Humans are semiotic animals that spend most of their time in semiotic environments.
A semiotic network communicates both with the self and with others.
Semiotic networks include everything that can be communicated, including language, ideas, emotions, beliefs, values, memories, skills, and so on.
If you were trained in a certain safety procedure and you agree with it (thoroughly putting out campfires, for example), it will drive you nuts to see someone ignore the basics. This is true for almost anything you were trained in and agree with.
Training gives us richer and different emotions, either in kind or in degree.
Training strengthens and broadens the semiotic network(s) holding or defining emotions, thus making them stronger, more sensible, more reasonable or, conversely, weaker, less sensible, less reasonable.
“Personalities” develop through training, some of it formal, much of it informal and idiosyncratic.