“Homo sentimentalis cannot be defined as a man with feelings (for we all have feelings), but as a man who has raised feelings to a category of value. As soon as feelings are seen as a value, everyone wants to feel; and because we all like to pride ourselves on our values, we have a tendency to show off our feelings.
The transformation of feelings into a value had already occurred in Europe some time around the twelfth century: the troubadours who sang with such great passion to their beloved, the unattainable princess, seemed so admirable and beautiful to all who heard them that everyone wished to follow their example by falling prey to some wild upheaval of the heart.
[…] It is part of the definition of feeling that it is born in us without our will, often against our will. As soon as we want to feel (decide to feel), feeling is no longer feeling but an imitation of feeling, a show of feeling. This is commonly called hysteria. That’s why homo sentimentalis (a person who has raised feeling to a value) is in reality identical to homo hystericus.
This is not to say that a person who imitates feelings does not feel. An actor playing the role of old King Lear stands on the stage and faces the audience full of the real sadness of betrayal, but this sadness evaporates the moment the performance is over. That is why homo sentimentalis shames us with his great feelings only to amaze us a moment later with his inexplicable indifference.” (pp. 218-9)
Kundera, Milan. “Immortality”. Faber and Faber, London, 1991