GOING DEEPER: Elements of the Experiential Array
Emotions not only provide feedback regarding "how we are doing" (that is, the "state" of ourselves as a system), but can also feed forward, establishing a state that brings into the present certain patterns of thinking and behavior. Emotions that feedforward are necessary to maintain the ongoing expression of an ability, and these are called "Sustaining Emotions." In addition there are "Signal Emotions," which provide ongoing feedback regarding the extent to which our Criteria are being satisfied. Signal Emotions signal how well a Strategy is working, and provide the impetus to move from one Operation to another.
Where do we live? This is where:
Please, please don't be so depressed - We'll be married soon, and then these lonesome nights will be over forever - and until we are, I am loving, loving every tiny minute of the day and night - Maybe you won't understand this, but sometimes when I miss you most, it's hardest to write - and you always know when I make myself - just the ache of it all - and I can't tell you. (Zelda Fitzgerald to F. Scott Fitzgerald in Love Letters, by Antonia Fraser)
Our living conditions were abysmal, yet I had never been happier. We slept on broken bunks or on the ground under the stars. If it rained, we got wet. Our tools consisted of picks, axes and shovels. An older woman among us - she was in her sixties - recalled tales of having done similar work after World War I in 1918. She made us feel blessed for the little we did have. (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in The Wheel of Life)
When rage or boredom reappeared, each seemed never to have left. Each so filled me with so many years' intolerable accumulation it jammed the space behind my eyes, so I couldn't see. There was no room left even on my surface to live. My rib cage was so taut I couldn't breathe. Every cubic centimeter of atmosphere above my shoulders and head was heaped with last straws. Black hatred clogged my very blood. I couldn't peep, I couldn't wiggle or blink; my blood was too mad to flow. (Annie Dillard in An American Childhood)
In remembering moments such as these, I retain the sad-sweet reflection of being an only child and having a loyal and loving dog, for in the struggles of life, of the dangers, toils, and snares of my childhood hymns, loyalty and love are the best things of all, and the most lasting, and that is what Old Skip taught me that I carry with me now. (Willie Morris in My Dog Skip)
As we move through our days and our lives we are always feeling. Emotions wash over us and through us, bathing every corner of our awareness. Sometimes they stay with us, slowly flowing or ebbing over the course of a day, or even many days. At other times they come as flash floods. They roar in, seemingly out of nowhere...and are gone moments later, with hardly a wet spot to show they had been there at all. What are emotions?
AN OCEAN OF EMOTION
Emotions may be sinewy or diaphanous, they may be enduring or fleeting, pleasant or unpleasant. But in every case, as has been recognized since before Aristotle, emotions are experiences of the body, involving complicated patterns of hormonal, neurochemical and central nervous system responses. However, no description based strictly on the emotionally intoxicating effects of hormones and neurotransmitters, or on the mapping of central nervous system architecture, fully explains the range and qualities of our emotional experience. (For research into the physiological basis of emotion, see Damasio 2000; Edelman 1993; LeDoux 1998; and Pert 1999)
We often refer to our emotions as "feelings," but not everything we feel is an emotion. Touch a hot stove and you will feel pain and jerk your hand away; neither the sensation of pain nor the behavioral response of jerking your hand away is an emotion. Feeling angry with yourself for touching the hot stove is an emotion, however. What distinguishes sensations from emotions? One of the first things we notice about sensations (and behavioral responses, for that matter) is that they are, for the most part, localized in certain parts of the body. The extent of these "part body" feelings can vary. You can feel a pinpoint of heat on the tip of a finger or feel the body-bathing heat of the summer sun. On the other hand, emotions are "whole body" feelings; people report feeling emotions either "everywhere" or within the trunk of the body (often including the head) and almost always somewhere along the midline. Indeed, when people refer to their emotions you will see that they very often gesture to or touch themselves along the midline of their body. It is also interesting to note that, when relating an unpleasant emotion, people are likely to gesture asymmetrically (their hands at different levels or moving asynchronously, for instance), and are apt to gesture symmetrically when referring to pleasant emotions.
In any case, emotions are "whole body" in that they are experienced as the state of "me," rather than the state of "my finger." Unlike sensations, which are reports about the state of your body at specific locales, emotions are reports about the state of you as a whole system.
Why do we need such whole system reports? As products of evolution, emotions are very efficient ways of organizing the whole organism to respond effectively to those situations that require a full response. For instance, the response of our "animal body" to danger is immediate, extensive and thorough: stillness, orienting toward the danger, crouching, piloerection, accelerated heart beat, flood of adrenaline, tightening of viscera, keen awareness, etc. This whole body response we call "fear," and is one of the six fundamental emotions - along with happiness, sadness, anger, surprise and disgust - that have been identified as characteristic of most mammals (and perhaps other animals as well). Indeed, some researchers consider this set of "universal" emotions to be the only true emotions. (The classic work on what constitute fundamental emotions is, of course, Charles Darwin's The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. For an exploration of the controversies surrounding the identification and classification of emotions, see LeDoux 1998.)
But fear, happiness, sadness, anger, surprise and disgust do not constitute a complete set when it comes to human beings. When we touch that hot stove, instead of feeling angry about our carelessness, we can just as well feel "chagrined" about being so careless. And feeling chagrined does not feel the same as feeling angry. In fact the six universal emotions are better thought of as categories, and within each of these categories we experience a whole range of emotions.
What is more, we go outside those categories, identifying as distinct experiences emotions that do not at all fit into any of those six "universals" without a dogmatic shoehorn. Emotions such as "curiosity," "desire," "compassion," and "love" are not simply variations on any of those six fundamental emotions. And yet we can feel curiosity, desire, compassion and love every bit as strongly as happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. In addition to happy, we can also have as distinct emotional experiences feeling thrilled, ecstatic, pleased, content, joyful, cheerful, exultant, delighted, gratified, satisfied, excited, tickled, eager, energized and so on. While all of these emotions may be from the same "family," each of them feels different. (If you doubt this, access them one at a time and notice how each one affects you.)
To say that emotions are of the body is not to say that is all they are. Our bodies are superb responders, constantly recognizing, collating and adjusting to the relentless flow of sensations and perceptions that impinge on us. This affecting flow is not limited to direct sensory experience, however. In human beings, emotions are also responses to meaning. Our ideas about the significance of things that exist and happen, both in the world around and within us, is as important a part of the flow of our lived - and emotional - world as are our sensory experiences.
Your body is a fertile ground for emotional experience; whenever the seed of a conscious distinction is dropped into it, emotions will grow. (This same point regarding the process of making distinctions and the evolution of experience was made initially in Essay 3: Distinctions, and we have returned to it again and again in every Essay since. It is a fundamental process in human experience - perhaps the fundamental process in human experience - and is as significant to the flowering of our emotional experience as it is to the broadening of our perceptions and beliefs.) "Mind" and "organism" are always engaged with one another, and in human beings, mind is inextricably linked to language. The penchant for naming that comes with language allows us to pull into the foreground of our experience finer and finer distinctions regarding the patterns of sensations we feel. The layered and ever-changing tides, storms, calms, winds and waves of hormones, sensations, and perceptions are constantly shifting and may or may not be in consciousness. But they are nevertheless always "there." When we bring our attention to them, we make distinctions about those body experiences, noticing and labeling certain sets or patterns as particular emotions. Again, this infinite array of sensations, plus the ability of language to mark them out, makes it possible for us to distinguish an enormous (and perhaps infinite) range of emotional experience.
The range of noticed emotional experience will vary from individual to individual, and this variation is largely due to differences in how they make distinctions about their experience. For instance, individuals who tend to make few distinctions in their experience might feel either "happy" or "not happy," and nothing in between. Other individuals who make unusually fine distinctions may well experience (for example) "pleased" and "rather pleased" as completely different emotions.
Each of the various emotions we experience not only feels different, each of them has different implications for how we respond as well. For instance, when we feel "satisfied" with a gift someone has given us, our response (what we think, say and do) will probably be significantly different than if we feel "ecstatic" with the gift. That is obvious. It may not be as obvious, however, that feeling "satisfied" and feeling, say, "content" are also likely to lead to different responses. They are very close as emotions go. Nevertheless, if you compare examples of feeling each of them, you will discover that they affect your experience and responses somewhat differently. For example, receiving a gift that you had wanted could lead you to feel either "content" or "satisfied"; but if you feel content, perhaps your thoughts, behavior and words of thanks toward the giver are a bit warmer than if you feel merely satisfied.
Your subjective experience of the difference between "satisfied" and "content" may be just the reverse of what we described above. That is, for you it may be that feeling "satisfied" leads to a warmer response than feeling "content." In fact, what you feel will be the result of the current situation interacting with your unique personal history of meaning-making in similar circumstances.
Human emotions, then, are inextricably tied to meaning. Whole-body sensations and feelings that coalesce into distinct patterns can become meaningful to us, and we call these distinctive, meaningful patterns "emotions":
Emotions are meaningful physiologically based, whole-system states.
Now we can explore briefly the two significant roles emotions play in determining our experience: expression and influence.
Emotions as Summations of Experience
Imagine that your boss leans in through the door to your office and says, "I really appreciate your work on that report," then ducks back out, and you feel proud. That feeling of pride is your body instantly recognizing and weaving together the significance of countless contemporaneous threads: the fact that the boss is stopping by at all, the particular words he says, the genuine smile, the nod of his head, where he puts emphasis as he speaks, your memory of having worked hard on the report, your recent anxiousness about where you stand with the boss, and so on. All of that comes together viscerally as an emotional experience called "proud." Emotions are the weaving together of the concurrent threads of the moment - sights, sounds, sensations, words, memories and thoughts - into experiential cloaks. A slight change in the mix of the threads of the moment, however, and the emotion may very well come together differently. Had the boss delivered the compliment with a sarcastic tone, your visceral mix might leave you feeling shame. Or, if you knew that you had not put as much effort into the report as you should have, perhaps the emotional summing of the moment would be one of relief, and so on.
This moment-to-moment summing is the source of our emotional fluidity, the weaving of the texture of our ongoing experience. The fact that emotions are always there (you are always "in a state," even if your state is frequently shifting) does not mean we are always consciously aware of them. When you are walking, your brain and body know how you stand in relation to the ground and use that ongoing feedback to make the thousands of adjustments necessary to keep you upright and moving forward, all without intruding on your consciousness. In the same way, our emotions can provide feedback without our being aware of them.
Emotions, then, embody the sum total of the subjective significance of our perceptions and thoughts as they coalesce from moment to moment. And this embodying of significance often happens in the wink of an eye. All of us have had the experience of suddenly being awash in an emotion seconds (minutes or, let's face it, even days and weeks) before our conscious minds catch up and reveal to us what our emotions have already understood.
Emotions as Influencers of Experience
There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed. - Buddha
Emotions do more than express our current states. They also influence how we think and behave. Indeed, our emotions occupy a pervasive position of influence that society, culture, behavior, beliefs, "better judgment," and laws can hardy touch. We may alter our behavior in deference to "those in charge," but our emotions rarely defer, stubbornly answering to no authority beyond their own, sometimes mysterious, precepts. Indeed, it often seems that it is our emotions that are in charge of our experience and behavior. Consequently, they get the credit when we are doing well ("Loving you makes my life so much richer") and shoulder the blame when we stray ("I didn't mean to do that; I was just frustrated").
Even so, our emotions are no more in charge of us than our beliefs, strategies or behaviors are in charge of us. You may have a favorite organ - lungs or heart or liver - but it is not in charge of the body. It is of the body, an essential aspect of the system, each element of which contributes to the functioning of the body. Similarly, emotions are an essential aspect of a system; not running the system and yet always influencing it. And so when you feel sad, for instance, that feeling can orient your attention toward what is awful in your world, trigger internal dialogue about how bad things are, decrease your sense of energy, slow your body movements and so on. Then something significant happens - a friend says a loving word, a child laughs, you recall a warm memory - and you begin to feel joyful. Now this feeling of joy is influencing what you attend to, say to yourself, sense in your body, and so on. Now the dynamics of the whole system of your experience stabilize around that emotion. That is, until the next sufficiently significant something happens, stirring a different emotion and compelling the dynamics of the system to reform itself once again.
In our approach to Beliefs we plunged into underlying structure, creating the Belief Template as a way to part those deep waters. But we will not be taking that same plunge with Emotions. What we need to capture about the Emotion in our model is unlike what we need to capture about the Beliefs. Explaining this difference requires a brief but important walk over some terrain we already crossed in the Essays on Beliefs.
Beliefs as expressed in language are "surface expressions" of fundamental, underlying connections or premises. A particular belief can and will be expressed in endless ways. For instance, when an exemplar of negotiation says, "You have to know what makes them tick if you are going to get their heads nodding in unison," our natural logic and experience tells us that this is one way of describing an underlying principle. Since our goal is to adopt the exemplar's structure of experience as our own, the question is, Does this particular surface expression of a belief give us sufficient and appropriate access to the needed structures? In the negotiating example, does attending to what makes people "tick" and looking for head nodding allow us to identify and act from the premises we need to in order to successfully negotiate?
Not wanting to get caught and constrained in a particular surface expression, we try to abstract from it the underlying principle that generated it. The Belief Template is a tool for helping us go quickly and directly to those underlying principles that generate the exemplar's many ways of expressing her belief. There can be many levels of abstraction between these underlying principles and their surface expressions. So we dive through several surface expressions to find the premise beneath, the underlying structure that gives rise to those surface expressions. In so doing, we gain access to the generative structure, the structure that will allow us to generate our own endless surface expressions of that particular belief.
An Emotion, however, is a state and we do not find these layers of abstraction between its surface expression and the experience itself; there is the name of an emotion and the experience to which it refers. While acknowledging that there are always individual differences (in terms of intensity, nuance, duration, and so on), experiencing loneliness, sadness, joy, curiosity, love, contentment and so on are much the same for everyone. And so in modeling we have usually found it sufficient to simply identify those Emotions that help give rise to the ability, without delving into their structures.
This is not to say that emotions do not have structure; they do. These structures have already been explored and described by Leslie Cameron-Bandler and Michael Lebeau in their excellent book, The Emotional Hostage. In their model the relevant distinctions regarding the structure of Emotions include time frame, involvement, intensity, comparison, tempo, criteria and chunk size. Understanding the structure of an Emotion may be important if we want to understand or change a particular emotion. But we do not need to know its structure to have that Emotion. Most human emotions have been experienced at some time or another by all of us. We find that most people have access to the full range of human emotions, and that it is sufficient to know what the exemplar's Emotion is to be able to include it in our modeling of her ability.
Of course it may be that a person is a stranger to a particular emotion, or that she "knows" it but finds it difficult to access into her experience. In any case, if the model requires an Emotion with which you are unfamiliar, it is necessary to do something that makes it possible for you to have ready access to it. And this "something" may well involve easing yourself into the Emotion through its structure. (Again, see Cameron-Bandler and Lebeau for how to do this.)
Emotions as Experienced, Emotions as Observed
We are used to inferring what someone else is feeling by noting their behavior. But as we all know (through sometimes painful and embarrassing personal experience), we are not always accurate in our observations. This ongoing flow of interactions and judgments and misunderstandings and rapprochements suffice for our day-to-day relationships. When modeling, however, we want to be explicit and accurate about what is true in the Exemplar's experience, and not get lost in our judgement of the Exemplar's experience.
In this regard, it is important to recognize that a person's behavior may or may not be indicative of what that person is feeling at the time. For instance, a friend is having some difficulty at work and you offer to help him. He shakes his head briskly, waves his hands at you and says, "No, no, it's alright. I can handle it." What are we to make of this in terms of his emotional state? Well, we could make many judgments, depending upon dozens of factors that have to do both with who he is and who we are. For instance, he feels embarrassed to be discussing it, or unworthy of help, or too overwhelmed to consider it further, or confident that he can deal with it, or determined to deal with it, or resigned to the way things are, and so on. Any of these emotions might be operating in our friend's experience and be manifested in his behavior of declining our help.
The inverse is true as well: it is very possible for a particular Emotion to be manifested by a whole range of behaviors. Emotions drive behavior, but the particular behavioral expression the emotion evokes will vary depending upon the individual and the situation. The beliefs that an individual is holding in a particular situation can even generate behavior that appears inconsistent with the emotion that person is actually feeling. For instance, a worker feels angry at being insulted by his boss but, recognizing the potentially devastating career consequences of expressing that anger with shouts and arm waving, he responds instead by behaving obsequiously.
We must bear in mind that there may be a difference between the Emotion we attribute to the exemplar based upon our observation of her behavior, and her self-report of what she feels while engaging in that behavior. Since our goal is to walk in the experiential shoes of our exemplar, we want to know what the exemplar is actually feeling, regardless of whether or not it accords with what we would expect - or perhaps wish - to be the case. (As we discussed in Essay 4: Asking Questions, we are not suggesting that the Exemplar's self-report is necessarily or always accurate or true. As with all information gathering, it is incumbent upon us as modelers to compare our experience and calibration of the Exemplar with those self-reports and, if there are discrepancies, to pursue them. But we must have those self-reports and not be wedded to our own judgments if that exploration is to have any hope of arriving at a description of the Exemplar's true experience.)
Pleasant Emotions, Unpleasant Emotions
Here is a distinction that everyone recognizes: some emotions feel good, and others feel bad. But to say that an emotion feels bad is not to say that it is bad to feel that emotion, or that one should always try to avoid it. Nor is it the case that just because an emotion feels good that it is always a good idea to feel that emotion, or that you should seek it out whenever possible. For instance, suppose you are working on a project and it is progressing just as you want it to. You feel contentment, an emotional state that most people find very pleasant. The systemic influence of feeling contentment is likely to keep you continuing to do what you are doing as you have been doing it. Suppose you then run into difficulties and your project stalls. You may very well begin to feel frustrated. This is not generally considered a pleasant emotional state; we don't like it and want to get out of it. But consider how feeling frustrated actually affects your thinking and behavior. When feeling frustrated you are still striving for a solution. Or to put it another way, feeling frustrated keeps you engaged in trying to resolve the problem, which is a very useful and appropriate response in many situations. (You may object, pointing out that for many people the effect of feeling frustrated is to quit striving or even run away from the situation. However, upon close inquiry you will find that people who respond in these ways are not feeling frustration; rather, their emotional state has switched to something else, such as feeling overwhelmed or scared or hopeless. And each of these may also be useful and appropriate, depending upon the situation in which they are being felt.) If instead you were to continue to feel contentment in the face of things going awry, the systemic effects of that emotion would probably be that you would not engage in trying to resolve the problem, but would instead predispose you to accept things as they are. The important point here is that all emotions, regardless of how much we adore or abhor them, have a systemic impact on how we think and behave. (Interestingly, when we recognize that an unpleasant emotion is doing something beneficial for us, we can even have pleasant emotions about the unpleasant emotion.)
We know that whatever our exemplar's emotions are, they work for her in manifesting her particular ability. It is natural to assume that someone manifesting wonderful competence at some ability is operating out of a pleasant or positive emotion state. This is not necessarily the case. The office whiz who keeps things beautifully organized could be operating out of an emotional state of worry, the trim neighbor who follows a rigorous daily exercise program could be operating out of fear, and the tireless community activist could be operating out of anger. We may want their abilities, but taking on the emotional experience of these exemplars is not very enticing.
Must we endure those unpleasant emotions in order to enjoy the benefits of the abilities? If all exemplars of a particular ability feel the same emotion, that suggests that it is essential to being able to manifest that ability. Almost certainly, however, we can find other exemplars of that same ability who experiences a more benign (or even delightful) emotion - office organizers who feel playful, regular exercisers who feel challenged, community activists who feel daring - and those are the people we will want to model.
In a previous section we described emotions as embodying "the sum total of the subjective significance of our perceptions and thoughts as they coalesce from moment to moment." Emotions are no chair-bound idlers, passing comment on passersby; emotions are more like community organizers, actively engaging the citizenry in responding to the needs of the town. As a summing up of coalescing perception and thought, our emotions provide ongoing feedback on how well what we are doing (our internal processes and external behaviors) is satisfying our Criterion.
The effect of this emotional feedback is that it alters how we respond in a particular situation. For instance, when a project is going sour and we feel frustrated, we may respond by trying something different to get the project back on track. When we feel hurt by a friend's uncaring comments we may express this to them, hoping to re-establish our mutual trust. When we feel overwhelmed by a huge task we may break it down into bite-sized pieces so we can eventually succeed; or ask someone to help us with it; or decide that the task isn't worth doing and, so, free ourselves to do something else, and so on. In each of these examples and any others that you can think of, the emotion initiates a response that relates to our attempt to satisfy our Criterion.
When emotions are serving this feedback function, we call them "Signal Emotions" because they signal the fact that something has changed in relation to the satisfaction of your Criterion and, so, alert you to the need to respond differently:
Signal Emotions indicate whether or not - or to what extent - the Criterion is currently being satisfied.
Many of our examples so far have been of those (often unpleasant) Emotions that accompany having our Criteria not satisfied. But Emotions signal the satisfaction of Criteria, as well. When the person pursuing the project recognizes that she is "on track" she may feel happy; the person who wants "mutual trust" may feel connected to her friend when she reveals something personal to him; and the person facing the huge task may feel confident as she sees it progressing toward "success." In these instances, their Emotions are signaling that their Criteria are being satisfied. Naturally, the particular Emotion a person feels, and the range of Emotions she experiences within a particular context, will depend upon the person, the Criterion, the circumstances, and so on. However the range of Emotions you experience can be usefully characterized according to four different responses to your Criterion: Exceeded, Sufficiently Satisfied, Insufficiently Satisfied, and Violated. For example, consider the person who wants "Mutual Trust" in relationships. Depending upon what is happening with respect to her Criterion in a particular situation, she might feel any of the following Emotions:
"Mutual Trust" is EXCEEDED... the emotion may be: Loving
"Mutual Trust" is SUFFICIENTLY SATISFIED... the emotion may be: Connected
"Mutual Trust" is INSUFFICIENTLY SATISFIED... the emotion may be: Wary
"Mutual Trust" is VIOLATED... the emotion may be: Afraid
In general, while pleasant Emotions may lead to changes in expression, they generally do not signal the need to change what you are doing (how you are thinking and behaving). When your Criterion is being satisfied (or even exceeded), as embodied by the pleasant emotion, this is a signal that what you are doing is working. It tells you, "keep doing it." Unpleasant emotions (in the list above, wary and afraid) signal the need to change how you are thinking and behaving if you are to get back to fulfilling your Criterion.
Signal Emotions and Modeling
As we pointed out in the Essay on Strategies, an important part of excelling at any ability is having strategies for effectively responding when things go awry, as they occasionally will no matter how effective the exemplar's Primary Operation. As reports of "whether or not - or to what extent - the Criterion is currently being satisfied," Signal Emotions often act as the prompt to engage one of the Secondary Operations. (Someone who is not an exemplar of the ability is likely to respond to these emotional shifts by trying either to damp down or overcome the Signal Emotion, or by abandoning the pursuit of their Criterion.) For example, an office manager who is a whiz at maintaining an organized office feels in control as long as his Primary Operation for dealing with incoming communiqués continues to work to satisfy his Criterion, "Maintain Order." Feeling harried, however, signals that his usual approach is not working and prompts him to shift to a Secondary Operation. (Perhaps reassessing and resetting the categories he uses to sort incoming communiqués.) Signal Emotions are transient in that they will continue to be stimulated until the Criterion is once again being sufficiently satisfied. (The office manager will continue to feel "harried," alerting him to the need to reset his sorting categories, until he again has "Order" and is in control of his office.)
We can also turn to Lenny for an example of the role of Signal Emotions in a model. When he discovers that he does not "feel energetic, and I'm conscious and have clarity of mind" (that is, the Criterion of "Working" is not being satisfied) he feels the Signal Emotion, mild panic. Feeling mild panic spurs him to engage his Secondary Operation, which is intended to return him to the point where his diet is again "Working." But why the relatively low intensity of mild panic? Is that appropriate considering the potentially dire consequences of Lenny's diet not working (i.e. debilitation, amputations, death). Wouldn't an unqualified panic (or fear, dread, terror) generate a more reliable compulsion and devotion to getting himself back on his diet regimen? When we step inside the experience, however, and compare the feeling of panic to that of mild panic, we immediately discover the natural wisdom of Lenny's response. Feeling panic can easily lead to scattered thinking or to grasping at immediate remedies, neither of which supports deliberately and consistently following a diet regimen. Feeling panic can also easily lead to an irrational but nonetheless emotionally compelling desire to avoid the whole, panic-inducing context. This could in turn result in a real crisis as the person tries to soothe himself by ignoring his physical symptoms. In contrast, mild panic still generates a sense of the need to respond to what is going on, but without overwhelming Lenny to the point of either frenzy or avoidance.
We want to point out that although Lenny's feeling of mild panic may be an example of "natural wisdom," it was certainly not a matter of choice. He did not sit down one day and decide that mild panic would serve him well as a Signal Emotion. As we said above, the structure of the experience imposes certain boundaries that naturally determine the range of emotions that emerge in the context. Similarly, the structure of Lenny's experience in the context of maintaining his diet regimen allows for a certain, relatively narrow range of emotional response, a range characterized by mild panic. Indeed, anyone trying to maintain a diet regimen for diabetes who, when they realized that something was awry, responded by feeling panic (or at the other extreme, mild concern), would almost certainly NOT be operating out of the same structure as Lenny. To react with panic would suggest, for instance, that the person is not using ongoing evidence. Without ongoing evidence, the state of his blood sugar and his health has more opportunity to dip significantly before being noticed, triggering a crisis that truly is worthy of panic. Lenny's ongoing evidence helps avoid this by alerting him to small changes before they have a chance to snowball. To take the other extreme, a person responding to an unhealthful change in blood sugar with mild concern probably does not have as a compelling belief that there is a connection between the diet working and certain desirable and undesirable futures. Lenny's solid belief in the cause-effect between the diet working and his having his desired future (and avoiding the one he does not want) creates an environment which naturally leads to fairly intense Signal Emotions when the diet is not working, which means that his future is definitely jeopardized.
The feedback function of Signal Emotions makes them important in the effective and consistent expression of an ability. Nevertheless, it is rarely necessary to know and take on the exemplar's Signal Emotions in order to take on the modeled ability. This is because we generally do not need to instruct someone in what emotional response to have when the Criterion is not satisfied or violated (or satisfied or exceeded, for that matter). The Criterion and its web of equivalence and causal relationships, the Test and the Primary Operation combine to create an experiential environment that predisposes a certain range (quality and intensity) of emotional responses. The fact that the office manager feels harried when the office is not in order is a natural response given the structure of his experience in that context. In a real sense, his beliefs and strategies do not easily let him get to other possible emotional responses, such as overwhelmed, hopeless, or desperate. These are emotions that may lead to throwing up one's hands and walking out, a response that, as a whiz at keeping an office organized, our exemplar is not likely to ever get to.
In terms of modeling, then, we recognize that our exemplar will have Signal Emotions, but that there is usually no need to specify them in the model for the model to work in someone else. The dynamics of the context, the structure of the beliefs, and the strategies will almost certainly naturally generate appropriate and effective Signal Emotions.
We all know the difference that emotional state can make in how the day goes. Wake up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed, and your day can easily be filled with endless things going wrong. You huddle beneath a gray sky and chilling rain as you reluctantly make your way to work, where an ominous swamp of papers awaits you. You plunge in and deal with those papers, but you are vexed again and again by their many stupid errors. A co-worker pops in to offer a joke, which you understand, but respond with only a steely stare. The co-worker backs out of your office. You check the clock and are disappointed to find that there are still hours until you can escape to lunch. And so it goes... Until the next day, when you unaccountably wake up on the "right" side of the bed. It is again gray and rainy, but you enjoy the smell of it and think how good this will be for a spectacular spring flower bloom. At work, the pile of papers on your desk is a gauntlet thrown down that you eagerly pick up. There are as many errors in the papers as yesterday, but today you take pride in finding and correcting them. Your co-worker dares to try another joke and you laugh heartily, then throw him out so you can get your work done before lunch.
What are we really talking about when we refer to a person's "state"? We are referring to a background emotion that is persistent and pervasive, influencing to some degree everything that the person is thinking and doing in the foreground of his experience. As illustrated by the example of going to work in two different emotional states, a particular emotion can persist in the background, generally affecting everything that we are engaging in. Meanwhile, the far more transient emotional responses to what is going on from moment to moment are shifting in the foreground of our experience. These shifting emotional responses are Signal Emotions. The persistent and pervasive emotion operating in the background we call the "Sustaining Emotion":
The Sustaining Emotion is a background state that helps keep the person actively engaged in satisfying the Criterion.
As we noted previously, emotions have underlying structures. When elements of that structure coincide or correspond with the structures operating in the exemplar's beliefs and strategies in a particular context, that emotion can help to sustain those beliefs and strategies. The Sustaining Emotion is a way of "holding" the structural distinctions that are important in a particular context. Another way to put it is that the Sustaining Emotion is holding in the body at least some of the essential relationships that are held in the conceptual framework of the beliefs. In this way, the Sustaining Emotion brings the body into alignment with the cognitive elements. The result is not only more congruence in thought and action, but also more ability to continue operating out of the beliefs and strategies themselves. This sustaining of the beliefs and strategies is due to the fact that, as part of the system, the structures presupposed in the Sustaining Emotion are now also operating in experience, exerting their filtering influence in parallel to those operating in the beliefs and strategies. Three examples:
* An acquaintance of ours is devoted to solving crossword puzzles, and feels challenged when doing them. Feeling challenged generates a sense that there is something one wants to and can overcome, even though it will be difficult. Feeling challenged keeps him engaged in solving the puzzle, even when he finds himself reading the last clue and still has not filled in a single square! Not surprisingly, if he begins a crossword puzzle that is too easy - sapping his feeling of challenged - he soon sets it aside.
* Another acquaintance is often in the position of leading teams in her company, and lead them she does. When in that context, her ongoing Sustaining Emotion is that of feeling responsible. Feeling responsible, she recognizes there are things that need to be done, she is capable of doing them, and they are hers to do. And so she works diligently with the group, with plenty of oversight on their activities (some say too much), never shirks a task in service of the team, and is quick to admit her lapse if she drops one of the balls. (Naturally, her boss and everyone else would agree that, "of course she is responsible for the team - after all, she's a manager." But that is a performance expectation of her role. Any person in her role would be responsible for the performance of the team; but that person might not feel responsible, but instead feel ambitious, or careful, or driven, each of which would dramatically affect how this person fulfilled the role responsibility of leading the team.)
* A colleague of ours is a master at tracking down information. He is clever, bold and relentless in pursuing it, and almost always successful. When on the trail of his quarry, his Sustaining Emotion is pleasant anticipation, the effect of which is to hold out the promise that he is inexorably moving toward something that will be very satisfying. Thus, despite going down many blind alleys and facing many locked doors, he persists, fueled by a pleasant anticipation of what will be found around the next corner.
Unlike the Signal Emotion, the Sustaining Emotion is not providing feedback on whether or not the Criterion is being satisfied. Remember that as a person is engaged in a particular context, her Criterion will be shifting through a range of conditions of satisfaction ("violated," "insufficient," "satisfied," "exceeded," and so on). These transient emotional responses to the Criterion's ongoing adventures signal the need to make adjustments in strategy to try to satisfy the Test of the Criterion. Whether the Criterion is satisfied or not, however, the Sustaining Emotion is setting an emotional environment that supports the continuing use of those Strategies and the continuing pursuit of that Criterion.
Talking about the Sustaining Emotion as "setting an environment that supports the ability" may give the impression that it is separate from, and added to, the ability. This is not the case. Like beliefs and strategies, the Sustaining Emotion is an integral element of the ability; without it you do not have the ability. Just as the context of the ability calls up a particular Criterion and Strategy, the context calls up an emotional state as well, one that is congruent with the pursuit of that Criterion and the use of that Strategy. Without this Sustaining Emotion, trying to hold that Criterion and execute that Strategy will be very much more difficult. This is quite obvious among people involved in sports who, when they take the field, the field takes them to sustaining emotional states (such as determined, confident or focused), which help them stay "in the zone" where they can manifest the fullest expression of their abilities.
Sustaining Emotions and Modeling
When you first put on a new sock you are very aware of the sensations of it encasing your foot and constricting your calf. But soon you no longer notice the sock. That is, until the top of one of them slips down to your ankle. Suddenly you are again quite aware of that sock. If you leave it sagging, however, soon you will again not notice it. The phenomenon of accommodation to stimuli is something we all know well: there is no point in putting our attention on something that is unchanging. What grabs our attention is change. This lack of attention is not a decision on our part, but a response built into the nervous systems of all creatures. From the beginning, survival has put a premium on changes in the status quo.
Consequently, the emotions we are most aware of are our Signal Emotions. As they shift frequently and unexpectedly, often from moment to moment, they naturally command our attention. But the fact that Signal Emotions are more obvious does not mean that they are more significant in manifesting a particular ability. In fact, as we discussed earlier, it is usually not necessary to identify Signal Emotions when modeling since they are, to a great extent, prescribed by the interaction between the structure of the ability and the current situation.
What is not prescribed and is necessary to identify is the Sustaining Emotion. Unlike Signal Emotions, the Sustaining Emotion does not provide feedback on whether or not the Criterion is being satisfied; rather it is a state that supports the exemplar in continuing to operate out of the beliefs and strategies necessary to the ability. In contrast to the constancy of the Sustaining Emotion, your exemplar will go through a shifting range of Signal Emotions. But the comings and goings of Signal Emotions neither establish nor undermine her ability. The Sustaining Emotion, however, is an integral element of the ability: if the exemplar's Sustaining Emotion should vanish, he will not be able to continue to manifest the ability, or at least not with the same congruence, depth and consistency.
Since the Sustaining Emotion is not a response to the fluctuating satisfaction of the Criterion, it tends to remain constant while the exemplar is manifesting his ability. This constancy of the Sustaining Emotion causes it to quickly recede into the background of awareness and, so, it often goes unnoticed by the exemplar. The fact that it is often out of awareness does not at all diminish its ability to affect the exemplar's experience.
As we said, the context of the ability establishes in the exemplar's current experience not only her beliefs and strategies, but the Sustaining Emotion as well. For Lenny, the context of "maintaining my diet to control my diabetes" establishes in his experience the Sustaining Emotion of powerful/strong. Why is he using two words to identify what he is feeling? The infinite variety and shades of emotional experience will always outstrip language's ability to generate labels. (For numerous examples of the variety of experience - emotional and otherwise - captured in different languages, see Howard Rheingold's They Have a Word For It.) And so it may be the case that the precise word an exemplar needs to describe a precise feeling simply does not exist, or is not known to him. When this happens, the quality of the exemplar's experience can usually be captured by combining two or more emotion labels. When pursuing his diet, Lenny is not feeling either powerful or strong, but some combination of the two. In the world of emotions, they are very close. Nevertheless, if you compare them by taking on one then the other, you will notice a subtle difference: powerful conveys a sense of being able to exert force or your will, while strong conveys a sense of being able to withstand great forces. Lenny feels something that is a combination of the two:
Powerful: Lenny's diet - like all diets - is demanding. Many people easily or too soon feel inadequate to meet, or are overwhelmed by, these demands and give up ("I can't do it," "It's too hard"). As is clear from his beliefs ("Maintain focus and discipline" and "It won't work by itself; I have to be present"), the onus for the required effort is on him. He must do the work, and it is neither trivial nor easy work. The sense of being capable of exerting his will, of making happen what he wants to happen, comes with feeling powerful, and helps sustain Lenny in doing what needs to be done: facing and overcoming the difficulties and demands of the diet.
Just to be clear, it is not the case that Lenny feels powerful because he follows the diet. Feeling powerful is part of the experiential package that we call "Lenny's ability to maintain his diet." Feeling powerful was there from the beginning; it did not follow his being successful with the diet. (Perhaps discovering something that he could do to positively affect his health was the initial source of his feeling powerful, but in any case, the feeling was there at the outset of taking on the diet.) Furthermore, feeling powerful does not fade or evaporate when he runs into difficulty. Indeed, it is what provides the emotional impetus and support to return to following his diet strictly. Undoubtedly, when he gets his diet working again he feels even more powerful, which is more of what is already there.
Strong: Diets are, by definition, restrictive. They proscribe what you are used to eating and probably want to eat. Of course, the diet itself can eventually become what you are used to eating and want to eat. But even if that change does occur, it is normally something that happens over time. In the meantime, there are still all the desires, temptations and social pressures to eat what you were accustomed to before commencing the diet. The sense of being able to withstand pressure comes with feeling strong, and supports Lenny in holding constant to his diet in the face of daily temptations the world offers to stray from his "track."
Diets are not only demanding, but also often endlessly demanding. This is obvious in the case of a diet to control diabetes, and may also be the case for people who are on diets to control other health concerns, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. It is not that Lenny has only to muster the power to lift the stone once, and then can dust off his hands and walk away. He must lift it again and again, perhaps for the rest of his life. He must endure. Here again feeling strong sustains him since it is an emotional state that for most people carries with it a sense of power that lasts, that goes through time.
As a Sustaining Emotion, then, feeling powerful/strong helps Lenny to feel capable of exerting his will (so he can do what needs to be done), to withstand forces exerted upon him (so he can avoid temptations to stray), and to endure (so he can continue doing what needs to be done and continue avoiding temptations).
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When it comes to describing abilities, people typically focus on an exemplar's external behavior. This is not surprising; behavior is usually what is most obvious and easily described. Even though an ability is much more than just behavior, it is through external behavior that what is going on "on the inside" gets expressed and has an impact in the world. We will consider external behavior in the next Essay.