In this class we will discuss the phenomenological approach to emotions. This is an approach that generally stresses the subjective meaning of emotions, linking the various ways they are experienced with our perceptions, beliefs, and bodily ways of “being” in the world. We begin with a very general overview of the work of Norman Denzin, who is perhaps the best known sociologist in this area. I then move on to consider a couple of samples of my own work in this vein: (1) my review of the experience of the human emotion of happiness; and (2) my research on the metaphors used by victims of crime to express the impact of homicide in their lives.
Norman K. Denzin: Introductory Remarks:
Denzin's approach to emotion can be conveniently introduced by attending to the following postulates:
- Emotion must be studied as a lived experience by interacting individuals;
- Emotion must not be studied as a social fact that is episodic, accidental or incidental to social experience;
- The natural scientific attitudes regarding emotions must be suspended. This includes whether they are naive, real, coarse, subtle, spurious, rational, irrational, conscious, unconscious, subconscious, physiological in origin, or the products of social and cultural forces;
- Emotion must be grasped in its entirety, as fully and as clearly as possible, although the grasping will involve successive glimpses, interrogations and judgements;
- The essence, core, or kernel of emotion as a process must be captured and carefully described. The universal or generic features of emotion must then be interpreted;
- Emotion must be understood from within, as a process that has its own trajectory, or stream of experience. As a phenomenon it dwells within its own dwelling;
- Emotion is a process that turns on itself, elaborates itself, gets out of hand. It requires what came before it in time for what follows in its development;
- The phenomenological understanding and interpretation of emotion will not be causal. It will be descriptive, interpretive and processual. Variables, factors and causal agents will not be sought;
- Phenomenological interpretation proceeds neither from strict induction (the gathering up of facts for theory) nor from deduction (theory to facts to hypotheses), but moves forward carefully, through rigorous intuition, abductive interrogation, and understanding. The phenomenon itself is uncovered and interpreted in consciousness and in the world of lived experience;
- Theory testing is not the goal. The intention is descriptive interpretation; the goal is seeing, inspecting, and studying the interiority of emotion as lived experience. Social phenomenology is a descriptive, interpretive discipline. As such, it seems particularly well-suited to the study of emotion and emotionality.
Emotion and Social Interaction:
Given this general introduction, Denzin moves on to outline his conception of emotion and social interaction. He basically argues that the dwelling place of emotion is the self, and that emotion is self-feeling (this term will be elaborated later). More specifically, he says that “emotions are temporally embodied, situated self-feelings that arise from emotional and cognitive social acts that people direct to self or have directed toward them by others.” This view indicates that emotions are processes, not static things.
If emotions are conceptualized as processes of self-feeling, then it can be seen as arising out of the self-interactions that individuals direct toward themselves and out of the reflected appraisals of others, both imagined and real. Using Denzin's example (and Chart), imagine an argument between two persons, A and B. It starts by A saying something critical to B (#1). That statement is heard by B and enters her phenomenological stream of consciousness (#2-6). She takes her own attitude toward herself (B-B) and toward A. She turns that attitude back from A to herself. She calls out an angry response to A and directs that to him (6-7) in the interactional stream that connects both of them. A receives that action, and it enters his side of the phenomenological stream (9-12). Here it calls out an angry reaction to B's angry reaction to his initial critical statement. This attitude is reflected back to B in his final action (13).
Stated more abstractly, the phenomenological stream describes the inner side of interaction that occurs when the person interacts with himself and with another in a social situation. In the phenomenological stream the person takes his own attitude towards self (A-A) and toward the other (A-B), and turns the imagined attitude of the other toward himself (B-A). The interactional stream points to the co-present, or imagined, situation. Here, the actual utterances and actions of the other are available to both parties. Emotional self-interaction involves person A's initiating a line of action toward B (act 1), which calls out in B (act 2) a significant emotional gesture that is present in A's action and thought. A turns this emotional gesture inward (act 8), judging and interpreting B's actions in light of A's own incipient emotional attitudes (A-A, A-B, B-A). This interpretation becomes part of A's emotional selffeeling, which is then incorporated into A's next gesture or statement to B (acts 12-13). A's selffeeling becomes part of an emotional social act, which enters B's inner phenomenological stream and becomes part of B's emotional social act (both towards B and toward A). For both A and B, emotional self-feelings are lodged in the interactional stream that connects them and in their inner phenomenological streams of consciousness. They both feel inwardly what they may or may not express outwardly in the interactional stream.
Thus, the sequence of emotional self-interaction appears to have the following trajectory:
- The person is interactively located in the world with others, engaged in an interpretive practice, however mundane or problematic;
- An interaction occurs between the person and a social object (including another person), which brings the object into the person's phenomenological field;
- As the object enters the person's field, it is defined in self-feeling terms such as anger, fear or anticipation;
- These anticipatory self-feelings are ratified through physical feelings and sensations felt in the lived body, such as tenseness and anxiousness;
- The person imagines his appearance and actions in the eyes of his interactional fellow(s), real and imagined;
- An interpretation of the judgement of the other follows, as well as some sort of inner selffeeling that accompanies that judgement;
- A feeling is built up toward the other the feelings that have been imputed to her;
- That feeling is incorporated into the feelings the person feels toward himself;
- The person experiences a feeling of moral self-worth regarding himself and the other;
- A summary or gloss emotional self-definition is produced, including an emotional definition of the other's self and the object around which the interaction was focused. These emotional terms are significant symbols, and emotionality dwells in these interactions.
Norman K. Denzin (1985): "Emotion as Lived Experience"
In the next part of his work, Denzin goes on to outline in more detail what he means by the term self-feeling, largely by focusing on how the experience of emotion is linked to the “lived body.”
Denzin argues that, until recently, the emotions per se have received inconsistent attention in the symbolic interactionist literature. More recently, sociologists such as Hochschild and Scheff have offered broader interactionist statements on this topic. Yet, in Denzin's view, "sociological treatments of emotion have not benefited from the works of phenomenologists and existentialists." It is his intention to address this literature and, in doing so, "provide a phenomenology of the body and the emotions which is consistent with interpretive interactionism."
Denzin begins by asserting that the objective relativism of Mead, and the main tenets of S.I. as presented by Blumer, are compatible with the phenomenology of Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Scheler. In an earlier paper, Denzin argued that Mead's unit of analysis (the social act) and Blumer's triadic theory of interpretive meaning (act, object, self) locate emotionality in the field of experience that confronts the interacting individual. Emotionality arises out of inhibited, interpreted social acts in which the subject inserts self-conversations between the perception of experience and the organization of action (when taking one's attitude toward self, toward other, and turning the imagined attitude of other toward self). In these conversations, feelings directed to the self mediate action and interpretation. Emotionality becomes a social act lodged in the social situation. On this interpretation, then, "lived experience is the unit of analysis for Mead and Blumer, as it is for Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Scheler."
Denzin argues that self-feelings for Mead, James, Blumer, and Heidegger may be seen as having a three-fold structure: (1) a sense of feeling in terms of self-awareness; (2) a sense of the self feeling the feeling; and (3) a revealing of the moral, inner, interactional meaning of this feeling for the self and its on-going plan of action. Hence, a circuit of selfness attaches the person to the world. In that circuit, emotionality, self, and meaning are revealed. The subject is anchored to the world through this interactional circuit that joins his inner and outer streams of experience with the experiences of others. Deep and surface meanings of the person are thereby revealed in this interaction process (i.e. the private, inner self vs. the public, observed self).
According to Denzin, then, emotionality is a social process, while emotion is self feeling grounded in the social acts the subject directs to his self and has directed to her by others. It has the three-fold structure as outlined before: that is, a sense of feeling, a sense of self feeling that feeling, and a revealing of the interactional meaning of the feeling to the self. As such, there is a double structure to emotion's movement: a feeling of self that emotion reveals to the self, and the movement into a line of action that enacts emotionality and feeling. On the basis of emotionality the subject is led to act morally, on behalf of himself, and on behalf of others. Emotionality draws the subject into social, moral, and emotional relations with others.
Importantly, in Denzin's formulation, emotion and emotionality are neither in the subject nor in the body. Rather, following Scheler, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre, they are to be seen as located in the relationship the subject has with himself and with his lived body. This is the body as experienced, which, while a physical reality, is also an existential reality. The physiological body is not just a structure of sensations, but it is a lived body that is given meaning by the subject in the world of interaction. "The subject has a three-fold relationship to his body: he is his body, he is in his body, and he is outside his body" (the latter two can be understood through the extreme situations of either "losing oneself" in one's embodied emotion, or "rising above" one's emotional experiences and bringing reflective, interpretive meaning to one's emotionality and attendant bodily sensations).
Thus, Denzin asserts that the social phenomenological study of emotionality begins with the "lived experience" of the subject in the social situation. The phenomenologist and the interactionist share a commitment to understand emotionality from within as lived experience. The resources for empirical analysis are drawn from the lived experiences of interacting individuals, and the experiential structure that stands at the centre of every emotional experience is the self.
Given his phenomenological extension of the concept of self, Denzin moves to discuss "emotion's body" in more detail. He states that this is at the heart of embodied experience, providing the "point of reference" for all lived emotional experience. According to Denzin, it has a four-fold structure:
"It is a physical body for the person; a lived presence for the subject in his inner field of experience; an enacted ensemble of embodied action for others; and an ensemble of moving action for the subject. Each of these four forms of emotion's lived body provides a distinctly different mode of lived emotion: (1) sensible feelings of sensations; (2) feelings of the lived body; (3) intentional value feelings; and (4) moral feelings of self."
Denzin devotes the remainder of his paper to the discussion and elaboration of these four modes of lived emotion, which are rooted in the phenomenological expansion of the concept "self" to include different dimensions of the "lived body."
First, according to Denzin, sensible feelings refer to sensations felt in the lived body, but they are not deliberately produced. They are located in the body, as physical pain is, for example, but they do not originate in the self-conversations of the subject. They are part of the lived body that others cannot share, or know how they are felt by the person. They are not the emotion, but "ratify for the subject the emotionality that is felt."
Next, Denzin considers feelings of the lived body. These, while accompanied by complexes of sensible feelings, "cannot be reduced to sensible feelings for they are feelings of the lived body as a totality. They are not located in a particular part or section of the subject's body, but are given in the total extension of the body as a unitary field of experience" (e.g. profound sorrow, sadness, happiness, or anger). Significantly, because feelings of the lived body express an orientation to the interactional world of experience, they are accessible to others and they can furnish the foundations for socially shared feelings. Once expressed, others are able to vicariously share in the subject's feelings. "Lived feelings communicate an emotional definition of the situation that others can enter into. Hence they move emotionality out of the private, inner world of pure sensations into the public realm of interaction and emotional intersubjectivity. The subject can communicate and "give" these feelings to others, thereby allowing them to enter into a field of emotional experience with him."
Third, Denzin discusses intentional value feelings. These, quite simply, are "feelings about feelings." They are symbolic objectifications of emotional experiences the subject has felt or will feel in the future. They are not separated from experience as such, but often transcend specific interactional emotional episodes. "In intentional value feelings the subject seeks to isolate the core meanings an instance of emotionality has for him. He interprets that meaning and the feelings he has about that feeling." Intentional value feelings reference values, or inclinations to feel in a specific way, but they are not the actual feelings. They go beyond specific emotional experiences, and this trans-situational, atemporal quality allows them to reference emotional careers, or emotional ways of being in the world. Their meanings and values are often rooted in the culture or the group of the subject. They are part of the subject's interpretive framework and exist as orientations toward the world, independent of specific interactional experiences. Of course, "the ideal always eludes the subject" in this regard.
Finally, Denzin discusses feelings of the self and the moral person. In contrast to intentional value feelings, which originate in the culture or the interpretive framework of the subject, "feelings of the self or the moral person originate in the self of the subject, although they are interiorizations of these broader interpretive schemes." According to Denzin, these feelings are lodged in the inner stream of consciousness. The self is consciousness conscious of itself, and "entails inner moral feelings the person directs toward herself as a moral object in her own world and in the world of others. Feelings of the self cluster around these moral feelings, for the subject reveals herself to herself through the feeling of these feelings. However, the self is not in consciousness. Rather, it is lodged in the world in front of the person...Its presence in the world haunts the subject and draws her forward...As she turns back on herself, in reflection, and feels herself feeling, she gives meaning to herself and catches a glimpse of herself. It is these meanings that she draws inward, to her self."
Significantly in this regard, Denzin distinguishes two levels of the self: the surface and the deep. The surface, public self is given to others through the subject's communicative acts, and managed through emotion management rules. The deep, inner, moral self is revealed through self and moral feelings which involve a feeling for the self as a distinct moral object and subject in the world. The self of the moral person is the self that has dignity, self-respect, selfresponsibility, and an inner sense of moral worth. Moral self-consciousness or value awareness is at the core of the person at this deep level. The moral feelings of the morally self-reflective subject involve a respect for the moral codes of the everyday lifeworld. By subjecting himself to this moral code the subject gains self-dignity and self-respect. This internalized self-respect, which comes from the inner and outer moral codes of the world of daily interactional life, constitutes the inner meanings of the moral person.
Denzin closes his essay by noting that the point of view he has elaborated is interactionist and phenomenological. It locates the self, at its surface and deep levels, at the centre of the emotional process. He asserts that his interpretive interactionism, which provides phenomenological accounts of lived experience, depicts the self as a complex structure that cannot be reduced to its social roles, rituals, and acts. Indeed, "the world of lived experience is a world of passion, feeling, and engagement, a world lost to the sociological inquirer who describes life merely from the outside."
Cultural Studies, Film and Emotionality:
How has Denzin applied his approach? One example is his work on “emotional practices,” embodied, embedded actions (e.g. watching a film, drinking, working, lovemaking, etc.) Emotional practices are connected to, and produce, sensible feelings, feelings of the lived body, intentional value feelings and feelings of the moral person. They produce anticipated and unanticipated alterations in the person's inner and outer streams of emotional experience. These emotional practices are gender specific, and are moulded by the ideological structures of domination and gender stratification in society. Films, for example, are culture-making institutions which people use to build understandings of themselves and others, often coming to structure and give meaning to the inner worlds of deep emotional experience.
Denzin attempts to offer a cultural-interpretive framework for the analysis of emotionality and intimacy in the postmodern period - drawing the sociology of emotions more directly into the field of cultural studies. He argues that human emotionality is shaped by the ensemble of human relationships that bind humans to each other, as well as the shared resources and understandings persons draw upon when they act together. Ultimately, he argues that:
- The sociology of emotions must connect the emotions to the study of social relationships;
- It must begin by focusing on specific, gendered relational forms (e.g. marriage, family and intimacy);
- It must enter the field of cultural studies;
- Film is an excellent research site for the merger of these three concerns.
Five general theses organize Denzin's discussion. These deal with film and the cultural reading of emotionality and intimcy:
- Emotionality is shaped by culture-making institutions. More specifically, each of the forms of emotional experience discussed earlier (e.g. sensible feelings, feelings of the lived body, intentional value feelings and moral feelings of self) are influenced by cultural representations in film of emotional experience.
This has two aspects. On the one hand, the film's meanings are emotional and rooted in the viewer's biography, working to the degree that it resonates with the experiences of the viewer and creates an emotional relationship. On the other hand, the story told is itself emotional, involving larger than life, symbolic and imaginary representations of “real life” emotional experiences.
- Emotional practices represented in film are gender-specific, moulded by the ideological structures of domination and gender stratification that exist in the social structure. These practices are codified in social and cultural texts that represent the emotional relations between men and women in intimate, friendly, and marital relationships.
- It is necessary to study how culture-making institutions, including the news, the mass media, but especially film and television ideologically represent love, desire, sexuality, intimacy, marriage, emotionality and emotional bonding. Hollywood, for example, has a long list of classic male-female intimate relationships, and these depictions become cultural representations of gendered intimacy in our society.
Denzin, in an aside, comments how intimacy refers to what each of two persons in a dyad give or show only to the other person and to no one else. It is a gendered production, involving the exchange of sexual self-identities - often drawn from the body of understandings that operate in the culture at large.
He also weighs in on desire, asserting that it refers to that mode of self-consciousness, or self-awareness, that seeks to realize and lose itself in its own self-centredness. Desire is selfdesire, is insatiable, and is its own object. Yet it requires another for its realization, and in the process often commodifies the other, turning he or she into an object of desire or pleasure. While it can take many forms, it stands at the centre of any intimate relationship, for what is desired is self realized through the intimacy offered by the other.
Given these definitions, Denzin asserts that representations of desire connect self and other in real and imagined embodied interactional states. Films often involve viewers identifying with the symbolic, the imagined, the ideal stories told on the screen. Viewers emotions and selfunderstandings are often shaped by these cultural representations of love, desire and sexuality. People may fantasize about being the heroine, making love like him or her, making love to a person like him or her - and, in so doing, their emotional and sexual desire are both awakened and shaped by these experiences. Moviegoing experiences may shape the four elements of emotional experience as they relate to love, desire, and one's relationship to one's lovers.
- The contemporary study of emotionality must be historical and culturally grounded in the postmodern, postwar period of American life. On the one hand, this means that attention must be given to the structures of late capitalism including commodification, bureacratization, the production of mass-mediated realities, the decline in power of the metanarrative myths of truth, science, freedom, and democracy, and the rise of hyperreal media representations of real life experiences.
These structures, in our "post-modern" culture, have "cultural" effects: they provide a set of meanings embodied in cultural productions - such as movies and TV - that set forth models of action and emotionality. These reflect the political economy of postwar, late capitalist America, whose elements include: (a) bureaucratization, which organizes individuals into compartmentalized roles and interaction opportunities; (b) commodification, which translates all human interests, including desire, sexuality, and eroticism, into marketable goods; (c) mass- mediated reality, which removes individuals from direct encounters with the world, but overloads the senses with pseudoreality; and (d) the deconstruction of (or concentration of extreme skepticism on) major sustaining "myths" such as the value of science and/or religion, the prevalence of freedom, and the efficacy of democracy in favor of a focus on scandal, hypocrisy, conspiracy, and obfuscation.
To elaborate on just one of these, commodification means that everyday life in the postmodern world is shaped by tendencies to turn people and experiences into objects that can be purchased and consumed. Moviegoers pay money to be entertained, to have their fantasies fed, and to learn how to be lovers. The mass media mediate lived cultural experiences. They objectify and make commodities out of the very experiences they represent to the viewing public. In so doing, the media create “needs” and desires that might not otherwise exist. As such, these institutions shape intentional value feelings as well as moral feelings of self.
Indeed, Denzin feels that it will also be important to examine how the media represent important emotional sites (e.g. home, work, leisure, sexuality, sport, etc.) These sites are structured as “ideological state apparati,” places where concrete and imaginary individuals are constituted as subjects who have emotions, beliefs and social relationships with others. In these sites, ideology - those beliefs about the way the world is and ought to be - operates. This ideology is multifaceted. It includes beliefs about gender, love, intimacy, sexuality, the value of work, family, religion, education, money, freedom, and other cultural ideals. This ideology represents not the system of real relations which govern the existence of individuals, but the imaginary relation of those individuals to the real relations in which they live.
Film, as an ideological apparatus that represents imaginary relations between people, structures the meanings people bring to the interactional sites they confront on a daily basis. Films show how concrete individuals are constituted as subjects who have particular emotional experiences in specific emotional sites. By so doing, films undermine, even as they support underlying cultural beliefs concerning how emotionality is to be constructed, defined, and experienced. That is, films present negative and positive emotionality. They connect these experiences to gendered, family, and intimate relations in concrete emotional sites. In so doing they mould the inner emotional life of the person.
- Emotional experiences are gender-specific and ideologically defined by the larger cultural order. Within any emotional site there are typically two separate structures of emotional experience: masculine and feminine. These emotional codes come together in the fields of sexuality and desire; that is on the terrain of gendered sexual relationships. These four terms (male, female, sexuality, and desire) are actualized in love, intimacy, friendship and family.
Denzin argues that movies are emotional sites where gendered conceptions of love, lovemaking, and sexuality are defined, shaped, and later lived in interactions (at least as a counterpoint, if not in action).
So, in the end, Denzin argues that movies create emotional representations of self, sexuality, desire, intimacy, friendship, marriage and family. These representations draw upon the ideological structures of everyday life, creating a politics of emotionality and feeling that shapes real life, lived emotional experiences. This politics of feeling locates particular emotional experiences in particular cultural activities and practices (e.g. they set fashion, keep tradition alive, record taboo acts, and ceremonialize the sacred). A politics of feeling addresses how cultural practices shape and empower personal experiences, while, simultaneously, examining how persons empower, or seize these practices and turn them to their own emotional ends. It also seeks to uncover how particular forms of emotionality (e.g. intentional value feelings) are structured by the emotional economy of everyday life (i.e. what forms of emotional experience are made available in what emotional sites). Indeed, a politics of emotionality also examines how persons shape, define, attempt to control, and experience their emotions within these sites. For, in the end, films are interactional productions. They do not simply assert their truths, rather we interact with them in order to arrive at conclusions.
J.S. Kenney (1996)
The Experience of Happiness: A Sociological Investigation:
In this paper, I attempt to draw upon prior work in philosophy, S.I., and the sociology of emotion to synthesize a general theoretical system for understanding and interpreting human happiness. My work is divided into four parts: (1) definitions; (2) illustration of the operation of these concepts in interaction; (3) types of belief relevant to the experience and management of happiness; and (4) mechanisms of change. Each of these will be discussed in turn.
- Definitions: I define emotion as a "perceptual judgement in relation to one's previously internalized moral and interpretive beliefs, one's self-identity as a moral object occupying particular roles, and the social context of the present interaction, which may be accompanied by pronounced physiological sensations in the subject."
Belief, which is central to both my definition of emotion and my definition of happiness, is defined as "that ongoing, symbolic combination of previously internalized, involuntary systems of perception, conscious rules of moral evaluation and those meanings generated by the present social interaction and structural setting."
The self is defined as "a combination of various creative I/me components or role sets, organized in a hierarchy of various internalized role designations, that is related to commitment to various interactional relationships, beliefs, and values in the social structural network.
Happiness, finally, is defined as "that emotion that perceptively evaluates an individual's overall self past, present, and future, positively in relation to: (a) his/her internalized moral beliefs; (b) the accumulation of past actions and interactions; and (c) current definitions of the situation, that (d) has not been disconfirmed in the present."
Now that the four central concepts in my theory have been defined, I move on to illustrate their operation in a simple model interaction. I used the example of an eager young advertizing executive who encountered two scenarios: (1) where she received praise from her boss for highly successful work, along with an immediate raise and promotion; and (2) where she experienced a "dressing down" from her boss over the loss of a contract, emotional support from a co-worker who helped her see the situation differently, and subsequently developed an interactional tactic to deal with the situation.
In this model, the starting point is always the pre-internalized system of beliefs that any individual brings to an interaction. These, which are intimately associated with the "me" component of one's internalized role-set, arise partly out of ideological socialization, partly as a result of individual actions (or "I's") and partly as an accumulation of positive and negative interactions throughout a person's lifetime. Fundamentally these beliefs define who and what an individual is within a social context. They perform three basic functions: (a) perceptual definition of reality; (b) moral definition of identity; and (c) what I term "identity maintenance strategies." Once entering a social interaction, these beliefs, as the "past" component of the present, play a major role in shaping one's definition of the situation. The rest is filled out by the contents of the interaction itself.
Now, if the messages objectified in interaction affirm one's positively defined moral beliefs about one's self and role identity, one's internal conversation between the "I" and the "me" will be coherent, not only among these components of self, but also with reference to the beliefs themselves. The "I" response shows a positive emotional assessment of happiness, which is then tucked away as part of the "me" in the individual's emotional memory, ready to be brought to future interaction. One's overall self, past, present, and future takes on a brighter
interpretation, and one is thus happier.
If, however, the messages objectified in interaction disconfirm one's positively defined moral beliefs about oneself, one's internal conversation will be incoherent. Specifically, one's pre-existing attitude toward self and imagined attitude of other toward oneself do not match the incoming message as soon as one takes the role of the other. However, the negatively assessed individual can do a number of things such as: (a) searching his/her system of belief for an "escape route," past similar occurrence or label that enables the potential disconfirmation or perpetrator to be defined away; (b) seeking out social support for one's favoured self-definition; (c) utilizing self-presentational emotional micropolitics, accounts or disclaimers to restore sense of self as a moral person; (d) resort to emotion management, feeling rules and intentional-value feelings; or, as a last resort, (e) change one's self-definition into another morally acceptable one for that role. One, or a combination of these "identity maintenance strategies" then forms the individual's "I" response, feeds back into his or her overall moral assessment of self, past, present, and future, and his hence reflected in his/her degree of happiness.
On this model, the happiest individual could likely be characterized as one whose positive perceptual and evaluative beliefs about him/herself in relation to various roles are continually confirmed in interaction, but who is also embedded in a system of beliefs that enables him/her to define away any potentially negative situation in a way that leaves him/her morally blameless. Conversely, there are three possibilities for the least happy individual: (1) a self-perpetuating negative assessment of self cutting across roles that is (a) continually reinforced in interaction and (b) cannot be perceptually disconfirmed in present experience; (2) an anomic individual without any firm self-concept, no significant belief about his/her moral identity, whose unidimensional attempts at self-definition continually pass through series of disconfirming or negatively assessing social interactions such that a positive self-evaluation never has a chance to develop socially; or (3) a person with well-developed identities which are based on structural roles, beliefs, and obligations that are in conflict with each other.
After noting that these latter situations are more likely to be found in societies approximating Durkheim's "organic solidarity," with an extensive division of labour, interdependence, and conflicting beliefs, I go on to examine various types of belief about happiness that not only feed into this model, but that are differentially embedded in both social and self-structure. The two most important analytical dimensions that demarcate each type from the others are: (a) present vs. future temporal orientation or "point of reference"; and (b) "individual centered" vs. "other directed" activity and involvement. These dimensions, when arranged in a table, produce four categories or types of belief in relation to happiness.
The first, which I label "transcendental beliefs," are primarily future-directed and self interested in nature. In such beliefs, future ends or perceived rewards that will purportedly transcend present circumstances give both positive meaning and motivation to present activities, and, as such, an individual's moral assessment of self. In such beliefs, there are often individual- directed meanings telling one how to find happiness, and those individuals holding the beliefs frequently hold them as a conscious means thereto. In such beliefs, happiness is conceived of as a state of mind, a noun, something that can either be received or ultimately achieved at some given, but presently unknowable point in time.
Egocentric beliefs, the second type, exhibit two key elements. Like transcendental beliefs, there are individual centered meanings in these beliefs telling one how to find happiness (conceived as a state of mind, a noun, something that can be received or experienced), and individuals embracing such beliefs often do so as a means of achieving same. However, unlike transcendental beliefs, the temporal component here focuses on the present. In such beliefs, present ends give positive meaning and motivation to present activities and, as such, one's cumulative moral assessment of self. Significantly, this focus on the present leaves these beliefs more open to interactional disconfirmation, so "intentional value feelings" predominate.
Empathetic beliefs, while sharing the present temporal focus of the egocentric type, in sharp contrast to both of the former shows a radical difference in an individual's focus of attention. Here, the individual believer's attention is not predominantly focused on him/herself or how to find happiness. Indeed, if considered at all, happiness is an afterthought because, for such believers, there are more important tasks at hand than worrying about themselves: they are just too busy. These beliefs are truly other directed because they place more value on someone or something "outside" the individual. Evaluative beliefs about their moral self come into play less consciously, although they still function and accumulate reflexively "beneath the surface" in interactions. Happiness, if considered by these believers at all, is thought of as an activity, a verb, something one does. As such, it is epiphenomenal in nature, a by-product of the exercise of one's highest faculties by a complete self. In this type, a person experiences happiness without continually wondering about it.
In addition, the "unselfishness" of these individuals has important ramifications in relation to the self. Whereas in both the egocentric and transcendental types the self is restricted by its beliefs, in the sense that there is often conscious utilization of the "other" in interactions as a means to the happiness of the person inside the body; in the other directed models to be considered here, the other is an end in itself. What is found in these latter models is a conscious expansion of the self outside the lived body to include others. This is a recognition that one's self does not reside solely beneath one's skin, but is part of the world of experience (i.e. a recognition, at some level, of one's social psychological nature).
Fourth, crusader beliefs, which share the active, other-directed nature of empathetic beliefs, differ only in their temporal orientation. Here, future ends or pursuits give meaning and motivation to one's present activities and moral sense of self. Essentially, adherents work toward a goal which gives meaning to their lives.
Now that a general model of experiencing the emotion of happiness has been constructed, and varieties of component belief have been typed, one must examine, finally, how individuals may adaptively change their views as to what makes them happy, and thereby move closer to one type or away from another. Essentially, an individual will become disillusioned with his/her conception of happiness and seek a new outlook when: (a) perceived disconfirmation occurs in interaction (i.e. of one's beliefs, or of oneself in light of one's beliefs); and (b) identity maintenance strategies for maintaining belief and sense of self have broken down. Also relevant here are factors such as (c) frequency; (d) intensity; and (e) whether or not the disconfirmation occurred in interaction with significant others. In the event that disconfirmation challenges an identity or belief, and cannot be salvaged through some strategy, then one must either adapt, take on a different perceptual and evaluative outlook and/or identity, or become unhappy in one's own terms.
However, considering that individuals' selves are made up of a variety of identities and interactional role-commitments, it becomes clear that, aside from the ultimate disconfirmation of one's perceptual and evaluative beliefs with regard to a master status, most disconfirmations will be role-specific: not affecting one's total identity. There are several important implications:
First, it is possible that so long as one's cumulative beliefs about one's moral self are not inconsistent and not perceived as such by oneself or by one's interactants, one may entertain and adaptively move between different approximate types of belief about happiness with regard to the different social roles that one occupies. So long as this mosaic of beliefs defining self do not conflict, perceptually or morally, in any fundamental way, and are not held up to one as such in interaction, one's happiness will consist, at bottom, in adapting the most favourable mix of the previously outlined types of belief to the roles one fills in order to maximize positive interactions, and, thereby, positive accumulations of oneself.
Secondly, since many actual systems of belief in society have diverse elements that may fit, depending on the emphasis, into several of the above categories, to maintain happiness one can frequently merely make an adaptive change in emphasis within a given system rather than an outright change to another. Thus, one may have an overall, integrated system of beliefs about happiness that approximates one or several of the types outlined above for all or the majority of one's roles, or one may hold a variety of more diverse beliefs relating to happiness for different roles that, so long as they are perceived consistent, and not held up as inconsistent in interaction, can be maintained to achieve the most favourable mix of positive moral assessments of self in interaction.
Finally, short of any disconfirmation of one's "root" moral belief about oneself, nor of those roles that one considers important to one's sense of self, it may be that, when pressed, one can tactically sacrifice one of one's "less important" role identities to disconfirmation in order to maximize positive cumulative moral assessments of self and minimize negative ones.
In short, by remaining thus internally consistent and externally harmonious, one is happy. In these ways, culture, society, and the endlessly creative process of the human mind guide us in both experiencing and creating what we feel.
- S. Kenney (1998): Metaphors of Loss:
In 1994-1998 I conducted a study of the family and loved ones of homicide victims. This involved the collection, transcription, and analysis of:
- 32 interviews;
- 22 surveys; and
- 108 Criminal Injuries Compensation files.
Two of the questions I examined were:
- How such crimes impact on the selves of family and loved ones;
- The meanings disclosed to these individuals by their emotional experiences
I discovered that survivors articulated a rich series of metaphors to illustrate the impact of the crime, which were termed metaphors of loss.
* These attempted to convey, insofar as words may, the effect of homicide on those close to the deceased.
* They constitute typical ways survivors use to express both their loss of self, and the existential meanings disclosed to them by the emotions inherent to their experiences.
This section reviews and compares survivors' use of these typical metaphors as follows:
(1) The various metaphors are illustrated and discussed in relation to survivors gendered identities in descending order of frequency in the data;
- The contexts in which survivors utilize these metaphors will be examined, with an emphasis on when they were used, how, with what purpose, and whether they varied according to specific type of loss.
Loss of Self:
*The single most common metaphors expressed by survivors were those indicating a generalized loss of self. Subjects using such metaphors typically asserted that they "lost part of themselves" when the deceased was killed.
Examples: ”Like an amputation”;
“Having one's heart torn out";
“I feel like I'm half gone";
"A void," "vacuum," "a hole," "blackness," having an "empty heart," feeling "hollow" and “dead inside."
- It is significant to note that these general metaphors were frequently generalized beyond survivors alone
Examples: To family;
To an intimate group that had included the deceased;
To the community at large (e.g. “ripple effect”)
Permanent Loss of Future:
The various metaphors signifying a generalized loss of self related clearly to other metaphors where various dimensions of loss were elaborated.
- For example, the next most frequent type of metaphor expressed by survivors were those signifying that they had presently suffered (a) a personal loss of future that was, (b) by its very nature permanent.
"It's as though your life is going along in one direction, and then something happens and it takes a right angle turn, and your whole future is just sliced away."
“The loss will always be with me forever”;
“Our lives have been “irrevocably changed”
“I feel stuck at the point when I first heard of his murder.”
Survivors frequently expressed the view that they:
(a) felt personally violated by the murder; and that this
(b) left behind a devastation that penetrated to the very core of their being.
Examples of (a):
-Comparing the effect of the homicide to "being murdered myself;"
-Feeling physically “wounded” deep in their “heart.”
-Use of words like "violation," “assault,” and "trauma" in relation to self.
Examples of (b):
- Using a variety of terms illustrative of destruction, damage, and ruin.
- Feeling “dead inside.” Having a "ruined life."
- “It's like sinking in quicksand, but never quite suffocating and dying oneself."
Being a "Different Person Now:"
Survivors frequently noted that, since the murder, they had become "different people."
- Survivors referred to "personality changes"
- Newfound difficulty with concentration and memory.
- Becoming uncharacteristically cautious of others and protective of their children.
- Having different and diminished interests, goals, priorities and involvements since the murder.
- Mood swings emphasizing increased anger (men) and emotional expression (women)
Loss of Control:
Going hand in hand with these other losses is the fifth metaphor: loss of control.
Example: “It all began for us when our 19 year old daughter was brutally murdered. From our perspective, we had suddenly lost control of our lives."
- While all of the other metaphors showed a clear majority - often an overwhelming preponderance - of expression by females, the reverse was true here, with men emphasizing a sense of personal failure.
Finally, there is the metaphor of lost innocence which underlies radical changes in survivors' sense of reality. This appeared in several variations:
(1) Survivors' shock and incomprehension that such a thing could happen.
"We lived in a good area. We taught our kids to do unto others. So, I mean, for someone just out of the blue to do something like this for no reason, is just horrifying."
- In relation to the cherished characteristics of the deceased as a person, as in “the loss of an innocent,” and in relation to the effect of the murder on surviving children where they were characterized as having their "childhood" taken from them.
- In relation to one's prior ideals of justice, which were reinterpreted as being naive under the circumstances.
Example: one man, who, throughout the offender's trial professed his faith that the justice system would see to it that justice was served, immediately collapsed in a “nervous breakdown” when the verdict was read and the offender convicted of a much lesser offence.
Simply describing survivors' typical metaphors of loss tells us little if we neglect the social contexts in which they are expressed.
- It was clear that the majority of survivors expressed these metaphors either in response to specific questions, as in the interview and survey data, or in the context of certain specific types of interactions with officials, as in the Criminal Injuries Compensation data.
- With regard to the former, for example, the vast majority of metaphors were expressed in relation to questions:
Examples: asking respondents how they would describe losing a loved one in this way, or whether they now saw themselves as victims of crime.
With the Criminal Injuries Compensation data, metaphors were primarily expressed in response to either requests for documentation, or in response to official skepticism or unfavorable rulings. Indeed, respondents also expressed these metaphors in response to interactions with the Board that they found inappropriate or unwelcome.
- Survivors used these metaphors in two ways:
(1) To express the unexpressible, to convey, inasmuch as possible through the limited medium of language, their pain, loss, and the various meanings disclosed in their lives by same.
(2) When their status as victims was questioned, they enunciated these metaphors as a means of reinforcing this definition of the situation when something was at stake.
-While there was no pattern linking any specific metaphors more or less to particular losses (e.g. parental vs. sibling bereavement), it appeared that the metaphors as a group were expressed disproportionately by bereaved parents.
Discussion and Conclusion:
Each of these metaphors constitutes an existential meaning, disclosed in emotion, that sheds light on various, fundamental dimensions of the self. These signify a loss of not only subjects' relationship with the deceased and various integral aspects of their prior identities, but express the structure of a self struggling to make sense of itself in a world where people get murdered.
These metaphors contribute to the literature as follows:
(1) They systematically elaborate the various dimensions in which individuals' background assumptions are violated;
- The dimensions discussed corroborate, yet empirically elaborate earlier positions on bereavement and loss of self that were either only implicit before, or discussed in a fragmentary fashion;
- These emphasize how the existential self, through emotional struggle, incorporates present experiences into its evolving reality;
- These emphasize gender differences in substantive expression which seemed to reflect more general gender differences in this society (e.g. female predominance in all metaphors except loss of control; violent vs. expressive imagery);
- By charting the various metaphors together with their variations by gender, it may be possible to map out the "gender schemas" of the bereaved in a way that assists professionals helping the bereaved to target their assistance most effectively;
- The contexts in which these mataphors were expressed are significant. The disproportionate excpression of these by bereaved parents suggests that the impact of loss in parental bereavement may have a more profound impact on the self than other types of loss;
(6) They emphasize how people resort to metaphorical or poetic language to express deep, inner meanings to the self, and contribute to our understanding of the presentation of self when something is at stake.
Future research in this area should:
(1) Attempt to comparatively investigate these in other bereavement contexts, such as terminal illness, car accidents, and suicide;
(2) Move beyond questions of loss and the victimized self and focus more squarely on the evolution of what is left - for it is out of the assorted wreckage surrounding this gaping hole in their lives that survivors must draw in working through their grief;
- Examine the interactional maintenance vs. reconstruction of the injured self in the years following the loss.
Whatever the future course of research in these areas, however, this map of the loss of self experienced by homicide survivors should help provide the foundation.