TWO ACCOUNTS OF EMOTION AND FEELING
So what do we assume is true about emotion? There is the organismic account and there is the interactwe account. They differ in what they imply about our capacity to manage emotion, and thus in what they imply about the importance of rules about managing it. According to the organismic view, the paramount questions concern the relation of emotion to biologically given instinct or impulse. In large part, biological factors account for the questions the organismic theorist poses. The early writings of Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, and, in some though not all respects, William James fit this model.1 The concept “emotion” refers mainly to strips of experience in which there is no conflict between one and another aspect of self: the individual “floods out,” is “overcome.” The image that comes to mind is that
– ■ r i.’il ll у і1 |ПЦ! пНи
of a sudden, automatic reflex syndrome—Darwin’s instant snarl expression,
Freud’s tension discharge at a given breaking point of tension overload, James and Lange’s notion of an instantaneous unmediated visceral reaction to a perceived stimulus, the perception of which is also unmediated by social influences.
In this first model, social factors enter in only in regard to how emotions are stimulated and expressed (and even here Darwin took the universalist position)."1 Social factors are not seen as an influence on how emotions are actively suppressed or evoked. Indeed, emotion is seen as fixed and universal, much like a kneejerk reaction or a sneeze. In this view, one could as easily manage an emotion as one could manage a knee jerk or a sneeze. If the organismic theorist were to be presented with the concept of feeling rules, he or she would be hard put to elucidate what these rules impinge or what capacity of the self could be called on to try to obey a feeling rule. Recent attempts to link an organismic notion of emotion to social structure, such as Randall Collins’s wonderfully bold attempt, suffer from the problems that were implicit in the organismic account to begin with. Collins, like Darwin, on whom he draws, sees emotions as capacities (or susceptibilities) within a person, to be automatically triggered, as Collins develops it, by one or another group in control of the ritual apparatus that does the triggering. li A wholly different avenue of social control, that of feeling rules, is bypassed
because the individual’s capacity to try to—or try not to—feel that to which
the rule applies is not suggested by the organismic model with which Collins begins.
In the interactive account, social influences permeate emotion more insistently, more effectively, and at more junctures. In large part, sociopsychological factors account for the questions the interactive theorist poses. The writings of Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills, Erving Goffman, Richard Lazarus, James Averill, Stanley Schachter, Jerome Singer, Thomas Kemper, Judith Katz, and aspects of late Freudian and neo-Freudian thought fit this model.7 To invoke the Freudian vocabulary, the image here is not that of a runaway id, but of an ego and superego, acting in union, shaping and nagging the id, however ineffectively, temporarily, or consciously. Emotion is sometimes posited as a psychobiological means of adaptation—an analogue to other adaptive mechanisms, such as shivering when cold or perspiring when hot. But emotion differs from these other adaptive mechanisms, in that thinking, perceiving, and imagining—themselves subject to social influence—enter in.
As in the first model, social factors affect how emotions are elicited and expressed. But here we also notice how social factors guide the ways we, interpret, and manage emotion. These acdons reflect back, in turn, on that which is labeled, interpreted, and managed. They are, finally, intrinsic to what we call emotion." Emotion, in this second school of thought, is seen as
more deeply social. Lazarus’s work in particular lends empirical weight to t he interactive model. 11 shows how normal adults, like the university students on whom he conducted experiments, can control their emotions. Their capacity is far greater than what we expect from a small child, an insane adult, or an animal, from all of which Freud and Darwin drew inspiration. But since we re trying to understand the emotional experience of normal adults, we would do well to explore the model that fits them best— the interactive account.
If emotions and feelings can to some degree be managed, how might we get a conceptual grasp of the managing act from a social perspective? The interactive account of emotion leads us into a conceptual arena “between” the Goffmanian focus on consciously designed appearances, on the one hand, and the Freudian focus on unconscious intrapsychic events, on the other. The focus of A. H. Mead and Herbert Blumer on conscious, active, and responsive gestures might have been most fruitful had not their focus on deeds and thought almost entirely obscured the importance of feeling. The self as emotion manager is an idea that borrows from both sides— Goffman and Freud—but squares completely with neither. Here I sketch only the basic borrowings and departures—and these begin with Goffman.9
Erving Goffman (ioffman catches an important irony: moment to moment,
the individual is actively, consciously negotiating a personal and apparently unique course of action, but in the long run all the action often seems like passive acquiescence to some unconscious social convention. But the conserving of convention is not a passive business. We can extend and deepen Goffman’s approach by showing how people not only try to conform outwardly, but do so inwardly as well. “When they issue uniforms, they issue skins,” Goffman says. And, we can add, “two inches of flesh.”10 But how can we understand these two inches of flesh?11
Gofiman maintains a studied disregard for the links between immediate social situations and macrostructure on one hand and individual personality on the other. If one is interested in drawing links among social structure, feeling rules, and emotion management, this studied disregard becomes a real problem.
Goffman’s “situationism” is a brilliant achievement, one that must be understood as a development in the intellectual history of social psychology. Earlier in the century a number of classic works linked social structure to personality, or dominant institutions to typical identities, and thus also related findings in sociology and anthropology to those in psychology or psychoanalytic theory. These studies appeared in a number of fields—in anthropology (Ruth Benedict), in psychoanalysis (Erich Fromm, Karen Homey, and Erik Erikson), in sociology (David Riesman, Guy Swanson and Daniel Miller, and Gerth and Mills) .12
Possibly in response to their work, Goffman proposed an intermediate level of conceptual elaboration, between social structure and personality. He focused one by one on situations, episodes, encounters. The emergent encounters he evoked were not only nearly divorced from social structure and from personality; he even seems to intend his situationism as an analytic substitute for these concepts.18 Structure, he seems to say, can be not only transposed but reduced “in and down,” while personality can be reduced “up and out” to the here-now, gone-then interactional moment. The resulting perspective removes the determinisms of institution and personality. It illuminates the room there is between them to slide around.
But each episode—a card game, a party, a greeting on the street—takes on the character of a government. It exacts from us certain “taxes” in the form of appearances we “pay” for the sake of sustaining the encounter. We are repaid in the currency of safety from disrepute.1 ’
This model of the situation qua minigovemment illuminates something. But, to study how and why “participants. . . hold in check certain psychological states,”15 we are forced out of the here-now, gone-then situationism and back, in part at least, to the social structure and personality model. We are led to appreciate the importance of Goffman’s work, as it seems he didn’t, as the critical set of conceptual connecting tissues by which structure and personality, real in their own right, are more precisely joined. For if we are to understand the origin and causes of change in feeling rules—this underside of ideology—we are forced back out of a study of the immediate situations in which they show up, to a study of such things as the changing relations between classes, sexes, races, and nations, in order to see why they’re changing.
If we are to investigate the ways people try’ to manage feeling, we shall have to posit an actor capable of feeling, capable of assessing when a feeling is “inappropriate,” and capable of trying to manage feeling. The problem is that the actor Goffman proposes does not seem to feel much, is not attuned to, does not monitor closely or assess, does not actively evoke, inhibit, shape—in a word, work on—feelings in a way an actor would have to do to accomplish what Goffman says is in fact accomplished in one encounter after another. We are left knowing about “suppressive work” as a result but knowing nothing of the process or techniques by which it is achieved. If we are to argue that social factors influence how we try to manage feelings, if we are to carry the social that far, we have to carry our analytic focus beyond the “black box” to which Goffman finally refers us.
ГЬе characters in Coffman’s books actively manage outer impressions, but they do not actively manage inner feelings. The very topic, sociology of emotion, presupposes a human capacity for, if not the actual habit of, reflecting on and shaping inner feelings, a habit itself distributed variously across time, age, class, and locale. This variation would quickly drop from
sight were we to adopt an exclusive focus on the actor’s attentiveness to behavioral facade and assume a uniform passivity vis-a-vis feelings.
This skew in the theoretical actor is related to what, from my viewpoint, is another problem: Goffman’s concept of acting, Goffman suggests that we spend a good deal of effort managing impressions—that is, acting. But he talks about only one sort of acting—the direct management of behavioral expression. His illustrations, however, actually point to two types of acting— the direct management of behavioral expression (e. g., the given-off sigh, the shoulder shrug), and the management of feeling from which expression can follow (e. g., the thought of a hopeless project). Someone playing the part of King Lear might go about his task in two ways. One actor, following the English school of acting, might focus on outward demeanor, the constellation of minute expressions that correspond to Lear’s sense of impotent rage. This is the sort of acting Goffman theorizes about. Another actor, adhering to the American or Stanislavsky school of acting, might guide his memories and feelings in such a way as to elicit the corresponding expressions. The first technique we might call “surface acting,” the second “deep acting." Goffman fails to distinguish the first from the second, and he obscures the importance of “deep acting.” When this is obscured we are left with the impression that social factors pervade only the “social skin,” the tried-for outer appearances of the individual. are left the
power of social forces on our inner grip of ourselves.
In sum, if we accept the interactive account of emotion and study the self as emotion manager, we can learn from Goffman about the link between social rule and feeling. But to elaborate this insight we need to relax the theoretical strictures Goffman stoically imposes against a focus on social structure and on personality.
Sigmund Freud The need to replace Goffman’s “black-box psychology” with some theory of self, in the full sense of the term, might seem to lead to Freudian or neo-Freudian theory. Yet, here, as with Goffman, only some aspects of the Freudian model seem useful to my understanding of conscious, deliberate efforts to suppress or evoke feeling.
Freud dealt with emotions, of course, but for him they were always secondary to drive. He proposed a general theory of sexual and aggressive drives. Anxiety, as a derivative of aggressive and sexual drives, was of paramount importance, while a wide range of other emotions, including joy, jealousy, and depression, were given relatively litde attention. He developed, and many others have since elaborated, the concept of ego defense as a generally unconscious, involuntary means of avoiding painful or unpleasant affect. The notion of “inappropriate affect” is then used to point to aspects of the individual’s ego functioning, not the social rules according to which a feeling is or is not deemed appropriate to a situation.
I’he emotion-management perspective is indebted to Freud for the general notion of what resources individuals of different sorts possess for accomplishing the task of emotion work and for the notion of unconscious involuntary emotion management. The emotion-management perspective differs from the Freudian model in its focus on the full range of emotions and feelings and its focus on conscious and deliberate efforts to shape feeling.
How do we understand inappropriate emotion? In David Shapiro’s well – known work on “neurotic style,” he gives an example:
An obsessive-compulsive patient—a sober, technically minded and active man—was usually conspicuously lacking in enthusiasm or excitement in circumstances that might seem to warrant them. On one occasion, as he talked about a certain prospect of his, namely, the good chance of an important success in his work, his sober expression was momentarily interrupted by a smile. Af ter a few more minutes of talking, during which he maintained his soberness only with difficulty, he began quite hesitandy to speak of certain hopes that he had only afuded to earlier. Then he broke into a grin. Almost, however, he
regained his usual somewhat worried expression. As he did this he said, “Of course, the outcome is by no means certain,” and lie said this in a tone that, if anything, would suggest the outcome was almost certain to be a failure. After ticking off several of the specific possibilities for a hitch, he finally seemed to be himself again, so to speak.1*’
What seems interesting here differs according to whether one takes the psychiatric or the emotion-management perspective. To the psychiatrist, which circumstances warrant which degree and type of feeling seems relatively unproblematic. A doctor intuitively knows what inappropriate affect is; one should be happy at occupational success. The main problem is not so much to discern the rich variety of kinds of misfit of feeling to situation as to cure the patient of whatever interferes with feeling that “right” feeling. From the emotion-management perspective, on the other hand, the warranting function of circumstances is a real problem. How does the psychiatrist decide what the patient should feel? The way he decides may well be the same for a psychiatrist as for a salesclerk or school disciplinarian. For, in a sense, we all act as lay psychiatrists using unexamined means of arriving at a detcrmination about just which circumstances warrant that much feeling of that sort.
What the psychiatrist, the salesclerk, and the school disciplinarian share is a habit of comparing situation (e. g., high opportunity, associated with an accomplishment at work) with role (e. g., hopes, aspirations, expectations typical of, and expected from, those enacting the role). Social factors alter how we expect a person to play—or shall we say encounter—a role. If, for example, the patient were a “sober, technically minded and active” woman, and if the observer • rightly or wrongly) assumed or expected her to value family and personal ties over worldly success, ambivalence at the prospect
of advance might seem perfectly appropriate. Lack of enthusiasm would have a warrant of that social sort. Again, if the patient were an antinuclear activist and his discovery had implications for nuclear energy, that would alter his hopes and aspirations and might warrant dismay. Or if an immigrant is, by virtue of enormous family sacrifice, sent off to succeed in America, his or her enthusiasm might be infused with a sense of indebtedness to those left back home.
We assess the “appropriateness” of a feeling by making a comparison between feeling and situation, not by examining the feeling in the abstract. This comparison lends the assessor a “normal" yardstick—a socially normal one—with which to factor out the personal meaning systems that may lead a worker to distort his view of “the** situation and feel inappropriately with regard to it. The psychiatrist holds constant the socially normal yardstick and focuses on what we have just factored out. The student of emotion management holds constant what is factored out and studies variations in socially normal yardsticks.
There is a second difference in what, from the two perspectives, seems interesting in the above example. From the emotion-management perspective, what is interesting is the character and direction of volition and consciousness. Krom the psychiatric perspective, what is of interest is prewill and nonconsciousness. The man described is not doing emotion work, that is, making a conscious, intended try at altering feeling. Instead, he is controlling his enthusiasm by “being himself," by holding in Alfred Schutz’s term a “natural attitude.” He “no longer needs to struggle not to grin; he is not in a grinning mood.”17 In order to avoid affective deviance, some individuals may face a harder task than others, the task of consciously working on feelings in order to make up for “a natural attitude"— explainable in psychoanalytic terms—that gets them into trouble. The hysteric working in a tightly controlled bureaucratic setting may face the necessity for more emotion work than the obsessive-compulsive who naturally fits in just fine.
In sum, the emotion-management perspective fosters attention on how people try to feel, not, as for Goffman, on how people try to appear to feel. It leads us to attend to how people consciously feel and not, as for Freud, to how people reel unconsciously. The interactive account of emotion points to alternate theoretical junctures—between consciousness of feeling and consciousness of feeling rules, between feeling rules and emotion work, between feeling rules and social structure.
By “emotion work” I refer to the act of trying to change in degree or quality an emotion or feeling. To “work on” an emotion or feeling is, for our purposes, the same as “to manage” an emotion or to do “deep acting.” Note
that “emotion work” refers to the effort—the act of trying—and not to the outcome, which may or may not be successful. Failed acts of management still indicate what ideal formulations guide the effort, and on that account are no less interesting than emotion management that works.
The very notion of an attempt suggests an active stance vis-a-vis feeling. In my exploratory study respondents characterized their emotion work by a variety of active verb forms; “I psyched myself up. . . I squashed my anger down … I tried hard not to feel disappointed… I made myself have a good time… I tried to feel grateful… I killed the hope I had burning.” There was also the actively passive form, as in “I let myself hnally feel sad.”
Emotion work differs from emotion “control” or “suppression.” The latter two terms suggest an effort merely to stifle or prevent feeling. “Emotion work” refers more broadly to the act of evoking or shaping, as well as suppressing feeling. I avoid the term “manipulate” because it suggests a shallowness I do not want to imply. We can speak, then, of two broad types of emotion work: evocation, in which the cognitive focus is on a desired feeling that is initially absent, and suppression, in which the cognitive focus is on an undesired feeling that is initially present. One respondent, going out with a priest twenty years her senior, exemplifies the problems of evocative emotion work:
Anyway, > started to try and make myselflike him. 1 made myself focus on the way he talked, certain things he’d done in the past. … When I was with him 1 did like him, but I would go home and write in my journal how much I couldn’t stand him. І kept changing my feeling and actually thought! really liked him while I was with him, but a couple of hours after he was gone, I reverted back to different feelings. lH
Another respondent exemplifies the work not of working feeling up, but of working feeling down:
Last summer I was going with a guy often, and I began to feel very strongly about him. I knew, though, that he had just broken up with a girl a year ago because she had gotten too serious about him, so 1 was afraid to show any emotion. 1 also was afraid of being hurt, so I attempted to change my feelings. / talked myself into not earing about Mike. . . but I must admit it didn’t work for long. To sustain this feeling I had to almost invent bad things about him and concentrate on them or continue to tell myself he didn’t. It was a hardening of emotions,
I’d say. It took a lot of work and was unpleasant, because Ї had to concentrate on anything I could find that was irritating about him.
Often emotion work is aided by setting up an emotion-work system—for example, telling friends all the worst faults of the person one wanted to fall out of love with and then going to those friends for reinforcement of this view of the ex-beloved. This suggests another point: emotion wrork can be
done by the self upon the self, by the self upon others, and by others upon oneself.
In each case the individual is conscious of a moment of “pinch,” or discrepancy, between what one does feel and what one wants to feel (which is, in turn, affected by what one thinks one ought to feel in such a situation). In response, the individual may try to eliminate the pinch by working on feeling. Both the sense of discrepancy and the response to it can vary in time. The managing act, for example, can be a five-minute stopgap measure, or it can be a decade-long effort suggested by the term “working through.”
There are various techniques of emotion work. One is cognitive: the attempt to change images, ideas, or thoughts in the service of changing the feelings associated with them.19 A second is bodily: the attempt to change somatic or other physical symptoms of emotion (e. g., trying to breathe slower, trying not to shake). Third, there is expressive emotion work: trying to change expressive gestures in the service of changing inner feeling (e. g., trying to smile or cry). This differs from simple display in that it is directed toward change in feeling. It differs from bodily emotion work in that the individual tries to alter or shape one or another of the classic public channels for the expression of feeling.
These three techniques are distinct theoretically, but often go together in practice. For example:
I was a star halfback in high school. Before games 1 didn’t feel the upsurge of adrenalin—in a word I wasn’t “psyched up.” (This was due to emotional difficulties I was experiencing and still experience—I was also an A student whose grades were dropping.) Having been in the past a fanatical, emotional, intense player, a “hitter” recognized by coaches as a very hard worker and a player with “desire,” this was very upsetting. I did everything I could to get myself “ up”I would try to be outwardly “ rah rah” or get myself scared of my opponent—any
thing to gel the adrenalin flowing. I tried to look nervous and intense before games, so at least the coaches wouldn’t catch on. . . . When actually I was mostly bored, or in any event, not “up.” 1 recall before one game wishing I was in the stands watching my cousin play for his school, rather than “out here.”
Emotion work becomes an object of awareness most often, perhaps, when the individual’s feelings do not fit the situation, that is, when the latter does not account for or legitimate feelings in the situation. A situation (such as a funeral) often carries with it a proper definition of itself (“this is a time of facing loss”) . This official frame carries with it a sense of what it is fitting to feel (sadness). It is when this tripartite consistency among situation, conventional frame, and feeling is somehow ruptured, as when the bereaved feels an irrepressible desire to laugh delightedly at the thought of an inheritance, that rule and management come into focus. It is then that the more normal flow of deep convention—the more normal fusion of situation, frame, and feeling—seems like an enormous accomplishment.
Muiij’i і h i і dire ізиг; „lLituiii и
The smoothly warm airline hostess, the ever-cheerful secretary, the unirritated complaint clerk, the undisgusted proctologist, the teacher who likes every student equally, and Goffman’s unflappable poker player may all have to engage in deep acting, an acting that goes well beyond the mere ordering of display. Work to make feeling and frame consistent with situation is work in which individuals continually and privately engage. But they do so in obeisance to rules not completely of their own making.