. NAMING FEELING
In Appendix A, I offer a review of research on emotion and my own three-part account of emotion. In this appendix, I examine the principle according to which we name feeling.
To name a feeling is to name our way of seeing something, to label our perception As we see in Appendix A, perception is not all there is to emotion or feeling, nor is it its sole cause, but it is the principle according to which emotion and feeling are named. This is the idea advanced by the cognitive psychologist Judith Katz (1980). I develop it here to show that when we do not feel emotion, or disclaim an emotion, we lose touch with how we actually link inner to outer reality.
This theory of emotion naming is an elaboration of what I have said at the end of Appendix A about the social influences on the “signal function” of feeling. Feelings signal not only a newly apprehended reality (outer or inner) but what that reality impinges upon—our prior self and expectations. Now I want to turn this idea around and argue that the names we give emotions refer to the way we apprehend a given situation—the aspect of it we focus on—and what our prior expectations about it are. In short, feeling signals perception and expectation to us, and turning this around, different patterns of perception and expectation correspond to different feeling names. Since culture directs our seeing and expecting, it directs our feeling and our naming of feeling.
Thus what feelings “signal” to us as sociologists is how culture influences what we feel and how we name it.
In my attention to patterns of perception and expectation, I may seem to imply that people actively choose to focus and expect as they do. Sometimes—when people are under the directorship of Stanislavski or In-Flight Training, they do. But for the most part, we see and expect in ways we do not actively direct and in ways we are often totally unconscious of.
How do we name feeling? It seems artificial and simplistic, often, to apply only one name to what we feel. We can feel angry, guilty, disappointed, and frustrated, all with reference to the same event. This does not mean that we are momentarily possessed of a certain mixture of physiological states or expressions. It means, instead, that from moment to moment we are focusing on different features of the situation. Compound emotions are serial perceptions. As Katz rightly points out, when we reminisce, the mind’s eye moves from one point to another; the multiplicity of the emotions we name results from this movement of focus.
Moving our attention from one point to another in a field of details brings together one interface after another between inner and outer reality. We are always wanting or expecting something, but we are not always attending to all the crystallizing details of a situation simultaneously. We hold, at most, two main points of focus and thus keep two facets of a situation in mind at the same time. We focus on one facet in light of another, with other facets providing background.
Suppose, Katz suggests, an old and beloved friend of mine is killed in a car accident. My state of grief is not a condensed experience of sadness but the continual susceptibility to it as I reminisce. When I focus on the thought “I love him and want him” in light of the thought “he is dead now,” we call what I feel sadness. But if I focus on “I love and want him” while at the same time (through religious conviction or denial) disbelieving the evidence of his death, I do not for that moment feel sad. If through the voyages of the mind I chance upon the thought “but we had precious good times and I have those memories,” for that moment we call what I feel happy and grateful. If I see “our precious good times” in light of the thought “but they’re gone and lost now,” nostalgia is the name for what I feel.
Prior opinions or assumptions further differentiate named feeling. For example, when I consider the other friends of the accident victim and imagine their loss, what I feel depends on how I have regarded them in the past. If I have considered them to be equals, what I feel is compassion. If I have considered them inferior in some sense, what I feel is pity.
If I dwell neither on the cause of the loss nor on the object of it (the friend) but on the intermediate fact that this tragedy has simply happened to me, I feel frustration. I dwell on “I’m not getting what I want,” set apart from notions of why I’m not getting it. But if I focus on the cause (the driver of the car that killed him), I feel what we call anger.
Developing Katz’s idea, Chart 1 at the end of this appendix describes some common emotions collected from over four hundred names of emotions and sentiments found in Roget’s Thesaurus and The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. Corresponding to each emotion name are five general categories of perceptual focus: (1) what I want, or like, or am attached to; (2) what I now see myself as having; (3) what I approve or disapprove; (4) the perceived causal agent of an event or object; and (5) the relation of myself to the causal agent. Each emotion has two main points of focus; about half of them have additional peripheral points of focus. Let us consider a few examples of what Chart 1 attempts to explain.
In sadness, I am focusing on what I love, like, or want and also on the fact that it is not available to me. I do not focus on what has caused the loss or absence nor on my relation to the cause of the loss. I do focus on my relationship to the loved object. In nostalgia, the focal points are the same but the focus on the love or liking is stronger than the focus on what is gone, which adds sweetness to the bitterness of plain grief. In frustration, the focus is not on what I want that I don’t have but on the self in this state of not having; the focus is on my not having rather than on the wanted thing.
Anger, resentment, indignation, contempt, guilt, and anguish all correspond to different patterns of focus on the cause of frustration and on my relation to this cause. If I feel as powerful or more powerful than the blameworthy party on whom I focus, we say I feel anger. If I see the causal agent as very much more powerful than myself, we say I feel fear. (The brave are those who nurture the idea, or illusion, that they are as powerful as the agent of any threat to them.) Indignation is a name for adding a focus on a thing that is disapproved of; contempt is a name for adding a focus on one’s social or moral superiority. Guilt is a name for seeing ourselves as the author of an unwanted event. Envy is a name for noting what we do not have but want and noting further that another has it. Jealousy is a name for a focus on the threat to something that we already suppose we possess.
We call it love when we focus on the desirable qualities of a person or thing and on our closeness to him, her, or it. We call it admiration when we focus on the desirable qualities of the person in light of some attention to social distance. In awe, we take note of much greater social distance. As with all emotion, it is not that awe is a compound of entities in the sense that chemicals are compounds. What is combined are particular twists and turns of moment-to-moment noticings that lend context to seeing. As in the case of ail emotions, too, what is noted is experienced as relevant to the self. The emotion tells exactly how.