Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Three Types Of Emotions

Emotions are the reasons people do things. They drive our actions; they are our goals, the vision of the future that we think is supposed to be, for better or worse.

They can be expressed in language, but they are not rational. Their subjects can be positive or negative, singular or plural. They can be first, second, or third person (me, you, him). They can be in any tense (future, present, past, etc).

There are three types of emotions, and you probably guessed it, they correspond to the three meta-categories. They are Identities, Roles, and Imperatives. Each seeks toward its positive pole (good) and away from its negative pole (bad).

Identities are value judgements best expressed in terms of the verb "to be." "He is a jerk." "They were all jerks." "We are nice." "I am a gamer." "You are quite the optimist." "It's not fair!" "Y'all aren't from around here, and we don't take kindly to strangers asking questions..." "I have a bad feeling about this." (restated, "I am apprehensive.") Notice that "I like/I don't like" are similar statements which give value judgements while making it clear it isn't the object that is good or bad, but the person's opinion of it. They are analogous to facts or existence; they are emotions' answer to "what" questions.

Imperatives are best expressed as needs and wants, though other terminology is often used too. "You should clean your room." "I shouldn't have done this." "I want to go home." "Billy needs his nap." Wants are imperatives that, if fulfilled, something good will happen. Needs are imperatives that, if unfulfilled, something bad will happen. Stating wants as needs can be manipulative, and stating needs as wants can be weak. They are analogous to causality; they are emotions' answer to "why" questions.

Roles are difficult to explain, and are often mistaken for Identities and Imperatives. In every relationship (business, personal, legal) they are integral; they signify the roles and duties played by each party. In language, they are best expressed using the possessive: "My boots", "my dog", "my servant", "my wife", "my father", "my master", "my country", "my God." (These examples are a favorite passage of mine from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters.) There is, in each case, a reciprocal role possible, though a mismatch is also possible. Respectively, the reciprocals for this group are the boots' wearer, the dog's master, the servant's employer, the wife's husband, the father's son, the master's employee, the country's citizen, the God's worshipper. They may all be the same person! In each case, the subject and object can be singular or plural, as well as first, second, or third person. They can also be chained (linked together): "Our nation's forests." "We are all the children of the eaters of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" is equivalent to "Good and evil's knowledge's tree's fruit's eaters' children." They are analogous to methods; they are emotions' answer to "how" questions.

The subject of one emotion can also be the subject of another: "I want to be married to a good person." Imperative: I want to be.

Though people rarely are this open with their emotions, it is often cathartic to express them this way; it releases some of the passion of an emotion that cannot fulfill its goal, like a steam release valve. "It's not fair! I wanted it! It's mine!"

If an emotion remains unacknowledged, it will continue to attempt to fulfill its goal. Sometimes, if the situation is not safe or not the same, but the emotion is still unfulfilled, it will latch onto anything that is similar, and attempt to be fulfilled. This is known in psychology as transference, and it is a real phenomenon.

When I was seven, my best friend moved away. I wanted to continue our friendship, but he was no longer available. Every friendship I had since that time was an attempt to rekindle that original friendship. The friends I wound up with were gradually reduced in quality, until I found I had been in an emotionally abusive relationship for five years, and had only pain to show for my efforts. I stated my needs as wants, and he shot them down; he stated his wants as needs, and I felt pressured to fulfill them. Finally, I realized that I was transferring my role as my friend's friend to my relationship with my non-friend. This realization ended any feeling of duty toward my non-friend. Within a month, I ended it.


  • So very true to the every emotion u have expressed.. Gotta be strong with these three to be someone..

    By Blogger Rajeev Varindani, at 7:11 PM  

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