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Several psychologists have shown that feelings precede cognition in infants. Animals also probably react before thinking. Does this mean that affective system reacts instantaneously, without any of appraisal and survey processes that were postulated? If this were case, then we merely play with words: we invent explanations to label our feelings AFTER we fully experience them. Emotions, therefore, can be had without any cognitive intervention. They provoke unlearned bodily patterns, such as aforementioned facial expressions and body language. This vocabulary of expressions and postures is not even conscious. When information about these reactions reaches brain, it assigns to them appropriate emotion. Thus, affect creates emotion and not vice versa.
Sometimes, we hide our emotions in order to preserve our self-image or not to incur society's wrath. Sometimes, we are not aware of our emotions and, as a result, deny or diminish them.
C. An Integrative Platform – A Proposal
(The terminology used in this chapter is explored in previous ones.)
The use of one word to denote a whole process was source of misunderstandings and futile disputations. Emotions (feelings) are processes, not events, or objects. Throughout this chapter, I will, therefore, use term "Emotive Cycle".
The genesis of Emotive Cycle lies in acquisition of Emotional Data. In most cases, these are made up of Sense Data mixed with data related to spontaneous internal events. Even when no access to sensa is available, stream of internally generated data is never interrupted. This is easily demonstrated in experiments involving sensory deprivation or with people who are naturally sensorily deprived (blind, deaf and dumb, for instance). The spontaneous generation of internal data and emotional reactions to them are always there even in these extreme conditions. It is true that, even under severe sensory deprivation, emoting person reconstructs or evokes past sensory data. A case of pure, total, and permanent sensory deprivation is nigh impossible. But there are important philosophical and psychological differences between real life sense data and their representations in mind. Only in grave pathologies is this distinction blurred: in psychotic states, when experiencing phantom pains following amputation of a limb or in case of drug induced images and after images. Auditory, visual, olfactory and other hallucinations are breakdowns of normal functioning. Normally, people are well aware of and strongly maintain difference between objective, external, sense data and internally generated representations of past sense data.
The Emotional Data are perceived by emoter as stimuli. The external, objective component has to be compared to internally maintained databases of previous such stimuli. The internally generated, spontaneous or associative data, have to be reflected upon. Both needs lead to introspective (inwardly directed) activity. The product of introspection is formation of qualia. This whole process is unconscious or subconscious.
If person is subject to functioning psychological defense mechanisms (e.g., repression, suppression, denial, projection, projective identification) – qualia formation will be followed by immediate action. The subject – not having had any conscious experience – will not be aware of any connection between his actions and preceding events (sense data, internal data and introspective phase). He will be at a loss to explain his behaviour, because whole process did not go through his consciousness. To further strengthen this argument, we may recall that hypnotized and anaesthetized subjects are not likely to act at all even in presence of external, objective, sensa. Hypnotized people are likely to react to sensa introduced to their consciousness by hypnotist and which had no existence, whether internal or external, prior to hypnotist's suggestion. It seems that feeling, sensation and emoting exist only if they pass through consciousness. This is true even where no data of any kind are available (such as in case of phantom pains in long amputated limbs). But such bypasses of consciousness are less common cases.
More commonly, qualia formation will be followed by Feeling and Sensation. These will be fully conscious. They will lead to triple processes of surveying, appraisal/evaluation and judgment formation. When repeated often enough judgments of similar data coalesce to form attitudes and opinions. The patterns of interactions of opinions and attitudes with our thoughts (cognition) and knowledge, within our conscious and unconscious strata, give rise to what we call our personality. These patterns are relatively rigid and are rarely influenced by outside world. When maladaptive and dysfunctional, we talk about personality disorders.
Judgements contain, therefore strong emotional, cognitive and attitudinal elements which team up to create motivation. The latter leads to action, which both completes one emotional cycle and starts another. Actions are sense data and motivations are internal data, which together form a new chunk of emotional data.
Emotional cycles can be divided to Phrastic nuclei and Neustic clouds (to borrow a metaphor from physics). The Phrastic Nucleus is content of emotion, its subject matter. It incorporates phases of introspection, feeling/sensation, and judgment formation. The Neustic cloud involves ends of cycle, which interface with world: emotional data, on one hand and resulting action on other.
We started by saying that Emotional Cycle is set in motion by Emotional Data, which, in turn, are comprised of sense data and internally generated data. But composition of Emotional Data is of prime importance in determining nature of resulting emotion and of following action. If more sense data (than internal data) are involved and component of internal data is weak in comparison (it is never absent) – we are likely to experience Transitive Emotions. The latter are emotions, which involve observation and revolve around objects. In short: these are "out-going" emotions, that motivate us to act to change our environment.
Yet, if emotional cycle is set in motion by Emotional Data, which are composed mainly of internal, spontaneously generated data – we will end up with Reflexive Emotions. These are emotions that involve reflection and revolve around self (for instance, autoerotic emotions). It is here that source of psychopathologies should be sought: in this imbalance between external, objective, sense data and echoes of our mind.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, United Press International (UPI) and eBookWeb and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Suite101 and searcheurope.com.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com