Date: 19/09/2020
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In the Zone: Managing Impossible Emotions

by Thomas J. Scheff (June 2011)

Abstract. This note proposes tentative answers to three questions about emotions: Why are they often either hidden or out of control? How do these transformations from normal emotions come about? How can they be managed more effectively? The answer suggested to the first two questions is that emotions can loop back on themselves, having feelings about feelings, sometimes without limit. Feedback loops can produce emotions that are experienced as either unbearably painful or out of control. The answer to the third question involves zones that allow one to feel emotions and to also observe oneself feeling. These zones are possible because of the human capacity for role-taking; seeing one’s self from the imagined point of view of another person. Difficulty in accessing the zone may be produced by the nature of the self in modern societies, dominated by the ego. Some implications of these ideas for persons and nations are suggested. more>>>