Human Emotions Incorporated: providing

tools to culture Emtional Wisdom, Student Succes and Balance in Life

Toward Culturing Emotional Wisdom

Nurturing the nature of emotional well being with the

Emotology Q-Deck and Recreational Guide.

Raymond A. Launier, Ph.D.

© 2007

 An abbreviated (2009) version:

The House of Emotology, messenger theory and function of emotion.

Human feelings, emotions and passions are of perennial importance to the well being of human life. From the dawn of human evolution, through its long days and foreseeable future, the fears and joys, the frustrations and hopes, the resentments and loves, the despairs and curiosities mark the meaningful conditions, stressful events and significant moments of our lives. In what we feel, the emotions of life say something holistic about our well-being and growth in consciousness.

There can be no doubt that we are born emotional as well as rational creatures. The old fictional Startrek characters of Spock and Data depict indirectly our nature were it devoid of emotion: something missing, something humane. But we are born with the legacy of emotions; and are both blessed and cursed by our emotional heritage. For passions can be distressing, even dangerous. It has been said that the storms of anger, riots of fear and wars of hate have taken more lives and destroyed more property than have floods of water, hurricane gales and volcanic eruptions.

And yet, there is also something wonderfully humane, tender and precious about our feelings and sentiments.  Mothers, fathers, lovers, friends and family members know well the meaningfulness of emotional ties, as they do the difficult times of emotional distress.  The positive emotions have been important to the success of healers, teachers, therapists and religious leaders.  Through the energies and power of impassioned involvement and commitment, individuals have plumbed the depths and scaled the heights of human goodness, and made secure the well being of children, families and community.

Because emotions encompass so much more than psychology, the study of emotions warrants designation as a field of study of its own. Culture, family life, music, the weather, age, physical health, international relations, philosophy, cycles of time and much more are involved in the emotional life of groups and their members. Observing others, interpreting accurately what others feel and influencing the emotions of others through their own expression of emotion has been central to the success of salesmen, hunters, soldiers, politicians, business leaders, and especially parents, spouses, family and friends.

Clearly, emotional life and all that contributes to emotional life cannot be reduced to, relegated to, nor sufficiently understood by psychology. Accordingly, as an important branch in the tree of knowledge, the study of human emotions warrants its own designation, which I would propose as Emotology.

Emotology is the study of emotion and cultivation of emotional life and emotional wisdom. Emotology provides a holistic as well as an analytic approach to the question: how do we best nurture human nature to produce not just emotional intelligence but emotional stress balance, emotional wisdom and fulfillment? Is it not wise to nurture the nature of emotions, to cultivate their more healthy and beneficent kind?  But how do we best nurture these seeds and young saplings, not to poison the hearts of men, women and children, but to heal and nurture their spirits? 

From the evolutionary perspective, we are reminded that those living have not invented the emotions.  Rather, we are the heirs who receive at birth the legacy of all the passions and emotions known to human history and evolution.  What mysteries and hopes lie dormant as seeds in the field of emotion? What function was served in the evolution of emotions? What excesses of inflamed passions or undermining despair can be brought under control? What are emotions? Is it better to express or is it better to suppress our emotions? Like Darwin before him, Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy, underscores the inherent nature and natural need of individuals to openly express their emotions.

“Anything unexpressed which wants to be expressed can make you feel uncomfortable. And one of the most common unexpressed experiences is resentment. Resentment is the most important expression of an impasse-of being stuck. If you are resentful, you’re stuck; you neither can move forward and have it out, express your anger, change the world so that you’ll get satisfaction, nor can you let go and forget whatever disturbs you. This is the unfinished situation par excellence (Perls, 1969, pp. 51-52).”

Goleman’s concept of emotional intelligence is similarly focused on the needs of individuals. EQ involves competencies that can be learned and improved upon; it is about controlling our emotions and the emotions of others "My concern is with a key set of characteristics: abilities such as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope (Goleman, 1995, p. 34).” 

            Emotology, however, seeks to go beyond self-management and emotional stress management. For something above and beyond the individual is going on, something much deeper and of critical significance with the demise of the 20th Century.

It is not enough to therapise, pacify, or medicate the fears and frustrations, the anger and despair of people. For this does not go to the root of the problem. Deeper, underlying psychological, social and cultural needs are involved. Perhaps it is the deeply felt sense that our culturally prescribed ways of life need to change; that there needs to be greater depth of culture, as suggested by Jung in his work on archetypical images and wisdom in the collective unconscious of our species.

Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, famine and fire; plagues, wars, torture, corruption, cruelty, crime; international crises and regional conflict make the news on a daily basis. Images of pain and suffering bombard our sensibilities and our humanity. Some try to deny, some rationalize, some try to escape but there is no escaping the realities of our times. Despite the overcast of despair, despite the fog of confusion, despite the downpours of anger, and despite the gales of fear, we know. We know that as a people, as a society, as a species, we are headed in a very bad direction. It is not just global warming. It is also the mass extinction underway, the pollution of ground water, soil, air and solar radiation, the regression to superstition, ignorance and abandonment of reason and science. We know that we have arrived at the edge of the abyss. We feel it, sense it. The smell is in the air, in the news, in the (mis) leadership at the highest reaches of government.

Yet, strangely, there is still hope. Hope in listening to the message contained within our feelings and emotions, hope in acting upon what the message would have us do. The house of emotology is where we go to listen and to act upon the messages that come from deep within. This is similar to the task undertaken by Carl Jung, the greatest psychologist, in my opinion, of the 20th Century.

“I was frequently so wrought up that I had to do certain yoga exercises in order to hold my emotions in check. But since it was my purpose to know what was going on within myself, I would do these exercises only until I had calmed myself enough to resume my work with the unconscious. As soon as I had the feeling that I was myself again, I abandoned this restraint upon the emotions and allowed the images and inner voices to speak afresh.

To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images (author note: translate image to mean message) - that is to say, to find the images which were concealed in the emotions—I was inwardly calmed and reassured. Had I left those images in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them. There is a chance that I might have succeeded in splitting them off; but in that case I would inexorably have fallen into a neurosis and so been ultimately destroyed by them anyhow. As a result of my experiment I learned how helpful it can be, from a therapeutic point of view, to find the particular images  which lie behind emotions (Jung, 1961, p. 177).”

Emotology is defined as the study, cultivation and culturing of emotional wisdom. It is based on the “messenger” theory of emotion, related to the insights and research of Darwin, Jung, Lazarus and Launier. That is to say, emotions carry a message. The emotions we feel are not so much the messages per se, to be felt for the sake of feeling. Rather, emotions are messengers who arrive with a message bottled within. These various messenger emotions arrive and arouse our attention, inform various levels of understanding and motivate appropriate response. This messenger function of emotion evolved: the base emotions of fear and anger in animals, the caring emotions of love and attachment in mammals, the more cerebral emotions of curiosity and interest in primates, and the sublime emotions of creative passion, intellectual satisfaction and spiritual transcendence in humans. We have named the emotions: each a category of human experience found to be relevant to our well being.

The colorful spectrum of emotions can also be likened to colorful bottles, each with its distinct shape, color and feel. Yet, it is not so much the bottle per se but the message contained within the bottle that is important. The message may be in the form of an image, in the form of words, or in an intuitive sense of what to do. Too often, individuals become aware of the bottles, feel the feeling, but often do not take the time nor always know how to read the message contained therein. When a therapist asks: “how do you feel about that?’ it is not an idle question. Rather, it is to listen more closely to the message contained within the feelings experienced. Anger carries a message, as does hurt, fear, jealousy or despair.

And if the emotions of distress predominate, how can the emotions and passions of humanity be moved to more healthy grounds? In part, by expressing our feelings, by acting upon their message, and by recreating more healthy social realities on the very planet that is our birthplace and final resting place. But how do we get from humanity stressed-out to humanity emotionally fulfilled?

Archimedes, the Greek philosopher and physicist, reasoned that a lever big enough and properly placed against a fulcrum could move the earth itself. Education is the lever big enough to move the distressed passions and emotions of humanity to healthier ground. In the EQD re-creational guidebook, the use of a simple psychological tool, the EQD, is introduced. The EQD can serve as a fulcrum with the lever of education to move us in a direction of becoming more healthy, wealthy, happy and wise. The EQD and re-creational games provide a way to culture emotional balance and wisdom. But first, a brief tour through the House of Emotology is in order, for emotions can be read from several different perspectives.

The House of Emotology for the Field of Human Emotions

This essay draws upon the images and traditions of depth psychology to articulate a holistic understanding of human emotions. I refer to this perspective as the House of Emotology for the field of emotion. This perspective introduces a humanistic, transpersonal and ecological approach to educate and strengthen emotional health and well being through strategic points of intervention identified in this holistic theory of emotions.

In this essay, a four stage holistic perspective is presented which seeks to integrate four conceptually distinct perspectives on the nature and nurture of human emotions. Emotology is the field of study to cultivate emotional life. Studies in this field suggest that the emotional life of any individual can be understood to be a function of (a) adaptation and survival, (b) health promotion through health habits, (c) higher transcendental consciousness and (d) transpersonal, ecological balance. These four levels and contexts can be integrated in a unified theory of the Self that allows us to pose challenges for an applied, humanistic psychology regarding the education, nurturing and culturing of emotional life, health and well being.

The four levels or floors look onto the field of human experience in which the emotions and passions of life enter into the meaningful events of the day.  These four perspectives represent, metaphorically speaking, rooms with a different view, different sides to a four-story house.  The four floors each provide a different angle, a different “read” on the message contained within the emotions experienced. These four floors also suggest what is required to nurture the emotional nature of humans for health and happiness. 

The test of correct understanding is that it makes a difference for having it.  If correct, this model provides a basis for helping individuals and society to move from the overcast and storms of emotional distress to the fair days of emotional health and happiness.  Inherent in this perspective is the belief that each of the four views regarding the nature and nurture of emotional wellbeing is crucial to a humanistic solution to the problems of emotional distress.  A brief synopsis of the four views follows.

Room Facing West:

Emotions in the Context of Adaptation, Struggle & Success

This first floor room sees humans caught up in the Darwinian struggle for survival and adaptation to the ongoing and changing conditions of the environment.  On this level of understanding, individuals with sufficient ego strength adjust to the physical and social realities, threats and challenges of daily life.  Competition and Freudian rivalry for scarce resources prevail between siblings, individuals and groups.  Successful “adaptations” produce feelings of well-being; failures or its threat produce emotions of distress.

At this level, the message of emotions is that of signaling the relative fortunes of circumstance and coping success in the struggle for survival. Therefore, to foster emotional well-being, individuals should adjust and adapt to the realities of life by winning and being best in the struggle for success.  Frustrations, hurt, anger, despair or depression are signaling failure. Learn from failures and set backs. Change coping strategies, learn to fight better or move to better hunting grounds. Emulate Machiavellian philosophy: analyze, divide and conquer. Winning is everything. So, advance your career, protect your rear, and do both for those you rear.

The understanding and grounding of emotion in this context of adaptation, survival and associated cognitive processes has been well-established in research and theory (see Lazarus, 1991, for a scholarly synthesis). This view has served as the prevailing paradigm for understanding emotions over the past one hundred years. Emotional well being is a by-product of adaptive processes.  This is the ground floor of emotional well being, involving as it does survival, competition, aggression, success or failure, security or apprehension. This is the base floor, and with it goes the base emotions. This ground floor is undeniable, real and a necessary consideration in understanding the psychology of emotional life.

However, a civilized perspective acknowledges this shadow to our basic animal nature but yet seeks to culture and enlighten the raw animal passions into something more refined by tempering it with wisdom, insight and control. It is good to have our emotions; quite another thing to let our emotions have us.

Room Facing North:

Emotions in the Context of Health Consciousness.

The room on the second floor affords a view of humans voluntarily engaging in activities and habits of living which strengthen physical, mental and emotional health as an end in itself.  Instead of being a by-product of other activities, emotional wellbeing is nurtured directly.  For example, engaging in physical exercise on a regular basis, getting a good night’s sleep, eating in a regular and nutritious way, dancing and singing, relaxing and having fun, maintaining an optimistic attitude and focusing on what one enjoys are key correlates of positive emotional stress balance (Launier, 1995, 1997).  The influential role of emotions in health, stress, immunity and psychosomatic illness received considerable research interest (see Sarafino, 1990, for a scholarly synthesis).  Experiencing the positive emotions of life is health enhancing and can be cultivated, even cultured through health-enhancing activities, practices and principles.

Aside from the use of psychoactive drugs and medications, there are many wide-ranging, positive health-promoting activities whose primary purpose is to stimulate feelings of health and well-being (Sarafino, 1990).  This second floor room provides a broader perspective on nurturing emotional well being.  As protection against the cold and ill winds blowing from the north, we fortify our health, resistance and resilience. Instead of being exclusively dependent upon the vicissitudes of circumstantial successes and failures, the view from the ground floor, the vitality of our emotional well being is within our own hands, to nurture or not.  Good nutrition, physical exercise, good sleep, maintaining a good social support system of family and friends, enjoying recreational activities, exercising sound financial practices and maintaining our self-esteem are all examples of practicing personal health consciousness.

Being health minded and practicing health promoting habits, pursuing the good life, and cultivating emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1995) are the concerns of the second floor with the room facing north. At this level, the messenger emotions also reveal the success and progression of our “health-mindedness” and health habits. This view from the second floor does not and should not blind us to the realities of life viewed from the first floor.

Room Facing East:

Emotions in the Context of Transcendental Consciousness.

On the third floor is the room that faces the East. This room provides a traditionally non-Western view on nurturing the nature of human emotions.  This floor looks not for intelligence but for wisdom.  It is this floor and view that points to the possibility of higher consciousness, a consciousness that transcends our limited, ego-bound, usual sense of self.  This room reveals the possibility of identifying with our higher Self, a spiritual Self, with which, when properly aligned, allows us to attain ultimate emotional fulfillment and wisdom.  It is the view from this room that allows us to see how what appears to be death from the first room on the lowest level is but an illusion born of limited understanding of who and what we are.  It is the view from this room that shows the way to being at one with the spirit of existence, and to take our important place in the larger stage of existence, not as a solo performer, but as one amidst the many of the true One.  An excellent anthology of writings on Zen, its relationship to emotional states and higher states of consciousness can be found in Ross (1960), The World of Zen.

There are many delightful meditations and spiritual practices that serve to cultivate, nurture and culture higher consciousness, enlightenment and emotional fulfillment. Aside from the deep sense of peace and relaxation, these states of higher consciousness have been referred to as altered states, peak experiences, cosmic consciousness, spiritual states, transpersonal states or even mystical states.  What seems to distinguish them from the more ordinary states is the transcendental quality to them.  On some mental-emotion-felt-being level, one experiences a larger, more inclusive sense of self and identity with others, a higher Self, and it is this higher consciousness that so fulfills our need for transcendental purpose to our lives, of being a part of a larger whole.

This room facing East invites the leaps of faith toward spiritual being, to transform from being the caterpillar the crawls on the first floor to becoming the butterfly that flies from the third.  This growth in consciousness is facilitated by the proactive health consciousness of the second floor. On each floor, the psychology and dynamics of our emotional life takes on new patterns and carries new meanings and significance.  The caterpillar needs an abundance of earth and leaves; the butterfly needs an abundance of air and light.

On the third floor, the messenger emotions also reveal the challenges and satisfactions of making progress in transcending the small self of everyday life preoccupations. This view from the third floor does not remove us from the realities of life, nor to the continued need to practice health-mindedness and health habits. But it can help wean ourselves from the excessive accumulation of things and stuff. Jealousy, envy and greed largely disappear; understanding and compassion replace impatience, annoyance or disgust; transcendent acceptance and peacefulness dispel the fogs of confusion, burn off the clouds of despair, let in the delight of boundless awareness.

Room Facing South:

Emotions in the Context of Ecology and Stewardship

The fourth story room has a view that sees all that can be viewed from below.  It also sees clearly a fundamental truth, goodness and beauty to life.  Namely, that as creatures of the earth we are all critically interdependent upon one another; that it is our interrelations that sustain life as we know it.   Our interrelations with other life forms, with ecosystems, with the biosphere and with the Earth itself form the ecological context to our emotional wellbeing, for this is the true ground to our existence and wellbeing.  What is good for the earth is good for us.  As recent history and the current state of the earth show, what has been good for humans has not been so good for the earth and its many citizens.

Seminal works (Brown & Flavin, 1999; Gelbspan, 1998; Gore, 2006) summarize the state of affairs in the world today. The human population of six billion projected to reach ten billion by 2050, combined with the waste and pollution associated with mass consumption has placed the integrity of ecological balance in jeopardy. Extensive use of fossil fuels, global warming, exhaustion of range lands, fisheries, tropical forests, rise in sea levels and ever increasing competition over dwindling resources are realities of the 21st Century that cannot be ignored.

Our environment is a part of who we are. Its oxygen resides within our lungs and blood, its many life forms within our stomachs and cells, in our medicines and clothes, houses and homes. Moreover, we are the environment of adaptation to the non-human world, whether for the bacteria or mitochondria within, or to the over-grazed, over-fished, over-polluted, over-drained land or sea forms of life. We are too many; we produce, consume and lay waste to too much, we have become as a metastasized skin cancer on the earth’s biosphere. And it is immoral, unethical and ultimately suicidal to deny, to seek escape or to even seek transcendence by residing only in the lower floors in the house of emotional well-being.

In part, the despair and the anxieties of our times are reflective of the imbalance we have created with the ground of existence.  Our time is numbered.  We can feel it, sense it, and we can see the crises multiplying and growing larger on the horizon.  What good is it to succeed in our back yards, to practice health consciousness, to reach transcendence, if the very ground of our collective and interdependent existence is fouled and destroyed beyond hope of recovery? To re-establish feelings of hope, security and self-esteem as a species, we must re-establish ecological balance with all members to the family of life. Drawing upon the wisdom of the body, immortalized in the writings of Dumas, the philosophy: “One for all, and all for one.” must find its way into our relationships with one another, in the widest ecological sense (see Fox, 1990, for a transpersonal perspective on ecology).

In this sense, we also need to learn how to make our emotional well being consciously dependent upon the well being of our ecosystems, for surely in the final analysis, although we may be collectively unconscious of the fact, we are profoundly dependent upon the ecology of life.  On the fourth floor, feelings and compassion for others extend to our distant cousins,  from flora to fauna, for they are all part of the GreatOut Doors, all part of creation, and all part of something much larger than ourselves.

In the House of Emotology, the nature and nurture of emotional well being is viewed from four successive  levels, beginning with the context of adaptation and self-survival, and then more inclusively from the added contexts of proactive health consciousness, transcendental consciousness and transpersonal, ecological balance.  Each floor adds a more comprehensive view regarding the nature, cultivation and culturing of emotional health and wisdom.

In a complimentary fashion, the House of Emotology also brings into focus a more unified and holistic sense of Self. That is, views from the four floors to the House suggest answers to the basic question: “Upon what do we make our emotional well being dependent?” In turn, this stimulates us to inquire even more deeply into human nature and especially into our sense of self. The resultant view or map on the nature of the human Self contains more clues and guidelines for the attainment of ultimate emotional health and wisdom. This is a Self of many layers and levels.  When peeling back these layers, as one might with an onion from outer to inner layers, then the layers can be distinguished and characterized as follows.

Self-Actualization, from outside in to inside out.

In the House of Emotology, which is about the study and cultivation of human emotions, there is a spacious and secret central room.  This room has a secret passage to all the other rooms, and it is from this room that the creative work of synthesis takes place.  This room is sometimes called the Center for Self-Realization.

If we try to synthesize the four levels and views on understanding the nature and nurture of human emotions, we can make great strides by examining the concept of Self.  As we shall see, the sense of Self can have many meanings, depending upon the layer to the Self with which individuals are most identified.  To create this synthesis, we start with a riddle.

The Riddle of the Emotology:

Where is it within ones Self that holds the keys to emotional health and wisdom?

Before addressing this riddle, lets go down to the secret room.  In each of four rooms to the House of Emotology, imagine, if you will, a door that opens onto a special passage way. The passage leads to a spiral staircase, spiraling down and around, leading down, all the way down to a subterranean, basement chamber.  Imagine making your way down the spiral staircase, taking one step after another, down and around, perhaps one hand against the wall or railing, but eventually making your way all the way down, coming all the way down to a dimly lit chamber, with just a few candles burning to see your way.

This subterranean chamber is old, has a packed earthen floor with vaulted ceiling and it is rarely visited.  It is safe, it is secret, and it is sacred.  Sometimes this chamber is called the chamber of the heart, the chamber of healing, or the centering chamber of the Deep Self. When I visit the chamber, I always begin by lighting all the other candles that are spaced around the chamber wall.  The candles begin to give off a soft and warm golden glow, enough to see well as I return to the chair and desk in the middle of the room. You might like to take a little time to become acquainted with your secret chamber, and to arrange for furnishings that appeal to you.  Once you have settled down, I would like to tell a little story about this ancient chamber.

Henri, the famous painter and art teacher, spent a good deal of time in his secret chamber, as have many of the great artists, philosophers and mystics. Henri was especially interested in the art of living, and he left us with these words.  On the spirit of art, Henri says that art "is simply a question of doing things, anything, well.  When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature.  He becomes interesting to other people.  He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for a better understanding.  Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it, shows there are still more pages possible."

On traditions in painting, Henri (1960) adds, "Know what the old masters did.  Know how they composed their pictures, but do not fall into the conventions they established.  These conventions were right for them, and they are wonderful.  They made their language. You make yours. They can help you. All the past can help you."  But we must become our own artists in the art of living.

The art of living is, at its essence, the art of creating a relationship with our self and with others that stimulates growth, health and development. Although the "act" of living requires a wide range of skills, know-how, duties and responsibilities, the art of living goes deeper than efficiency or effectiveness of our functioning.   Rather, the art of living is the art of creating and developing relationships that bring out the best of those involved in the relationship.   This involves choice, a deliberate choice, and a choice of consciousness to continue growing beyond the physical growth of childhood.

Just as artists need to know and understand the medium in which they work, so then is it necessary for adults to learn about the Self, about the persona and shadow sides to the self. What is this self?  What are its layers and levels, conditions and possibilities?  How have the old masters characterized the nature of human nature, to better promote healing and growth?

Carl Jung, Fritz Perls and many other humanistic psychologists have noticed the analogy of the onion with its many layers to the many layers to human nature.  The onion can thereby serve as a map of the Self, in which there are layers on the periphery, intermediate levels, and layers that lie near and at the center. The continuum from inner to outer layers relates to who we are on the inside and who we are on the outside. It also relates to our identifying with matter or energy, with material possession or with the energy fields of consciousness.  There are three zones and ten layers that can be distinguished in the make-up of the Self. An outline of these zones and layers are provided in the following page. Psychological theories differ as to which layer is key to growth. Ordinarily, a persons sense of self is very much dependent upon the layer with which he or she is most identified.  Let us turn to these layers beginning with those more on the periphery and then proceed inward toward the center.

Zone C: The Zone of Having

On the periphery of the Self, in the Zone of Having, we can distinguish three layers that people ordinarily consider to be part of themselves.  In the outermost layer are all the Possessions and things that we refer to as mine or ours, and with which our identities become attached.  One person may be identified with his Porche, another with her diamond necklace, many with their house, some with their stereo or collection of books, and yet others with their title, membership status, privileges or name.  Although a person is not his or her name, it is something with which they have become identified, but it is merely a possession.

This close connection between our selves and what we have has implications for understanding the dynamics of stress, loss and threat. As our sense of self becomes identified with the things we have, so then do we suffer the losses or perceived threats to what we have, and so do we celebrate the gains and improvements in what we have.  As our sense of Self becomes identified with things, objects and possessions, then also does our sense of well being become dependent upon external possessions.

Like the onion, this outermost layer is mostly dead, dry, crinkly, and thin of human spirit.  Yet, it serves as a protective barrier against outer environmental extremes.  For some, this outer layer becomes very thick, a fortress or mansion; and yet for others, there is little or no layer of protection, perhaps not even a blanket, warm jacket nor reserve of money.

The next layer that forms a part of our sense of Self includes the human Relationships with which we are identified.  This includes those very close to us: family members, spouse, parents, children and siblings. It includes friends, work associates and fellow classmates.  It also includes our cultural and subcultural heritage, ethnicity and sense of community.  This is the interpersonal world of human connections and relationships to which we belong, in which we may stand out, and with which we are identified.

To say that "I am so and sos daughter, wife or husband," to say that "I am American, Jewish, Black, French or Chinese," is to say something about our identity, about our sense of Self, of who and what we are.  This layer to our sense of self is not something we do but rather something we have: a family and community of relationships.  It is something that is a part of us and that we carry with us no matter where we may go.

And here, as we suffer the losses and celebrate the gains, even more so than with regard to our possessions do we recognize the importance and significance of what we have.  So also do we see the range of impoverishment to enrichment in this layer of Relationships, wherein there are those who have much and others who have little. In understanding ourselves, in understanding others, it is here in this layer that we can see the significance of history: of how and what has been gained or not gained, children from their parents, students from their teachers, followers from their leaders, members from their culture.  This is also the layer in which therapists initially become involved with their clients.  Through the counselor-client relationship, counselors seek to enrich the lives of their clients, and much of this enrichment occurs by turning inward, toward the center.

The third layer consists of the obvious fact that we have aphysical body.  In its appearance, color, size, shape, health and functioning, our body plays a significant role in our sense of self.  Body image, how well our body appearance conforms to the standards promoted by our culture, can contribute significantly to our feelings about self, to our self-esteem.  If our body is a strong part of our sense of self, whether strong, youthful, attractive or not, then the body we have affects our emotional well-being. The scope of the cosmetic, garment and body building industries testify to the tremendous significance given to this most personal of possessions.  Nonetheless, more important than having a body is what we do with the body that we have, for the period of time in which we have one.

Zone B: Level of Doing

            In the Zone of Doing, a more central zone, we can distinguish three separate layers: behavior, self-expression, and mental activity.  The first layer of Purposeful Action includes the activities and behavior patterns of our day-to-day life that we commonly refer to as our occupation, our work, our sport or hobby, our duties and responsibilities. One person may say she is an athlete, another an engineer or movie actor.  Regardless of what the work, occupation or profession, we can become very identified with this layer to our sense of Self.  It is what we do.

What we do can assume great importance in ones identity and feelings of self-worth, challenge, competence and satisfaction. The work or activity may have intrinsic value in that it is worth doing in and for itself. Or its value may be more extrinsic; it produces a good income or perhaps a better environment of human connectedness and teamwork. Still, there are many for whom the work they have to do is an insult to their sense of Self, who are underemployed with regard to their abilities and motivation, and for whom what they do is a source of prolonged internal conflict.  What we do and dont do with our lives is of deep, personal and lasting significance.

Moreover, there are many and varied general coping skills and behavioral habits needed to survive and thrive in the complex and fast changing world of our times. For instance, developing and maintaining good interpersonal relations on the job, or not, can contribute significantly to emotional well-being or to emotional distress.  Dealing directly and realistically with stressful demands or problems leads to different consequences for well being than does avoidance, procrastination or relying upon excuses.

As we shade into the next layer we leave the layer of overt behavior and enter the layer of Self-expression.  This level is midway for it represents the taking of that which is within--thoughts, feelings, ideas--and bringing it to the outside where others can see and hear it.  It is this level that separates the internal and hidden from the external and obvious.  Self-expression, like a fingerprint, is much more unique to the individual than is ones occupational behavior, and to this extent it is closer to the center of ones Self.  Many people identify with this layer of Self-expression: artists, writers, and public speakers.  Identified not only with what they have to express but also the way in which they express themselves, people communicate much about themselves through this layer of self-expression.

Although it is not so easily observed unless given expression,Mental Activity represents the third layer on the level of doing.  The privacy of ones thoughts, what one thinks, the opinions, attitudes, values, philosophy or political persuasion come much closer to ones self-concept.  Indeed, some individuals--intellectuals, the intelligentsia, ideologues, and many paranoiacs--are very identified with the contents of their minds.  They "are their minds," disembodied in preoccupation if not in fact.

Although the conscious and subconscious traffic and doings of the mind are more central than outer expression and behavior, the doings of the mind are intermediary and of more recent evolutionary development compared to the deeper and more central realm of human emotions and feelings.  For the mind and its traffic are about what we do, not necessarily who or what we are.

Zone A: Level of Being

           As we approach the central core of the human being, we leave the level of doing and enter the deep interior: the Level of Being.  How many ways and conditions are there in being human and alive?  Being human. What does this mean?  Surely, being human is fundamentally different than being a computer, a machine or a well-trained monkey.  The essence of our being human lies at the heart of our nature, which partakes of our emotions and our consciousness. There are four layers in this level of being human, as different one from the other as are the mainland, the ocean, the island beach and the exotic island interior.

In the oceans depths are the Emotions of Life.  We can feel, recognize and be carried away by these waves and currents which move us in life.  We can see in others the currents of those full-bodied and full-blooded emotions: anger, enthusiasm, sexual passion, hunger, joy, humor or boredom.  Involving the heart, lungs, hormones, nerve impulses, sensory apparatus, reproductive organs and muscles of our body, the emotions stir us to action.  They carry us away from danger, they carry us into sex and love, and they can entice us to explore the tidings of the unknown on the currents of curiosity.

This is the layer of full-bodied Emotional needs, feelings and states of being.  The expressions: "I am worried," or "I am happy" or "I am angry, depressed, guilty, enthused," and so on indicate how closely our sense of self becomes identified with our feelings and emotions. This "I am" connection with feelings and emotions suggest that the two are one and the same.  They are not, but this is understandable for these states of Being are the ways in which we are most human and alive.

Our emotions imbue the very fabric and cycle of life with meaning and significance.  Between the cry of birth and the sigh of death, the days and seasons of life are experienced in prevailing and shifting currents of feelings and emotions: sometimes happy, other times sad, occasionally bored or frustrated, and perhaps mad.  Our emotional heritage goes to the very roots of our being.  Yet, despite their ancient roots, meaning and significance, our emotional nature and heritage also constitutes a swamp of primordial confusion and difficulty.  Individuals often cannot live with their feelings--there may be too much pain, anxiety or suffering, and so they find ways to defend, to escape.  And yet, they cannot live without their feelings without sinking into the bogs of depression or despair.   Civilizations have come and gone on the waves of creativity and violence.  So we are stuck with a heritage in which it is not enough to simply be the recipients of this heritage. Rather, we must become the masters of this heritage, to select and cultivate the emotions and states of being that are worthy of our highest intelligence and wisdom.  We should have our emotions, but we should not let our emotions have us.

We need a strong and worthy vessel to cross the ocean, strong to cross the currents of passion and emotion.  This vessel is crafted from will and intention, from determination and choice.  Will, whether in the form of ill-will or good-will can be very powerful.  Without this layer to our Self, we are very much at the mercy of circumstance, fortunate or not.  Will gives us the capacity for self-discipline, self-determination, self-control and self-actualization.  It is this will that also provides the capacity to focus our awareness on what we select for our attention.

            In the middle of an ocean, an island exists untouched by the hustle and traffic of the mainland, and which is surrounded by but above the currents of feelings and emotions.   This island can be a perfectly peaceful island of self Awareness.  It is Treasure Island. It exists within us.  It is part of the inner core and inner layers to the Self. Many are the visitors who would like to come to this island, to relax and reflect.  Most cannot come, for they have not the will to do so.  They do not set their will to this Island as a destination, and without this destination they cannot steer a course in the right direction.  Instead, the get caught by the fluctuating tides and currents of feelings and desires and go round and round on the ocean of life, at the mercy of whatever circumstance prevails.

Even for those who do get to this Island, their self-awareness can take on the form of reflection that looks back outward to the ocean and mainland.  They reflect upon their feelings, emotions, thoughts, self-expression, duties, behavior, who they are with in life, what they have and have not.  They came to the island to escape the busy traffic that is out there, only to review and reflect upon these outer layers.  This form of reflection and self-awareness is an awareness of the little self.  It is awareness or consciousness with content.  This can be relaxing and rewarding, for it does provide some distance and escape from the ocean and mainland.  But it only bequeaths awareness and growth for the little self.

The truly great treasures that can also be found on this island are hardly ever found by the many who come for brief, once-a-year vacations or holidays. The ancients know Treasure Island as the Isle of Self.  When the ancients came to the Isle of Self, they did so to become clear and free from the outside.  They did not come to look back outward toward the ocean or toward the mainland.  They came to meditate upon the Isle itself, for the Isle is very old and special.

In the center of the Isle, an old weathered and rounded cone of an extinct volcano lifts its shoulder up to the heavens.  The middle of the old crater is filled by natural springs with waters that are deep, dark and mysterious.  On a sandbar near these waters, there is a place to sit, to gaze into the depths, to invoke the depths. The ancient masters traveled to this place, to this natural spring, to pay homage to the Isle of Self, to meditate upon Pure Awareness, free of content.  In coming to this Isle, the ancients became aware, simply aware, and free beyond content of ideas or passions.  In gazing upon these deep, inner waters; in invoking the depths through prayer and meditation, awareness was carried down into the very wellsprings of life, and from there to the crown jewels of consciousness, to the big Self, to the transcendental Self.  Sparkling with wisdom divine, the ancients emerged with secrets and treasures sublime. They found the wonder that connects with the all.   They discovered the Being that underlies all doing and having, and they were able to drink from the wellspring of life.  And they have sought to show others the way.

These are the ten layers to the Self, from outer to inner layers.  If we were to continue with using the onion as an analogy, then we might think of these ten layers as points along the horizontal plane.  There is also a vertical axis that, in some ways, corresponds to the energy-matter continuum.

The mystic practices of the Sufi reveal something of the nature of the vertical axis.  Just as the onion also sends its roots deep into the earth, and sends its stalk into the sky toward the heavens, then also can we extend our awareness both down and up, becoming enlightened with energy from above, staying grounded in the incarnation of this life here and now, where we are meant to be.

Let us return to the image of the onion.  Not only can we distinguish the multiple layers from outer to inner, we can also see know how the onion grows.  It grows in size by new developments within its center; it grows from its center, not from its outer layers.  Closely related to this growth is the vertical axis of the onion, which goes from its roots up through the body and into its stalk. This is the source and way of growth.  Growth does not occur by adding or grafting on outside layers.  Expansion of the horizontal occurs through development within the vertical.

Yet, the prevailing focus and preoccupation of our culture is on the horizontal axis.  This is the preoccupation with material wealth and possession; this is the preoccupation with power-over-others, of manipulating and controlling others.  The focus is on the Level of Having, and most of what occurs in the Level of Doing is bent toward Having.  Happiness and feeling good is made dependent upon the outer levels and layers.  Most of the transactions, which go on between people in the give and take of commerce and communication, occur on this horizontal axis.  Which is to say that awareness, intentionality, feelings, thinking, talking, acting and interrelating are primarily concerned with bending the environment to meet our needs and desires.  In this way we become fixated and stuck on the horizontal axis.

The problem with this is that imbalance occurs.  We are pulled away from our center.  We begin to identify more and more with the periphery or outer layers to our nature.  When one axis predominates too much over the other, life suffers.  Our culture and society suffers from this imbalance.  As members of our culture, we suffer the same imbalance.

The cure to this imbalance is to bring ourselves back into atonement with our vertical axis.  It is by turning to the center of our own nature that we can come into alignment with the vertical, and thereby also enjoy the peace and tranquility of the center.  Even within the cyclone or hurricane, when the winds of storm and stress roar with ferocious fury, at the center there is peace and tranquility.  How then can we become centered?  How can we tune into our vertical axis?

Relaxation is the technique and first step in moving inward: relaxation of our muscular tension, relaxation of our breathing, and relaxation of our worries and preoccupations.  Learning how to deeply relax while staying alert and awake is a critical first step.  By relaxing we can move into our center and become aware of the existence of the vertical axis.

The second step then consists of exploring and coming to know the vertical axis.  This axis extends beyond our physical body.  One pole goes deep into the earth; the other extends high into the heavens.  From these two poles the nutrients for further growth come into us.  Self-awareness, self-expression and self-actualization are thereby given a new dimension.  Instead of being one dimensional, we thereby become a two dimensional people and culture, and in this way we become whole and balanced as is the planet Earth.

In the Sufi practice of meditation, one sits with an erect spine, straight, centered, relaxed and poised.  Then, using the breath, one breathes and directs awareness up the front of the body to the top of ones head, and then exhales down the back side, down to the tail bone.  Over and over again, with each inhale and with each exhale, one traces and breathes along the imagined golden vertical axis. After becoming practiced in this meditation, one furthers the process by breathing up and down an imaginary vertical axis, higher and higher into the heavens, deeper and deeper into the earth.  Like priming an old water pump by pouring water into it before being able to draw greater amounts, pouring the energy of imagination into the vertical axis primes the flow of greater energy and well-being.

This is the Well Within to which the ancients would go in their travels to the Isle of Self.  It is there, free to all who have the knowledge, interest and willingness to travel inward to the Center.  It is just a matter of descending down the stairs to the secret chamber, to the Centering Room, lighting a few candles, and then settling down into a good sitting position, reviewing the horizontal layers, and then focusing on the vertical axis.  Practice creates a new dimension to the art of living.  It is well worth visiting the well within.

These three zones of Being, Doing and Having, with their ten layers from outermost to innermost features, map out the usual domain of Self psychology. There is, however, one more zone that is less obvious but which completes the gestalt of self psychology.   In perception, in figure-ground relationships, it is the background, the context, which gives the foreground, the figure, its particular definition.  If, as is the case here, the Self is the figure to which our attention is drawn, then we must put the Self within the context of its environment.  Without a context, without its environment, the human figure, the Self, does not and cannot exist.

So we must add a fourth zone to our map of the Self, which includes all that falls into the domain of the "Not-Self."  In this way, we can produce a model of the Self in Setting.

Zone D: the Background of Existence

The background to the foreground of Self can be designated as the ground of existence.  For we do not and cannot exist in a vacuum.  It is the background of time, space, concrete and abstract existence out of which we come into being. Human beings grow forth, as a leaf budding from a twig, reaching maturity, turning colors before the fall, and eventually falling back into the ground of existence.  Just as the tiny twig maintained the vital connection between the leaf and the tree, so has our breathing maintained a steady connection between the individuality and ground of our existence.

When we only identify with the leafness of our existence, we are apt to forget, overlook and not even believe that we are fundamentally connected, and have in fact always been fundamentally apart of the larger tree of life.  When we identify with the tree of life, with that which is much more than the individual leaf, then we also know who and what we are, and that this does not die.  We are the stuff of the universe, its hydrogen in our molecules, the salt and lime of the oceans in our bones and blood, the nitrogen and oxygen of the atmosphere in our lungs, blood, brain and cells.

The background is as much apart of who and what we are as are the layers to the Self.  However, we come equipped to do our work, to perform our function as a leaf does the work of photosynthesis, and in this we develop an identity, a sense of self, that also identifies "not-self." Our immune system does the same, to protect the integrity of our individuality, for the duration and seasons of our time.  Nonetheless, the ground of our existence has much relevance to our emotional well-being, both as source of support and as source of threat and danger.

We can distinguish four layers to the ground of our being.  These are:

-1.        Layer of Human-Social Environment: but which we seldom think of as us.  Included in this are other countries, other peoples, other races, ethnic groups, classes, or religious groups with whom we do not identity.

-2.        Layer of Non-human Plant & Animal Kingdoms: the ecosystems and biosphere upon which our lives are dependent but with which we do not feel much empathy.  Yet, were it not for our kindred relations with the plant kingdom, we could not enjoy the breath of life.

-3.        Layer of Physical World: our planet, its atmosphere, water, rich soil, minerals and basically stable and life-supporting conditions.

-4.        Layer of Cosmos: our solar system, galaxy, universe; its beauty, warmth, light and life-giving energy.

"Where is it within ones Self that holds the keys to emotional well-being?"

In reviewing the ten layers and three zones of Being, Doing and Having to the personal Self, we have placed emotional states and emotional well-being in the fourth layer to the Self.  We have also identified a fourth zone, and distinguished four layers to the "not-self." This allows us to rephrase the riddle.  Upon which layer(s) is our emotional well-being most dependent?  Do the keys lie more to the center or more to the periphery of the Self?   This essay, the EQD instrument, and the EQD recreational games are designed to let each person find their own answers to the Riddle of Emotology.

By examining the pattern to our own emotional life, we should be able to determine what causes us to feel what we feel. If we are feeling less than joy and delight in being alive, we should also be able to determine which layers are under-represented or underdeveloped for the fullness of being.  In the Riddle of Emotology, the question can be restated. Upon what layer is happiness and fulfillment contingent or dependent?  What are the necessary and/or sufficient conditions for emotional well-being in the fourth layer to the Self?

Level of the Context and Setting

  1. The Great Out Doors: the universe, the One manifest in the many.
  2. The Cosmos: our solar system, sun light, warmth, beauty and mystery.
  3. The Planet Earth: our atmosphere, rich soil, precious water and minerals.
  4. The Biosphere: our kindred life forms upon which we depend for sustenance.
  5. The Human Population: the diversity of cultures, groups; needs, values & desires.
  6. Layer of Possessions: our property, money, things owned, a name, degree, or status.
  7.   Layer of Social Relations: our family, friends, co-workers, community group or tribe.
  8.   Layer of Physical Body: having our body, physical appearance, and body image.
  9.   Layer of Purposeful Activity:  occupation, hobbies, action, exercise, duties and tasks.
  10.   Layer of Self-Expression:  verbal or not of thoughts, beliefs, feelings, needs or desires.
  11. Layer of Mental Activity: attitudes, beliefs, imaginings, thinking, knowledge, remembering.
  12.   Layer of Emotional States: as being angry, tired, lonely, happy, in love, scared, or curious.
  13.   Layer of Intentionality or Will Power: being of good will, willing, willful, on purpose, choice.
  14.   Layer of Self-Awareness: awareness with content, awareness of layers 3 - 13 listed here.
  15.   Layer of Self-Spiritual Awareness: pure awareness beyond content and ego, transcending content and concerns of the everyday self; pure awareness or spiritual expansiveness which leads to a re-identification with that which transcends ego and individuality.

Level or Zone of Having

Level or Zone of Doing

Level or Zone of Being

This model of the Self with its ten layers suggests that people vary greatly in terms of that with which they are most identified.  When asked who they are, some identify with their country of origin, others with their Porche, jewelry or house on the hill; others will immediately think of themselves in relation to others--wife of…  Others will think of their occupation: doctor, lawyer, businessman; others with their mode of self-expression: writer, actor; some with their thoughts and knowledge: intellectuals, true believers; and some with their feelings, and fewer yet those who identify with their capacity and exercise of consciousness.

As a society, however, the question can be also asked again. Upon what do we, as a people, make our happiness and success contingent or dependent?  Or, to use the conceptual map, what does Level 4 require for happiness and success?  Does our civilization actively promote the idea, at school, in college, and in the mass media, that the key to happi<