Managed emotions

The subject of emotional change brings us to emotion management, which is part of our pervasive capacity to regulate emotions. Even if passivity of emotion, the fact that emotions happen to us rather than our choosing them, has been one of their defining characteristics both in common sense and academic psychology, it has become equally evident that regulatory processes are present in almost all human emotions and that these processes can occur at all levels and phases of an emotional episode, as I pointed out in the previous chapter. Regulation can be conscious and unconscious, voluntary and involuntary, anticipatory and reactive, intrapersonal and interpersonal (see e.g. George, 2002; Gross, 1998; Walden & Smith, 1997). The general function of regulation is to attune emotions to everyday events, and we seldom need articulate considerations for this. The same goes with emotion management for social purposes.

Emotion management is so commonplace that we hardly even recognize it. In everyday life, we engage in situations and interpersonal relations that demand observation of delicate feeling rules. These largely unarticulated rules set criteria for the appropriateness or fittingness of emotion in a particular situation. These rules determine the proper duration, strength, time and placement of an occurrent emotion and guide emotion management by establishing the sense of entitlement or obligation that governs emotional exchanges between best friends, parents and children, wives and husbands, subordinates and superiors, customers and sales-personnel, and so on (Hochschild, 2003). Thus, we take on a joyful mood when we invite friends to a dinner party or a mourning feeling when we pay our last respects to a deceased relative. If everything goes well, the emotion appears to emerge quite spontaneously from our construal of the situation. We do not merely put on a happy or sad face but actually live through the appropriate emotion. Herein lies the difference between surface acting and deep acting: in surface acting, we merely imitate a feeling through its manifestations without experiencing it, while in deep acting, we induce a real feeling in ourselves.[1] In fact, emotion management is usually detected only on those occasions when automatic emotion work fails to achieve the goal and we have to finish the task by conscious means.

The pervasive phenomenon of emotion management blurs the distinction between authentic and factitious emotions. If all adult human emotions in social situations are managed according to social and cultural feeling rules, it becomes impossible to maintain that an authentic emotion should be unmanaged, because we have no access to "pure emotions" - if there are any - before they are influenced by feeling rules. Neither can we distinguish between coaxed and sincere emotions, for it is plausible to assume that coaxing and regulation merely remain unconscious in the latter case. The appropriate evaluation and emotion - not just facsimiles - are there, even if we may have had to do a considerable amount of subterranean emotional work to evoke them.

But if emotion management cannot distinguish between authentic and inauthentic emotions, where should we draw the line? As an empirical researcher, Hochschild wavers in terminology. On the one hand, she contrasts authentic - genuine and spontaneous - feelings with all managed emotions. On the other hand, she admits that we do and must engage in deep acting in our private lives for the purposes of our "real selves", in contrast to deep acting in a corporate setting for the employer's goals. Since the former purposes are obviously more congenial to ourselves than the latter, some managed emotions should qualify as authentic for Hochschild as well. In fact, she may need to admit that even some occupational emotions can qualify as authentic for she writes that "When the feelings are successfully commercialized, the worker does not feel phony or alien; she feels somehow satisfied in how personal her service was. Deep acting is a help in doing this, not a source of estrangement." (Hochschild, 2003, p. 136). Later research in work psychology and sociology supports this conclusion as I shall show in detail in Chapter 6.

Both recalcitrant and managed emotions thus present problems for the sincerity view of authenticity. Even if many recalcitrant emotions are authentic and some managed emotions obviously qualify as inauthentic, my counterexamples indicate that the divide between authenticity and inauthenticity does not fall in line with the divide between spontaneous and nonspontaneous or the divide between managed and nonmanaged emotions. In the remaining part of this article, I attempt to outline a plausible account of this divide and of the puzzling notion of emotional authenticity itself. I will start by analysing the elusive notion of authenticity and its relation to sincerity.

  • [1] John Sabini and Maury Silver (1998, pp. 56-57) suggest that even a feigned emotion can be authentic (or "sincere" as they put it) if the self-presentation is motivated by a sincere commitment to a person or role or value. I agree that a feigned emotion can be an expression of one's authentic self but it is nevertheless defective, and therefore, inauthentic as an emotion because it relies on mere "surface acting" and does not reach psychological genuineness through "deep acting".
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