Understanding the realm of emotions is beset by an elemental difficulty: the meaning of words that refer to emotion are so ambiguous that we hardly know what we are talking about. Virginia Woolf stated it succinctly: “The streets of London have their map; but our passions are uncharted” (1922). Compared to maps of the material world, and studies of behavior, thoughts, attitudes, perception, and beliefs, the realm of emotions is still terra incognita. One way of approaching this chaos is to examine one’s own emotions.
I became interested in studying emotion because of a series of unanticipated incidents in my own life. At the time my interests were focused on a more conventional topic in my discipline, the sociology of mental illness. When I was 40, I began exploring a new field because of experiences with my own emotions. I had just gotten divorced, and my ex had taken our children to Hawaii for a year.… Read the rest