What is the function of emotion?

This is for you Structured peeps. This section fits perfectly with a couple of recent conversations we’ve had. It’s in Volume One, page 116:

“So long as you are awake you are aware of something, and that something always carries an emotional tone of some sort. Anything which is a matter of complete indifference, lacking in concern for you – that is, devoid of emotion – simply does not set the figure/ground process in operation to an extent sufficient to enter into awareness.

It is all-important that you become aware of the continuity of your emotional experience. Once emotion is understood to be not a threat to rational control of your life but a guide which furnishes the only basis on which human existence can be ordered rationally, then the way is open to cultivation of continuous awareness of its wise promptings.

To suppose that this would take extra time and attention is not correct. The analogy is crude, but consider the case of the skilled driver of an automobile. For him to be continuously aware that his motor is running smoothly is no burden, for this is not the focus of attention. That the sound of the motor is part of the dynamic figure/ground of his driving, however, and that it is something with which he is concerned, is indicated by the speed with which it becomes figure and claims more attention if it develops some slight, but significant, irregularity. Another driver – perhaps one who does not want to be bothered – will not hear the anomalous sound, or, if he does, will not recognize its meaning and will drive on for as long as he can, oblivious to the damage that may be occurring. To be continuously aware of emotion is possible only when you are willing to be aware of whatever is of genuine concern in your life.”

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About Kip Watkins, MSEd, NCC, LPC

Kip is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor in Midtown, Harrisburg. He earned his Bachelor's Degree from Saint Vincent College and his Master's Degree from Duquesne University. Passionate about existential and systemic modes of therapy, he completed the post-graduate program at the Gestalt Institute of Pittsburgh. He deeply enjoys his work with his clients and he also loves helping other clinicians have more meaning and joy in their work.