Focal Topic Assignment
March 14, 2006
Developing a Theoretical Analysis of Emotion Management Strategies
Part of developing a theoretical analysis, involves understanding the purpose and power of emotion management strategies in crisis situations. By examining related articles, I plan to illustrate the ways in which emotion management strategies are used in crisis situations to help the volunteers cope with mentally and emotionally stressful experiences. Part of my objective analysis includes exploring how the use of emotion management strategies can be considered a learned phenomena. Whereby the volunteer’s ability to effectively perform their roles and obligations to the organization relies on their “dramaturgical control of (their) feelings” (Lofland, et. Al, 2006) through “emotional labor” (Hochschild, 1983).
In my research thus far I have found similarities between the emotion management strategies used by “search and rescue group” (Lois, J., 2001) in comparison to rape crisis hotline counselors. Both illustrate the ways in which “strangers support people in crisis” (Lois, J., 2001), by establishing and developing an emotional bond with the survivor. The process of “exchanging emotions” (Lois, J., 2001) plays a fundamental role in developing a heart connection between counselors and survivor’s of sexual assault.
Through the process as “socioemotional economy” (Lois, J., 2001) counselors are able to create a safe and open environment in which callers may feel comfortable expressing themselves. Exchange of emotions is not only an important aspect of counselor-caller interactions, but is also illustrated during counselor-counselor
interactions with one another. Through the exchange of emotion, counselors are offered reassurance and support from group members who can understand and relate to their experiences. Thus, the reflexive nature of exchanging emotions empowers not only the counselor, but can also be used as a method of empowering the survivor.
The learning and use of emotion management strategies begins during counselor training. During this period of training, counselors begin to learn the difference between “what I do feel” versus “what I should feel” (Hochschild, 2003) in response to the caller’s traumatic experience. The intensive 40 hour training is essential to understanding and exploring the use of emotion management strategies and “how others assess our emotional display” (Hochschild, 2003). Experienced member on the team create safe environment during training where they can teach “feeling rules” (Hochschild, 2003) about how to respond and react, while at the same time provide constant “rule reminders” (Hochschild, 2003) where improvement is needed. During the process of “getting in and gaining the acceptance” (Lofland et. Al, 2006) new members rely heavily on experienced members for support and growth into their role as a counselor.
One of the main objectives of training emphasizes the counselors development of a heart connection with the caller. In order to begin managing another’s emotions, it is crucial to create a safe and supportive space in which they feel comfortable exploring those emotions with the counselor. As an organization, their goal is not to fix the caller’s problems, but rather to help guide them through the process of healing. In a way counselors create “a sense of mutual obligation” (Kemper and Reid, 1997, 60) by making themselves emotionally “accessible to others” (Goffman, 1963a, 105). The most powerful way in which a counselor can show their emotional accessibility to others, is through active listening. Active listening is a powerful tool in which counselors can help to empower the survivor by allowing them to tell their story, hearing their emotions, normalizing their feelings, and by showing empathy and understanding.
Helping another to explore their emotions can be emotionally draining to the counselor who is helping to manage their emotions. Part of the role as a hotline counselor is not only to manage the emotions of the caller, but to also manage one’s own emotions during the call. What enables a counselor to develop these skill are extensive group support systems within the organization, called Supergroups. In my paper I hope to explore the significance of emotional bonds formed among members on the hotline, and how they create a safe and supportive environment in which to explore their feelings about the callers. Supergroup meeting illustrate “how the emotions generated within some support groups are used as resources to sustain commitment to the group” (Lofland et. Al, 2006). Supergroup meetings provide constant affirmation to counselors of their importance as a member and provide them with positive reinforcement that inspires them to keep doing the work that they do.
I will also explore the many “unintended phenomena” (Lofland et. Al, 2006) that result from the establishment of interpersonal emotional bonds between members on the team. Particularly how emotion work learned and used within the organization are mirrored in the ways in which counselors deal with family members and friends outside the organization. The use of emotion management strategies has a significant impact on the ways in which counselors interact with members outside the organization. Part of these changes can be attributed to the development of a more compassionate, understanding, empathetic self. Counselors help one another to “identify, analyze, express, and transform” (Lois, J., 2001) their emotions. As a result counselors develop a new sense of self by recognizing our ability to not only manage others emotions but to simultaneously have control over balancing our own emotions in the process. It is the safety of the environment created within the organization that enables counselors to regulate their emotions. Counselors feel free to express a range of emotions without being judged, because they are surrounded by counselors who have been there and who know that feeling.
The central focus of my research explore the emotional growth counselors go through in the process of becoming emotion management guides to help others explore their emotions. One of my goals is to illustrate how emotional bonds are formed between counselors by sharing their feelings with one another. While at the same time, I plan to illustrate how “interpersonal emotion management” (Hochschild, 2003) skills learned through interaction among counselors strengthens the counselors ability to manage the caller’s emotions. In order to understand the significance of micromanaging emotions between counselors one must recognize the structural components of the organization which are essentially “based on this ongoing exchange of emotions” (Lois, J., 2001) between counselors, and between counselors and callers.
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Hochschild, A. R., (1979). Emotion work, feeling rules, and social structure. American Journal of Sociology, 83, 551-575.
Hochschild, A.R., (1983,2003). Feeling Rules. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of human feeling. (56-75). Berkeley: University of California Press.
Jones, Lynn Cerys. 1997. “Both Friend and Stranger: How Crisis Volunteers Build and Manage Unpersonal Relationships with Clients.” Social Perspectives on Emotion 4: 125- 148.
Lofland, et., Al. (2006). Asking Questions. In C. Caldeira (Ed.), E. Smith (Ed.), J. Walsh (Eds.), Analyzing Social Settings: A Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis (144- 167). California: Thomson Wadsworth.
Lois, J. (2001). Managing Emotions, Intimacy, and Relationships in a Volunteer Search and Rescue Group. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 30, 131-179.
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Ullman, S.E. (2005). Interviewing Clinicians and Advocates Who Work With Sexual Assault Survivors: A Personal Perspective on Moving From Quantitative to Qualitative Research Methods. Violence Against Women, 11, (8): 113-1139.