To understand emotions it is also important to realize that one
emotion sometimes conceals another emotion. Examples: mild
emotions may cover up strong ones--as we saw in chapter 6, boredom
may conceal depression, disinterest in sex may conceal anger,
withdrawal may hide self-depreciation. We all realize that how we see
others or the world often reflects how we feel about ourselves. A
person who feels capable is usually optimistic about others. If we think
we are deceptive and dishonest, we are unlikely to trust others.
Intense emotions often cover up other strong emotions; current
emotions often hide old ones; emotions often thinly veil a strong need
Muriel Schiffman (1971) describes an experiential technique for
uncovering the repressed "garbage" that is smelling up your "here and
now." Try this sometime when you have a strong unwanted emotion,
perhaps sadness, anger, loneliness, insecurity, etc. First, let yourself
go and feel the emotion full strength, no matter how unreasonable,
immoral, dangerous, or crazy it is. (Emoting privately--yelling, crying,
writing, fantasizing--doesn't hurt anyone.) Second, go looking for
concealed emotions, asking, "Do I also feel something else?"
Remember the classic examples of intense emotions: crying hides
anger, dependency suppresses anger, excessive smiles conceal
depression, physical complaints belie anxiety, anger overshadows
fears, feelings for one person are displaced to another, and so on.
Third, also investigate your bodily sensations and your emotions for
more subtle additional feelings, e.g. some anger that your friend
doesn't lift your sadness, a slight satisfaction when someone fails, a
touch of jealousy when you are left alone, a flicker of sexual arousal
when you hear of a sexually immoral act, a touch of resentment when
you concede to or do a favor for someone, etc. Explore these other
feelings and see where they take you.
Fourth, ask yourself, "What do these current feelings and the
situation remind me of in the past? Have I been here before? What
was my most intense similar experience? What was my earliest similar
experience? What do the current words, actions, looks, feelings, etc.
make me think of? Re-live the earlier experiences over and over until
the strong emotions are drained and you can see more clearly the
connection--the wholeness--between the past experience and the
current feelings. Don't try to intellectually understand the previous
experience, just try to get in touch with all the leftover emotions and
memories still in your garbage bag. Schiffman suggests four good
ways to uncover hidden feelings: (a) talk to friends about current and
previous situations, (b) write out your feelings and read them later to
see what memories come to mind, (c) while alone re-experience
current and previous situations in vivid fantasy, and (d) what she calls
"sneaking up on the hidden feelings," where you take any strong
emotion, say from a film or a book, and ask, "What other feelings
(besides the strong emotion described in the book) do I have?" and
"What real-life experiences does this emotional scene remind me of?"
Experience these uncovered feelings fully, become aware of how they
are still influencing your life.