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My theory of emotions is unique. I use some terminology from previous thinkers, mainly Freud. However, I have not come across any thinker whose ideas bear much resemblance to mine. This raises a major question. My ideas are true for me. Are they also true for other people ? This is a question that I was well aware of during my years of immersion in psycho-analysis, which I did on my own.
First there is another major issue to understand as well, and that is the usefulness and limitations of any paradigm.
At present (circa the 1990s) within the field of emotions and desire there is no accepted paradigm upon which researchers and thinkers can base their ideas. The study and analysis of emotions in mainstream psychology is a mess . Study any college entry-level textbook on psychology, turn to the section on attitudes and emotions, and all you find is a wide selection of disparate ideas on what emotions are. There is no consensus at all.
Nowadays the exploration of anything is usually governed by the paradigm in which that something is set. Within the field of science it was not always this way. The early thinkers and researchers on scientific topics made little progress until the ideas of Descartes and Newton set the framework for others to follow. In other words, the rapid development of any field of interest requires a paradigm for that field.
The negative side of this is that once a person chooses a paradigm to base his ideas on, then he usually resists the use of alternative explanations that are outside that paradigm.
We can see this limitation in action in the early 20th century. The new ideas within science of relativity and atomic theory were in complete opposition to classical physics. There was a lot of academic opposition to the new theories and so it took many years before they could be widely accepted.
What my ideas offer is a definitive framework for exploring and describing emotions, a way that is coherent and logical. There is no realistic alternative in mainstream psychology.
I made four attempts to construct a framework of thought to explain my ideas whilst I was developing them. The first three attempts failed : my previously-neat arrangement of ideas came crashing down as I discovered facts about emotions that could not be assimilated into the framework. My theories failed because they did not work. The fourth attempt has become my standard way of describing my ideas: it works, and there are no internal contradictions. It fits my concept of truth, which is the coherence model. [¹]
My belief is that, eventually, my ideas will become mainstream, and this will offer other theorists a common base for developing and extending ideas on emotions and desires.
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empirically true for others?
This can be debated between individuals. However, at the paradigm level this question actually contains two separate questions, or two separate factors. When considering whether my ideas can be taken as a paradigm for all or most other psychology thinkers, the questions are:
1). Are my ideas empirically true for all people ? ( Truth factor).
2). Do my ideas work ? ( Pragmatic factor).
The philosophical model of truth that I embrace is the coherence model. Within this model my ideas embrace a wide variety of fields of interest because as a thinker I am a generalist. I look for patterns in human endeavours. Across this variety, my ideas are consistent and with no internal contradictions. They fit the coherence model. These are logical criteria.
I also applied an existential criterion. Because of the sheer difficulty of exploring the subconscious mind, I do not expect any thinker to duplicate my efforts during my lifetime. Hence the existential rule that I set myself during my analysis was to depend only upon my integrity and not upon my prejudices. So even when I was analysing the repugnant features of the subconscious mind (meaning the repugnant features of my personality), I tried to remain fair and impartial. I suppose that I did not always succeed, but I did my best. And that’s all anyone can ever do.
I did face one major psychological frustration. The construction of a coherence model of truth takes an immense amount of intellectual energy (because contradictions in the model are not allowed). During the years when I was creating my model of emotions, I usually oscillated between short periods of great intellectual effort, and long periods of intellectual exhaustion (when it was hard for me to read anything that required any intellectual effort ).
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A lot of scientific thinking, in any field of endeavour, is more concerned with pragmatism than with truth. So what I expect to happen is this: if sufficient numbers of psychologists discover that my ideas work, then they will accept them as being true. To discover if they are really true, any theorist would have to undergo a deep psycho-analysis for many years in order to investigate how their own mind works. But there is a major catch here.
To understand the fundamental issue that always surrounds the thinker when he is exploring some feature of the unknown, I give an analogy.
Suppose that you wake up tomorrow and find yourself in the Sahara desert, with a uniform expanse of flat sand-shingle in every direction. You have no compass. There is no landmark feature that you can navigate by. We also assume that the sky is overcast (we are stretching the imagination here !) so that you cannot navigate by the sun or stars. How do you work out what direction to travel in order to reach the nearest town? The answer is that you cannot – all you can do is try pot-luck, and hope.
Now suppose that suddenly you see a set of footprints in the shingle – perhaps coming from the left and going on to the right. Now you can reason that perhaps that traveller knew his way. Therefore, in the expanse of featureless desert, you follow in the footsteps of that traveller. When you reach a town, all you have proved is that the path you followed reached an objective. That path does not by itself prove that it is the best, or worst, path. It only proves that it is effective (it works).
That is the analogy.
What it means is this. When a thinker finds himself in an unknown aspect of consciousness, and no obvious way of understanding it, the sheer effort to understand it is enormous. He has to try to pick features out of that unknown, and then identify something useful about those features. However, if he is aware of the ideas of a previous thinker who has been in that place before, he will automatically use those ideas as a means of making sense of his predicament (that is, he is now following in the footsteps of that earlier thinker).
This is the reason why, when a paradigm is set up, all later thinkers use it to explain their ideas. A common paradigm reduces the intellectual effort necessary to understand something. A paradigm provides a common path through the unknown.
This is why, after Buddha produced his ideas, all later Buddhist thinkers never produced theories that are outside the paradigm that he created. And why all Christian thinkers follow the paradigm set up by the early theorists (mainly St. Paul ). Hence, if my ideas become a paradigm in psychology, all later thinkers will follow it. This is the pragmatic issue and is not specifically allied to whether my ideas are true.
This is why there aren't numerous alternatives to any paradigm. There may exist alternative ways of understanding emotions, but I expect that their discovery will lie a long time into the future.
The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it. The addresses of my other websites are on the Links page.
[¹]. There are two theories of truth: the coherence theory and the correspondence theory. They are described in the article Reason and Intuition. 
I describe my ideas on a paradigm in the article Paradigm and Ideology.
For an overview of my ideas on Emotions, see the article Emotion and Abreaction.
The articles in this section are :
@2003 Ian Heath
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