“Well, I decided to ask Julie out on a date. Oh, how I’m hoping she’ll say yes! My mind keeps going over and over what I should say when I ask her.”
Two hours later.
“Hi Bob. I just got off the phone with Julie. She said yes! We’re going out on Saturday. I’m so happy!”
“Nice!” Bob replies. “You must feel relieved to get that over with.”
“Well, now my mind is racing on how to plan the night so we have a wonderful time together!”
As in the above, the emotions of “hope” and “happiness” often come up in conversations. If you can learn to speak artfully about them, there is an excellent chance that you may increase the amount of respect people have for your intelligence. Here is one way to think about these emotions that has worked for me over the past several decades.
The DIG Conflict Model’s View of Emotions
In the DIG Conflict Model, there are four basic emotions. The first two, threat and grief, are said to be negative emotions.
The second two basic emotions, hope and happiness, are said to be positive emotions.
Emotions turn our attention from some less important situations to some specific situation that we have appraised at the moment as the highest priority. At the same time, they provide an extra boost of energy so we can deal with the highest priority situation in a manner that may require more than the usual level of effort. The negative emotions help us to deal with situations that people typically view, at least at first appearance, as negative, while positive emotions can help us to deal with situations that people typically view, at least at first appearance, as positive.
In a previous post, I focused in on the negative emotions. Today, our focus is on the positive emotions. Let’s look at a parable to help us better understand the nature of hope and happiness.
The Parable of Santo
Santo is a waiter in Saint Paul and the father of two teenagers. He works the midnight to 10 a.m. shift at Mickey’s all night diner. He has been struggling to support his family with this low paying job.
This morning, after finishing his shift at work, an exhausted Santo drags himself into his car. Hector, one of the diner’s dish washers, slides into the passenger seat. Santo plans to take Hector home first before going on to his own home.
At this moment, Santo’s immediate desires are expressed to Hector as he starts up the car. “All I want right now is to get home and go to sleep.” To achieve these desires, Santo understands that he will have to drive through some modest traffic and make several different turns. There have been some serious accidents along his route, but Santo is not thinking about this danger. He has a set of well practiced skills that have become so automatic that he is fully confident that he can get Hector home, and from there, he can go on and get himself home without much further thought about this.
As soon as Santo pulls his car into traffic, Hector begins to check his cell phone messages. “Wow!” Hector suddenly exclaims, “I got a text message from Rudy Anderson, the owner of Rudy’s Restaurant. Rudy says his day waiter has just quit and he wants to know if you’d be interested in applying for the job!”
“I’m not kidding,” says Hector. “Rudy wants you to stop by his restaurant as quick as you can.”
“YES!” screams Santo, now full of the emotion of hope. He had been expecting to drive home and go to sleep. Wow, now what a change this unexpected news has created for him! His heart is beating rapidly and he no longer feels tired at all. After dropping Hector off, Santo rushes home and takes a quick shower, puts on some clean clothes, carefully combs his hair, and hustles over to Rudy’s Restaurant. There, Rudy greets Santo warmly, and after a discussion, Santo is hired.
When he leaves the restaurant having signed a contract, Santo now realizes his life has just changed from having hoped to land this job to knowing he now has the job. He experiences this change as the emotion of happiness.
At home, Santo gets into bed to get some sleep, but finds that he can’t conk out even though he hasn’t slept in over twenty-four hours. With his mind racing, he thinks, “I have to buy some new clothes tomorrow. Man, what did I do to land this job at Rudy’s? Well, the big thing I did was to stop by there during an off-hour and introduce myself to Rudy even when he wasn’t looking for help. I told him that he had a great restaurant. I think it really helped when I told him that if he needed a sub for a day at any time I’d work for half the normal salary just to show him what I could do. Rudy liked that and tried me out, and I bet that’s what really sold him on me. I’ll remember to do that some more if I end up out of work again.”
Let’s see if there is anything useful about hope and happiness that we can discover from this story. Notice that Santo, as he was heading home, had a plan to deal with his feelings of tiredness. Santo has confidence that he has a set of well practiced skills that are very likely to achieve this as he heads home in his van, and he begins to carry them out by guiding his car into traffic. As he does so, he is unaware of any emotion. He does feel tired, and this type of feeling is less intense than a full blown emotion
As soon as Santo hears about the new job opportunity, he immediately recalls his desire to get a better job. Santo quickly appraises this new information. Clearly he notices that this is a change from what he was expecting. This change leads to the emotion of hope. The function of this positive emotion is for him to shift his attention from all that he was thinking about before the emotion began and to instead focus on getting the job at Rudy’s. The emotion also functions to give Santo a boost of energy so that he can increase his chances to get this job. Even though he had felt sleepy and exhausted before having the emotion of hope, he uses the boost of energy to think about what the best things to do right now, and he changes his plan to go to sleep as soon as he got home. Instead, he decides to wash up, get to Rudy’s Restaurant and apply for the job.
Upon landing the job, Santo has achieved his desire, and with that, he realizes this means that there will be some good changes in his life, and he experiences the emotion of happiness. This happiness serves the function to give him a new burst of energy. We oftentimes need this extra burst of energy when we achieve a desire for two reasons.
First, we have to spend some extra time making arrangements for the new set of circumstances that led to the happiness. In the example involving Santo, he realizes that his new job will require some new clothes. He will have to carve out time during this transition period to pull together money so he can purchase the clothes.
Second, not only do we need the burst of energy to make preparations for our new circumstances that led to happiness, we also can benefit by taking some extra time to think about what led up to our success. By doing this, we can usually find something important to remember that we can reuse in the future. In our Santo example, he recalls how he had offered to work for Rudy at half the usual salary for a day or two so he could show him what a fine waiter he is. Santo will use part of the extra energy from his happiness to do the work necessary to place this very strategy in his memory bank in a form that will be more likely to be recalled if he ever loses his job again.
We see from this story that the positive emotions of hope and happiness function to shift our attention for a period of time to something appraised as particularly important and to provide us extra energy. We use this extra energy to carry out some important skills that can help us better achieve our desires.
Now, sometimes we use the terms “hope” and “happiness” in a broader sense than when we are referring to the emotions of hope and happiness. For example, some people, if asked if they hope to retire in a few years, may reply, “Yes.” At the moment that they say this, they are not in any real emotional state about this issue. Perhaps some pleasant, gentle feeling sweeps through some for a few seconds as they think of a time when they can do more of what they would prefer to be doing as time drifts by. In a few seconds they are thinking of something else.
Sometimes I am asked if I am happy. I might quickly think to myself that nothing is currently bothering me, and so I might reply, “Yes, I guess so.” Here again, there is no emotional state actually occurring as I say this, and the word “happiness” is being used to mean a relatively calm, non-distressed, pleasant experience.
Emotions are feelings, but more intense than most. Although there is no clear dividing line between relatively pleasant feelings and a full blown positive emotional experience, most people can sense when their heart has distinctly quickened, their attention has fastened firmly on a particular desire, changing the subject is hard even if they try, and they find themselves vigorously planning and carrying ideas into actions for a period of time that extends far beyond some fleeting few seconds. Emotions are of this nature.
Okay, there you have it. Here’s hoping the Santo parable and this little discussion gives you a better sense of what positive emotions are all about.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.