The emergent phenomena are at the
focus of Complexity science; they express self-organizing ability of the
complexly interwoven dynamics: energies, forces, substances, forms.
Emotions are typical examples of emergent phenomena that reveal
self-organizing capacity of the human dynamics. Therefore the findings
of Complexity are applicable for studying dynamics of emotions.
1. Magic of Self-organization
is a virtual property of the interactive nonlinear dynamics. It becomes
actual when the dynamics are materialized in some substance and their
intensity of interaction increases so that they become swirling
swirling dynamics are characterized by the presence of self-propelling
feedback loops and tend to form a vortex-like whirling structure
sustained by forces directed towards its centre. At the same time, the
forces that act towards the periphery of the structure cause the
emergence of a multitude of pulsating vortical layers, similar to the
fractals studied in chaos and complexity theories.
dynamics of every emergent layer reflects the pulsation of the whirling
structure as a whole, and the integrity of the structure crucially
depends on the interactive dynamics of the layers. This unique dynamical
interplay between the whole (as an expression of layers'
interconnectedness) and the layers (mirroring the whole), drives the
overall process of self-organization of the moving substance.
of self-organization occurs in the cavity (emptiness, vacuum) at the
axis of the whirling structure, where a powerful sucking force emerges.
The power of this self-organizing force can be gigantic (in tornadoes,
dynamics of existence manifest in the astonishing diversity of
non-animated and animated forms in the universe, in their evolution,
transformations and metamorphoses.
2. Emotions as Manifestations of Self-organizing Dynamics in
Human Experiential Space
emotions are bearers of enormous energy; the spontaneous emergence of
certain emotions can produce irreversible changes (like heart attack or
brain hemorrhage) in the physical body of individuals experiencing those
emotions. Emotions can kill but they can also inspire and elevate the
spirit of a person.
emerge in the human experiential space  - a space where the
dynamics of each individualís life release their energy through
one' everyday actions and thoughts, emotions and feelings, expectations
and dreams, spiritual beliefs and aspirations.
Let us zoom
into the nature of the human experiential space and explore how it
relates to the emergence of emotions. The Human Experiential Space
cannot predict what kind of experience will occur even in the nearest
future, therefore one is uncertain about the emotions which could emerge
out of this experience;
little changes in the conditions under which oneís life unfolds
or in the story that one has about oneself and reality can lead to
dramatic changes in the experience of apparently identical events and
processes, and hence can produce dramatic changes in the emotions
related to this experience;
simple and routine modes of behavior can lead to extremely complicated
experiential patterns accompanying by complexly interwoven streams of
conditions and factors stimulate the occurrence of spontaneous
qualitative jumps in human experience and hence in the emotional
patterns of an individual;
of its complexity, human experience tends towards 'zone of criticality',
that is, towards critical developments impregnated with possibilities
for bifurcation from one emotional state to another;
higher the intensity of the critical state of an individual, the more
significant the qualitative jump in the emotional state of this
3. Holistic Nature of Emotions
ability of human dynamics is a holistic expression of the power hidden
in their interactions. As far as any authentic emotion is a
manifestation of this self-organizing ability, it is also holistic - it
cannot be separated into smaller parts, although it could be
'fractalized' (let us recall that fractals are similar images of the
whole at different scales of representation). For example, the grief of
the whole nation in relation to the death of a national hero, can be
expressed through the grief of a single person, without losing its
wholeness; only the scale will be different - from the macro level of
the nation to the micro level of an individual.
its holistic nature, the best way to explore emotions is through the
narratives (stories) related to authentic human experience; such a story
is always a holistic expression of one's experience and hence of one's
an old family friend, had been at my fatherís funeral. I had
driven him home that night, late, after the wake, and on my way back to
the family home I had found myself parked in a quiet alcove in a pine
forest, near a lake and crying a torrent. It was the first time I had
really been alone since the death. Up until then there had always been
people around and always things to do. It was also the first time I had
felt the loss enter into my body and shake me beyond conscious control.
My tears grabbed me hurtfully. I didnít know where they came
from. It was as if the rust, the grit, the debris right at the bottom of
my emotional tank had been rattled then shaken free. I didnít
know I felt so deeply or so strongly. It gutted me. I hadnít
cried for years and that night I cried myself out, I donít know
how long it took but finally I regained sufficient equanimity and drove
the final three kilometers home.
years since then, it seemed, I had not greatly missed my father. I guess
I thought I had purged my grief. In truth, I had on occasions even been
grateful for his absence and the over bearing nature of his parenting.
And yet I happened to glimpse a photo of him as I cleared my
possessions from the home of Louisa, following a sudden and unexpected
breakdown in our five-year relationship and I wept uncontrollably. In
heartbreak and grief I howled, I wet half a roll of toilet paper with my
deep level I loved my father enormously. One of the reasons we argued so
much was because of the affinity I felt for him - and him for me - such
that whenever he failed to live up to my expectations I felt let down,
and I wasnít afraid to tell him. The result was antipathy. When
I saw that photo and found myself weeping, I realized just how much I
underestimated the loss. If the possibility of such a response would
have been mentioned a week before I would have laughed. I would have
dismissed any suggestion that I still valued him and missed him and
reaped the rewards - and suffered the conflicts - of his parenting.
There was much of this chaos also in the separation from Louisa.
gathered my things from her house and packed them into boxes I
remembered the time she and I had shared. Rich memories lived in the
atmosphere. I remembered the way we used to open the curtains each
morning to let the sun shine into the bedroom. I remembered the struggle
to keep the house warm of an evening and I remember the way that
warmth, when it was secured, bound us together through winter.
intensity of the critical conditions of the narrator (related both to
the death of his father and the breakdown of his relationships with
Louisa) makes his emotional experience complex, unpredictable and open
for dramatic changes.
There is a
powerful connection between the loss the narrator feels in the sudden
separation from Louisa and the grief that surfaces in relation to his
father. One opens the way for the other, or so it seems. It is as if in
the strength of the emotional response individual emotional experiences
ran together somehow. The narrator is flooded by emotions, yet like
driftwood, individual emotions emerge every so often and demanded
attention only to, almost as rapidly, disappear from view, under the
pressure of the onrushing stream. The emotional experience is similar
with what Jeffrey Kohler says: "...anything you are crying for at one
moment can so easily change to something quite different a moment
later... much of the time you donít really know exactly what you
are feeling" .
attention and comprehension shift and change. What remains constant is
the immersion in the emotion. The rationality of one or another event is
overtaken by the power of the emergent emotion. This in itself can be a
revelation - a sudden jump, a bifurcation to entirely different kind of
experience, which is demonstrated in the second story of the narrator.
loss, many people have told me, healing takes time. At that time and at
times since I have watched the clock, I have cried, tested my pulse,
monitored my heartbeat, cried still more and watched myself,
sporadically, as I became engulfed by emotions, then some time later
emerged once more. And I have tried to find names for the emotions as
they threatened to, in fact every so often did, totally overwhelm me, in
wave after wave after wave. All the time I have carried on
conversations with myself (and others willing to do so), on the nature
of the emotions that arose in this time. I have felt "hollowed out", I
have felt "emptied", "cold", "in need" and very much "on my own" despite
the consoling words of friends and allies. In my gut I have felt the
effect of loss echo. Through the muscles of my face I have felt it
reveal itself, at first to me, then to anyone capable of seeing it in
me....Loss is both an emotional and a physical thing. The body yearns
for the other, it aches with the absence and physically suffers the
recognition that what is lost will not return. At our peril we devalue
the experience in our attempts to ëovercome ití and
ëput it in the pastí and ëmove oní. It
continues. Poet John Foulcher offers this fragment of advice.
think the way... in which I have learnt to cope with it (and it has been
a gradual process) is to learn that the phrase "Time heals all" is a
lie. Time heals nothing. When somebody dies they take a part of you
with them and you can never get it back. When love dies that also takes
a part of you and youíll never get that back.
out. It can make personal sustainability a genuine concern. It is, in
this respect, both a sensual experience and a knowledge form. Foulcher
you are in pain, if you are suffering most of us tend to think, "Well,
Iíll grit my teeth and bear it" and wait for the light at the end
of the tunnel, and what we miss (with this approach) is experiencing
the suffering and pain that is there. I think to actually experience it
by saying ëThis is it. Iím going through it and this is how
it is affecting meí is the best way to cope with it. Your
natural tendency is to avoid, to pull back, define, compensate. But I
think the considered response is to avoid those sorts of cheap answers
and go for the hard one .
again I remembered sitting alongside my father in the bed he died in,
and holding his hand as the sun streamed in through the window. Why, I
ask, did it take seven years, and a ëmarriageí breakdown to
allow me to weep uncontrollably for him. It seems as if the embodied
processes of loss and grief, having been triggered, unfold in unexpected
ways. The mind finds meaning in incidental things. Immersed in the loss
triggered by Louisaís declaration I was opened to the distress
of my fatherís death and much, much more. I cried listening to
items on the 7 oíclock news, I cried listening to music, I cried
looking at photos in magazines, I cried seeing children playing and
couples drinking coffee and traffic flowing and trees growing. These
tears were not indiscriminate, nor were they altogether unwelcome. They
stirred me hugely. My body and mind were massively engaged by them. I
wept, truly, and my weeping was sufficiently overwhelming to make me
stop, rest and turn my attention in on myself.
emotion was the thing: and this thing churned and bubbled and surfaced
and reverberated in my body as I moved through the minutes that
comprised the day. Nestled deep within, my sensitivities aligned
themselves and empathised with others they found in their vicinity. My
vulnerability brought down the barriers that allowed me to claim
competence in the everyday world. Suddenly I was incompetent, I was
irrational, I was in tears, I was inconsolable, I was beyond help, I was
emotional. My good sense was overcome by the strength of my feelings.
My body was overwhelming ëmeí. Within my distress I was
celebrating. Never had my emotions been revealed to me so powerfully.
4. Emotions and Language
to emotional experience swing wildly. Language is one of the vehicles
through which responses become manifest. The dynamics of language are
such that it ëfeeds backí into consciousness and contribute
to the way in which the loss is both experienced and understood in the
can be found in a multiplicity of references and artifacts. The
mythologies that support and embrace cultural life offer a tantalizing
collection of keys to the richness of the variety of emotional
experience. These have been plumbed to great depth in Jungian theory and
might ëtouch us deeplyí, they might ëlook uglyí,
they might ëcome too closeí, they might ëhit us where
it hurtsí or ërelease a huge burdení. In these
phrases senses overflow and overlap. There is a revelatory quality to
them. They might ëmake us feel blueí or ësee
redí or ëtip us off the straight and narrowí. They
are both emotions and meaning-full emotions. One can speak about the
inescapable "aroma of loss" and the way it pervades the body, the mind
and the environment. One can see emotions in people: that there are
patterns in the way the body is held. One can plunge into the relief
accompanying strong emotional experience ("finally, the fear and
expectation is over"). One can share the fear of emotion ("there is a
wildness to it, a beastliness that is best avoided").
emotional experience is known in no small way through culture, that
knowing is influenced by the way we explain it to ourselves. Again,
language - the social voice both of understanding and delusion - can
contain the emotion. It can lock it down, make it manageable or keep it
under control. Equally, it can place it in the context of an unfolding
life - "I donít understand whatís happening" - or expand
it beyond the border lands of understanding.
5. Inspirational Power of Emotions
is an explosion of positive emotions; it acts as a powerful energizer of
the human experiential space (HES).
impact of inspiration is that it can bring forth emergence of new
attractors of meaning in HES. In this sense, inspiration is a
powerful stimulator of human creativity.
to creativity, inspiration occurs spontaneously in HES. 'Trying to be
inspired' or 'to impose inspiration' is like 'trying to be spontaneous'
- it does not work. On the contrary, it creates obstacles for the 'flash
of inspiration' to be ignited.
there are powerful catalysts of inspiration - external (like beautiful
scenery, human body, work of arts) or internal (related to individual
self-realization, experience of love, spiritual experience). Different
catalysts can have different inspiring effects on different individuals.
dynamics of the ego-centred attractors in HES (even those related to
personal knowledge-accumulation) can hardly be inspired. According to
the Buddhist thinkers, attachment cannot be inspired - its reinforcement
can only hasten the exhaustion of the energy supporting the attachment.
saturated with positive emotions, the genuine acts of inspiration may
help in transcending the pulling force even of a very strong attachments
(Alcoholic Anonymous is an example of spiritual inspiration helping
people to deal with the detrimental consequences of the alcoholic
endeavors always need flashes of inspiration, otherwise they lose
sincerity and wilt quickly. Inspiration is needed to energize the human
search for authenticity, for self-realization, enlightenment and wisdom.
is not a 'logocentric' phenomenon, that is, it is not based on any
logically consistent 'system of thought' that claims legitimacy by
reference to external, accepted as truthful propositions. Often it is
grounded in paradoxes; from the encounter of polarities (opposite ideas)
contained in a paradox, a powerful fountain of inspiring emotions may
stimulator of creativity, inspiration needs intermittence
(discontinuity) of causality: the chains of cause-effect easily melt
under lucidity of inspiration.
6. Emotional Resonance
prism of Complexity and Chaos, emotional resonance can be seen as an
attractor-merging phenomenon: two or more attractors in HES, each
representing a dynamical emotional pattern, suddenly merge into one
chaotic dynamics of HES, the 'strange' attractors of emotions are never
static, they constantly vibrate - expand and shrink, depending on the
changes in one's experience. Therefore, the act of merging of two
vibrating attractors into one can be described as an act of resonance:
two or more attractors synchronize their vibrations so that they stop to
be separated from one another and coalesce into one and the same new
attractor, representing an enriched emotional pattern.
merging emotions are positive, the resonance can trigger an arousal of
waves of inspiration. In the experience of love, the emotional resonance
represents a gigantic source of inspiration able to entirely transform
resonance in negative emotions is also possible; when two groups of
people are in conflict, all the members of one of the groups can
'resonate' with the same intensive animosity (enmity, hostility, hatred)
to those belonging to the other group. Extremely competitive nature of
today's society facilitates the emergence of this kind of resonance. It
reaches its destructive culmination in the wars, which have a constant
presence in human society.
resonance can be not only interpersonal (as in the case of mutual
empathy, compassion, sympathy, love), it can happen with the emotions
experienced by one single person. A specific emotion can become so
overwhelming that all other emotional patterns either dissolve or start
to resonate with the prevailing emotion. Examples of such kind of
intrapersonal resonance can be found in one's spiritual experience; the
'oceanic' emotion of unity with the whole universe experienced by a
person in a state of deep meditation seems to absorb the energy of all
other 'worldly' emotions and explode into a blissful inspirational
. . .
it may seem otherwise, emotion is not something we experience alone. It,
and the understanding arising from it, occurs within chaotic dynamics
of social complexity...
Dimitrov, V. and R. Ebsary 2000 A Busca da Identidade, Thot, 74
(pp. 51-60) - in portuguese (English version available at
Kohler, J. (1996) The Language of Tears, Jossey-Bass (p.89)
Jones, C. 1989 Interview with John Foulcher, in The Search for
Meaning, ABC Books: Crows Nest, NSW (p.95).