Emotion, Movement & Psychological Space:
A Sketching Out of the Emotions in terms of
Temporality, Spatiality, Embodiment, Being-with, and Language

Brent Dean Robbins
Duquesne University

There exist many 'emotion' terms, sprinkled throughout the dictionary and connected by connotations both obscure and revealing. Such terms include: Emotion, passion, fervor, ardor, enthusiasm, zeal, mood, humor, temper, vein, disposition, feeling, affection, sentiment, and affect, to name some of the most common. Each term gathers round it a history to which assumptions cling. The logos of emotion begins in the pre-articulated experience of 'being moved' in some manner, yet, the already understood, implicit, lived ways of being-in-the-world as emotional are also shaped by the articulation of meaning through language.. With this assumption, one is compelled to further articulate how these 'emotion' terms give meaning to lived emotional experience, and, by the same token, how they spring forth from the clearing which is human existence.

In light of this pre-understanding, I wish to explore the research and theory of several thinkers on the topic of emotion; including Heidegger (1962/1927) and De Rivera (1977), as well as Boss (1994/1979), Fischer (1970; 1991), Sullivan (1953), and Schachtel (1959). Through a synthetic process, I wish to dialogue with these thinkers in an effort to unravel the thread of the 'emotion' terms, as theoretical constructs, listed above. Through this unfolding, as a meditative exercise in dwelling, I will attempt to illuminate, in a concealing-revealing manner, a provisional understanding of the existential structure of 'emotion' as lived by human beings in terms of temporality, spatiality, embodiment, being-with, and language. This is, by no means, an exhaustive exploration of the above thinkers on the topic of emotion -- nor is this possible within the limitations of this forum. Primarily, I will show that emotion is fundamentally relational, and thus, will explore the terminology of 'emotion' as embodied, temporal and languaged movement in interpersonal space. And, as the explication of Heidegger will show, this "space" is understood as the openness of Dasein as thrown possibilities in-the-world.


Emotions are clearly one of the most vitally important phenomena to study in psychology. Yet, it is rare that there is any disciplinary consensus as to the definition of 'emotion.' In most cases, the understanding of 'emotion' is taken-for-granted in the sense that Kuhn (1962/1970) speaks of a "paradigm." While there may be no explicitly articulated understanding of emotion as a consensus, there remains a tacit understanding of emotion which guides psychological researchers in their "mopping-up operations." However, according to the bias of this researcher, phenomenology provides a method by which to make this tacit understanding of emotion explicit by disclosing its hidden meaning and ground -- as part of the fabric of Dasein ('being-there') as being-in-the-world (Heidegger, 1927/191962; Robbins, 1998).

According to Heidegger, Dasein exists, equiprimordially, as state-of-mind (mode of actuality), projection (mode of actuality), and languaged. State-of-mind, as the mode of the actual, is the disclosure of one's "thrownness" (Gewarfenheit) -- the disclosure of how Dasein's world, as it is disclosed, matters to Dasein. So being, state-of-mind, at the level of the pre-articulated, discloses being-in-the-world-as-a-whole. Understanding, as the projection of possibilities, is the mode in which Dasein discloses its world projects, its possibilities, in the world -- the "in-order-for-the-sake-of" which guides Dasein in its everyday, circumspective concern. Through language, Dasein articulates these actualities and possibilities. Let us, therefore, before turning again to state-of-mind and understanding, sketch out the language of 'emotion'.


The term 'emotion' is derived from the Latin, emovere, emotum, and the french root, e, out, + movere, to move, essentially means "to move out." From Webster (1961), emotion is defined either as 1) "an agitation; strong feeling; any disturbance," and 2) "a departure from the normal calm state of an organism of such nature as to include strong feeling, an impulse toward open action, and certain internal physical reactions; any one of the states designated as fear, anger, disgust, grief, joy, surprise, yearning, etc." From the first connotation, emotion as "agitation" and "disturbance" catches sight of the "movement" of emotion -- or, at least, the potential for movement in emotion. This implies that any emotion holds within its structure some potential for movement. The question is: What kind of movement? And where? From the second connotation, emotion is distinguished as a departure from the "norm," the calm that exists prior to the emergence of a potential movement.

As I will attempt to show, emotions are characterized by various potential movements away or toward an actual or implicit other or entity. Thus, emotion is essentially dyadic. The movement of emotion, therefore, is essentially with-others (as Dasein always already is). Yet, the question arises: If emotion is movement, then when are we ever not in emotion, since we are always in some kind of movement toward or away from others and entities? The answer may be discovered in the explication of the "kind" or quality of movement. This can be further articulated through our understanding of "mood."


Mood is often equated with temper, particularly the 'bad' sort, such as when someone is exhibiting extreme anger. Interestingly, Webster (1961) defines 'mood' as a 'particular state of mind, especially as affected by emotion; as, to be in a mood to work." One's mood, according to Webster, can be "affected" by emotion, but mood is something different. What differentiates 'mood' and 'emotion'?

If we understand "emotion" as the agitated state in which one is compelled, in one's facticity, to 'move' in one way or another, 'mood' can be understand as one's already understood world as "actual." Thus, mood, from a Heideggarian perspective, is equivalent to "state-of-mind" (befindlichkeit). To be emotionally means that I am already 'somewhere.' My understanding of where I stand and how this matters to me, dictates how I wish to move (emotion) in my continual project as thrown being-in-the-world. To further articulate this distinction, it is fruitful to explore  Heidegger's understanding of befindlichkeit in greater detail.

As Gendlin (1978-79) shows, befindlickheit can be understood in accordance with the German, "Sich befinden," finding oneself, which:

...has three allusions: The reflexivity of finding oneself; feeling; and being situated. All three are caught in the ordinary phrase, "How are you?" That refers to how you feel but also to how things are going for you and what sort of situation you find yourself in. To answer the question you must find yourself, find how you already are. And when you do, you find yourself amidst the circumstances of your living. (p. 44).
Heidegger's understanding of 'mood' is a departure, in this sense, from the everyday understanding of "mood" as in, for example, the "affect of an emotion." Mood as befindlichkeit is a "self-finding"; that is, it is an opening onto the "actual" state of my projects from which possibilities, as the coming-toward, may emerge: How where I am matters to me in terms of where I have been and, even more, where I am going. In other words, being-in-a-mood is a recognition, albeit implicitly, that I am fundamental situated as a "thrown" being-in-the-world, yet, also, that I am faced with choices in the coming-toward of the future. Thus, a mood can be "bad" or "good" depending on how my situation, as I find myself, is allowing for an opening onto the life projects which matter to me. For Heidegger, Dasein is its possibilities, so, fundamentally, this means: How I understand my situation as assisting me in my becoming as that world-of-possibilities which I am (my identity; the "who" that I am). As Gendlin (1978; 1978-79) shows, mood, in this sense, rarely explicitly enters into cognitive awareness, but, rather, exists on the level of a "felt sense."


If, as Gendlin (1978) argues, mood is a "felt sense," then it is very close in meaning to the term "feeling." "Feeling" presupposes a tactile, embodied mode of mood -- something like a "felt sense" which is felt at the level of the body as opposed to cognition. When I "feel" something, I touch it, handle it, examine it, test it, etc. From this basic experience, "feel" metaphorically encompasses sensation in general. It speaks to a kind of awareness. Thus, "feeling" can be defined as that act or condition of one who "feels." While mood conveys the "self-finding" in the mode of the actual, I would argue that "feeling" is the embodied aspect of mood, the "felt sense" which exists at the implicit, pre-articulated, lived level of existence, prior to any explicit "self-finding."


The French root of passion, passus, is "to suffer." The more archaic meaning of the term "passion," thus, is to endure pain, tortures, or the like. More specifically, usually when capitalized, it refers to the suffering of Christ on the cross, or, more generally, his suffering during the time between the Last Supper and his death. Passion, from this root, has come to mean, generally, an extreme emotion, signified by violent and intense agitation. Passion, whether we speak of fear, hate, love, or joy, always represents an extreme, focused involvement with a project in the world. This involvement may include either extreme repulsion, such as hate, or extreme desire, such as with love. With passion, one is stirred to ones depths. In this sense, passion seems to take on the quality of a more extreme version of 'emotion.' With passion, one could say, we are more strongly 'moved' by a particular emotion. Passion seems to speak to the depth of our commitment to a given project in the world.

So far, I have been lead to the following conclusions:

1. Mood is the "self-finding" which exists in the mode of the actual.

2. "Feeling" is the implict, "felt sense" of one's mood prior to making it explicitly known.

3. "Emotion" is the agitation which emerges with the coming-to-being of a potential movement. Thus, in a certain way, we can understand "emotion" as a tension between the mode of the actual and the mode of the possible. How I find myself in the mode of the actual (mood) will determine how my thrown projects, as the mode of the possible (understanding), are coming along. This tension between actuality and possibility, which is emotion, will, depending on the circumstances, hold certain dispositions toward potential movements toward or away from entities in the world.

4. Passion appears to involve, like 'emotion,' a 'movement,' but in the extreme.


By dialoging with the literature on emotion, we may begin to unfold the meaning of these terms, and, how, in language, they speak to the lived experience towards which each term points as a signifier. Emotion, as a human phenomenon -- thus, as an existential -- must invariably be understood in terms of all of the existentials which, equiprimordially, compose the fabric of human existence. Through an examination of the existentials of temporality, spatiality, being-with, and embodiment, it becomes possible to articulate the relation of the 'emotion' terms outlined above.


As Gendlin (1978-79) points out: "Past, present, and future are...not merely serial, as usually viewed, as if they were positioned in a line. Instead, each involves the others, and they make one structure together" (p. 61). It is vitally important to carefully articulate, from Heidegger's provisional ontology, the temporality of human existence. Doing so, this enables us to understand the relationship of mood and understanding.

Heidegger (1962/1927) explicates the three temporal ecstasies of Dasein as the past (Gewesenheit or the mode of "having been"), present (Gegen-wart or "waiting-toward") and future (Zu-kunft or "coming-toward"), which are grounded in the existential of "care" (Sorge). Dasein's being as care is its "ahead-of-itself-Being-already-in-(the world) as Being-alongside (entities encountered within the world)." From this structure, "understanding" is the "being-ahead-of-itself" which is the projection of future possibilities, and, thus, Dasein is essentially futural -- that is, grounded primarily in possibility rather than actuality. Therefore, Dasein understands 'past' as the "having-been" in terms of its future possibilities. As Heidegger (1962/1927) explains in Being and Time:

...only in so far as Dasein is (as the having been [bin-gewesen] of an 'I' that is) can it come towards (zukunftig) itself futurally in such a way that it comes back to itself. Dasein is, as authentically having-been, an authentically futural anticipation of one's utmost and ownmost possibility coming back, in an understanding way, to one's ownmost having-been. Dasein can only be what it has been insofar as it is futural. One's already having-been arises, in a certain way, from the future (p. 373).
How does this unfolding of Dasein's temporality assist us in coming to grips with the relationship between "mood" and "understanding"? "It is 'moody understanding,' or 'befindliches understanding," writes Gendlin (1978-79), "which 'throws' the possibilities, and as Befindlichkeit, we are always already thrown" (p. 58). Mood (as the mode of actuality) and understanding (as the mode of possibility) are inextricably bound together. Mood is the implicit "self-finding" by which things matter to us in-the-world, and understanding is the sketching out of possibilities on the basis of this mattering. That is, I can be in a mood since I always already understand myself as underway, in some manner, in projects which matter to me. In being 'moody,' Dasein is brought before itself as having-been, and this having-been is understood in terms of the future -- that is, in terms of one's understanding as thrown possibility. In this sense, I take up my past, as having-been, in terms of my future possibilities, as they are emerge in the present.

With this understanding of temporality, what then is the relationship between mood and emotion? Dasein is always already in a mood. As "feeling," this mood is implicit, and exists on the level of "felt sense," However, emotion is experienced as a departure from the norm: What is implicit, in mood, shows itself in the "agitation" and "disturbance" of my being-in-the-world.

With emotion, it seems, I am called back to my ownmost thrown possibility such that my thrown projects are shown to matter in a specific way. This mattering is not so much understood on the level of cognition, but, rather, understood through the urge toward a potential movement in-the-world. In order to sketch out this conception of "movement," it will be necessarily to explore Dasein's spatiality as a being-in-the-world.


According to Heidegger (1962/1927), Dasein is spatial in the sense characterized by "de-severence" and "directionality." Heidegger writes: "De-severing" amounts to making farness vanish - that is, making the remoteness of something disappear, making it close. Dasein is essentially de-severent: it lets any entity be encountered close by as the entity which it is" (p. 139). Such closeness is not to be understood as the geometrically measured distance between one thing and another; rather, "de-severence" is the kind of space in which Dasein understands entities in-the-world as circumspectively close or as remote. That is, spatiality in this sense is the "lived space" of Dasein as being-in-the-world. The human being "dwells" spatially in the world such that beings can be close or far in terms of how they matter. Further, with directionality, Dasein has a lived sense of how a particular entity in the world is "de-severed," such that it "has a place" (p. 143).

When we speak of 'emotion' as potential 'movement,' we speak of the lived spatiality of Dasein as "de-severence" and "directionality." With the emergence of a particular emotion, I am brought back to my "moody understanding" as the sketching out of what matters to me in terms of my world projects. On a lived level of understanding, the worldhood of the world, as the web of significance ("in-order-for-the-sake-of"), is disclosed in a particular way. How I understand my projects as underway, in terms of my "moody understanding," will determine the potential "movement' of the emotion in which I find myself. With the onset of emotion, I am called back to 'make a move' regarding my world projects, either as a movement toward or away from those projects.

The 'potential movement' of emotion implies that emotion engenders a fundamental transformation of the world. That is, in emotion, how things matter, in terms of my world projects, changes. The world, for Heidegger, is the "referential context of significance" of things and others as they are encountered within the context of a "referential totality" -- the "in-order-for-the-sake-of" which implicitly guides Dasein in her "circumspective" understanding of what matters. In emotion, I am brought back to 'how things matter' for me, and thus, through a particular potential movement, I am called in some way to recognize this mattering. So doing, I go back such that I go forward, providing the possible of a reconfiguration of the world. I may move toward or away from a particular world project, and, thus, the "reference-context-of-significance" is transformed.


That emotion emerges as 'potential movement' implies a particular bodily orientation to the world. As De Rivera (1977) argues, there exists four basic emotional movements: "Toward other," "toward self," "away from self (against other)," "and away from other" (p. 41). Each of these movements of emotion corresponds to a bodily movement. In the case of "toward other," the emotion corresponds to "positive extension"; "toward self" corresponds to "positive contraction"; "away from self is embodied as "negative extension"; and "away from the other" is felt as "negative contraction" (p. 41). For De Rivera, each of these movements relates to particular emotions; respectively, love, desire, anger, and fear. These can be understood as the felt bodily sense of emotion -- the 'felt' directionality of the "potential movement" of a particular emotion. Of course, this movement is not necessarily a movement in geometrical space, but, primordially, can be understood in terms of "de-severence": The transfiguration of our relatedness to entities in the world as moving toward being closer or being more remote. But, even more, De Rivera's analysis of emotion does not simply reveal a two directional orientation of closeness and remoteness; he also discloses the bodily-spatial dimensions of emotion as "extension" and "contraction."

For example, in anger, I move "against the object" toward which my anger is directed, whereas, in fear, I move away from the object. In anger, therefore, extension is involved: a moving out toward the object of anger in order to move the object away from oneself. In fear, on the other hand, contraction is involved since I recoil or retract from the feared object. In both cases, I can feel this bodily. Anger and fear are examples of negative extension and contraction. In the case of love and desire, positive extension and contraction are involved. In love, I extend myself toward the other; that is, I move toward the loved object. With desire, on the contrary, I wish to bring the object toward myself, to possess it; thus, it involves contraction as a bringing towards. Each movement, which discloses the directionality of a particular emotion, involves a manner of transforming my world in a particular way. These transformations, for De Rivera, involve "four basic modes of object relation: giving, getting, removing, and escaping," each corresponding, respectively, with love, desire, anger, and fear (p. 41).

This notion, sketched out by De Rivera, is consistent with Boss' (1994/1979) understanding of human embodiment. For Boss:

Human bodyhood is always the bodying forth of the ways of being in which we are dwelling and which constitute our existence at any given moment...The borders of my bodyhood coincide with those of my openness to the world. They are in fact at any given time identical, though they are always changing with the fluid expansion and contraction of my relationship to the world (p. 102-103).
In fact, for Boss, bodyhood and spatiality are bound up together. In order to existent bodily, human beings must be spatial (p. 104). Further, as with De Rivera, Boss understands bodyhood as corresponding to the expansion (extension) and contraction of spatiality. As "being there," Dasein bodies forth its relatedness with entities in the world, in terms of de-severence and directionality, as moving away or toward. De Rivera's theory, however, reveals how these movements are even more complex than this dual movement. I do not just move toward or away from entities in the world; rather, in terms of my world projects, I am may be involved in giving, getting, removing, or escaping. Thus, the three existentials laid out so far -- embodiment, spatiality and temporality -- all play their role in Dasein's world openness, and, as such, make being emotional possible. In a particular emotion, I am always already in a "moody understanding" of my world projects as thrown possibility. In terms of the "in-order-for-the-sake-of" of the "context of significance" of the world, I become emotion "in-order-for-the-sake-of" giving, getting, removing, or escaping, depending on how I find myself on the way to realizing my world projects. In other words, my potential movements in giving (toward other), getting (toward self), removing (away from self) or escaping (away from other) reveal how things matter to me in the world in terms of my thrown projects. These movements are not movements in geometrical space so much as movements in lived space. And, further, these movements are bodied forth as contraction or extension which can be concretely "felt" in emotion. In this sense, "feeling" can be understood as the  embodied aspect of 'emotion.'

In summary, De Rivera writes:

The experience of emotion reflects the transformation of our relation to the world - to the persons, objects, events, and actions that are important to us. These transformations are the movements of emotion and each type of emotion (anger, fear, love) reflects a different kind of transformation. A transformation is not a passive reaction to a given stimulus situation, rather it is a transaction between the person and his environment, a way of organizing the relation between the person and the other so that the response itself gives meaning to the stimulus situation..." (P. 35-36).
Thus, De Rivera points out what should now appear rather obvious. Emotion is fundamentally relational, and always already involves an other. Any emotion, as potential movement, must involve some other who I may move toward myself or away from myself or who I may move toward or away from.


Consistent with Heidegger's existential analytic, Dasein is fundamentally being-with. It follows that the phenomenon of emotion must also be understood according to the social character of Dasein. De Rivera's theory of emotion shows how emotion is fundamentally a transformation of the human being's relatedness to the world as being-with-others and alongside things. That is, emotion involves a movement within interpersonal, psychological, lived space in such a way that how others matter is disclosed. Further, through his explication of emotion, De Rivera reveals how these interpersonal movements constitute emotion as a whole. In other words, he reveals, through his theory of the structure of emotion, how particular emotions can be understood as potential movement.

In order to set forth a further understanding of emotion as a whole, De Rivera shows how emotion is structured according to some other. This "other" can take two possible forms: Either an other before me or the self-as-other. In the latter sense of "other," the other is 'implicit.' As De Rivera explains, "in each of the emotions where the self is the object of the emotion, the self is the object for the movement of an implicit other" (p. 48). When there is an apparent other, De Rivera calls the emotion an "it emotion." Where there is an 'implicit' other, De Rivera refers to these emotions as "me emotions" (p. 51).

Beyond this distinction, De Rivera also distinguishes emotions according to three other criteria: Emotions pertaining to "belonging," "recognition," or "being." Each of these categories contains both "it" and "me" emotions, and, further, each category involves either a movement toward other/self or away from self/other. The category of belonging involves emotions which negotiate interpersonal space according to the unfolding sense of personal boundaries and the degree of connection to the other (or self-as-other). The "It" emotions of belonging correspond to those emotions already mentioned above: Love, desire, anger, and fear. The corresponding "me" emotions include security, confidence, depression, and anxiety. In the emotion of security, according to De Rivera, one is in the process of "letting go" (p. 46). When one is secure, one is able to surrender oneself to other perspectives. When one is confident, on the other hand, one "takes hold." As confident, one seizes the world by moving out and asserting one's own "particular view of reality" (p. 46). Consistent with the "it" emotion of "love" as "giving," the "me" emotion of security yields to the world -- thus, both are a movement toward the other. The person who is depressed is in the process of "giving up": "there is a clear movement away from the world as the person loses interest in objects and finds that the self is no longer able to will - to imagine and carry out actions in the world" (p. 45). With anxiety, on the other hand, one "holds on," and, thus, one comports oneself as "a defensive clinging to one's current reality" (p. 47). Whereas depression involves a "constricting" of self away from the world, anxiety involves an active defense against the world. Each "it emotion" corresponds to a "me" emotion. For example, in love, the self belongs to the other; whereas, with security, the other wants to belong to me (p. 51).

The recognition emotions, according to De Rivera, involve emotions pertaining to the "social self," that is, the "self-as-recognized by the other" (p. 53). The "it" emotions of recognition include esteem (toward other), admiration (toward self), contempt (away from self), and horror (away from other). The corresponding "me" emotions are humility, pride, shame, and guilt (p. 61). The third set of emotions are understood as "being" emotions. De Rivera explains:

The emotions in this third set govern a relation that may be termed being. That is, quite apart from whether or not we belong to or recognize an other, we may grant or deny that the other is. Again it might appear at first glance that there is simply a positive or negative possibility here -- either the other is or is not. However, for something to be for a person, the other must both exist (in the sense of being real of alive) and have some meaning, form, or essence (the other must exist as something - be it a dog, a cat, a person, or a particular person)...The different emotions in the set concerned with being operate either by affecting the other's (or the self's) existence or by affecting the other's (or self's) essence (p. 62-63).

The "it" emotions in De Rivera's category of "being" include acceptance, serenity, wonder, and joy. The corresponding "me" emotions include rejection, sorrow, dread, and panic. With this third category, it becomes possible to understand how the three sets of emotion all involve "movements along three dimensions in psychological space" (p. 69). The three dimension are the already mentioned categories of "belonging," "recognition," and "being." Within these three dimensions, there are four possible ways of moving toward: 1) "Person moves toward other", 2) "Other moves toward person", 3) "Person moves other toward him," and 4) "Other moves person toward him." In terms of the first sense of moving toward, the emotions include love (belonging), esteem (recognition), and acceptance (being). In the second sense, there is security (belonging), humility (recognition), and serenity (being). And, in the third set of moving toward, the emotions include confidence (belonging), pride (recognition), and joy (being).

Further, within these three dimensions, there are four ways of moving away in accordance with the three ways of moving toward: 1) "Person moves other away," 2) "Other moves person away," 3) "Person moves away from other," and 4) "Other moves away from person." There corresponding emotions to (1) are anger (belonging), contempt (recognition), and rejection (being). The emotions along (2) include depression (belonging), shame (recognition), and sorrow (being). The third (3) set of moving away includes fear (belonging), horror (recognition), and dread (being), and the fourth (4) includes anxiety (belonging), guilt (recognition), and panic (being).

De Rivera's theory of emotion shows quite clearly how emotion is a temporal, spatial, embodied movement with-others in-the-world. De Rivera's understanding of emotion as a movement in interpersonal, psychological space is also consistent with the theories of anxiety of, for example, Sullivan (1953), Schachtel (1959), and Fischer (1991). As Fischer (1991) articulates, there are three "existential preconditions" which make the human phenomenon of anxiety possible:

1) "the abiding, if not critical importance, for others as well as ourselves, of who we are as persons;"

2) "the fact that we constitute and signify who we are in the various relationship and projects which we take up, live out, and attempt to surpass the unsatisfactory, if not unsatisfying, character of our essential incompleteness; and"

3) "the unguaranteed and, hence, uncertain success of these relationships and projects" (p. 294).

As thrown being-in-the-world, Dasein is always underway in terms of her sketching out of possibilities. These possibilities, as futural, are, thus, essentially elusive, incomplete, and uncertain. Further, since the human being essentially is as possibility, one's identity is always underway, and, hence, equally elusive, incomplete and uncertain. And, finally, as De Rivera's theory shows, these thrown projects always involve my relatedness to others, either as 'apparent' or 'implicit. I would add that these thrown projects are also already understood as mattering in some way in the lived, spatial configuration of one's world, such that, in the understanding of how these projects matter, I am called, with particular emotions, to body forth potential movements toward or away from 'apparent' or 'implicit' others.

These existentials only make sense when we understand, as Fischer so adeptly points out, that, as human beings, we are necessarily "indigent." That is, one's "projects and relationships are always informed by, if not for the sake of, one's continuing relations with particular significant others in one's life" (p. 293-294). We are "indigent," therefore, by virtue of the fact that we are needful of others for belonging, recognition, and being. When this is understood, it becomes quite obvious how, as Sullivan (1953) points out, the "forbidding gestures" of the other can shake us to the foundations of our existence. Further, this aids us in understanding Schachtel's (1959) understanding of the human being as constantly oscillating between "emergence" and "embeddedness." Due to his emphasis on emotion as emerging from the "person-in-situation," Schachtel is able to understanding the movement of emotion as the odyssey of moving out into the world through "emergence" into an "ever-expanding, stimulating world," which is tempered by the subsequent recoiling into the "embeddedess" of the "at-homeness" of the familiar world which promises "safety, security, dependability, and familiarity" (Fischer, 1970, p. 99). Again, with Schachtel, we can recognize the movement of emotion -- contraction and expansion -- which is the world-openness of Dasein.

Now that the existentials have been laid out, in conclusion, we can return to the terminology of emotion. In terms of temporality, spatiality, embodiment, and being-with, the language of 'emotion' can be clarified.


From Heidegger's existential analytic of Dasein as being-in-the-world, we are able to articulate how it is possible for the human being -- as temporal, spatial, embodied, with-others, and languaged -- to be emotional. In terms of these existentials, we can, thereby, review how we may sketch out a provisional understanding of the 'emotion' terms: 1) emotion, 2) mood, 3) feeling, and 4) passion.

Mood is the manner in which the human being comes back (actual) from its coming-toward (possible) such that she can find herself in-the-world so that things matter in a particular way. One's mood discloses how things matter such that one can exist, in understanding, as thrown possibility. In this tension between 'actuality' (mood) and 'possibility' (understanding), it becomes possible for Dasein to be emotional.

As bodying-forth its possibilities, Dasein is always mobilized at the level of a "felt sense" -- either toward self/other or away from self/other. Therefore, "feeling," at the level of the "felt sense," is the tactile, embodied understanding of how one is underway in terms of one's world projects. That is, as embodied, Dasein is tacitly aware of the lived, spatial configuration of the world as the "context of significance." In emotion, the body calls out to Dasein in recognition of a change in the configuration of the world, which, in turn, mobilizes the lived body to action. The "agitation" of emotion brings one to a more explicit realization of how one's world projects matter. In emotion, one realizes that one's world projects, in one way or another, are fundamentally at stake. How one is potentially moved in emotion depends on how one is at stake. In emotion, my relatedness to others is brought to lived awareness as mattering in a particular way, which, in turn, allows me to mobilize myself to maintain my fundamental need for either belonging, recognition, or being.

Finally, in passion, the human being's emotional agitation is raised to a fever pitch in recognition of how one's world project is imminently at stake; thus, one is mobilized to immediate and arduous action in order to sustain one's identity as thrown possibility.


Boss, M. (1994/1979).  Existential foundations of medicine and psychology.  Northvale & London: Jason Aronson.

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Copyright 1999, Brent Dean Robbins

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