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Social Roles and Emotions

This paper is a discussion of the ways in which the expectations that accompany the performance of social roles affect an individual's ability to experience and express emotions freely. Psychiatrist David Viscott, in his book, Emotionally Free: Letting Go of the Past to Live in the Moment, argues that personality types follow one of three patterns and that emotional freedom consists of understanding the traps that each presents and learning to move beyond these limitations. Unfortunately, the particular demands that society places on individuals fulfilling specific roles within the social structure sometimes makes achieving emotional freedom an especially difficult task. This paper looks at two such roles, the elementary school teacher and the actor, and examines the ways in which social norms both promote and discourage the kind of emotional freedom Viscott describes for people fulfilling these roles.

David Viscott (1992) contends that "emotional freedom is the natural feeling state of the evolved mature person" (p. 1) and that achieving this state requires the individual to understand which of three basic personality types he or she embodies and to resolve the conflicts, distortions, and patterns that particular personality is likely to be burdened with. The three types are similar to the phases of development through which many psychologists argue that the individual must pass in the course of normal development.

Viscott's personality types embody three of the most distinctive of these phases: dependent, controlling, and competitive. The dependent personality is strongly influenced by the need for others. This type correlates to the early stages of personality development, in which the child learns to trust caregivers who play important roles in feeding, nurturing, and protecting the child. The controlling personality corresponds to the point when the child begins to explore his or her world and starts to learn to...

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Social Roles and Emotions. (2000, January 01). In Retrieved 12:51, February 20, 2017, from