Common among many approaches to the study of emotions that are emerging across disciplines is the fundamental proposition that emotions "are emergent properties of social relations and sociocultural processes" (McCarthy 1994: 269). Consistent with Berger's (1977) assessment of ideas, emotions–their meanings and associated behavioral counterparts–are believed to succeed in history by virtue of their relationship to specific social processes. Hence, as Steams and Steams (1994) observed, emotions have histories that are a part of every individual's socializing environment Emotions, then, are social things that are learned and can be relearned (McCarthy 1989).
As in Power (1984), this paper positions the emotions as a critical component of the socialization process. It then endeavors to establish the equally critical role of emotions in the process of resocialization–the intentional effort to transform one's subjective reality (Berger and Luckmann 1966)–as experienced among members of a 12-Step group for Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOAs). Following McCarthy's (1994) lead, this analysis proceeds from a social constructionist standpoint as informed by culture theory. As such, it is believed mat "emotions are best grasped as objects of investigation within the domain of cultural forms and meanings" (McCarthy 1994: 268). The context of this analysis is the contrasting cultural domains of a family with parental alcoholism and an ACOA community. The goal is two-fold: first, to better understand how culture matters in the way emotions are "differentiated, socialized, and managed socially" (McCarthy 1994: 269); and secondly, to investigate the relationship between an individual's emotional experience, subjective reality, and overarching experience of self.
"The Social Reconstruction of Emotions: Insights from Members of a 12-Step Community,"
Clinical Sociology Review:
1, Article 4.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/csr/vol15/iss1/4