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Adjustment to Misfortune-A Problem of Social-Psychological Rehabilitation

Tamara Dembo, Ph.D., *
Gloria Ladieu Leviton, Ph.D., *
Beatrice A. Wright, Ph.D. *

Dedicated to the memory of Kurt Lewin

At particular times in the history of science, particular problems become ripe for investigation. A precipitating event brings them to the attention of a single person and sometimes to that of several at the same time. It is therefore understandable that during World War II the need was felt to investigate the problems of social psychological rehabilitation of the physically handicapped and that someone should look for a place and the means to set up a research project that would try to solve some of these problems. In pursuit of such a goal a research group was established at Stanford University on February 1, 1945. Conducted partially under a contract between Stanford University and the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development (recommended by the Committee on Medical Research), partially under a contract between the University and the Army Medical Research and Development Board of the Office of the Surgeon General, War Department, the work continued until April 1, 1948.

To investigate the personal and social problems of the physically handicapped, two groups of subjects were needed—people who were considered handicapped and people around them. Therefore, as subjects of the research both visibly injured and noninjured people were used. Interviews were employed as the primary method of investigation, the great majority of the 177 injured persons interviewed being servicemen or veterans of World War II. More than half the subjects had suffered amputations and almost one fourth facial disfigurements. The injured man was asked questions designed to elicit his expectations, experiences, and feelings in his dealings with people around him. Sixty five noninjured people also were interviewed in regard to their feelings toward the injured man.

A first task in the research project was to determine the meaning of the relationship between the injured and the noninjured. Was it primarily that of the helper and the helped, of the curious onlooker and the one who is looked upon, of the independent and dependent person, the one who rejects and the one who is rejected, the person who pities and the one who is pitied? All these relationships exist between the injured and the noninjured. Some of them were described during the first period of the research program. As the research proceeded, it was seen that one particular relationship between the injured and the noninjured was more "basic" than others—basic in the sense that it underlies and determines the character of other relationships. This underlying relationship is the one which exists when a person who regards himself as fortunate regards another as unfortunate. We learned that to understand this relationship one has to see "being unfortunate" as a value loss and, furthermore, that the adjustment of this relationship involves the problem of acceptance of loss—a case of value change.

In current psychology, the problem of acceptance of loss is hardly investigated. Loss is usually seen as an end point of unsuccessful, goal directed behavior (failure) or else it is investigated in terms of the effect of failure on further goal directed behavior (such as on setting the next "level of aspiration"). But it is important to know what loss means to the person himself, how it affects the opinions and behavior of others toward him, and what acceptance of loss implies. Too often life is seen as a series of goal directed acts, whereas the consumption of gains and the acceptance (or nonacceptance) of losses which result from those acts are disregarded.

Almost all people are at some time faced with the necessity of adjusting to loss. In investigating the problems of injured people, therefore, we are dealing not only with special problems of a special group but with problems important to all. If we state that the injured need psychological rehabilitation or adjustment, this in no way implies that they are not "normal." The impact of loss which they experience produces suffering and difficulties. The overcoming of psychological suffering, whether or not it threatens mental illness, is a problem of adjustment.

This monograph is written as a scientific paper and no attempts at popularization are made. Popularization of our findings is a special task—a task which, if skillfully done, would indeed be useful for the information and education of the general public. Those who are not specially concerned with methodological and theoretical considerations may still find the less technical chapters (Chapters V through VII) of interest. The first four chapters and the last one will be of greater interest to the theoretical psychologist.

Part I introduces the general field of social emotional relationships. It deals with our approach and viewpoints regarding problems, data, theory, and measurement. We tried to examine the appropriateness of scientific beliefs and attitudes for the new area investigated. Part II deals with the investigation of the visibly injured, a group which, in our culture, is frequently considered unfortunate. Chapter IV presents the procedures used and their rationale. Chapter V discusses devaluation, by the noninjured, of the injured as people who have experienced a misfortune a value loss. Chapter VI is concerned with the reactions of the noninjured to the suffering aspect of misfortune rather than to its value loss aspect. The structure or nature of the genuine, positive feelings of sympathy is outlined. Chapter VII deals with the problem of overcoming suffering through acceptance of loss. In Chapter VIII we attempt to point out the direction which future research may take. The appendices include sample interviews with injured and noninjured subjects and a brief summary of methods other than interviews that were tried out in our study.*

Three years in a new and relatively unexplored field has to be considered a pilot period. After exploration the field is seen to be fruitful, both for the growth of ideas on the specific topics and also for the development of more general theoretical problems in psychology. But only a beginning has been made, and the material here presented is therefore properly viewed only in the light of its pioneer character.

Many of our findings may from the theoretical standpoint be seen as more precise statements of problems awaiting further investigation. From the practical standpoint, the study may be useful to those who critically examine the findings, not with the orientation of translating them into rules of behavior but so that their understanding of the problems involved in loss may be broadened. The injured, we hope, will find this type of investigation promising in its attempts to lead people to feel that it is not the AMPUTATED LIMB and John Doe but John Doe, the person, who really exists.

Part I: Methodological and Theoretical Considerations Concerning Social Emotional Relationships

Chapter I: Some Characteristics of Social Emotional Relationships

We shall present a list of pairs of words designating social emotional relationships. We ask you, the reader, to think about the feelings connoted. Specific points to consider may be seen in the first example, the idea of "abandonment." How does the abandoner feel? How does the abandoned feel? How do they feel toward each other? How do you, as a person not involved in the interaction, evaluate abandonment? As you proceed down the list, you should ask yourself these and any other questions you think of which bring out the emotional meanings of the interaction concerned. We ask you to work hard because in so doing we think that you will see the problems of the psychology of emotions in a very different way from the orientation given them traditionally. You will see this field not only as unexplored but also as full of psychological resources available to those who are ready to dig. Here is the list:

  • To abandon — to be abandoned.
  • To abhor — to be abhorred.
  • To feel that someone is able — to feel that another considers you able.
  • To consider someone abnormal — to be considered abnormal.
  • To be abrupt — to be exposed to abruptness
  • To consider someone absurd — to be considered absurd.
  • To abuse — to be abused
  • To accept another person — to be accepted.
  • To feel in accord with someone — to feel that another person is in accord with you.
  • To accuse — to be accused.
  • To become accustomed to someone — to have someone become accustomed to you.
  • To consider someone as an acquaintance — to be considered an acquaintance.
  • To acquit someone — to be acquitted.
  • To act in a given way, without actually feeling that way — to feel that someone is just acting.
  • To adapt yourself to someone — to feel that another person is adapting himself to you.
  • To help someone become adjusted — to have someone try to adjust you.
  • To admire — to be admired.
  • To admit to someone — to get an admission.
  • To adopt — to be adopted.
  • To adore — to be adored.
  • To advise — to be advised.
  • To feel affable — to feel that another person is affable.
  • To give affection — to get affection.
  • To affront — to be affronted.
  • To be against someone — to feel that another person is against you.
  • To aggravate someone — to be aggravated by someone.
  • To be aggressive toward someone — to feel that another person is aggressive toward you.
  • To agree with someone — to feel that another person agrees with you.
  • To aid someone — to be aided.
  • To alarm someone — to be alarmed by someone.
  • To give an alibi — to get an alibi.
  • To consider someone an alien — to be considered an alien.
  • To allow someone — to do something to be allowed.

Only a few of the diverse emotions or feelings are mentioned above. They were selected from the first 20 pages of The Pocket Oxford Dictionary (New York, 1927), which has 1010 pages. The list might have impressed you with the tremendous number of unexplored problems in the area of emotions. You might have wanted to take stock of the actual concern shown them in textbooks and courses and in current research in the field of emotions. The psychological structure and the functions of the majority of emotional relationships are unknown. Yet these problems practically do not exist as topics of systematic investigation. At the 1947 meeting of the American Psychological Association, only four of some 200 papers fell under the program headed Emotions. The program on Emotions was sponsored by the Division of Physiological and Comparative Psychology.

We do not wish to imply that emotional problems are completely disregarded by psychologists. The psychology of personality, social psychology, and abnormal psychology do take them into account, but within these divisions other problems, particularly problems of needs and goal directed behavior, have been in the center of attention.

Evaluation by the Outsider

When you were asked to evaluate the emotional relationships given in the list, you may have felt uncomfortable because of a vague feeling indoctrinated into all of us that in science one should be nonevaluative. Whether a psychologist should or can be nonevaluative is not our present topic. Rather, we are concerned with emotional relationships which are considered by people at large, with or without the permission of the scientist, as desirable or undesirable, good or bad. It is simply an undeniable psychological phenomenon that evaluations are made, and as phenomena they cannot be disregarded. In fact, these evaluations, as shall be seen, are important for the understanding of the dynamics of emotional interpersonal relationships and the problem of adjustment of these relationships.

If one considers the relationships in the list, it is noticed that, even though no specification is given of the conditions under which they exist, some of them connote undesirable feelings and states, others more desirable ones. Examples which fall into the negatively evaluated group are "to abuse," "to abhor," "to accuse," "to affront." Examples which fall into the positively evaluated group are "to accommodate," "to admire," "to allow." There are others which seem less definitely to belong to the negative or positive group. For example, "to get accustomed," "to admit." Such abstract evaluations are not made specifically in terms of the meaning of the relationship to either of the partners. They are given by a person who psychologically takes the position of an outsider.

Evaluations of outsiders very often show a high level of agreement, as is easily demonstrated by a simple experiment. The list of words can be presented rapidly to a group of subjects who are asked to evaluate the relationship as positive or negative from the standpoint of an outsider to the relationship. In only a few instances will there be disagreement, and these disagreements will be due largely to what amounts to a violation of the instructions: for instance, the subject may "take sides" with one of the partners, or the subject may base his reply on the circumstances of particular situations.

Evaluations of outsiders might be considered standards of cultural judgment. It may be the high agreement in the evaluations of outsiders which make them appear to have the role of common cultural standards. It might be interesting to investigate whether some of them are not, in fact, intercultural. The common cultural standards play a not unimportant role in the life of human beings. For example, they strongly determine reputations and the jury's verdict of life or death.

Evaluations by Donor and Recipient

In any relationship, the person who bestows the emotion may be called the "donor," and the person upon whom the emotion is bestowed may be called the "recipient." The difference in the meaning of the relationship for the donor and the recipient is frequently very great. To give an appreciation of this difference, the list was arranged in pairs. You were asked to feel the way the donor in the relationship might feel and the way the recipient might feel. "To abuse or to be abused, to accept or to be accepted" are emotionally far apart. Sometimes both donor and recipient will evaluate a given relationship in the same way. But since the meaning which the relationship has for one partner is not the same as that given to it by the other, their evaluations often differ, and this difference may produce difficulties in the relationship. Help, for example, is almost always seen as positive for the recipient as judged by the donor, but as judged by the recipient it often has both positive and negative aspects. It is important for adjustment of relationships to know the conditions under which the donor and the recipient give the same evaluations and, when they do not, to find ways of producing a change which will lead to agreement in evaluation.

The donor and recipient not infrequently attempt to overcome the difficulties resulting from their different evaluations by urging each other to "be objective." But objectivity, in the sense of assuming the position of an outsider and giving abstract evaluations, is not what is really desired. What each really wants is that the partner should "understand" him, i.e., should understand the meanings the relationship has for him. He wants the other to take his (the first's) position and from this standpoint to think, evaluate, and act.

Scope of Meanings and Structure of Relationship

It is seen from the list that a great variety of social emotional relationships exist and that each is characterized not merely by pleasantness or unpleasantness but by a diversity of qualitative connotations. It might be agreed, for example, that one feels lost and hurt when abandoned or that one may feel free and at the same time guilty when abandoning someone. It may also be agreed that one will feel aversion for, and a desire to escape from, one abhorred and that one would feel rejected and resentful if a person abhorred him. Each connotation will be referred to as a "meaning" of an emotional relationship. The diverse, sometimes apparently contradictory meanings which an emotional relationship can have for different people under different circumstances build the "scope of meanings of a social emotional relationship."

As an illustration, we present some of the meanings which "being helped" has for the injured: it means that a goal is made accessible; it means that another person is courteous and polite; it means that the injured person is in a position of lower status; it means dependence, burden, etc.. We assume that these meanings are not merely a congeries of separate entities attached to the same word. Instead, we believe analysis will show that many of them hang together, that they may be integrated within one or more coherent structures.* When the structure of a relationship has been determined, it is sometimes found that some of the meanings which subjects give to the word do not belong to the relationship in question but to a different one. For instance, in the case of the sympathy relationship, the structure of which is described in Chapter VI (page 27), some of the subjects gave meanings which belong to the relationship of "pity," a relationship which has a different structure.

The determination of the scope of meanings seems to us an essential problem because it is the first step toward determining structures of relationships. The structure is a better description of the social emotional relationship than is the scope of meanings. Even before the development of the structure of a relationship, however, the determination of the scope of meanings has practical value. It permits realization of possibly disturbing connotations and encourages precautions and safeguards against them.

Chapter II: Qualitative versus Quantitative Approaches in a New Field

In a new field, the formulation of meaningful problems is a task in itself—a task which often takes much time and effort. It is easy within an hour or two to state a hundred questions, in a few days to state many more. Yet only a few of these will prove to be fruitful. The selection of problems which are scientifically promising is an extensive qualitative research job.

Essential questions are those which promise to become an integral part of an interrelated group of problems and to lead to the development of corresponding systems of concepts. In a new field neither the problems nor the systems are known. They have to be discovered by giving a "qualifying examination" to the problems and preconcepts which occur to us, since these include both promising and unpromising ones.* The qualifying examination consists of a test which shows whether a particular problem and preconcept with other "candidates" promise to form an interdependent team. When they not only develop but also add to the development of the emerging system, they acquire the position of fruitful essential problems and preconcepts.

Consider an example of a problem which does not seem promising, in the sense that it is likely to remain an isolated problem. It is noted that some of the items in the list connote what may more frequently be called feelings (e.g., "to abhor," "admire," "adore"). Others have the character of emotional acts (e.g., "to accuse," "advise," "acquiesce," "admit"). Still others reflect social distance (e.g., "to consider someone an acquaintance or an alien"). These categorizations seem, however, not to lead to further understanding. They simply fix the different relationships into more or less neat cubbyholes, which are, as far as we can see at the present time, blind alleys. In this example, categories rather than preconcepts are relied upon to "order" the facts. Only an orderly catalog instead of a system of interrelated dynamic concepts can be built up in such a way.

An example of a problem which we consider promising is the determination of value structures held by those people who are undergoing difficulties and by those who have overcome these difficulties. This, we believe, is one of the first steps in conceptualizing adjustive change (Chapters V, VII, VIII).

Another example of what might be considered promising for future investigation relates to the "mutual" relationship. When discussing the relationships in the previous chapter, all of our examples were of "onesided relationships." Each involved one donor and one recipient. But partners may abuse each other, accept each other, or admire each other. Each may be in the position of donor and recipient at the same time. Mutual and one sided relationships are not merely convenient methods of classification. They bring into focus a number of questions important dynamically.

It frequently happens that when a one sided relationship is unpleasant for the recipient, he will try to change it to a mutual one. For example, if he is being abused he may begin to abuse the other. What effect does this change produce? The question will be sharpened if we consider the following hypothetical statement:

Rprd = Rpr + RPd,

where Rp indicates the person p's relationships, and d and r indicate the donor and recipient positions, respectively. In this statement, p's mutual relationship is a simple summation of his relationships as donor and recipient. Can this actually be the case? Are the meanings for p in the mutual relationships (Rprd) equal to the sum of meanings which the one sided relationship has for him when he is only a recipient (Rpr) plus the meanings it has for him when he is a donor (Rpd)? This question is important, for if the addition of the new meanings of the donor relationship does not change the old meanings of the recipient relationship, then the addition will not diminish the previously existing conflicts or difficulties.*Actually, the "adding" of new meanings may not be an addition at all but rather a re structurization of the first one sided relationship (i.e., a change in some of the meanings which the relationship originally had for the person). In the latter case we would have to study the type of change produced by the restructurization and the circumstances under which the change is adjustive.

At different stages of research, the "candidate problems" must be subjected to further test. For a time they might drop out from the "team," and then later their participation may again become fruitful. Within this process they may change their character and gain a new role.

The "candidate problems" are thoughts of the investigator, fed by qualitative observations and checked by them. For this type of work, an armchair and a pencil are more appropriate than a straight chair and a calculating machine. It might require self control on the part of the investigator to go on with conceptualization and qualitative analysis of data when he is constantly lured by more easily quantifiable, nonsystematic, isolated problems.

The Position of Measurement in Psychological Research

The attitude, "Investigate what you can measure," is not infrequently found in psychological research practice. But there is such a thing as primitive quantification. Quantification of data on systematically unimportant questions is primitive. And there is also such a thing as premature quantification. That quantification which is done before the laborious task of qualitative description of problems and concepts is sufficiently advanced is premature.*

The determination of statistically significant differences between two sets of data does not ensure that these data are important either practically or for further theoretical advance. Instead of regarding the statistical fact as an observation which needs anchoring in an explanatory system before its import can be judged, all too frequently such observations, by sheer virtue of their statistical nature, are held up as contributions in themselves. We do not declare that measurement should not be done without a well developed theoretical framework. But we do assert that such measurement often produces statistically significant differences on inessential details. And we further assert that where problems well grounded in theory have not as yet been formulated, data analyzed qualitatively may contribute far more to the understanding of important problems.

Where there is a well defined theoretical system, however, measurement has a very important and different position. Measurement in this case, as we see it, means measurement of conceptually defined constructs and the determination of interrelationships among those constructs. Preliminary to such measurements, one has to determine whether the constructs used permit metrization or whether nonmetrical mathematical (topological) statements should be made. The particular problems involved in this type of mathematical determination in psychology were first realized by Kurt Lewin in regard to problems of goal directed behavior. Such mathematical determination will have to be made in the field of emotions as in any other field, though it may take years before it is possible. In the meantime, sound investigation, systematic in nature, will have to be primarily qualitative.

There also may be considerable practical value in qualitative investigation before quantification is possible. The knowledge of what affects a given social emotional relationship, even if we are unable to indicate the strength of that factor, is of value. For example, we may not be able to state the extent to which sympathy reminds an injured person of the negative implications of his injury. The fact that sympathy may remind, however, immediately calls for caution in conveying compassion to the injured.

Concerning Frequency Counts

At any stage in theoretical development, one may tally the number of times a given observation occurs in the sample studied. But the meaning of such frequencies needs to be examined. The sheer number of occurrences does not indicate the relative importance of the event. We do not consider more important the fact that a person dealt honestly with us ten times than that he once cheated us. Nor can we say, without further proof, that there is a one to one relation between the strength of a factor and the frequency of its occurrence.

One function of frequency counts is to permit a more accurate prediction of the number of occurrences of like events in like populations. This function, however, is often limited by failure to define the research population in terms of systematically important factors.

Some Problems of Sampling

To "select" a population for research in a new field which lacks systematization is harmless but also meaningless and therefore to be rejected as impractical. The traditional parameters of age, IQ, socioeconomic status, and geographic location should not be thought of as automatic principles of selection. Their usefulness for the particular research has to be determined in each case. It may be, for example, that in research on the injured it would be more appropriate to define the sample in terms of preinjury attitudes toward the handicapped, relative evaluation of beauty and physical prowess as compared with other personality characteristics, and sensitivity to status position. A group which is homogeneous with regard to some arbitrarily selected factors will actually be heterogeneous with regard to those factors which prove to be of systematic importance.

Heterogeneity is, however, not a disadvantage. In an unstructured, new field, where the first task is to determine fruitful problems and the concepts to be used in their solution, the danger lies in overlooking diversities which should be taken into account. Heterogeneous groups which yield a wide range of differences in behavior are therefore welcomed. To narrow down the range of subjects is permissible only for a good reason. This reason has to be specified. In the beginning stages of our research on the social emotional relationships between visibly injured and noninjured persons, it was legitimate to include a variety of subjects. To have limited the investigation to, say, leg amputation cases, for the sole reason that in the interests of homogeneity the type of disability should be uniform, would have been groundless.

In later stages of research, the original sample might legitimately be narrowed down or enlarged, depending on the particular problem being pursued. For example, we have indications that a person's status values affect his attitudes toward such social emotional interactions as sympathy, help, curiosity, and so on. This suggested systematic relationship could be tested by narrowing down the sample so that but two groups would be included, one strongly status minded and the other not, according to certain criteria. Whether the expected differences are to be found could then be determined. As an example where an even more heterogeneous sample than the original one is indicated, we can present again an instance from our research. The understanding of problems of loss became clearer to us when the concept of misfortune was introduced. In light of this theoretical orientation, it undoubtedly would be fruitful for further research to enlarge the sample to include, in addition to the injured, other persons regarded as being in an unfortunate situation. In short, throughout research, the sample taken for study should be determined by the requirements of the problem being studied and not by applying sampling procedures which are either extraneous to the purpose of the research or else actually interfere with it.

Chapter III: The Interview as a Tool for Investigating Emotional Contents

The interview as an experimental tool is in disrepute with many present day investigators. Some investigators will go as far as to withdraw the honorable title of "real scientific endeavor" from a study which uses "just interviews" because interviews do not deal with how the person "actually behaves." In this chapter we shall examine the validity of this argument.

Reflection Units and Interaction Units

Consider this example: A young girl gets an invitation to a ball. She is full of anticipation perhaps she will be the belle. Perhaps a certain young man will dance often with her. She decides what gown she will wear and how to arrange her hair. She plans imaginary conversations with gallant partners. But she is anxious too. Maybe she will be a wallflower; maybe the young man will not even notice her. Finally, after a succession of alternating moods, the ball arrives. The social interaction which has occasioned so much thought and feeling actually takes place.

If, in the investigation of social emotional relationships, only interaction units were studied, a large part of the course of events would be neglected. Periods of reflection which include planning, expectations, evaluations, struggle with one's feelings and moods, would be excluded from study. Similarly, if in the investigation of personal emotional events only action units were studied, periods of reflection would be overlooked. The interactions or actions themselves might not be fully understood without the consideration of reflection units.

The high status position of interaction data as compared with the data of reflection units seems in part to be based upon a vague feeling that only interactions are "real facts." But the types of reflection units enumerated above are all real in the sense that they exist as psychological phenomena. Even if reflection units had a segregated existence and did not influence interaction units, they would still have to be studied as real psychological phenomena within the life of the person. The reflections themselves may produce pain and consequently require adjustment; for instance, a man with a scarred face believed that "no woman in her right mind could possibly accept me now."

Is it meaningful to ask whether interaction units are scientifically more real than reflection units? The frequently stated criterion of scientific reality, "What is real is what has effects," concerns not observable facts but the reality of descriptive, explanatory concepts. The reality of the effects is not under discussion in the criterion; nothing is implied about them but their virtue of being available for observation. Scientifically, reflection units and interaction units are both legitimate observable facts. It is true that in the case of reflection units the content must be communicated to the interviewer. But this mediation should be no more disturbing than that of other instruments. The criterion cited does not specify that the observable facts must be observed directly.*

What conclusions can be drawn as to the relative merits of the two types of units for study? Both interactions and reflections are real phenomena and legitimate observable facts; psychological difficulties requiring adjustment may exist in either case. They differ in that interactions can be observed directly, whereas the content of reflections must be communicated to the investigator by the subject. For an investigator, the difference between them is simply one of kind and not of value.

Interviews Versus Behavior Observations

We submit that the richness of emotional life can be more fully realized through the use of the interview than through observation of behavior. It is true that we can infer something about underlying emotions from behavioral observations, but the understanding gained in this way is usually more limited. If we could have observed the girl smiling over the invitation, taking from her wardrobe first one gown and then another, being absent minded about her everyday tasks, and so on, we might have been able to infer something about her feelings. But the complexity of her feelings, the content of her hopes and fears, remains largely unappreciated. On the other hand, for particular problems observation of behavior would be required, for example in order to study the effects of reflections on behavior, such as how fear of failure affects performance, or whether verbal attitudes correspond to behavior.* Only when a particular problem is specified may one method be judged better or worse than another.

Validity of Interviews Versus Validity of Behavior Observations

It is frequently stated that the subject willfully or otherwise does not tell the interviewer what he actually feels. But one cannot claim superiority for behavioral observations on these grounds. Hiding emotional contents is not limited to interviews. One can cover up one's real feelings with actions just as easily as with words. One can smile when he is sad just as easily as he can say he is well when he feels bad. Friendly acts may be due to bad intentions. They may be performed to cover up the real feelings behind them. One covers up if there is a need for it.

The need to hide during an interview, it might be argued, may frequently be less strong than in interaction units. It might be considered whether hiding of feelings from a person with whom they are connected is not frequently more necessary than when discussing or reflecting about these feelings with a third person. It is likely that feelings of guilt or shame will be less strong in regard to statements than to acts. Especially if the third person takes a nonjudgmental position or the position of an ally will the true feelings as far as they are recognized by the subject be expressed more openly than in interaction units. Of course the need to hide particular emotions will exist during interviews, but the interaction units cannot be turned to as the better ones in this respect.

Knowledge of the Subject About His Own Emotions

Interviews are sometimes held in disrepute on grounds that people do not know their own feelings. Has not depth psychology taught that people fool themselves? Does not the subject need first to be analyzed and to be an experienced psychiatrist or to have special training in psychological matters in order to be able to make pertinent statements? Fortunately, people do not learn to cognize feelings in college only. Much of what one feels when someone nags him, for example, or helps him, or when he is jealous, can be perceived without special psychological training.* If the objection is raised that the conscious meanings which feelings have for the subject are less important and more superficial than those of which he is not aware, we would say that such a statement is premature. Explicit criteria of importance have first to be given.

If important feelings are those which affect a person's behavior, we say that those consciously given share the same honors as the hidden. And if it is asserted that unconscious feelings are more important because they explain more of a person's behavior, one is called upon to compare counts. This has never been done, nor does it make sense to do so. For immediately the question arises as to what weights to assign to the individual behavior units. Are they more important because they are resisted? Then what is the rationale for considering the resisted more important? We suspect that all too often the hidden is identified with the important by sheer virtue of the fact of its covertness. Clearly missing is a link which must be supplied before such an evaluation can have scientific merit.

As far as we can see, it is scientifically meaningless to argue about the importance or superficiality of perceived meanings of feelings before the criteria of such judgments are made clear. One criterion does exist. If important problems are those which are essential in the sense discussed on page 8, i.e., problems which attempt to relate observable facts to systems of concepts, then there is nothing which leads us to exclude feelings as perceived by the subject as "candidates." Criticisms regarding essentiality of problems are applicable to overt and covert meanings alike.

Feeling Level Versus Intellectual Level of Discussion

Emotional topics can be discussed with almost anyone who is willing to participate in an interview. The discussion, however, may take place on an intellectual level or on a feeling level. One can "just talk about" feelings, in an abstract, impersonal way (intellectual level), or one can analyze one's feelings in terms of the particular intimate meanings they have for the individual (feeling level). Psychotherapy, whether directive or non directive, strives for such a feeling analysis by the patient. It has been commonly recognized that, in order for feeling analysis to take place, the person must have a need to examine his feelings, and he must expect the interviewer to be tactful, understanding, trustworthy, etc. In the study of the meanings which social emotional relations have for the donor and for the recipient, however, a further important condition must be realized. To approach such meanings on the feeling level, the subject must actually feel the position of a partner in the relationship. He must feel something of the hurt involved in being stared at, for example; or in the case of the donor position, something of the curiosity. It is more advantageous to select subjects who in actual life are donors or recipients in the relationship investigated. Otherwise the subject tends to discuss on the intellectual level or evaluate as an outsider, and in neither case can he convey the emotional impact which the relationship has for a partner.

Analysis of Data in the Area of Emotions

The principles which guided us in choosing methods of collecting data apply no less to its handling after it has been gathered. The whole flavor of the emotional meanings which one was at such pains to obtain can be lost if the approach to the data is unwisely rigid. The investigator is forced to perceive and to feel emotional relationships from the point of view of the donor and recipient before he can understand the meanings and evaluations ascribed to them. Not being involved in the particular relationship, the investigator has to find equivalent relationships in his own experience. Frequently in our research we had to feel through relationships from our own personal histories in order to be able emotionally to understand the subject's comments. Though the occasion at which sympathy, for instance, was given to us differed from the occasion leading to sympathy relationships in our subjects, the tool of self analysis was useful. There is an obvious danger of analyzing superficially similar relationships instead of equivalent ones. Self analysis, therefore, should be used for the purpose of getting "hunches" which can be applied to the data obtained from the subjects. Such an approach leads to aspects of data which an investigator, viewing the data as an outsider, will overlook or misinterpret.

There is nothing unscientific about being a subject and an investigator at the same time. In perception psychology, for example, the investigator frequently takes this double role. He can perceive and then cognize what he is perceiving. In the area of emotional problems, the investigator should try to feel the emotional situations being studied and then to examine what he is feeling. Physical, physiological, and psychological laws which hold for the object of the investigation hold for the investigator also. In investigating emotional relationships, to feel is at least as essential as to think.

If we state that one has to do not only a thorough job of thinking but also of feeling we make a realistic statement concerning the method of studying emotional relationships. Our view on the necessity of emotional understanding is not as radical as it may seem. Frequently in psychology statements are made that we have to investigate contents as they "exist for the subject," "what it means to the subject," "to see with the eyes of the subject." The need for feeling "like the subject feels" was long felt by therapists. The requirement of psychoanalysis that they themselves be analyzed is partially for the purpose of facilitating emotional understanding.

In attempting to find aspects under which the data may be fruitfully seen, complete freedom should be given to the investigator. He cannot be free enough and "wild" enough in looking for interpretations and possible implications of the raw data which might lead to hunches, hypotheses, and conceptual formulations. Hunches are freedom loving birds which do not hatch in supervised, restricted areas. This does not mean that the data will be distorted or that the results will be "only speculation" and not "facts." The test is whether, when a category has been well defined, independent observers will agree that given items of the raw data fit the category. If they do agree, then this aspect is indeed "an observable fact." If we are too "wild" in our interpretations, then we shall be caught by another observer. But if we are unwisely rigid we shall not be able to make a step in the direction of theoretical progress.

Part II: Study on the Visibly Injured - A Group Considered Unfortunate

Chapter IV: Research Procedures

Our approach to the problems of the social emotional relationships of the visibly injured was based on the theoretical and methodological considerations discussed in Part I. Because the task was that of determining essential problems in the new field of social emotional relationships, qualitative methods were chosen as the appropriate ones. Measurements at this time would have been premature. Frequencies of observations and statistical analysis are therefore not presented, since they would only be misleading.


Heterogeneity of subjects, as has been seen, is an asset for such a study. The subjects (177 visibly injured and 65 noninjured persons) varied as to age, race, intelligence, socioeconomic background, occupational interests, marital status, and so on. The injuries varied. The relationship of the noninjured to the injured persons varied. To have narrowed the groups for the sole reason that they should be homogeneous would have given us a more limited picture of the emotional meanings of the relationships existing between the injured and the noninjured.

If, at the beginning of our investigation rather than at the end of it, we had known that the relationship of misfortune was especially important to the understanding of the problems studied, we would have considered it profitable to have included persons who experienced misfortunes other than injuries. But our research was an outgrowth of interest in the problems of the injured, and thus misfortunes other than visible injuries were not studied. Orthopedic cases and cases involving plastic surgery were chosen because the visibility of the injury is important in relationships with noninjured who are not close to the injured. Blind and deaf persons were excluded as subjects since it was felt at the time that the specific additional problem of communication between them and the noninjured would have in the beginning of the research unnecessarily complicated the data.

The ages of the injured subjects ranged from 19 to 58 years, the duration of their disabilities from two months to 33 years. Of the 177 injured subjects, 121 were hospitalized servicemen of World War II and four were women. (Table 1) presents the distribution of the subjects according to type of disability; (Table 2) gives the distribution of the non injured according to relationship with injured persons.

Interview Procedures

After having tried out several techniques of investigation, a summary of which is given in Appendix I, we found that the scope of meanings of social emotional relationships could most adequately be determined by interviews. Prior to the interview much work was done on the selection and formulation of questions, the purpose being not to set up a questionnaire for the interviewer to follow rigidly but rather to prepare him for the interview. We wish first to point out why we think it unnecessary and often disadvantageous to follow a rigid order and formulation of questions; then we would like to explain what we mean by "preparing the interviewer for the interview."

It was observed that, for at least three reasons, the actual course of events in an interview might require deviations from a prearranged interview. In the first place, identity of questions and order does not ensure that the psychological situation will be the same for different subjects. In many instances, a question will have the same meaning for each subject only when it is put in a different form. Thus, in our study, as well as in many investigations where comparisons among the subjects are made, rigid interview procedure is con traindicated. That we deny the necessity of maintaining a rigid formulation and order of questions does not imply that we disregard the influence of preceding events upon a given question. Rather, we assert that this kind of influence can be validly determined only when the analysis of data is made. A rigid order gives an "appearance" of the same conditions and illegitimately relieves the experimenter from investigating the effects of the actual psychological conditions upon the responses of the subject.

Secondly, a rigid interview leads in many cases to a more superficial intellectual discussion than is the case when the interviewer follows the natural course of the discussion. If a subject is developing a topic in a given direction and the interviewer goes on to the next question on the list, the interruption might be emotionally disturbing. Such interruptions promote the feeling that the interviewer is not really interested in what the subject is saying but just has to complete the task of getting answers to "twenty questions."

Finally, in a nonrigid interview the subject may introduce new topics which, in the exploratory stage of research, are often worthy of consideration.

To "prepare" or train the interviewer, the design and redesign of questions that might be asked in the interview is of extreme value. First, the process of developing questions sharpens the sensitivity of the interviewer to the scope of meanings which may be implied in a question and in possible answers to it. It prepares him to listen for the shades of meanings which the subject may bring out. Secondly, the interviewer, when later analyzing the interviews, will also be more sensitive to the shades of meanings implied in the subjects' statements. Third, the attention given in the training to the problem of the logic of transitions from one question to another and to the possible negative effects implied in some transitions is also important. The interviewer is then better able, when the subject waits for him to take the lead, to introduce a new topic without disrupting the relationship. And finally, the training on design of questions makes the interviewer realize what questions may be seriously disturbing to the subjects, a matter especially important with the injured subjects and their sharers for whom the injury is a vital problem not limited to the interview situation.

The design of questions to be used as guides for interviews in a new area is a serious and laborious task. During the research, changes in the original questions were made; some were dropped, others added. In successive interviews, the improved interview form served to suggest the areas to be brought up for discussion, but when and how they were to be introduced was left to the judgment of the trained interviewer. We present below one of the prearranged lists of questions which was developed during the training period and used as a guide in some interviews with injured subjects:

  1. How do people act?
    • How should they treat you?
  2. How about their asking questions?
  3. How about help?
  4. Do you think that noninjured people are uncomfortable when they are with you for instance are they at a loss for words?
    • Do you think they are afraid of hurting your feelings?
    • Do you try to put them at ease?
  5. Do you think it wise for the uninjured to make light of the injury?
    • Do you think a person who is not injured should kid the man about the injury?
    • Is it good for them to tell an injured man about all the things that another injured man can do?
    • Is it good for them to tell a man that his injury is not noticeable?
  6. Do you like to hear it said that the injured man is courageous?
  7. What do you think comes into a person's mind when he sees someone with an amputation?
    • Do you think many people would feel sorry for him?
    • Would many people feel respect for him?
    • Is the opposite ever true? Would anybody look down on him?
  8. Do other people react any differently from what you expected at first?
  9. What percentage of people do you think act very well and really badly? How many in between?
  10. How would you check whether a person has the right feeling toward injured people? Do you do anything like that?
  11. Did you ever know anybody who was injured, before you were hurt? 11a. How did you feel about him?
    • Do you feel differently about them now?
  12. What would you be careful of now when you're with another injured person?
  13. Do you ever feel sorry for anyone around here?
  14. Is there a bad kind of sympathy and a good kind?
    • Is there a kind you can't help?
  15. Is pity different from feeling sorry?
  16. Quite a number of things may be important for other people who are injured to know about the stages one goes through. It would help them to know they are not the only ones who have these feelings in the beginning. How was it at the beginning? What are the stages one has to go through and the things you have to get used to?
  17. Do you think a person should try not to think about his injury?
  18. Is it better if he thinks and talks about his injury in a matter of fact way, whenever there is any reason to think or talk about it?
  19. What would you do if you saw a fellow patient who was feeling sorry for himself?
  20. What kind of person will let his injury lick him, or get him down?
  21. Do you think you would have been able to take it if it had been worse?
  22. Does it help to know that another person was injured worse than you?
    • Is it because the other person is in a worse condition, or because even though he is in a worse condition he can still take it?
  23. What things have you learned to do since you were wounded?
    • What things do you still have to learn?
  24. Which is more important, the looks, or the things you can't do?
    • Does it matter much how it looks, either to other people, or to you? Do you have to get used to it?
  25. Is an injury easier to take for a woman or a man? 25a. Would you object to marrying an injured woman?
  26. Do the men feel that their injuries will make a difference in their getting married?
    • Let's say that about 70 out of 100 men are married in the general population. What would you expect about wounded people, would there be more of them married, or less, or about the same?
  27. Are you satisfied with your stump?
    • Some people say that they get mad at the stump and try to hurt it. What do you think the reason might be?
    • Have you ever felt that way?
  28. Are there some words you object to?
    • How about the word, stump?
  29. Do you think that after an injury a man gets more interested in new things that didn't interest him before that he looks on life differently or that things that were important before don't seem important now while new things do?
    • Do you have any new plans for a job?
    • Do the same kind of people interest you?
  30. There are a good many things we haven't talked about that might be very important, and we'd be glad to have your suggestions. Is there anything else that occurs to you that would be good for us to talk about?
    • Anything you think the wounded man ought to know?
    • Anything the public ought to know?

The interview usually lasted about an hour and a half. In a few instances, there were repeated interviews with the same subject. About half of the interviews were recorded by the interviewer himself as verbatim as possible, the others by a stenographer or a trained recorder. A sample interview with a noninjured subject is given in Appendix II. Sample interviews with three injured subjects are given in Appendix III.

The cooperation of the injured subjects was obtained by telling them that the purpose of the study was to determine difficulties existing in the relationships between injured and noninjured people and how these difficulties could be overcome. The subjects were asked to help in finding out "how people act" and "how they should act." The injured considered the endeavor a worthy one. Many of them challenged the usefulness of current magazine articles, and some felt that correct information might improve matters. The social emotional relationships discussed had a high potency for them. Many of the subjects were recently injured, but all of them had had contacts with the noninjured—contacts in which they were the recipients of help, of curiosity, of sympathy, of being considered an unfortunate person. For them, such relationships were real and vital. Because they mattered to them they discussed problems not only intellectually but also on the feeling level.

In the interview the injured subjects were first asked "how the noninjured behave and how they should behave." This confirmed the feeling which we had attempted to convey when we first approached them that we valued their opinions and knowledge as they "are the ones who really know." This openended question was also a precaution against feelings in the subject of intrusion into his privacy. Later in the interview, when the subjects became involved and felt secure and free with the experimenter, they frequently shifted to their own personal feelings and were even willing to discuss private matters brought up by the interviewer.

Since particularly during the war the feeling that something should be done to help the injured was strong, cooperation was also readily secured with the noninjured subjects when the purpose of the study was explained to them. At the beginning of the interview, however, it was a difficult task to achieve real emotional involvement on the part of those noninjured who were not close to injured persons. Noninjured persons who are in the position of sharers, wives and mothers of the injured for example, do feel that relationships between the injured and noninjured really concern them. But for other noninjured, the area of problems is not a vital one. Some time was therefore spent with subjects of this group at the beginning of the interview in discussion of injured persons they knew and how they felt about them in an attempt to bring the discussion to a more basic feeling level. In order to keep the subject on the feeling level, the interviewer also attempted to bring out the conflict in the noninjured between ethical demands and emotional feelings. Because it is considered "good" by the noninjured to believe that the injury does not matter to them, they may try to convince the interviewer and themselves that they do not have any "special feelings toward an injured person." When the interviewer responded to the underlying emotional feelings rather than to the overt ideological statements, the noninjured not infrequently became aware that the relationships involved important meanings for them and not merely intellectual or ideological ones. Discussion on the feeling level could then take place.

Analysis of Data

The analysis of data in a new field, where the aim is to discover essential problems, requires a great flexibility on the part of the investigator. Because the search is for "hunches" and connections among them and not for frequencies of occurrences, an attitude of a single subject in its ramifications requires much thought and understanding. For those who will work further in this field, we wish to mention some points which are well to keep in mind when analyzing interview material.

The understanding of the emotional meanings implied in the statements of the subject requires taking into account the context of the discussion. It is important to consider the interplay between the responses of the subject and those of the interviewer. Sometimes contradictory statements made by the subject in different portions of the interview lead to understanding of basic feelings. Always it is necessary to try to put oneself in the position of the subject and to feel with him. Often, in order to appreciate the subject's subtle feelings, it helps to examine one's own feelings in situations similar to those evaluated by the subject. Frequently the impact of the subject's own feelings is further enhanced if the investigator assumes the position of the other partner in the relationship he was talking about. In our work this was especially true in analyzing the noninjured records. The covert meanings appeared most clearly if we tried to see the implications which a superficially innocuous statement might have if an injured person were to read it.

A rigid scheme of analysis of interview material may lead to superficial conclusions; since in such a case one is obliged to cover the material in a technical, automatic way, the many meaningfulness of the single answer of the subjects is apt to be overlooked. Thus, for our purpose, the interview material was more fruitfully analyzed by developing categories as the analysis proceeded rather than by following a predetermined scheme. This meant categorizing, recategorizing, and again re categorizing. When a new category was added it sometimes required a re examination of parts of interviews in the light of the new insight gained. Not all of our theoretical statements, however, are based on category analysis of all the interviews. Sometimes the attitudes expressed in single cases gave us hunches which led to the development of hypotheses and theoretical understanding. In these ways we tried to determine the scopes of meanings and structures of social emotional relationships.

Chapter V: Misfortune

Many kinds of social-emotional relationships exist between injured and noninjured people. Which should be investigated as more essential? We began with those which were frequently pointed out by the injured themselves, namely, "to help—to be helped," "to question—to be questioned," "to stare—to be stared at," "to sympathize—to be sympathized with," "to accept—to be accepted."* During the analysis of data, a different relationship emerged as more basic for understanding the social psychological problems of the injured the relationship "to consider someone unfortunate to be considered unfortunate." This relationship enables us to tie together many of the phenomena observed and indicates the direction which further research should take. The finding and description of this essential relationship is a result rather than the historical beginning of our investigation.

An Experiment for the Reader

The line below represents a scale. The letter F designates the position of the most fortunate person and U the position of the most unfortunate. The sign in the middle of the scale designates the average position. Before reading the text further, quickly and going simply by feeling rather than on the basis of intellectual consideration indicate your own position on the line. (Fig. 1)

This experiment was performed with a group of 30 students at Stanford University but not in the context of a discussion about the injured. Only one of the group placed himself in the average position, none below this point. In a variation of the experiment with 10 other subjects, the instructions were changed so that the middle of the scale represented the average position for members of the subject's own social group. The "fortune phenomenon" still held in this case.*

We expect that you too will have put yourself somewhere above the average position. It would seem that there must be a "terrible misfortune," and even this may not suffice, to lead one to put himself below the average. One feels also that should somebody judge him to be unfortunate and place him low on the scale he would resist accepting such a judgment. Yet very easily does the noninjured make such a judgment regarding the injured.

It is our task to specify further the feelings of the person who considers himself fortunate toward the one whom he considers unfortunate and also the feelings of the person who is considered unfortunate when he knows that he is so considered. Though the relationship as it concerns the injured is in the focus of our attention, the discussion has implications for anyone who is judged unfortunate.

Misfortune As An Event

A painful event which does not have far reaching consequences may be called "a mishap." If the event produces prolonged and more inclusive suffering, if it affects a large part of the life space of the person, it is called "a misfortune." Other people will tend to shift the position of the sufferer downward on the fortune scale. The circumstances surrounding the event may themselves be important. They may affect the feelings of the person himself and the relationship between him and others. But this is a special problem, and fruitful investigation of it presupposes knowledge of the nature of the misfortune relationship. We shall, therefore, in this first study of misfortune, disregard such differences as whether an arm was lost in a car accident or because of shrapnel wounds.

For an investigation of the effect of the circumstances surrounding the event upon the feelings of the person himself, simple grouping into war and accident casualties, for example, would be too superficial. The groupings have rather to be made in terms of the intimate psychological meanings which the circumstances have for the person. For example, in the case of the war wounded: I volunteered and therefore I caused my injury; I was not careful enough I handled explosives too automatically; I got shot when I went out to help my friend it just came; I wanted to be wounded in order to return to the mainland. Moreover, one would have to know whether after his injury the person believes that his loss was for a worthy cause, or whether he became disillusioned, and so on. Similarly, psychologically meaningful subgroups would have to be distinguished for the investigation of the effect of the circumstances upon the evaluation of the donor. We shall emphasize not the nature of the event which produced the change in position on the fortune scale but the consequences of the persisting difference in position between those who are considered fortunate and those who are considered unfortunate.

Misfortune and Suffering

That an unfortunate person suffers is the fact which is outstanding from the point of view of common sense observation. It is also the suffering aspect of misfortune to which people who are close to the sufferer and who share his difficulties predominantly react. We can then ask, "Is the judgment that a person is in an unfortunate position only a statement that he suffers and nothing more?" Are "unfortunate" and "suffering" equivalent? We shall see that there are instances in which the judgment of unfortunate is made in spite of the fact that the person does not suffer, at least not directly from the event itself, and that there are other instances in which suffering occurs and yet the judgment of unfortunate is withheld.

Let us first consider the fact that when suffering is not perceived the person may still be considered unfortunate. This is true, for instance, in the case of a person having a facial disfigurement. It may be objected that, even if the suffering is not perceived, people "realize" that he suffers, and this may have something to do with considering him unfortunate. But, we ask in a provoking way, may it not be this "realization," the opinion of others that he is unfortunate, which makes him suffer, rather than anything independent of these opinions?

It is also puzzling that not all people who experience suffering are considered unfortunate. Boxers, pioneers, members of an arctic expedition are not considered unfortunate. The argument that in such cases the suffering is of short duration does not always hold; the hardships of the pioneers lasted a lifetime. Nor does it help to point out that these sufferings are self imposed and are therefore not misfortunes. It is not strictly true that they are self imposed, especially when they are necessary to gain a livelihood. Moreover, someone who imposes an injury upon himself in attempting to commit suicide is still judged by many to be an unfortunate person.

It should be clear from the foregoing that the statement, "One considers somebody unfortunate when one perceives that he suffers," is unprecise. We shall see in a subsequent section (p. 21) that a statement which is almost the reverse will, paradoxical as it seems, lead us further: "When one considers somebody unfortunate, one will not only expect him to suffer but may even feel that he ought to suffer!"

Misfortune As a Value Loss

In order to understand many of the social emotional relationships arising between the fortunate and the unfortunate we must make explicit one important aspect of misfortune: a misfortune involves, in the eyes of the judge, a loss or absence of something valuable. But the word "misfortune" is sometimes used when the person has experienced no unfortunate event, for example when the injury is congenital. In this case, the absence of a value may be felt psychologically as a loss.

The judgment of misfortune is an expression of personal and social values which the donor holds high. In our culture, most persons do not consider an amputation, a facial scar, or other injuries simply neutral variations, like color of eyes or length of hair. Instead, these variations of "body whole," "body competent," and "body beautiful" are considered disfigurements and handicaps. That is, they are judged to be misfortunes value losses.

The Requirement of Mourning

Since a misfortune is, in the eyes of the judge, a loss of something valuable, the person who experiences a misfortune is generally expected to suffer and mourn his loss. An injured man described the expectations of his visitors in the hospital as follows: "They expected to see me in a worse mental state. I was pretty cheerful and cheered them up." Sometimes these expectations may even have the character of a judgment as to what is proper: it is natural and normal to mourn one's loss when struck by misfortune. It may therefore be disturbing and uncanny to the noninjured to find an injured person who is not distressed, who does not feel and act like an unfortunate person. The noninjured will tend to suspect that the injured person is putting on a good act, or they may conclude that he does not yet realize what has happened to him but "will in time."

We venture to say that these feelings of the donor do not arise solely from the possible intellectual consideration that emotional acceptance of a loss is inconceivable. It is likely that they stem also from the need on the part of the fortunate to keep high those personal and social values which he possesses or cherishes. He therefore objects to the apparent disrespect shown these values as implied in the nonacceptance of the unfortunate position by the person who is deprived of them. When the recipient does not show that he feels unfortunate, the implication is that the loss is not so great, and therefore the donor requires that the recipient mourn. We are now ready to state the following hypothesis: When the fortunate person has a need to safeguard his values, he will either (a) insist that the person he considers unfortunate is suffering (even when he seems not to be suffering) and that he ought to suffer or (b) devaluate the unfortunate person because he ought to suffer and does not.

We expect that the noninjured will resist the implications of this hypothesis. It implies that they want the unfortunate to suffer, which is in direct conflict with prevailing ethical codes. An analysis of several examples will, however, make the hypothesis more convincing.

Consider a woman to whom "position is everything in life." She must consider as unfortunate those who are omitted from the social register. If she does not it would mean that her position is not so valuable after all. If they do not accept the fact that they are unfortunate, she must consider them either too stupid to know better, or insensitive, or shamming; otherwise her own position is threatened.

Or take the attitude of a married woman toward her spinster sister. Perhaps the duties of a wife and mother make up her whole life. If these are not important, then what is she? Nothing. It would be an intolerable state. She must consider single women unfortunate and require that they recognize this position. Otherwise how can she escape insecurity, anxieties, conflicts, and the necessity for revaluation which might increase the importance of other value scales on which she has a low position?

To one who is proud of her beauty, whose sole stock in trade it is, the ugly duckling who flirts and seems happy would be disturbing. The beauty may laugh at the plain one and comment on her appearance so that she will "know her place." If she accepts this place, then she supports and does not challenge the values of the beauty.

For like reasons, it is considered scandalous if a widower remarries too soon. He should have observed a "decent" period of mourning. He is heartless and disrespectful. He threatens the value of strong interpersonal ties. He undermines the value of dependence upon each other in close relationships.

The feelings of the judge which are implicit in the requirement of mourning will tend to be expressed, however, only in covert ways because of the conflict between these feelings and ethical demands. Thus in the following example, though the demand for suffering is not overt, the noninjured subject makes it clear that an injury is devaluating and that the injured should be ashamed of and hide the injury:

The last place I worked there was a girl there who had been born without an arm. It was about to here [indicates above elbow). And she had fingers on it. She didn't care. She used it to hold bobbie pins, etc. ... I didn't think it was very nice. Right in front of the other girls she would uncover it. Would you think that was all right? [Interviewer: What did you feel about it?] It was repulsive. If it had been an amputation it would have seemed cleaner. I thought at the time that I would have gone into the dressing room and do that and not be where so many people could see it.

Misfortune and Devaluation

It has been seen that if a person does not mourn his loss when the donor believes that he ought to he will be devaluated. Mourning his loss does not, however, insure the unfortunate against devaluation. He may be devaluated whether he mourns or not. There remains then the task of determining other conditions under which a person who experienced a misfortune is devaluated.

Devaluation of a person implies comparison. The comparison may be made between two persons in respect to particular characteristics, or between the current state and a previously existing or predicted future state of the same person, or a person may be compared with some abstract norm. The standard of comparison has a position which is evaluated positively and below which any position is negative. Thus, when there is devaluation, the comparisons are not made in neutral terms indicating likeness or difference. Instead, there is always a judgment of better or worse. The position of the person being judged and the standard against which he is compared may be represented on a value scale.

Summarizing, we may say that devaluation presupposes comparison on a value scale on which a person is judged to be in position x, the standard occupying position y, which is higher on the scale. Close consideration of this statement, which sounds so self evident, will show the problems actually involved. Several terms used require further specification. These specifications will help in the task of determining the conditions which lead to devaluation. The terms are "value," "person," "position of the person," and "standard."


We raise the question: Does devaluation occur when a person has lost or lacks any value, or does it occur only when particular values are involved? It would seem that even when something is evaluated highly, the nonpossessor is not necessarily devaluated. Two kinds of values which preclude devaluation can be distinguished—possession values and asset values.

Possession Values. If a value is seen only as a possession of a person and not as a personal characteristic, devaluation of the person cannot take place. Thus beautiful pictures may be evaluated highly, yet those whose homes do not boast of even one old master are not devaluated. Though this seems clear, the terms "personal characteristic" and "possession" are in themselves problematic. Psychologists are uncomfortable when they have to draw a boundary between the person and the environment. Whether something is seen as a part or characteristic of a person or as a possession seems to depend upon the judge. The person who has lost someone dear to him may feel that he has lost part of himself. Clothes may be thought of as a material possession and "being well dressed" as a personal characteristic. Where some judges would perceive a "man who owns a house," others would perceive a "home owner," a substantial and responsible member of the community. Even a part of the body may be thought of simply as a possession rather than as a characteristic of the person, as the following statement of an injured man would seem to imply:

In other words, I kind of think now that the hands and legs are just merely tools. Where if you haven't got the right tool there are some jobs you cannot do. It is not the handicap that holds a man down. It is his head. In the beginning one does not see it— that they are tools.

The general problem will have to be solved: What are the conditions under which a value will be seen as a personal characteristic or simply as a possession?

Asset Values. Even when a value is seen as a personal characteristic, the nonpossessor is not devaluated if the value is regarded as an asset value. When asset values are involved, the person does not base his evaluation upon comparison with any standard. He may, for example, simply enjoy the musical performance of his acquaintance without comparing it with the performance of anyone else. Should the judge not be talented in this regard, he is not disturbed because he is inferior to another. Musical ability in others and himself is seen as an asset value. More generally, the existing state of a person may be felt to be satisfying (or disturbing) without comparing it with a standard. A woman, for example, who is forced because of family and children to give up a vocation which until then had made up a large part of her life will not feel inferior if a vocation represents to her an asset value which is a "fine thing to have" if circumstances permit.

From the above, it is clear that it is not inherent in a value to be considered an asset value. Among other things, the needs of the judge will determine whether or not he is in a comparison frame of reference. Thus, though musical ability may be an asset value under certain circumstances, when the judge is in a comparison frame of reference because he has to select members of an orchestra it is not. In the latter case, we may speak of musical ability as a comparative value, a value used in making comparisons for the purpose of evaluating the person.

We wish to make a sharp distinction between comparative values and the possibility of making comparisons when asset values are in question. In the latter case, comparisons which might be made are intellectual ones which do not affect the evaluation of the person. In the former case, the comparison is the main aspect; whether or not the person is meeting the standard with all its consequences is most important.


We have to distinguish between what we call "total person" and "characteristics of a person." By "total person" we mean all the characteristics which are taken into account by the judge at a given time whether they are clearly or only vaguely perceived. Devaluation can exist in regard to single characteristics and not in regard to others. If the characteristics on which the person is devaluated are "decisive" for the judgment of the total person, total devaluation will take place. But if these characteristics are seen as unimportant, then the person is not devaluated as a total person though he is devaluated on single scales. Moreover, when the single characteristics on which the person is devaluated are the only ones that enter the evaluation of the judge, then "total person" is equivalent to these characteristics and total devaluation takes place.

Consider the example of the noninjured girl who said:

He's correct in not proposing if he couldn't earn a living because of his handicap.

This subject evaluated the injured person as a husband in terms of a single characteristic or scale on which she feels he has an inferior position. Because other characteristics of a good husband are not taken into account, he is necessarily devaluated as a husband. If other characteristics which are felt to be the decisive ones are considered, such as affection and understanding, he may be judged equal to whatever is taken as the standard. He will be devaluated only if the girl feels that earning a living is of primary importance.

Examine similarly the self devaluation of an amputee who says:

You feel like a heel lots of times when kids are playing on the street with their sleds. Other fathers can play with their kids.

The subject devaluates himself because other characteristics which may be considered more important for a good father than those on which he falls short are not considered at the moment.

Devaluation of the injured is not limited to bodily values only. When the injured person is devaluated because of physical performance, appearance, or aptitude for particular roles, a jump is not infrequently made so that he is also devaluated in regard to assumed mental characteristics. Some people directly indicate that abnormality of the body means abnormality of the psychological make up. Thus we have the following statements made by noninjured subjects:

You'd be very conscious of your own deformity; it would hurt you psychologically.

Some have a disposition to arrogance. "You are going to accept me whether you like it or not" like a midget, you know, inferiority complex. Some overdo the matter of being congenial. [Note that even positive traits are seen as negative]

After she [girl with short bowed legs] had been with us for a short while, we accepted her as normal, except for that handicap. [This implies that at first they didn't accept her as normal.]

We should like also to point out that devaluation of the total person does not always occur by way of single characteristics. Sometimes there seems to be a direct, all inclusive judgment of devaluation of the total person. It seems that the broader the meaning of the word "person" the less clearly does the judge perceive how the single scales determine his evaluation of the person. He has a vague feeling, for example, that a "cripple" is somehow "an inferior person."

In speaking about devaluation of a person, then, we must ask two questions. Is his devaluation limited to particular characteristics or is he devaluated as a total person? Is he devaluated because only those scales on which he has a low position are taken into account or because these scales are given considerable weight when the scope of values is enlarged to include other characteristics of the person.

Position of the Person

To a judge, the permanence of a person's position with respect to the standard is important in his evaluation of the person. We may expect that devaluation will be less severe if, when taking the "time perspective" into account, the position of the person is seen to shift in the direction of the standard.* The judge may expect the shift for different reasons. In some cases, he may feel that the loss can be replaced in whole or in part. Thus, even a person who considers "home owner" as a characteristic of the person, and a minimum requirement for the role of a responsible community member, may not devaluate someone who suffers the misfortune of having his house destroyed. The judge may expect that he will again be able to establish a home and thereby to regain his former position. The loss is only temporary.

In other cases, the person may be expected to adjust to his loss even though the lost value cannot be regained. The position of the person, then, is felt to shift so that he can meet the standards in regard to such values as, for example, adequate personality, social usefulness, and the like. For problems of injuries, the shift due to perception of adjustability is of particular importance. Even in those instances in which physical improvement can be limited only, the recognition that one can adjust to the injured state will minimize de valuative feelings. A noninjured woman says:

When I thought of the courage it took to ignore those handicaps, I felt humble. I felt that anyone who overcomes a handicap like that wins an added amount of respect from everyone.

For this subject, the fact that the injured men were able to adjust to their handicaps led her to evaluate them not as inferior but, on the contrary, as persons meriting respect.

We believe further that the judgment of adjustability will depend upon the adjustment of the judge. A person who feels in essence "What a terrible misfortune to be injured, I could never stand it. I would rather die," we consider maladjusted with respect to injuries. The following comments were made by noninjured people:

It wouldn't be worth while to live. I'd develop a complex and go off in my little hole. I'd go into hiding and not show my face for the rest of my life.

To such people it will seem impossible that one can adjust to injuries.


In connection with the term "standard," we have previously noted that the standard may be another person, the same person at a different time, or some abstract norm. Frequently the abstract norm has the character of the minimum requirement for a certain role. If the person does not meet the minimum requirement, he will be judged as an unacceptable candidate for whatever role is in question (for example, that of husband, employee, team member, etc.) or he will be devaluated as unfit to continue in the role. This is illustrated by the noninjured girl who said:

He's correct in not proposing if he couldn't earn a living because of his handicap.

In the extreme case of devaluation of the total person, the person will be thought of as an outcast. He does not meet the minimum requirements on a value scale which, in the opinion of the judge, everyone "ought to possess" in order to be a normal human being. Though such extreme devaluation is not often directly expressed, we do find, in the records of the noninjured, statements such as the following when severe handicaps are being discussed:

If you have no limbs you are not a person really. With both arms and legs gone the person isn't of any use, a detriment to society.

When a person is above the level of minimum requirements or "ought standard" (either for a particular role or for a "normal" human being), he may still be devaluated as inferior, for example in comparison with some other person, but the devaluation will not be as severe.

There are individual differences in regard to where the ought standard is set. For some it is simply undeniable that a man ought to be able to support his family entirely by his own efforts. If he is disabled so that his wife must work, or if state assistance is required, he will be seen to fall short of this minimum requirement and will be judged unworthy to have a family. Some people may not see this as an ought standard at all; others may apply it to themselves and yet not require anyone else to meet it.

We can now state that the most severe type of devaluation (devaluation as unworthy or unacceptable) will occur when the person, in the eyes of the judge, falls below the ought standard on a value scale.


It is obvious by now that the value structure of the judge is of utmost importance. Devaluation will depend upon whether the judge regards the values in question as possessions or as personal characteristics. It will depend upon whether the judge considers the values as comparative values or as asset values. It will depend upon whether the judge regards the person only in terms of single value scales on which he has a low position; whether the judge regards these values as decisive in the context of other characteristics of the person, that is, when the scope of values is enlarged; or whether in this context they are felt to be nonessential. It will depend upon whether or not the judge regards the state of the person as an unadjustable one. It is up to the judge how high the standards will be set, whether he considers a particular standard an ought standard for his concept of the role of husband, father, etc., or of a "normal" person, and whether the standards are flexible or rigid. It is not the objective loss but the values of the judge which determine devaluation. A remedy, therefore, is a change in the value system of the judge. The judge may be another person, or the person himself who experiences the loss. In the first case we speak of the devaluation of someone else, in the second case of self devaluation.

Conflict in the Noninjured

Devaluation of the injured, like the requirement of mourning, conflicts with ethical prescripts as well as with spontaneous, positive feelings toward the injured. The noninjured person does not want to hurt the injured. He tries to be tactful. He will not address the injured with an emotionally loaded word like "cripple." He will be reluctant to say that the injured man is inferior, to be pitied, etc. He will not point to the injured part of the body. He will hesitate to mention handicaps in the presence of the handicapped person. He might sometimes dare to mention handicapped people who "get along amazingly well" (almost as good as a noninjured person) or who, like Roosevelt, are as good as the best noninjured. He might dare to say that he "would never have noticed it" or that someone else has not noticed it. He might feel a strong positive tie with the injured person and feel genuinely sympathetic toward him.

Because negative, devaluating attitudes conflict with positive feelings toward the injured which are ethically prompted or which are spontaneous and genuine, we can expect that devaluation will seldom be manifested simply and directly but will tend, instead, to be covered up. For example, a noninjured subject who showed concern and warmth toward the injured could not admit his attitude that a handicapped person is less acceptable. But this status discriminatory attitude is covertly expressed when he says:

I can readily understand how they [people with less severe handicaps] might resent being classed with those who are totally handicapped.

Another subject is able to express his de valuative feelings when speaking about himself if he were injured:

Without doubt I would be tremendously depressed [if I had an arm or a leg off] at the thought that your usefulness is over now and that you will be nothing but a burden from now on.

But he is unable to leave the discussion on this negative level. He hastens to right the situation, to pay deference to the other side of the conflict, and adds:

But I presume that that would pass and with a little bit of expert help one could return to a normal life.

It is also often difficult to disentangle just when the favorable, verbalized attitudes correspond to the underlying feelings and when they do not. When our subjects speak of the courage of the injured, their cheerfulness, perseverance, etc., they are expressing attitudes which overtly are favorable. Sometimes these attitudes seem to be prompted by ethical demands and sometimes they seem to reflect genuine feelings. One suspects that the positive feelings expressed by the following subject are glib and superficial:

I have met one woman in particular with both legs gone and she had artificial limbs and she got along beautifully. She lost her legs about a year before I met her. And she was very happy. I have more sympathy, and I thought she was very brave.

On the other hand, in the following account a noninjured subject reveals a feeling of warmth and respect for the injured:

I went to a dinner party the other night for the wounded Japanese soldiers at —— Hospital. There were about a dozen of them one completely blind, two with partial sight, another with a leg off, another without an arm. When I first arrived I thought, "I can't bear this. I have never been able to look at suffering." I wanted to go away. I stayed. I got acquainted with these boys. They not only had the physical handicap. They had the racial handicap which is a serious one in this country. I stayed until midnight. I felt each one could have been a friend of my son. They were so courageous, so gay, so sympathetic and generous with the blind boy. They helped him so unobtrusively. I felt I had learned a great deal. I felt there was nothing we could do for them. They were doing for us ... . The way I felt about those boys I felt inferior.

The conflict in the noninjured may be evaded or diminished in different ways. We should like to mention two phenomena which might be less obvious than simple avoidance of the injured as a means of escaping the conflict. These phenomena are aversion and spread emotional reactions which make it easier for the noninjured to avoid the injured Aversions have the useful quality of enabling the non injured person to feel that he does not voluntarily avoid the injured but that he does so for reasons beyond his control.* Spread, or the exaggeration of negative effects of an injury, may provide the noninjured with an excellent reason for excluding the injured from participation in activities which might, for example, be somewhat strenuous. And if one exaggerates the injured person's sensitiveness and withdrawing tendencies, ethical demands will not be obviously violated, since one can assert that the injured person would feel uncomfortable in the group or decline the invitation anyway.

In the following chapter we discuss in detail one type of genuine and spontaneous positive feeling toward the injured—that of sympathy.

Chapter VI: Sympathy

Sympathy is brought about in the donor by the suffering aspect of misfortune rather than by the value loss aspect. As stated on page 8, our approach to the study of the sympathy relationship was to consider the total scope of meanings assigned to the word "sympathy" and then to extract those which were tied together by a coherent underlying structure. Pity and other devaluative meanings which the subjects sometimes give to the word "sympathy" do not belong to the same structure.

Primacy of Needs and Emotions

In the older treatises, sympathy was considered an instinctive, or at least an immediate, response to the perception of emotion in another; the perception of pain would bring about discomfort in the observer, the perception of joy would give him satisfaction. We would have no great objection to such a "theory" as far as it goes, but there are difficulties in its incompleteness. For example, we would be reluctant to term "sympathetic" one who, because of his discomfort on perceiving the distress of another, tries to escape the situation.

It is essential for the sympathy relationship that the donor set aside his own needs and feelings in favor of those of the suffering member. The recipient will then feel that his needs and emotions are given primacy, and only then will he feel that the donor is sympathetic. The conditions leading to the existence of primacy of needs and emotions of the other are not known to us and require further study. Most frequently it arises in what we call "we groups." The partners in a we group feel bound together by strong ties of friendship, family, etc. They like each other, enjoy being together, need each other. But relative contributions are not measured; comparison of values possessed is not in order; what is important is "we" rather than "you as compared with me." The group is characterized by the sharing of the feelings of one member by the other. The partner is pleased with the joy of the recipient; he is made sorry by the recipient's sorrow. As an injured man says:

Love for a certain person, that is why you feel sorry. I know my mother feels awfully sorry that I lost my arm. Every time something happened to me my father too felt awfully sorry for me. It was just that he loved me. You just can't get away from it I guess.

Instead of putting one's own needs always first, primacy is given to those of the other when they are felt to be more urgent. Exceptional stress and exceptional happiness of the other take precedence over the everyday level of feelings of the donor. He sets them aside and participates in the intense joys and sorrows of the partner.

Primacy of needs and emotions, however, does not arise in we groups only. It may exist between people who have no lasting relationship with each other, whose relationships are as tenuous as being fellow Americans in a foreign country or even passers by. What the forces are which keep the donor in the negative distress situation in these instances are not known.

What primacy of needs and emotions implies in the sympathy relationship may be described under the headings Congruence, Understanding, and Readiness to Help.*


The injured sometimes slate that no one can ever really know what it is like to be injured unless he is himself injured. Those who would urge this against the possibility of real sympathy would probably subscribe to the "identity theory" of sympathy. This as usually stated is "seeing and feeling the distress as the other person sees and feels it." An injured person who rejects sympathy gave this as a reason:

It's very easy for a person to sympathize who hasn't had the experience himself. It would be a very shallow thing. It wouldn't mean anything to me ... . How can you sympathize with me if you haven't lost your father and I have? You wouldn't know what it is like. How can a fellow sympathize with you if he hasn't lost the leg or the arm? I don't think he could do it.

It should be clear that primacy of needs and emotions does not imply identity of feeling. We doubt that the feelings of the donor and recipient can be identical. Nor would identity have advantages. The donor cannot see the situation as the recipient sees it. He cannot know all the emotional ramifications of being injured. And even if he were to understand much of what it means to be injured, he would not feel the suffering in the same way as the injured person does. He does not suffer the actual social deprivation nor the self devaluative feelings of the recipient. The recipient is distressed over the loss itself, the donor because the recipient suffers. The content of their distress is therefore different. Even in the case of a sharer (e.g., a wife or mother) who may himself experience loss, the content is still different.

The donor need not approach the mood of the recipient in intensity, nor is it necessary that his mood be the same qualitatively, as long as it is not incongruous. If someone is depressed, a sympathizer need not also become depressed. There are other manifestations of concern sufficiently in harmony with the mood of the recipient to be considered sympathy. On the other hand, gay attempts to divert him will seem incongruous and may be considered an indication that the donor does not give primacy to the needs and emotions of the recipient.

Moreover, were the donor to feel precisely the same way as the recipient, it is questionable whether any action he could take would be effective in diminishing the distress. The anxiety and fearfulness of the recipient, for example, would prevent him from realistically evaluating his situation. A similar anxiety and fearfulness in the donor would also act as a barrier to adjustive effort.

Thus the donor and the recipient perceive differently, feel differently, and act differently. Congruence rather than identity is required in each of these instances. What makes for congruence is an important problem meriting special investigation.


In a distress situation there are in the recipient two conflicting needs that must be taken into account by the donor. On the one hand the recipient wishes to remain in the area of preoccupation with his loss because of attachment to the object of loss, desire for clarification, etc. On the other hand, he wishes to leave the area because of the negative character of the situation (the unpleasantness of the state of depression, a feeling of unproductiveness, etc.). A clear example of both tendencies is found in a bereavement situation in which, in spite of the negative characteristics of grief, one wishes to continue to mourn as an expression of devotion to the person he loves. The first thing the donor must understand, then, is this conflict in the recipient. He must not only be concerned about the emotional state of the recipient in the sense of wishing to help him leave the negative area; he must also give sufficient weight or respect to the reasons which produced the distress and which keep the recipient in the area of preoccupation with the loss. When either of these attitudes is felt to be lacking, the recipient feels that he is not understood. For example, a mother may be genuinely concerned over the unhappiness of her adolescent daughter, but if she tries to soothe her by saying, "It's only puppy love. You'll soon forget all about him," the daughter, even when recognizing her mother's concern, will feel that she doesn't understand and thus that she is not really sympathetic. Similarly, if someone tries to "cheer up" an injured friend by saying, "Oh, you'll soon get a new leg," he may be felt to take lightly the feeling of loss which the injured man experiences. It is equivalent to saying to someone bereaved, "You'll soon get a new wife"! In the following instance an injured man defines sympathy entirely in terms of giving sufficient weight to the reasons for distress:

Sympathy is appreciating the difficulties you might have.

The wish for respect to the cause of distress is seen in the following statements made by injured subjects:

[People say] "Now before long you'll be as good as new." That's a bunch of posies all for naught .... They don't know what they're talking about .... Though people say, "Oh you'll forget it in a few years," they're always the people who aren't injured.

People would come in and tell me how lucky I was. It was just that they were trying to put a whole new set of values on my misfortune. If there is anything you feel about it, it is that it was not lucky.

The sympathizer cannot take lightly any features of the situation which are of great moment to the injured even though, in his efforts to bring about emotional relief, he may try to emphasize certain positive aspects.

It is important to point out that the word "understanding" is misleading when it is taken to imply only a conscious intellectual appreciation of the diverse meanings which the loss has for the injured. When the injured speak of a person who understands, they sometimes speak in these terms:

Probably that girl could not answer your questions but she just knew. Some people are like that. . . . There is a person that just has an instinctive good taste and quality in her.

It seems as though there is such a thing as emotional understanding that is, grasping the emotions of the other person directly on the emotional level without the intermediate step of intellectual realization of these emotions. The distinction between intellectual and emotional understanding is clearly brought out in the following statement of a noninjured woman:

Every mother thinks about the possibility of her son coming back wounded or disabled. ... I don't know just how I would react. . . . You would have to feel your way along and learn every day. But if you really love and understand them, you would learn very quickly, by experimentation, and I think you would have to give it a great deal of deep thought, and you would have to have a lot of wisdom, but wisdom comes in an emergency of that sort. [Interviewer: When you said wisdom, that implied intellectual knowledge.] Not necessarily. I would say more a wisdom of the heart.

There is nothing mystical in the fact that one may react before having time to understand intellectually. We spontaneously catch a ball suddenly thrown to us without intellectually deciding on a course of action. Similarly, in the case of emotional relationships we frequently react in an appropriate way which is called "intuitive." It seems necessary to assume that the speed of emotional processes is greater than the speed of intellectual ones and that, in communication, emotional grasping of the feelings of another person is faster than intellectual grasping.* Intellectual understanding may, however, enhance the relationship in which emotional understanding already exists. It may increase the effectiveness of the help offered because intellectual understanding may lead to useful suggestions which the recipient may be ready to accept.

Readiness to Help

It is not by chance that expressions of sympathy are usually followed by some such statement as, "If there is anything I can do, let me know." Such readiness to help should be considered as much a part of the structure of sympathy as congruence of feelings and understanding. This is demonstrated when the injured inveigh against the "so called sympathy which is nothing but words." For example:

The good kind you try to do what you can for them to help them out. The bad kind they just say they feel sorry and let it go at that.

Oh, absolutely [there is a good and bad kind of sympathy]. But it can be expressed through actions rather than through words fidelity, sticking by you through thick and thin.

The kind of physical help which is acceptable is elaborated elsewhere. In the sympathy relationship, we are especially concerned with emotional help in overcoming feelings of distress. Whether or not this type of help will be acceptable will depend upon whether the donor continues to be guided by the recipient's wishes and also upon his knowlesdge of the relative strength of the momentary tendencies toward and away from the distress area. The donor should be passive or active depending on these wishes and tendencies.

When the tendency to stay in the area of concern with loss is very strong, the recipient may want nothing more than assurance of concern, an understanding listener, or the comfort of bodily contact with a person with whom strong ties exist. The word "passive" should be taken very seriously. Expressions of concern which are uncontrolled and immoderate may be very disturbing. A few subjects give hints as to why demonstrative manifestations of sympathy are disturbing:

  1. The injured person may be so keyed up emotionally in regard to the whole injury situation that additional emotionality is difficult to bear: Sympathy is disagreeable to the man because of the state of emotion he is already in.
  2. Any strong emotional expression may make the man feel that his situation is even more unfortunate than he thought it to be. It can easily lead to a feeling of futility of his attempts to adjust: I don't want them to cry. It makes me feel sick I can do anything anybody else can but when they do that I would have to feel that I would have to give up trying to do things.
  3. The man does not know how to act when strong emotionality is shown. The situation tends to become unstructured. Embarrassment results: Sometimes a motherly old gal embarrasses you with how sorry she feels for you.
  4. Strong emotionality may arouse feelings of guilt in the man at having caused so much distress: I don't want anybody to feel sorry for me Sorrow isn't a thing to share.

Further, there are other important reasons why the injured objects to excessive emotionality. The injured may doubt the sincerity of the feeling, and any demonstration may convey to the injured that the donor is trying to make sure that his "goodness" is appreciated by the injured (page 31). We wish especially to stress the fact that excessive emotionality has also the danger of making the donor imperceptive to the shifts in feelings and changes in needs of the sufferer. It is important to note that in the opinion of the injured a deep positive feeling on the part of the sympathizer can be conveyed to them without any emotional display. They object to shallow sympathy, but shallow sympathy is not, of course, equivalent to sympathy that is manifested simply and without elaboration. Active help requires that the donor be alert in watching for an occasion when he can strengthen the forces in the recipient in the direction of leaving the distress area without provoking resistance from the recipient. One injured subject identifies this as encouragement rather than sympathy, but the idea is essentially the same:

You can always take encouragement. More than sympathy, it is the cheerful look, not a sorrowful look a feeling of raring to go that kind of infects you not the idea that the world has gone wrong.

Yet sudden or too strong or persistent urgings in the direction of leaving the area reflects on the genuineness of the donor's appreciation of the cause of distress. At the first sign that he has proceeded beyond the ability of the recipient to follow him, the donor must be ready to abandon any benevolent attempts. Because the emotions of the donor are not identical with those of the recipient, because he is not so depressed, he is already a step ahead in the struggle to overcome the distress. It is this discrepancy in feeling which gives the donor the possibility of shifting the recipient in positive directions. But the emotional change required of the recipient cannot be too great. Only small steps can be taken, the size of the allowable step being not infrequently smaller than the donor wishes would be possible.

The meaning of size of step may be grasped more fully if we consider the parallel case in the intellectual realm. A teacher may explain too quickly or may omit necessary intermediate points. The student is then unable to follow because the size of the steps taken by the teacher has been too great. In the emotional realm, we may take the case of a noninjured person who, wishing to overcome the brooding of his injured friend, suggests a joyful interlude. Though the injured friend also wishes to overcome his brooding, merrymaking requires too great an emotional change for him. It is interesting that when someone is deeply distressed a sympathetic person may suggest a cup of tea. This may represent not only concern for needs which the sufferer himself might neglect; it is also a shift from preoccupation with loss to an activity which is neutral enough not to seem incongruous. It will also not be seen as too great an emotional step if the donor gradually aligns himself with and strengthens those positive aspects which the recipient might express, for example that he has the fortitude or stamina required, or the hope of an eventually successful outcome.

Spontaneous and Ethically Dictated Sympathy Sincerity

In the absence of spontaneous sympathetic feeling, there may still be strong social pressure to play the appropriate role. Thus, besides sympathy based on genuine primacy of need of another person there is simulated sympathy— sympathy for the purpose of adhering to the ethical ideal that one ought to be a good person, which sometimes implies self aggrandizement. Most people will be able to recall being at one time or another donors of both kinds of sympathy—that which is "ought inspired" and that which is prompted by genuine concern In some instances the former will be difficult to admit to oneself.

It is important that the dynamics of interrelationship between the donor and recipient is different in the two cases. If the sympathy is ought inspired, the donor will do as much for the recipient as is required by the donor's need to be "good." We cannot help but suspect that he will be guided much more by what he considers good for the other than by the needs and wishes of the person he is sympathizing with. The recipient distinguishes between spontaneous and ought inspired feelings of sympathy in the donor and speaks of them as "sincere" or "insincere." This does not mean that he always correctly detects them. But when the underlying feelings are seen as spontaneous and genuine they will be evaluated as positive, even though the recipient may not for other reasons welcome the overt expression of sympathy (e.g., because of lack of knowledge or sensitivity in the donor or because of some conflict in himself; see page 32). Positive evaluations of the genuine feelings are expressed in these terms:

I don't mind [if old friends say they are sorry]. Being a friend I felt that his word was sincere, coming from the heart.
Sincerity means a lot.

Yes [there is a good kind of sympathy and a bad kind]. You can always tell the person who does actually have a feeling for you and is sincere.

Ought inspired sympathy can be evaluated as proper when seen as a formal expression of politeness. The donor thereby conveys only a recognition of the seriousness of the event and his intention not to intrude further into the privacy of the recipient. A limited interaction of this sort is accepted, but it must be brief and does not bear repetition. The injured say:

I think it is all right [for someone to say he is sorry on first meeting]. I think I would say the same thing. If he would let it go with saying he was sorry and not rave on about it.

I don't mind anybody saying that. It's just like a person saying, "I'm sorry you are sick." Not if he just said it once. It's the same if you have lost a wife or relative or something; people offer their condolences. That is the same thing. It is all right if you don't overdo it. That is just common politeness.

While this type of sympathy is less valuable to the recipient than is genuine sympathy, it bears no great dangers. Perhaps the only additional caution required is that overt expression of this sort of feeling should emphasize the event and not the man. To say, "I'm sorry it happened," conveys what is needed. "I'm sorry for you," may connote devaluation:

A person can say he is sorry it happened, but I don't want him to say he's sorry for me. . . . It's in the time element. Sorry it happened refers to the past and it doesn't mean he keeps right on feeling sorry . . . and pity and being sorry for a person suggests looking down.

Though interactions of this kind are accepted, they are by no means considered necessary by the injured. But the injured know also that their acquaintances may feel embarrassed if they make no comment on first meeting the man after the injury. Hence, in addition to the evaluation of "proper," the same behavior may be regarded as neutral or unimportant:

They don't really need to say it, but it's all right. If they say [casually], "It was hard luck," it's all right. I'd just as soon they wouldn't say it. If it's a friend of yours, you know anyway.

The evaluations become negative when the basis for the expression of sympathy is felt entirely to be a matter of obligation:

Some people who are not so close to you feel they should give sympathy and say they're sorry you lost your leg.

This sentimental stuff. It seems to be partly an act. Old people seem to think they are obligated.

The simulated sympathy which is feigned for self aggrandizement or to satisfy some other need of the donor is rejected:

Well, there's the crocodile type [of sympathizer]. . . . Cries, you know, like the crocodile. Then . . . the he man type. He comes up and claps you on the back. All the time patting himself on the back.

Ought inspired sympathy, when mistaken by the recipient for genuine feelings, provokes positive feelings toward the donor in return. When the recipient does reciprocate and later finds no real concern for his needs, he feels cheated or fooled first because he was under false pretenses drawn into serving as a means of satisfaction of the needs of the other; second because he was ready to accept emotionally this person whom he now rejects as unworthy; and third because, believing himself secure with this person, he permitted himself to expose his private and sensitive feelings. Insincerity in such a case is therefore threatening; it is rejected and avoided.

Desire To Be Noninjured

Sympathy may be unwelcome not only because of some failing of the donor but because of the recipient's own attitude toward his injury. To welcome sympathy means that the injured man must admit that the injury has made a difference to him, even if it is only in particular and confined ways. He must not only see himself in the sympathetic situation as an injured person but must also be willing to have the sympathizer see him as such. This is not easy to do if the man has negative emotional feelings toward being considered an injured man. The resistance against being regarded as an injured person may be seen in the man's resentment of sympathy when he says:

Servicemen don't want their family to feel sorry for them. . . . Some people feel sorry but not around Utah. They see a lot of it. They treat you just as if you were another man.

The persistent demand by the injured to be treated like anyone else may be indicative of healthy attitudes when it reflects their resistance to being devaluated. But when it is a sign that the injured person doesn't want to share injury connected matters because he is ashamed of them, that he wishes above all else to be considered a noninjured person, then he must of necessity remain troubled. When he reaches the point where he can face the fact of his injury, then he becomes able to receive the comfort which sympathy may bring.

Sympathy and Adjustment

The desire of the sympathizer is to help the sufferer to reach a happier state, to help him to adjust. The recipient, too, may wish sympathy not only because of the immediate comfort that it may give him but also because he hopes that the other will help him overcome emotional difficulties. But is there anything in the nature of the sympathy relationship as such which will assure better adjustment? Does it imply that the sympathizer will be better able to recognize intellectually or emotionally what leads to adjustment? Just as the recipient himself, the donor may err as to what is adjustive. He may lead in nonadjustive directions. One can say only that the sympathy relationship provides a favorable atmosphere for influencing the recipient, whether for better or for worse.

There is, however, another point to be considered, namely, whether sympathy, as an expression of we group feelings, does not always have some adjustive value. Sympathy, as an expression of we group feelings, gives assurance that one is of worth to another person. We shall see that adjustment may imply the overcoming of the feeling of worthlessness of oneself and meaninglessness of the world around.

Chapter VII: Acceptance of Loss

In the preceding two chapters we spoke about the meaning which misfortune has for the noninjured and about his feelings toward the injured. We indicated that these feelings lead to difficulties (Misfortune, Chapter V) and to attempts on the part of the noninjured to lessen the suffering of the injured (Sympathy, Chapter VI). In his social relationship with the noninjured, the injured has to find a manner of living most satisfactory for him. He has also to overcome certain individual difficulties in addition to those produced by social relationships. He has to accept both personal loss and social loss.

The content of personal loss as felt by the injured may be conveyed by the following statement ascribed by us to a leg amputee:

The leg which was a part of me and like the other is now detached from me. With it I felt free to move, to jump, to run, to play. I could move it, move with it; it moved me. I will be hampered. I will not be able to climb a mountain (even though I never climbed one before). I won't be able to dance or fight as well as before. I won't be able to take a job that requires standing for hours. The prosthesis can fail. I can slip and fall. I have to take care of the stump. When I look in a mirror I won't see a whole man; I will have to get used to seeing myself this way. I can't bound out of bed in an emergency. When I move I will think, "Is it worth the inconvenience and effort of getting up?" So much that I will do would have been so much easier; in a shorter time I could have done so much more. I will always be less able than I would have been. I was a better man when I had my leg and amounted to much more than now. I will never be what I wish I were, and ought to be had I the leg.

In suffering from social loss, the individual suffers as a member of a group. He feels that he is not accepted as equally worthy. Other values which the group can offer, such as companionship, are made inaccessible.

The content of social loss as felt by the injured may be conveyed by the following statement ascribed by us to a leg amputee:

I will be considered inferior by others. They feel that I can't contribute my fair share. I will be regarded as a burden. They won't want to associate with me. They might stand my presence but not accept me as they would a noninjured man. Girls won't want to go out with me. People will be repulsed by the sight of me.

One could consider each of these difficulties and see how each in turn could be overcome. This obviously is an endless task, for one could continue to enumerate specific sufferings involved in personal and social loss. Instead, it is more meaningful to try to see whether there are not some conditions common to diverse difficulties. Understanding of these conditions is actually a first step toward solving problems of adjustment, for only when they are clearly specified can we tell what it is that must be changed, and only then are we able to get some insight regarding the state to which it would be desirable to change and how to produce the change.

The desired state which we call "acceptance of loss" does not mean becoming reconciled to one's unfortunate situation. Instead, acceptance of loss is a process of value change. Before discussing value changes, however, we wish to describe those attempts at adjustment which seem promising to the injured, yet not only fail basically to overcome the difficulties but even create new ones.

Maintaining the Noninjured Standard

The way in which the injured person tries to overcome difficulties is determined by the fact that his values are those of a noninjured person. A blow which damages a part of his body does not at the same time lead to changes within his value system.* He may continue to maintain the noninjured position as the standard of comparison and direct his efforts toward reaching it. He may cling to the belief that the way to overcome his difficulties is to be, in his own eyes and in the eyes of others, a noninjured person. To achieve the end of being considered noninjured, he uses all means available, both realistic and unrealistic ones.

Realistic Attempts to Achieve the Noninjured Standard

The realistic means used by the injured to be like the noninjured are strenuous efforts to perform certain tasks independently and to equal or surpass the success of the noninjured in certain roles. These attempts can be considered realistic because in certain limited ways they are successful. The injured can equal or surpass the noninjured performance on particular scales or in particular roles. But if the sheer fact of being an injured person is a difference which makes a difference to the injured man, that is, if the noninjured remains the wished for ideal, no matter how often he does as well or better than the noninjured he will still devaluate himself as an imperfect noninjured person.

In their efforts to be noninjured, the injured impose upon themselves unnecessary strain, Whereas the noninjured person often readily accepts help when it is more convenient to do so than to perform a task alone, the injured person tends to be reluctant to accept help if the help is not absolutely necessary. Thus an injured man says:

I wouldn't accept help except where absolutely necessary. Offers of help get me down unless I were in a real jam. [Interviewer: What do you mean by absolutely necessary?] Oh, something like an earthquake out here where I couldn't get my hands on my crutches in time.

And another says:

You'd like to be a lot more independent than you were before. If somebody opened the door before, you never paid attention to it, but they do it now and you notice it.

In order to explain why the injured, in striving to be and behave like a noninjured person, is led to impose greater hardships upon himself, we must take into account that "help is necessary" has a double connotation. It means "Without help I will not reach a desired goal," and "I am not able." The latter implies comparison of one's own ability with that of another. "You cannot do it, but I can," is, in our ability minded society, a most unwelcome comparison. For the injured person who wishes to be noninjured, the ability comparison aspect of help has a greater weight than for the noninjured, and he wishes to deny that he needs to be helped. The necessity of the goal, therefore, has to be greater for the injured in order to overcome the resistance against being helped. This, we suspect, could be shown by a simple experiment.

A scale of the necessity of help is constructed. One end indicates "help is a pure matter of convenience" {i.e., no great effort needed to perform the activity alone, but someone willing to share the effort), the other "help is absolutely necessary" {i.e., an important goal completely inaccessible without the assistance of another). We can then determine the points at which help will be welcomed by injured and noninjured persons. Judging from the data we have, we would expect that the point of acceptance of help by those of the injured who wish to be as much like the non injured as possible will not in general coincide with that chosen by the average of the non injured subjects but will be nearer to the point of "help is absolutely necessary." Thus, when the injured person in speaking about help says, "Treat me like anyone else," he may not mean "Give me as much help as you would a non injured person for whom a task is inconvenient." Instead, he may mean "Do not help me; a noninjured person would not require help in this situation."

Unrealistic Attempts to Achieve the Noninjured Standard

The unrealistic means toward being considered noninjured are the attempts to deny that an injury makes any difference whatsoever, either to the person himself or to anyone else. The injured man should forget and others should forget; if both would forget there would be no difficulties:

[Interviewer: How should a person go about adjusting?]
I think he should forget about it. People should just forget what happened. If he doesn't think of it, it won't bother him.

Two reasons seem to support the belief in this literal kind of forgetting. First of all, in the highly emotional striving for adjustment, the aim and the means are not sharply distinguished. "I wish my injury would be forgotten," and "It can be done by actual forgetting," merge together in an emotional state which leads to primitivization in thinking.

Secondly, the injured man does many things without feeling like an injured person. When he is in a bar, reading the comics, discussing political affairs, and so on, the thought that he is an injured person may not enter. In such situations he escapes the painful devaluative feelings associated with his loss. Temporary forgetting which the injured man does experience may make him believe that he can forget the injury most of the time.

Temporary forgetting may not be altogether valueless in the process of adjustment. It may provide much needed emotional relief before one can again become involved with the problems brought about by other adjustment attempts. Consideration of problems connected with the injury goes on at the emotional level with such intensity that temporary escape may be welcomed as a psychological rest from too much strain on the organism.*But the injured person realizes in time that it is not only hard to forget what exists but that also so much happens which may "remind." Thus an injured man who said, "You can forget you are hurt if everybody ignores it," a few sentences later complained, "If you go out you can hardly go through a day without people asking you about it." And reminding is not due only to the incorrigibility of the non injured. A person who wears a prosthesis, for example, has to put it on and take it off. The injured often has to enter situations in which other people are handicapped, and again he is reminded. Thus even if one could willfully forget, one would constantly be reminded by new occurrences. The wish and the impossibility of forgetting are brought out clearly in this statement:

More or less forget about it is the best thing, but how are you going to forget when everybody keeps reminding you of it? I guess in time to come they won't be half as curious and will accept it. ... I don't think about it unless someone speaks about it, or if I think about something I want to do and then I think, "Hell, I can't do that." You shouldn't worry about it, but you can't forget that one moment when you got hit. But it's about the future that you think.

The belief in the possibility of literal forgetting gives way, therefore, to the feeling that the injured and noninjured should behave toward each other as if the injury did not exist:

I'd just act normal, as if nothing had happened.
The happy and perfect thing is to have it ignored completely.
[Forgetting?] That's hardly possible but we can all make believe.

It is evident that such behavior does not really mean that the man will be considered noninjured. On the contrary, it is implicit in acting "as if" that he actually is not noninjured.

As in the case of temporary forgetting, which has some positive aspects, so also "as if" behavior has its assets, though they be limited. The injury may be considered a personal matter, and "as if" behavior serves the purpose of keeping others from intrusion into privacy. Thus, under certain circumstances, "as if" behavior may be appropriate, especially where strangers are involved. But "as if" behavior, again as in the case of the attempt to forget, brings about difficulties in the relationships between the injured and the noninjured. When the participants in a relationship are closely associated, persistent role play has negative effects. First, if each feels that he can never relax his guard there will be a constant strain. But worse than that. It is characteristic of close relationships for the partners to share their feelings. If the formal surface behavior which is appropriate to stranger relationships persists, they will begin to feel like strangers to each other. Closeness, which is built upon easy communication, sharing of feelings, the warmth of sympathetic interactions, gives way to estrangement. Basic understanding between the persons cannot be reached. The injured person will continue to feel that he is not understood and cannot be understood. Again, as in the case of help (page 34), the injured deviates from the actual behavior of the noninjured, for the noninjured does not ordinarily impose such restraint upon himself and does not in time of stress deprive himself of the comfort of sympathy.

Some Value Changes Involved in Acceptance of Loss

Denial that a difference exists, as we have seen, not only does not overcome difficulties; it may actually create new ones. But above all it hinders basic adjustment, for admission that a difference exists is a prerequisite for the further step of accepting the difference as non devaluating. Most important for the process which we have called "acceptance of loss" is a process of revaluation. Although this process is too complicated to permit us at present to make more than a few statements regarding either observed changes or possible ones, we can present, as an incentive to further study, the advances we have thus far made in understanding it.

The first problem is why revaluation should be so difficult for the injured. Why, in the face of persistent difficulties, do they cling so strongly to those evaluations which hurt them? Two reasons may be mentioned. First, the injured seem to feel that, since abnormality of the body connotes psychological deviation or even mental abnormality to some people, they will only strengthen this impression should they maintain values which differ from the noninjured's viewpoints and ideals. Second, and most important, is the fact that to produce value changes on the emotional level is at least as difficult as to change the needs of the person. Though one may easily convince a person intellectually of the advantage of adhering to different values, their actual integration within the value system of the person is bound to meet resistance. This is understandable if we consider that single values are not independent from other values of the person, so that one change in the value system necessitates making changes in other values or giving them up.

Some of the value changes which we believe would do much to overcome suffering from loss may be examined in the light of certain considerations brought out in the discussion of devaluating misfortune. First, devaluation will be diminished to the extent that the values lost are felt to be nonessential for the evaluation of the person when the scope of values is enlarged to include other personal characteristics. Second, devaluation will be overcome when the values lost are regarded as asset values rather than as comparative values. A third possibility, viewing the value lost as a possession value rather than as a personal characteristic (page 22), doubtless has ad justive significance, but this will not be further elaborated here.

Enlargement of Scope of Values

We may describe two examples in which enlargement of scope of values takes place.

The State of All-Inclusive Suffering.

For the injured person to see the lost values in a larger setting of other values is of special importance in the case where he feels he has nothing more for which to live. The problem then is to bring about the emotional realization of the existence of other values. Some injured subjects have admitted that in the initial stages their suffering was so acute, the experience of loss (of both personal and social values) so overpowering, that the idea of suicide presented itself. In such a state the loss seems to pervade all areas of the person's life. Whatever he thinks about, whatever he does, he is troubled, pained, and distressed. There is no differentiation between areas of the person which are and are not injury connected. All that matters are the values affected by the injury, and they are lost. No other values in life are important or even exist.

There are two characteristics of such a state which make the thought of suicide likely. First, the perception of only a single area which is characterized by suffering means complete devaluation of one's life. Moreover, the suffering seems to be boundless, not only in extent but also in time. If no other area is seen, then there is nothing to which one can hope to change. The only hope of escaping suffering is to leave life altogether.*

Fortunately, such black depression and despair does not persist in most of the injured who experience it. There is a gap in our knowledge as to just how it is overcome, but what is necessary is the perception of something besides suffering in life. It may be that, when the decision to commit suicide is made and when only execution of the plan remains, the injured may look back at what will be given up: suffering and life. When fighting against living further is no longer necessary, as it is before the decision is reached, life itself may be seen as a value. At such a moment this sudden experience of something else than suffering may be sufficient to give the first hold and with it the feeling of hope and strength which we have called the "stamina experience," so distinctive and easy to recognize when encountered, although difficult to convey, that it was named long before its place in problems of value change was seen.

Those who have had the stamina experience know that life is worth living again. They feel that'' they have been all the way down to the last door and come back," that no other enemy will ever be so formidable. The realization that the essential value of life is regained means that the unbearability of the situation has been overcome. It means that the person is able to attend to what life holds for him, to begin to appreciate the fullness of meaning of having what he does have. As one very severely injured man put it:

You gradually see that there is more to life than you thought possible. . . . They all think at the beginning that they are no good. Why there was a fellow here the other night who had a couple of fingers missing, and you would think there was nothing worse under the sun. And I said to him, "Well, son, you still have a pair of arms, a good pair of legs, a good pair of eyes. Why just think of it! I would be glad to have a good pair of anything."

Another injured man stated:

I have a sharper appreciation of things I valued before health, happiness, comfort, friendship. I am a hedonist. I feel lucky for just being here.

And still another calls it a "conversion to life":

Before, when I would try to analyze myself, I would come against a blank wall. F'or seven months I don't think half the time I knew what was going on. . . . Some things have become more important that before seemed so unimportant, and consequently less important the other things that seemed so important before. ... I never had a clear conception of what it meant to live. In other words, I have come to the conclusion that most people go through life and never accomplish anything. They just live. They eat and sleep. . . .Cows I call them . . .They just grow and disintegrate. ... I feel that if I don't make a contribution what's the use of having come back alive. I don't want to waste my life now. . . . [Interviewer: It's almost a religious experience.] Well, it's a complete change. . . a conversion to life. Religion is another thing. . . . You have got to dance, to laugh, and have your fun, but also you can put your aims on a higher plane.

The injured frequently maintain that "It is up to the man himself," to overcome the depression in the acute suffering stage. In other words, perception by an outsider that something other than suffering exists is felt to be unconvincing to one who is within the area which seems all pervading. Some injured therefore state that the depressed one should be left alone. Others, however, try to overcome what they call "self pity" in a friend by scolding and ridicule:

That's all within the man himself. I have seen them when they haven't anything to live for after the injury. [One guy] wasn't eating, feeling so sorry for himself. I called him everything but a gentleman. I called him everything I could think of. After that he started eating.

The fact that the friend is hurt and feels these insults to his manliness means that he discovers at least pride as a remaining value. As different as the overcoming of depression by oneself or with this sort of "help" may be, they have in common the finding of a value at a time when every value is lost.

The method of hurting the injured man during depression should not be given as a recommendation to the noninjured. Such behavior on the part of the noninjured would simply intensify the feeling of being devaluated. When the injured use this method it means "He is not devaluating me for being injured but for being unmanly." At the same time, the injured friend is there as an example that one can be injured without feeling that everything has been shattered.

What the conditions are which give the values of manliness, of pride, the power to restructure the meaning of the lost values so that they no longer dominate the person's life needs further investigation. Though the lost values may retain their importance, the stamina experience brings with it the strength and hope which make the injured person feel that he is ready to live further in spile of difficulties. An important condition toward overcoming devaluation is thereby realized. The injured state is no longer regarded as an unadjustable one. At least in the sense of being able to make a go of it in spite of difficulties, the person feels he can adjust (page 24). But though the worst consequences of loss may be avoided through enlargement of scope of values, it does not mean that all suffering is overcome. It does mean, however, that the person has been faced with the necessity for revaluation. He has had to see the place of the lost values in his whole value system. In this way he is a step ahead, for adjustment, when the person is not in a depressed state, also entails value changes.

The Problem of Appearance. A person may be bothered by his appearance because he feels that it discounts his attractiveness to others. The injured person may believe, for example, that when someone looks at him his scar is seen and nothing else matters. We propose that devaluation due to damaged appearance will be diminished to the extent that surface appearance is felt to be nonessential for the evaluation of the person when the scope of values is enlarged so that surface appearance is included within personality appearance. Actually, the perception of the appearance itself may then change so that it is seen in light of the personality. Thus, whatever the objective condition of the surface appearance may be, when one reacts positively to the person the appearance may be felt to be attractive. Of appearance, a man who was undergoing plastic surgery had this to say:

Some people who you can look at their picture and say that they are extremely homely and yet the people who know them will swear that they are good looking. I heard that people used to think that Lincoln was very handsome. A man could not grow an awful lot homelier than Lincoln. . . . There are certain things in a man's face that are an indication of his character, and if those things are what you like they make him good looking despite the fact that his features are a little irregular.

In this case the attractiveness of a person is determined not primarily by a smooth, unblemished surface appearance but more decisively by his personality, from which scars may not detract.

Many people quite naturally judge a person's attractiveness in terms of his personality. Under certain circumstances it seems that the influence of personality recedes to the background while that of surface appearance becomes the focus of attention. In the case of the injured, primacy of surface appearance leads to devaluation, so that the integration of surface appearance within the context of personality should diminish suffering. The conditions which determine the primacy of personality or surface appearance is a problem requiring special investigation.

We present below an excerpt from an interview with a person who has a severe facial injury. During the interview, the evaluation of the appearance or attractiveness of a person is seen to change from surface appearance to personality appearance:

Subject: Undoubtedly at first it is a great shock to a person's family their loved ones when they see him with his features changed from what he was before. It is a great shock at first. They have to be around him for a while before they realize that fundamentally he is not changed.
Interviewer: Do you think, actually, it is a big shock? I don't think so. I am speaking from my own experience, I am asking you, what do you see in a person you meet a new person what do you see?
Subject: The first thing you see is his appearance.
Interviewer: Why do you say that? The first person you saw here was John Hall. When he came in, what did you see?
Subject: A fine looking young man a gentleman.
Interviewer: Now, has gentleman anything to do with a scar?
Subject: No.
Interviewer: Now let us say there is a new doctor on the ward. He comes in. What do you see?
Subject: It is hard to say. If he has a strong personality, the first thing you see is his personality. Is he capable? How he approaches you.
Interviewer: That is it. Myself, I think is it a nice person? Do you see? It is the kind of person. What kind of a nose? Do you remember the kind of nose John Hall has? What kind of mouth he has?
Subject: Not distinctly. But if there had been something outstanding, for instance a bad scar, you would remember, wouldn't you?
Interviewer: Now, for instance, when you look at the patients in the hospital, what do you notice about them?
Subject: The boys, when you first see them, you notice first their scars.
Interviewer: The first moment?
Subject: The first moment. That is the hard part.
Interviewer: How long?
Subject: Until he says something. Then you start getting an idea about his personality, and once you start thinking of him as he really is, you don't think of his scars. You don't remember them.
Interviewer: You can see the nose of a person, but when you speak to a person you don't notice the nose. You notice the personality, because you see you looked at John Hall, and you only saw the personality.
Subject: The way I was impressed that is the way I was impressed. That is new. I hadn't thought of that before.

In the above example, the attractiveness of a person is seen primarily in terms of the more inclusive personality appearance rather than in terms of surface appearance. If this is a lasting change, then we can expect that for this subject devaluation of the injured due to damaged surface appearance will be diminished.

Change from Comparative Values to Asset Values

Two situations involving a change from comparative to asset values may be described.

The Problem of Mourning. A person may mourn his loss because the personal satisfactions which the object of loss gave him in the past are now denied him. For example, the injured man may feel, "With the old leg I was free to move, to jump, to run, to play. I could move it, move with it; it moved me." Overcoming of mourning does not require a lowering of the level of aspiration (being satisfied with less), nor does it require depreciating the object of loss. What seems to be necessary to overcome mourning is a change in relationship to the object of loss.

In the case of loss of a person, the one bereaved must recognize that, although further interactions with the person are impossible, a relationship nevertheless can still persist. Some of the values which they had formerly shared, and which, in his first grief, he may have seen as dependent upon the presence of the lost one, can be kept. He can do what the loved one would have done and wanted him to do. He can bring up his children to observe the traditions which his wife had begun. Then he can look back upon the past with tenderness rather than rejecting any painful reminders of it.

Some similarities may be found in the change of relationship to the lost object which is necessary in the case of the injured. An amputee, for example, has to feel that the most essential functions which the limb had formerly enabled him to perform can be carried on by the stump and the prosthesis. He has to feel that he is still an intact organism, a whole man. A change of feeling has to take place from that expressed by one subject:

What does she see when she comes in? Half a man lying on the bed. . . .

to that expressed by another:

I am a long way from worthless. I am still a good man without the leg.

Such a viewpoint implies that one turns to the satisfactions existing in the present and does not derive essential satisfactions or dissatisfactions from comparison with the noninjured state in the past. It means that a leg as a value has changed from a comparative value (without which one is inferior) to an asset value (a good thing when it is present). If such a change takes place on the emotional level, the past can be remembered without pain but with tenderness with that tenderness which old people not infrequently feel toward the reminiscences of their youth. The two states of the person before and after the change can be described as, first, "I am nothing but an incomplete noninjured person who has always to mourn his loss," and, second, "I am as I am, and though I don't have all the possible values which can be imagined, my life is full."

The Problem of Disability. The change from comparative to asset values is indicated not only when the person suffers because of personal loss as described above but also when he suffers because of loss which is socially evaluated. As an example, we shall consider the disability aspect of the injury.

To call someone disabled implies that performance determines the evaluation of the person. In our society, people are frequently compared with each other on the basis of their achievements. Schools, for example, are predominantly influenced by the achievement or product ideology. High grades are given not to the one who worked hardest but to the one who performed best. Under certain circumstances, of two who reached the same performance level, the one who did so with greater ease is considered the better. He is seen as potentially a better producer than the one who had to work harder. Thus, effort is not always considered as a positive value but, paradoxically, sometimes as a liability.

If one would follow the maxim which also exists in our society to the effect that, "All that is expected of you is that you do your best," it would mean that the person would not be compared with others in regard to ability; it would mean that his own state matters and thus that it does not matter whether he lost or lacks ability. Actually, one wishes to say, a person does not lack ability; he can only have it. In everyday life we do evaluate as equally good citizens those who pay taxes according to their financial state. The injured who applies himself with effort contributes the most that he can as a person. Though the unsatisfactory physical tools of his body may have limited his production, his personal contributions are at the maximum. As a person he is not different from the noninjured.

Effort as a basis for evaluation is observed in the injured. A bilateral amputee stated:

Sorry is for someone who does his damnedest but still he is physically unable to accomplish what he does in the best way. Pity is for someone you feel like he isn't putting everything into it. Not up to standard, up to what you judge by. Maybe I am wrong but that's the way I think of it.

This man expresses the thought that, in addition to the scale of achievement ("accomplishing what one does in the best way"), there is another scale, that of effort ("doing one's damnedest," "putting everything into it"), and that devaluation ("pity") should be reserved for those who are lower on the effort scale. Only those who do not put forth sufficient effort should be judged as "not up to standard."

Why bring up the change from one comparative value (the product achievement value) to what appears to be just another comparative value (effort) when we are discussing the change of comparative values to asset values? It is true that effort, in this case, is seen as a comparative value, but when effort becomes the yardstick by which a person judges himself, then the values lost are changed from comparative to asset values. Greater ability or achievement becomes a good thing when it exists, but not a loss, or a lack, or a disturbance when it is absent. Such a change is but one among others that are required for the person to perceive his existing state as valuable rather than as a crippled, noninjured state.

These differing evaluations of one's existing state have important consequences. The particular problem which we should like to discuss as an example is the effect of the two evaluations on the readiness of the person to improve wherever realistic improvements are possible and on his persistence in bettering his state.

It would seem at first glance that maintaining the noninjured state as the standard would have the advantage of leading the injured to increase his efforts, for example in dealing with the physical environment. The injured would desire the best prosthesis, try to improve in using it, and learn as many skills as he could in order to be able to perform the physical tasks which the noninjured can perform. But the desire to be able to handle the physical world does not stem only from the wish to be as much like the noninjured as possible. We even doubt that the desire to be as good as the noninjured is helpful. The injured person who emotionally desires to be noninjured will see even objective improvement over previous performance as still falling short of the goal and hence failure. The same objective improvement can be seen as success (in comparison with recent performance) or failure (in comparison with the noninjured). The following two examples illustrate the different feelings resulting from the different evaluations of one's present state. In the first, "always wondering whether I could have done better" indicates feeling of failure, in the second, "enjoying learning over again" a feeling of success:

We'll be satisfied with less but there'll always be a little bit of doubt as to whether we could have done a little bit better without it. Maybe I'll be able again to play a good game of golf, but I'll always wonder whether I could have done better. ... In some part of your mind you just have to check off the fact that vou're missing something extremely valuable.

The more you learn to use it the less it bothers you. If it's just hanging it will. . . . The more I learned the better off I was. ... I figured it was gone so I might as well see what to do about it. ... I enjoy learning to do things over again. It offers a challenge to you. I think, "What's the best way?" before I start fooling around.

It seems reasonable to expect that, if a subject feels he is improving, he will hopefully continue. If he is constantly frustrated by unsuccessful attempts, forces away from the unreachable goal and disruptive emotional effects will appear.

Our discussion is of value for an important practical problem of the amputee. In trying out a new, technically improved prosthesis, some of the injured feel that it is an improvement and others do not. Besides the question of the physical fitness of the prosthesis for the individual, psychological conditions leading to the different reactions are important. It would be promising to study whether those injured who are dominated by the noninjured standard are more easily dissatisfied with the new prosthesis than are those who consider their postinjury state as valuable. We predict that the former group will more easily be disappointed because, in comparison with the noninjured standard, the results obtained with the prosthesis can be seen only as a failure. The latter group, however, will recognize any actual improvement and consequently will be encouraged to continue using the prosthesis. Those who maintain the noninjured as their standard require psychological adjustment before they will be able to accept an objective improvement as such rather than as a new indication of the unreachability of the noninjured state. We venture to say that only if the postinjury state is taken by the subject as a basis for comparison can he make valid judgments as to the advantages of the technically improved prosthesis.*


Acceptance of loss is seen as involving changes in the value structure of the person. We have pointed out only some of the changes which may lead to acceptance of loss. Clearly there are others. Our statements have to be taken as suggestions for further research rather than at their face value. We discussed four kinds of situations: a, overcoming all inclusive suffering; b, overcoming mourning; c, overcoming devaluation produced by damage to appearance; and d, overcoming devaluation produced by physical disability.

The kinds of value changes that may alleviate the suffering in these situations are closely connected with those value preconstructs discussed under Misfortune and Devaluation (page 22). The value change involved in a and c can be seen as one in which enlargement of the scope of values takes place. In the case of all inclusive suffering, enlargement of the scope of values is the first step toward the possibility of acceptance of loss, since the main problem here is to regain, psychologically, values other than those lost. In the case of devaluating appearance, enlargement as such is not in itself an advantage unless with the enlarged scope of values the values lost are seen as relatively nonessential. In both cases, the person will maintain the noninjured standard and regard the values lost as comparative values. Thus, the person may still devaluate himself, for instance when a particular situation arises in which enlargement is made difficult.

The value change involved in b and d can be seen as one in which the values lost are regarded as asset values rather than comparative values. In this case, the person feels that his own state is a worthy one. When, instead of selecting unreachable states as a standard, he turns to what he has and can reach, life can be seen to offer more than he can possibly avail himself of. He frees himself from devaluating comparisons with a ghost ideal of a different but actually not better person, the noninjured. Thus, acceptance of loss seems to be more fully realized through the second type of value change.

Acceptance of Personal Loss and Reaction to Social Loss

The injured person who has accepted his personal loss will feel one way about the discriminatory attitudes of the noninjured. He who has not accepted his loss feels another. The social loss of the injured person his feelings of nonacceptance as a group member has a basis in reality. Whether or not the person has adjusted to his loss, therefore, he will experience difficulties in his relationships with noninjured people. But the reaction in the two cases will be quite different.

Where the person devaluates himself because of his loss, he will feel that his nonacceptance by others is largely justified. He will agree with the other group members that a noninjured person is more valuable, more likeable, more worthy. He will suffer keenly that he happens to be on the short end of this relationship, but he will see it as an unavoidable and natural fact, to be supported as morally valid. He will feel that no one can change this state of affairs that one can perhaps try to behave "as if" he were non injured but that emotional devaluation of him must prevail.

If, however, the injured person has accepted his loss, he will not devaluate himself. He will consider himself an equally worthy member of the group and thus feel that he should be fully accepted by the group and have access to the values which the group can offer. He will see that it is the maladjustment of the noninjured toward injuries which leads them to devaluate and reject him, a fact which hinders him from having access to the values of the group. He will see that the locus of the difficulties is not in the injured who adjusted to his personal loss, not in the natural, lawfulness of devaluation of the injured, but in the noninjured.

A considerable part of the suffering due to nonacceptance by others is thereby removed. Because the negative evaluations of others are seen as unwarranted, because the injured person does not blame himself, they hurt less. Instead, the person who holds them may in turn be devaluated and seen as ignorant or prejudiced. This counterdevaluation also may serve to diminish suffering from social loss.*

Whereas the maladjusted injured person wishes to be accepted by the noninjured though he feels he ought not be accepted, the adjusted injured person will care less to associate with those whose values he does not share or respect. The adjusted injured person gains a considerable degree of emotional independence and freedom from the noninjured. This does not mean that the injured person does not and need not care about how the noninjured receive him. Even though he may not care to associate with a given person, he does wish to maintain close relationships with others. Moreover, in a world dominated by the noninjured, it is often the noninjured who determine whether the injured person can have access to important values such as jobs and group memberships of many kinds. Thus it is of vital interest to the injured that the noninjured become adjusted to injuries.

Acceptance of Loss By the Noninjured

Acceptance of loss is of great importance not only to the injured. Persons close to the injured (that is, those who are in the position of sharers), as well as the large number of non injured who have little to do with injured people, have much to gain from healthy attitudes toward injuries. The sharer suffers not only because the injured person suffers (sympathy) but also because he too experiences a loss (personal and social loss). A wife may feel the loss of her husband's leg just as personally, just as deeply, as the husband himself. The sharer has, therefore, to accept the loss just as does the injured person before suffering may be overcome. It is of extraordinary practical importance for an injured man to realize that his closest sharers his wife, mother, and so on cannot be expected to accept the loss immediately. Just as he has to go through the struggle to accept the loss, so does the sharer.

For the nonsharer, adjusted attitudes toward injuries do much to free him from anxieties regarding bodily harm. He still will continue to regard body whole as a value, but as an asset value and not as a comparative value. The loss, then, is regarded as an adjustable state and not as a catastrophe. Consequently, in threatening situations, he would not become careless about his safety, but the anxiety would be reduced to realistic fear.

Since acceptance of loss has adjustive significance for all persons, the question arises as to how the noninjured may be brought to face it as a problem. The need to attempt to accept the loss exists in noninjured sharers, for they also experience a loss. But what about nonsharers? In general, they do not feel the necessity of imposing upon themselves the problem of adjusting to injuries. They may feel uncomfortable in the presence of an injured person, they may devaluate the injured or wish to diminish his suffering, but they do not see the suffering as their problem. Not only do they feel that real acceptance of this kind of loss is extremely difficult; what is more important, they do not feel that they should try to accept it. The general attitude may be described as, "Problems of visible injuries are special problems. They do not actually concern me."

At least two groups of people not in the position of sharing a loss with an injured person may consider more closely their feelings toward injuries. First, there are people who are bothered by social justice. When considering injured people, they may question their own attitudes, since negative feelings toward a suffering part of humanity are regarded as unjust and intolerable. As they puzzle, they may discover their own basic nonacceptance of injuries and struggle to see the loss as an adjustable and acceptable state. The second group consists of those people who have a general need for self adjustment in whatever area anxiety is felt. Just as a person who is frightened when climbing a mountain may wish to ascend again in order to overcome the fear, so may a person who feels uneasy about body welfare wish to meet the problem of non acceptance of loss.

Chapter VIII: Direction of Further Research

The study of adjustment of any kind, including acceptance of loss, requires the investigation of, first, the conditions C1 and C2 underlying the nonadjusted and adjusted states, respectively, and, second, the conditions leading to change of condition C1 to condition C2, expressed as ch(C1 --> C2). That is, two distinct tasks are involved: first, there must be determined what has to be changed to what and, second, how the change takes place. The study reported here deals only with the first task, that is, with the determination of conditions of nonacceptance (C1) and acceptance (C2) of loss.

For the determination of what has to be changed to what, manifestations of the two conditions C1 and C2 have to be observed. These manifestations, or events, which in our case were the statements by injured persons concerning nonacceptance and acceptance of loss, were the raw data on the basis of which the underlying conditions C1 and C2 were specified. Conditions C1 and C2 are always specified in terms of constructs and their interrelationships; the underlying conditions in our case are value statements on the conceptual level.

Once C1 and C2 have been determined, further research should take the direction of systematic search for and examination of the manifestations of ch(C1 --> C2). As the result of our study, we know that conditions C1 and C2 involve different value structures. The conditions of value change could then be studied by designing experiments which would promote value change and permit the observation of its manifestations.

We will now suggest two examples of situations in which value change may be brought about. Both are designed to have the subject himself try to bring about the change.

First example: The injured man is asked to try for one day to accept the role he usually resists taking, namely, the injured role. The injured role does not mean one of overde pendence and self pity. Rather, it means that the person does not go out of his way to appear noninjured. He is encouraged, for example, to take advantage of offers of special consideration by others which will make things easier for him. He may also be asked to discuss a personal matter related to his injury with someone to whom he feels close; this should be a matter which in the past he has refrained from bringing up. For that day he has to abandon the noninjured role as the ideal and accept the injured role as the one to strive for. He may succeed in changing, and report these changes, or he may fail and report the difficulties. In either case, a gateway is opened for analysis of the conditions of change.

Second example: An injured man is asked to note events, situations, and interpersonal relationships occurring during the day which are and are not injury connected (i.e., whether the event included any aspect of the injury). He is asked to consider further whether the injury entered in a positive, negative, or neutral way. Finally, he is to examine, for alternative interpretations which give them a more positive character, those events which he characterized as negative. For example, the events noted may have included a lift on the way to work (injury connected, positive), staring by someone in the elevator (injury connected, negative), or dictating letters (not injury connected). Crucial for the study is the instruction given to the subject to search for a change in the character of the injury connected negative events. In the elevator example, the subject may come up with the statement that not all staring needs to be staring at an amputation; someone might stare when he is in deep thought about his own personal concerns. In searching for a substitute for the negative character of the event, the injured person thus restricts the all inclusive ness of the devaluating injury so that other values become available. As in the preceding hypothetical experiment, analysis of these attempts at changing values should lead us to the specifications of the general conditions of value change.

In returning to our study here reported, we want to mention a number of value constructs related in pairs to C1 and C2. These are: comparative values vs. asset values, personal properties vs. posessions, and all inclusive value loss vs. partial value loss. The conditions of change from one member of a pair to the other, ch(C1 -->> C2), are yet to be determined.

These changes, we believe, are only a few of the necessary changes involved in acceptance of loss. One can be sure that acceptance of loss does not imply only the value changes mentioned above, nor only value constructs.

Although much further study of C1 and C2 is indicated, we feel enough is already known to encourage investigations of ch(C1 --> C2). The knowledge to come from such investigations should provide a systematic basis for understanding and aiding the psychological adjustment of the injured.


The research project which gave rise to this article might never have started without the encouragement and advice of many people, and in particular of Gordon W. All port, Roger G. Barker, Karl M. Bowman, Albert A. Campbell, Dorwin Cartwright, Lawrence K. Frank, Kurt Lewin, Rensis Likert, Ronald Lippit, Jean W. Macfarlane, Donald G. Marquis, David Shakow, George D. Stoddard, and Donald Young. The active interest and hospitality of Roger G. Barker, Alvin C. Eurich, Paul R. Farnsworth, Ernest R. Hilgard, Quinn McNemar, Calvin P. Stone, Edward K. Strong, and Lewis M. Terman provided a home for the project at Stanford University.

The Advisory Board included Ernest R. Hilgard (Chairman), Roger G. Barker, Paul R. Farnsworth, George S. Johnson, Donald E. King, Quinn McNemar, and Calvin P. Stone. Their interest and support helped us to complete this phase of the investigation. The research staff included Dan L. Adler, Tamara Dembo, Eugenia Hanfmann, Helen Jennings, Gloria Ladieu Leviton, Milton Rose, Ralph K. White, and Beatrice A. Wright.

The findings are the result of a group endeavor. Some of the members were unable to continue for the whole period, however, and the three acknowledged authors take responsibility for whatever in this paper is subject to criticism.

The investigation was furthered by the productive thinking and hard work of Donald Glad, Verda Heisler, Marguerite Q. McFate, and Alice Phillips Rose, all Research Assistants. The following students contributed not only their technical skills but also stimulating and fruitful ideas: Dorothy Groesbeck, Ruth Katz, J. Maurice Rogers, Heber C. Sharp, Nancy Starbuck, William L. Thompson, Helene Veltfort, George Gromeeko, and Marjorie Dwyer. Our secretaries, to whom we are much indebted, were Bertha Bull, Joan Glad, and Joyce James.

We highly appreciate the cooperation of the staff and patients at Dibble and Bushnell General Hospitals. To all who served as subjects we are most grateful.


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