As Jessica pointed out, by presenting the case of Harold Payne, Don provides with an opportunity to reexamine the scripts that propelled each of us into one of the helping professions, and whether those scripts permit a proper balance between the positive and negative in our work and the positive and negative in our personal lives. My initial impression is that Harold has a somewhat extreme form of a saving script--we will find out more as the case unfolds--one that has likely kept him trying to "save" patients and administrative situations long after it should be clear that they cannot be saved and producing the "Harried Pained" demeanor attributed him by his colleagues. This same script has also held him locked in an unsatisfying marriage for far too long. And, most importantly, it has and continues to prevent him from knowing what he really feels about anything.
Before proceeding any further with an affect theoristís view of this case, I need to define what I mean by a script. (If interested, please return to the Behavior Online Home Page and read the Conversation with Don Nathanson and look at the Silvan S. Tomkins Home Page for further details on affect and script theory.) Silvan S. Tomkins developed a theory of personality based on each personís inheritance of what he called an affect system. This strictly biological system is comprised of nine innate affects, each of which is activated when a specific profile of neuronal activity in the central nervous system is triggered by some stimulus. The stimulus might be external to the person or originate from inside the person. (Thus, a car hurtling at you on the sidewalk and the thought of your child dying will both trigger intense fear.) The 9 affects are: fear-terror, distress-anguish, anger-rage, disgust, dissmell, shame-humiliation, surprise-startle, interest-excitement, and enjoyment-joy. These 9 affects form the basic motivational system of all people from the first moment of birth to old age. All interactions with the world around us are directed by affect, according to Tomkins, because an affect must be triggered for us to become conscious of a stimulus. Tomkins saw the evolution of the affect system as a simplifying mechanism that assigns salience to the near infinite number of stimuli that bombard us as we move through our world, thus freeing our rather limited channel of consciousness to attend to that which is most important, i.e., that which triggers affect. In other words, affect is the lens through which we interact with the world around us and inside of us, and it is the starting point and basis of our psychological selves.
Because of a number of factors including the fact that positive affect is inherently rewarding and negative affect inherently punishing, the guiding principles behind healthy script formation are that positive affect should be maximized, negative affect minimized, and the inhibition of affect minimized. The scripts that begin in childhood are, of course, adaptations to the situation imposed upon the child. The healthier the situation, the healthier the scripts. An unhealthy situation forces the child to develop scripts that although effective at the time, can be very detrimental to that person as a adult.
I predict that we will discover that as a child, Harold was compelled to develop scripts that prevented him from being aware of his affect. Awareness and expression of affect were either totally unrewarding for Harold as a child, or perhaps even dangerous. For instance, it is possible that his mother was ill and any negative affect he expressed so distressing to her that she became sicker. Or perhaps one of his caregivers threatened him with severe punishment of some kind if he expressed a negative affect. Or maybe none of his caregivers shared positive affect with him by showing interest in his interests. Whatever the original cause, in affect theory language, his script developed, at least in part, as an attempt to minimize negative affect in interactions with his caregivers. As an adult, this script places him in the unhealthy circumstance of failing to minimize the inhibition of affect. He is, therefore, unaware of affect except in its most extreme forms. From what we know about Harold so far, he has already had a severe bout with psychosomatic illness as a consequence of not knowing how one feels and, thus, having affect back up to levels that damage the body. To this point in his life, Harold has lived without the awareness of self provided by knowing what he feels. When this happens to a person, situations in life will control that person. Furthermore, blindness to affect renders a person unable to make the proper adjustments in their life because they cannot accurately perceive what is going wrong.
Finally, Haroldís saving script is most likely also the result of an attempt to maximize positive affect. For instance, he was probably rewarded for being a good boy and taking care of one of his significant caregivers who was unwell; the reward being that he was noticed by his caregivers who would then finally resonate with his affect causing him to feel loved. Another rewarding feature of the saving script is that it reduces negative affect, which in turn triggers positive affect, by allowing Harold to focus on others and not himself when he feels bad. For instance, I do not believe that Harold notices the "pained" expression on his face or what he is feeling internally when that expression is present if he is focused on solving somebody elseís problems. More on scripts later when Don presents us with the next installment.