Emotional Forecasting of Happiness

Emotion Regulation Strategies Among Members of End-Time Focused Jehovah’s Witnesses

by Hege Kristin Ringnes, Gry Stålsett, Harald Hegstad, and Lars Johan Danboltd


The aim of this study was to explore which group-based emotion regulation goals and strategies are offered in the group culture of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs). Based on interviews with 29 group-active JWs in Norway, a thematic analysis was conducted in which an overall pattern of cognition taking precedence over emotions was found. Due to endtime expectations and a long-term goal of eternal life in Paradise, future emotions were prioritized. The emotion regulation strategies identified among JWs were social sharing and the interconnected cognitive reappraisal. A new concept, emotional forecasting, was introduced, describing a reappraisal tactic of regulation using prospects of future emotions to regulate the here and now. It was concluded that the prospection of the future is a strong regulator of emotions of the here and now and should be included in psychological models of emotion regulation.
Emotion regulation strategies are offered both directly and indirectly, more directly through written texts and speeches and more indirectly through participation in a religiously informed group culture (Kim-Prieto & Diener, 2009).
The founder of JWs, Charles T. Russell, defined the emotional ground tone, as he had “concentrated on the reasonableness of God’s plan for the world, and considerations of emotion or mystery were largely lacking. He, therefore, had nothing in common with the emotional, revivalistic preachers of his day” (Beckford, 1975, p. 104).
People make others angry or happy, and emotions affect others, which is implied in “emotion contagion”, which means “emotions can spread like diseases around the social world” (Parkinson & Manstead, 2015, p. 374). 
The aim of this study was to explore how a religiously dedicated group may serve as a provider of specific emotion regulation strategies to adherents. A characteristic of JWs is that they are an eschatological group. 
The majority of informants were recruited during participant observations among JWs, as the goals were to gain familiarity and to promote a dialogical relationship between investigators and participants (Becker & Geer, 1967; Van der Lans, 2002).
The interviews resulted in 891 pages of interview material that consisted of a range of expressions of accounts, such as opinions, emotions, experiences and stories (Frost et al., 2011).
In the interview material, the emotion regulation strategy social sharing was identified, which can be defined as openly talking with someone else about the circumstances and emotional reactions related to a particular emotion-eliciting event (Rimé, 2007).
Cognitive reappraisal refers to “altering emotions by changing the way one thinks” (McRae, Ciesielski, & Gross, 2012, p. 250). This cognitive change activity alters emotional impacts, and more positive perspectives and interpretations can arise (Gross, 1998b). 
The concept emotional forecasting is, to our knowledge, a new concept, introduced by us as an emotion regulation strategy. Earlier research and concepts that have thematized forecasting of feelings have inspired this concept. 
JWs have constructed a “backstage” (Goffman, 1971, p. 114), as in Kingdom Hall, where some of the difficult emotions can make an appearance and be shared with friends, sisters, and brothers, which, together, constitute a shelter of support for positive emotions and a means to extinguish negative emotions. 
Repetitively defining and emphasizing in regular meetings that the proselytization activity is a life-saving activity employs cognitive reappraisal.
Because the research data are based on a Norwegian context, cultural psychological factors may have impacted the findings.

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