06: Interview Method, Analysis and Results

To better study feelings related to being a JW, a flexible and open environment was created through semi-structured interviews (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). The interviews opened with the question: “How do you feel about being a JW?” This was followed by questions from an interview guide. 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).


The transcribed interviews were analyzed using a thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006; Silverman, 2011). The four authors met several times to interpret each interview thematically in three steps. (Table 2)

Table 2 Each interview is interpreted thematically in three steps

Step 1. Inductive reading

Identification of themes through inductively reading and re-reading the material.

Quotations thematically sorted using Atlas.ti as a register. Emotion regulation identified as a recurrent theme.

Step 2. Theory-informed

Deeper interpretations, going beyond the manifest meanings (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009), initiated more material on emotion regulation. We were guided by Gross’s differentiation of emotions being regulated at different times (Gross, 1998a). As well, we had in mind the strategies defined in Gross’s process model of emotion regulation (Gross, 1998a, 1998b).

Strategies both to hinder or promote emotions, as well as regulation after onsets of emotions, were identified in the data material. Psychological future became relevant, and emotional forecasting was one strategy identified.

Through coding, two dominant emotion regulation strategies were revealed: cognitive reappraisal, including emotional forecasting as a specific variant, and social sharing.

Step 3. Theory-driven

Relevant quotations related to the emotion regulation strategies were identified during the re-reading of the materials.


All informants partook in JWs’ daily activities—attending meetings two evenings per week, preparing for meetings, working for Jehovah as proselytes, and completing personal and family Bible repetitive studies at home. The high involvement in religious activities, together with dedication to JWs’ theology and usage of this religious framework to interpret the meaning of events (Vishkin et al., 2016), implicate a strong presence of group-specific appraisals based on social identity (Kuppens, Yzerbyt, Dandache, Fischer, & Schalk, 2013; Scherer, 1997).

The active use of this particularly group-specific system of appraisals shapes emotional experiences and regulations. The emotional culture, earlier described as having the goal of calming emotions, together with the long-term and higher-order group goal of eternal life, influences emotion regulation goals and strategies.

We identified two main emotion regulation strategies with the basis in our interview material. The first identified strategy is based on social support and interaction, which is talking about emotional reactions, termed social sharing (Rimé, 2007). The second, cognitive reappraisal, is to make use of the available system of meaning to regulate emotions, and our informants, being high in religiosity, use their religious meaning system to regulate emotions (Vishkin et al., 2016). A premise for emotional change in social sharing sequences is that reappraisal occurs (Zech & Rimé, 2005). The strategy social sharing is thus directly connected to the emotion regulation strategy cognitive reappraisal.

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