Someone does something to offend you. You get angry. The other person gets angry back (or perhaps feels appropriately guilty). Emotions often unfold like this as a consequence of somebody else's actions or emotions. And they rarely simply fizzle out without having any further impact on the interpersonal world. Indeed, it is usually hard to ignore other people's emotions. Just as an outstretched finger tends to direct attention wherever it points, a witnessed emotion encourages us to take account of its implied perspective on events.
The fact that the interpersonal arena is one of the key venues for the interplay of emotions is hardly controversial. Cinematic, theatrical, and narrative representations of emotional episodes typically rely on social interaction to exert their dramatic effect. Attraction, betrayal, self-sacrifice, rejection, redemption-all these are themes worked out in encounters between people at various stages of their developing relationships.
Despite emotion's evident connections to interpersonal processes, however, its central essence is usually considered to be private. Indeed, the intrapsychic aspects of emotion are also routinely emphasized in Western popular narratives. Many of the most poignant works of fiction work from the premise that a powerful emotion can be hidden or suppressed. Few things are more moving than seeing someone facing impossible problems but refusing to give in to despair, or even to acknowledge it openly. Unexpressed inner turmoil somehow seems more powerful than the vented variety. Furthermore, it is patently true that emotion can