Vacillating and mixed emotional experiences are often difficult to explore and understand because they confront the limits of our language's ability to capture private experiences in extreme or abnormal circumstances. In this paper, we build upon remarks by Wittgenstein (1953) to present a conceptual-discursive perspective based on naturalistic examples of individuals vacillating between pride and other emotions. This perspective is used to show how relevant emotion theories contain conceptual errors of the sort identified by Wittgenstein. The “assembled reminders” of shifts between pride and other emotions are presented in contrast to analyses that focus on people's identification of causes of emotions, an approach which leads to theoretical speculation about underlying appraisal set changes or discussion of the empirical justification of cognitive ontology. We bypass a direct confrontation on these issues by examining how people's talk about the content of vacillating and mixed emotional experiences (i.e., aspect shifts) augments a shared “emotionology” with creative expressions and poetic comparisons. This last point is illustrated by the emotional instability experienced by individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Support for the conceptual-discursive perspective is provided by the success of a particular therapeutic approach, the Conversational Model, in ameliorating the developmental disruption of BPD by encouraging participation in empathic conversations. We conclude that a conceptual-discursive perspective undermines the cognitive appraisal “picture” of vacillating emotions and adds to our understanding.
Keywords Mixed emotions  Vacillating emotions  Pride  Proud  Wittgenstein  Conceptual analysis
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DOI 10.1111/1468-5914.00214
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