While the emphasis in recent years has been on positive emotions, health and well-being and how normal people flourish, Lazarus (2003)cautions us about only emphasizing the positive without due regard to the part that negative emotions play: `We need the bad, which is part of life, to fully appreciate the good.
While Lazarus’ theorizing drew on his work with adults, it is not difficult to extrapolate from it to the world of adolescents. This is quite evident in the research related to resilience and coping with difficult circumstances such as illness and trauma in the world of adolescence. In the same article Lazarus comments that creating categories of emotions such as positive and negative fails to take account of the context.
For example, what may be a joyful experience for one person (spending time with friends) may be an anxiety-provoking one for another. Similarly, the context may determine how one feels ± is it when one is on holiday or when one is trying to study for exams? Similarly, what is construed as positive emotions such as `hope’ is a combination of wish and belief that a desired outcome might happen, but there is also anxiety associated with the possibility that the desired outcome will not happen. Additionally, emotions such as joy and happiness are not permanent states; for example, after the joy of doing well in an assignment, the reality may follow of having to continue to strive.
Having pointed out the difficulties in valence of emotions and in individual and situational differences, Lazarus goes on to point out the complexities of measuring emotions. He clearly articulates the role of coping in contributing to the variance concerning harmful or favourable consequences.