My NLP teacher, Leslie Cameron Bandler, was very interested in inner states/emotions. And she believed that every person has a family of about a dozen inner states which are very habitual for him. For instance, some very common states for me are feeling stressed or harrassed, hostility/annoyance/anger, disappointment, and playfulness. (I had to throw something positive in there -- I'm not always depressed. :-) )
She also believed that every person has a ``virtual question'' at their core. It as if the person goes through life constantly asking that question. Some typical virtual questions might be ``What can I do here?'' or ``What can I get out of this?'' or ``How can I help?''
A question that has a whole lot of resonance for me is ``Is that all there is?'' When I was about nineteen I heard a song sung by Peggy Lee with that refrain -- ``Is that all there is?'' -- and I was totally blown away that someone could have written a song that went so deep to the very core of me. (Note that disappointment is one of my characteristic inner states.)
She further believed that every person has a ``virtual obsession'' and a ``core belief.'' And that one can put all this together to find a fundamental structure that underlies someone's entire personality and explains why they have the habitual inner states that they do.
I spent about six hours going through an analysis of this for me personally with Metha Singleton, one of Leslie's main students, and what I learned was certainly very fascinating, although it didn't accomplish all my objectives.
It seems that my original main obsession in life has been to find out The Secret. Not necessarily one secret for everything, but a Secret for every context. For instance, the Secret to having friends, the Secret to making money, the Secret to being able to write fiction. (I never did figure that one out, even with NLP to help.) This seems to have had a lot to do with my interest in mathematics, because the idea of solving equations and finding unknowns seemed somehow to promise to be a way of finding out important secrets. At the same time, this obsession with The Secret has been a big weakness for me, because it makes me very gullible to people who try to sell me the Secret for something or other important.
But sometime at an early age, someone sold me a bill of goods: that the the basic Secret was to Do Things The Right Way. (When Metha made me realize this I cried, because I felt so sorry for my younger self at having been led astray, having had his whole life corrupted by this LIE.)
After that, doing things the Right Way also became an obsession in my life so that I tend to be perfectionist and somewhat compulsive. (This at least partly explains why feeling stressed is one of my habitual inner states. The constant need to always make sure I'm doing things the right way is certainly stressful.)
The objective of the session I did with Metha was, of course, to change the parts of this that don't work very well for me. As I've said, in this respect it was not totally successful, but it certainly helped some.
The fundamental structure that Cameron Bandler has developed, including the ``virtual question,'' ``virtual obsession,'' and ``core belief,'' underlies the subject's entire model of the world. It is this structure that gives meaning to the person as a whole. One finds the structure by starting with its affective (emotional) manifestations, and yet the structure itself is cognitive, and apparently primarily verbal.
I believe that cognition, emotion, and behavior interact with each other in such fundamental ways that it doesn't make any sense to try to study them in isolation. At least not for human beings.