Emotional experience is inherently difficult to communicate in words. The connection of emotional experience and language is examined in the context of Wilma Bucci’s multiple code theory with its corollary concepts of "emotion schemas" and the "referential process"; the limitations of this connection are examined as well. Emotion schemas are made up of episodes that include particular subsymbolic bodily processes activated in relation to different people and objects, in many contexts. Verbalization of emotional experience through the referential process involves at least trace activation of bodily components of an emotion schema, leading to detailed description of an event associated with the schema, then stepping away from the immediate experience of the event, to examine its emotional meaning. The event may be a memory, or a report of a fantasy, or a dream, or an ongoing interaction. Computerized linguistic measures of the functions of the referential process are presented; these include the Weighted Referential Activity Dictionary (WRAD), which indicates immediacy of immersion in an experience as reported in a description of an image or a narrative, and the Weighted Reflection/Reorganizing List (WRRL), which assesses the function of examining emotional meaning.
Keywords: Multiple code theory; Emotion schemas; Referential process; Subsymbolic processes and symbolic processes; Psychoanalysis and cognitive science