The Cover-Programs

Chapter 12

The emotional supra-programs that automatically divert the emotional experience from its "natural" course, are called in this book "Cover-Programs"(17). This seems to be the best name for them, as the main purpose of each of these emotional supra-programs is to suppress (cover up) a certain internal message from the emotional subsystem, and prevent (if needed) contents related to it from entering the awareness.

The professionals provide names such as "Cognitive Sets", "Perceptual Sets", "Defenses", etc. Choosing the descriptive name of "cover-programs", and not the more common name "defenses" was done on purpose, the main reason being that the conscious and purposeful connotation of the name "defense" implies responsibility and even guilt. ("Don't be so defensive!!!").

The more sophisticated programs of this kind are mainly aimed at the weakening of extreme intensities of emotional experiences, mostly "negative" ones. They are also used to prevent "threatening emotional contents" (forbidden according to social norms or personal tastes and meaning) from reaching the awareness. They suppress them altogether or just change their quality, intensity or other aspect, to less threatening ones.

The unsophisticated cover-programs rigidly prevent emotional qualities and the felt sensations related to them from reaching the awareness at all (and they are the easiest to "capture" and rehabilitate). The most sophisticated ones selectively prevent, modulate or divert specific emotional qualities in specific circumstances, and are often hard to "diagnose".

The cover-programs do not meddle with our emotional experiences solely for internal aims. Nor do they do it just to break the chain of behavior that seems to get out of control. They also protect us from dangers and pain involved in the detection of true feelings, ours by others, and those of others by us. The cover-programs of this censorial type are an expression of the first rule of all spies which says: "What you do not know, you cannot disclose" - what you do not feel, you are not going to reveal by a facial expression, a slip of the tongue, or the intonation of your voice.

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The most dramatic expressions of cover-programs are observed when they are on the verge of failure. In some occurrences, an extreme intensity of fear is recruited to divert the "awful secret" and emotional quality involved from reaching the awareness, "Anxiety Attacks" are the common name for their extreme intensities. These responses and other extreme responses that use other than the appropriate emotions try to prevent the appropriate ones from entering the awareness "with no regard to cost". In fact, they usually cost more than one can afford and lead one towards emotional bankruptcy.

The collection of the main types of cover-programs (or defenses) and their common usage are similar in people of the same culture. Consequently, the inhabitants of the industrialized countries of the western culture are very similar in this respect.

However, individuals of the same culture differ widely as to the actual versions of the cover-programs they possess and the types they use the most. They differ mainly in the subtle details of the programs resulting from the uniqueness of each personal history. They differ too with regard to their efficiency, flexibility, discriminatory power and a wide variety of inter- personal differences.

The direct flow of the emotional experience to the awareness is not the only victim of the cover-programs. External communications of emotion are also censored by the cover-programs. This measure is taken because the mechanisms of spontaneous external communication of emotions are intimately connected with the awareness system. For instance, our emotionally loaded vocal communication is heard by us too; the activity of the facial and other muscles of non-vocal communication is felt by us and not only seen by the others, etc.

As both functions of covering - from ourselves and from the others - are intimately interwoven, both can supply reasons for the building of a cover program that deals with a certain thing, and each of them can be the reason for the activation of a certain cover-program. As a result, both the awareness of emotion and the communication of emotion can suffer from distortions initiated in order to serve the other.

However, the various kinds of supra-programs of distortion - cover programs, cognitive sets and defenses - cannot banish, dissolve, or cause the complete annihilation of the activity of the innate activation programs of the basic emotion.

These programs cannot render the innate programs entirely inactive and stop them from reaching the specific verdicts of each of the basic emotions, even for the shortest time. It seems that the various supra- programs only contain the ability to shorten, diminish and push to a subliminal level certain parts of the innate programs in a wide spectrum of circumstances.

Therefore, at each moment and in each aspect, the ongoing activity of the emotional system is a combination of both the innate activation programs and the acquired supra-programs, with a greater weight given to the more emotional supra-programs, and among these especially to the cover-programs.

It is worth mentioning here that, in principle, the cover-programs are not a "bad" thing. They are part of the precious body of activation programs of the mind and brain system. They join the various mechanisms of the brain - physiological ones and various activation routines and programs - that do the immense work of filtering the plethora of inputs of body and mind processes to each other.

Usually the cover-programs serve the subsystems of emotion faithfully. Like other emotional supra-programs they are based on innate programs that are changed, mended, updated, etc. Their faults are mainly those of most other activation programs - insufficient updating, and too weak discerning power.

At birth, and more so later in life, the cover-programs have the responsibility of passively and actively filtering the huge quantity of information, inputs, feedbacks, etc. They have to decide, each moment anew, which content should be distorted and to what extent. They have to intervene in the allocation of the limited amount of resources of the brain and mind to the various tasks (mostly done by the various allocation mechanisms of attention but only a minority by the conscious ones).

These programs are involved especially in the filtering of the inputs of those programs contending for the limited capacity of conscious awareness. To some extent, they decide which will be denied entrance and which will receive a split second chance to plead its case, which will receive only marginal attention, which will enter the focus of attention for a short time and which will be given full audience in the center of awareness with a prolonged and focused attention.

For instance, the cover programs of the person who is caring for a young baby have the responsibility of trimming down and delegating to the background the hunger cry of the baby, while he prepares the food.

next: The Trash-Programs

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 27). The Cover-Programs, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Last Updated: July 22, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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