The three centers referred to in the Work are intellectual center, emotional center and moving/instinctive center. In modern neurobiology, these centers might be referred to as interconnected processes or processors. In our psychological experience, each of these centers has parts as well as positive (affirming) and negative (no or negation) parts. The Work teaches that there is a natural negative part to the intellectual and moving centers. The negative part of the emotional center is the seat of negative emotions, which are all acquired. Negative does not necessarily mean “bad.” Nor does negative mean to imply a self-judgment, repression or denial of a particular feeling, thought or sensation occurring.
One could think of these negative parts as operational processes that may or may not be occurring, at any given moment. Neurobiology, Cognitive Therapy and Internal Family Systems can be helpful ways of augmenting, updating and interpreting these mid-20th century, psychological Work ideas.
“Now the infection of negative emotions (like the infection of negative thinking) introduces itself gradually into a growing child, for a child is born awake (on its own scale) into a world of sleeping people, and, by imitating them, learns only to fall asleep in its turn: and among many other things it imitates negative emotions – that is, the facial expressions, the intonations, the words and phrases that spring out of the negative states of other people. The child imitates all these and so gradually begins to feel what they represent. In this way, the negative feelings of its elders gradually communicate themselves to the child and after a time the child begins to show negative emotions and to sulk and brood and nag and feel sorry for itself and so on. … And again, what else can those who are already infected with negative emotions do, since they are entirely unaware that they are negative and have never heard of the idea, and, as a rule, if they ever do hear it, are certain that they are never negative? So, you see how difficult it is to alter this repeating, ever-recurring chain of cause and effect, this continual inevitable infection and reinfection, which is worse than any other infection, physical or moral. … The only thing that can break it is for a man to hear, see, understand and realize what negative emotions are and start with himself.”
-Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “Wrong Work of Centers,” November 28, 1941, Vol. 1, p. 84
“Now a negative impression will go to its proper place – namely, negative parts of centers. … This then becomes stored with energy and will discharge itself on anyone from a trifling cause – i.e., one will become violent over nothing. Negative literature and films of crime, violence, hatred, etc., if identified with, all feed the negative part of emotional center and store it with energy. … So, we have to learn to take impressions in more consciously and not identify with negative impressions. … This is a form of Self-remembering and the energy it uses is drawn out of the negative impressions. People imagine, however, that when they are alone or no one is looking, they can indulge in as many negative thoughts as they like. In this way they increase the material for making negative emotions, which sooner or later will wish to rush forth and attack someone and hurt them. All negative emotions desire to hurt, and at the bottom of them are unlimited forms of violence.”
-Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “On Centers and Parts of Centers,” June 7, 1947, Vol. 3, p. 1041
Please see the various diagrams of the centers in the various Commentaries, including “Wrong Work of Centers,,” Nov. 9, 1941, Vol. 1, pp. 76 – 86.