December 22, 2012 1 Comment
What are these strange things we call feelings?
When I’ve dabbled in Jung’s work, I enjoy his notions of Conscious and unConscious, rational and emotional. In a ying/yang sense, I think it’s fairly descriptive of our constitution. The problem is, our culture teaches us to praise the rational, and reject the emotional. Men aren’t supposed to cry, women are weak for doing so. One might even extend the rational/emotional to male/female. And then you bring in the dynamic of power, where men are strong, women are weak, men hold property, women marry the men, etc etc. But what does this lead to If those like Ayn Rand are correct, that man is a rational being, not emotional, and emotion is weakness, that means we never focus on it, never develop it, and never emotionally mature.
Words do give us power to control emotions. If you have words to describe different types of emotions, then when you feel an emotion, you can identify it, and figure out how to process it. For example, shame and guilt need to be handled quite differently. Shame is an emotion based on who you are (“I’m ashamed to be a Jew!”), whereas guilt is an emotion based on what you’ve done (“I feel guilty for robbing the bank.”) One is tied to being, the other is tied to action. If you do something wrong, you can learn to not do it again, and thus have resolution. If you are ashamed of who you are, you might be able to reflect on positive elements of yourself and gradually cheer up. This isn’t to say this isn’t difficult, but it *is* possible.
Why aren’t we taught to handle our emotions? Why can’t we embrace them, both happy and sad, and rejoice in that we are able to feel? The more we do, the more we become acquainted with ourselves, and the less harm words can do to us. “He called me a wetback, but I know that’s not true.” and so on. How can we use our self-explorative knowledge of our feelings to own ourselves, and also to contextualize things and work our way through them? Could we turn our response from “He called me a horrible name” to “Why should I care what he calls me? Do I respect his opinion?”
I believe in facing dark shadows. I do not believe it is easy, and I believe it takes a lot of courage. Racism, sexism, all these isms…. they are a product of power imbalances within human relationships. Are there ways we can explore to begin to balance these dynamics without compromising ourselves? Or should I both not give up a position simply so someone else can have it, but at the same time not take it when someone else should have it?
One of the challenges of rationalism is that it tries to recreate the world and nature in logic, in provable definable quantifies and qualities. But feelings don’t fit into that. Do I need to justify my feelings to others? No, but I can work on owning my emotions to ensure that others don’t affect my emotions in ways I do not consent.
Perhaps I’ll have more on this later.