I am like that of a two-faced Janus – “With one face I laugh, with the other I weep!”
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, and thereby of gates, doors, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. The Romans named the month of January (Ianuarius) in his honor.
From the Journals of Søren Kierkegaard he writes that he was profoundly dissatisfied with the emptiness of his existence and with his inability to find some center of focus for his life. On the one hand, he complains of the futility of seeking pleasures which invariably left in their wake feelings of ennui and malaise; on the other, he expresses impatience with learning in so far as this is regarded as a purely dispassionate pursuit of knowledge and understanding – ‘what good would it do me if truth stood before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I recognized her or not?’
I wonder if Kierkegaard would feel differently if he had borne children? He died at the age of 42 in 1855 over 159 years ago. The expression of grief and anguish in a life lived can be seen through-out many of the world’s populations, especially of those that comprise the existentialist philosophical types. In my readings I have pondered some questions about how others have dealt with their pain and suffering. How they have made sense out of a very fault-finding society that displaces guilt, purges frailty, and uses weapons of discourse to manipulate the emotion of others. There are countless examples of ruthless behavior demonstrated by bitter souls that have an axe to grind. The resulting emotional poison of this fester within the veins of the disgruntled who do not transition out from the emotional swamp that impedes spiritual growth among those who suffer from its grasp.
There is nothing more dear to me than the love for my children and those I truly love. It is simply the most powerful feeling I have ever known on this earth. As I reflect upon our relationship through the years, as children, as children of a divorce, and now as young adults living far away from me I’ve had some time to think about just how these feelings present themselves to the world during the span of experiences we perceive. Especially if there is an estrangement between those you love, not knowing the details of their true feelings, but only knowing the distance experienced and you are left to fill in the blanks yourself because they may not want to hurt you or that their ambivalence is a result of one-sided family conversations you have never been included in or part are of. If you have undergone a divorce and separation from your children that has not gone in your favor, then you may understand just what emotional heartbreak is involved when the single most valuable people move away from you, not knowing if and when the next time you see them will be allowed because of the schedules you have to deal with and the person you negotiate this is willing to oblige.
I struggled with this for many years as the job I held was not very accommodating to my child care schedule, my legal support did absolutely nothing to help me, and I was at the mercy of an Ex-Wife who in my opinion alienated the children from me even to this day. I do not wish to hang out my dirty laundry in regards to explaining my position. I do not wish to solicit any pity or express myself in a passively aggressive story of my telling. What I do know is that this experience has left me to think about how cruel this life can be. I do know that true justice in this world can be a fairly tale; a fiction that may never come to be. That we can hopelessly pray, wish, and pretend things will work out in some way that will have an equitable ending, but many a time this is simply not the case. It is possible that some reckoning and honest objective ending will present itself after the writing of this post that has not yet come to be, but I will still have to endure the circumstances for what they are and continue to live hoping for the best. That was some time ago.
Despite the particular theory of emotion you subscribe to, one must still deal with the resulting emotions that come to be.
I think that love itself is just that, the most intense emotion that we as humans can ever experience. Love has built-in cognitive components that synthesize the emotion to greater levels of experience than pure emotional or rational experience. There is a blend of “gut”, “heart”, and “mind” that come together to place it among the most influential and enduring emotional products of the human being. Some would say that anger and hate are equally just as powerful often being compared in intensity, but I do not see this as an equality in human experience. The complexities of these emotions are much more visceral than most other emotions experienced. It is possible that hate and anger are felt as strongly, but the underlying psychological reasons for them to come into being are not even close to gaining my vote on whether they are of equal intensity.
The wisdom of the ages all have chimed in on the argument for the power of love. The hierarchy of human emotion and the corruptible condition that leads humans to do some very distasteful things to one another is a product of our society and an untrained mind. Conversely how we can bestow immense acts of kindness and love to those who give us a wrongdoing is a testament to the spectrum of our capacity for good.
Many emotions that are experienced may be factors of related more primal emotions such as fear, such as jealousy. The underlying emotional and rational components to what we perceive are synthesized together creating this emotion and realized through our behaviors when we take action upon them. The overall view amongst all theories (James-Lange, Cannon-Bard, Schacter-Maranon, Cognitive, or Perceptual theories) is that they do have a symbiotic composite. The only questions left are really epistemological. A which comes first debate usually ensues, ( what is a priori, and what is a posterori ) but is not of importance for this post.
Examples of basic Emotion
Joy is a magical, often transformational emotion. In an article titles “The Alchemical Emotion of Joy,” Kevin Ryerson called joy, “the ability to feel the essence of your own divinity.” Related emotions include happiness, exhilaration, excitement, pleasure and contentment.
Anger can be felt on many levels, ranging from highly irritable to frustration. It is defined as a strong feeling of disapproval or dissatisfaction, usually brought on by some real or perceived wrongdoing. Related emotions include resentment, exasperation, rage and fury.
Anxiety can be subjective and difficult to describe. Most often, it means feeling nervous or uneasy, but in many cases there is no specific reason for feeling so. Impending danger, an upcoming exam, speaking in front of an audience, a blind date, and even day-to-day stress can lead to feelings of anxiousness. Related emotions include distress and apprehension.
Feelings of surprise can be pleasant or unpleasant. The one constant, however, is the suddenness of the feeling. Related emotions include amazement, bewilderment, astonishment or feeling startled.
Also referred to as strength or self-assuredness, trust enables humans to rely on confidence, impart confidence or experience hope. Related emotions include certainty, faith and a feeling of security.
Mental suffering over a great loss or painful experience are the hallmarks of this emotion. Like anger, there are varying degrees of grief, ranging from disappointment to great despair. Related emotions include anguish, heartache, melancholy and woe.
Fear is an adaptive human emotion that often has unpleasant side effects. In cases of violent crime or a near-death experience, the victim might experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Fear can also have a protective effect. Think of the father who, for only a moment, can’t locate his child in a busy supermarket. His immediate response (fear), enables him to quickly read his surroundings, listen for his child’s voice and locate the child. Related emotions include apprehension, terror, panic and dread.
Feelings of personal attachment to a child, husband, wife, parent or friend are most commonly associated with love, but love can fall anywhere on the spectrum from passionate affection to mere enthusiasm. Feelings of love might be romantic, or they could mean having a high regard for a friend, church or cause. Related emotions include fondness, adoration and passion.
Knowing the distinction between how we feel and how we act upon them becomes the morality we live every day. The choices we act upon in behavior defines our characters. The angst (possibly a quasi-primary emotion), we feel when we contemplate such matters of the heart are common place among many of us despite the awareness of our feelings, out thoughts, or that experienced within our “gut”. They say that integrity means “doing the right thing even when others are not looking!” I sometimes wonder if the self-imposed morals that we often adopt lead us to be more prone to feelings of anxiety and despair? If we adopt a flawed morality, do we suffer from the outcomes of our behavior when we live by these rules, or is it that we change our reasoning due to our cognitive dissonance resulting from the outcomes?
Having to taste from the well of a polluted pond, and having to taste the nectar of honey can leave an impression upon those who have been able to distinguish between them. There are those who cannot make that distinction and thus live accordingly to this perception of the world. I sometimes think that I can see the world with a Janus face…..laughing at the absurdity of our human affairs whilst weeping at the outcomes of our faulty misdeeds, thus I am torn!
The question eluding many of us is how will we live with our actions and those of others who impart calamity in our lives? I believe there is a force in the universe that is able to distinguish between the good and bad, the right and wrong, the just and unjust behaviors that embellishes our deeds and somehow in our existence makes amends to control the balance of nature. The only proof that exists in my mind of this principle is what is observed within my life in defiance of cases which have not yet come to be. For that I can only have faith that a harmonious balance exacts its own justice out of the affairs of human kind.
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