Torn

 

I am like that of a two-faced Janus – “With one face I laugh, with the other I weep!”

~~Søren Kierkegaard~~

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?’

 

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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

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

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

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.

Surprise

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.

Trust

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.

Grief

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

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.

Love

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.

 

When Desperation Leads To Aspiration

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An empty place inside me visits when I feel no connection to others beside me.  I feel abandoned by those whom I have known at times when in need.  I must admit that I have sought out others for solace, yet I am known more for my alliance with seclusion much of the time.  I tend to turn inwards more than to seek others.  My early life has comprised itself with members whom have not mitigated some of life’s lessons when I was younger.  I did receive some good counsel but my memory still concedes to instruction that was either not very effective, deficient, or downright contemptible.  I wonder if that has some bearing on my disposition for solitude.  I do not hold any ill will towards those aforementioned, as I realize one must not live in the past.  The wounds of the child sometimes stay deep within me, my invisible scars, but I seek to focus on the teachings learned later in life’s journey.  The wounds sustained in childhood can and often do remain with us for a lifetime.  But as in any journey, we make choices on paths that come before us.

I found that I turned to my educators to find out answers that might complete my inadequate feelings about myself and thinking about the world.  In my studies in speech communications and psychology courses I learned that we as humans will comprehend more from how a person says something, than what is actually said!  The body language and the non-verbal dynamic of communication is far more powerful than just the verbal dynamic, hence, the ethical statements such as Mathew 23:3 which states….”All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”  (King James version)
Also noted are the parental affirmations of this concept when they exclaim “Do as I say, not as I do!”

Looking back, the acquisition and purpose of my studies were not for the job quest, but rather an ardent search for an education that would answer my questions about the best possible life.  As in the words of John Lennon…”You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one!”

The road of self-reliance is a difficult path, but a path that can result in a greater capacity for free thinking, and resourcefulness, and thus magnifies ones assessment aptitude.  The downside, is that one may stumble many times before the lessons are learned in the social arenas.

Amongst the jackals and exploiters of the world that I have met head-on; I have had to shield and fend for myself in the process.  (A jackal is one who allows themselves to be used).  The proliferation of souls that feed off of others only shows me that many have not been shown a way to better their existence.  I also do remember having met some very charming people and inspirational experiences that have balanced out those times of misfortune that cross our paths, but the most hurtful experiences are those who are actually in your family; the ones that you should be able to trust the most.  The betrayals of family members happens more often than not and is part of our mutual experience in everyday life.  I should also add that many have probably had a similar circumstance in dealing with these social happenings and I do not see them as a significant adversity for most cases.  I think them to actually be fairly common.  Unfortunately there are also those cases that are far from the norm, continue to exist and leave many to be disposed to some very hellish tribulations.

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The shocking truth is that my disposition tends to lead me to the profiles outlined in the ASCA or Adults Surviving Child Abuse.  Researching some of these characteristics I found some resources that leave me in utter dismay when looking at some of the correlations to my conduct.  Though I do not think I would fit into a classic case outlined here, I must admit there are some strikingly familiar similarities when looking at the cases of emotional abuse experienced in childhood.

Emotional abuse refers to the psychological and social aspects of child abuse, and it is one of the main causes of harm to abused children.

Many parents are emotionally abusive without being violent or sexually abusive, However, emotional abuse invariably accompanies physical and sexual abuse. Emotionally abusive parents practice forms of child-rearing that are orientated towards fulfilling their own needs and goals, rather than those of their children. Their parenting style may be characterized by overt aggression towards their children, including shouting and intimidation, or they may manipulate their children using more subtle means, such as emotional blackmail. Parents may also emotionally abuse their children by “mis-socialising” them, which means that they may encourage their children to act in inappropriate or criminal ways with direct encouragement and/or by surrounding the child with adults for whom such behavior is normative.

Signs in childhood

From infancy to adulthood, emotionally abused people are often more withdrawn and emotionally disengaged than their peers, and find it difficult to predict other people’s behavior, understand why they behave in the way that they do, and respond appropriately.

Emotionally abused children show a range of specific signs. They often:

  • feel unhappy, frightened and distressed
  • behave aggressively and anti-socially, or they may act too mature for their age
  • experience difficulties with academic achievement and school attendance
  • find it difficult to make friends
  • show signs of physical neglect and malnourishment
  • experience incontinence and mysterious pains.

Signs in adulthood

Adults emotionally abused as children are more likely to experience mental health problems and difficulties in personal relationships. Many of the harms of physical and sexual abuse are related to the emotional abuse that accompanies them, and as a result many emotionally abused adults show a range of complex psychological and psychosocial problems associated with multiple forms of trauma in childhood (Glaser 2002).

Significant early relationships in childhood shape our response to new social situations in adulthood. Adults with emotionally abusive parents are at a disadvantage as they try to form personal, professional and romantic relationships, since they may easily misinterpret other people’s behaviors and social cues, or misapply the rules that governed their abusive relationship with their parent to everyday social situations (Berenson and Anderson 2006).

Merely refraining from abusive behaviors will do nothing to improve a relationship, though it may slow its rate of deterioration. To repair the harm done, there must be a corresponding increase in compassion on the part of the abuser. Abusers do not change by receiving compassion; they change by learning to give it. Emotional abuse does not result from storms of anger; it emerges during droughts of compassion.

Now it is too common for students in an abnormal psychology class to view abstracts and read the DSM-5 (formerly known as DSM-V) and suddenly relate to some of the disorders discussed within the pages.  (DSM -5 is the planned fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  In my day my abnormal psyche class used the DSM-III in the mid-eighties and I found out that many of my classmates had some interesting discoveries about themselves, until my professor set them at ease stating the cases in more detail and putting their minds at rest.  Can you imagine thinking that you may have schizophrenic characteristics or some other mental disorder just by comparatively reading about symptoms or cases and as you are studying the material you begin to start applying it to your own behaviors?

For whatever the reasons I think I have come to recognize the terms with my unresolved childhood dilemma’s about my upbringing and worked some of them out.  I must say that I am not in bereavement about those days since they have opened my eyes to looking at the world in a certain way.  I certainly admit that I do struggle at times when some of those memories come up, but I find that the sensitivity felt in this case can be a collaborator and not a crutch.  The term I think for this outlook may be “resilience” to such factors and quite possibly the strengthening ingredient in my illustration.  Understanding the nineteen-sixties also gives us some perspectives on the why it happens.  Emotional abuse can, and does, happen in all types of families, regardless of their background. Most parents want the best for their children. However, some parents may emotionally and psychologically harm their children because of stress, poor parenting skills, social isolation, lack of available resources or inappropriate expectations of their children. They may emotionally abuse their children because the parents or caregivers were emotionally abused themselves as children.

Emotionally abusive behavior is anything that intentionally hurts the feelings of another person. Since almost everyone in intimate relationships does that at some time or other, emotionally abusive behavior must be
distinguished from an emotionally abusive relationship, which is more than the sum of emotionally abusive behaviors.

In emotionally abusive relationships, one party systematically controls the other by undermining his or her confidence, worthiness, growth, trust, or emotional stability, or by provoking fear or shame to manipulate or exploit.

It’s important to note emotional abuse is about the effects of behavior, not the words used. You can say the most loving words with sarcasm and
silently communicate contempt through body language, rolling eyes, sighs, grimaces, tone of voice, disgusted looks, cold shoulders, banging dishes, stonewalling, cold shoulders, etc. There are dozens of ways to be emotionally abusive…

Steven Stosny concludes…

Merely refraining from abusive behaviors will do nothing to improve a relationship, though it may slow its rate of deterioration. To repair the harm done, there must be a corresponding increase in compassion on the part of the abuser. Abusers do not change by receiving compassion; they change by learning to give it. Emotional abuse does not result from storms of anger; it emerges during droughts of compassion.

From fear to freedom, from despair to an awakening, I have seen the emotional gamut via personal experience as well as considering that one definition also conversely defines the other.  The understanding of these emotional boundaries illuminates the capacity for our experience and teaches us the wisdom of aspiration.  The brilliance of the human mind is the seemingly infinitesimal synaptic connections and associations that allow us to circumvent adversity with ingenuity which we can pave even through the anguish of suffering.  The unfortunate burden we have is balancing the emotional and the intellectual aspects of our understandings.  I believe it takes the spirit, the drive, or the “gut” response to complete the process.  If you subscribe to the tripartite mind, then you will understand the argument made here.  We are not just the sum total of our feelings, thoughts, and desires, but rather in the synthesis of these attributes there resides the spark and the essence of our being.  Beyond the limitations of our personalities, each of us exists as a vast, largely unrecognized quality of being or presence-what is called our Essence.  Real self knowledge is an invaluable guardian against self-deception.  As much as traversing the enneagram paradigm in that it can reveal the spiritual heights that we are capable of attaining, it also sheds light clearly and non-judgmentally on the aspects of our lives that are dark and unfree.
Meditations and having “presence” (awareness, mindfulness), and the practice of self-observation (gained from self-knowledge), and understanding what one’s experiences mean, is the beginning of the process to undertake a transformation for yourself.

Helen Keller

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”

Søren Kierkegaard

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”
Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

Voltaire

“I have lived eighty years of life and know nothing for it, but to be resigned and tell myself that flies are born to be eaten by spiders and man to be devoured by sorrow.”
Voltaire
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RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

The long shadow

The Invisible Scar

http://www.havoca.org

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