Saturday, July 19, 2014

Was It Freud Who Decided We Should Be in Touch with Our Feelings?

I am not very good with feelings.  I tend to be a stoic and without high emotional intelligence. When I was in psychotherapy, I always found it very frustrating to be told that I should be aware of what I am feeling in every moment. It can take me a day to figure out what I feel about a situation. And then of course it is too late for it to be of any value because the encounter is over.

My knee-jerk reaction about most people's expression of feelings is that they are being superficial. And I know it is not always fair to say that. It is an inescapable fact that people have feelings.  According to Fr. Luigi Giussani, the purpose of feelings is to draw our attention to what is important.  I like that and find it helpful. Feelings have a purpose, and I now know what that purpose is.

One of the priests who is in our NJ Communion and Liberation group once made a statement that we don't get to decide what our feelings are. They are something that happen to us. That is also insightful.

In the English language unfortunately, the word heart is synonymous with feelings. That is not the case in the romance languages or in the Bible's usage of the word. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place "to which I withdraw." The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.

If I were to attempt my own definition of heart--it be about all of our faculties coming or acting together as a whole.

In America, people are always expressing and acting on their feelings. For many their feelings are a sacred cow--an idol--and authoritative. For many, the old hippie slogan--question authority, especially your own--needs to be applied to to their feelings. I should differentiate between the experience of feelings and the expression of feelings. Due to Original Sin--the brokenness of humans beings--the expression of feelings frequently manifests itself in dysfunctional, destructive, and even violent ways (James 3 and the power of the tongue!).

Freud wrote in German, not a romance language. Was anything lost in translation?  Note that Freud was also a Jew--of the people of the Bible. Did he understand the Biblical meaning of heart?  And it seems that every time I read a little bit of Freud, I come away sensing that he was highly influenced by St. Augustine, the saint of the interior life and of the heart.

 What do you say?

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