Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Tangle of Emotions

"In this work, I search for the soul in the tangle of emotions."   --The Soul's Religion by Thomas Moore

Emotions, and the openness to the tangle of them so as to discern a sense of deep spirit, a personal sense of the uniquely formed you, is a central task in the spiritual life.
As many religious thinkers have written, it is in the opening of the self, the stillness of the mind, that what is essential arises, and enlightenment becomes possible; yet it is not as a striving or as a goal, but as the natural result of a lived life.
By experiences we learn the meaning of ourselves in the world; the oneness of all in our place is what Moore seeks to examine.

He writes that it is not intellect ultimately, but living knowledge that makes a Self. Yet, he does at times, fall into philosophical banter. That is his background and his training.
As a Roman Catholic, he came of age in the time before the "great transformation" of the Church, Vatican II, with the rise of Pope John Paul II. His experiences may be unlike others'. Despite this he offers valuable wisdom about the human mind.
He says in writing, "Care of the Soul" it was his intent to address the deep soul as found in the emotions, relationships and culture... a way to be spiritual that is honest, close to physical life and emotion... [because] the opposite of spirituality is escape... [Soul] is to be made sense of in the depths of experience, in the never ending efforts to make meaning of life, and in the ordeals that can be seen as spiritual initiations rather than failures to achieve a self.

Moore's work, he writes, allows, searches out
the great tangle of human emotion, of perceptions and feelings the conglomeration of the seemingly impossible, the paradoxical, and the apparent failures that comprise a life. He recommends in response to human emotional suffering, "a shift from cure to caring."
Trying to be cured might be another type of perfectionism reckons the author. In the human life, when seen as a sort of comedy, we all fail, we all fall on our faces. Taking ourselves so seriously, we forget that it is human to fail, it is human not to be perfect.
And it is human to love, even that what we don't fully understand, even that we see as lacking, like a child; still we love, in full knowledge of imperfection. In doing so, we may ultimately learn of a holy foolishness which broadens and deepens our spirituality, making the self more resilient, more durable in the process.

One of the ways through this life process is by emptiness, Sunyata. Moore describes the empty self  not as loss but as liberation, an opening for the possible.
"Spiritual emptiness doesn't lead to resignation, or depression... it gives hope, frees us from anxiety... having to be in control." Yet emptiness doesn't work if it becomes a project, to be controlled and directed. Emptiness is an active stillness, an allowance of what is, or may be. It is the perception that an angry bull is charging towards you in an arena and stepping aside rather than confronting as it passes by. "Emptiness itself has to be empty." As a way, it is both an art and a practice.

Psychoanalysis can help in learning emptiness by "teaching how to notice..."
Moore sees emptiness as the psychological absence of neurosis. Neurosis, in his view, is what fundamentally disturbs the deep soul, the unfolding of life and its desires.
"Various neuroses such as jealousy, inferiority and narcissism are nothing more than anxious attempts to prevent life from happening. In place of a positive life experience there is anger and fear. Yet in the dissolution of fear is its opposite, and jealousy for example, transforms into passion. Fearfulness is what is desired and as yet unrealized. Moore writes of an experience from his own life. "At certain times in the past I have been suseptible to this powerful emotion [emotion=energy] to the extent that it obliterated all other concerns. It took the joy out of life... I hated being a jealous person... It taught me that my passions could throw me and that my self confidence was not as strong as I thought it was... I noticed that jealousy gives rise to many thoughts about freedom, dependence, justice and individuality... Its resolution may feel like a simple calming." paraphrased

One form of 'psychoanalysis' that can be very helpful is often referred to as Cognitive Therapy. It is based on the learning principle that a person does not need to learn all about their earliest life or the intricacies of their suffering. Rather through a short term learning and education process, usually conducted in about eight to sixteen weeks, one can learn to effectively work through the tangle of emotions, the fears and the irrational quirks we all face in our lives.
The goal in everyday life is, after all a successful, skilled functioning response to daily events. The method is accomplished by altering or 'repackaging' our habitual, customary ways of thinking; these thoughts are replaced with new thoughts or cues we are given and practice, gaining proficiency over time. The benefit is the ultimate ability to manage our imperfect, human nature so as to gain balance and a new sense of possibility replacing the old fears of inevitability. Remarkably for many it works, and for some, over long practice, it leads to an opening, and the emptiness that Moore writes of.

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