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Class 15

We ended last time on the emotions. Ontologically the emotions are good and we need them all. The emotions of the pleasure appetite, moving us toward sensible objects, are basically good. The Council of Trent said that the Pauline texts speaking of the sin of concupiscence does not mean that emotions are sinful, but that concupiscence comes from sin and leads to sin. The emotions are fully, and hence Jesus has all of these emotions, even in his glorified humanity, including anger and sadness. The devotion to the Sacred Heart focuses on the bodily aspect of amor. He also experiences tristitia on our faults. How does he feel desperatio? Animals have it, when they can’t escape from a predator. We don’t mean by it the sin of despair, but the feeling of an animal that he won’t accomplish something we would like to. Spes is the emotion of ambition, not the theological virtue of hope. The important point is that within the structure of the sensitive part of our being, there is a natural inclination to follow the directions of reason. The sensitive part is created in such a way to be obedient to reason. We have to learn how to handle these emotions and direct them to objective values.

The repression of emotions

The question of the correct integration of emotions in the human life belong more to psychology than theology. A person transformed by grace mirrors God and here is the venue of theology. A faulty reception of moral teaching can lead to neurotic reactions. The reception needs to be correct. There are many emotional disturbances that have their notion of religion at the root. We need to distinguish between the healthy and the sick, and that our suggestions help in the integration of the person. We can often easily and immediately identify serious psychological problems. Those who are suffering from neuroses often lead normal lives. It is easier to understand this theoretical than practically, when we come upon people. Two authors, Terrawe and Boors, have shown the validity of the Thomistic paradigm of emotions in solving neuroses than Freud’s. Freud brilliantly realized that in neurotic people the emotion is repressed to the subconscious level. Freud attributed the power that conducts the repression to the superego, which he understood to be a fusion of moral, social, psychic and emotional factors. This led to the conclusion that to cure neuroses, we had to block the superego, which includes conscience and moral teachings. The Thomistic psychology presents two sets of emotions, and offers a more apt structure for the nature of neurosis. In neuroses, the problem isn’t the moral teaching but a conflict between these two sets of emotions. When two opposing emotions are present simultaneously in regard to the same object. We can have mixed emotions, joy and sadness, caused by the death of the mother-in-law, which is natural. The classic case is when the pleasure appetite experiences something and immediately it is attacked by the emotion of fear. This happens with sexual inclinations often. The usefulness desire causes the emotion of fear to block the sexual desire, which it thinks bad. The emotions may feel sexuality bad even though reason says its good.

The renunciation of a desire by the will is a normal reaction, like the diabetic’s rejection of sugar, when the reason tells the will not to eat it. The emotion takes time to adjust, and the development of virtue may be necessary, but it is a normal reaction. There is no conflict when one rationally follows what is in the natural law. But often the true insights of the moral law are received in an emotional manner rather than a rational manner. Since the emotions of the utility appetite are influenced by reason, and they help us. In the process of emotional repression, the emotions of the two sets are directed to the same object. Spes and audacia can be grouped into "energy." These emotions are used to reject the emotions of the pleasure appetite, and hence the emotion of the pleasure appetite cannot reach its natural end, buried alive. It will keep acting toward something it cannot attain. This repressed emotion gets divorced from the control of reason and the will. If the sexual desire is repressed, it may cause an urge for pornography and reason has little control over it. All efforts to stop this will not form a good habit but make the situation worse. In a neurotic set-up, if emotions block other emotions, trying to form habits make it worse. In one field, he will not be free and hence his culpability will be limited.

In neuroses, the emotion in question cannot be controlled by the reason and the will. To be chaste means that the sexual desires are accepted as such and directed to the good of the person involved. In neuroses, the repressing emotion is wedged between the repressed emotion and reason, causing reason to be excluded in this sphere. The guidance of reason will return only when the repressing emotion is removed. The presence of the repressed emotion may be more or less conscious. The process of emotional repression may be involuntary but conscious. There are various degrees of repression as well. The emotions of the utility appetite that repress are usually fear and despair, or of energy, coupling the spes and audacia. Different types of neuroses are the result. All of the pleasure appetites can be repressed, even sadness or joy. The emotions of the utility appetite can be repressed. The emotion of energy represses the emotion of fear; others repress the emotion of anger, thinking that anger is sinful. It is also possible to repress an emotion by the same emotion, of a person who is afraid to be afraid.

Emotions can be characterized by their various objects. The emotions of the pleasure appetite can be drawn to various objects. Only the repression of the most fundamental drives will cause serious neuroses. The repression of the assertive emotions, of energy, and of the sexual emotions are most common. In many countries, where Puritanism reigned, sexual license reigns. In communist countries, people were afraid to be assertive. The pope said "Do Not Be Afraid!" A repression of the assertive emotions makes people submissive without personal initiative, which makes it impossible to choose anything for their life. The moral judgment of children’s quarrels should refer to the unjust action and not to the feeling of anger. The question that we feel anger is not sinful, but anger must be handled in a reasonable way. If someone grows up incapable of being angry, they should be read Jesus’ harangues against the Pharisees. Bishops need to be able to get angry.

Sometimes people were brought up not to follow goodness but to follow sensitivity, what the neighbors will say. Such a person lacks certainty about action. Another reason is when children saw an irrational reaction of the parents, or hurt someone else by angry, the child may grow up saying that he will never allow anger to be expressed. This would lead to a lack of initiative. The repression of the assertive drive causes the incapacity to be oneself, and explosions of bitter anger, followed by guilt and depression. There is no question of rational control in those explosions.

The repression of other drives will not cause neuroses. We can live if we repress the rule not to watch television. However, pre-existing neuroses may be expanded upon these secondary objects. Repression takes place only when the refusal is based not on a reason but on feelings. The emotion that is repressed may either have an occasion to develop, or it may be refused access to the consciousness from the beginning. The repression of emotions can be habitual, leading from a withdrawal from anything associated with the emotion. The person becomes withdrawn and dry. The effect varies according to persons. The awareness of the intelligent person of the repressed emotion can make it larger. The emotion that has been repressed prevents the guidance of reason from influence. The repressed emotion becomes autonomous. When attempts are made to control them, often the repressed emotion cannot work to fix it. Even though reason says that fear shouldn’t repress a drive, it will continue. A certain image will take the place of the hidden emotion (one who hates his father will hate all authority — what Freud called Symbolism, because he feared the disgust of his lousy father). A person who represses a sexual desire may have a compulsion to eat sweets. Or it may cause a pathological search for gratification in religious experiences. Repression of the emotions causes psychic disturbances, and the neurotic often experiences somatic experiences, headaches and other problems.

Types of repression and their healing

The therapy of neurosis doesn’t belong to the priest. Often we are dealing with people whose approach to moral and religious matters are misguided. To heal neurosis is best done through two medicines. The first is the practice of the theological virtues, which focus on God and the throwing of our problems on him. The neurotic doesn’t allow God to be God. We allow God to heal us through grace, which reaches down to our spirit. Hope liberates from interior fears. The second medicine is a sense of humor directed toward ourselves, to laugh at our own blunders. Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves because they will have great fun all their life. The whole world doesn’t collapse because of your mistake.

There are hysterical neuroses, in which the repressed emotion is more visible than the repressing emotion. The repressed emotions are active and visible, independent of the reason’s and will’s control. There will be visible affects. A 40 year-old woman sexually repressed tried constantly to draw attention to herself, and people withdrew. It may be completely unconscious on her part. Hysterical neurotics are not very intelligent, so the repression is not absolute. There are more hysterical neurotics among women than among men, and it is very difficult to heal people of this problem because of the limited ability of introspection. The person should be made to understand the problem and the feeling of the repressed emotion.

We often find the obsessive/compulsive emotion and fear neurosis. Confessors have always been tormented by scrupulous consciences, who are afraid of their emotions, of God, of themselves. They can easily be discerned in the confessional. The fear is often of imaginative dangers. They’re afraid of every aspect of sexuality. They respond by fear. They may check several times that they’ve shut off the gas in the kitchen. They think temptations are sins. They fear the distant effects. If there’s any doubt about whether they’ve committed a sin, they feel guilty. The worry about the validity of their sacraments of confession. They constantly make extra promises to God to compensate for their sins, and when they don’t keep them, they feel worse. Confession is a magical practice lifting them for a moment, but then the feelings return. Any attempt to help them is seen as laxism. The fear influences the entire life. The constant doubts are a source of pain and suffering. Sleep is light and dreams are colorful. Fear neurosis attacks women than men, but it’s more difficult to cure men.

The cure is to reduce the fear. A person has to learn that temptations and feelings drawing toward sinful actions are not sinful. This reduction of fear can only be done if they meet with trust and confidence. Their reason works well. It is important that they have the confidence and trust in the doctrine of the priest and his affective concern. This counsel is often better done outside of confession, so they won’t be worried about whether they’ve forgotten something. Outside the confessional, it is possible to explain that they shouldn’t trust their fear. They must understand that God is merciful. The reason for the fear neurosis might be a faulty moral obligation, on obligation, on sins against the sixth and ninth emotions. Psychoanalysis should not be used, because it brings out the repressed and not the repressing emotion, which will cause a greater fear. Sexuality is a gift of God which is good and should be felt and received as good. We will not be chaste if we deny our sexuality; we must give it to God in the vow of chastity. The fear neurotic may know that his sexuality is good, but he’s afraid of it. Emotions should develop spontaneously and step-by-step. The person must learn how to accept the basically good feelings of the pleasure appetite. The penitent should be convinced of his good qualities, not just his vices.

To love others, we must learn to love ourselves. Charity is the love of our brethren out of the love for God. The first person we need to love out of charity is ourselves. In the context of the confessional, the scrupulous penitent must be shown the merciful God. He should not think he should become perfect. That is why we need the grace of God, because we are weak. He must have the courage not to treat as sin what was just an occasion of sin. He should be forbidden to confess already confessed sins, because they fear whether they’ve been confessed. They should mention only grave sins. If there’s any doubts, don’t mention them (this is for the scrupulous penitent). When he’s finished confession, he shouldn’t think about what he’s missed. He should be required to confess in a short way. The confession should occur every few weeks. The confessor may demand obedience and shouldn’t be changed. The penance should also be short and simple. The old textbooks said that the scrupulous person was privileged not to avoid an exact examination of conscience. The necessity of confession before communion should be waved by saying an act of contrition. In neuroses, the misdirection of emotions functions as if it were a habit. A friend is important, particularly if a friend understands the state. Since the emotions are basically are sound in neurotics (there’s just a blocking), when the fear subsides, the repressed emotion will reappear. There will be a period when the person will feel defenseless.


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