“What to take when you suffer from a lack of emotion.”
Erich Kästner, German poet and award-winning writer of the 20th century, published a small book of poems he called:
‘Dr. Erich Kästner’s lyrical medicine chest’ / Dr. Erich Kästners lyrische Hausapotheke.
He ordered the poems by ‘ailment’ in the sense of what to ‘take’ in which kind of life’s – sometimes hard – situations.
I love this book. Among others.
One category in there he called:
“What to take when you suffer from a lack of emotion.”
He was not the first to state the importance of emotions and feeling in human life. Another fine and well-crafted example is the poetic fairy tale Wilhelm Hauff wrote in the 19th century, “Das kalte Herz” / Heart of Stone.
Why do they write about it?
Why would Kästner call it a ‘suffering’, consider it something treatable?
Because in the Western world at least for generations business considerations made it necessary to appear ‘cool, calm and collected’ any time. I mentioned this elsewhere. Additionally, two world wars called for heroism and ‘toughness’ before, during and after.
Building destroyed cities from the ground up again, in many cases made it appear to be even more essential, to be ‘tough’, not be moved to tears by sadness – or similar kinds of emotions.
It seems that many consider it a ‘weakness’ to this day.
Men are even more challenged that way still: A man is to be always superior, know his way about, and will save women, children and the elderly first, risking his life, if needs be.
The Heart of Stone
The result of such ideas is the opposite of an emotional mindset: Stony, dry and unmoved people ‘move’ through life and wonder only now and again what might be missing.
For men, almost the only two spheres in life they are allowed to be moved by, still, are sports and passion.
Of course this is also culturally dependent. Some cultures ‘grant’ emotions to men, and in general in certain situations, that others do not.
In effect it means that such people feel ‘dead to the world’. Walking, talking, attending to business, yet nothing seems to interest them.
Emotions ‘at the Heart’
In modern medicine even, it’s become clear – after certain brain surgery cases – that without actual emotions at all, we are unable to decide on anything.
Emotions are crucial, underestimated, and actually there, even if we are not aware of that ourselves.
Sigmund Freud did the research and cleared up a lot of unknowns around the whole matter.
How to go about it if you hadn’t realized it already?
The first thing is awareness. That is what I try to do around here… for the general public, as it were, hoping to light a candle perhaps.
Or have one or the other of my readers realize that there is ‘more to it than meets the eye’.
Try, if you will, for starters, the book and the tale I mentioned:
All emotions are essential to human life. Dealing with them is what it needs.
Awareness can help a great deal – in business just as much as in private life.
Ever since ‘panic’ was defined in ancient Greece, it also was clear that it is a powerful emotion. To this day, the root of some of the most tragic events and results of large group gatherings is panic.
What is Panic, Exactly?
‘panic (noun) – Sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behaviour.’
So the Oxford dictionary. As so often is the case this dictionary puts it in clear and concise language:
‘sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety…’
One of the most striking results of research into emotions that Sigmund Freud (‘Ol’ Siggi’) already described were the phenomena of ‘transference’ and ‘projection’. Both basically mean that human beings can feel each others emotions, sometimes in reverse, sub-consciously.
This effect is also what causes the spread of panic in large crowds: it’s not a rumour or words so much but the actual feeling, the emotion spreading between humans, causing those dreadfully tragic flights which so often crush people below them, when others start running and trampling, regardless.
Emotion – or ‘Energy’?
In other more ancient systems the emotions are sometimes called ‘energy’. The possibility of transferring emotions between humans. So far, modern science such as physics hasn’t found or developed instruments that would measure these ‘energy fields’.
Although the names are different, the ‘thing’ is the same: emotions, feelings, warmth, they are transferable, the more so the better a person understands and accepts their own emotions, without judging them.
Which does not mean: ‘acting them out’!
Basic, almost everyday example: someone who for some reason or other becomes suddenly angry, has several ways of expressing that anger:
- they could hit the person in front of them.
- Or they could hit an object, such as a punching ball.
- Or they could say ‘I am angry’, leave the room and take a good long walk, until the anger has passed away.
I have read so many books in the course of my life and analyzed structure as well as meaning and the underlying patterns – as well as that of other kinds of stories, such as movies, poems, you name it – that I could cite such examples going on for hours.
But the long and the short of all this is: especially in Europe people who are completely unfamiliar with either actual experience of that kind of energy being transferred – consciously! – or with Sigmund Freud’s and his disciples’ writings, may find some of those people who know, rather inexplicable.
Additionally, people who have been raised on very ‘reasonable’ not to say cold lines, may find it almost impossible without taking certain kinds of ‘medicine’ to ever feel deeply.
Which is very sad to know – or to watch.
I encourage anyone who reads this and perhaps yearns for deeply stirring moments or experience in their lives, to do some research, find out about the close connection between body and mind – and not ‘take’ anything other than the occasional herb tea or spice.
When Dorian Grey in the novel by Oscar Wilde looks into the mirror after having gone through a magical transfomation, he realizes that his painted picture ages. He does not, anymore.
After years of living the life many young men seem to dream about: racy, full of any kind of drunkenness by any kind of substance and any kind of ‘passion’, he still is a respected member of society, not to say upper class of the time in London. After some time people mildly wonder how he can stay young and fresh-faced, as if he was just twenty, but no one really cares to investigate.
At his death by murder, interestingly, he is found some day in the attic of his own house, in front of that omnious picture: only the story’s readers really know that the ugly, wrinkled, red-nosed, middle-aged drunk and libertine is Dorian Grey. After having died his body reveals all the ugliness of his soul: selfish and superficial.
The story is revealing in more senses than one. For me it is an essential ‘image’ of why and how human beings will some day be ‘visited’ with their own sins. By sins I do not mean what the Christian church called them who crudely threatened and especially in former centuries actually held their power over the majority of men and women that way; by making them afraid to ‘veer from the path of righteousness’ and by making out the church was the only hope of redemption, the ‘mass of men’ were held in dependence and fear.
It is the soul and what humans would find in life if they dare: not to go for the apparently big risks – but go for that which is the real path to love and happiness: live it, live peace, live care for others, neighbourly love and peaceful coexistence. And also know that none of us are angelic, while on earth, so have empathy, and remember that you need empathy and sympathy just as much. As human being.
The bible has another fine saying about this principle, yet: “Be as shrewd as snakes, and as innocent as doves.” Which means that you you should look out for yourself, but allow for any misinterpretations, and give yourself and others a chance. At real happiness.
What really makes the soul thrive and glow, is all the love you can find there, and live as much of it as possible.
When we grow up, we learn how easy it is to get into an argument… Start a fight, even if is the better variant, namely a fight with words, which can get heated too, at times.
And how easily we say things we don’t mean in a heated argument. I’ve posted about some of this before.
And then sometimes we hurt people’s feelings, even those near and dear, nilly willy…
The consequence often seems to be, growing up, that we stop ‘talking to’ people about anything that might seem remotely apt to hurt them. Their ideas, their needs, or wishes, or yearnings…
Instead we talk to people around us about the others.
Thus Peter will talk to Jane about Mary and what she seems to be or want – and he talks to Mary about Jane… but he will not talk to Jane about Jane.
And that can be by far the greatest pity of all, because assumptions we make in talking to others about someone else – and the very often wrong images created about those people – not only present a biased outlook on that person.
Not only can they hamper any future contact since we judge people basically by a ‘rumour’…
Assumptions are like the little story about the man and the hammer by Paul Watzlawick, a hyperbole:
the man wants to lend a hammer from his neighbour, starts remembering the neighbour’s recent looks and his own impressions – and ends up knocking on his neighbour’s door, almost yelling at him, when the door opens, he ‘well could keep his hammer for himself’ for all it’s worth!
While the neighbour mildly wonders what has happened.
Paul Watzlawick, an Austrian, famous in family therapy and communication theory, in Europe and especially the US, who published this nice little book called: “Anleitung zum Unglücklichsein”/”The Situation Is Hopeless, But Not Serious: The Pursuit of Unhappiness”, 1983
Acting on assumptions only, in addition, we may miss out on the most interesting and perhaps most moving aspects and moments in life…
So, I would like to put this here:
- Talk to each other! Not about…
- Grown-ups may surprise you too: when you believe they are vulnerable and will get angry right away, they may react reasonably and naturally, even interested in your point.
- Anyone you would deem interesting enough to talk about could be twice as interesting to talk to!
- Sometimes, just acting on and listening to assumptions – our own or those of the others, will block a broader view and deeper understanding.
Let’s be less daunted – talk to the other!
Trust is crucial, is precious and not always easily found.
If we trust a person, we may feel a little as if there was a rock around we can rely on, eternal almost, always there. Someone we could talk to about what moves us. Someone who would not use us or our emotions, perhaps. Who’s there when the times get tough, or who we know will tell us the truth, no matter what. About themselves – or about us.
Trust is not always ready-made, but can be built. But how to build it? What is it, really?
I recently came across a video by a speaker of the TEDx series of talks. As far as is known to me from research, the series and the organization are independent of any ideology or creed. And the sole purpose is to provide a platform for people to exchange ideas. Although the speaker’s and my life’s choices are completely at odds, I admire her talk, her way of getting the concept across, and ultimately, providing a sound idea of how to build trust. As I think she has put it in a nutshell, I like to share it here: