The Function of Feeling.

My dog reminded me of something today.

We live in a very quiet rural place, but sometimes heavily laden tractors thunder by in the lanes where we walk.

There’s not a lot of space and though he’s sensible I always grab him by the scruff for safety’s sake as they roar past. On this occasion I let him go a fraction too soon and he shot off on his belly away from the scary monster.

For a moment it just seemed like fear but then I saw the gleam in his eye and the expression of excitement.

”look, I’m getting away, master!”

There was joy in the skulking.

”See me leap and bound, master!”

He was in some timeless Jedi moment…

”Check out my moves and skills, master…’

the thrill of evading the terrible jaws of the tractor beast…

…and when it was vanquished he was so pleased with himself he pranced about with accomplishment.

Apparently no-one had told him not to be afraid, or that it was ‘negative’, or that he couldn’t possibly be thrilled as well.

But then he hadn’t had two millenia of good vs evil to contend with and so he could do what most of us within the Single System system cannot.

he could feel all kinds of stuff at the same time.

If God refuses to contain opposites then what are we to do with ours?

And if we must cast out the Great Mother on pain of being burned at the stake for eighty generations, what happens to individual mothering? 

What happens when Her place is usurped  by an obscure patron saint with the unlikely and instantly forgettable name of Gerard Majella…

…. born in Muro Italy 1726.

Now you know.

Gerard, patron saint of mums.

Not the Great Horned One, or She of the Triple Moon.. who trampled down the flaming Titans..


In the absence of any sacred space to experience the divine feminine, let alone her compexity, any  individual mother is liable to struggle to integrate these complexities within herself, and so it can seem…

”as if the child had actually grown up with an archetype rather than a real mother. This legacy of a one-dimensional, split mother image may thus come to be handed down from generation to generation.” Carl Gustav Jung

What we do with this impoverished legacy is what any child does in the face of a disenfranchised or divided parents. We split ourselves up internally and keep the wound open with guilt. We do this in order to remain more than bit players in what is already an overwhelming cosmic drama.

To paraphrase Ronald Fairbairn,

”If I am guilty, I am responsible. If I am responsible, I can influence events. I am not so weak and helpless after all.”

And so the child magically divides up its inner world into parts judged ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in order to hold the outer world together. It becomes contradictory so as to not to live in contradiction. It becomes divided to be in harmony with division.

One of the things the current flood of psychologists in the world are needed for is that life is not allowed to be complicated. We can’t be scared and excited. That’s messy…

…and politically incorrect. It has to be one or the other. And so our feeling lives grind to a halt . Because we’re only allowed half of life and pride ourselves in being ‘positive’.

The loss of the Principle of Relatedness makes this process all the easier and so we hardly notice the slow demise of conversation between I and me, the growing rifts between estranged siblings, nor the stealth with which life’s issues become so new and improved.

Our Good is no longer bedecked in Forest Splendour but in the Opiated Tinsle of an easy life where everything is obvious and nothing has to be puzzled over or wrestled to the floor.

And we like it like that. Even if it makes us ill….

The split allows us to feel….. sophisticated an’, an’, an’, worldly.

Having hived off the scrag ends of experience we make for a prettier patient..

…but medicine is not enough if the body doesn’t want it.

“People seem today to misunderstand how to be cured. They just take the medicine. (But) sometimes we try to keep our hurts and pains. Sometimes it does not want to leave us. Medicine is our friend and can help, so help the medicine. Tell the medicine you have talked to your body and ask the medicine to help you.The medicine and the body need to be friends.” Joseph Eagle Elk

The body mostly doesn’t want the medicine. So we just live out the one tiny  corner of life we’re allowed, patting ourselves on the back for our ‘positive attitude’ which has, in fact, done no more than reduce psychic life to a millpond where the slightest stir of wind has us reaching for the rescue remedy…

..or (name your poison here).

We have been so schooled in treating ourselves with suspicion that we no longer trust our bodies or our feelings. Diana Whitmore calls it, ‘the tyranny of the positive.’Our evolutionary pinnacle is thus one of contempt, not just for the dark brother whom we have already projected out into the world, but contempt for the world of feelings which, despite out ‘alternative’ vision we are still dividing up into good and evil.

There is no such thing as a negative feeling, only those that make us uncomfortable. You can ‘let it go’, but actually anything that doesn’t go by itself is being pushed away and all that’s happened is you failed to learn from experience. A place of honour, on the other hand, gives it somewhere to come to rest where its not going to hurt anyone and buy you the time to find out what its doing in your psyche.

Calling a set of feelings ‘negative’ is tantamount to waging war on oneself. Its a declaration of mistrust directed at our own hearts.

I knew a woman who was proud that she never used the word ‘hate’, and forbade its use in the family. Her children grew up full of hate, for themselves, because they had to turn it all in instead of affording it proper context. Nor could they embrace their individual destinies  because the primary purpose of feelings is to guide our values and show us what is important in life.

If we label large chunks of our feeling world as ‘negative’ we forgo our own bearings and are liable to lose our way  despite the luxury of forshortening the ballpark that such suppression permits.


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Psychotherapist/writer/artist/ author of, 'Going Mad to Stay Sane', a psychology of self-destructiveness, about to come into its third edition. Soon to be printed for the first time, 'Abundant Delicious.. the Secret and the Mystery', described by activist Satish Kumar as, ' A Tao of the Soul'. This book documents the archetypal country through which the process of individuation occurs and looks at the trials and tribulations we might expect on the way. In the meantime..... Narcissisim is the issue of our age. This blog looks at how it operates, how it can damage and how we may still fruit despite it.

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