Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Feelings ARE Facts
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. They say. What happens when the problem is permanent? Well, maybe it's not. There was the radical option of psychotherapy, and I decided to do that. The short-term counsellor I saw suggested something longer-term and, having no other appointments that I could think of other than with the east end of an eastbound highballing train, I went for it.
Nine years, a whole lot of hours and a large pile of money later, I bailed. I took little away from the experience other than memories of long silent struggles. A lock on the mouth, a straitjacket for feelings. A few things stayed with me, such as the idea that terminated the process: I'll die before I'll tell her anything. More valuable was a basic concept that shook my world: A feeling is a feeling. It's real. It's there. I can choose how to respond to it but the emotion itself is a fact.
I, however, was better than that. I could wave my magic manipulative wand and make feelings just disappear. I couldn't erase their history, however, and only time allowed some of the stronger ones to dissipate so that I could resume an even keel. Time requires solitude. I live alone.
So, God comes along and plucks me up from the edge of the last fall. The main thing I got from psychoanalysis was a bridge across those nine years. I might not have survived without them and might have gone over the edge before God had done all of the preparatory work. I was still there when His work bore fruit and I saw His hand and heard His voice.
I had nothing to lose. And then suddenly I did have something to lose: my vaunted emotional independence. Feelings might blow through but they didn't affect me. As God returned sensitivity to the old dry desert feelings began raising dust-devils in the sand, writing curling lines of the future in their passage. I did what any self-respecting intellectual would do: I ran. Running from God, though, is like tearing the Earth from its orbit and flinging it independent out into the black. It's cold out there, dry, ever farther from the sun that whispers of life in frequencies ranging from infrared to beautiful blue. Jesus said his sheep knew his voice. I'd learned it and there was no other. How could I run? The Son's warm reality might kill me but the cold would surely finish the job I'd started years ago when I started manipulating the reality of feeling.
God gave me the ability to feel. Feeling, it seems, is central to human being's participation in life. People who feel they're worth nothing tend to act that way. Belief and feeling are strongly connected. I'd known this for most of my life and what got me as far as I managed to go was an unspoken and little-realized balance: If the emotions would leave me alone, I'd leave them alone. I knew of their importance to design and decision-making processes. Any decision that was purely intellectual was bound to fail. That didn't keep me from being as rational as possible and keeping emotions in the mental ghetto but I still knew, and used, the principle. God upset that balance. He shines his light and it goes everywhere, not just where I'd like it to go.
What's the point in doing anything if I don't feel good in the doing? If everything I do leads to pain, why bother? No matter what, I can't win. I'm depressed when I'm depressed, and I soon become depressed if at some point something happens that makes me happy.
Happiness has to be earned. There has to be a reason for it. Otherwise, it is unearned and therefore unjustifiable. I have no good reason for feeling that way. Feeling good just opens the door for the Junkyard Dog to return and hammer me into the ground, so it's much better to just damp all feeling. That's not the way Jesus lived. He sighed, He wept, He groaned. Much of what He saw made Him sad. No surprise. He knew what He felt and He didn't worry about complex rational arguments for justification of those feelings. His goal is to make me like Himself.
So, I have to face facts. I'd think it's impossible if I hadn't already seen what happens when I think God can't do something. The emotions are there. I don't know how to live with them.