Following on from my last but one post – ‘The Sorrows of…’ – I want to expand a bit on the context surrounding what I was writing about.
When I wrote that piece in mid – December I had been at a pretty low ebb. I am glad to say that I’m feeling a whole lot better now. I still stand by what I wrote, but I want to explore the themes I touched on last time.
Rational versus emotional. Psychosis versus what’s really happening.
These tensions are with me every time I ride my bike. My rational side means that I am opening the garage and taking out my bike, putting my stuff in my panniers, and setting off down the hill in time to catch my train. On the way my rational side makes me stop at the traffic lights, acknowledge motorists, and remain assertive as I make my way along the road during the morning rush hour.
But it’s my emotional side that makes my heart beat with passion and joy – the joy at being alive – the reason I ride. Sure, the excercise is good for me. Sure, it’s ecologically friendly. It’s cheaper – yeah, yeah, yeah. But that’s not why I pedal up the hill in all weathers. I ride because cycling connects me to who I am, to who I was, and to whom I will one day become.
Goethe was writing was part of a wider literary movement called ‘Sturm und Drang’. Translated variously as ‘Storm and Drive’, ‘Storm and Urge’ or usually as ‘Storm and Stress’. This movement – most active between the 1760s and 1780s – was a reaction to the Rationalist Age that characterised The Enlightenment. It emphasised subjectivity, and extremes of emotion – as seen so clearly in ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’.
The Scottish Philosopher David Hume (1711 – 1776) bridged the gap between the rationalist school of thought and the school known as sentimentalism when he wrote that ‘Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.’
What I’m getting at is that emotionalism, as a response to our experiences, is crucially important to our understanding of our lives.
Cognitive behavioural Therapy – which aims to help people review how they think about things – and by so doing understand and relate differently to challenging experiences is very widely used these days in the treatment of emotional disorders. An appeal to the rational self. I am wary of the widespread use of this approach – not because I think that it is wrong – but because it unhooks us from our emotional selves. I am concerned that it teaches us – however inadvertently – to mistrust our emotions, and in so doing detach from our true selves.
Let’s love, listen, take time
when time is all we have.
Let’s be unafraid to be kind,
Learn to disregard the bad
If the good outweighs it daily.
Let’s make a gift of silence,
The day’s hushing into dark, and when we hold eachother
Let’s always be astonished
we are we want to be.
Let’s hope to age together,
but if we can’t, let’s promise now
to remember how we shone
when we were at our best,
when we were most ourselves.
Ann Gray (Contemperary – dates unknown)