Abjection

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There is a psychological mechanism that isn’t very well known yet is involved behind the scenes in many emotions. It plays a part in disgust, revulsion, repugnance, aversion, distaste, nausea, abhorrence, loathing, detestation, horror, contempt, weird, outrage, terror, fear, fright, panic, dread, trepidation, hatred, hate, abomination, execration, odium, antipathy, dislike, hostility, animosity, ill feeling, bad feeling, malice, animus, enmity, aversion, shame, humiliation, mortification, chagrin, ignominy, embarrassment, indignity, discomfort and repugnance, among others. Really, just about any negative emotion has this mechanism involved.

What is this mysterious power behind the curtain of so many intense, uncomfortable emotions? It’s called abjection. Abjection is what happens when there is a breakdown of the distinction between self and other. It’s necessary for your development into an independent, functioning human being.

To illustrate abjection at its most elemental, do this simple thing. Get a glass of water. Spit in it. Now drink it. If you’re like most people, you’ll be grossed out just by the thought. Continue reading

Frustration

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A lot of feelings will draw your attention elsewhere where your attention doesn’t do you any good. The feeling of frustration is this way. When you’re feeling frustrated, your attention is on the object of your frustration when it should be on yourself.

You’re trying to be on time for an appointment and two elderly drivers are traveling ten miles below the speed limit, side-by-side on the highway. If you’re feeling frustrated, your attention is on those two drivers because they’re in the way. It appears that you will feel better or worse depending on whether they let you by. Your feelings are in their hands. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take control if you pay attention to what you’re doing instead of paying attention to them.

Let’s be clear about what frustration is. The feeling of frustration is what you get when you expect or try to do the impossible. Continue reading

Shame

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We have no emotion that’s not useful in some way. Everything is there for a purpose, even an emotion that undermines its purpose.

I’m talking about shame. Its purpose seems to be to help us fit in with others. Shame, and its milder version, embarrassment, comes up when you violate a social norm which might get you expelled from the group or, at least lower your status. Continue reading

Pain

Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash

Your feelings tell you about the state of your body. If you’re putting on a roof, carrying shingles up a ladder, swinging a hammer until your hand falls off, sweating it out at a hundred and ten degrees, your body will have a lot to say. You may not want to listen to it. You’ve got to cover the roof before the rainstorm comes; but, your body is trying to tell you something. It would be in your interest to listen sometimes.

The feeling of pain is the way the body speaks to you when it wants to say, cut it out, you’re exceeding limitations. When you swing a hammer until your hand is ready to fall off, tendonitis is developing. That’s why the old guy on your job, who used to swing a hammer all day, can’t anymore. He ruined his hands swinging that hammer, so now all he can do is talk to customers, write up estimates, and yell at you that you’re doing it wrong. He’d like to be on the roof and show you how to do it, but he didn’t listen to his body when it told him to stop.

I’m not saying you’ve got to do everything your body says, the instant it says it. Sometimes you have to talk back to your body and say, I hear you, but we’ve got to keep doing this. For instance, when you’ve been lifting weights, your muscles get sore. That’s because you tear up some muscle fibers lifting those weights, so the muscles will come back stronger. When you lift weights, you’ve got to be the boss of your body and push yourself a little further each set; but, you also have to listen to your body, so you can tell the difference between normal soreness and when a muscle is pulled. It does no good to push through a pulled muscle. It may set you back days or weeks, making you worse off than if you never lifted those weights at all. The ability to tell the difference between normal soreness and a problem only comes by paying close attention to your feelings.

When you were young, your body did what you told it to do, for the most part. You could work all day, party all night, and be ready to go again the next morning. Because your body was always there for you, you took it for granted. Bodies don’t like that. So, the body starts to talk a little louder. The way your body talks to you when it really wants you to listen is pain.

Here’s another example. You feel pain when you touch a hot stove. That pain is there to order you to take your hand off that burner before it gets burned to a crisp. You might not do it, otherwise. There are people who have a rare condition where they don’t feel pain. It’s called congenital analgesia. You might think this would be a good thing, but it’s not. These people don’t live long. They break their bones, burn their skin, and go months with an abscessed tooth they know nothing about. Be glad that you can feel pain, even though you might not enjoy it when it happens.

Suffering is a different matter. In the next post, we’ll look at the difference between pain and suffering.