Our affective life PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 11 August 2015 11:19

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

We have to be more aware of this world of affectivity—its nature, its workings, its need for management and development, etc. In fact, it should be in the cross-hair, since we are now living in hyper-emotional times. There’s a great need to educate our emotions, affections and passions.

We have to be wary of taking this concern for granted, stuck in denial. The ballistic advances of our technologies have super-stirred our feelings, emotions, hormones, urges, etc., such that we are seeing more disturbing phenomena these days.

The cases of extreme sadness and depression, obsessions-compulsions, stress, and other aberrant forms of behavior, if not vices and perversions, have increased. We are seeing a lot more of drug addictions, dysfunctional and broken families, and mental illnesses.

Even in my normal run of hearing confessions and giving spiritual direction to what I consider as regular people, I notice a proliferation of emotional wounds, some deep and grave. I consider these as fertile ground for worse things to develop.

Frankly, it’s getting harder for me not to get affected and to remain dry-eyed when I see even children and young boys and girls manifesting signs of deep emotional anguish and torture due to a variety of reasons and causes. They are not spared.

This is not to mention that those who seem to have a healthy affective life, humanly speaking, have it but without or with hardly any relation to God and to things of God. Piety is often stiff, because the proper feelings are absent.

I think we have to understand that there is an architectonic shift taking place in our world today. The great value added in the area of technology has, sadly, not been matched by a corresponding value added in the area of attitudes.

Put bluntly, we seem to be getting sophisticated in our technologies, but still quite primitive in our mentalities. In biblical terms, it’s like putting “new wine into old wineskins.” New wine should go with new wineskins.

While before, it was enough to have a very general and shallow knowledge of our affective world, now it would seem such knowledge could be very dangerous.

There’s a need, especially to parents, teachers, and to people like me, priests, to know more about the affective life. There are tricky, even treacherous areas when we start touching the affective lives of people, and we need to master them.

In the classical system, feelings rank low in importance, rating far below that of our spiritual faculties—our intelligence and will. Doubtless, there’s good reason for that. The problem is that such system often tends to ignore our emotions completely. And that’s criminal.

Feelings and emotions, the world of our senses and passions, are an integral part of our personhood, because we cannot be without them. We have been designed by God to have them.

Our Catechism teaches us that: “The passions are natural components of the human psyche. They form the passageway and ensure the connection between the life of the senses and the life of the mind.” (1764)

We should never forget this truth, not even to disparage it, since as our Catechism again tells us: “Moral perfection consists in man’s being moved to the good not by his will alone, but also by his sensitive appetite, as in the words of the Psalm: ‘My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.’” (1770)

Our relation with God and with others should always include our emotions. We just cannot leave them alone, letting them evolve by themselves in any which way.

We just have to learn how to attune and conform our emotions to the ideals and standards of our Christian life. We have to have a good understanding of what is healthy affective life and what is not, and what causes and reinforces them.

Besides, we need to know certain skills that are adapted to the growing needs of how to effectively handle our feelings and emotions so they keep in the proper orbit.

It’s nice to know that some serious studies are being made in this regard. Many of them are inspired and built upon the Christian concept of man. This is a good development that needs to be fostered. Their more certain findings should be widely spread out.

We cannot deny the fact that there are also schools of thought in this area that are not quite compatible with our Christian faith. We have to be careful with them, and engage them in a continuing dialogue to seek clarifications and focus on the objective truths about our affective life.