Aug 23, 2008

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The Five Emotions

  No, this is not a singing group from the early 70’s.  It refers to one of the most misunderstood concepts when men are asked “what are you feeling?”.  Most men will go right into a very long winded story that comes directly from their head and has nothing to do with the emotion that is actually driving the saga.  So, for sake of reference, to my mind there are five basic emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Shame, and Fear.  For each, there are varying flavors and contexts. Just like the Eskimos have forty different words for snow, there are many ways to relate to joy – exhilaration, pride, happiness, ecstasy, etc….  The same for sadness, and all the others.  The bottom line is that they all have their root in some very basic human element of feeling.


   For most of my life joy was front and center for me.  Certainly in my twenties I remember just wandering around thinking to myself,  “it is fucking great to be alive”.   I think most of that was driven by naivety but, hey, I was single, healthy, sex was plentiful and money was not an issue.  How could I not be happy?  There is also the possibility that I was in some sort of denial. To this day I don’t rule that out.  The one thing that I am clear about these days is that there are a lot of people out there – not just men – who carry around an intense charge from these other emotions.  In a weird way, I actually find myself envying men who can easily grieve.  I know I have stuff to grieve about but for whatever reason, it is a button I find it difficult to push. Thankfully, I am getting there.  Anger has been a bit easier for me to access – no surprise there – but it has been more of “in the moment anger” that I liken to the acting out of a little kid than the kind of “festering anger” that morphs into rage.  Shame and fear have just been totally foreign to me, which I am convinced can’t possibly be healthy from a survival standpoint.


        Anyhow, I’d like to attempt to put a face onto these emotions by trying to tie them to the male archetypes identified by psychologist like Jung and Robert Moore of the University of Chicago.  Again, I want to be clear that I am not an expert on this and am only surmising.  I welcome input from any man who feels closer to a particular emotion to weigh in.  I feel we do ourselves a disservice by closeting these emotions rather than airing them out. I am forever amazed to discover during the Legacy Discoveries that we off in MDI how quickly men embrace the shared experiences that are driven by these emotions and how much weight it lifts for them.  Hopefully, these pieces will prompt some of that. 


      So here goes, in subsequent blogs I’ll try to dig a little deeper into each emotion. For the record I think each emotion is housed in each archetype to varying degrees so this admittedly may be a little simplistic.


Shame – I believe that shame lives in the undeveloped house of the King.  A mature King just doesn’t feel compelled to apologize for   what he does or what he has.  Shame is, in my mind, tied to a sense of guilt and the notion that you just don’t deserve what you have or what you have done just isn’t good enough.  Shame clearly drives the immaturity inherent in the archetype of the King because on the mature side is the ability to freely thrive in and celebrate abundance.  The feelings of guilt and envy are gone and are replaced by a deep belief tat you have more than enough and are actually looking forward to giving away what you own. 



Anger – The easy analogy is to tie this to the immature archetype of the bully, only because it manifests itself in the physical act of aggression.  How many times do we see a little kid bully a weaker kid in the playground only to later discover that there are issues at home that have left the ”bully” feeling helpless.  The mature side of this archetype is the Warrior—one who fights battles out of duty or context rather than emotion. It is not surprising to hear that samurai refused to engage in any battle when they were angry.


Fear – Fear of the unknown is the province of the trickster or con man.  Someone who tries to play the odds to manipulate the uncertainty of the future.  Conversely, someone prepared to accept what the future holds welcomes the truth that is always present in the face of a surprise.  Such a person has no need to rely on sleight of hand and actually shuns it because it masks the truth.  And it is more than just sleight of hand.  How often have we said that a man who has answers for everything is “hiding from the truth?”  The flip side of the trickster is the Magician, who actually conjures up the dark forces to dredge up the truth and remains fairly confident that no matter what comes out of the blackness, they are stable enough to withstand it and learn from the experience.


Sadness – This is the playground of the immature Lover. In some respects, it is the way we choose to relate to the past.   We choose to look back on the past and mourn either what we never had or the loss of what we once had.  A mature Lover has a healthier relationship with the past.  Sadness may still be there but it is a joyful sadness, if that makes sense, because it allows a leader to literally honor and celebrate what was once there.  That ability to empathize to one’s experience allows you to say to someone, “I feel your pain” without being overcome by it.


So that it is my short hand.  I would add the belief that most men will find that each of these emotions have their own special place somewhere in your body.  Maybe it is a throbbing in your temples that comes with anger; the uneasiness in your stomach that comes with fear.  The tightness in your heart that reflects the heaviness of sadness.  The weight in your eyelids that evokes shame.  Or the flutter in your “happy” feet that evokes unrepentant joy.  But I submit, it is somewhere.  So next time you are asked “how do you feel?” before you answer, close your eyes.  Get in touch with what your body is feeling and where.  And then, when ready, give the one word answer that rings true for you.  It is not easy but I think it is a discipline that will reap may rewards.

  1. Howard-

    Beautifully written as always, but even accepting that there are five basic emotions (and I’m not sure that I do) how does this enlighten, contribute to, or improve your life?

    Once you started in with that Kings and Magicians stuff I immediately started zoning out.
    Speaking (obviously) only for myself, I greatly enjoy reading what you think. To me it’s personal, real and relatable. I can’t relate at all to what Jung thought, or what you think Jung thought. To me it just seems antiquated and reads like bad fantasy fiction.


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