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Life Arts

Jiddu Krishnamurti and Anthony de Mello, S.J.: Two Spiritual Guides from India to Enlighten Us

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Repress it. Never.

Feel it. Always.

Discharge it. Always. (For example, through fantasy.)

Express it. Sometimes.

Report it. Sometimes.

Act upon it. Never.

What do you think of this last point -- never act on anger, eh? I think that Tony's position here is not correct; on the contrary, I think he is here advocating a deficiency in anger, to use Aristotle's terminology.

According to Tony, there are two kinds of fantasy: (1) The fantasy that leads me to act; and (2) the fantasy that does not lead me to act. Fantasy can be used to free up what is frozen within our psyches.

The more you are in touch with anger, the more you are in control of it. Anger is essentially linked with warmth and enthusiasm. Non-possessive warmth is an essential quality for a psychotherapist to have, in addition to having empathy and what Tony describes as emotional congruence (i.e., the psychotherapist's emotions are available to him or her, and the psychotherapist has no fear to tell the client his or her feelings, if appropriate).

Now, regarding empathy, here's how Tony sees our capacity to increase our empathy. The more you express your feelings in a healthy and appropriate way to the person toward whom you "feel," the more you get in touch with your own feelings. Moreover, the more you get in touch with your own feelings, the more in touch you become with the feelings of others.

As mentioned about the subtitle of John Bradshaw's book RECLAIMING VIRTUE: HOW WE CAN DEVELOP THE MORAL INTELLIGENCE TO DO THE RIGHT THING AT THE RIGHT TIME FOR THE RIGHT REASON (2009) is a paraphrase of something Aristotle says about anger in the NICOMACHEAN ETHICS.

Here's what Aristotle says about anger: "Gentleness is a mean [between the bipolar extremes] with respect to anger. . . . The person who gets angry at the things and with whom he ought, then, and, further, in the way, when, and for as much time as he ought, is praised. Hence this person would be gentle, if indeed gentleness is praised. The gentle person wishes to be calm and not led by passion, but rather as reason may command, and so to be harsh regarding the things he ought [to be harsh about] and for the requisite time" (1125b26-1126a1). In addition, Aristotle says, "the middle characteristic [the middle between the bipolar extremes] is praiseworthy, in accord with which we are angry with whom we ought to be, at the things we ought, in the way we ought, and everything of this sort; whereas excess and deficiency [i.e., the bipolar extremes] are blameworthy -- slightly so if they are small in degree, more so if in greater degree, and extremely so if in great degree" (1126b5-9) (quoted from ARISTOTLE'S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: A NEW TRANSLATION, 2011, mentioned above, pages 81-82, 83).

In other words, Anthony de Mello to the contrary notwithstanding, there is such a thing as justifiable anger, as a result of which we should act in an appropriate way.

Now, as mentioned above, Tony worked with Eric Berne's terminology: Rescuer, Victim, and Persecutor. The Persecutor acts out anger and resentment in inappropriate ways. I understand that much. However, drawing on Aristotle's thought about a deficiency in appropriate anger, I have suggested that there is indeed such a thing as justifiable anger that should motivate us to act on our anger in appropriate ways. But when we do, do we run the risk of reactivating the self-defeating cycle of Persecutor/Victim/Rescuer?

Digression: For a related discussion of certain kinds of psychological flow, see Shelley Carson's accessible book YOUR CREATIVE BRAIN: SEVEN STEPS TO MAXIMIZE IMAGINATION, PRODUCTIVITY, AND INNOVATION IN YOUR LIFE ( San Francisco , California ( USA ): Jossey-Bass/Wiley and Harvard Health Publications, 2010). End of digression.

In Tony's July 1980 preached retreat in Denver , he also discussed prayer. Among other things, he claimed that the Three Methods of Praying are the crowning glory of the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES of Ignatius Loyola (standardized paragraph numbers 238-260). I've not heard or seen anyone else make that claim.

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www.d.umn.edu/~tfarrell

Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 
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The world will probably not be changed appreciably... by Thomas Farrell on Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012 at 2:32:13 PM