Sunday, April 10, 2011


Lelia mentioned that comments which do not recognise the feelings of the hearer can be invalidating. There is a cartoon called Four-Box World (I thought, though I can't find it) which gives a simple, often pointed and ironic, outline of the possibilities. In this one, I have occupied all four boxes at various times: I have been dismissive of others both unfairly and fairly; I have been dismissed both fairly and unfairly. It should give me pause, but it doesn't.

Before discussing full anosognosia, it is worth noting how thorough lack of insight can be even in ourselves at times. We equate mood with competence, for example. Christians very easily equate mood with faith. It is not that we consciously make this connection, but that all those positive images just make more sense to us when we are feeling upbeat. Stepping out in faith, believing in forgiveness, expecting a miracle - all those cliches. And when depressed, these seem elusive, and we fear our worship is empty and our God disappointed in us. Those others, who seem able to live in the cliches at the moment, we resent terribly. We may get especially ticked off at the expressive worshipers or whole denominations at such points: Yeah, all this pumped up singing and dancing, you're just doing on Sunday mornings what kids do in clubs on Saturday night, don't put any spiritual shine on it.

Rather small of us, but we do it - because mood feels permanent. It lies, and tells us it provides insight. But either way, it doesn't. When you are depressed, use whatever tricks you can to fool your body back to baseline, even if it's false excitement. When you are cheery, caution yourself that this also is not theology, but chemistry. And in neither case should you guilt others with your cliches.

1 comment:

Texan99 said...

Screwtape, as reliable on this subject as on most:

"It follows then, in general, and other things being equal, that it is better for your patient to be filled with anxiety or hope (it doesn't much matter which) about this war than for him to be living in the present. But the phrase "living in the present" is ambiguous. It may describe a process which is really just as much concerned with the Future as anxiety itself. Your man may be untroubled about the Future, not because he is concerned with the Present, but because he has persuaded himself that the Future is going to be agreeable. As long as that is the real course of his tranquility, his tranquility will do us good, because it is only piling up more disappointment, and therefore more impatience, for him when his false hopes are dashed. If, on the other hand, he is aware that horrors may be in store for him and is praying for the virtues, wherewith to meet them, and meanwhile concerning himself with the Present because there, and there alone, all duty, all grace, all knowledge, and all pleasure dwell, his state is very undesirable and should be attacked at once. Here again, our Philological Arm has done good work; try the word "complacency" on him. But, of course, it is most likely that he is "living in the Present" for none of these reasons but simply because his health is good and he is enjoying his work. The phenomenon would then be merely natural. All the same, I should break it up if I were you. No natural phenomenon is really in our favor. And anyway, why should the creature be happy?"