Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Emotional Repression and Restraint and Cultivation

I have always thought that there should a science of the emotions within a culture. This is because it has been obvious to me for some time that every culture in the world can be defined according to the set (the mathematical meaning) of emotions that are cultivated, or alternatively repressed, or restrained.

Today I was looking up the definition of "passive aggression". Having grown up in the middle of popular psychology at its peak, like many people I have been surrounded by notions and terms of which I had a vague understanding. Wikipedia is weak on this one, so I prefer the Straight Dope and Medicine Plus, which nonetheless are at the top of the google. A quick browse through the other Google listings makes it fairly consistent.

It seems that here we have a typical example of the disaster that was 20th century psychology. The term passive aggression was coined by military people, and then borrowed by psychologists and labelled as a disorder, then was subsequently recognized as a natural behaviour which could be a disorder. Imagine if I said eating was a disorder, then subsequently acknowledged that eating was a natural behaviour, and only if you eat too much does eating become a disorder.

It also confirms that psychology in the 20th century developed as an attempt to mould people into conformance with a military organisation. Since then military organisations have been copied by every corporation and institution that I know, with variations of moderating attitudes that have arisen as civilization became wealthier and more liberal.

Nonetheless, as the Planet grapples with the friction between cultures that has been caused by globalization, there has never been more need for a science of the emotions of cultures. That Psychology has failed miserably in this field must be because it has dwelled for so long on its Protestant and Western European intellectual foundations.

Anybody who has ever opened his mind to other peoples and cultures knows that there are emotions practiced which differ in intensity and sometimes are entirely absent, or entirely novel.

Such a science would have to be fundamentally aware that human beings have evolved their emotions and uses of emotions separately, according to their geographical region, climate, ecosystem, and history of civilization.

The absurdity of my proposition is that since globalization has progressed so far, it is now nearly impossible to collect clean data for such a science. It would be more difficult and inexact than the recent efforts at identifying the heritage of DNA sequences, which is what the science of ethnology seems to have become.

So let's drop the notion of a science, and propose it as an art, a humanity. Consider the emotion of Anger. What happens when one culture, which approves and accepts open but non-violent displays of Anger, comes upon another culture, which denies it and represses it as far as possible until it explodes (in the familiar pattern of Passive Aggression)?

This is but one example. There is a world out there that needs to be understood. Whether the world progresses to an unsustainable fully Globalized unit or a sustainable de-globalized form, this sort of understanding is very important, and I do not think should be left to the Psychologists, or Spiritual/Religious leaders.

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