The Strange World of Emotion

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As an individual begins to mature on the evolutionary path there are two basic themes that influence him or her : sensitivity and idealism. Here I focus on ideals that go beyond materialistic aims: for example, ideals that are ethical, or political (ideals of justice or fairness), or spiritual , or the pursuit of truth.

Many intellectuals and artists have sensitivity but little or no idealism. Without idealism such sensitivity easily sours into cynicism and satire. Idealism can be cultivated by the generation of romanticism. But even here the seeker easily goes wrong – the romantic love of life is confused with passion and the love of sex. The artist may seek to justify himself on the grounds that his creativity demands an unrestrained sexual and emotional life. However, the turmoil and confusion caused by persistent emotional turbulence easily dissolves idealism.

As an example, I give my views on the writer D.H. Lawrence.
Lawrence wanted intense experience that could match his passionate feeling for his art. He tried to love life but ended up, at least in part, in defining himself through the fascination with sex (or perhaps just the idea of it – he called his state of mind his ‘phallic consciousness’). Where did his idealism go wrong?

Where Lawrence failed was that he only wanted to express his sexuality, instead of exploring its meaning. To put the problem another way: the idealist who is born to a moralistic or a strong-willed mother (as Lawrence was) has his own sexuality denied by the moralistic conditioning. So when he becomes an adult he has to find some way of validating an holistic conception of sexuality that is free from degradation. Lawrence failed in this task.

He was unlucky in his destiny.
In his early life as an adult he rebelled against Victorian prudery on sex. In 1912 he began to live with Frieda, whom afterwards he married. It seems to me that in the first year of living together with her he underwent a major catharsis. In the cathartic excitement all moral values get reversed and prudery gets swept away as if by magic. It must have felt as if the very gods themselves were validating Lawrence’s sexual obsession. [¹]

When the resentment appeared he directed it against England and English mores. Then in 1914 the first World War began. During its span he appears to have repeatedly experienced intense abreaction of bitterness (in his letters he referred to people as insects, as being vile, nauseating, diseased, etc). Prolonged spells of guilt in self-hate mode made him obsessed with starting a spiritual community as a new beginning. [²]

So Lawrence experienced cathartic heaven in 1912 and abreactive hell from 1914 onwards. It was a contrast that he never appeared to have recovered from. He was crushed by abreaction, just as Nietzsche was.

Perhaps we can learn a lesson from Lawrence. His life with Frieda was a stormy one. Why do so many marriages break up quickly or degenerate into sexual warfare?  An answer is easily deduced. When a person defines himself in terms of sexuality (that is, his sexuality is felt to be a major characteristic of his idea of himself) then marriage may bring disaster. The sexual catharsis of the honeymoon may eventually culminate in guilt and resentment, possibly followed by sorrow and bitterness. Result – rapid divorce or separation, or a liaison stuck together only by the alternation of peace and violence. Sharing in psychological counselling before marriage may prevent this tragedy.

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Consider the other end of the scale.

Why do marriages that have lasted for years break up?
Now the initial stability in such a relationship is caused by two loops of projection and introjection harmoniously meshing together. The loop from the man blends with the loop from the woman. Basically, the loop is a subconscious process whereby a person projects some of his desires and beliefs onto another person, and then introjects them back to himself. This process enables a person to manage and express desires that normally he would not be able to, unless he was willing to ignore social norms. [³]

For an harmonious match the man sees in the woman what is repressed in him, and the woman sees in the man what is repressed in her.

In patriarchal society the man is supposed to be masculine ; his feminine side is ridiculed (unless he can direct it into acceptable forms of expression such as art). The woman is supposed to be feminine ; her masculinity is not welcome. The man suppresses his femininity, the woman her masculinity. This situation enfeebles a person. The stratagem adopted by the subconscious mind to defeat this state of affairs is that the man projects his feminine feelings onto the woman. Then as he relates to her he is also openly relating to his own femininity. Similarly the woman projects her masculine feelings onto the man so that she can openly relate to that masculinity in her rapport with him.

An harmonious relationship means that the woman’s femininity reflects the man’s own femininity, and the man’s masculinity reflects the woman’s own masculinity.

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If, eventually, one partner starts to change then the two loops of projection and introjection no longer mesh harmoniously together.

Suppose that it is the woman who is changing direction, in a positive way that decreases feelings of dependency. The man complains that she is becoming more independent of him, that she is making her own decisions and growing more self-assertive. He may feel that he is no longer man enough (that is, not masculine enough). But this view is mistaken. What is actually happening is that the woman is no longer reflecting back to him his femininity. It is the man’s femininity that is being challenged, not his masculinity.

To meet the challenge the man has to explore and evolve his feminine feelings. However, for the woman it is her masculine feelings that are changing, that she is exploring – the man is no longer able to reflect her new masculine needs. Therefore both man and woman are going in different directions. The partnership can never be the same again.

Now suppose that in the original harmonious relationship it is the man who begins to change direction in a positive way. He cultivates one or more right-brain attributes : he becomes more creative or more caring or more equalitarian, etc. He is developing his feminine facets. He finds that the woman partner does not reflect back to him his new feelings of femininity. But the woman perceives that the man’s masculinity no longer matches her own, no longer satisfies her masculine needs. She now finds that it is her sense of masculinity that is under threat, and this is what she needs to explore. Once again both partners will move in opposite directions.

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I put these ideas another way.
Consider the man’s perspective. As he changes direction, as he alters the balance between his masculinity and femininity, he also alters those aspects of himself which are repressed and those which are expressed. As he explores his new feminine feelings it is not enough, in order to maintain an harmonious relationship, for his partner to become more feminine ; that will suit him but not her. As the man reduces the emphasis on masculinity then he will no longer suit the needs of his partner.

Similarly, when the woman changes direction to a more masculine role, the man can develop his masculinity so as to remain in step with her. But his feminine feelings will be unsatisfied. So irrespective of which partner begins to change, the relationship ceases to be mutually harmonious.

The traditional life-long marriage of yesteryear cannot survive the high stresses of modern times. As man and woman cease to repress the base of their sexuality so that sexuality will change through time. The attachment of man to woman based on a static loop of projection and introjection (typical of low-stress societies) will eventually fade in all high-stress societies. For modern times, the loop of projection and introjection will become dynamic, slowly changing to allow new expressions of character and choice to arise. Even if a man and a woman establish an harmonious relationship to begin with, they will both sooner or later drift apart.

A life-long partnership can only be maintained by maintaining sexual repression. Conversely, life-long harmonious relationships will only be maintainable if they are not based on sexual factors. It is the undue emphasis on sexual factors that creates the major problems in modern relationships. This emphasis is the result of releasing sexual repressions, and is an inevitable stage that has to be passed through until a more suitable and compatible sense of identity is attained.

Masculinity and femininity have to be de-sexualised. Sexual identity has to evolve into gender identity, and then gender identity has to evolve into a more holistic identity. The nature of the family of the future is going to be very different from what it is today.


The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it.

[¹]. My analysis of catharsis and the process of abreaction is given in the five articles on Abreaction. See home page. [1]

[²]. My definitions, descriptions, and analysis of emotions are given in the three articles on Emotion. See home page. [2]

[³]. See article Projection and Introjection. [3]

Home List of  Articles Links Top of Page

The articles in this section are :

Two Modes of Sexuality - sexuality is dual in form.

Bonding - continues the bonding patterns.

Oedipus and Electra - symbolism in sexual practices.

TV / TS - transvestism & trans-sexuality, plus voyeurism and groping.

Sadism and Masochism - sexual violence and degrading phantasies.

Structure of Sexual Response - four relationship responses.

Partnerships - the way that change affects partners.

The copyright is mine, and the articles are free to use. They can be reproduced anywhere, so long as the source is acknowledged.

Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath
All Rights Reserved

Ian Heath
London, UK

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