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A READER'S JOURNAL
Joy, Inspiration, and Hope
by
Verena Kast
Published by Fromm Intl in 1994
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne 1997

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These lectures on the subjects of joy, inspiration, and hope are filled with quotable material. Here's a couple of delightful examples I found.

From the Prologue on page 3:

If we see someone in a joyful state who is perhaps a bit boisterous, suspicions are quickly raised in our minds about whether we may be witnessing the repression of some problem. On the other hand, if someone is depressed or in a dark mood, it hardly occurs to us to ask if this is a case of repressed joy.
In her analysis of emotions she says on page 12:
Emotion is the way we experience ourselves. When we speak of emotions, we speak of ourselves personally, we take ourselves seriously. And we take others seriously when we listen to their emotions. It is a matter of our experience of identity.

In the light of Doyle Henderson's theory of emotions [See ARJ: PANACEA!, Emotional Intelligence, and Passion & Reason.], I would re-write her first sentence about thus:
Emotion is the way we re-experience in the present the physical body states (doyles) of our unique, pre-memory transition age (five) past.
Each of us has a history during which we were exposed to a unique set of physical body states that were stored for later recall. When a similar pattern occurs to us later, the associated physical body states are re-generated within our body. At the time of the recall, we say we are experiencing an emotion, feeling or affect, but that body response so labeled is actually a recapitulation of some unique pre-MTA event in our childhood. The uniqueness of emotions, feelings, and affects stems from our idiosyncratic childhoods, i.e., our joy is always uniquely our own joy. What makes it possible for us to talk about joy is that we use the label to refer to similar experiences of recall that almost all of us has during our pre-MTA childhood. It is not too difficult to find exceptions: autistic children, feral children, severely abused children may have no experience of joy that matches the communal experience the rest of us share. [See ARJ: Thinking in Pictures and Emergence: Labeled Autistic.]

Several other statements by Kast call for some elaboration. On page 11, she says:
An attempt to eliminate emotions would result in persons who no longer permitted themselves to be involved with life.
With the advent of a technology [See ARJ: PANACEA!.] to truly eliminate the emotional components of experiences, this statement would be better written with the verb "suppress" rather than "eliminate". To suppress emotions one might avoid the potentially emotion-laden events of life and thus remove one's involvement. By truly eliminating the doylic component of a previously emotion-laden experience, one can be completely involved in a new way with life. For example, consider that one might have avoided scheduling an appointment twenty-five miles away for the afternoon when such a trip involved a day's ride on horseback, but with automobiles and freeways, it is a snap. What was prudent behavior before some technology may be unnecessarily restrictive afterward. The possibility of eliminating unwanted emotions allows involvement at a deeper and saner level than one would have considered possible previously.

Another quote from page 12:
Emotions generate the energy to make needed changes, to take needed actions. This why many forms of therapy repeatedly emphasize getting in touch with emotions.
There is another aspect that should be mentioned in this connection: emotions that arise to deter actions. Persons who are afflicted with these emotions or "stopper doyles" are already in touch with their emotions what they need is a simple way to eliminate emotions that stop them from realizing their full potential as human beings. One woman reported to me that, after eliminating several doyles, she found herself responding spontaneously with great effect and joy in situations where she had formerly remained silent and sullen.

Here is a quote from page 13:
What we call emotion is a highly complex regulatory system in which each person faces an inner and an outer world, and at the same time shares something in the realm of relationships.
Kast's metaphor of "facing an inner and outer world" translates into our experiencing at once both a sensory input from our present external environment and at the same time a doylic input from our past (pre-five-year-old) as stored in our internal environment. Given the simultaneity of the presentation of the inputs, it is little wonder that we have tended to blend the two sets of inputs into one experienced reality, up until now. Examples of statements that illustrate this blending of inner and outer worlds are very familiar, such as: "You made me feel sad." or "That makes me so mad!" or "Your smile is a joy to behold." The fusion of our inner and outer worlds is so strong and simultaneous that one person, when faced with the possibility of removing an unwanted inner state (bad doyle), told me, "I could remove it, but then I wouldn't be me!" One person even told me, as her reason for not removing a sadness doyle, "But that might diminish my joy."

On page 13, Kast says:
Affects and emotions do not enjoy a good reputation not only elated affects, but affects and emotions in general. Feelings elicit caution. The impression is that people get carried away.
The phrase "get carried away" is a telling one. Understood rightly it means to allow one's infantile physical body states to have full rein. When a baby does that, it is usually carried away from the presence of adults into another room. Thus we have come to use the same expression when an adult, in the throes of a doyle, acts childlike or childishly. We say they got "carried away." Some readers may be thinking right now that I'm getting carried away by the first dozen pages of this book and should address its remaining pages. They are correct and I will.

True to her title, Kast devotes a section of the book to each of the title's words. Under the chapter heading Biographical Reconstructions of Joy she explains how she helped bring joy into her clients' otherwise joyless lives by having them write memories of their joys: their first memory of being joyful as children, the ways they expressed their joy, who they shared their joys with, etc. As I finished the chapter I thought of how Thank You Notes are re-constructions of joy how we help others feel once again the joy of their gift to us by reminding them of the good feelings they and we felt during the process of giving as we thank them in the note for their gift.

Kast tells us how Anas Nin responded to her radiation treatments by pretending that the dirty yellow room was a screening room and the huge ugly machine was a film projector that was showing her the loveliest, happiest moments from her life. She ran a different film of her life every day for two weeks and was cured completely.

In discussing joy in children, Kast gives us many insightful comments that parents of small children would do well to ponder:

  • When joy is answered with joy, more joy will grow.
  • Children will become joyful in a joyful atmosphere.
  • When we stop to think about it, it is not obvious why we pay more attention to children who are not well than to those who are.
  • Parents can also be very disturbing when they insist on cleaning up a room when children are at the peak of their play.

In her section devoted to Inspiration, she discusses manias, manic-depression, inspiration through ecstasy, and the Apollo-Dionysus dichotomy. In short, Apollo put the principle of individuation into law, whereas Dionysus put it into personal experience. Apollo sharpened social differences whereas Dionysus effaced them. In other words, the Apollonian spirit creates a strong and rigid ego complex, but it stifles thereby the active imagination that requires the strong and flexible Dionysian spirit to allow intangible and unconscious complexes, dreams, and inspirations to emerge in poetry, dance, painting, or song.

In a seminar she gave on human crises, Kast discovered that many of the participants "had experienced a creative leap out of a dead-end situation into a situation of new promise." Generally the harbinger of this fresh new hope was some unexpected, unpleasant circumstance such as an accident or loss of a job that they would have just as soon not experienced. The process of individuation is just such an unpleasant circumstance. It comes first in our twenties as we separate from our parents, and returns later in our fifties as we separate from our projected parental complexes (at the same time as we deal with our children's separation from us). With parents, children, and grandchildren all participating at once in this inter-generational game of life, there are equal difficulty of challenges at every age of life.


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Any questions about this review, Contact: Bobby Matherne

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