Being's Flight From Being, or You Can't Outrun an Assoul
Pieper describes some of the variants of restlessness, which are interesting in and of themselves. But also, they demonstrate how perceptive a psychologist Saint Thomas was, long before there was even a word for psychology. For that matter, it also shows how anemic modern psychology is in ignoring the spiritual dimension of things (or, alternatively, taking it seriously only in a frivolous, new age, chopra-esque manner).
If one's depression is a result of spiritual disorder, then it's important to know that. It is very much analogous to how physical pain conveys important messages about our behavior and surroundings. Likewise, on a psychic level we have certain built-in mechanisms that convey pain, such as shame and guilt. A person with no shame and no guilt becomes a sociopath or even a Chicago politician.
There are few people who are born with no capacity for shame. More often than not, the dysregulation of shame is a result of having had one's "circuits blown" as a child -- of having been exposed to too much shame too soon. As a result, the person may grow up with a kind of "shame bypass" mechanism, or else be so vulnerable to shame that they are paralyzed for fear of triggering it.
But do note that shame is only thinkable in the context of the other. When we are shamed, it is a result of projecting our own judgmental eyes outward. Therefore, the shame-prone individual projects a pair of eyes that are particularly harsh and judgmental, even condemnatory.
In this regard, it is important to distinguish between shame and guilt, the former being more "ontological," the latter more "existential." In other words, when we feel guilt, it is over an action. But shame has more to do with our very existence.
In his books, Allan Schore does a wonderful job of describing the actual neurobiological correlates of shame. When shame becomes dysregulated, it actually becomes woven into our very neurology. Let me see if I can find an illustrative passage.
But before doing that, let me describe how it happens with my son. Of course, until a child is, what, three years old or so, they have no capacity for shame. They are quite literally shameless, which, of course, brings to mind the primordial state of Adam. But what is the first thing Adam experiences upon his eyes being opened? Correct. Shame. He saw that he was naked, and quickly covered up.
Anyway, so future leader is now capable of feeling shame, which is clearly a good thing, because if he weren't, I wouldn't say that there would be no way to control him, but we would have one less tool in our arsenal. But the key, of course, is to never shame the child in a way that is traumatic -- any more than you want them to feel any kind of pain to excess, even while retaining the capacity to feel it. Shame is like an unbidden stranger that lives within us. Quite literally, it is a "built in other" that ensures our harmonious relations with the group.
But again, dysregulated shame either paralyzes or "unleashes." This is why so-called shame cultures -- for example, much of Islamic world -- are so shameless. Or, precisely because they cannot tolerate the acute shame they feel for being such world-historical losers, they attack the nearest "eyes," which happen to be the Israelis. If not for them, they'd have to just murder and maim each other more than they already do.
Note also how the general emotional immaturity of the Islamic world causes men to locate their shameful sexual impulses in women, so that by covering them up, they can tamp down their libidos; or how our own ridiculous troll hides his shame behind a cloak of anonymity, as if that prevents us from remembering his numberless follies!
Eh, forget about Schore. We're getting way too far afield. Let's get back to Pieper/Aquinas and the many defenses against despair, which include loquaciousness, excessive curiosity, "an irreverent urge to pour oneself out from the peak of the mind onto many things," "interior restlessness," and "instability of place or purpose."
Each of these could be confused with garden-variety anxiety, but Aquinas is talking about something deeper, about being's flight from itself. But, to quote the wise words of Beavis, it is absurd to imagine that you can "run away from your bunghole." Rather, wherever you go, it goes there too.
There are other ways to flee from being and to manifest the "sluggish indifference toward those things that are in truth necessary for man's salvation," for example, "pusillanimity toward all the mystical opportunities that are open to man.'' Another --a veritable peter pandemic on the left -- is "irritable rebellion" against those who serve as a reminder of one's higher purpose (thus, for example, the truly inevitable attacks on the Pope and on Jews). For what did the Master say about being hated by the world?
The last and most noxious and destructive defense against despair goes all the way in converting defense to offense, to actual defiance; it is the "conscious inner choice and decision in favor of evil as evil that has its source in hatred for the divine in man."
To pick a low-hanging fruitcake that is always near at hand, our own perpetually irritated and rebellious troll makes no attempt to conceal his belief that it is necessary for God to have an adversary, and that he considers his presence here to be the reflection of a "very fundamental principle of the universe," that is, "the tendency of any force to give rise to its opposite."
There is some garbled truth to this notion, except that it is critical to bear in mind that while light necessarily gives rise to shadow, that hardly means that light "wishes" for shadows to exist.
Rather, shadows are entirely "parasitic" or "reactionary." Only in this sense do we give rise to our opposite in Anon. It would never occur to us to seek out this anonymous darkness, much less create it! Nevertheless, in throwing out the light, we have indeed done so, in a manner of speaking. My bad. (Remember, never get angry or impatient with him, as I sometimes see some of you doing, for he is always here to teach.)
Some of the above defenses are probably not self-evident, for example, "excessive curiosity." What could this mean? Obviously there is nothing wrong with curiosity. It is how we learn. It is the empty space we must tolerate in order for knowledge to occur. As Bion was fond of saying, "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity." But what is excessive curiosity?
I think it manifests in various ways, for example, in a kind of seemingly innocent but bovine lack of certitude about certain fundamental questions, without which thinking isn't even possible -- for example, in questions of whether truth, or free will, or moral absolutes actually exist. To even ask such questions, one must either be stupid or malicious, but in any event, such an insane quest can only result in ignorance chasing its own tail and calling it "philosophy," i.e., tales told by the tenured and troll tales of the tin-eared.
Another manifestation of excessive curiosity involves "overrunning" the truth long after it has already been found.
And with that, I am abruptly out of time. To be continued.....