Feeling our way
Newsletter: May 2018
Greetings again, wherever and however this finds you, but patience please – you find me feeling my way.
It’s a phrase that evokes an image of someone in the dark cave, using their hands as guides as they make their slow way forward, until light comes and normal journeying is resumed.
But I’m thinking of something different, because maybe feeling our way is the most human way to proceed, in both darkness and light.
What am I talking about?
I’m aware I’ve recently written blogs about two brilliant men: CS Lewis and Freidrich Nietzsche. They’re different in many respects but what links them is this: both were crucified by their inability to access their true feelings, which had been savagely repressed. And it doesn’t take a Freud or a Jung to note that if I’ve chosen to write about them, these stories must resonate with my own.
If you wish to read the blogs, they are to be found here:
The trouble is, no easy path from this place presents itself. Our deepest feelings, our most personal truth, cannot be accessed by memory. These feelings were created prior to our earliest accessible memories, and so lie in the deep shadows of our consciousness. These feelings are who we are; yet we neither know them nor understand them.
And this wouldn’t matter, but for the fact that many of these feelings are neither kind nor helpful; and they continue to exercise a powerful influence in our lives, often provoking strong body reactions in us.
So then the question is: Can we be free of them? What can we hope for? Can we let go of that which is not remembered?
The answer, I suspect, is no. For good or ill, these early experiences remain who we are, to some degree. We might make life-changing discoveries along the way, giving us fresh energy, insight and hope; and these are to be treasured.
But the renewal of feelings that were created before memory – or, as in the lives of Lewis and Nietzsche, repressed from memory – is a more difficult mending.
And this is why we feel our way. This is why we proceed ever-aware of our unknown feelings, if that makes sense. It may be like riding a wild horse sometimes, thrown this way and that by powerful urges; but we ride in awareness of feelings behind the memory wall. We’ll particularly note our feelings when stressed, for this will be our most primitive self exposed.
Sometimes we may scream with Jesus, ‘My God, my God why have you abandoned me?’ And while some moments I’m the luckiest human alive, there are other moments when I feel the anger of a goaded bull. And this is OK.
For the hope in all this is that slowly, slowly, and day by day – like the soldiers in a besieged city offered safe passage – our deepest feelings, our most primitive truths, are invited out from behind the memory wall.
Promised safe passage, walled-in truths emerge into the sunlight of awareness; and away from the shadows, they are less and less the enemy.
This is feeling our way, rather than thinking our way. (Thought can never solve feelings, though many attempt it.)
So no, I do not sense that our mechanics change greatly in life; and too much cheap change is promised by dishonest salesmen: ‘Be transformed here!’ I do not meet great change either in myself or in the salesmen, and I’ve met a few. But how we relate to our feelings, this can change greatly. Here is life’s growth point. The feelings may be beyond our memory, but they are not beyond our kind and growing awareness… and this makes all the difference.
From behind their high walls, the besieged used to fire terrible arrows and slingshot, and hurt us badly. These days, we sometimes see it coming and duck if necessary; and, as I say, some of them even come out to talk.
Next time, I may write about my Julian of Norwich novel which is now in production and perhaps out in the autumn. It’s called The Secret Testament of Julian.
But for now, please buy twenty copies of Another Bloody Retreat immediately and give them to friends, literary acquaintances, distant relations and selected enemies. The abbot needs friends (and reviews) right now.
As always, thank you for being there. The bluebells are gone, their exuberance exhausted, but you are not. And sometimes that’s our glory, without us realising: just being there.
With very best wishes