The Diagnosis of Destructive Emotions
In the desert I saw a creature, naked, bestial, Who, squatting upon the ground, Held his heart in his hands, And ate of it. I said, "Is it good, friend?" "It is bitter - bitter," he answered; "But I like it Because it is bitter, And because it is my heart."
The human condition is a funny thing. Aspects of it are, undeniably, admirable. The capacity for empathy, for example, is something which few of us would seek to cast out from ourselves. However, there are also less desirable traits. A frightening capacity for cruelty may be found in all of us in the right (or, perhaps, the wrong) situation, and irrationality - begotten by the very emotions that we pride ourselves on possessing - abounds throughout our society.
Overall, is human nature good or bad? It is difficult to give an impartial answer, since we are all human and therefore profoundly biased, but I think any honest person would have to acknowledge that it is at very least broken. Being a "good" person (at least, under most ethical systems) is a little like a roller-coaster; a slow climb up fuelled by copious amounts of effort which is all-too-often followed by a free-fall plunging towards the futile and the libertine. It seems that the emotions we despise in ourselves are those which are most fecund, and those which come the most easily to us. Since the dawn of thought, religions and philosophies have tried to mend human nature.
Some, like the stoics of Ancient Greece, were too heavy-handed, to the extent that they actually strove to be rid of all emotions. Their ardour turned to impetuosity, and rather than performing the careful surgery necessary they clumsily removed far too much of what makes us human; what makes life worth living. A "sage", as they called one who had attained moral and intellectual perfection, would be little more than a robot! Similarly, many Buddhists believe that emotions are nothing more than incommodious background noise that can interfere with a person's spiritual and moral life, and therefore which should be avoided. Most, though, do not strive to rid themselves of all emotions. Therein lies the other extreme that plagues humanity; a extempore complacence.
An acceptance of irrational and often downright dangerous urges that can harm ourselves and others. Conventional therapists often advise people to accept their anger and find ways of "dealing with it". People with irrational fears and phobias are often told that there is nothing wrong with having a terrified response to something as innocuous as a spider or a button on a jacket. "Find ways to deal with it", they are told. The popular Victorian novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde provides an interesting anecdote as to the dangers of this approach. Sooner or later, the bestial and profligate aspects of our nature will break free from the flimsy prison of the mind we confine them in. When they do, they will have amassed a strength as to be unstoppable.
Fatercism is, to my mind, the first system which presents a perfect solution to the mending of human nature. Neither heavy-handed nor supine, it employs the careful surgery necessary to remove negative emotions whilst permitting the positive to stay (and indeed, in greater quantity and intensity than before). It does this by recognizing that the source of destructive emotions as the Great Discord (those who are new to Fatercism should read this article before continuing), which is the conflict between the segments of our being: our Transiences and our Permanence. To quote Guru James Spencer in Manifolds of Reality, someone who has successfully ended the Great Discord (or "placated their Permanence") will be free of all "destructive emotions".
But in the sea of emotions we find our consciousness besieged with, which would a perfect Fatercist be free of? Some emotions, like anger, might at first seem to be completely undesirable. What could possibly be desirable about what is, ultimately, an urge to hurt someone- even if it is tempered by sufficient restraint to resist such actions? But we must remember that anger was given to us by our evolutionary background, and is not always a bad thing. Some people find themselves motivated by outrage at injustice, which is undeniably a form of anger, and use this outrage as the fuel for positive reform. Others use their anger at themselves as inspiration to better themselves. Anger might be unsightly, but it certainly has its uses. What about fear? Fear can serve as obstinate shackles, holding us back, but it too has its purpose. A condition called Urbach Wiethe disease can cause a person to literally feel no fear whatsoever, through the inhibition of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for many emotions. Some might envy this affliction, but suffers can put themselves in extreme danger, such as crossing a busy road with blasé nonchalance. Fear is an important tool in the decision-making process, especially for decisions which involve risk assessment, and its value should not be dismissed. Are there any emotions which are purely destructive?
What about greed? Well, it turns out that even greed has its uses! Not wanting to sound like Gordon Gekko, it’s a precarious truth that greed is a powerful motivator for success. A vast majority of those who work hard do so for personal gain- whether that is monetary gain, or social gain, or the gain of freedom. Take that emotion away and a great deal of productivity would be stripped from the world. Emotions which are often viewed as purely positive can be serpentine, too. Few would have anything bad to say about the emotion of love, but love can lead to reckless behaviour and irrational decisions. Pity can lead to excessive altruism to the extent of neglecting our own needs. Gratitude can lead to self-imposed serfdom; hope can lead to naivety.
It's hard to think of a single emotion which is solely good; which can never serve as a double-edged sword and hurt the emotee. A well-known metaphor for the struggle between the "good" emotions and the "bad" emotions which humans suffer (or benefit) comes from a Cherokee legend, where a grandfather tells his grandson about two fighting wolves that dwell inside all of us. He gives a long list of "positive" emotions that he ascribes to one wolf, and he gives a long list of "negative" emotions to embody the other. When his grandson asks which wolf wins, he simply responds "The wolf you feed". Perhaps this metaphor is overly simplistic, but there is some truth within. There are two wolves battling within us - our Transiences and our Permanence. Neither is good nor bad. The solution to the conflict isn't to aid one so that it might smite the other; it is to make peace. If one wolf kills the other, it might feed for a week or a month off the flesh of its fallen adversary. Soon, though, it will die - alone and forsaken. Imagine what could happen if the two wolves could work together!
That is what Fatercism pursues. When one placates their Permanence, they don't magically dissipate anger, and envy, and greed, and fear, and every other emotion which is commonly thought of as negative. Often these emotions originate not from a spurned Permanence but from evolutionary prudence. Rather, a placated Permanence obliterates instances of those emotions which do not contribute to our happiness - and those instances of "good" emotions which we would be better off without. Happiness is what we strive for; the motivation currency employed by evolution. It is always good, but it is not an emotion; it is a state of mind. One might have all they could ever want from a hedonistic perspective, but unless they feel fulfilled they will not be truly happy. No emotion is intrinsically good or bad. Even emotions which may be mistaken for happiness, like joy, can sometimes be bad. You need austerity to appreciate affluence. The value of an emotion is not intrinsic, but decided by how it contributes to the struggle for happiness.
A true Fatercist will not be free of any one emotion. They will have their emotions in balance, carefully primed by the Permanence to work towards a single goal: the happiness and fulfillment of the individual.
By Guru Heather Marshall