Emotional Independence

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Feelings are like the number 42. The answer to an unknown question from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Each feeling we experience is the result of a complex computation integrating gazillions of signals from the past, the present and the expected futures.

These answers cannot be expressed in words - that is why we feel them. The best we can do is to put them between words and lines in the hope to let the resulting tension recreate a mirror image of a feeling in a reader.

An unquestioned feeling is as helpful as the answer 42 - but while the poor mice had to build a complex machine to compute the question, you are the complex machine that gave your answer.

The question is stored somewhere inside of you and all you need to do is to push open the door provided by the answer and follow the path behind that door until you reach the question.

Yes, sometimes this path is scary. And yes, you will find other answers along the way, branching off into other paths towards other questions, but usually you will find a really good question five steps down.

I first experienced this when i was sixteen years old, reading Fritz Riemann's "Grundformen der Angst" (english: "Anxiety. Using Depth Psychology to Find a Balance in Your Life"). Each type of fear he described triggered an avalanche of feelings that left me gasping for life. But once i had discovered the questions to these feelings, once i had complete information, i could breathe freely again - perhaps even for the first time.

This is where the journey towards emotional independence begins. It is the work of piecing together questions with their answers into useful information. Only then can we begin to formulate adequate responses to the answers. Preferably by asking more questions until we reach a coherent core that is question and answer at the same time - the thing that makes you You - whatever that means to you.

I sense that this is a similar journey the boys in the African tribes experience during their initiation rites as described by Bruno Bettelheim in "Symbolic Wounds: Puberty Rites and the Envious Male". They are forced to live in the jungle by themselves without support until they meet their personal god, an event usually triggered by the delirium created by hunger, fear and loneliness. Once they have encountered their personal god, they carve a representation of this god and return home.

This god can be interpreted as a very distant model in the sense of René Girard. But it is much more than that. It is a model created by the subject and therefor adaptable to new circumstances, making it a powerful tool of self-guidance and group-differentiation as a basis for non-rivalrous interactions.

This is the place where true emotional independence emerges. It is the constant remodeling of a self created god towards whom we strive while we continue to unravel the maze of questions within.

Photo by Evgenia Basyrova from Pexels