The Affective Dimension of Human Life
According to Penguin Dictionary of Psychology affect is a “general term used more or less interchangeably with various others, such as emotion, emotionality, feeling, mood, etc. Historically, it has had various, more specialized usages. It was once applied to one of the three ‘mental functions’, the other two being cognition and volition.
Later, Titchener used it as a label for the pleasantness – unpleasantness dimension of feeling.” In describing an individual’s affective functioning, clinicians frequently employ the dimensions of range, stability, and appropriateness. Weiner, while speaking about modulation of affect, restricts the use of the term affect to emotional experience. According to him “affect modulation consists of how people deal with feelings arising from within themselves and also how they respond to the feelings of others and to emotionally charged situations in general.” But the term affectivity is much more wider than the mere realm of emotions. A comprehensive understanding of the term is given by Fr. Imoda, and let me explain it in detail.
According to Imoda “there exists in the human person (and precisely in the region of the heart) that which Plato called ‘thumós’, an affective area which is quiet different from the pure vital force, the need (epithumía). But neither is it, on the other hand, the pure desire open to the perspectives of reason (éros). It is human desire as it is expressed in the area of the passions; more specifically in three passions involving possession (avoir), power (pouvoir), and worth (valoir).” He continues to explain that there is a dimension of infinity present in these passions, which can exist only in the specifically human realm. So the concept of affectivity includes both an openness to the infinite, and at the same time of a being whose quest is pursued within a world of limitation. It is because man simultaneously inhibits two different “worlds” that represent diverse spheres of meaning: the world of desire and the world of limits. So the affective area of the person is not just a simple ‘emotion’ – a psychological phenomenon which like an emotional desire seeks an object to satisfy it – but it is the locus for manifestation of the mystery of man. And this mediation between finite and infinite, between bodily experience and the spirit, between the vital with its involuntary component and the voluntary guided by reason, is achieved due to the realm of affectivity. It is the arena of human heart’s restlessness. Unlike the cognitive sphere which tends to objectivise and divide, the affective area tends to unite and connect. It makes a connection between the other and the self. “Where affectivity, as passion, touches and unites subjectivity itself (the concrete self) with the actual personality, interiorizing the bodylines into the person’s very being, this is the point where one can deeply communicate or deeply wound and be wounded as well.” As with any other force or energy, affectivity can impel the person towards either the pursuit of transcendence or in the ruthless pursuit of possession, power, and self-worth in the guise of eagerness, domination and limitless ambition. So it is important to understand and take seriously this component of human mystery.
Maturity comes from the Latin word maturus, meaning ripeness. It is the “state of adulthood, of completed growth, of full functioning; the end of the process of Maturation.” While the term maturity is commonly used in biological, sociological, psychological, and spiritual contexts there does not exist a widely accepted set of criteria for determining its presence. “In psychological literature the concepts of “development” and “maturity” are closely related; generally maturity is regarded as an outcome of development, and development refers to the intrapsychic processes which bring about maturity. Because human development is an ongoing, dynamic process it is more useful to think of maturity as a tendency, or general orientation, than as a fixed point of measurement.” So maturity is a process, not a destination. It is a journey, not an arrival point. Maturity is completion and not perfection. Maturity is not the absence of needs or struggles. Essentially, it is a state of completeness blended with a good degree of personhood and wholeness. Maturing reflects stability, depth, refinement of character, inner security, and integrity. Some aspects of maturity are time related (like physical maturation). Other aspects are experience related (like emotional maturity). There are many facets to maturity: intellectual-mental, interpersonal-relational, affective-emotional, spiritual-existential, social-cultural. Maturity is a simple concept and a complex phenomenon at once.
Based on the theory of Self-transcendent consistency we can define affective maturity as “knowing and accepting one’s objective and free self-ideal-in-situation (SI-II) and living it.” “This self-ideal-in-situation is the result of two components: the ideals the person has for himself, self-ideal (SI), and the ideals of the institution as they are perceived by the individual (II).” And the objectivity and freedom of the self-ideal-in-situation (SI-II) are affected differently by four sources such as lack of knowledge, non-defensive identification, intrapsychic conflicts or inconsistencies, and group pressure. So if objectivity and the freedom of the vocational SI-II of an individual are seriously compromised if his life is based on pseudo-values, then it is difficult for him to listen to God and to his fellow men, to discern what is useful from what is likable, to lose himself unselfishly, to internalize vocational attitudes or values. By now it is clear that to know and accept and live one’s SI-II one needs affective maturity and spiritual commitment. Such a mature person will have the following qualities:
- Capacity to face reality: open to know and accept self & others, no escape, diminution, denial or projection of problems;
- Acceptance and integration of one’s needs with vocational values and attitudes: to organize and unify life according to few dominant self-transcendent motives.
- Use their psychic energy to achieve values & the ability to maintain tension: in taking and implementing decisions, in tolerating uncertainties, in achieving distant goals (counteraction).
- Less inclination to sacrifice principles to pragmatism: flexible and service-minded, since no need to defend themselves they are more sensitive to the feelings of others.
- Unselfish, disinterested love: no need of other people for their security and gratification; since no need for defensive consistency they can be effective even when no immediately and personally rewarding interaction with people is available; free in giving and in receiving and open to love.
- Realism with the implementation of vocational values and attitudes: know how to distinguish between what is essential and what is accidental, between compromise of principles and compromise of facts; no compulsion to distort their perception of reality; the lack of impulses to gratify specific needs allows them to have a comprehensive view of issues.
- Basic trust toward others (due to their trust in themselves): secure and mature self-acceptance allows them to relate with others with a minimum of anxiety and hostility; they can keep their aggressive impulses under control.
- Relationship with superiors, peers, inferiors characterised neither by dependence nor by independence, but by dependability: has a sense of auto-determination based on objective evaluation of self and others; has the capacity to take his/her own decision with the help of others, respecting their freedom and keeping his/her own.
- General stability in all these (above) aspects: may fail and falter, but has the capacity – without pretending bravery – of a perpetual renewal before new questions to be faced.
- Internalization of vocational attitudes: According to N.Sanford for values to be internalized, they must be reflected on, and made the object of the individual’s best efforts at judgement and decision-making; they must find their way into the personality structure through the activity of the conscious and developed ego rather than through automatic conditioning or unconscious mechanisms. Here the person takes an active role.Prepared by Bhyju CMF.