Our Autumnal Years: Coming Back Home

Our Autumnal Years: Coming Back Home

In his book Behave, Robert Sapolsky (2017, P. 44) conveys the core idea behind his research that “your heart does roughly the same thing whether you are in a murderous rage or having an orgasm.”  He adds that the “opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference”. We now know why human beings are unable to recognise their emotions and differentiate between intense sorrow and joy during the battle. No wonder we feel let down after a game. No wonder we wish, at some level, that the battler would never be over. We will not be able to do our souls work during moments of intense sorrow, joy, love or hate. Ironically, there is an opportunity to turn inward when we are indifferent—or at least at peace with our self.

As warriors we are particularly immune to pain and have a hard time identifying our true feelings. The German martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was by many accounts, one of the great heroes of the 20th Century. He helped to lead the conspiracy against Adolph Hitler during the Holocaust. He wrote a poem about the confusion between joy and sorrow while waiting for his execution in a prison before the end of World War II. He notes that it is often hard to distinguish between intense heat and intense cold when we first touch a hot burner or piece of ice. Intensive joy and intense sorrow have similar properties when first experienced in the midst of struggle. We describe this same type of confusion in the following stanzas (based on Bonhoeffer’s poem):

Both joy and sorrow strike us now.

They each can touch our soul.

Feel joy and sorrow burn your heart.

Like heat and frost’s first toll.

 

See joy and sorrow hurled from heights.

Past heaven’s cosmic reach.

See feelings paint a flaming arc.

Their light at last will teach.

 

Compelling, strong, these feelings grow.

Past heaven’s cosmic reach.

See feelings grasp our tender heart

Their touch at last will teach.

 

Both joy and sorrow strike us now.

They each can touch our soul.

Feel joy and sorrow burn your heart.

Like heat and frost’s first toll.

 

Joy is enmeshed with fear.

And sorrow can be sweet.

These feelings often intertwine.

Their dance at last will teach.

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About the Author

Eliza YongMs Eliza Yong, Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (USA), is a Certified Substance Abuse and Gambling Addiction Counsellor by The Association of Professionals Specialising in Addictions Counselling (APSAC) and has been counselling individuals and their families since 2009. She also works with individuals and their families with domestic violence to break the violence cycle. Eliza is trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Schema Therapy. She is a member of the Singapore Psychological Society, American Group Psychotherapy Association, APSAC and EMDR Singapore. She also provides regular talks to understand and cope with different addictions and emotions as well as presents her research at international conferences. Eliza had a 2-month attachment to The Connection Inc.’s women’s programmes in residential houses, outpatient counselling centres and homeless program (Connecticut, USA) in 2013. Eliza used to have previous careers in hospitality and event marketing in an investment bank. In her free time, Eliza enjoys reading, the arts, nature, cooking and time with her family and her terrapin, Misty.

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