Releasing Emotional Tension (Fear, Guilt, & Shame)

Santa Claus

Santa Claus (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)


Releasing Emotional Tension




We live in the midst of many possible social pressures. We learn that we are rewarded for displaying certain patterns and that we are punished for displaying others.



Religious myths like Santa Claus train us as naive children to conform to certain behavioral expectations and to avoid others. Multitudes of young children take these myths of Santa Claus literally, arguing sincerely that Santa is real and that good behavior is essential to earn’s Santa’s blessings and bribes.



We also may be exposed to ideas like a binary future of either heaven or hell, again encouraging us to behave in certain ways, but to avoid actions which are forbidden by those who threaten us with eternal damnation in hell for disobedience. That teaching is basically the same idea as with Santa, but some myths give more emphasis for adults on the terrifying character called Satan who tortures the disobedient, rather than merely giving them no presents or only filling their stocking with coal. Historical cases similar to Satan include the ritual tortures of the Holy Roman Inquisition and by the most famous champion of the crusades, Vlad the Impaler (AKA Count Dracula).



I recently watched a documentary about some young adults raised in a society which apparently takes teachings about heaven and hell very literally. Suicide rates tend to be rather high. However, conformity is also quite common. So, a culture endures because of the effectiveness of it’s methods of influencing behavior and cultivating loyalty.



English: Santa Claus as illustrated in , v. 52...

English: Santa Claus as illustrated in , v. 52, no. 1344 (December 3 1902), cover. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



We may all be exposed to social pressures to conform to certain standards and avoid (and even ridicule) others. Young children who question the existence of Santa may be condemned by their peers. Those who study the reality of historical methods of religious indoctrination may be very frightening to their peers, and may even be targeted for persecution as “non-believers” or “infidels” or “politically incorrect” or “mentally ill.”



What about questioning the modern translation of a doctrine like “thou shalt not kill?” Orthodox Hebrews may have no issue organizing enormous acts of violence against their selected targets. Why not?



They do not mistranslate from Hebrew in to English. They simply read the Hebrew fluently without needing to translate. “Thou shalt not murder” is not a prohibition against killing birds or killing enemy soldiers or killing Palestinians who are officially trespassing in their own ancient homeland or killing slaves or killing convicted criminals. In fact, along with the prohibition against murder, the Hebrew tradition includes a huge list of crimes to be punished with death, such as adultery.



So, ritual human sacrifice by governing institutions is not murder. Murder means the unauthorized killing of a person whose life is protected within a particular legal system by a warlord who enforces those rules with organized coercion (such as torture and killing).



There is no hypocrisy in banning murder under penalty of death, even while conducting imperialist genocide. They are quite distinct patterns of behavior.



English: Santa Claus as illustrated in , v. 58...

English: Santa Claus as illustrated in , v. 58, no. 1501 (1905 December 6), cover. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


But guilt is typical within certain cultures. Guilt often involves pleasure, such as the fear of pleasure. When guilt (the fear of pleasure) arises, that involves a disappointment with the results of a particular action, such as the result of a fear of punishment. I may find something pleasurable, but if I am punished for it once, then I may not want to be punished for it again, so I refrain from exploring what attracts me (so I can avoid a possible punishment). If that guilt is projected to others, that is called blame, which is inherently hypocritical.




“Oh no, I did not enjoy it at all. It is all their fault that I did the thing that have been planning to do for quite a while, but just waiting impatiently for a justification like this. Frankly, I am appalled and offended that you would suggest that the fact that I repeatedly did it might indicate that I took any pleasure in it whatsoever.”



Blame means when I label a certain past historical sequence as “what should not have happened” and then I project my condemnation of the history (my guilt) on to a target villain. Blame can lead to resentment, jealousy, and a long list of other patterns of frightened animosity.




Shame is also typical within certain cultures. When shames arises, that involves a disappointment about an unfulfilled expectation. What I did not produce, I can never compensate for (like one can in the case of guilt). Thus, shame is rather subtle. As long as I label the past as less important than “what should have happened instead,” that is shaming my own past. If that shame is projected on others (for their failure to fulfill whatever expectations I had), that can be labeled contempt or hatred.



“The Holy Roman Empire should not be an empire! Religions should not indoctrinate! That is the job of the mainstream media and the public school system!”



My own fear about admitting an unfulfilled expectation can result in a dramatic, passionate, aggressive repulsion toward anyone who approaches the subject of my shame. They are perceived as a threat to my emotional stability (to whatever extent there is any stability). If I am not ready to release the tension of the expectation that was not fulfilled, then I repel any attention toward that expectation. I would not want the subject referenced. I would not want the emotional pattern of shame referenced either. All of that would be considered “negativity” and rejected. That is a valid coping mechanism for maintaining distance from emotions that may be too terrifying for the “positive thinker.”





So, belief systems are the source of emotional repression. What is not safe to be revealed (according to a particular socio-cultural system of belief) must be hidden, even at the cost of tremendous muscolo-skeletal tension physically. Those who explore too closely to subjects considered terrifying or shameful may be ferociously attacked for their unwelcome explorations, or at least those people may be systematically avoided.



“What should be” cannot always be directly questioned. “Santa is real. Santa is real because Santa should be real.” There may be no use arguing with a toddler in a tantrum. For them, Santa may be as real as anything else.



“What should not be” cannot always be directly questioned either. “People should not lie. That is why Hell and Satan are real. Hell and Satan are real because otherwise people have been lying to me and indeed I have also been lying to others about how Hell and Satan are not metaphors or myths but absolute literal truths, which is why Hell and Satan must be real, because otherwise I have been lying to others, and people should not lie, so that is unacceptable, as in impossible. In other words, I am not ashamed. If I was ashamed, then that would be shameful, and if there is one thing that I sure do not want to be, it is shameful.”




The releasing of emotional tension naturally follows the recognition of the nature of language. Language is an instrument of social organizing, of influence, of governing, of mind control and behavior control. Language has no other function but such social organizing.



To recognize the function of language may be the most terrifying of all possible subjects. Recognizing the nature of language undermines the entire network of guilt and shame.



A translation of the New Testament says it like this: “To the pure in spirit, everything is pure; but with the divisive spirit of accusation, which is guilty, ashamed, polluted, corrupted, unstedfast, and traumatized, nothing is pure, but on the contrary their very minds and consciences are polluted, defiled, corrupted, confused, panicked.” (adapted from Titus 1:15)



Some see a cause for contempt almost everywhere they look. Others see no cause for contempt except the projecting of an inner shame.




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One Response to “Releasing Emotional Tension (Fear, Guilt, & Shame)”

  1. danijela Says:

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