Emotional Maturity for an Effective Community Living

We are living in the world of today which is very fast in growth and development. Today we the religious face lot of challenges from the world. We have to come across people with different temperaments and the religious require a lot of patience at times to handle their emotions and to do the ministry more effectively. As a religious person we need to move from place to place and we enter in to a new culture, language and people. We the religious come from different parts of the world.

We have come with our own family background, culture and language. This makes the religious community life more challenging, beautiful and enriching. And often we do not know how to control or manage our emotions. At this juncture, I am trying to make a study of the different types of emotions which create problem within oneself and with others. Chapter one I shall present the various kinds of problems that affect the community members when they live together.

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I shall to explain it in its diverse aspects. The second chapter of my dissertation explains the different kinds of emotions and their causes. When any one of this is predominant in the person it creates a lot of problem to herself and also destroys the peace of mind of the other members of the community. It can be a great block to the person to grow in interpersonal relationships with the community members and with the people in general.

In chapter three having made an attempt to go deeper into the various kinds of emotions which cause problems to the persons, I made an effort to find ways and to means for growing in emotional maturity remedies and solutions to the emotional problems which will help the religious to handle the situations in a healthy way and live a harmonious life in the community and in the society. 1 CHAPTER ONE UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONAL MATURITY AND RELATED ISSUES IN COMMUNITY LIVING Introduction It is the birthright of every human person to live a happy and contented life.

This is more so true in the life of a religious consecrated person, who has ‘left everything’ to follow the Lord by living with other consecrated persons and thus forming a religious community. Ideally then, it is the wish and prayer of the community that their life be an authentic witness and response to the call they have received from the Lord. For an effective community life and ministry, there is a greater need for emotional maturity which is the surest way of becoming and being happy.

When a few members come together to live under one roof, sharing many things in common, there are ample opportunities for interpersonal exchange, which allow others to enter the personal ‘space’ of oneself and the other. Such interactions and sharing might some times create an atmosphere of jealousy, selfishness and self-centered behaviour. If the members have a certain level of emotional maturity many problems could be avoided and/or conflicts easily solved and carry on with life.

So in this first chapter, my attempt is to understand what emotions are all about, the context of our religious life in which we are to live those emotions, and some of the emotional problems that we come across and have to live with. 1. 1. Understanding Emotions Emotions can be defined as just a feeling or sensation caused by a person’s perception about something or someone. Emotions are felt physically. ”Emotion involves the affective or feeling part of experience. We feel emotional.

Yet feelings are closely related to thinking since thinking certain thoughts can produce positive or negative emotions ” (Minirth & Frank, 1991). Positive emotions are experienced and expressed through our body the way we relate through our encouraging and soothing words. Some examples of positive emotions are interest, enthusiasm, laughter, empathy, action, curiosity, wonder, tenderness, surprise, love joy, and peace. Negative emotions are expressed through our verbal and non verbal communication.

We try to protect one’s own position at the expense of others. When it is expressed in inappropriate way, it breaks down the relationship between persons. Negative emotions are fueled by an underlying fear of the unknown, a fear of the actions of others, and a need to control them or stop them to avoid being harmed. Negative emotions are, for example: apathy, grief, fear, hatred, shame, blame, regret, resentment, anger, hostility. 1. 2. Factors Contributing to Emotional Issues

The term “emotional problems” or “emotional disorders” is used to apply to many mental health difficulties. How people express their emotions is an important aspect of mental health. Many emotional responses are out of the range of normal behaviour. When responses are out of the range of normal, such as pervasive sadness in depression, mental health is threatened (Fawcett, 2004). In the following section, my attempt is to explore briefly some of the factors which are the sources for some of the emotional issues that we need to live with. 1. 2. 1. Intimacy

According to a theory developed by Robert Steinberg (1986) love has three distinctive components:(i) passion – an intensive desire for another person; (ii) intimacy – the sharing of all one’s feelings, thoughts, needs and actions with another; and (iii) commitment – the willingness to stay with a person in good times as well as bad times (healing wounded relationships). We shall briefly explain the various aspects about intimacy here. Intimacy is the experience of closeness or union between two or more persons. We speak of a family that is intimately united that fosters love and devotion.

We think of the sacrifice and thoughtfulness of the parents, of the love and affection of children and the affirmation and care each one bestows on the other. Friendship allows people to discover intimacy in silence and conversation, in taking risks and trusting one another. Such an intimacy can build up ties of mutual support, shared meaning and common values. The word intimacy is perhaps not properly understood by religious persons. We seem to have a false understanding about the quality of some of our relationships.

When two persons are closely relating with one another (male/female) the community members may feel that there is ‘something going wrong’ in such relationships. It creates misunderstanding among the community members and the person. This kind of relationship is not encouraged even today in formation and also in the community. As religious if we have real understanding of intimacy, it will help us to build a healthy relationship with all the members of the community. This will help us to love, share; accept one another to build a true and peace loving community.

Every religious may experience and express brotherly and sisterly concern, support and encouragement to each other. 1. 2. 2. Culture and Castes India is rich in its cultural heritage. There is diversity in language, culture and tradition. One can experience this diversity when we move from one region to another. As religious when we are transferred from one region to another it is important that we try to identify ourselves with that culture. Every culture has its own richness. One needs to learn to cherish those riches of the cultural diversity.

Due to regionalism very often we are restricted to our own native cultures and try to impose it on others. One needs to adapt to the culture and traditions of the people of that place. In the book of Genesis we see that God created only man and woman, He did not create any castes, creed, colours and religions. We human beings have divided ourselves in to high and low castes, rich and poor classes, etc. This feeling is not only created and rooted in the society in general but the religious too are deeply in the grip of such divisions. These feelings divide the minds and hearts; create disunity, groupism, according to their states and castes. . 2. 3. Old Age It is a given fact that the religious too get old by the day, like everyone else and it is important to live a meaningful life. Living a useful and purposeful life, in the service of others and God, is very much part of our life as religious. Growing old gracefully is at once a task and a mission for us. The question arises as to know whether such a graceful thing happens to all of us in our religious communities. According to Erikson’s seventh and eighth stages of psychological development, in the late adulthood, every person has to reach out beyond one’s own immediate concerns to embrace the welfare of society or community.

The task of this stage is to develop the ability to care for others. Generativity involves an element of selfishness and selflessness. In contrast, stagnation is a condition in which the individual is preoccupied with one’s own material possessions, physical well being and comforts. It is against this normal and healthy way of growing old that we need to look at our individual lives and their fulfillment in our communities. Are all of us, as religious, self-realized persons, living lives that are oriented towards self-transcendence? It would seem that religious in general are worried more about themselves than the others well being.

They also face the reality of life that they are reaching to the end of their physical life. When they begin to look back in their old age, some feel a sense of satisfaction with their accomplishment. Normally they grow as integrated and wise person. Others, on the other hand, experience despair. They face fear that they are no more useful and cannot do much anymore to satisfy their egos and keep themselves always busy, as they used to do in their younger years. Their life seems to be meaningless. They need some one’s help, concern, care and love. When they do not receive such support, they feel lonely, frustrated and disappointed.

Such situations can lead them to generating negative emotions, and not knowing often how to manage them in a healthy manner, many of them become problem cases for themselves and for others. 1. 2. 4. Workaholism It is not uncommon to hear someone say to a hardworking person who spends unusually long hours on the job everyday, “don’t work so hard; you‘ll burn yourself out. ” The usual, but hardly original, response is “I’d rather burn out than rust out,” revealing both the high level of commitment and the sense of immunity experienced by the person voluntarily enslaved by work. Workaholics are not generally the types to burn out.

They are not capable of relating to others in a deeply personal or intimate way. Perhaps their ability to utilize compulsive work as a defense mechanism to protect them from getting emotionally close to people and experiencing the anxieties, frustrations, and stress felt by the more vulnerable individuals who do burn out. They manage to avoid distress by maintaining tight control over the way things are done. This happens also in our religious communities. Throughout their adult life, most of us, if not all, seem to be ‘doing’ things, to ‘achieve’ name and fame, and also to become ‘useful’ persons.

On the one hand it would look to be rather normal and healthy, one cannot easily forget the nature of our religious vocation and the way it is to be lived – as men and women of God. We are not called to be just ‘workers’; doing things all the time. As such workaholism is something that can seep into our daily lives, and unless such a life is spiritually balanced and strengthened, can lead eventually to frustration and generation of negative emotions. 1. 2. 5. Sexuality Various communication media today influence our youth and give them wrong notion about sexuality.

Access to the Internet and other technologically advanced facilities can disorient youth and adult into the perils of cyber sex, pornography and other similar subversive tendencies causing enormous emotional conflicts and problems. These influences do not spare even those in the religious formation. Religious who do not understood the meaning and the beauty of their sexuality will create problems in the community. When a young religious begins his/her life in the devout life, some time he/ she is not able to cope up with his/her sexuality.

It may be an attraction towards someone and therefore he/she is not able to balance between her vow of celibacy and say, physical and sexual attraction. Sometimes natural feelings are taught as bad and compelled to repress them unknowingly. He/she is not taught to handle his/her emotions creatively. So sometimes, the person ends up with inappropriate relationships with the same sex or opposite sex, which becomes a chronic pathological problem in and for the community. We who are created in the image and likeness of God are called to achieve the plenitude of life through healthy relationships, after the model of the most Blessed Trinity.

Although it is not realistically possible here on earth, sexuality is one way of achieving this fullness. All that God created is good, including maleness and femaleness. We need not divinize or despise it, for it is a gift of God. Our sexuality is the means chosen by God to reveal the truth that it is not good for human beings to be alone. There is an urge and longing in every person to relate with the other; to love and be loved. Affective sexuality refers to feelings, emotions, or moods that seek closeness, or yearning for a relationship.

The gift of celibacy enables us to relate to one another and others with profound warmth and affection, without being involved in genital acts. For a fruitful and effective ministry, priests/ religious must develop affective sexuality or affectionate sexuality. Affectionate sexuality is the relational aspect of personality. This includes sensitivity, understanding, acceptance, warmth, appreciation, compassion, support and care. A person who does not feel comfortable with affectionate sexuality often tends to be domineering and insensitive in their relationships.

Lacking necessary awareness regarding these matters may seem to be one of the factors leading to such issues. 1. 2. 6. Authority Being under any authority is a serious problem in the community today. Varkey (1998) enlightens the new style of leadership needed in the community. He highlights that “a superior should know how to lead people by love and not by fear, by his or her example more then by preaching”. When the authority does not realize that they are only servants of the master Jesus, then the community suffers under their power.

Many priests and religious do suffer because of this. Each member of the congregation shares in the collective responsibility and authority in it. Every member, because he or she is a member has this moral authority. This authority implies challenging one another, including the superior, to follow the right path, the path that leads to the goal of the congregation. 1. 2. 7. Spirituality There are at least two ways of growing in spiritual life in the religious life. They are practicing community and personal prayers. Most of the religious people suffer under spiritual problems.

Religious houses suffer worse than the other people in the normal society. The daily routine prayers and the Eucharistic celebrations do not become the central part of their life. Often the religious feel emptiness in their spiritual life. The religious community for its own survival and the service of the larger community should be a place of prayer. “Spirituality means that which gives human beings the power to transcend their immediate means and find ultimate meaning and sacredness in their serving”, according to Clark (1991). 1. 3. EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS ARISING IN COMMUNITY LIVING

Thus far we have seen what emotions are and the context in which the religious are called to live in affective maturity. As human as we are, and as perfection is not of this world, we are prone to live out our human limitations and weaknesses. Some of this incongruence in our profession and actual living out of our religious vows and commitment are also seen in our behaviour and the way our emotions are expressed, more often than not, negatively. My attempt in the following subsection is to describe what some of these negative emotions are, and how they are experienced and expressed in our personal and community living. . 3. 1. Anger Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury. Anger is not like other emotions. It is “accompanied by physiological and biological changes. When some one gets angry, the heart rate and the pressure go up. It is due to the increased levels of energy hormones such as adrenaline. ” (Greenberger ; Padesky, 1996). Anger can be induced either by external or internal events. One can get angry at a specific person or event. Some times anger could also be caused by worrying or brooding about ones personal problems.

Besides, memories of traumatic or enraged events can also trigger anger. Getting angry is human but how we express the anger is important; some times we get angry with the other person due to various reasons such as we do not like the person’s opining, tone of voice or we did not like the person. This creates lot of conflicts and misunderstanding between the persons relationships and also hinders growth of the community Many times we do not feel free to express our anger. We also feel guilty about the expression of an inappropriate anger, which is unhealthy. Anger is a power for good or evil.

It can be channeled and used not only for our own mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health and maturity but also for the improvement and healthier functioning of our personal relationships. Neglected anger affects us spiritually. For example when we feel spiritually dry or weighed down by the uselessness and the meaninglessness of life we feel distant from God. And some times this dryness might arouse a sort of anger in us. We must allow ourselves to feel ‘appropriate anger’ and deal with it. That is what it means to take responsibility for our lives.

And this is what emotional maturity is all about. And in that sense, anger is a virtue! Anger is truly an important aspect of our lives. It helps us to be honest, to be genuine, and to live a healthy and vibrant life, to trust, to love, and to be intimate. These are daily situational problems in our religious communities. 1. 3. 2. Jealousy Jealousy is defined as thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that occur when a person believes that a valued relationship is being threatened by a rival. Jealousy involves emotions like pain, anger, rage, sadness, fear and humiliation.

Jealousy stops growth in a relationship because it comes from insecurity and lack of communication. If there is insecurity and no communication, then there is no intimacy in that relationship. If there is jealousy in a relationship there is no trust and no genuine love. The relationship becomes a way of manipulating the other person. Jealousy is something that happens very much in our religious communities. It is an emotion which becomes difficult to avoid. As religious we experience it when we compare ourselves unfavorably with others.

The feeling of jealousy arises when we feel that we have been neglected or ignored by others; when we have been left out in the community. We all have been victims of jealousy at some stages of our life or other. There are times when we have been jealous ourselves about the success or the accomplishments of others and of their abilities. Some of us become so fiercely competitive and arrogant. We are jealous of others’ talents, gifts, capabilities and opportunities. Some times we try to spoil their names and block their growths.

We fail to see our talents and potentiality and do not work hard to achieve them. Many psychologists trace the roots of jealousy in infancy experiences with sibling rivalries. The child experiences jealousy when another child is born into the family and the new comer robes the attention of the others. This eventually causes jealousy to the older child. Perhaps some of our childhood experiences have not been handled well by our parents. But there is no need to be crippled in life because we are unable to grow out of our unmet infancy needs.

If we are sufficiently adaptable and open to change and life giving messages and experiences, we can overcome these lingering feelings. This calls for attention not to react at every situation in life through the prism of unmet needs. If we keep comparing all the time at what others have achieved, it will cause jealousy and we will miss our mark in life. We have been born into this world to realize our own true destiny. If at every point of human contact we react with jealousy whenever we are challenged by another, such attitudes will make us fail to realize our true purpose.

According to Janina Gomes (2006), “through our efforts and our self-giving let a hundred flowers bloom around us in human life. If we allow others to bloom in life, we will not end up with self-diminishment, but with an enriched and enhanced sense of true self”. 1. 3. 3. Fear Fear casts its dark shadow over our lives at one time or another. We are prone to fear almost instinctively. Neither the highest nor the lowest of us is exempt from fear. We the religious are afraid of the future, afraid of poverty, afraid of unemployment, afraid of dishonour and disgrace, afraid of disease and death.

We live in fear; we work in fear; we walk in fear. We move through life from one fear to another, crushed beneath the weight of a woeful existence! Fear is at the root of all our problems. Fear is the starting point for all evil. Fear gives rise to all our misfortune. Living in constant fear saps our vital energies, leaving us too drained and exhausted to savour the joy of life. Fear paralyses the mind, even as a stroke paralyses the body. It strikes at the nervous system; it causes stress and tension. It undermines our well-being. Worst of all, it robs us of happiness and destroys our peace of mind.

For example most of the religious are afraid to hold the responsibility; they are afraid of criticism, fear of themselves whether they would do according to the expectations of others, fear of facing the uncertainties of life and thus lack trust in their talents and abilities. Some of the religious afraid of speaking on the stage, though they have the talents to speak in public, they think that they cannot perform well and remain unnoticed all through their lives. 1. 3. 4. Loneliness Loneliness is the feeling of being left alone, unwelcome, and rejected. It is the feeling that life has no power to bestow security, vision or purpose.

It is the feeling of not being meaningfully related. The wellspring of human health rises from social openness, contact, acceptance, belonging, support and love. Eugene Kennedy (1992) writes that “loneliness rides like a ghost on the edge of human relationship, ready to move in through the cracks made by the strains of life or into the unsuspected emptiness that could only be masked for a while”. Loneliness has many causes. It is inherent in the limitation of human nature, lack of intelligence, poverty of spiritual resources, the easy disposition to mistakes, defects and failures.

These gives rise to a sense of deprivation. A factor in loneliness that blights the lives of many is the feeling of being physically handicapped and unattractive and so they are not able to mix with others. Some loneliness can be traced to our own difficulties, in relating, in adjusting, in communicating, in sharing. Psychologist James Bugental (1995) calls it, “the feeling of being a part of humankind, and yet apart from every other human being”. We the religious sometimes are attached to some particular place or community due to working for many years in the same place, familiarity with same persons etc.

When the person finds happiness, security and comfortable life in a given place, he/she finds it difficult to accept the transfer and face the new challenges of life. If he/she is forced to transfer then the person feels insecure, lonely, and uncomfortable to the new situations, persons and place. They may be physically present in the new community but mentally think of the old community or the place. This hinders the person’s growth as well as that of the community. Some of the religious are not sociable; do not like to share their feelings with the other members of the community.

They won’t take active part in the community activities. 1. 3. 5. Frustrations Frustration is the hurt that destroys all that is good in life. It is a lack of confidence, a disappointment and disillusionment with life. It is the feeling that our energies are blocked, a desire to break the chains we have wrapped ourselves in too often through wounded self- love. Frustration is real let down. He is unable to function normally in any activity. Person has needs and drives which are important determinants of his/ her behaviour.

Some of them are healthy and some are unhealthy (cf. J . Maurus, 2001). Needs are healthy if they contribute to the moral education and continued growth towards self-actualization. Such can be the need of love, of sex, of security, of identity, of freedom, of achievement, of orientation towards goal of religion. The need satisfaction is an integral component of personality and a well adjusted person is able to gratify his/her needs with behaviour i. e. personally and socially acceptable when our desires are great, our hope runs high and our ambition strong.

And when we meet with failures and our aspirations and our dreams are scattered, we fight against people and things that we consider them obstacles to reach our goal. It is reasonable to have high hopes as consecrated persons or priests. If one identifies one’s worth with the place or office that is entrusted it becomes a problem for the person. The periods of appointment and transfers have become an important part in the life of consecrated persons. At times of transfers and appointments, they feel depressed, when their wish is not fulfilled.

As a result, they develop feeling of indifference to the place or to the new responsibility, which they were assigned. They find themselves in a mixture of frustration and helplessness. Conclusion In the above three sub-sections, I have tried to show briefly what emotions are, in what context of our lives, we live them, and described some of the negative emotions that come up in our daily life situations, how we experience them, how we express them – sometimes in a mature manner, but often times, in immature ways, which are not very helpful in creating and maintaining healthy relationships and effective lives in our communities.