We Can Hold Onto Our Best Qualities In Spite Of Our Mixed Emotions

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 1 May 2016.
By John Abbate.

Emotions affect all of us, demanding our attention, causing us both anxiety and joy. “Human existence comes to each one of us with its gift of mixed emotions,” said Dr Macnab. “Alex loves his job, but hates travelling…Mark is in love with Ruth, or is he in love with love, or perhaps himself? He’s not sure.” Examples of mixed emotions are easy to produce.

St Matthew’s Gospel describes a time of “people…frantic with fear and hope, turbulence and faith, storm and calm–mixed emotions,” said Dr Macnab.

In his address, Dr Macnab proposed five pathways derived from our everyday experience of mixed emotions, each pathway highlighting “the vital objective of more effectively managing our (mixed) emotions.”

  1. In our Western culture, we haven’t been very good at managing our emotions, single or mixed. We need a school or some kind of program of emotional expression and growth. So many of us become preoccupied with our emotional disasters, without any knowledge of how to get through them. Many factors come together such that we evade a thoughtful program for the management of our emotions, but one is needed.
  2. We need to “turn the pathology of our emotions around” so we can recognise and enhance the positive emotions.
  3. An enlightened future means developing the best emotions, thus promoting harmony between individuals, groups and nations. We must realise that our emotions are the “firebox” of our troubles as a species. Acclaimed science writer, Rush Dozier, in Why We Hate, said, “Hate tends to lock us into the blame game, as we spar with adversaries for whom we have little empathy or understanding. Hate shuts off empathy for the hated. And violence among antagonists who resent and hate each other can begin a cycle of rage and retaliation that is enormously difficult to stop. Hate can obsess us with past wrongs because the pain that those wrongs cause us remains so vividly in memory.”
  4. The challenge is emotional regulation.
  5. The task is to focus on the best emotions. Many things intrude on and compete for our focus. The next “golden calf” is always around the corner. Shun it, and focus on the best emotions, emotions that will enrich your life and the lives of others.

Dr Macnab paraphrases New Testament scripture at the end of his address, when he says: “Run the great race of faith, and take hold of the very gift of life. And a Good Presence will give emotional richness, reminding you of the best focus of life. A firm foundation for the future.”

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