“Our emotional life maps our incompleteness: A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger. But for that very reason we are often ashamed of our emotions, and of the relations of need and dependency bound up with them.”
This was part of philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s contribution to the anthology of letters written for the ‘next generation’ from cultural icons and elders at the time. Title for those interested, Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two.
Her main point, “Do not despise your inner world. That is the first and most general piece of advice I would offer… Our society is very outward-looking, very taken up with the latest new object, the latest piece of gossip, the latest opportunity for self-assertion and status. But we all begin our lives as helpless babies, dependent on others for comfort, food, and survival itself. And even though we develop a degree of mastery and independence, we always remain alarmingly weak and incomplete, dependent on others and on an uncertain world for whatever we are able to achieve.”
In the final part of her letter, she outlines a remedy, clear and simple.
“What is the remedy of these ills? A kind of self-love that does not shrink from the needy and incomplete parts of the self, but accepts those with interest and curiosity, and tries to develop a language with which to talk about needs and feelings. Storytelling plays a big role in the process of development. As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves.”
I love how storytelling features as an essential part in managing our inner terrain. The healing in being able to tell our own story, being witnessed in that and in turn witnessing another.