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Passions, Affections, and Counseling
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Author:  theJack [ Fri May 16, 2014 1:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Passions, Affections, and Counseling

I'm in the process of working on developing my theories on pastoral care (as some of you know, I'm a hospital chaplain). I was looking for what I can find on a Thomistic approach to counseling, and I came across an article that laid out the difference in passions and affections, which I was aware of but hadn't until then thought about the connection to my field. The context of the article was the impassibility debate, but it dawned on me the a large part of the problem chaplains might be having is our insistance on paying attention to "emotions" without analyzing what that really means.

So what I'm seeing so far is that passions are movements of the lower sensitive soul, whereas affections are movements of the higher rational soul. The former are neither good nor evil in and of themselves; the real question is whether or not they are subject to reason. The latter are good or evil depending on whether or not they are directed towards good or evil ends and on whether or not they are in accordance with love. I'm also aware of the distinction between caritas and cupiditas, and on this, I'll quote from the paper in question as I think it strikes me as particularly important:

    The crucial issue is whether this love is caritas, love directed toward goodness, wisdom and ultimately God, manifesting itself in virtuous emotion, or whether the love is cupiditas, directed toward mundane objects, and therefore essentially idolatrous and resulting in vicious emotion. Again, given the fact that passions are movements of the lower, appetitive self, most postlapsarian passions are involuntarily orientated towards the mundane, and thus involve cupiditas, while the fact that affections are a part of the higher, intellective self and are voluntary gives them the potential to be caritas.

So we need to work out of a sense of caritas and not cupiditas. It seems that I cannot work directly with passions, but only with affections, and so it seems that such is the means by which one moves towards caritas. But I am also aware that passions themselves can, and given the fall usually are, disordered. So spiritual struggle is largely the result in disordered passions out of harmony with our affections, and that even assuming our affections are in the right place and rightly oriented towards the right expression of love.

Given all that, I want to know if I'm on the right track and, from a pastoral perspective, what we are actually doing when we are talking with people who are struggling with anger or bitterness or unforgiveness or, even less obviously, people who are under- or overfunctioners or have no boundaries or perhaps are over-protective and tend to work out of a blaming stance, etc. I know more than enough to make such assessments. I know how to be present with people in their suffering. I can offer sound assessments from a range of tools, whether using Fitchett or Friedman, etc. What I'm looking for, though, is a deeper understanding of how we are to integrate our order our passions and bring our affections under control.

I know a lot of that answer will depend on your theology of grace, so I'm really less concerned about the specific theological perscriptions. I can work that out (although I'm open to whatever suggestions you all have in light of that, too). I'm more concerned with what we are doing philosophically speaking, on the level of the human nature.

Is any of this clear, and does anyone have any thoughts on this?

-----------------------

Btw, the paper I'm referencing is Anastasia Scrutton's, "Emotion in Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas: A Way Forward for the Im/passibility Debate?" The International Journal of Systematic Theology 7, no. 2 (April 2005): 169-177.

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Fri May 16, 2014 1:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Passions, Affections, and Counseling

Are you familiar with the work of Dr. Conrad Baars?

Author:  theJack [ Fri May 16, 2014 1:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Passions, Affections, and Counseling

I am not. I just looked him up and found quite a few of his works. Doctor of the Heart, Born Only Once, I Give Them a New Heart, Feeling and Healing Your Emotions, Healing the Unaffirmed . . . any place in particular you recommend starting?

As of now, I'm planning on working my way through ST Ib.22-48, but you know how difficult that can be. Sheesh.

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Fri May 16, 2014 1:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Passions, Affections, and Counseling

I have a few of his books but :oops: have not read them. I know he was one of the leaders in applying Thomistic psychology to counseling. IIRC (but I may well not be) Feeling and Healing Your Emotions is the place to start.

Author:  theJack [ Fri May 16, 2014 1:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Passions, Affections, and Counseling

Thank you. I will get that on my Kindle tonight, read it this weekend, and I'll offer a report Monday. :)

Author:  Jack3 [ Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Passions, Affections, and Counseling

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
I have a few of his books but :oops: have not read them. I know he was one of the leaders in applying Thomistic psychology to counseling. IIRC (but I may well not be) Feeling and Healing Your Emotions is the place to start.

Do you know of similar books by different authors?

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