Interior Collapse

By now, my readers—if readers there be—must be wondering:  what do Reality Enhancement and the Filter have to do with the subtitle of this blog, “the story of a Catholic marriage”?

Everything, really.

Nowhere does RE come more into play then in our dealings with other people.  A facial expression, a gesture, a tone of voice—like the scattered gleams of light in a dark but familiar room, these minute cues are “enhanced” to offer a complete view of a spouse or friend’s moods and motives.  This interpretation, which we do not even realize is an interpretation, then acts as a theory to drive the Filter, further and further confirming our “understanding” of the situation.

The only way out is to realize that this person is a mystery, much less known to us than we assume.  Over time, with a spouse or very close friend, one gains enough experience to know that this frown does not really mean displeasure, or that grin is not meant to mock.  But rarely do we generalize this experience to say of those we don’t know as well:  This expression may not mean what I take it to mean; this person is more mysterious to me than my first reaction admits.

But before we can take the one way out, we have to want to get out.  And that brings us to our next means of self deception:  the Interior Collapse.

The inner man, taken broadly in contrast to the outer, visible-to-others man, includes many layers of higher and lower:  sensation is somewhat inner, but above that is memory and imagination, and above that is reason and understanding using the imagination as a tool, and even above that is the understanding not engaged with the imagination—one could probably divide the inner man even further, but the point here is simply that there are layers.  When we are young, however, we are only aware of the basic distinction between inner and outer:  the “I” that others see and the “I” known to me alone.  Scripture speaks this way of the “heart,” the whole inner man taken without differentiation.

Part of growing up is learning to distinguish the layers within ourselves.  Kids think that whatever they feel like is what they want; at some point, they desire something powerfully but do not will to do it, or find our will overcome by desire, and they realize that desire is not the same thing as will.  As young adults, they fall into a more subtle trap, confusing the emotion of sadness with not willing something any more; with luck, they commit to something so strongly that they fight through their emotions to persevere, and so realize that emotion is neither desire nor will.

Most people take the first step; many take the second; but the further step of distinguishing the imagination from reason is rare indeed.  The experiences that distinguish desire and emotion from will happen to most people because they are sufferings imposed on us from the outside, but the interior experiences that would separate picturing from thinking are not imposed—they have to be pursued.  Classical philosophy can do it, as can advanced theology; the dark night of the soul will turn the trick as well.

So the general failure to distinguish layers within the inner man, which I call Interior Collapse, is a kind of immaturity.  Unlike RE or the Filter, it does not seem to have a good side.  Failure to distinguish emotion from will means that when we are upset at someone, we can’t pull back and realize that we actually want to solve the problem constructively.  Failure to distinguish imagination from reason—well, that’s a whole ‘nuther post!

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Author: Dr. Holmes

Dr. Jeremy Holmes teaches Theology at Wyoming Catholic College. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Jacinta, and their eight children.

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