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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ad rem/ad hominem – CREDO XXXVI

These two Latin terms are legalese for arguing “to the issue” (ad rem) and “to the person” (ad hominem), and they certainly are in plain view in politics and debates! Usually people start out discussing the issues or the matters at hand until they begin losing their grip and start getting personal and begin attacking each other or projecting labels onto them. In Jungian terms, loosely interpreted, it is the difference between the thinking and feeling functions, between being objective or subjective.

My beloved husband had a strong feeling function, and I tend to err on the thinking end. If I am given a beautiful poem to read and the author has slipped from “thee’s” and “thou’s” to using a “you” in the middle, I am likely to point that out because the poem is so lovely, it needs to be grammatically perfect. My husband, on the other hand, would not mention it for fear of hurting the writer’s feelings. This may have resulted in my karma as an English teacher, as, with the loss of the use of my right hand, I now butcher the English language to my endless shame and regret!

Knowing typology helps enormously in understanding where other people are coming from. To refresh our memories, they are intuition over against sensation and thinking over against feeling. Feeling for Jung was not just emotion but judgment into right/wrong or good/bad. I discovered by chance an amusing way to determine the predilections in a group by placing an object in the middle of the room, say a cup or a box, and having everybody with pencil and paper write down, in phrases or just single words, their observations in exactly three minutes. Using a watch, I’d say “Go!” and then “Stop!” Then each would read out their short list. The intuitives would write symbolic or mythological associations but would have to admit that by that list alone you might not know it was a cup! The sensation people would describe the form, size, color and you certainly would know its uses and value. The thinking people might speculate on the origin or history and the importance to humanity of cups, while the feeling people would react to the beauty or lack of it and whether they liked it or not. On the Internet, with groups, it is quite fascinating to observe the typologies at work, omitting the introverted and extraverted sides of each.

Another discovery I made over the years was that at a party, when people had a little too much to drink, the unconscious and opposite function takes over. The intuitives become heavily practical, the sensation people admit to the possibilities of the paranormal, and the feeling people begin high-handed opinions as experts in the field while the thinkers get very emphatic about their concepts. You get the idea.

Getting back to ad hominem/ad rem, there is an enormous advantage to understanding the concepts and their application to parenting and teaching children! When I was a child, the approach was invariably ad hominem. We were naughty, disobedient, or just plain bad! The guilt trips have hovered in the personal unconscious of generations, blighting many a psyche. But today there could be hope for many children if grown-ups would use the ad rem approach. When the child acts out, this would mean saying, “That’s a no!” or if they are whining for something or to go somewhere, “It’s not going to happen!” This directs the attention to the issue and not to the child. In the spirit of a non sequitur, I can relate that my crafty mother, when I was having a tantrum, would drag me in front of a full-length mirror. I would scream and yell until I saw how funny I looked, and I’d end up sheepishly giggling. As a grown-up, when in genuine tears over a love affair, I had the surprising visit of a ghostly inner violinist playing some tragic melody and whispering, “Woozoo, woozoo!” On a more profound level, there are the wise words of Jesus in the Gnostic Round Dance: “Learn to suffer and not to suffer!” – which emphasizes the point that it is the ego that suffers and the Self that observes.

As there is so much suffering in the world today, this potential for detachment though hard to achieve, does offer all of us hope and comfort.


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