“The onset of mania occurs when repression is no longer able to resist the assaults of the repressed instincts.” – Karl Abraham – German Psychologist
Today we were stunned by the news that an unknown man got on a subway train in New York and opened gunfire after releasing gases on a crowd of commuters. Ten people were shot, several others injured, and many more may develop anxiety around their next train ride. I am from Philadelphia, a city that relies heavily on public transit. I’ve ridden my fair share of subways, trolleys, and buses. Riding mass transit holds a level of vulnerability. I wondered why this man would do such a thing. In the past few weeks we’ve seen what happens when men, (whether rich and famous, politically powerful, or just regular guys…) have feelings, issues, or trauma that is repressed. REPRESSED means subdued by force; to restrain, prevent, or inhibit the expression or development of something; or to suppress (a thought, feeling or desire) in oneself so that it becomes or remains unconscious. That is…until it surfaces…and not just in men.
Psychologists call repression a defense mechanism in which people push difficult or unacceptable thoughts out of their conscious awareness. Sigmund Freud believed that people repress traumatic memories that are too difficult for them to confront, like this photo from the New Yorker. They show resistance by changing the subject, blanking out, falling asleep, arriving late, or missing appointments. Freud thought the inability to process and come to terms with repressed material could lead to psychological problems such as poor concentration, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, and depression…and that maladaptive and destructive patterns of behavior such as anger and aggression could emerge due to reminders of repressed material. (Psychology Today)
Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane (which means oil press), when facing the Cross said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Mark 14:34) “Jesus wept” at the death of His friend Lazarus. (John 11:35) He showed righteous anger toward the money changers in the Temple (Mark 11:15). He acted out of compassion for the helpless and harassed multitudes who were like sheep without a shepherd (Matt.9:36). He loved us with the greatest love by laying down His life. (John 15:13). Jesus understood His feelings were part of His human and Divine natures. His emotions, responses, and history were all in some way connected to His calling. He did not divorce Himself from who He was nor from what He had experienced. Jesus learned to manage His feelings and memories, and displayed obedience to the Father even through suffering. (Heb. 5:7-9) How about you?