There’s a sentence I’ve tried to wrap my head around and understand for well over a decade now. It puzzled me until the day before yesterday. This sentence is in Moshé Feldenkrais’s book The Potent Self and goes like this:
“In fact, an unrestrained expression of aggression does have a relieving effect. This is due, to my mind, not to the reduction of the pressure of accumulated aggressiveness, but to the amount of confidence the person has gained through exercising the function in which she is impotent.”
There’s three items inside this quote, and two of them I can safely dispose of, or say they’ve been up for discussion for decades now:
Firstly, the question of the accumulation—or build-up—of libido, as defined by Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis. And more general, can all emotions build-up? Where are they stored? How does the accumulation work? And secondly, the release of built-up »emotional energy«, how does this work? And all that. I guess there’s been written entire libraries on that. However, I don’t find them to be that helpful questions.
It’s the third item that kept grinding my gears: “the amount of confidence the person has gained through exercising the function in which she is impotent.”
Moshé Feldenkrais added “it is a great mistake to think that it is dammed-up aggression that produces the neurotic behavior. If that were true, then letting off steam, shadow boxing, screaming, shouting, and beating up an imaginary object [..] should completely release the dammed-up aggressiveness and produce a new person.”
For the longest time I did not understand this part. Until the day before yesterday, when I saw a young man on Youtube talking in rage about the people who refuse to take the Covid vaccines. He was talking to the camera of a News outlet (Good morning Britain), and the longer he was talking the more in rage he came. He was letting off steam by insulting and shouting at imaginary people who refuse the vaccines, by trying to get sympathy from imaginary fellow people who took the vaccines, and by trying to explain the situation to an imaginary person of authority. Quite the show actually.
However, did his public display of aggression help him find inner security? Did it solve his original problem—that he feels unsafe, at great danger and that he’s impotent in the function to make himself feel safe? Did he become able in this function he’s impotent in? Probably not.
On the other hand, did his speech further his confidence in speaking in public and exercise open aggression? It certainly did. The longer he spoke the more confident he seemed to be, and to have the right of it.
To conclude, I think this sentence in Moshé Feldenkrais’s book is not a general remark, but a specific one that applies to specific situations. What do you need to make yourself feel safe, in a situation where you cannot rely on your environment to make you feel safe?