The philosopher Aristotle and his greatest disciple, St. Thomas Aquinas, discerned that our human emotional life can be broken down into eleven basic emotions:
- Love, Desire and Joy are three emotions that we experience toward things that we perceive as good for us.
- Hatred, Aversion and Sadness are three emotions that we experience toward things that we perceive as harmful or bad for us.
- Hope helps us to strive for good things, and Despair is felt when we cannot attain them.
- Fear is experienced when we think that we will be overcome by something bad; Courage helps us to strive to overcome obstacles.
- Anger is the emotion that helps us to refuse to give in to evil, to continue to fight for what is good in the face of what might seem to be overwhelming obstacles.
All of our emotions are meant to be governed by reason. Our emotional life can become a train wreck when our emotions get out of order – when we love things that we know to be evil, or when we are angry or hateful toward things that we know to be good. We can also experience such overwhelming fear or anger that that particular emotion interferes with or blocks another emotion. A common example of this is when a person is so afraid of anything sexual that they cannot experience any desire or joy – Fear crushes the emotion of Desire, and reason can never enter in and do its job of allowing us to experience the good in another person without lusting for that person.
When a woman has had in an abortion, she experiences emotional trauma. Her entire body and psyche has been preparing her for motherhood. Maybe out of fear (of what people will say about an “unplanned” pregnancy), or out of anger (at the man who may have seduced or betrayed her), or due to pressure from family and friends who should have supported her during her pregnancy – she has an abortion. She is already experiencing many emotions before the abortion procedure. But then she experiences fear, pain, sometimes more anger, and the knowledge that her baby is gone. More emotions – and yet she has to go right back to school or to work. Her emotions get buried away, and maybe stay that way for many years. Yet all along, they are there, under the surface, causing problems. All of this emotion damage needs to be repaired. How to do it? How to even begin the process?
During a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, the reality of our emotions – our anger, fear, hatred, and all of our other emotions – is recognized. They are real. They need to be felt and experienced, to be “owned,” before we can apply our God-given reasoning ability to begin to make sense of them. During the retreat, in the presence of God and with the support of our brothers and sisters (the retreat team and our fellow retreatants), we begin to make sense of our emotions, and to allow them to begin to be reordered, to be governed by reason instead of by anger and/or fears from our past. This is an extremely liberating experience, and is necessary for us to experience true emotional order and freedom as we go forth to live as the children of God who we were made to be.
We encourage every woman and man who has been involved in an abortion to make a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. The Lord Jesus is the Divine Physician and the Divine Psychologist – the one who creates us, body and soul, with all of our emotions. He wants to heal us of all of our wounds. Let Him into your life. Come to Him to experience the healing power of His Divine Mercy!