Thursday, December 16, 2010

Feeling and Healing Your Emotions

O LORD my God, I cried to thee for help, and thou hast healed me.
Feeling and Healing Your Emotions
by Dr Conrad Baars, MD
(the link takes you to a biographical sketch and more links on his daughter's website -- she is carrying on his legacy and has appeared on EWTN).  

I'm counting this as my advent post for the day too because the Psalm above is from the Mass readings for today.

There is a preview of the book here.
You can see the table of contents here.

Here's a site on Fundamental Moral Theology that discusses some of Dr Baars theories from a Thomistic perspective.   by Fr. Wojciech Giertych, OP  -- you can jump into the section onemotion and the part it plays in morality, here.   Wow, I hit the jackpot there!

Conrad Baars was a Catholic Dutch physician.  He tells in the book how he got discouraged at the state of post-Freudian and pragmatic-American psychology in the 50's and considered dropping out of the field.  Then from what I gather he met with a fellow Catholic and colleague, Anna Terruwe, and started exploring the teachings of Thomas Aquinas on the role of emotion in human psychology.  Because at the time many Catholics' understanding of Thomism was conveyed in textbooks that presented his work only in excerpt form, he was surprised by the discovery that what Thomas actually taught about the emotions answered very well some of his questions and concerns about secular psychology.

Baars and Terruwe wrote several books, many of which were published by Christian publishing houses rather than psychology presses because of their explicit philosophical inclusion of the role of God and religion in human psychology.   For that reason their work tended not to be cited or built on explicitly by secular psychologists.  Neverthless, it's easy for even a lay reader like me to tell that many of Baars' and Terruwe's theories have been validated by research since his time and are now accepted by mainstream psychologists, though the terminology is usually different from his.

This is a very good book and one I intend to keep till the cows come home, and even longer.   At my first read-through, I was slightly put off by the question and answer format and by some of the terminology.  For example, he talks about being "affirmed" and about how a person who has grown up "unaffirmed" has various symptoms of neurosis (which he describes and which probably a lot of us nowadays could relate to in some way).   This "affirmation" language reminds me of the 70's in which I grew up and seems to account for a lot of the truly terrible religious education I and others I know received through youth groups and campus ministries and so on. 

However, he actually addresses this concern and his response is extremely pertinent and actually explains a lot of the 70's insanity.     Generally speaking, his book provides a "bridge" to me between Catholic psychology and philosophy, and the research and theories of today's psychologists.   It gives me some of the grounding and direction I often feel I'm lacking when weeding through all the parenting and self-help type books I have been reading.

To try to get back to the Psalms verse above -- a friend and I were discussing Catholic psychology and she pointed out that though if we have psychological "issues" (and who doesn't in some respect?) we ought to ask God to heal us, at the same time it makes sense to stay open to any method God chooses to use, includiing psychological science (so long as it is not rooted in false philosophy, of course).  

Baars points out, for example, that he has often seen God heal people of emotional issues "in stages".    They get past one big issue and then are confronted with another one, which is sometimes discouraging, but Baars thinks God often (not always) does it that way because it would be too startling and de-stabilizing to be instantly healed from emotional issues that have been with you since early childhood.  

That made me think!  

I plan to blog more about his work after Christmas -- I just wanted to get the general inspectional survey out of the way.


  1. Yippee!! You are going to blog more about Baars!! I am just finishing up "Healing the Unaffirmed" and was going to pick up Feeling and Healing Your Emotions again - I only got 1/2 way or less through it the first time. I don't think it was a fault of the book as much as a busy time...and honestly an overwhelming book in that I'm trying to DO what he is saying, in a big way. So I can't take too much of it at a time without imploding, it seems!

    Can't wait to read more from you!

  2. Hi, Amy, maybe that is part of the reason we are thinking about some of the same things! I just started reading Healing the Unaffirmed. I know what you mean about it being overwhelming... a lot to absorb there in terms of how it applies to one's own life.

  3. I found Healing the Unaffirmed good, although it seemed like more of an "overview" than I wanted. Give me practical, man! I don't have time for the other stuff, lol. :) It has left me a little despondent, however, in that he kept saying "such and such does not bode well for success in therapy" and it was always things that related to my life over which I have no control. Grrrr....

    I hope you enjoy it, though!!

  4. Hi Amy

    I am partway through the book now and see a bit of what you are saying. I am having a difficult time even understanding it, letting alone being able to apply it, so kudos to you for getting all the way through.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!