This is the second of four posts about caring, constructed from excerpts from Nel Noddings' 1984 book Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education.
Though the ear choose not to hear,
In the heart I echo, clear.
Savage power I exercise,
Transformed I am, to mortal eyes.
On the land, and on the ocean,
Evermore the dread companion,
Always found, and never sought,
Praised, as well as cursed, in thought.
Have you yourself not known Care?
[Goethe - Faust, Part II, Act V, Scene V]
Learning to be cared-for
In the inclusive caring relation, the cared-for feels the difference between being received and being skimmed-over. This attitude is not something necessarily thought by either, but rather felt. While much of what goes on in caring is rational and carefully thought out, the basic relationship is not, and neither is the required awareness of relatedness. From this awareness comes responsiveness.
To accept the gift of responsiveness from the cared-for is natural for the one-caring. To demand such responsiveness is both futile and inconsistent with caring. The one-caring must the freedom of the cared-for. She meets him as an individual. The responsive cared-for, in the fullness of the caring relation, feels the recognition of freedom and grows under its expansive support.
A caring relation requires the recognition and spontaneous response of the cared-for. One can learn to care and learn to be cared-for.
Noddings uses the term 'receptive joy' to describe the feeling engendered by the caring relation. If relatedness is our fundamental reality, then recognition of our obligation might arouse anxiety, and so recognition of caring in relation may well induce joy, which may tend to sustain the commitment to caring.
We might follow Heidegger again in placing anxiety, and therefore receptive joy, as real qualities of the lived world, and so perhaps the forms of emotion that reveal most about our basic reality.
Perhaps it is the recognition of something given and received, of sacrifice on both sides, recognised and felt by both. I felt this keenly with some of my students this year when they thanked me after their exams. I had spend a lot of time with these students, had made myself available (Gabriel Marcel's notion of 'disposability' - being disposed towards others, the readiness to make oneself available - comes to mind).
Freud's revolutionary contribution to psychology was not so much his demonstrating the existence of an unconscious, as his proposition that there are two fundamentally different kinds of mental process... [In one] there reigns a quite uninhibited flow towards the imaginary fulfilment of the wish that stirs it. It is unchecked by any logical contradiction, any causal associations; it has no sense of either time, or of external reality...
[Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud]
What we undergo as we experience emotion may be the result of perceiving something that matters to us. To Magda Arnold, emotion is 'the felt tendency toward or away from an object', induced by the appraisal of an object (bringing to mind JG Bennett's lectures on like and dislike).
But must there be an object of joy? We may experience a sense of general well-being, or perhaps more than that, without an object. This joy is receptive and reflective - aware of itself and complete without action. Receptive joy might not result from an appraisal of my situation.
We do not control this joy, rather it comes to us. Just as the human other can invade us in receptivity, so can the world in all its affective possibilities come in if we let it. Again, I am reminded of JG Bennett, this time his work on noticing. Joy, as with noticing, is something that happens, that is revealed to us.
Perhaps we can increase the likelihood that it will come to us, perhaps through quietening the mind, being receptive and present to the world. The occurence of joy as a willing transformation of self points to a receptive consciousness, one that is energised by engagement and enlightened by looking and listening, by receiving others.