The idea of ’emotional purchase’

What I mean by emotional purchase is analogous to the idea of Merleau-Ponty (1979) that we have a basic need for an ‘optimal grip’ on the world rooted in our embodiment. He argues that our bodies sit in a prediscursive relation with the world and, as we move through this world, we strive to maintain an optimal hold upon it so as to facilitate the smooth playing out of our bodily engagements. Similarly I wish to argue that all individuals have a need for emotional purchase upon their lives, which is to say that underlying our reflexive capacities and intellectualised assessments of the world is a need to get an ‘emotional grip’ on our lives. Bauman (2002) suggests that, in common with other animals, human beings are moved to irrational action or behavioural inhibition when confronted with  situations which preclude a tenable understanding of our place within it. Being uncertain of ourselves generates anxiety and distress.  As such underlying the deliberative and discursive aspects of human behaviour is a generic tendency to reach for certainty and self-assurance through attempting to gain a tenable ‘emotional grip’ on our life in the world. This does not imply that the deliberative elements of the searching process are  epiphenomena of a deeper psychological reality but rather that the two aspects sit in a dialectic relationship with each other; the need for emotional purchase provides the affective frame within which the deliberative aspects matter as a cognitive process, as well as constituting the end goal for which the description ‘self-clarification’ is woefully inadequate.

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