A FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE SCIENCES OF MERCY:
THE ELEOGENETIC APPROACH
WHAT IS “MERCY”?
In Latin the term is «misericordia»: to be sensible to persons and to situations raising a feeling of pity and compassion into our hearts; in the ancient Hebrew the word recalls the maternal womb; mercy can be considered as a disposition, a way, a peculiar order to conform with in generating the relationship between the subject and the world; it assumes that neglecting, disqualifying or rejecting the states of weakness, need and pain is not a realistic attitude.
The term "mercy" can provoke some distrust, since it is sometimes mistakenly associated with misunderstanding acts of renunciation: from an ethical point of view, the renunciation of justice; from a psychological point of view, the renunciation of one's own vitality, even instinctive. They are misunderstandings, although it is undeniable that sometimes it was presented this way.
Mercy is to be understood as a manifestation of the highest level in which human beings can express themselves, as individuals and as communities. So high that it cannot be summoned to one’s liking. It is a region of being to which human beings belong but on which they are not able to exercise arbitrary possession.
On the other hand, other important areas of human, individual, community and social reality obey to this region, when it is accessed. An access that, in situations of extreme suffering, can represent the only way out. An example are those emotional and vital areas of withdrawal that exist in one's self. The most suffering areas of the human being, real prisons in which one withdraws as a result of unbearable situations: there, in fact, one no longer feels, one does not move nor one feels moved. Yet, it is behind those thick walls that lie the most creative and most vital treasures of persons - sometimes connected in a complicated way and sometimes simply juxtaposed to the "most compromised" and unpresentable aspects of oneself. In fact, it is difficult to "go away" from there. “Go away - one wonders - but where? Where are no treasures? So much ...”
To get back to moving, feeling and being moved, it is necessary that someone else move first, look for and take the one who is paralyzed or imprisoned. For the latter, however, receiving relief is not enough. It is necessary that its vitality is restarted, otherwise an active answer will not be possible. It is not enough, even if at times we wish, to be picked up and taken away from one's own prison. If if we go away like this, passively, we bring with us our paralysis and that inertia that discourages us from going "out there", hunting for treasures. It is certainly necessary that those who come to take us, touch us, attract us and "grab us" even powerfully ... but this should also restart our vitality and our emotions, it should make us feel our indestructible value as beings human. At that point, we will be able to decide again, to choose whether to trust and leave with our legs. This only happens if those who take us by the hand have a passion for hidden treasures. Our need, necessity, desire, our intimate value that survives any kind of insult or deterioration must be clearly seen and mirrored by those who bend over us or take us by the hand; otherwise, we will never move. Mercy allows us to overcome fear and to go to meet our paralysis, our most deteriorated contents; this puts our vitality in motion first, and by resonance that of others. The manifestations of mercy therefore share the characteristics of discontinuity, of the uniqueness of every human being or community, of their unrepeatable identity and history. For this reason, they often exceed the boundaries of what is ordinary and codified from a psychological, relational and even value point of view.
WHY STUDY MERCY?
Because mercy is a powerful, inescapable and effective reality in whose womb human beings move and grow. Aware or not, very often completely unaware, resisting or following it or sometimes surrendering to it, all humankind is attracted by the current that mercy itself configures and prepares. In this sense, from a theoretical point of view, it reminds us of the attractors and basins of attraction of which the theories of dynamic systems speak.
Consequently, neither mercy in general nor individual acts of mercy can be caused or prevented. It is the responsibility of man to promote, facilitate or vice versa to hinder the manifestation of mercy, its "emergence", if we want to use a systemic terminology again. This responsibility is exercised with actions that take place in all possible orders of magnitude. It seems evident, however, that the relational fields and the small contexts are privileged. In these "small" contexts, such as family, work, educational, recreational, nursing, small-scale cohabitation, every day millions of small gestures of mercy are mixed together with everything else, beautiful or ugly, which pertains to everyday life. They are therefore not very visible to eyes accustomed to separating, quantifying, measuring, establishing evident and linear relationships. More often than not, acts of mercy imply a more or less accentuated momentary frustration, a more or less radical departure from the usual horizon of common sense structured on the ordinary relationship between giving and receiving. At this level of organized life, actions characterized by mercy do not always appear immediately sensible. Their profound sense seems instead to rest on a less manifest level of being, from which however sooner or later an answer emerges, characterized by a contentment that usually transcends the boundaries of the distinction between "I" and "other" and certainly refutes their alleged separateness.
For this reason, a single act of mercy can also represent a great discontinuity in the day or in the whole life of individuals and communities. But it does not arise from nothing: it sprouts from a ground that, even in an unusual way, has prepared it. The affective, organizational and relational processes that facilitate the manifestation of merciful deeds can be studied.
THE ELEOGENETIC APPROACH
From this realization originates the Eleogenetic Approach, i.e. the study of the processes that facilitate and imply mercy. It follows that the Eleogenetics focuses on the value that mercy has in structuring and qualifying human life, especially from the point of view of development, change and care relationships.
In a vision qualified by mercy, these three areas can be distinguished, but cannot be separated, as often we tend to do, trying to isolate, hide, repair at all costs or minimize the weaknesses of human beings, the dark, needy, suffering and sometimes unacceptable sides. In everyone's life, strength and weakness, virtue and meanness, autonomy and need, joy and tears live side by side. Mercy gives meaning to these apparently irreconcilable polarities, and the sense is intrinsic, as it coincides with the concrete action of mercy itself.
Eleogenetics is configured as a theoretical-practical approach to development, change and care. Like all theories and practices of care, it is destined over time to evolve and change. Presently, the most appropriate theoretical frames of reference seem to be those related to systems theories and in particular of dynamical systems. From a clinical point of view, however, it also refers to authors of other matrix, such as psychodynamic, imaginative or logotherapeutic. On the epistemological level, Eleogenetics takes advantage of the powerful contribution deriving from systemic and cybernetic approaches, without abandoning the necessary critical attitude towards the limits that they suffer from the anthropological-philosophical point of view. It also shares with all the human sciences a moment characterized by great intuitions but still uncertain definition; this is due to the rapid development of a multiplicity of approaches of extremely high complexity, such as those of quantum and post-quantum matrix, certainly fruitful but constantly "in progress"; thus they need to be approached with rigor as so to avoid trivialization and misunderstandings.
TOWARDS THE SCIENCES OF MERCY
If with the theoretical-technical term "Eleogenetics" we can label the predominantly psychological study of those social processes that favor the manifestation of mercy, it is evident that the Eleogenetics is only a part of a larger whole, and certainly cannot be a frame to itself.
This broader set is that of the SCIENCES OF MERCY. Mercy can, and must be, studied from different angles: theological, philosophical, pedagogical, psychological, economic, organizational, and so on. Even more than a multidisciplinary reading, a trans-disciplinary approach is desirable, so that from every vertex of observation, what is original and what is common for each area may appear better.
In turn, the Sciences of Mercy need to take root in an anthropological-philosophical framework. Although by definition mercy is "open to all", the philosophical anthropology of Christian origin, in particular that influenced by Jewish thought and phenomenology, is the natural ground in which the Sciences of Mercy can sink their roots. A solid anthropological foundation allows us to face - with confidence, respect and desire to learn - on different and unusual cultural landscapes, fascinated by the difference as well as by what the human condition has in common wherever it is lived.