Conscience in logotherapy is a moral voice but it’s much more than that. The reason it’s a moral voice is because it’s a voice that comes from beyond me and from deep within me at the same time. It’s not the voice of instinct nagging or superego or internalized figures telling me what to do. It’s about hearing what I’m here for.
Sometimes I have a question going around in my head and then I get an answer to it, and conscience means hearing the answer. Yesterday I had an experience of this sort. A question had come up in my personal development group. We’ve been internalizing the quality of tolerance and someone wondered how it’s possible to be pained over someone’s behavior while at the same time be tolerant and accepting, but without resorting to an apathetic response of “I really don’t care what you do.”
I got my answer after making the email blunder of sending a private mail to the entire community email list by mistake. Ouch!
This was my answer to the question of how one can have tolerance without being apathetic. I have very much internalized my father’s quality of getting things done quickly but I did not internalize his careful attention to detail. Having the first quality without the second sometimes gets me into trouble. I don’t like this about myself. But it’s there, and I accept it together with all the rest of me. It’s not that I don’t care. I want to change this because it’s hurting me. But I’m not going to reject myself. Hopefully I can have compassion on myself.
Similarly in my relationships with others: If I see something that is not to my liking or even if the person has hurt me or him or herself or someone else I’m not going to stop loving the person because of it. I’ll say something, but hopefully I’ll say it without emotional reactivity. If that’s not always easy to do, that is the ideal at least. I won’t stop feeling connected and being that person’s friend because of it. I won’t stop embracing and caring and doing for and affirming the person. I’ll continue all of this while carrying this heavy, painful weight called “I don’t like this thing” on my shoulder. What am I going to do about it? I’ll help carry the burden. The pain is my empathy. Because I really do care. (Batya Yaniger)