Mixup in a Wife about Coldness & Warmth
By Anne Fielding
Here is a wife speaking to her husband in an
Irish play of 1926:
I’m longin’ to show
you me new hat, to see what you think of it. Would you like to
see it? [A knock is heard at
Take no notice of it,
Jack. Don’t break our happiness. Pretend we’re not in. Let
us forget everything tonight but our own two selves. Please,
Jack, don’t open it. Please, for your own little Nora’s sake!
This is Nora Clitheroe in Sean O’Casey’s The Plough & the Stars, a wife
very much in a mixup about warmth and coldness.
In a lecture Eli
Siegel, the founder of
Aesthetic Realism, gave on the subject of imagination, he noted that
Nora is a woman who wants the close presence of the man who said
he loved her. In this scene, she’s intense, heated, but what is
she warm about—having her husband praise her new hat, and keeping other
Warmth, to Nora, means having this man exclusively hers, devoted,
protecting her from a world and people she sees as cold and mean.
She’s against his passionate desire to fight for Irish freedom,
insisting he stay home and pay homage to her.
Nora’s situation is
dramatic, but she’s very representative, because many a wife—not in a
play, but in real life—has felt marriage was a time to “forget
everything but our own two selves,” been angry at her husband’s
interests outside the home, and not understood why there came to be
such painful coldness and anger between them.
In an issue of the journal The Right
of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Ellen Reiss, the Chairman
Education, has sentences that show what’s at the heart of this mixup:
are ethical opposites. What we are warm to and what we are cool to
determine how just a person we are. Aesthetic Realism shows that our
purpose in being close to a person should be to like the world
itself. And if two people are “warm” to each other for the purpose of
getting away from the world and of making themselves superior to the
world, they will feel profoundly betrayed by each other. And
there will come to be a deep anger and coldness between them.
This is what Mrs. Darcy Banks had
as she told us in an Aesthetic Realism consultation. Her husband
Thomas, she said, was often irritated with her, and, she said, “My
marriage is a hotbed of disappointment and resentment—I need to
I Learned the Mixup
Begins Long Before Marriage
Like many young girls, I was very
concerned with how “warm” people
were to me, and judged them accordingly. Did they smile when I came
into the room, praise my piano playing, tell my mother how talented I
was? I disliked it very much when anyone had the nerve, as I saw
it, to offer some criticism of me—and was particularly enraged and
tearful at any suggestion that I was “spoiled.” In The Right Of,
Ellen Reiss asks this question which I needed so much to hear:
Do you tend to see
criticism of you as cold and praise of you as warm?
This is one of the stupidest mistakes people make.
I made this mistake
early—particularly in how I saw my father. I
resembled him in looks and he made a lot of me, doted on and coddled
me; relatives referred to me as “Daddy’s girl.” I discovered early how
to wheedle my way, and remember my sister telling me angrily, “You’ll
get anything you want from him,” which made me wince because it was
so. Inside I was uncomfortable and ashamed because I knew I
didn’t deserve such devotion, and I thought my father was foolish in
giving it, but continued to angle for it, eat it up, thinking this was
warmth, while most other people were severe and cold, making my life
That is what Nora Clitheroe, in The Plough and the Stars feels as
she says: “What do I care for the
others? They have
dhriven away th’ little happiness life had to spare for me.”
How big is this in a person—the
feeling that the world and people are
cruelly cold to one? It’s huge and it’s terrifically
attractive. And it’s Aesthetic Realism that explains for the
first time that as this wife says so seemingly pathetically, “They have
dhriven away th’ little happiness life had to spare for me,” not only
is she wrong—the O’Casey play shows that, but she’s having a tremendous
victory of contempt, warm to herself while coldly superior to the rest
of the world—and she doesn’t know she’s ruining any chance for real
happiness and love.
By the time I was in my teens I
had come to associate love with a man
being fervent and intense about me, calling me frequently, etc. On a
date, I prided myself in being able to speak eloquently, but inwardly
felt stony and strategic, like I was putting on a show. Meantime,
I had a big desire to act and to have large feeling in a role, but I
couldn’t; and in scenes I did in acting classes, I was often very stiff
and cold inside. I needed so much to know what Ellen Reiss write in her
is something unjust and hurtful in us, criticizing us so we be
better is tenderness, is tremendous, kind warmth.
It was my great good fortune, a
few years later, to receive this
tremendous kindness from Eli Siegel in Aesthetic Realism lessons and
classes—and I thank him. He criticized a way of seeing that was
holding up my life in two big fields—love and acting, and taught me, to
my great benefit, that the purpose of both is exactly the same: to know
and like reality itself, through knowing deeply a particular person—a
man, or a character in a play.
In one Aesthetic Realism lesson,
when I said I’d gotten angry with a
man I was dating because he didn’t appreciate my good qualities and was
much too severe, Mr. Siegel asked me: “Is your desire for approval
inordinate?” When I said I thought so, he asked, “What’s wrong
with it?” and then explained:
trouble with the instinct for approval is that it’s in conflict
with another instinct—the instinct for criticism. Having a man’s
approval can’t be disassociated from having him dance on the end of a
string. Your problem is the problem of Woman. Don’t give it a false
uniqueness. Like other women you want
approval and pampering, but you have contempt for the person who gives
it to you, and you are angry with yourself for taking it.
Mr. Siegel was right. And I’ve
seen that when a woman tries to have a
man dance on the end of a string—like a puppeteer—she’s coldly
manipulating him in behalf of her ego, and it’s not love at all: it’s
ill will and contempt, the very thing that ruins love.
I began to
see that I wanted something much better, and as my study continued, I
met, fell in love with, and married Sheldon Kranz, Aesthetic Realism
consultant and poet. Here was this learned, attractive man who
didn’t lavish me with praise; but who showed deep care for me in
encouraging my study of drama and literature, whose heartiness and
humor usefully countered my tendency to melodramatic gloom, and who
even gave me astute criticism on how my acting could be better.
And through what we both learned
in classes taught by Mr. Siegel, some
years later I had the honor to become an Aesthetic Realism consultant and to teach this knowledge to other women.
One of these women is Darcy
Banks, living in upstate New York,
whose husband, Thomas, teaches agriculture in a community
college. “How can I understand my husband?” she asked There Are Wives. “He’s been cold and petulant, telling me I was selfish and
felt I owned him.”
Hopes Need Criticism
In The Right Of, Ellen Reiss explains:
our desire for contempt, we hope the world is cold, because a cold
world is a world to which we, in our sensitivity, can feel superior. If
things are truly warm to us, we will have to feel grateful to them!
When Mrs. Banks began
consultations with There Are Wives, we saw
a very pretty woman who cared for science, animals, and nature, and
worried about the increasing coldness and anger in her marriage. As she
spoke, there was a certain laid-back coolness in her manner, with a
tendency towards sarcasm.
Is sarcasm cold or hot
or some bad
combination of both? A woman can be in a rage and make an icily cutting
remark for the purpose of swift contempt.
much Mrs. Banks’ large desire to criticize herself, and to be sincerely
When we asked what she
would most like to change in
herself, Mrs. Banks
replied: “Ways I find myself fighting with the world.” This took in,
she said, fighting with co-workers, with friends whom she felt had hurt
her, and very much her husband.
She told us he often
stay late at school, and that she’d come
home from her job as office manager very tired, and feel, “I just want
to be taken care of.” On weekends, her husband spent many hours working
in a cooperative orchard nearby, and though he’d ask her to assist him
there, she’d often refuse. Many wives have been cold to their husbands'
interest in things other then themselves.
In the O’Casey play, when
Jack Clitheroe says to his wife: “it’s sure to be a great meetin’
tonight. We ought to go, Nora,” she replies with a kind of sulky
coolness, “I won’t go, Jack: you can go if you wish.” A woman often
punishes her husband showing she’s hurt when he dares to care for
something not her.
Mrs. Banks had done this. She told
us, “I’ve wanted Tom to be happy in
the country, meeting new people in the town. At other times I catch
myself with a feeling of resentment that he’s so carefree. He doesn’t
have a care in the world. The result of this feeling is that I’m alone,
cold, angry and disappointed.”
To say her husband
didn’t have a
care in the world was untrue and also
cold. He had many cares—including about his intense teaching schedule,
worries about money and the future, and about health. And he also was
very much concerned about what was happening in America and the world,
including what people were enduring economically. When he was
courting her, Darcy Banks was interested in his thoughts about things,
but now, she often got to what she described as “an icy anger with
They argued, as couples do, about everyday
things—about lists for
food shopping, about preparing meals, about taking care of their
animals, and she had, she said, “much less feeling for him.” When
we told her that Eli Siegel once explained: everybody has an awful
fight between being cold and having feeling, she saw that she was not
in unique, sad isolation. And she learned about this question:
I Use My Husband to Be Warm or Cold to Others?
A big aspect of a
about these opposites is in whether she
uses her husband as a means of seeing other people as for her, or uses
him as a protection agency, defending her from what she sees as
the coldness and meanness of others. In a class, Mr. Siegel once
asked me and Sheldon, did we want to use each other as collaborators,
or as creative encouragement? And in The
Right Of, Ellen Reiss
asks this question, which Mrs. Banks saw was crucial for her:
Have you divided
reality into that part of it to which you will be
“warm” (your family, some friends, certain fields of interest), and a
huge rest-of-the-world to which you are deeply cold?
In the O’Casey play, when a
neighbor, Bessie Burgess, suggests that
Nora Clitheroe is cold to people, “Always’ thryin to speak proud
things, and lookin’ like a mighty one,” Nora’s husband make a fatal
mistake, collaborates with the worst thing in his wife, saying to Mrs.
Get up to your
place, Mrs. Burgess, and don’t you be interferin’
with my wife, or it’ll be worse for you. There, don’t mind that
old bitch, Nora, darling; I’ll soon put a stop to her interferin’.
And Nora smugly laps it up. Later
in the play, she’ll say to him, “I
want you to be thrue to me, Jack. I’m your dearest comrade; I’m your
dearest comrade,” which is a lie, and he knows it, becoming
increasingly enraged and humiliated by her intense drive to keep him to
herself at the cost of the work he’s given his life to—fighting for the
freedom of Ireland.
Mr. Siegel once asked
me: “What is
important to you—to have Sheldon honor you or be true to himself.” The
first is ill will, the second is good will. With all her fervency and
warmth for him, Nora doesn’t have good will for her husband, and she
will suffer greatly as the play proceeds.
In The Right Of, Ellen Reiss
describes magnificently the thing
that solves the mixup in a wife between coldness and warmth:
Good will is the
oneness of heat and cold; for when you have good will,
you passionately want a person to be all he or she can be, and you are
passionately against what is not beautiful in the person. Good
will is the great, eternal coolness of accuracy and the warmth of deep
That is what, as dramatist, the
playwright Sean O’Casey shows as he
gives form—with imaginative justice, “coolness of accuracy and warmth
of deep feeling,” to the intimate lives of women and men of Ireland in
their cheapness and nobility, their coldness and warmth, during one of
the most important times in that country’s history. And that is why his
play stirs us powerfully and can educate us usefully.
As Darcy Banks
continued, she also attended the monthly
Understanding Marriage class where she saw herself in relation to other
women, and she became increasingly kinder and happier. Thomas Banks
respected the changes in his wife and got more hope for his life
and their marriage. He began to study Aesthetic Realism for himself.
An assignment we gave Mrs. Banks was: Write ways
you’re proud to need
your husband. Here are three:
1. I need
Thomas Banks to be in a better relation to other
people, and to make friends. He draws people out,and he’s not shy
about asking people questions. I need this aspect of him because I see
people have more friendliness than I had thought previously.
2. I need my
husband’s unique way of seeing the world to be a
well-rounded person, which I want to be. He knows a lot of history and
geography and I feel a sense of pleasure when he tells me what he’s
reading. He’s had me see men more deeply, and shown me if you care for
something it is because of what that thing is, not because it approves
3. Sometimes I
get into a funk, and I need Tom because he derails
the contempt train which makes me feel so miserable. He has many
approaches to my bad moods—often with warm, surprising humor. He
represents the world, frequently shining a light into my depths. His
questions and presence have a good effect on me, which I’m seeing I
need every day, and I’m grateful.
Mrs. Banks stands for
everywhere are hoping to know.