Bebe Taian: Mannered Mondays: Amae, Dependency Wishes

March 19, 2012

Mannered Mondays: Amae, Dependency Wishes

This post is typed verbatim from Keys to the Japanese Heart + Soul, an excerpt from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia.

Amae, Dependency Wishes

Amae, which can be translated as "dependency wishes," is the noun from of amaeru, a verb that has no true equivalent in English but refers to the desire to depend upon the love, patience, and tolerance of others.

Amae arises from feelings of helplessness and the need to be loved. Since the parent-child relationship is reflected in Japanese society in many adult relationships, including those of husband and wife, teacher and pupil, and leader and follower, amae tends to be prolonged and diffused throughout adult life. Doi Takeo, M.D. defines amaeru as the desire "to presume upon another's love," "to bask in another's indulgence," or "to indulge in another's kindness." He holds that amae is the key to understanding the psychodynamics of Japanese culture, which is relatively tolerant of dependency feelings and relations. In his writings, especially his bestselling "Amae no Kouzou" (1971; translated as "Anatomy of Dependence", 1973), he sees amae as the core of a constellation of related words and feelings and as the key to understanding the traditional Japanese dilemma between giri and ninjou.

In Doi's definition, Japanese-style ninjou is the art of knowing how to amaeru (depend on others) and how to respond to the call of amae in others. Giri (social obligations) exist to be pervaded by ninjou. Amae also explains for Doi the centrality of the mother-child relationship in Japanese society; the importance attached to the ability to "merge" (tokekomu) with others; the somewhat vague notions of subject and object, self and other; differently defined concepts of privacy and individual rights; a dislike for cut-and-dried logic and businesslike relationships; the high degree of nonverbal communication; and the strong aesthetic orientation of the culture.

Previously: Ninjou, Natural Feelings
Next: Let's Talk (about Dowa)

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