This article by Dr. Luke Kim is part of a series designed to teach families about Korean culture. For a listing of all the articles in the series, click here.
Sang-Chin Choi, a Korean psychologist, described the four experiential phases of haan. The first is one of rage, anger, hostility, hate and desire for revenge for the injustice done to the person experiencing it. An example would be when a wife, who had been cruelly treated and abused by her mother-in-law (especially in the old days when it was impossible to divorce), realizes that she can not achieve much in the way of retaliation and revenge. Therefore, she tries, or has no choice but to try, to control and suppress her anger and rage. She would start reevaluating the situation and begin to feel that perhaps it was her fault, at least partially. This would help dull the intensity of her anger. She begins to entertain some self-blame. This is the second phase. She would feel depressed and pessimistic.
The third phase is the period when she begins to dwell on the situation again and starts questioning the rationale of her second-phase thinking, namely, self-blame. "I am powerless. I do not have power nor position to get even with my mother-in-law. Is it my fault ? Isn't it injustice? Why does this have to happen to me? Why me?" She begins to feel sad and resigned. This sadness phase may last a long time. This melancholic sentimentality could be expressed in a sublimated way, if she is talented, into singing, writing of diaries or poetry, and other art forms.
In the fourth phase, she begins to detach from her haan feeling by creating emotional distance and objectifying her haan experiences. She would talk about it as if it belongs to someone else, describing it in a third person's experience. During this phase, she may be calmer, more silent, and lonely. Her haan feelings could even be transformed into trans-reality and transpersonal experiences. She may accept it as her fate
Luke Kim, M.D., Ph.D. is a clinical professor of psychiatry at University of California School of Medicine. He is a board member of Friends of Korea organization in Sacramento, California, and a friend and supporter of Korean Quarterly newspaper.
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