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Verbum et Ecclesia

versão On-line ISSN 2074-7705
versão impressa ISSN 1609-9982

Verbum Eccles. (Online) vol.31 no.1 Pretoria  2010 



Psalm 137: Perspectives on the (neuro-) psychology of loss



Hennie Viviers

Department of Religion, University of Johannesburg, South Africa





The neuro-psychological imperative first implies the formation of neural networks through exposure to the external environment, both physically and ideologically, giving us our 'selves'. It in turn implies the projection of this internal world onto the outer to achieve neuro-environmental consonance. Situations like bereavement, immigration or exile break down this consonance and are accompanied by strong negative emotions. When viewing Psalm 137 through the lens of the neuro-psychological imperative, its intense experience of the loss of land (and 'self') becomes transparent as this psalm vividly recalls the devastating experience of the Babylonian exile. The shocking end of the psalm, detailing the desire for the brutal annihilation of enemy infants, expresses the understandable ideological drive of the exiles to, ironically, retrieve their lost 'selves.' Although understandable as an upholding of the established internal world, the manner in which this is to be achieved is not to be emulated by modern civilised societies.

Keywords: bereavement; exile; neuro-psychological imperative; neural networks; Psalm 137



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Hennie Viviers
Department of Religion, University of Johannesburg
PO Box 524
Auckland Park 2006
South Africa

Received: 17 May 2010
Accepted: 24 Aug. 2010
Published: 29 Oct. 2010

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