When Sexual Desire Covers Up Self-Sabotage

We Can Easily Get “Turned On” by People Who Spell Trouble  

Become conscious of any possible self-defeating aspects when you are sexually attracted to others

What are some important features of human sexual desire? Two neuroscientists falter badly in their attempt to answer the question in their book, A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire (Dutton, New York, 2011).

Scouring internet data, the authors, Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, analyzed millions of web searches, websites, erotic videos, erotic stories, personal ads, and digitized romance novels. The resulting behavioral data produced, among other findings, the allegedly “shocking truths” that men prefer plump women to thin ones, women enjoy reading about two heterosexual men having sex, men often seek erotic videos featuring older women, and male sexual cues are very different from those of women.

The authors claim to have initiated “a revolution in the scientific study of sexual attraction.” But their findings are of limited value. The superficial information they have produced does very little to help us understand the vitally important ways that sexual attraction can be an ingredient in how we sabotage relationship harmony and success. [Read more…]

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The Dreary Distress of Boredom

Boredom is easily avoided once we discover the inner processes that produce it

Yawn. Nothing interesting going on today. Day after day, the same old thing, going around in a daze, inwardly dead. Life used to be more fun. Why is the world so dull? Why am I bored so much of the time?

Hey, it’s natural enough to be bored or restless when waiting two hours in a doctor’s office or at a garage getting your car repaired. The problem arises when we’re feeling bored every day. So it’s clinical or chronic boredom that we want to avoid. A whole range of painful symptoms—from drug addiction to compulsive gambling to poor performance at work and school—are associated with chronic boredom.

Some people believe that boredom is normal. In Boredom: A Lively History (Yale University Press, 2011) Prof. Peter Toohey concludes his book by writing that, “Boredom is a normal, useful, and incredibly common part of human experience. That many of us suffer it should be no cause for embarrassment. Boredom simply deserves respect for the, well, boring experience that it is.”

Toohey, a professor of classics, is wrong to say that boredom—a negative emotion akin to a toothache—is normal and useful. Boredom is a bummer, a form of unnecessary suffering when, in its chronic form, it’s a significant part of one’s daily experience. Toohey’s book touches on superficial psychological ideas concerning boredom, but he doesn’t explore (or even mention) depth psychology where the remedy can be found. [Read more…]

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Problem Gamblers are Addicted to Losing

Problem gamblers recycle painful emotions that are unresolved in their psyche

Problem gamblers typically believe, as they head out the door to the nearest casino, that their full and sincere intention is to win money. Little do they know they’re acting out an emotional attachment to the feeling of losing.

Such gamblers typically do become, in the derogatory sense of the word, losers. They can lose their money, happiness, self-respect, and perhaps their loved ones and home as well. At this point, indeed, we see them as losers.

Yet it doesn’t occur to them that they actually want to lose. Why would anyone, even “losers,” be determined to lose? That level of folly defies common sense. Consciously, of course, problem gamblers do want to win. On the surface, winning money is their all-consuming passion. But unconscious dynamics in their psyche are playing a different game—a game of self-sabotage and self-defeat.

The dynamics of our psyche require us to experience repeatedly our unresolved negative emotions, however painful. A person who is sensitive to feeling refusal or loss, for instance, typically goes through life repeatedly experiencing this suffering. The impression of being refused likely started in childhood, and it continues through life as a psychological conflict: The adult is desperate to get some reward or benefit, at the same time that he or she is expecting refusal or loss. This person will be burdened with the suffering the conflict produces, unless the conflict is resolved with insight and awareness. [Read more…]

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The Tyrant that Rules Our Inner Life

Our inner critic has its intrusive, rough fingers all over our psyche

Much suffering is produced through our relationship with our inner critic. This part of our psyche is also called the superego or self-aggression. It’s an authoritarian aspect or agency in our psyche that holds us accountable for any real or imagined shortcomings or failures. The inner critic is an offshoot of the natural aggression that humans have needed in order to survive in the world.

Not only does it hold us accountable, our inner critic harasses and torments us for our slightest shortcomings or misdemeanors. It is a rogue operator in our psyche that is mostly negative. It attacks us mercilessly for not living up to some unrealistic ideal of who or what we are supposed to be.

This inner tyrant has been called “the hidden master of the personality.”

It can feel to us that our inner critic is our moral conscience, as if it is an inner authority that we are supposed to trust and be passive to. But it is mostly negative and can’t be trusted. When we grow psychologically, we are able to shift inner authority over to our authentic self. It is this self that we can trust to represent our best interests and to be the true representative of our essence, integrity, and goodness. [Read more…]

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The Negative Emotions Behind Addictions

I read this definition of an addiction on the internet: “An addiction is an unconscious way of coping with emotions.” Yes, that’s true, but a more precise definition is called for: An addiction is a self-defeating reaction to, or consequence of, unresolved negative emotions.

Unless explored and understood, these emotions produce inner conflict, suffering, and self-defeat. We can overcome their disrupting influence in our psyche, and thereby enhance our capacity for self-regulation, when we see our inner dynamics clearly enough.

Our unresolved emotions have to be identified. An addictive person can be struggling with feelings of being deprived, refused, controlled, helpless, rejected, betrayed, abandoned, criticized, hated, and so on. Even when the addictive person is not actually being, say, refused or controlled, this individual is unconsciously determined to experience events and situations through these unresolved, negative emotions.

With the right knowledge or with in-depth therapy, a particular individual can identify, based on his or her childhood experiences, those negative emotions that “push his buttons.” Once the negative emotions are identified, the individual becomes aware of how determined he or she has been to continue to experience those unresolved negative emotions in the different situations of everyday life.

We can say, in fact, that addicts have a hidden addiction, and that is to those negative emotions that are unresolved in their psyche. [Read more…]

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Beware the Limitations of Superficial Psychology

Don't be afraid to explore your psyche

Some cognitive psychologists say our difficulty achieving happiness is due to “logic-processing errors.” But this remedy is too superficial. Logic or common sense can’t separate out the ingredients of unhappiness because those ingredients reside deep in our psyche, beyond the reach of logic or common sense.

The best psychological approach depends on knowledge, not logic. This knowledge of how our psyche works leads us deep into our unconscious mind. There we discover the repressed material and unresolved negative emotions that compel us to recycle painful feelings and memories, thereby producing unhappiness.

According to cognitive psychologist Daniel Gilbert, “If we were to experience the world exactly as it is, we’d be too depressed to get out of bed in the morning” (Stumbling on Happiness, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006). Wait a minute! That’s not true at all. Think of people who meditate. They’re not afraid of reality. They search for truth and meaning on an inner level to help them recognize and overcome life’s challenges—and they feel happier for doing so.

We have to be willing to approach reality or we’ll be like children afraid of the dark. We won’t have the strength to deal with challenges such as climate change, resource depletion, terrorism, and corruption in the financial markets. [Read more…]

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Get Rid of Guilt with Deeper Insight

Guilt is no fun. We can feel guilt for our slightest slip-ups or misdemeanors. We sense that we deserve our guilt because we have allegedly done something wrong. But often the guilt is produced when, deep in our psyche, we absorb negative accusations from our inner critic.

Sometimes the misdemeanors we feel guilty about occurred ages ago. One client could still feel guilty because she had gotten angry for a few hours during her mother’s long, fatal illness over thirty years ago. The mother was sick for more than three years, and my client had been a conscientious daughter who tried her best to be helpful and ease her mother’s pain. But she still regretted that one-time outburst of anger and frustration. She said she had forgiven herself many times for the outburst, but the painful memory of it, and her guilt for allegedly having been a “bad daughter,” kept coming back.

I told my client, “The only reason you’re still feeling guilty and suffering in this way is because your inner critic is still able to hit you up with negative accusations about that long-ago incident. Those inner accusations of having been a “bad daughter” are unfair and quite irrational. Typically, our inner critic is unforgiving and cruel. It ignores the fact that we can’t be perfect. Even though, as you said, you forgave yourself for your angry outburst a long time ago, you still allow your inner critic to pass judgment on you. You absorb that negative accusation, which means you feel that the accusation has some validity. That causes the guilt.”

We absorb aggression and negativity from our inner critic because of our inner passivity. This passivity is an inner weakness, a place inside our psyche that we have not yet claimed (or infused) with sufficient consciousness. The outlines of this inner passivity, which affects men and women equally and causes us all sorts of problems including clinical depression, come clearer to us as we study our psyche and acquire self-knowledge.

As we get stronger and eliminate our unconscious passivity, we successfully shut down our inner critic and live guilt-free and in greater harmony.

UPDATE – A scientific study was published in June, 2012, proving just how right Sigmund Freud was about guilt as a major factor in depression. The study, published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, compared brain scans of people prone to depression with people who never got depressed to show significant differences in the regions of the brain associated with guilt. Freud famously said that depression was related to feelings of guilt and self-blame, which is how it differed from normal sadness. The self-blame Freud refers to is the action of the inner critic or superego as it assails or berates the personality for alleged faults, foolishness, and wrongdoing. As mentioned, the guilt arises because the individual, through his or her unconscious ego or inner passivity, unwittingly absorbs this aggression from the inner critic. The individual feels the guilt as a consequence of his or her unconscious submission, meaning is this case the individual’s willingness, through inner passivity, to absorb the aggression and to “buy into” the allegations of wrongdoing. When we understand this conflict and can objectively observe this inner dynamic, we can occupy with our self-knowledge and consciousness the area in our psyche that has been infused with inner passivity (a primitive consciousness if not a state of nonbeing). In doing so, we no longer absorb the aggression from the inner critic but deflect or neutralize it. As a result, we experience neither guilt nor depression. (See also, “The Hidden Cause of Clinical Depression.”)


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Riding the Emotional Wave of Turbulent Times

I offer my sympathies to those among you who are in distress—emotionally and financially—over the economic and political crises plaguing America and the world. The problems may last for many more years, and people can help themselves considerably by staying emotionally strong.

For starters, that means believing in yourself and your value. That will help you avoid negative reactions such as bitterness and depression. We live in turbulent times, yet the challenges can make us stronger than ever.

Our psyche operates in a way that makes it tempting for us to recycle negative emotions. In the present crisis, it’s very easy for us to feel deprived, helpless, and abandoned. The teaching offered at this website makes us more perceptive and insightful, which helps us to avoid this woe-is-me trap.

The economic and political crises challenge us at our weakest emotional points. If we’re strong emotionally, we can ride these turbulent times the way a surfer rides a wave. The ride is still difficult, the wave unpredictable, and we can fall and get banged up. If we’re strong, we get right back on our surfboard and keep going.

However, if we’re weak emotionally we won’t be able to ride the wave. We will suffer both for our weakness and for the additional hardships that our weakness brings on. We want to understand our emotional weaknesses so we can overcome them.

My books and psychotherapy expose the exact inner workings of hidden aspects of our psyche that produce fear, passivity, and self-defeat. With deeper awareness, we acquire the power to process our experiences more objectively and more harmoniously.

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