Four Favorite Ways to Suffer

Knowing these four ways we suffer helps us to avoid them.

If you’re looking for attention, try wearing a T-shirt with this question embossed across the chest in bold type—Who Will I be Without my Suffering? These words have a thunderous effect on an unconscious level. That’s because we often experience ourself and identify with ourself most profoundly through our suffering.

We all need to make sense of our world and find our place in it. We look for orientation through our beliefs, ego, athletic ability, intelligence, skills, character, body image, personality, sum of knowledge, and possessions. Underneath these external values, though, we can also experience and know ourselves in hidden recesses of our psyche as victims of injustice and malice, as failures or phonies, or as individuals who are insignificant and unworthy.

We have, in particular, four favorite ways to suffer. We can engorge ourselves at the trough of human misery through feelings of deprivation, helplessness, rejection, and criticism. Chances are good that when we’re miserable, we’re entangled in one or more of these negative emotions. Symptoms such as anger, anxiety, fear, procrastination, and depression often have their roots in these four opportunities to suffer.

With a little insight, we can check in with ourselves to determine pretty accurately whether we’ve tumbled into one of these four pits of pain. We can get ourselves out with self-awareness and insight. Most of the time, people in the pits find it hard to escape because they resist seeing their own role in their predicament.

If you’re living a life of relative abundance, yet still feel anxious that something is missing in your life, you’re likely entangled in the first of the four, the negative emotion of deprivation. This means that you are unconsciously determined to see and experience the glass as half-empty. This propensity to see and experience our life through negative impressions is a quirk of human nature. It’s as if we have an emotional addiction to various forms of negativity. We often are unaware of how easily we can slip over to the negative side and stay there, even as we complain about how unpleasant it all is. [Read more...]

The Deeper Issues that Produce Meanness

Meanness is a symptom of unresolved emotional issues.

Tired of being mean? Tired of being on the receiving end of meanness? The nasty trait produces a lot of unnecessary suffering, both for the person who’s being mean (the “hell of your own meanness,” a character says in Jane Eyre) and for the recipient of the meanness. Meanness is often a compulsive behavior that’s difficult to remedy without deeper insight.

Puzzled by his meanness, a fellow wrote, ”Every time I see a girl I like I always end up being mean to her. I try not to, and I know that I’m doing the wrong thing, but I just can’t help it. I don’t know why. I mean I’m really nice to my friends who I know really well, but to people I’m attracted to I end up being mean. Can someone give me some tips on how to fix that?”

“Tips” or advice won’t usually help that much in resolving an emotional problem such as meanness. Insight is a better tool. Mean people have psychological issues that can be resolved with insight. People who are frequent targets of meanness also have their issues, since unwittingly they can be attracting aggressive behavior from others.

Let’s take a deep breath and dive into the issue, using as an example the situation described by the fellow above. His meanness could be a symptom of his unconscious expectation that he is going to be rejected or seen in a negative light by others. More is at stake for him emotionally when the problem involves a girl he likes. If she sees him in a negative light, he feels the rejection more deeply. Consciously, he wants her to like him. Unconsciously, he likely expects her to reject him or to see him as inadequate or defective. He is psychologically entangled in the feeling of rejection, which means that, even though it’s painful, he’s attached emotionally to rejection or to being seen in a negative light. Instinctively, he feels the need to deny (defend against or cover up) this emotional attachment. By acting mean toward her, he can claim that he caused the rejection to happen: “I’m not looking for the feeling of being rejected—the problem is I get mean and cause it to happen.” Now, however, he feels bad and guilty for being mean. [Read more...]

Panic Attacks Arise from Within Our Psyche

Panic attacks emerge out of unconscious conflict in our psyche between aggression and passivity.

The public is not getting the best insight into a wide range of psychological ailments, including panic or anxiety attacks. Books on the subject downplay the role of the psyche or unconscious mind, and ascribe the problem, as one author wrote, to the intrusions of the conscious mind.

Sufferers from panic attacks are typically offered “solutions” that include relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, and behavioral strategies. These approaches overlook essential self-knowledge related to the problem. Deeper insight can help those sufferers who are willing to learn some basic facts about our psyche.

The description of panic attacks provided at Wikipedia includes this following statement:

Lack of assertiveness—A growing body of evidence supports the idea that those that suffer from panic attacks engage in a passive style of communication or interactions with others. This communication style, while polite and respectful, is also characteristically un-assertive. This un-assertive way of communicating seems to contribute to panic attacks while being frequently present in those that are afflicted with panic attacks [my bold italics].

As this passage suggests, passivity (or what I call inner passivity) clearly plays a role in panic attacks. Individuals can free themselves from these intense, painful attacks by understanding the inner passivity that dwells in the human psyche. [Read more...]

The Overlooked Factor in Criminal Behavior

I write a lot about inner passivity at this website. Inner passivity is an aspect in our psyche that’s very troublesome for us. It’s elusive and hard to pin down, and so it gets away with creating a lot of suffering. We can bring inner passivity into better focus in our own psyche by seeing its sizable presence in the psyche of criminals.  

Criminals have a better chance of rehabilitation if they learn important facts about their psyche

One way to suffer greatly is to break the law and go to jail. More than two million people are incarcerated in the United States, so there’s a lot of suffering going on behind bars and in the hearts of caring families. Our society is addressing the problem rather ineptly because we don’t understand the single most important cause of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality.

Numerous competing theories—including biological, sociological, psychological, and political—are proposed for the cause of criminal behavior. Little consensus is established among the experts. Supporters of each theory barricade themselves and their doctrines against all comers.

These different schools agree on one point, though. They all identify as a decisive factor the criminal’s devotion to aggressive behavior and the discharge of aggressive acts. However, none of these schools have identified this aggression with sufficient clarity. Criminal aggression springs out of a condition in the human psyche that in psychoanalysis has been called “inner passivity.” Criminals are extremely passive and weak in the sense that, much of the time, they are not accessing the powers of self-regulation and integrity. They are failing to act wisely or appropriately on their own behalf.

Knowledge of inner passivity is important because it can help many criminals become rehabilitated. To some degree, all of us have this psychological condition in our psyche.  While inner passivity rises to the level of a psychological disorder in criminals, it can cause much suffering and self-defeat among the rest of us. [Read more...]

The Three Amigos of Woe

Three menaces to health, happiness, and prosperity

The Three Amigos of Woe are not as well known as their compatriots in suffering, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—conquest, war, famine, and death. Yet the three amigos are just as big a danger to health, happiness, and prosperity.

Each of the three amigos—the beggar, the slave, and the orphan—represents a negative, painful state of mind. For most of us, our psyche is contaminated with at least one of these miseries, and many of us are burdened with a trace or more of all three.

The beggar represents those of us who, however bountiful our life may be, suffer with an inner emptiness. It feels as if something vitally important is missing in our life. Even a person’s regular purchase of lottery tickets can be an expression of this mentality. The feeling is, “If only I were rich (or if only I had this or that) I would be happy.” On the surface, beggars are eager to devour or to acquire something, whatever that something may be. Deeper down, they’re on the scent of deprivation.

The beggar mentality is a product of our lingering emotional attachment to feelings of deprivation and refusal. We’re still the little kid who once screamed in angry frustration when he didn’t get something he very much wanted. [Read more...]