A Participant in National Self-Sabotage

We need to keep a lid on the id.

Who dares suggest the American dream could be thwarted by an indistinct entity a mere two letters long? The CIA certainly doesn’t have a dossier on it. Yet one ingredient of personal suffering and national self-sabotage is the id. Yes, I know that’s an odd, whimsical word, one that many of us, should it zip across our mind, dismiss as harmless jargon.

Yet psychoanalysis has taken the id very seriously. The discipline defines the id as the primitive, unconscious part of our mind that induces us to pursue self-centered gratification, often at the expense of wise self-regulation. For reasons I’m about to discuss, the id appears to be particularly virulent in the American psyche.

The id is like a virus or bug of the unconscious mind. And it can wreak as much havoc on the national scene as swarms of computer viruses. We have an impressive national-security apparatus in place to block out hackers. But in blindness to the enemy within, nobody’s minding the id.

Civilization and national life are extensions of our consciousness. Despite that direct correlation between the inner and outer world, the media hardly ever talk about the psychological dysfunction of our leaders or write about the mental-emotional components in everyday political and social conflicts. To give them some due, the media are beginning to explore the psychological dynamics of family life and to look deeper into the roots of the 2008 economic crisis. [Read more…]

Underlying Dynamics that Breed Bullies

Self-doubt concerning personal value influences both the bully and the victim.

If we want our society to put a stop to bullying—an excellent goal, of course, one embraced by President Barack Obama, educators, and celebrities—we can help the cause by better understanding the underlying psychological dynamics of bullying and by teaching this knowledge to our kids.

What are these underlying dynamics? The bully—girl or boy, man or woman—appears bold and confident on the surface. But this person is emotionally entangled in substantial self-doubt. All of us grow up with some degree of self-doubt. This feeling can be quite conscious and intense, or it can be repressed and inconspicuous. Our self-doubt produces uncertainty concerning our value, significance, strength, goodness, and worthiness. Even more so, it can produce deep emotional convictions that we are lacking in value, are deeply flawed, and are deserving of disrespect.

Self-doubt is a universal condition. We compensate somewhat for the painfulness of it when others give us recognition, acceptance, praise, and validation. The existence of self-doubt is evident in the human passion for fame, glory, power, and wealth, all of which bestow an illusion of value and superiority. Self-doubt is also evident in bullies who belittle and abuse others in their desperate need to feel superior and more powerful in themselves. [Read more…]

Deliverance from Low-Level Anxiety

We can trace anxiety back to its source in our psyche.

Many people suffer from low-level anxiety, which produces, as one sufferer said, “a frequent feeling of dread, a sense that I’m not up to the challenges that face me, a fear that I won’t make it, that everything will crumble.”

I had this distress and tension in my mind and body for many years, starting in my early teens. The feeling ebbed and flowed through my twenties and thirties, and often it was painfully intense, particularly when I felt blocked in my efforts to be creative. I tried one “expert’s” advice, but it didn’t help: “Don’t worry about the future: Take each day one anxiety-attack at a time.”

Kidding aside, I now live for the most part in a state of considerable inner peacefulness. Though my anxiety lingered on until I was in my forties, more than twenty years ago, depth psychology provided me with insight into the source of this anxiety and relief from it. [Read more…]

The Politburo in Your Psyche

The politburo in our psyche can obliterate our sense of purpose and direction.

A politburo is an unelected body of communist party leaders—an executive committee—that rules with a totalitarian mindset in a one-party state. Fortunately, there are not many politburos left (according to Wikipedia, China has one, along with North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, and Cuba). Unfortunately, every day throughout the world a lot of executive committees, private and public, are making secret self-serving decisions that display a politburo mentality.

We probably can’t liberate ourselves from this self-defeating mentality until we expose the politburo in our own psyche. This inner politburo is indifferent to our well-being. Its influence over our thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and actions leads to much suffering and self-defeat. Fear, tension, and anxiety are byproducts of the strained compromises worked out by this dysfunctional inner management that, like a political politburo, signifies the unfinished state of our evolution.

The politburo in our psyche consists of the ego, the id, and the superego, which are agencies in our psyche first identified by Sigmund Freud. Before proceeding to reference Freud, however, I first need to say something about his reputation and our society’s resistance to his work. He wasn’t right about everything, of course. Yet many of his detractors have exhibited an intense preoccupation with discrediting him, comparable to how Charles Darwin was and still is vilified in some circles. People instinctively have an aversion to depth psychology because, through our defense mechanisms, we protect our ego and self-image from inconvenient truth. There’s a price to pay, however. [Read more…]