The Meaning of Evolved Consciousness

What knowledge helps us to evolve?

Growing our consciousness is the most direct path out of suffering and self-defeat. Yet a lot of people believe that human nature, like the Ten Commandments, is set in stone. They say one’s human nature is a granite-like formation that resists appeals to virtue and reason, thereby preventing us from evolving beyond our often self-centered, ignorant, or foolish ways.

Our level of consciousness is likely to remain stationary only when we fail to explore our deeper dimensions. When we understand our psychological self, we become wiser, smarter, and happier.  Without this self-knowledge, we fall under the influence of inner dynamics that produce suffering and self-defeat.

We’re smart, yet we’re not necessarily sufficiently conscious. We’re able to build complex technological systems—yet the toxic byproducts might be ruining our planet. Our advanced weaponry can also destroy life on earth if our primitive emotions and aggressive instincts prevail. Our consciousness is not keeping up with our cleverness. So what does it mean to be more evolved?

A higher consciousness is ultimately associated with the quality of our self-knowledge. We learn what is precise and true about our unconscious mind, even though we might initially be appalled at what we’re discovering. [Read more…]

The Hanky-Panky Behind Our Anger

Knowing the source of anger is important.

A new TV sitcom starring Charlie Sheen, who plays the role of an irascible anger-management therapist, is coming our way this summer. The show, which will be seen internationally, will apparently get its comedic effect from the hot-headed Sheen’s portrayal of a man of wisdom and propriety. I hope he doesn’t make a mockery of psychotherapy. Dare we hope that Sheen’s character will dispense some valuable insights into the nature of anger? That would help millions of sufferers worldwide who don’t understand that chronic anger is a defense covering up deeper issues.

Anger is often a laughing matter on TV, though less so in real life. In chronic form, it can escalate into debilitating misery. That’s when we feel it on a regular basis, in a self-defeating manner, toward an individual, group, or situation that we perceive as unjust or oppressive. Anger can also be produced through past memories and future expectations. Often we hold the anger in, and that of course is unhealthy for our mind and body.

We can also feel recurring anger toward ourselves, allegedly on the grounds that we’re a worthless fool or hopeless failure for lapses in judgment and missed opportunities.

Unfortunately, information from the media and from experts on anger management seldom reveals how anger is often used as a psychological defense. [Read more…]

Lincoln’s Integrity, Our Integrity

Integrity is as American as Abraham Lincoln.

Integrity, as American as Abraham Lincoln, has gone missing in the American soul, like Bernie Madoff’s billions. The nation’s future harmony and prosperity may depend on restoring this vital virtue.

We can understand integrity if, through our imagination, we step into the spirit of Lincoln, our secular saint. First, let’s consider what integrity (and the lack of it) means.

The lack of this virtue in American life is like a trillion-dollar campaign contribution to national self-sabotage. Wall Street’s financial follies, as one example, are a study in the art of manifest unscrupulousness. With this fraudulency comes enormous grief and misery.

Corrupt financiers and self-serving politicians must be among the unhappiest people in the world. That’s because integrity is a necessary ingredient in stable, lasting happiness. Integrity is an expression of self-respect. The virtue of integrity develops as we feel our intrinsic goodness and care about our personal honor. Integrity requires that we do the right thing, as Oprah Winfrey says, even when nobody’s going to know whether we did it or not.

We do what’s right for our own sake because our integrity won’t allow us to tarnish that precious feeling of our essential honor and self-respect. [Read more…]

Stubbornness: The Guts to Fight Reality

Fighting reality can get painful.

Stubbornness is, essentially, a determination to fight a losing battle with reality, while accepting as a “reward” for the effort the gift-wrapped deadweight of rigidity and resentment.

My apologies to Frank Sinatra fans, but I believe the theme song or anthem for stubbornness is the old favorite, “My Way.” One stanza stands out:

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew/ When I bit off more than I could chew./ But through it all, when there was doubt,/ I ate it up and spit it out./ I faced it all and I stood tall,/ And did it my way.

Sure—my way or the highway! When we’re smart and wise, we don’t put the emphasis on my way. We’re just pleased and grateful to find a good, sensible, or brave way to travel “each and ev’ry highway.”

Of course, stubbornness can sometimes be a virtue, as when we adhere bravely to a sound principle in the face of opposition. This post, though, is about the self-defeating expression of it.

Stubbornness and denial are two bad apples in the same basket. The former tends to be a conscious expression of opposition, as in a lady’s stubborn refusal to reunite with an estranged family member, while the latter is likely to refer to an unconscious form of the behavior, as in a man’s denial that his drinking problem is going to get him fired.

Stubbornness is usually a reaction to underlying emotional issues. If we can make these issues conscious and keep them in focus, we have a good chance of letting go of our mulish attitude and the suffering it brings on. Basically, obstinacy is a symptom of three different emotional issues in our psyche. [Read more…]