Occupy the Psyche

Achieving progress is an inner and outer process.

The Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) is searching for insight, wisdom, and a sense of direction. These resources are available to us when we turn inward to occupy our psyche.

In the absence of psychological insight, each of us to some degree is divided from within. Also divided from within is the OWS movement itself, as Rolling Stone magazine reports in its June issue (“The Battle for the Soul of Occupy”). The reform movement has a neurotic undercurrent that could limit its success.

The struggle for progress is both an inner and an outer process. As history has repeatedly shown, people create new frontiers of political freedom as their sense of freedom develops from within. When we approach the struggle for more inner freedom, we try to penetrate our resistance, defenses, illusions, egotism, and the tyranny of the inner critic, all of which can prevent us from being in charge of our own life.

Agitating and brainstorming, OWS reformers are searching for keys to open doors to more freedom and justice. One key unlocks the mystery of our psyche to reveal powerful forces of self-sabotage. [Read more…]

The Astonishing Basis of Our Addictions

We can overcome addictions by understanding our emotional issues.

It’s curious that we humans get addicted to both substances and activities. On the substance side, people get hooked on drugs, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, and fat. We can also become addicted without substance abuse, in activities involving gambling, shopping, promiscuity, pornography, video games, and even work.

Experts offer a range of theories to explain the causes of addictions, and they can disagree to a contentious extent with one another. The causes are attributed variously to neurological disorders, brain chemistry, genetic factors, and low self-esteem. One expert, psychologist and author Stanton Peele, says we become addicted because the “delivery systems”—hypodermic syringes, nicotine-packed cigarettes, ubiquitous online porn, pocket-sized game consoles, chemically flavored food, seductive marketing messages—have become so effective at breaking down our resistance.

These theories are all worthy of consideration, yet I believe we really can’t understand addictions fully without understanding deeper elements of human nature. An essential cause of addictions derives from our lack of consciousness. We’re harboring psychological weaknesses that we’re failing to recognize or understand.

Addictive personalities experience themselves through unresolved emotional issues that produce inner weakness and a lack of self-regulation. In my view, the particular substance or behavior to which they’re addicted is secondary to their compulsion to experience the emotion of helplessness. [Read more…]

Deliverance From the Lonesome Blues

We can resolve the inner weaknesses that make loneliness so painful.

More people are living alone than ever. In America, forty percent or more of all households contain a single occupant. Many people happily live alone—but others are tormented by the wail of the Lonesome Blues. That oldie can echo in our ears even when we’re surrounded by friends and family.

Loneliness is a common brand of human suffering. Many believe that loneliness is an inescapable fact of human existence, a curse we’re fated to endure from birth to death. The novelist Thomas Wolfe spoke to this idea: “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.”

Wolfe was famous and admired during his lifetime, which apparently offered little solace or good company for his loneliness. Even “super-famous” Albert Einstein succumbed to the misery. “It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely,” he candidly commented. Being a rich celebrity doesn’t appear to help: “Hollywood is loneliness beside the swimming pool,” observed the actress Liv Ullmann.

Loneliness appears to have infiltrated if not occupied human nature. Impervious to the exhilarations of fame, wealth, and power, it produces assorted misery, ill health, and increased risk of heart disease. [Read more…]

Our Global Strategy for Self-Defeat

Is complexity the road to self-defeat?

Is it possible we’re acting out a Global Strategy for self-defeat, creating a world of such complexity that we’re finally overwhelmed and destroyed by it? The possibility makes sense considering the human capacity for folly and self-defeat.

Science fiction has certainly explored the theme of artificially created life-forms acquiring power over us, either through hostile takeovers (cybernetic revolts) or through our passive corroboration with artificial intelligence.

Instead of losing our autonomy to androids and robots, we’re talking here about being defeated by the complexity of global operating systems such as the ones that govern economics and finance. Such self-defeat may already be upon us. The global economic system is dependent on energy sources that produce global warming. It’s a system that’s contaminated by arcane financial derivatives that make up galaxies of debt. We’re also economically dependent on jobs and profits from the production and proliferation of high-tech weapons, which makes the road to world peace increasingly complicated. Complexity is growing exponentially. As Stephen Hawking says, we have entered “the century of complexity.”

What agency representing our common well-being has the power and resources to oversee and understand, let alone regulate, all the offshoots of this labyrinthine activity? [Read more…]

The Mayo Clinic’s Bogus Psychology

Forgiveness can be misused.

Many health experts claim that we need to embrace forgiveness if we want to let go of anger, resentment, and thoughts of revenge after someone we care about has hurt us.

Phooey! We don’t have to forgive them at all. Our peace of mind isn’t about forgiving others. It’s about seeing how, in our emotional reactions to the behaviors of others, we’re likely to be replaying our own unresolved issues and stumbling unnecessarily into suffering.

A party to this psychological jabber, the highly regarded Mayo Clinic, a medical institute known for its research and education on health matters, has on its website a misleading article written by its own staff, titled “Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness,” that reads in part:

Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project or your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance — but if you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy.

This shallow advice says that letting go of grudges and bitterness depends on forgiveness. Forgiveness is sometimes appropriate, of course, especially when we have been gravely victimized. Yet as a remedy for conflict, it can easily be misused and misunderstood. To understand the bogus nature of the Mayo Clinic’s advice, let’s take a close look at each of the three examples from the institute’s posting. [Read more…]