The Need to Believe in Yourself

We have a basic responsibility in our life to believe in ourself.

This week’s post consists of comments on a reader’s email. This reader (I’ll call him Tony) presents some details of his life and his struggle to find happiness, and he asks for my thoughts and suggestions. In this post, I interject my comments as if we’re having a dialogue.

Tony: I am a 22-year-old student with hopes of studying psychology in a graduate program one day. I am enjoying reading Why We Suffer and I’ve found your words to be very insightful as I come to terms with my own psychological issues.

As briefly as I can, I’d like to attempt to explain to you a dilemma that I’ve stumbled upon during my recovery. I understand you have no obligation to respond, but if you have any ideas for me or know of any writings that could be helpful I would really appreciate it.

I have a deep self-worth void that was created in childhood as a result of my father’s emotional abuse toward me. I have experienced problems with addiction, codependency, and chronic emptiness my whole life, and I believe these are the symptoms of deep issues at the core. I understand that in order to overcome this problem I must validate the inner child that was taught to feel worthless and miserable.

Peter: It’s best not to emphasize the idea that you “must” validate the inner child. Rather, you want to become an observer of how you can be inclined to reject, criticize, and disrespect yourself. [Read more...]

Why We Dither on Climate Change

What exactly is the nature of our resistance?

I’ve been trying for some time to fathom the psychology of educated and supposedly sophisticated people who, in paralysis and resistance, are unwilling to respond rationally to the perils of global warming. We need to look deeply into the heart of this issue.

Why haven’t we taken rational or logical steps to shut down our lethal fossil-fuels industry and to replace it with better conservation and renewable-energy technologies? An assortment of psychological reasons for our paralysis present themselves, including denial, greed, fear, passivity, stubbornness, self-centeredness, self-sabotage, and our species’ lack of compassion for future generations.

Some concerned citizens see greed as the main problem. They want to break the power of the fossil-fuel industry and force it to keep its trillions of dollars in oil, coal, and gas reserves in the ground. They believe that if the industry is identified as the enemy of humanity, people will rise up to fight a moral battle against it.

This strategy is well and good, yet most of us know the industry can be ruthless and greedy, and still we aren’t dashing down the street to join coalitions. I believe we have to look deeper into our paralysis. We need to wage a psychological battle with ourselves as well as a moral battle with the industry. [Read more...]

Avoidable Miseries of the Workplace

We want to identify the inner dynamics that can ruin the pleasures of work.

Work, paradoxically, is a blessing and a curse. It can torture us when we have it and depress us when we don’t. What’s worse, loading “Sixteen Tons” of manure from “9 to 5”on “Maggie’s Farm” after “A Hard Day’s Night,” or having to beg, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” in “Allentown” because the “Unemployment Blues” means “I Ain’t Got No Home in this World Anymore”?

This post offers some psychological insight to help workers find greater enjoyment and creativity in their labor. (The agony of feeling useless that’s inflicted on the reluctantly unemployed will be the subject of a later piece.) Work satisfies basic physical, psychological, and emotional needs, yet people can find ways to suffer even when they hold excellent jobs.

A straightforward psychological principle assures greater enjoyment and creativity in the workplace: Once we manage to avoid unnecessary emotional suffering, we’re much more capable of appreciating our work and being successful at it.

Emotional suffering is related to the state of our psyche, in conjunction with the extent of our self-knowledge. When our psyche is contaminated by unresolved issues and conflict, we can suffer anywhere, anytime. [Read more...]

Taming the “Little Monsters” of Insomnia

The agony of the "cerebral loop."

“I’ve always envied people who sleep easily,” one insomniac wrote. “Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of their skull well-swept, and all the little monsters closed up in a steamer truck at the foot of their bed.”

People can have trouble sleeping for lots of different reasons, and perhaps chief among them are those “little monsters” that cavort in our mind like gremlins at a hip-hop concert. “Crash the night,” the hellions shout, “time to break out, dance the wipeout, swing and freak out!” These little monsters (better known as random, unwanted thoughts, feelings, and fears) gambol to the music of worrisome speculations, dire considerations, and nightmarish scenarios.

Blake Butler, who once endured an epic 129-hour bout of insomnia, describes very well the grueling experience of insomnia in his book, Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia (Harper Perennial, New York. 2011). Below is an excerpt from his book. I quote Butler here at some length because his experience of insomnia, detailed with literary moxie, is highly relevant to what I say further on in this post.

This act of ‘sleep catastrophizing’ is ten times as commonly reported as other disruption stimuli, centered in our tendency to dwell on the worst possible outcomes of a given situation . . . And so the frame shakes. And the self shakes. And in the self, so shakes the blood, the mood, the night, disturbing, in the system, further waking, further wanting, if for the smallest things, the days of junk, [Read more...]