People are clashing angrily these days over abortion, gay marriage, gun control, immigration, economic injustice, policing practices, and health care. These are all issues we need to talk about, yet preferably not with malice and hatred. The negative emotionalism we’re seeing in others and often experiencing in ourselves happens largely because of conflict that’s unresolved in the human psyche.
The hostile split in the United States between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, secularists and religious, and urban and rural is not really about who’s right and who’s wrong. The discord is primarily a result of inner conflict, and most people are largely ignorant of the dynamics of this conflict and how it degrades their lives on a personal level and contributes to social disharmony.
Our inner conflict is the slop we bring to the communal table. The conflict creates inner turmoil in our emotional life, causing negative emotions such as feeling devalued, unworthy, helpless, or disrespected. Yet our first instinct is to blame others for what we’re unconsciously generating within ourselves.
Examples abound of how the personal dysfunction of everyday people infiltrates society. For instance, a person who feels a desperate need to succeed is likely unaware of a possible deeper motivation, namely unconscious self-doubt, a sense of unworthiness, and even self-loathing. This individual, whose inner conflict could produce acute self-centeredness and perhaps narcissism, would likely be indifferent to the existence and needs of others. He might also be quite hostile toward others, mirroring his inner relationship with himself. [Read more…]