How Worriers Unconsciously Chose to Suffer

Worriers are good at using their imagination to conjure up problems.

What, me worry for nothing!

These days people are snapping a lot of selfies, those close-up self-portraits taken with a cell-phone camera. Could this activity foretell a coming trend in which more of us turn inward to take close-ups of our psychological self? When we penetrate our psyche, new intelligence about the nature of our suffering is disclosed.

Let’s take a close-up of the mild-to-serious form of suffering known as worry. Worrywarts abound, and many of them are highly skilled at picturing worst-case scenarios. They’re good at taking snapshots of things that are happening only in their imagination.

Not only do they worry, they worry for nothing much of the time. The things they worry about frequently never happen. So worriers suffer for nothing. That’s at least as bad as working for nothing or crying for nothing.

Worriers produce expectations or visualizations of future problems or calamities. They anticipate being harmed, helpless, defeated, overwhelmed, hurt or disadvantaged in some manner should those problems arise. Worriers also tend to believe that their worry is appropriate because, as we all know, bad things do happen on occasion.

Uncertainty is built into the DNA of life. Unpleasant experiences likely do await us. It’s also possible some disaster or tragedy will befall us. Yet the healthier we are emotionally, the more we’re able to flourish in the present, confident we can handle what life has in store. But some people see the uncertainties of life (or vagaries of fate) as opportunities to suffer right now, in this moment, long before anything bad has happened. [Read more...]

Exterminate Infestations of Negative Thoughts

Our negative thoughts can feel as if they are reality-based.

Our negative thoughts often feel as if they are reality-based.

Negative thoughts are like termites that chew up and spit out our happiness. Many of us are frequently overwhelmed by such worrisome, anxious, fearful, and hateful thoughts. These thoughts gnaw at the fabric of our life, yet we’re often oblivious to basic knowledge that can eradicate this intrusive infestation.

These thoughts often seem reality-based. Certainly, it’s easy to believe the content of these thoughts. They seem to capture objectively the nature and extent of our plight. When they overpopulate our mind, they can produce an ugly reality, a self-defeating acting out of our negative outlook and worst fears. We must understand, though, that they represent a subjective impression rather than any deeper truth about us or our life.

Before getting to the liberating knowledge, let’s look at a list of common negative thoughts. (This list is bleak and grim, and we can insert a little levity by reading this section as experimental poetry noir.) I’ve separated this list into three categories that are explained further on:

A. Negative thoughts associated with inner passivity: No one understands me or knows what I feel; I’ll never make it; I can’t get started; I’m so weak, helpless, and out of control; I can’t get things together; I can’t finish anything; I don’t think I can go on; I feel like I’m alone against the world; I know I have a serious disease; I’ll never be healthy and happy again; What’s the point of trying?  [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...]

Four Favorite Ways to Suffer

Knowing these four ways we suffer helps us to avoid them.

If you’re looking for attention, try wearing a T-shirt with this question embossed across the chest in bold type—Who Will I be Without my Suffering? These words have a thunderous effect on an unconscious level. That’s because we often experience ourself and identify with ourself most profoundly through our suffering.

We all need to make sense of our world and find our place in it. We look for orientation through our beliefs, ego, athletic ability, intelligence, skills, character, body image, personality, sum of knowledge, and possessions. Underneath these external values, though, we can also experience and know ourselves in hidden recesses of our psyche as victims of injustice and malice, as failures or phonies, or as individuals who are insignificant and unworthy.

We have, in particular, four favorite ways to suffer. We can engorge ourselves at the trough of human misery through feelings of deprivation, helplessness, rejection, and criticism. Chances are good that when we’re miserable, we’re entangled in one or more of these negative emotions. Symptoms such as anger, anxiety, fear, procrastination, and depression often have their roots in these four opportunities to suffer.

With a little insight, we can check in with ourselves to determine pretty accurately whether we’ve tumbled into one of these four pits of pain. We can get ourselves out with self-awareness and insight. Most of the time, people in the pits find it hard to escape because they resist seeing their own role in their predicament.

If you’re living a life of relative abundance, yet still feel anxious that something is missing in your life, you’re likely entangled in the first of the four, the negative emotion of deprivation. This means that you are unconsciously determined to see and experience the glass as half-empty. This propensity to see and experience our life through negative impressions is a quirk of human nature. It’s as if we have an emotional addiction to various forms of negativity. We often are unaware of how easily we can slip over to the negative side and stay there, even as we complain about how unpleasant it all is. [Read more...]

The Three Amigos of the Apocalypse

Three menaces to health, happiness, and prosperity

The Three Amigos of the Apocalypse are not as well known as their compatriots in suffering, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—conquest, war, famine, and death. Yet the three amigos are just as big a danger to health, happiness, and prosperity.

Each of the three amigos—the beggar, the slave, and the orphan—represents a negative, painful state of mind. For most of us, our psyche is contaminated with at least one of these miseries, and many of us are burdened with a trace or more of all three.

The beggar represents those of us who, however bountiful our life may be, suffer with an inner emptiness. It feels as if something vitally important is missing in our life. Even a person’s regular purchase of lottery tickets can be an expression of this mentality. The feeling is, “If only I were rich (or if only I had this or that) I would be happy.” On the surface, beggars are eager to devour or to acquire something, whatever that something may be. Deeper down, they’re on the scent of deprivation.

The beggar mentality is a product of our lingering emotional attachment to feelings of deprivation and refusal. We’re still the little kid who once screamed in angry frustration when he didn’t get something he very much wanted. [Read more...]