The Thrill of Fear

An unconscious "bug" in our psyche creates hidden pleasure in our fears.

An unconscious “bug” in our psyche creates hidden pleasure in our fears.

An outbreak of fear is degrading our humanity. A particular weakness in our psyche—a “bug” in our unconscious mind—causes fear to feed upon itself, making the current pandemic of fear especially virulent.

Terrorism triggers fearfulness, but it’s not the cause of it. The cause or the source of our fear lies within us. Some of our fear derives from a genuine fight-or-flight instinct, yet we also have an unconscious resonance with fear. While it’s seemingly counter-intuitive to say so, we actually “get off” on our fear.

Fear creates within us a certain excitement, thrill, tumult, and buzz that we find alluring and compelling. Fear can become an emotional addiction in the sense that we don’t know how to live without it and in the sense that we feel more fully alive when possessed by it. On the surface, though, we’re unaware of how much we find fear to be enchanting and exhilarating.

Fear is a powerful elixir that counteracts the stupor, dullness, and passivity that come from living in the clutch of close-mindedness. People can find intense pleasure in their fearfulness and, in fact, often pay good money to be frightened. We do it at theme parks on roller-coaster rides and haunted house visits. By the millions, we read fiction thrillers, mysteries, and horror stories, along with nonfiction detective and crime stories. These genres and themes are often the stuff of blockbuster movies. Many productions seem increasingly fear-inspiring with their graphic portrayals of ghouls, vampires, and armies of zombies.

Fear is commercialized by certain broadcasters who are willing to cater to the base elements of our humanity. Dressed up as political commentary, fear-inspired discourse finds wide audiences of neurotic and psychologically naïve individuals. [Read more…]

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Overcoming Fear of Intimacy

Don't settle for second-rate knowledge about our psychological problems.

Don’t settle for second-rate knowledge about our psychological problems.

For our personal growth and self-development, the psychological establishment is feeding us baby food. We’ll have difficulty fulfilling our destiny without better educational nutrition.

Let’s consider the problem in light of what mainstream psychology is telling us about the self-defeating behavior known as “fear of intimacy.”

We won’t find abiding love, of course, when we’re afraid of intimacy. So how do we fix the problem? An online search for information turns up hundreds of articles and numerous books. Much of this self-help literature does a decent job discussing the experiences and characteristics of fugitives from intimacy. But it does a lousy job providing real insight that can dramatically improve their lives.

One mainstream explanation says that intimacy-dodgers have a fear of rejection (being rejected or abandoned by the loved one), along with a fear of engulfment (feeling controlled and dominated by one’s partner, along with losing oneself in the relationship).

Indeed, these two fears are felt by individuals who flee from intimacy. But where do these fears come from? Relationship experts are not explaining the true source of these fears. They say the fears can be due to a social phobia, an anxiety disorder, or a history of abuse. Yet even when these factors are aspects of the problem, we still need knowledge that goes beyond a diagnosis or the wounds of victimization. [Read more…]

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Cultivating a Life of Disappointment

Disappointment is up!

Disappointment is up!

Strange but true, many of us actively cultivate a life of disappointment, meaning we unconsciously look for ways to feel disenchanted, disheartened, and dissatisfied. Whoever would have thought that we humans, so sensible and smart according to conventional wisdom, would be harboring such a self-defeating proclivity?

Well, we’re full of mischief, for sure. But some of our antics, including our flirtations with disappointment, can leave us bruised and bloody. When we expose our misadventures in our unconscious mind, we won’t so easily succumb to emotional temptations that degrade the quality of our daily life.

There are so many little ways to feel disappointed. I had a client who always counted the money leftover in his wallet just after he had bought something. When I told him that behavior meant he was looking for the feeling of disappointment, he objected to the idea at first. But as he thought more about it in the weeks that followed, he said, “It’s true. I can sense it—it’s subtle, but I almost always have a sense that the money that’s left in my wallet will be less than I’m hoping.” [Read more…]

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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…]

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The Helplessness Trap in Cravings & Addictions

Addicts can break free of the "helplessness trap."

This post is a revised and expanded version of an earlier post, “The Negative Emotions behind Addictions,” which was published here last October. In this version, I go into the heart of the emotional experience of the “helplessness trap” which addictive personalities experience when (or just before) their cravings strike.

When a craving strikes, we often react with a sense of inner helplessness. Will our intense desire for self-defeat prevail? Do we even have a chance to successfully resist, knowing our history of being overwhelmed by our cravings?

In depth psychology, an addiction is understood to be a self-defeating reaction to unresolved negative emotions. Unresolved negative emotions in our psyche produce inner conflict. Examples of common inner conflict include wanting to feel loved when entangled in self-rejection; seeking success when encumbered by expectations of being seen in a negative light; yearning to be praised and respected when tangled up in self-criticism; pursuing relationship stability when emotionally attached to betrayal and unworthiness; and struggling to self-regulate when undermined by unresolved helplessness and passivity.

In other words, unresolved negative emotions from childhood (including our readiness to feel deprived, refused, helpless, controlled, rejected, betrayed, abandoned, and criticized) produce inner conflict. This conflict in turn produces suffering, self-defeat, and out-of-control emotions and behaviors. We can overcome the disruptive influence of inner conflict, and thereby enhance our capacity for self-regulation, when we see our psyche’s inner dynamics clearly enough. [Read more…]

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Problem Gamblers are Addicted to Losing

Problem gamblers recycle painful emotions that are unresolved in their psyche

Problem gamblers typically believe, as they head out the door to the nearest casino, that their full and sincere intention is to win money. Little do they know they’re acting out an emotional attachment to the feeling of losing.

Such gamblers typically do become, in the derogatory sense of the word, losers. They can lose their money, happiness, self-respect, and perhaps their loved ones and home as well. At this point, indeed, we see them as losers.

Yet it doesn’t occur to them that they actually want to lose. Why would anyone, even “losers,” be determined to lose? That level of folly defies common sense. Consciously, of course, problem gamblers do want to win. On the surface, winning money is their all-consuming passion. But unconscious dynamics in their psyche are playing a different game—a game of self-sabotage and self-defeat.

The dynamics of our psyche require us to experience repeatedly our unresolved negative emotions, however painful. A person who is sensitive to feeling refusal or loss, for instance, typically goes through life repeatedly experiencing this suffering. The impression of being refused likely started in childhood, and it continues through life as a psychological conflict: The adult is desperate to get some reward or benefit, at the same time that he or she is expecting refusal or loss. This person will be burdened with the suffering the conflict produces, unless the conflict is resolved with insight and awareness. [Read more…]

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The Negative Emotions Behind Addictions

I read this definition of an addiction on the internet: “An addiction is an unconscious way of coping with emotions.” Yes, that’s true, but a more precise definition is called for: An addiction is a self-defeating reaction to, or consequence of, unresolved negative emotions.

Unless explored and understood, these emotions produce inner conflict, suffering, and self-defeat. We can overcome their disrupting influence in our psyche, and thereby enhance our capacity for self-regulation, when we see our inner dynamics clearly enough.

Our unresolved emotions have to be identified. An addictive person can be struggling with feelings of being deprived, refused, controlled, helpless, rejected, betrayed, abandoned, criticized, hated, and so on. Even when the addictive person is not actually being, say, refused or controlled, this individual is unconsciously determined to experience events and situations through these unresolved, negative emotions.

With the right knowledge or with in-depth therapy, a particular individual can identify, based on his or her childhood experiences, those negative emotions that “push his buttons.” Once the negative emotions are identified, the individual becomes aware of how determined he or she has been to continue to experience those unresolved negative emotions in the different situations of everyday life.

We can say, in fact, that addicts have a hidden addiction, and that is to those negative emotions that are unresolved in their psyche. [Read more…]

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