How to Enhance Your Verbal Skill

The solution involves bringing our weak side into sharper focus.

The solution involves bringing our weak side into sharper focus.

You probably remember occasions when you had difficulty saying what you wanted to say or expressing what was on your mind. Some people become tongue-tied on a daily basis. Even when they do manage to speak, they can feel their communication is incomplete or is somehow jumbled and inarticulate. People frequently have to rehearse the words in their mind before they speak, and then the communication doesn’t sound genuine or authentic.

It’s bad enough that this lack of verbal skill reduces the pleasures of social and workplace encounters, but it’s also frequently accompanied by painful experiences of embarrassment, regret, and shame.

One person with this difficulty commented: “I always feel that I want to say more and don’t find the right words and feel confused whether to say it or not. Now, at work, sometimes I feel I might have something useful to say in a certain situation, but the moment passes and it’s too late.” [Read more…]

The Missing Link in OCD

The missing link lurks in our psyche behind the symptoms.

The missing link lurks in our psyche behind the painful symptoms.

You can’t touch it, see it, or smell it. But it’s there all the time, the hidden instigator of numerous human ailments and miseries including obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Experts attribute obsessive-compulsive disorder to various sources such as genetic factors and dysfunctional brain processes, as well as allergies and other sensory problems that produce anxiety and stress. Yet a common cause of OCD—inner passivity in the human psyche—is hardly ever mentioned. The fingerprint of inner passivity can be found on all the common expressions of OCD.

Readers of the posts at this website are familiar with my descriptions of inner passivity. This inner condition was first identified in classical psychoanalysis as an extension of the subordinate or unconscious ego. I have shown how inner passivity is an emotional weakness that is linked to many painful and self-defeating experiences and behaviors such as anxiety, depression, procrastination, shame, guilt, panic attacks, and addictions. In this post, I provide explanations that show how inner passivity is the common link among the primary types and symptoms of OCD.

Inner passivity is a hidden glitch in human nature, and it can plague us even when in daily life we’re capable of being assertive and effective. As one of its most striking features, inner passivity, when experienced acutely, causes us to become emotionally entangled in a sense of helplessness and to feel overwhelmed by the everyday challenges of life. (Read, Lost in the Fog of Inner Passivity.)

One of the most common forms of OCD is called “checking.” People become anxious that they’ve failed to lock a door, switch off lights, or turn off the stove or toaster. Some OCD sufferers have persistent fears of hitting pedestrians while driving. [Read more…]

O Shame, Where is Thy Secret Source?

We can penetrate more deeply into the roots of shame.

Self-knowledge helps us to penetrate more deeply into the roots of shame.

Shame is a powerful and self-damaging emotion, and many books in recent years have tackled the subject in search of its roots. Some experts say shame is “the quintessential negative emotion” because it influences so many different moods and behaviors.

While shame can saturate our emotional life, most sufferers don’t understand its roots deep in our psyche. (I wrote about shame in an earlier post, “How Deeper Awareness Can Eliminate Shame,” and this is a fresh attempt to help readers understand the affliction.)

Shame is the painful sense that there exists a dark secret or an exposed truth about some vile, disgusting, or pitiful aspect of oneself. The negative emotion sometimes lies dormant until triggered by a situation or event in a person’s life. Other times, shame is active within us on a daily basis. Whether we’re conscious of our shame or not, it can play an important role in obesity, addictions, depression, crime, violent behaviors, sexual offenses, social phobias, career failure, outbursts of anger, and other self-defeating behaviors.

Shame is often associated with external variables such as our appearance, clothes, social skills, and a sense of physical and mental ineptitude. It’s also associated with inner fears such as being exposed as a fake or phony, and experiencing or imagining ridicule over our handling of money.

We have a better chance of overcoming shame when we know where it comes from and how it’s produced. Shame itself is a byproduct of forces, drives, and conflicts in our psyche. [Read more…]

When Money Enriches Our Suffering

Money is a counterfeit coin for measuring our value.

Money is important—it’s the grease in the economic machine. Some of us, though, get that grease all over our clothes, hair, and skin. When our body is overlaid with it, and every pore sealed up, the smear of cold cash turns our humanity blue.

Money can be greasy to the touch, whether we have a lot of it or a little. A shortage of it provides us with the opportunity to feel deprived, refused, helpless, abandoned, unworthy and unloved. A big stash of it enables us to feel smug, intolerant, greedy, and fearful of losing it. We can use money to feel elation and to know despair. Like sex, romance, and food, it offers us a smorgasbord of positive and negative emotions.

How do plain old dollar bills get so entangled in our emotional life? All of us have unresolved conflicts in our psyche that produce emotional and behavioral difficulties, including self-doubt. This sense that we’re lacking in value is a widespread human weakness. For many of us, it’s part of our identity. Sometimes it’s just a vague, uncertain sense of uneasiness. Giving up (or letting go of) this self-doubt can be difficult, even when we know we’re good people trying our best to do what’s right. [Read more…]

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…]

Underlying Dynamics that Breed Bullies

Self-doubt concerning personal value influences both the bully and the victim.

If we want our society to put a stop to bullying—an excellent goal, of course, one embraced by President Barack Obama, educators, and celebrities—we can help the cause by better understanding the underlying psychological dynamics of bullying and by teaching this knowledge to our kids.

What are these underlying dynamics? The bully—girl or boy, man or woman—appears bold and confident on the surface. But this person is emotionally entangled in substantial self-doubt. All of us grow up with some degree of self-doubt. This feeling can be quite conscious and intense, or it can be repressed and inconspicuous. Our self-doubt produces uncertainty concerning our value, significance, strength, goodness, and worthiness. Even more so, it can produce deep emotional convictions that we are lacking in value, are deeply flawed, and are deserving of disrespect.

Self-doubt is a universal condition. We compensate somewhat for the painfulness of it when others give us recognition, acceptance, praise, and validation. The existence of self-doubt is evident in the human passion for fame, glory, power, and wealth, all of which bestow an illusion of value and superiority. Self-doubt is also evident in bullies who belittle and abuse others in their desperate need to feel superior and more powerful in themselves. [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…]

Neither a Procrastinator Nor a Dawdler Be

Procrastination produces both emotional anguish and self-damaging inactionProcrastination is such a maddening trait that literary scribes have bestowed upon it an abundance of witty attention. William Shakespeare weighed in more than once, as in Henry VI, “Defer no time; delays have dangerous ends.” Here’s a list of 180 procrastination quotes, but reading them might be, well, to dawdle.

Procrastination produces both emotional anguish and self-damaging inaction. Interestingly, the main culprit in procrastination is largely unrecognized. Depth psychology, however, can penetrate our psyche to expose this culprit.

Before identifying the problem, here’s some background. We harbor in our psyche what psychoanalysis calls the unconscious ego. As the term obviously indicates, this part of our ego is unconscious. We also have a conscious ego that is plenty troublesome. This conscious ego is a pale shadow of our authentic self, and it tends to be thin-skinned and ridiculously petty. But our unconscious ego is even more of a nuisance. Its main effect is to render us passive, so that in certain situations we can quickly feel overwhelmed, helpless, confused, indecisive, and apathetic. Procrastination arises as a behavioral consequence of these negative emotions.

Our challenge is to become more conscious of this part of our psyche. We can start by giving it a name: inner passivity. In our psyche, the primary conflict is between inner aggression (as represented by our inner critic or superego) and inner passivity (as represented by our unconscious ego). These two conflicting aspects of our psyche are always butting heads, frequently producing inner voices or feelings that we repeat in our mind as if the words or feelings are our own. [Read more…]