The Temptations of the Injustice Collector

Trapped behind the illusion of injustice.

In matters large and small, we all want to see justice done. A lot of us, though, suffer greatly—more than actual situations call for—in seeing injustice, or what we identify as injustice, being done to others and in feeling it being done to ourselves.

We magnify injustices out of proportion, holding on fiercely to feelings such as being wronged, deprived, controlled, criticized, disrespected, or rejected. An example is the unfortunate partisan divide in American politics that is fueled, at least in part, by the willingness of people to complain about all the injustices that the other political side is allegedly inflicting upon them.

If we’re classic injustice collectors, we whine incessantly about the unfairness of life. We’re upset on a daily basis about all the affronts we have to endure. We’re figuratively dangling upside-down in a shaft of self-pity, clutching a charge sheet of outrages, piercing the darkness with night-vision goggles to see more “bad things” to moan and groan about.

Unconsciously, some dysfunctional people amass their collection of grudges the way a miser hoards his gold.

There are two kinds of injustices. The first is actual injustice caused by human folly or the capriciousness of life. Faced with this injustice, we know logically that it’s best to avoid extrapolating emotionally upon the sense of being victimized. If actual injustice is being done to us, we try to respond appropriately, which may include asserting our rights. At the same time, we strive to minimize the conflict or unpleasantness of the situation. We can, for instance, not take personally the malice or insensitivity of others. [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

Beware the Limitations of Superficial Psychology

Don't be afraid to explore your psyche

Some cognitive psychologists say our difficulty achieving happiness is due to “logic-processing errors.” But this remedy is too superficial. Logic or common sense can’t separate out the ingredients of unhappiness because those ingredients reside deep in our psyche, beyond the reach of logic or common sense.

The best psychological approach depends on knowledge, not logic. This knowledge of how our psyche works leads us deep into our unconscious mind. There we discover the repressed material and unresolved negative emotions that compel us to recycle painful feelings and memories, thereby producing unhappiness.

According to cognitive psychologist Daniel Gilbert, “If we were to experience the world exactly as it is, we’d be too depressed to get out of bed in the morning” (Stumbling on Happiness, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006). Wait a minute! That’s not true at all. Think of people who meditate. They’re not afraid of reality. They search for truth and meaning on an inner level to help them recognize and overcome life’s challenges—and they feel happier for doing so.

We have to be willing to approach reality or we’ll be like children afraid of the dark. We won’t have the strength to deal with challenges such as climate change, resource depletion, terrorism, and corruption in the financial markets. [Read more...]