Much of Our Emotional Suffering is Due to Lingering Attachments to Unresolved Negative Emotions
When we’re unhappy, we’re usually making unconscious inner choices that produce our unhappiness. We have to understand the bittersweet appeal of negative emotions. Without realizing what we’re doing, we actually make inner choices to feel deprived or refused—or helpless, controlled, criticized, rejected, betrayed, or abandoned.
It defies common sense that we would so easily plunge into one or more of these eight negative emotions (the first hurts of childhood). Yet our unconscious mind operates on irrational, not rational, principles. It starts when young children, through inexperience and subjectivity, accentuate emotionally the sense of being ill-treated. Poor parenting is a problem, of course, but even children who have good, decent parents can face significant emotional challenges as adults.
Unconsciously, we’re tempted to indulge in such negative emotions that are unresolved from our past. Unwittingly, we recreate and recycle these familiar, painful feelings through the events and situations of everyday life.
I use the term emotional attachments to express this inner conflict. While consciously we very much dislike our suffering, unconsciously we can be willing and determined to experience the unresolved negative emotions that produce suffering. Vast numbers of people have these emotional attachments. The problem goes largely untreated because it’s not well understood.
We’re highly reluctant to see our emotional attachments and our participation in our suffering. Our psychological defenses shield us from this inner truth. Blaming others is a common defense. We convince ourselves that others or difficult circumstances are to blame for our unhappiness. We say to ourselves, for instance, “Their behavior (or attitude) is causing me to feel this way (offended, angry, depressed, etc.).”
We want to believe, “They caused me to feel anxious (or angry, etc.).” With more awareness, we would say something to this effect, “Their behavior has triggered my unconscious, unresolved inner conflict, which produces my sensitivity to feeling criticized, controlled, or rejected. That’s why I’m feeling hurt, anxious, or angry.”
Sometimes, instead of blaming others for our problems and unhappiness, we blame conditions or circumstances in our life. We might say to ourselves, “Work is too hard, and I don’t get paid enough.” Or, we think, “I would be happy if only I was better looking and had a great body and personality.”
Other times we blame ourselves for our unhappiness—but for the wrong reasons. Someone might say, for instance, “The problem is I’m too lazy,” or, “I’m just an angry person—that’s the problem!” However, any such laziness or anger are just surface symptoms of our unconscious readiness to experience one or more of the first hurts.
Let’s look at one of these first hurts, the emotional attachment to feeling rejected. If distressed because you believe you’re not attractive or smart enough, you’re likely attached emotionally, deep in your psyche, to self-rejection. This means there’s inner conflict: Consciously, you want to be liked and respected, but unconsciously you’re highly sensitive to feeling rejected, and you allow yourself to plunge emotionally into that misery. You can be rejecting of yourself on a daily basis, especially through your inner critic. You can reject yourself, of course, for a whole range of (real or imaginary) reasons, not just because you think you’re unattractive. Your problem is not with your alleged lack of physical attractiveness but with your determination to experience rejection—whether that comes from others or through your own conflicted relationship with yourself.
Your inner choice to suffer in this way is caused by an emotional attachment to rejection, which includes self-rejection. You likely have a history of feeling rejected that goes back to your childhood.
You suffer when you feel rejected by others even though, inwardly, you’re the first person in line to reject yourself. You’re likely not aware that rejection is the deeper problem because you’re fooled by your defenses and entangled in your surface symptoms such as anger, resentment, bitterness, and depression.
Recognizing this attachment to rejection (or any of the other first hurts) brings a whole new clarity to our intelligence, and now we can liberate ourselves from the underlying emotional conflict.
We have the power to change our attachments to unresolved negative emotions, but first we have to see them clearly. With insight, we can trace the painful and self-defeating symptoms that pop up in our life back to our underlying emotional attachments.
It’s common for people to be attached to (or determined to experience ourselves through) feelings of criticism. Your parents might have regarded you or treated you in this negative way (or you believed or felt that they did). This is how, at least in part, you now regard or experience yourself, often mostly unconsciously and often quite painfully.
To repeat, it’s important to understand that most of us are completely unaware of our emotional attachments to rejection, criticism, deprivation, refusal, helplessness, control, betrayal, and abandonment. Instead, we become entangled in the painful surface symptoms that include anxiety, stress, confusion, self-doubt, anger, loneliness, cynicism, laziness, apathy, pseudo-stupidity, and a sense of being overwhelmed. We also suffer with a lack of behavioral self-regulation.
Through our psychological defenses, we cover up our emotional attachments, and we thereby fool ourselves into believing that emotional attachments don’t exist.
All such suffering can become a distant memory when we see more clearly how our psyche works. This clarity can be acquired through the articles on this website, and through my paperback books and e-books, available at the Books link.