More than 225 articles on mental-health topics can be read here for free. For now, I’m taking a break from writing and will resume sometime in the fall. I’m still doing psychotherapy sessions for anyone who would like to experience the depth psychology described on this website. Keep reading the posts and consider getting some of my books. This powerful knowledge can dramatically improve your life.
Earlier this month I received an email from a young psychotherapist, in practice for just a few years, who was struggling to understand how, despite his best efforts, a client of his had committed suicide. He wrote, in part:
I recently experienced a therapist’s worst nightmare and lost a client to suicide. I’ve struggled to make sense of it as he exhibited almost none of the traditional warning signs. One thing I do remember about him is that he was very inwardly passive. Your writings have given me the clearest picture of his internal world, one of a harsh critic and a passive recipient. Nothing in my training even remotely addresses the passivity that I now think was a big part of his suffering. I look forward to reading more of your work and using it to help more people in the future.
Since this therapist is interested in applying this psychological knowledge in his practice, I can offer a few points to assist him and other therapists. My regular readers, meanwhile, can benefit from understanding more about inner passivity and the therapeutic relationship from the therapist’s point of view.
The individual in danger of committing suicide is likely to be inwardly weak and disconnected from self, unable to support himself or herself emotionally. (See an earlier post on the subject.) This weakness is a symptom of inner passivity, which I describe in my books and articles. Inner passivity operates as an enabler of our inner critic, and it’s a major factor in many kinds of dysfunction, including depression, anxiety, and addictions.
As my clients start seeing and understanding their inner passivity, they’re able to recognize it as a clinical condition and a universal peculiarity of human nature. With growing insight, they begin to see and feel the powerful influence of the passive side as they also shift away from their unconscious identification with it. As a benefit of this recognition, they start to detach emotionally from false impressions of themselves (such as impressions of being unworthy or a hopeless failure) that their symptoms have misled them into believing. In this process, their best self emerges from under the weight of painful and self-defeating symptoms. [Read more…]
I’m delighted to say that all of my books are now available in paperback. Each book has also been updated as a Second Edition. All books are now available in both Kindle e-book and paperback formats at Amazon.com. They are all listed above in Books, with their links to Amazon.
I have refined the knowledge of depth psychology into seven principles. Reading these principles over on a daily basis—as a kind of two-minute inner workout—is highly recommended.These principles are boiled down to about 400 words, so it only takes a few minutes to slowly read the content. But a person could take a lifetime assimilating the knowledge behind the words.
What are the benefits of doing this every day? We’ve got remarkably thick skulls when it comes to learning depth psychology. Our instinct is to reject self-knowledge: it’s so unsettling to the inner status quo. It changes our sense of who we are, and we’re afraid to lose that old familiar sense of self, even when the old self is infused with pain. By facing inner truth each day in the form of a two-minute inner workout, we can overpower our resistance.
So read slowly and ponder the significance of this knowledge. The real trick is to begin to understand how this knowledge applies directly to you. The intent is to turn the knowledge into self-knowledge, which in turn helps us to overcome many forms of misery and self-defeat.
These seven principles don’t mess around—they zero in on what gets us into emotional trouble. They identify the processes through which our negative emotions are most easily aroused. Becoming stronger emotionally is a process of recognizing and overcoming our deeper negativity. We learn how we have unwittingly been producing and holding on to various forms of suffering. [Read more…]
The problem of intimate partner abuse has received wide attention following incidents involving National Football League players. Yet media discussions of the subject tend to deal with superficial considerations. Little is being said about the deeper psychological issues that precipitate and fuel the abuse and violence.
Both the perpetrator and the victim are involved in agonizing behaviors that mirror inner conflict in the psyches of them both. What drives the perpetrators, usually men, to be so cruel and brutal, and why do so many women remain in these abusive situations? What do we need to understand that’s common to the various forms—physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and economic—of intimate partner abuse?
Most articles on the subject seem to consider the intimate psychology of warring couples as a forbidden topic. One article, a research review published earlier this month by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, discusses this problem of domestic abuse and the empowerment of women exclusively in terms of their levels of income, financial stability, and educational achievement—yet even that discussion is framed mostly in statistical terms.
While the problem is complicated, a deeper look at psychological dynamics turns up important facts. An abusive relationship puts on display two of the primary elements in the human psyche—aggression and passivity. A couple that’s trapped in a cycle of abuse is acting out the inner conflict that each experiences in his or her psyche. This conflict is between self-aggression, as administered by the inner critic, and inner defensiveness and self-doubt, as experienced through inner passivity. [Read more…]
We’re often the dupes of our defenses which render us blind to our emotional life and mislead us about the sources of our suffering. For starters, we don’t see that common varieties of suffering are both symptoms of mysterious dynamics unfolding in our psyche as well as defenses covering up our participation in our suffering.
To understand this, take a look at the following painful experiences (List 1) and see if you can tell what they have in common:
Anger and rage; sadness, grief, depression; worry, anxiety, guilt, and fear; envy, jealousy, and loneliness; resentment, humiliation, and shame.
These painful experiences are all symptoms and defenses of deeper dynamics in our psyche. Our ability to avoid these unpleasant states is hampered when we fail to understand the deeper processes that instigate these forms of suffering.
What are we defending against? Deeper down, we remain entangled in unresolved negative emotions first experienced in childhood. Through psychological defenses, we cover up our willingness to remain entwined in these painful emotions. The emotions (List 2) include the sense of being:
Deprived, refused; helpless, controlled, and dominated; criticized, rejected, and abandoned; unloved, seen as unworthy. [Read more…]
A client of mine, Jill, complained that she was feeling disrespected by her husband, Jack. Indeed, he often mocked her and spoke to her sarcastically. He also had difficulty expressing his affection and appreciation for her. He had been raised in a family whose members had been notoriously disrespectful to one another.
To improve their marriage, Jack has to do his part to become a more considerate person. But Jill has an issue here, as well. She could easily feel disrespected. She too had been raised in a family where the parents had been lacking in their respect for their children. In addition, her siblings had often been mean and mocking toward one another.
There would be no point in either of them blaming parents or siblings for their current difficulties. With insight, Jack and Jill can live happily together. [Read more…]
I offer my sympathies to those among you who are in distress—emotionally and financially—over the economic and political crises plaguing America and the world. The problems may last for many more years, and people can help themselves considerably by staying emotionally strong.
For starters, that means believing in yourself and your value. That will help you avoid negative reactions such as bitterness and depression. We live in turbulent times, yet the challenges can make us stronger than ever.
Our psyche operates in a way that makes it tempting for us to recycle negative emotions. In the present crisis, it’s very easy for us to feel deprived, helpless, and abandoned. The teaching offered at this website makes us more perceptive and insightful, which helps us to avoid this woe-is-me trap.
The economic and political crises challenge us at our weakest emotional points. If we’re strong emotionally, we can ride these turbulent times the way a surfer rides a wave. The ride is still difficult, the wave unpredictable, and we can fall and get banged up. If we’re strong, we get right back on our surfboard and keep going.
However, if we’re weak emotionally we won’t be able to ride the wave. We will suffer both for our weakness and for the additional hardships that our weakness brings on. We want to understand our emotional weaknesses so we can overcome them.
My books and psychotherapy expose the exact inner workings of hidden aspects of our psyche that produce fear, passivity, and self-defeat. With deeper awareness, we acquire the power to process our experiences more objectively and more harmoniously.