This month I’m publishing the Introduction to my book, Psyched Up: The Deep Knowledge that Liberates the Self. It’s the first of my two books of collected blog posts.
I arranged the order of the posts to make the content flow and the ideas more coherent. There’s some repetition of underlying principles since each blog post needed, at the time of writing, its own full measure of explanation. As I say in the Introduction, the repetition works to our advantage to help us overcome unconscious resistance.
Consider getting a copy of the paperback edition, and then feel free to slash away, with yellow highlight or bright red underlines, the areas of text that speak to you. Learning can be fun and energizing.
To your great benefit, the knowledge will sink in, even if you read it and slash away at its 517 pages for just 10 minutes a day.
I’ve always admired investigative journalists. They dig into the underbelly of political and economic life to dredge up the truth about human affairs. They uncover gruesome facts about the shady side of human nature.
Revelations about wrong-doing benefit us all. Truth sets us free because it exposes what’s good and what’s evil, what benefits us and what hurts us, as we navigate individually and collectively along life’s rocky roads.
As a writer, I like to think I operate according to the principles of investigative journalism. I dig up important facts about the shady side of human nature, namely the repressed content of the unconscious mind. I expose humanity’s deepest secrets, the ones we keep from ourselves. My writing has evolved from decades of experience as a psychotherapist, and it’s an extension of my experience as a journalist writing for weekly and daily newspapers from 1966 to 1984.
This knowledge of the dynamics of our inner life empowers our intelligence, frees us from suffering, and raises our consciousness. My “exposés” reveal the extent to which, in our daily affairs, we act unwisely, producing self-defeat and suffering needlessly. As the knowledge of depth psychology is assimilated over time, it sets us free from malaise and misery.
The dirty little secrets uncovered by investigative journalists have their counterpart in the hidden operations and repressed content of the psyche. In fact, our political, economic, and social life is a creation of both our conscious and unconscious minds. We can clearly see the conscious, mental genius in our marvelous creations and undertakings. For the most part, though, we fail to see, or are reluctant to consider, just exactly how our emotional, unconscious side produces self-defeat and threatens our collective wellbeing and survival.
The conflicts and dysfunction that plague the daily life of humanity correlate directly with the inner conflict in our psyche. In large measure, we’ve failed to expose this correlation because it’s so humbling to acknowledge the extent of our willful ignorance and its accompanying self-defeat.
Our inner world can operate as a closed system, like a sealed-off backward country where civility, rationality, and legal protocols are in short supply. Infantile dynamics rule in our psyche. We can, however, learn the characteristics and features of this inner operating system’s irrational turmoil so as not to be defeated by it.
What is it our intelligence is not accessing? In this book, I offer hundreds of valuable insights into our subterranean shenanigans. This writing—my journalistic “scoops”—reveals the shady dealings conducted out of public and private sight in the backwaters of our mind. I’ve gleaned this insight about unconscious dynamics and conflicts from my practice as a psychotherapist, from my own inner work, and from the best knowledge produced by classical psychoanalysis.
Throughout this book, I look critically at mainstream psychology. In doing so, my purpose is to clearly distinguish the methods and solutions of mainstream psychology from what the best of depth psychology has to offer. There’s a vast chasm between these two alternatives. I believe that mainstream psychology is offering mental-health nutrition that’s the equivalent of bland, highly processed, fast food. My readers, in contrast, dine on the wholesome, organic roots of deep self-knowledge.
The most common ways we experience emotional pain are all discussed in these pages. This material explores the unconscious processes by which we produce shame, guilt, anger, depression, loneliness, addiction, conflict, cynicism, worry, anxiety, greed, envy, rejection, fear, failure, passivity, and egotism. Also included in this book are insights into bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, obesity, anorexia, gender issues, racism, suicide, boredom, procrastination, narcissism, insomnia, criminal behavior, and the causes of corruption, violence, and war.
The book’s variety of topics are woven around a central theme. This theme addresses the role we play—unconsciously—in producing our suffering and self-defeat. From topic to topic, I often discuss the same principles. This repetition is required to illustrate how the same basic recurring dynamics in our psyche are able to produce so many varied symptoms and so many different forms of suffering and self-defeat. The repetition is also required because we have significant resistance to assimilating inner truth. The knowledge has to penetrate our thick skulls. I have tried to minimize the repetition so it doesn’t feel like I’m pounding nails into the reader’s head.
Our psyche has, paradoxically, a wondrous unity and a magnificent chaos. In this inner world we find the knowledge most worth attending to. I shine a laser beam on an area of inner turbulence—involving conflicts, defenses, and emotional attachments—that generates much of our behavioral and emotional dysfunction. This knowledge gives us the strength and the insight to break free from the clutch of negative emotions.
Readers will learn why it’s so hard to shake off painful emotions, even when they’re obviously hurting us and holding us back. Insight is provided that explains how we tend to remain identified with old hurts and grievances first experienced in childhood. We learn how, in significant measure, we “know” ourselves (we identify with our self) through both inner conflict and its symptoms. As we begin to understand how we gravitate to painful default positions in our psyche, we’re able to break free of these old ways of “knowing” or experiencing ourselves. These unresolved emotions or psychological default positions include feeling deprived or refused—or helpless, controlled, criticized, rejected, betrayed, or abandoned.
We experienced many of these distressful emotions in childhood, even if we had kind and decent parents. I explain in this book precisely how a wide variety of negative reactions, all symptoms of unresolved inner conflict, arise within us. These painful symptoms or negative reactions are likely to remain unresolved when we can’t see the inner dynamics holding them in place. Unwittingly, we are prone to recreate and recycle familiar, painful emotions deep within ourselves as we experience the events and situations of our everyday life.
Our psyche operates according to its own rules of logic and procedure. These hidden mental and emotional dynamics operate irrationally and counter-intuitively. They defy the laws of logic and protocols of common sense. Normally, when we learn something—about math or science, for instance—we acquire the knowledge through a straightforward cognitive process. When it comes to acquiring self-knowledge, though, the process is quite different. Now we’re required to understand something that, cognitively speaking, defies common sense. For instance, while it does make sense that we want to be happy, we actually, on an inner level, chose to recycle negative emotions, unresolved from childhood, that maintain a state of unhappiness. Because this mysterious impulse to embrace negativity is so contrary to common sense, our collective human intelligence has failed to fathom the paradoxes of unconscious dynamics that govern both our inner world and our experiences of daily life.
While this self-knowledge is a kind of astrophysics of inner space, it’s not rocket science, meaning it’s not that difficult in itself to comprehend. What makes it difficult is our psychological resistance, our stubborn determination to cling to our old familiar identity, even when it’s a source of misery, rather than embrace the new, evolved sense of self we’re destined to become.
I use the term emotional attachments to explain this psychological predicament. An emotional attachment can be understood as an unconscious compulsion to continue to experience a particular negative emotion. Behind these attachments is our unconscious willingness, even determination, to hold on to unresolved, painful emotions. We then unwittingly go looking for ways to re-experience them. Consciously we want to be happy, yet unconsciously we can be willing and determined to experience the unresolved negative emotions that produce unhappiness.
Vast numbers of people have these emotional attachments. The problem, as mentioned, goes largely untreated because it’s not taught or even recognized by the vast majority of mental-health experts.
Emotional attachments constitute a form of inner conflict. We say we want love, for instance, at the same time that we can be emotionally attached to rejection, criticism, or abandonment. We say we want to be free, but then we unconsciously find ways to oppress ourselves. We say we want to get when, unconsciously, we’re into not getting. It’s important to see such inner conflict clearly, and this book makes that possible. We begin to get our head around the paradox that we consciously want love in our life at the same time that we’re compulsively looking to highlight and exacerbate feelings of being unloved.
When I’m writing about emotional attachments, I’m often simultaneously writing about inner conflict. Our attachment to an unresolved negative emotion such as rejection is the nexus of an inner conflict: one minute we reach out for love, the next we’re sniffing around looking for rejection. Back and forth it goes.
In one common conflict, we desire consciously to feel strong, at the same time that we gravitate to a default position within us through which we experience ourselves as weak, helpless, failing, and lacking resilience. In a manner that might be simultaneous, a wish to be strong and a willingness to know ourselves through old, familiar weakness engulf our sense of self. This emotional resonance with inner weakness, which I call inner passivity, is the result of our lingering identification with (or emotional attachment to) the helplessness, dependance, and submissiveness we experienced during the many years of childhood.
Inner passivity produces a hit-and-miss struggle to establish a sense of our own authority, and it sabotages our behavioral and emotional regulation. This inner glitch, which I track throughout this book, is a hurdle in the process of our evolvement. It’s an instigator of numerous painful symptoms, and it impinges to some degree on the health and happiness of just about everyone.
This book also discusses other deep aspects of our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. We enhance our mental clarity through self-knowledge. The quality of our thinking and intelligence is enhanced by the success we have in resolving inner conflict. The quality of our consciousness is also explored. Our growing consciousness is conjoined with our emerging, authentic self. This self, which I discuss in detail, emerges as we’re in the process of letting go of conscious and unconscious negativity. The authentic self is the essence of each of us. Its emergence gives each of us a sense of fulfillment.
This evolving self is home to our highest qualities, and our discovery of it enhances our ability to flourish. As we grow, we also acquire more self-regulation of thoughts, and we free up, for creative purposes, the energy that once we used for resistance and denial. Above all, this book reveals a new language of self-understanding. It makes liberating insight available to all, and it helps us to be really smart about what’s vitally important to know.