THE MIND THAT PRODUCED THE PROBLEMATIC SELF AND ITS WORLD CANNOT MAKE IT BETTER
Scientific psychology limits its focus to the empirical world, the observable world; it observes people as objectively as is possible, describes what it sees and does not have the illusion that there is a magical wand with which we can change people and make them better.
Secular psychology observes that each human being has a self; it accepts that self it sees in people and does not necessarily think that we can change it. No one has figured out a way to change people’s self-concepts.
People’s egos, personalities, and behavior patterns are products of their physical and social environment. You must change nature and society before you can change people. You simply must deal with people as their physical and social world produced them.
We have observed that during childhood children use their thinking to formulate self-concepts for themselves. Most people have what we might call normal self-concepts.
Some people formulate neurotic (personality disordered) self-concepts, and a few formulate psychotic self-concepts where there are hallucinations and delusions.
These self-structures can be seen in teenagers. No one knows how to change normal and abnormal selves. There are many psychotherapies aiming to change people, but they are fairy tales and do not really change anyone.
Medication based therapy appears to calm people down but really does not change their disordered personalities.
I am an Adlerian psychotherapist. According to Alfred Adler, some people, due to the exigencies of their inherited medical issues, find their bodies inferior and reject them and also reject their early self-formulation that they consider inferior. They subsequently use imagination to seek a more powerful, superior self. They become what Adler called neurotics.
A neurotic rejects his self as it is and seeks a false, compensatory superior self. He is filled with anxiety from the conflict of the real and false ideal selves in him.
Can neurotics be healed? If we persuade them to let go of their desire for grandiose egos and no longer think and behave from those false, big selves they will become normal (a neurotic is a normal person with psycho-social problems).
Being normal is not being mentally healthy. The normal person is also sick but sick in such a manner that he can get along with other human beings who are also sick.
What is mental health, anyway? Sigmund Freud said that the healthy person loves himself, loves other people and holds down a productive job.
Alfred Adler defines mental health as the ability to serve social interest. The neurotic only serves his self-interest; actually, the neurotic serves the interest of his false, big self; therefore, he is not really serving his real self’s interests; he is a slave to the pursuit of an imaginary big self.
Where there is neurosis (a troubled person, such as the Narcissistic, sociopathic, and increasingly deluded former US President, Donald Trump) the individual uses his mind to formulate what Karen Horney called an ideal self and tries to use the ideal self to replace the real self. Horney’s psychoanalysis tries to get the mind that seeks idealistic self and goals to become realistic and accept the real self and the real world and stop building castles in the sky (for which psychoanalysts charge them rent to live in them).
The neurotic uses imagination to invent an ideal self for himself and ideal selves for other people and ideal society and government; those are just ideas in his mind and are not real; if he has the energy to try to bring them into being, they will turn out not perfect. No one living in flesh can become perfect and nothing fleshy people do can ever be perfect; we are condemned to imperfection (perfection, spiritual psychologists tell us, lies only in disembodied spiritual selves).
In most cases, neurotic folks leave their ideals at the imagination and ideation level. Some of them, however, completely identify with the ideal, perfect self and defend it; in defending it they experience anxiety and anger because they are defending a mere idea that is not real.
Psychotherapy urges neurotics to let go of the wish for the ideal, perfect self and perfect world and live within your real self and the imperfect real world; the real self and real world is rooted in people’s biological reality and cannot become perfect, anything touched by matter is always imperfect.
One must do what is within one’s abilities; if your body is weak, you are not going to become a top athlete, but you can be a thinker and think about what is doable in the world of space, time, and matter and do them, and not just think about them. This way one mixes idealism and realism; capitalism (realism) and socialism (idealism); such actions lead to useful achievements.
Trying obsessively and compulsively to live as the false, ideal, perfect, superior self, clashes with the imperfect real self, and thus creates a lot of anxiety and fear in the neurotic individual (in today’s psychiatric language, in personality disordered persons….read up on the personality disorders, such as paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, anti-social, avoidant, dependent, obsessive compulsive and passive aggressive personality disorders).
Live from the imperfect real self and you live with less anxiety because you do not have two competing selves in you, real and ideal self.
If you understand the nature of the real and ideal self and accept to live from the real self, you can become a leader in the real world, living from your real self and teaching people to live from their imperfect real selves and stop wanting to be ideal self (that pursuit is the basis of neurosis, personality disorders and psychosis).
Science succeeded in improving the world by doggedly insisting that we describe the world as we see it and quit trying to construct a world that we wished would exist but does not exist; that is, that we deal with phenomena realistically, and not desire to change and improve it with mental constructs of ideals that lead to nowhere.
Live as you know your real self in body is, do not try to live from an imaginary, ideal self that your imagination constructed, and you will live in relative peace, not the conflicted living that results from pursuing the fantastic goals of changing reality and making it perfect.
The pursuit of the ideal ego leads to anger and anxiety (from fear of not actualizing the false, big self-image), to depression (from not attaining the ideal self’s grandiose goals) and to paranoia and delusion (from identifying with the false, ideal self and behaving as if one is the ideal perfect, superior self).
Scientific psychology, in sum, studies people as they are and accepts them as they are, imperfect and has no illusion that human beings can ever become perfect. As long as people live in bodies and societies, they cannot become perfect; they will always be imperfect.
At the moment, I am working with a young woman who so completely identifies with her desired imaginary ideal, perfect self, the all-powerful self that she thinks that she is it. Thus, she has delusion disorder, grandiose type. She thinks that it makes her powerful to believe and act as if she is God himself in power, when in reality, she is powerless. The goal is to persuade her to accept our human powerlessness, our imperfect real self and deal with that reality instead of compulsively (hence filled with anxiety) behaving as if she is the grandiose creator of herself, creator of all people and creator of the universe, which she is not. We are not what we pretend to be, all powerful; we are what we are, vulnerable folks living in flesh that can be snuffed out of existence by nature and other people at any point in time.
Secular psychologists deal with people through scientific methods and limit themselves to what is empirical and observable. There are those who feel that people transcend ego and body and that they have a spiritual aspect. They have posited a spiritual psychology and use it to try healing people of their neurosis and psychosis.
A course in miracles, a spiritual psychology, teaches that we should not concentrate on changing the external world because the external world was produced by our thinking, but to, instead, concentrate on changing our thinking, changing our minds so that we produce a different external world.
It also teaches that we should change our perception, from ego-based unforgiving seeing to Holy Spirit based seeing that forgives and loves all people.
The ego wants to change the external world it made, improve it, and make it perfect. The Holy Spirit also wants to change the external world and make it better, but his means of doing so is forgiveness and love. The ego’s means for doing so is anger and punishment of those who do terrible things in the external world.
COMBINING SCIENTIFIC AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY TO HELP PEOPLE CHANGE THEIR LIVES
I find a judicious combination of scientific and spiritual psychology helpful in understanding and helping people to change their patterns of thinking and behaving and where there are mental or personality disorders to change them.
The mind that created the problem is not able to solve it, it takes a different mind to solve the problems of the world produced by the ego mind. It takes the Holy Spirit, that is, love and forgiveness-based pattern of thinking and behaving, to change the ego and its world.
January 11, 2023
THE MIND THAT PRODUCED THE PROBLEMATIC SELF AND ITS WORLD CANNOT MAKE IT BETTER