WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR REALITY
Who is responsible for our happiness? Who is responsible when we are unhappy? Who is responsible for our life? For the way we spend our time and energy, for the situations we get into, for the way we relate to others and the way we feel within ourselves? A superficial glance at the subject may bring answers such as, my husband or wife, children, parents, the government, the economic system or a wide variety of other external factors. When we depend on these external factors for our feelings of happiness, security and self worth, we become vulnerable to them and truly it seems that they create our reality. We are unhappy to the extent that we place the power and responsibility for our happiness and security outside of ourselves. When we expect that a relationship, money, profession or some other object, situation or relationship is going to make us more than temporarily satisfied, we are living in a very fragile illusion. That illusion is easily broken, because it is based on a very basic misconception; that we are not responsible for how we feel. Each of us is personally responsible for his happiness and unhappiness, for his illness and health, for his growth and his stagnation. Depending on others, or blaming them for our discontent, is simply not an effective way to solve create happiness. We can help, love, serve and support each other, but we can never be responsible for the others’ happiness, health or success. And, reversely, they can never be responsible for ours. Only we ourselves can create happiness, health, security and satisfaction. In order to do so, we must first be able to analyze how we are creating our present reality. This requires objective self-analysis.
The word «psyche» comes from the Greek word soul. So psychology, then, should mean the study of the soul. However, as a science it has given much more attention to the mind which is an instrument for the soul, rather than to the soul itself. When psychology began as a science, not so long ago, the most heard name for some years was Sigmund Freud. Freud postulated the theory that man is motivated by various basic drives and needs, mostly sexual, which cause him to act in the way that he does. Psychologists now understand that man has other needs, which also motivate him and influence his behavior. The new theories of psychology do not contradict or negate previous theories but rather include them, while at the same time reaching out to a greater and more encompassing truth. This trend of thinking called Humanistic Psychology takes into account healthy people and deals not only with illness but with our individual and collective need for self actualization, or for manifesting greater portions of our inner potential.
THE EVOLUTION OF DESIRE
Why do we do what we do? Why do we want what we want and act in the way we do? What motivates us to think, speak or act? The following psychological example is rather well accepted. Man has certain basic needs which he feels propelled to fulfill. The need becomes a desire, which then forms into a motive, which then expresses itself in the form of thoughts, words and actions. These needs have been arranged into a hierarchy of needs by Abraham Maslow, well known professor of psychology at Harvard University. The pyramid below clearly shows this evolution of desires.
Diagram: HIERARCHY OF NEEDS
At the bottom of the pyramid we find the most basic physiological needs which we share with all other life forms. Unless the we are able to satisfy our basic needs for food, air, water, clothing, warmth, sex and whatever else we may need in order to preserve our life in the body, then we will not feel free to pursue other more evolved urges. When an we have satisfied these basic physiological needs, then we become concerned about shelter and safety. It is not enough any more simply to have a full stomach, air to breath, liquid to drink and a comfortable temperature. We now want to create safety for the future. We create homes seeking to establish “safe” environments which we can control to some extent. After fulfilling these two basic needs we feel the urge to belong to some type of group. Marriage and family fulfill this need as do all types of groupings, such as religions, organizations, cults, teams, sports groups, clubs, associations, societies, cities, countries and groups of countries. Each of us finds various groupings through which to satisfy this need to belong with others in some way. We then feel a need for self-esteem. We are no longer satisfied with simply belonging. Now we want to be known and respected by the others. We seek to develop self-esteem and self-confidence causing us to develop talents and abilities and grow in our physical and mental powers. This evolution of needs stimulates a corresponding evolution in our abilities and powers. Each need serves to stimulate growth at each particular stage of evolution. Thus we have moved from a wandering food seekers, to a settlers and home builders, to the creators of families, societies, cities, and nations as well as the arts, sciences, technology, religion and philosophy. This same evolutionary process is occurs within each individual today as he matures from a helpless little child into a capable self-esteeming member of society. For the moment let us distinguish a «need» from a «desire». Others may define these words in other ways but, for the purpose of this discussion, let us define a need as something which is in reality necessary for the maintenance of the body-mind balance and the spiritual evolution of the individual. A desire is a feeling of lack based on a previously existent need, or the anticipation of a future need. For example the need to have enough food for the survival of the physical body can develop into a desire for more food than is necessary for that purpose. A habit is created and the individual seeks the food for other subconscious reasons, such as anxiety, boredom or sensual pleasure. Thus the need has become a desire. The desire itself is not inherently negative. Whether or not a desire is useful, neutral or destructive to an individual, is relative and personal. For example, a malnutritioned body will perish if not motivated by the need to search for food. Another individual may have found a healthy balance between his body’s needs and his eating habits. Still another may be overcome with an abnormal desire for food, seeking security, meaning, pleasure, or relaxation through it to such a degree, that eating may become harmful to both the body and the mind. The desire may monopolize as much as 80% of the individual’s thoughts, words and actions, and generate guilt, a poor self-image and frustration as well as ill health. He lives to eat, rather than eats to live. The same example may be applied to any other need-desire, i.e. sex, a relationship, family, a profession, acceptance, esteem, etc. Each need has its function in propelling the us forward in our evolutionary development, but when it stagnates into an endlessly reoccurring desire which knows no satisfaction, it becomes destructive. . These obsessional desires are based on the belief that there is danger of them not being fulfilled. Such negative programming that we will not be able to satisfy our needs, is formed from our experiences starting in our mother’s womb until about the age of 8 years old. Experiences we have after this age will affect us, but our basic subconscious programming and original life view is fairly well formed by the age of 8 years. Unfortunately, because of the lack of awareness of our well-meaning parents and teachers (and society as a whole), most of us have been conditioned in such a way as to lack self-love, self-acceptance, self-confidence and inner security. We have been conditioned to believe that we are intrinsically «bad» and need to do something to prove our self worth and also that we are basically weak and unable to cope with difficulties or change our reality. We have been misled to believe that others are responsible for our happiness and unhappiness. We have been programmed to believe that we do not deserve to be loved and that we are weak and incapable. We have learned that the world and people are to be mistrusted and that we have to be sly, hard and very cautious in order to protect ourselves and «get ahead» in the world. We have been conditioned to believe that we will find happiness and contentment in money, a spouse and children, a well esteemed profession and plenty of material possessions. We have learned that we should not trust the others, and seldom express what we truly feel for fear of being hurt. Rather than being motivated by actual natural needs, we are being controlled by a false perception of reality based on these programmings, which were recorded into our subconscious during those very impressionable and vulnerable years. We are motivated by a desire-belief system which is based on a false perception of ourselves, others and of reality itself. Our goal now is to objectively analyze and understand this programming, and reprogram ourselves with a truer more objective perception of our selves and reality so that we may develop into the full happy, secure, content beings we have the potential to be.
When we feel need for growth and freedom from the limitations of these old programs, we being motivated by the highest need of Maslow’s pyramid, the need for self-actualization. We have fulfilled, to a certain extent, our lower needs but still remain unsatisfied. We have everything we «should» have in order to be happy according to society’s programming, but we still feel “empty”. We have an abundance of food, air, shelter, safety, belonging and the esteem of those around us, but we still want something more. We become aware that we have untapped resources latent within us and begin to work towards their manifestation. Our need for growth overcomes our need for safety or belonging. Or perhaps we realize that we are safe, and that we do not need to spend so much time, thought, energy and money on satisfying these illusory desires, which are the result of early childhood programming. We begin to spend more time, energy and thought on overcoming our fears and weaknesses and manifesting our inner beauty. If we do not first feel secure, we are not able to grow. These states will alternate cyclically in our lives. There will be times of growth, then times establishing security at the new level. Then often a state of confusion or conflict will occur in order to create the necessary flexibility for growth again. Over and over again these three states flow through our being.
1. First we are restless and confused, or in conflict.
2. Then we make an effort towards growth or change.
3. Finally, we experience the satisfaction of success in that effort.
In order to achieve inner peace we will need to accept all three states (restlessness, effort, satisfaction) as equally necessary in our evolutionary progress. When we are feeling insecure, because of various life changes, we might revert to the lower needs focusing on food,sex, emotional interaction, smoking, drinking etc. Each of us has our own ways of getting back that secure feeling through such activities. Freud was right in pointing out that the mouth is a security center for many people. The first form of security is the mother’s breast from which we suck our first life-sustaining food, without which we would die. Later the mouth is used for eating, cigarettes, drinking, talking: various forms of security derived through the mouth. When our basic safety needs (including belonging and self-esteem) are fulfilled, there awakens within us the first «meta-need» – «the need to go beyond». According to Maslow, the «meta-need» is the need for self-actualization. We begin to feel the need to know ourselves more deeply and eventually to transcend ourselves. In Eastern psychology this is understood as the point at which the ego has reached its highest state of alienation, and now begins its journey back to union with the soul. As we leave this feeling of separate individuality and identify more with our soul nature, our lower needs diminish and our higher needs awaken. This is often a very difficult and crucial point. At this point many of the previous activities and interactions, which used to fulfill us and give us pleasure, seem meaningless. We may feel depressed and confused. Much of that, upon which we had based our life, may now seem unimportant to us. And as we eventually begins to meet other people who are passing through similar experiences and are involved in psychological and spiritual development systems, we place one foot in that new world to test it out. With one foot standing in the newly found way and the other holding on to the old concepts and habits for security, we often experience conflict with ourselves, our environment, and especially with family and close friends. It does not have to happen this way. But often it does. Eventually the transition is made and we find a new security based on our own inner Self.
OUR INNER NATURE
Let us examine what Abraham Maslow has to say about the man’s inner nature. If we replace the word «inner nature» with «soul», it will be quite similar to reading a description of the soul, or higher-self, as it is described in various philosophical and religious texts. Here is a concise explanation of his «psychology of health» as expressed in his book «Toward a Psychology of Being».
«There is now emerging over the horizon a new conception of human sickness and of human health,a psychology that I find so thrilling and so full of wonderful possibilities that I yield to the temptation to present it publicly even before it is checked and confirmed, and before it can be called reliable scientific knowledge». However, various philosophical and spiritual systems have confirmed these same concepts for thousands of years.
«The basic assumptions of this point of view are:
«1. We have, each of us, an essential biologically based inner nature, which is to some degree ‘natural’ intrinsic, and in a certain limited sense, unchangeable, or at least, unchanging».
«2. Each person’s inner nature is in part unique to himself and in part species wide». This is similar to the understanding that in one sense the soul is individual and in another it is one with the oversoul which is the unification of all souls.
«3. It is possible to study this inner nature scientifically and to discover what it is like – (not invent – discover).” This is the purpose of the various systems of self-discovery such as meditation and self-reflection.
«4. This inner nature, as much as we know so far, seems not to be intrinsically or primarily or necessarily evil. The basic needs (for life, for safety and security, for belonging and affection, for respect and self-respect, and for self-actualization), the basic human emotions and the basic human capacities are on their face either neutral, pre-moral or positively good! Destructiveness, sadism,cruelty, malice etc., seem so far to be not intrinsic but rather they seem to be violent reactions against frustration of our intrinsic needs, emotions, and capacities. Anger is in itself not evil, nor is fear, laziness or even ignorance. Of course these can and do lead to evil behavior, but they needn’t. This result is not intrinsically necessary. Human nature is not nearly as bad as it has been thought to be. In fact, it can be said that the possibilities of human nature have customarily been sold short». This is a direct comment on the way Freudian psychology, and also the concept «original sin», have planted in so many of us a lack of trust in our inner nature. We have been conditioned to believe that we are intrinsically bad and helpless. That we must be controlled and guided by external forces, rather than listen to the inner voice within us. It is when we ignore this inner voice that we find ourselves engaged in anger or other negative expressions.
«5. Since this inner nature is good or neutral rather than bad, it is best to bring it out and encourage it rather than to suppress it. If it is permitted to guide our life, we grow healthy, fruitful and happy».
«6. If this essential core of a person is denied or suppressed, he gets sick sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes immediately, sometimes later.
«7. This inner nature is not strong and overpowering and unmistakable like the instincts of animals. It is weak and delicate and subtle and easily overcome by habit, cultural pressure, and wrong attitudes toward it». In most of us this has happened. Because of habit, cultural pressure,and, primarily, a lack of belief in the inner nature, very few of us find the inner peace and harmony we could have if we were guided from within.
«8. Even though weak, it rarely disappears in the normal person – perhaps not even in the sick person. Even though denied, it persists underground forever pressing for actualization».
«9. Somehow, these conclusions must all be articulated with the necessity of discipline, deprivation, frustration, pain and tragedy. To the extent that these experiences reveal and foster and fulfill our inner nature,to that extent they are desirable experiences. It is increasingly clear that these experiences have something to do with a sense of achievement and ego strength and therefore with the sense of healthy self-esteem and self-confidence. The person who hasn’t conquered, withstood, and overcome,continues to feel doubtful that he could. This is true not only for external dangers; it holds also for the ability to control and to delay one’s own impulses, and therefore to be unafraid of them». Maslow made studies of people who were more inner directed and had mastered themselves more than the average individual. These were people who had either fulfilled or had given up worrying about their lower needs and urges and were giving some attention to the need for self-actualization. His psychological testing uncovered the following characteristics in these people:
«1. Superior perception of reality (less distortion through fears and complexes).
2. Increased acceptance of self, of others and of nature.
3. Increased spontaneity.
4. Increase in problem-centering (ability to go the the center of a problem).
5. Increased detachment and desire for privacy.
6. Increased autonomy and resistance to enculturation.
7. Greater freshness of appreciation and richness of emotional creation.
8. Higher frequency of peak experiences».
Peak experiences are variously described by the different individuals. They are experiences beyond words and difficult to express to others. The ego is transcended, the sense of individuality is lost, and there is a feeling of oneness with the environment, whether it be with nature, with people or with God. It is a blissful experience which changes the person’s life. Peak experiences may come on the verge of death, or when a person thinks he or she is going to die. These experiences may also come in nature, meditation, during an extreme emotional experience, during sexual orgasm, while creating intensively and in other ways. They are transcend the rational mind.
«9. Increased identification with the human species». Consequently, less identification with the personal ego.
«10. Changed (the clinician would say, improved) interpersonal relations.
11. More democratic character structure.
12. Greatly increased creativeness.
13. Certain changes in the value system».
Each of us has the possibility of increasing our self-actualization. Our lives will then be enriched in the above mentioned ways as well as in many other ways i.e. greater peace, love, contentment and health in our lives.
SEEKING SELF ACTUALIZATION
Let us now turn our attention to how we can begin our own evolutionary journey toward self-actualization and manifest the latent qualities and powers within us through our character, thoughts, words and actions. The eastern approach is to create harmony in body-mind complex and to eventually draw down super-mental energies into the personality. The personality becomes more relaxed, loving, selfless, creative, wise and effective in fulfilling its life’s purpose. This is done through practices such as dietary discipline, bodily exercises, breathing techniques, relaxation, meditation, prayer, chanting, disciplines and self-study as well as other means. These develop clarity of mind, a positive attitude toward life, health, vitality and the will power required to make the necessary changes in the personality structure. In this book, however, we shall concentrate more on the western approach of analysis and the eventual reprogramming of the personality structure. Whereas the eastern approach focuses on relaxing the body and mind, thus opening up for the influx of higher energies which will transform it, the western approach focuses on mentally observing and reprogramming the personality complex and its conditioning. My personal experience is that the best results are achieved when the two approaches are combined. The first brings greater awareness, clarity, peace and will-power; while the second enables us to manifest those qualities in our practical everyday interactions. A combination of disciplined spiritual practices and self-analysis can bring about joyous changes in anyone’s life. Here we shall look more deeply into the self-analysis and reprogramming approach.
In the next chapter we shall investigate another means of describing the Psychology or Evolution called the Seven Centers to Higher Consciousness.