(First draft, to be redrafted) – By Ozodi Thomas Osuji – They say that the best way to understand a person is to interpret his dreams. His dreams are thrown up by his subconscious mind; he does not consciously direct them. In conscious statements about who he is, a person often distorts facts in order to present them in a favorable light but he has no conscious control over what his dreams throw up nightly. That was why Sigmund Freud and his fellow psychoanalysts paid particular attention to their patients’ dreams; they asked their patients to write down their dreams without trying to understand them and bring them to the analytic sessions for the psychoanalysts to interpret. They also paid attention to their patients’ free associations where they said whatever came to their minds without trying to make them rational. Psychoanalysts also looked at their patients’ transference relationships with them; these three: dream, free association and transference helped analysts to understand who their patients are.
The earliest dream that I can remember occurred when I was five years old. I know that I was five years old for that was the year I began schooling and we had just moved into a new house. How can I remember a dream that took place many years ago and do so without distorting it? It is perhaps impossible to remember our childhood dreams without distorting them but some persons do remember their childhood dreams. However, distorted or not what matters is the individual’s belief that he had such a dream; that dream albeit distorted can still give us insight into his personality.
In the dream I was crawling from one side of the road to the other, from the side that is opposite to our house towards our house. I was in the middle of the road, all fours, when a big, old truck came badging towards me. As it got closer and closer I felt that it would run over me and crush me to death but instead of crawling faster to get out of the road and harm’s way I felt paralyzed by fear; I was immobilized by fear and stayed right there crying and hoping that someone, human being or God, would come to rescue me. No one came to my rescue and I stayed right there crying for rescue. Just before the truck got to me I woke up from the dream, crying and my mother came to my bed to find out what happened and I told her about the dream. She consoled me and put me back to sleep.
This dream, for some reasons, comes into my mind every once in a while; moreover, the dream has been replicated in endless forms in my other dreams. Therefore, the dream must be of major import in my life; it is trying to tell me something about me. What is it trying to tell me?
Let us see. In the dream, a truck came towards me and I feared that it could run over my body and kill me but instead of taking the appropriate measures to get out of its way I cried for other persons to come rescue me. In effect, I asked for God or human beings to come rescue me from danger. None of them came to my rescue. Nobody, God or man, came to my rescue. But the truck did not run over me, either.
Our human lives can be considered a battlefield, a danger zone. Dangers are always confronting us everywhere we turn. Problems are part of our lives on planet earth. The normal response of those who seek to adapt to the exigencies of life on planet earth, those who want to survive on earth is for them to seek ways to overcome the dangers that face them daily. Rational persons know that difficulties are part of our daily existence so they make every difficulty an opportunity to do what enables them cope.
This dream says that I saw a danger to my very existence and did not try to overcome it with my own resources but instead felt paralyzed and sought other persons help in getting me out of the danger. Psychoanalytically, it shows that I have a dependent personality structure; I wished that other people could rescue me from the vicissitudes of living.
Living in body and on earth is painful and I cry out for help, for someone to help me deal with the pains of living on earth. I am looking for a savior to help me survive. But, alas, no one came to my rescue. Neither God nor Jesus Christ nor human beings came to my rescue. In effect, the dream said that I can ask for help all I want and nobody would come to my rescue; nor would the difficulties of this world destroy me for the truck did not destroy me.
What the dream tells me is that I have to do what I have to do to make it on my own and that crying for help, asking God or man to rescue me would not help me at all. No hero would come charging on a white horse to save me. All the saviors of this world, such as Jesus Christ, Buddha, Krishna etc. will not save me. It is useless for me to seek saviors outside me, in religions or in men for they would not save me. I have no external savior; only I can save me (if you are religious you can say that only the God in me, not an external God, can save me).
Obviously, every dream has different interpretations. The interpretation I gave to my earliest dream is what stuck to my mind. Whenever I am in difficulty and yearn for other persons to help me out I remember that dream and tell me that no human being or God can rescue me and that only I can rescue me.
More to the point, the dream tells me that at age five I had formed a dependent personality that seeks other persons to rescue it.
Personality is the individual’s habitual pattern of responding to the exigencies of living. Each of us has a personality and that personality is formed in his childhood, perhaps before age five?
The individual’s inherited biological constitution and his childhood experiences in a family and society in general are building blocks with which he constructs his personality (at least this is the view of the American psychologist, George Kelly).
I must stress that there is no way that we can understand the human personality by emphasizing only the human body, the genetic, as reductive western biological psychologists are currently doing. Society, that is, other people, always play a role in the development of the human personality. I am Igbo and Igbos are very competitive and achievement oriented. They accept children and people only if they are successful. Clearly, that pathological culture means that I could not be accepted as I am. Like other Igbos, I was forced to deny my obvious medical disorders and struggle on. I was afraid of seeming weak hence rejected by my conditionally accepting society. Now, if that society and its culture were like what Carl Rogers prescribed, unconditionally positively accepting of all children, I would not have developed fear of failure and would have had more self-acceptance hence reduced anxiety. Obviously, we must struggle to transform our neurotic societies to become unconditionally positively accepting of children so that they do not have to reject themselves in pursuit of idealized but impossible selves.
The pursuit of false idealized selves led such self-rejecting persons as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin to murder millions of people. We must heal human societies and individuals by making them accept people as they are, not as they should be; that is one of the reasons I wrote this self-revelatory essay. We must help all persons to understand their sick selves (even the most normal person has some neurosis), selves that they mask and as a result creating problems for other persons!
Once constructed, the personality, aka self-concept, is now part of individual’s psychological structure, it is etched into his psyche; ones personality is in one’s unconscious mind as well as in one’s conscious mind. Given its root in the subconscious mind, it is difficult to change personality by merely tinkering at the conscious level of it.(This is one reason psychoanalysts employed dreams to get at the subconscious aspects of personality…Freud talked about repressed material, such as the id, sex drive and aggression; he talked about how the superego, society and its norms, tried to punish the individual when he acted out of his innate instincts and how he had to repress those socially inappropriate drives lest he is punished by society, how his ego is now a sort of referee, rules, permitting only certain things to come into his consciousness. I do not necessarily agree with Freud’s pleasure principle but I do subscribe to the notion of repressed material into our unconscious minds. There are unconscious forces in our minds that motivate our behaviors and that is why harping only on the rational does not change people’s behaviors; we have to get at the roots of what makes people do what they do for them to change their behaviors, if at all.
There are aspects of behavior, those rooted in the individual’s biology that cannot be changed until his body is changed. Wishing to change ones self and other people before the subconscious self is changed, is really wishful thinking, magical thinking and a will of the wisp. People are not going to change until we understand their bodies and change them. For example, my body is in pain most of the time and that makes me behave in the manner that I do. I cannot really change until my pained body change, which is not going to happen in this lifetime. One must grind ones teeth and accept ones biological fate and its personality.
I believe that the formation of personality begins in the mother’s womb and is completed in the first five years of the individual’s life on planet earth.
Given the child’s inherited genes, body, and his childhood experience he forms his personality. Once formed it is now written in his psyche, his mind, his soul. It is who he thinks that he is. In his mind his personality is how he survives on earth; in fact , it is the only way that he thinks that he can survive hence asking him to change it is like asking him to give up that which he thinks is his best survival tool. Despite contrary information he behaves in accordance with his personality.
Once formed, it is very difficult for the individual to change his personality. He can understand his personality but as to whether it can be completely changed I doubt it. This is because the forces that formed personality, biology and society are not totally understood or controlled by human beings, at least not yet. Thus, merely talking to people about their personality, as psychologists do after testing them, cannot change their personalities.
You can understand your personality all you want but you cannot easily change its core. However, it is useful to understand ones personality and deal with its strengths and weaknesses without the illusion that one can change it.
Twentieth century psychology, a liberal, progressive enterprise, teaches that we can change our world including our personalities, that indeed personality is formed in this world. In past generations folks believed that they came to the world with their personalities. Hindus and Buddhists still believe that personality is a product of past life times, that karma has something to do with one’s personality.
Who is correct, Western psychology that sees personality as formed in this world or ancient beliefs that folks came to the world with their personalities. I think that people came to the world with their genes written in their cells and those genes produce their bodies and the nature of their bodies affects the formation of their personalities.
Biology is fate in the sense that it and society help shape one’s self structure and one’s self structure affects how one behaves and how one behaves affects the outcome one gets from life. As long as the individual behaves in the same pattern, responds to stimuli from his environment in a specific manner he would continue receiving the same results.
A dependent personality generally expects other people to-do certain things for him and pleases them hoping that in pleasing them that they would do those things for him. As it were, his philosophy of life is that if he is a nice person and did what society approved, behaved appropriately, pleased folks that they would do what enabled him to survive on planet earth. Dependent personalities are generally people pleasers; they are generally pro-social and do what society approves in people.
Children who develop dependent personality’s invariably inherited genetic disorders that make them feel pained and weak and needing to depend on their parents and other persons for survival. They feel that their lives are on the line and that they need other persons to help them survive. Generally, the adults around them help them survive and they grow up expecting other persons to help them.
In my own case I inherited two genetic disorders, Cytochrome c oxidase deficiency (this is a very fatal disorder, children with it die before they reach adulthood but I managed to survive) and spondilolysis of the fifth lumber vertebrae. These disorders made me feel weak and pained and in need of other persons help. My sense of weakness and need for others to help me was burned into my mind, my psyche and drives my life, as the dream at age five shows. (Life is pain and then you die; what a bummer!)
In childhood I fit the criteria of dependent personality; I do not believe that I have ever engaged in what folks consider anti-social behavior in my entire life. I generally do what society approves. Having done what society approves I expect society to help me survive. Alas, society, as my dream showed, could care less if I survived or not. No one has ever come to my rescue in my entire existence on planet earth. I do what I have to do to survive and other people are really superfluous to my survival. Yet, a part of me yearns for other people to help me!
There are, however, different types of dependent personalities; there are aggressive dependents and passive dependents. Karen Horney, in her book, Neurosis and Human Growth, explicated the various ways children adapt to life on earth: moving away from people, moving towards people and or fighting people. In his book, Neurotic Styles, David Shapiro further threw light on how people respond to the exigencies of their lives.
In childhood I was very shy and socially withdrawing. I felt that I was not good enough and that if other people came close to me and know me as I was that they would reject me. I felt anxious around people. During the first few weeks of schooling I had separation anxiety; I would not allow my mother to leave me at school and go home; I would cry and cling to her legs, wanting her to take me home. To avoid being rejected by other persons I generally stayed away from people. I kept to myself most of the time (and read more books in my youth than some people read in their entire lives).
Right from the get go of my life my body terrorized me, made me feel weak and I rejected it and wanted a better body. It is not an accident that I seek a better body; given my inherited body I had to reject my body and seek an alternative, ideal body.
Psychologists would say that I have dependent and avoidant personalities. An avoidant person (what in ordinary language folks call a shy person) is very self-conscious; his consciousness is that he is not good enough. He believes that if other people come close to him that they would see that he is not good and as a result reject him. Around people he feels anxious and if he is not around people his anxiety (fear of social rejection) is reduced but not eliminated. At school such children fear being called upon by their teachers to answer questions for they feel that all the other children’s eyes would be on them and if they made mistakes that other children would laugh at them (and they do) and they feel anxious. They do not want to make mistakes and to avoid making mistakes hence not laughed at they would rather not be called upon to speak up in the classroom. Thus, they hope that their teachers do not call them for answers; as it were, while in society they are hiding from it; they are hiding their supposed flawed selves from other people’s scrutiny. These people build a wall around them and do not permit anyone to get into their cocoon lest they see that they are bad and reject them.
At the school yard the same fear of making mistakes continue. They seldom participate in plays lest they make mistakes and as result are laughed at or rejected by other pupils. They generally avoid sports where making mistakes is inevitable. These shy kids stay to themselves and perhaps have one or two friends, those who do not reject them.
Jerome Kegan’s research on children’s temperament shows that from the moment children are born their basic temperament is with them. Shy children are that way from day one of their lives.
Philip Zimbardo, a social learning psychologist does not know what the hell he is talking about when he said that shyness is learned. Those of us who were and to some extent are still shy know that we have been that way from the day we were born. We know that shyness is not learned and that it is not because of what other persons did to us that made us shy.
(Why can’t psychologists who pretend to be scientists hence root their science on empiricism ask people why they do what they do instead of assume to know why they do what they do? Social psychologists, so-called behaviorists, building on the unproven thesis that all behavior is learned went around talking about how shyness is learned. Yet all their behavior modification methods, their talk of classical and operant conditioning and how to unlearn things, did not change one shy person! Every parent who produced a shy child knows that he has been that way from the first day of his life, just as extroverts are born. Does this mean that there are shy genes? No. A whole number of inherited biological issues can work to make a child feel overstimulated hence avoid further stimulation by keeping to himself. Psychologists are always looking for causal factors in human behavior and often flippantly jump to unwarranted conclusions as to why people do what they do; now, their silliness talks about how genes determine this or that including behavior and intelligence. Many factors, biological and social, determine what we do.)
Introversion (shy, socially withdrawing life style) extroversion (outgoing life style), Carl Jung’s categories of people’s basic types, is inherited, not learned despite Hans Ensynck’s gibberish on learning our personalities.
Shy children tend to be internally over aroused; that is, the biochemical elements involved in fear and anger response (such as adrenalin) seem perpetually aroused in them and they want to reduce their high level of somatic excitation hence avoid situations where they are excited (where they feel fear and anger). Those who tend to be extroverted tend to have what for lack of a better name has normal level of excitatory somatic chemicals, normal level of fear and anger.
Naturally, the shy child who fears social rejection does not want to be rejected so he avoids people. In social avoidance he manages to retain a self that is not rejected.
And here is what most people do not know about shy children; the shy avoidant person actually feels superior to most people! He is avoiding people not because he feels inferior to them but because he feels superior to them! He does not want to do anything that would make him seem inferior in other people’s eyes. Social avoidance is a device for protecting the false superior self, a false, fictional self, the ego ideal.
In Alfred Adler’s terms the shy child, due to inherited organic issues feels inferior. He rejected his sense of somatic inferiority and posited an alternative sense of superiority. He wants to be superior and pursues superiority. In social settings obviously he cannot always be superior. He will fail in some social settings. To avoid failing hence retain his fictional sense of superiority he avoids social settings where failure is inevitable.
In Karen Horney’s categories, the shy child felt that as he is he is not good enough. What Harry Stack Sullivan called his significant others (parents, siblings, peers, authority figures) rejected him because he is not perfect? He wants to be perfect and ideal. He posits a mental picture of him that says that he is perfect and works towards becoming it. He is not perfect; he is a human being hence by definition imperfect. Because he seeks perfection in a world where he is imperfect he fears being shown as imperfect. In society where he must make mistakes and seem imperfect he feels anxious. Thus, he withdraws from social settings to go feel ideal and perfect in social isolation.
How do I know all these to be true? Psychology is a science and therefore ought to be based on observed phenomena not mere speculation on how things are. I know my views to be true because whereas I kept to myself and felt anxious from fear of social rejection if you did anything that showed that you felt better than me I let you know what exactly I felt about you. I felt superior to most of the kids around me. In fact, I felt superior to the adults around me! I remember how I responded when I was kept waiting by our teachers. Some teachers would have us kids lined up, taking our turns to get to them for them to explain how we did on our school work to us. The longer I waited on the line the more I felt angry. I would say to me: who the hell is that idiot teacher keeping me waiting on the line.
To the present if I am kept waiting to be served I tend to feel angry at the person who kept me waiting. If I made a phone call and was placed on hold for a long time I would start boiling with anger and when the person came back to the phone I would give him or her a piece of my mind. It is like I am king and ordinary persons should not keep me waiting; I ought to be served as soon as I make a demand.(Adler described this phenomenon in what he called the psychology of the pampered child, the spoilt child who thinks that other people and the world ought to revolve around his wishes. These days we could say that this is the psychology of narcissistic personalities.)
One must be very important to feel angry just because other persons kept one on the line waiting to be served! Little things like this can tell us a lot about people’s individual psychologies.
GIVEN ONES BODY ONES PERSONALITY IS INEVITABLE
I am deliberately employing Western psychological terms in this paper. In actual fact I do not believe that Western psychology is yet a science; it is certainly not yet applicable universally; much of its categories do not apply to non-Westerners. For example, I said that I have dependent and avoidant personality. But suppose we asked why I developed avoidant personality, was it a fluke? Let us see; my body was in tremendous pain and therefore I was motivated to reduce that pain. I avoided situations that caused me pain (which happens to include social situations). I escaped from situations where I felt inordinate pain. If I had not adopted an escapist and avoidant approach to life I probably would have died in childhood. If I ignored the pain I felt and insisted on sports, for example, I would simply sustain injury and die. I remember when I had my first job. I was then in college and worked as a cashier at a grocery store. I had to stand on my feet for eight hours every day. After the first two days my legs were literally on fire and on the third day I could no longer stand up and therefore had to quit that job. Subsequently, I quit other jobs that caused me physical pain. That is to say those environments that do not cause those with normal bodies’ pain caused me tremendous pain and I had to avoid them. Thus, I developed an avoidant and escapist approach to many factors in the environment. Consider that excessive sun and high temperature caused me so much physical distress that I had to run from state to state seeking a place where the temperature was just right for my body. I found Seattle’s weather palatable to my body. The point is that I was always running from place to place in an effort to find suitable place to live.
Nature made me do what I did and it was not an accident that I developed the type of personality that I did. Pure reason could not explain why I did what I did.
It took nature billions of years to write our genes, the information in our cells that determine what we do. We are only beginning to understand that information. Nature is more intelligent than our conscious minds and makes us do what we have to do to survive that our conscious minds do not yet understand.
There are forces at work in our lives that we do not yet fully understand and they transcend our shabby intelligence. Consider the fact that black folks were reduced to slavery and eventually to second class citizenship in America. Why did this have to happen to them? Was it an accident? I do not think so. I think that nature eventually will use black folk’s slave and discriminated experience to develop a better civilization for mankind, one that supersedes the current hellish civilization called Western civilization.
The point to all these is that nature has more intelligence than we do and we must differ to what our natures make us do rather than believe that conscious intelligence can enable us survive. My nature made me develop avoidance of situations that caused me pain so as to survive; if I used my conscious mind to overrule the logic of my nature and what it made me do I would die, today, not tomorrow. It was not an accident that I developed avoidant lifestyle; it was inevitable given my problematic body.
People’s personalities reflect the logic of their bodies, their entire bodies, not this or that gene, and we must be less flippant in thinking that we can change people’s personalities. We cannot change people’s personalities until we can change their bodies. Given my body I had to have the personality that I have and the same applies to other persons.
I rejected my pained body self and posited an ideal self and tried to become that ideal self. The ideal self is a perfect self; it is a mere mental construct, not reality. Imaginary or not, all my life I have tried to become a perfect self. In our minds we can dream of perfection but in the real world the realities of the external environment determine what we can be. For example, you may wish to fly but as long as you do not have wings you cannot defy the laws of aerodynamics and fly. (We can fly via airplanes, rockets etc.)
I have an intense desire to change me, change people, change social institutions and change the world and make them ideal and perfect. When I was in college I was fascinated by socialism because it promised changing people and their society and making the distribution of resources more equitably. It took an understanding of the brutal nature of Soviet Bolshevism before I gave up that utopian desire to improve man and his society. Communist political economies always degenerate to dictatorship of the few over the many. Therefore, imperfect as democracy seems it still remains our best hope in avoiding tyranny.
I have often wondered where this desire to change reality came from. I believe that it came from my desire to change me. My body was no good and I wanted to change it. I wanted to make my body ideal and in time saw that much as my body is no good that other people’s bodies are even worse and I wanted to change them, too. Then I saw social institutions where a few exploit the many and wanted to change them and make them better hence my idealism.
In effect, my idealism is not an accident; it is a direct product of my body and my desire to change that body. But I cannot change my body and certainly cannot change other people, social institutions and the world. No one can change anything in life. Idealistic thinking is mere wishful thinking. Yet an idealist cannot completely give up his idealism; he can redirect it to more realistic patterns instead of wasting his time in magical thinking. It is like dependency I doubt that I can ever completely give up the subconscious wish for other people to help me and the anger that I feel because they are not doing so. Dependency is rooted in my physical weakness and was formed in my childhood so that even though my adult mind knows that it is stupid to wish for others help I still do so.
(My self-diagnosis is idealistic personality. However, I am not talking about my actual diagnosis but what Western psychological reductionism says about me. Let us play around with western psychological categories. They have limited usefulness.)
I must state in an unequivocal manner that given the problematic body that I inherited I had to form the personality that I formed. It is idle wishing that I had a different personality. The individual must have the personality he has given his body and early childhood experiences. That personality can be understood and aspects of it changed but it is useless saying that one should not have been the person one is; to be a different person one would have to have inherited a different body and had different social experiences. This is not genetic reductionism, the present silliness of western psychologists, but a comprehensive approach to the individual for it takes the totality of his biological system and social experiences into consideration, not just this or that genes.
The pursuit of the ideal, perfect self is conjoined with the pursuit of power. I want to be powerful, special and important. I want other persons to see me as a powerful, special and important self. If they do not see me as special and important I tend to feel angry at them. In fact, in childhood I would resort to boasting, telling those I felt treated me as unimportant that I am better than them (no human being is better than others, all boasting is ego defensive behaviors).
Every time that I responded from my ego self, my personality, my self-concept I either show aspects of dependency or avoidance or superiority feeling. I want people to help me. I want God to help me. They do not help me and cannot help me for the world is a dog eat dog world where each of us is on his own. The desire to be helped by other persons is sign of dependency.
What works is interdependency where one recognizes our mutual dependencies and does things for other people for them to do things for one but not expecting people to do something for one out of the generosity of their hearts and feeling angry that they did not. No one is going to save one, only one can save one.
Once I asked a girlfriend a favor and she told me: I do not owe you a thing. She is correct; no one owes me a damn thing. The corollary of that statement is that I do not owe any one a damn thing, either. Thus, I left her to her excessive realism. Today she lives with a bunch of dogs and cats. No one owes her a thing as she owes no one a thing so she finds solace in the company of animals. (I am being sarcastic, of course; what is correct is that we have mutual dependencies and where necessary ought to help each other, but we can always seek excessive independence and pay the price of being socially abandoned and seek refuge in the company of our animal friends…cats do not give us love, they seek love from us.)
The dependent and avoidant personality is generally almost always in a state of fear; he is very anxious. If you are in a state of fear your body kicks up the fear arousing neurochemicals, such as adrenalin which means that you are somatically aroused, tense and anxious. If you stay in that state of fear for too long your organs could be damaged. Therefore one must find ways to reduce ones tension. I find systematic relaxation exercises, running, swimming, and bicycling and meditation useful ways of reducing tension.
Do I have traits from the other personality disorders? This is a tricky question. People have traits from most personality types but not necessarily in a manner that they can be said to have this or that personality disorder. Personality tests (especially Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, MMPI) generally give people a test that in essence they self-diagnose without knowing that that is what they are doing. The MMPI takes most of the traits found in the accepted personality disorders (and mental disorders, such as anxiety, mania, depression, delusion, schizophrenia) and group them into over five hundred questions and the tested is told to respond with yes or no, true or false to each question and by the time he is done he has essentially diagnosed himself as this or that personality disordered or mentally ill or normal. For example, are you suspicious most of the time? Do you feel that people are out to get you? Do you trust people? Do you feel easily belittled and accuse people of doing so? By the time you answered yes, yes and yes to such questions you would have essentially said that you are paranoid. A computer can diagnose you if you answered these questions truthfully.
If you want to understand your personality type it is necessary that you first understand most of the personality types and see if they apply to you. Therefore, I will briefly describe the ten accepted personality types; if you want a fuller description of these personality disorders see the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, latest edition.
Paranoid personality disorder. Here, the individual is very suspicious, does not trust other people’s ability to serve his interests, feels that the world is a hostile place and that everyone is out for his own good and as such would take advantage of him; feels that people demean him; is very guarded and secretive etc. Do I have paranoid traits? This is an interesting question. Nature, via physical disorders, did make me feel weak and inadequate and I compensated with a desire to seem adequate, powerful and superior. It is nature that belittled me, not human beings (except in the sense that white folks do objectively demean black folks). I am not guarded; I do trust people (except that I am generally cynical and do not expect folks to serve me, I see people as serving their interests). I do not think that I can be described as having paranoia. However, in as much as I seek idealized self and reject my weak body I have a tendency to confuse idealism (what should be) and reality (what is). I risk delusion disorder in my old age (old people’s homes are filled with elderly men who take their fantasies as real; who have delusion disorder in the sense that they imagine that they are still young and vigorous and powerful when in fact they are so weak that a five year old boy can push them down…old folks homes have many deluded and depressed persons…these homes are these days mini psychiatric hospitals; Americans fill their old peoples bodies with psychiatric medications…they can, of course, try to understand them and make them useful to society rather than pack them like sardines into assisted homes and nursing homes where they are treated as regular mentally ill persons are treated at psychiatric hospitals).
Schizoid personality disorder. Here, the individual does not really care to be around other persons and keeps to himself; it does not bother him whether other people like him or not; he is not invested in getting positive or negative evaluations from other people; generally, he keeps to himself not desiring social company. These types of people tend to do well in mathematics, physics and computer science. I do not have schizoid traits at all.
Schizotypal personality disorder. Here, the individual believes what most people in his world do not believe, such as that there are angels guiding him, that he has psychic power, that extrasensory powers are real, that UFOs are real and that he may have been kidnapped by these UFOs and operated on by them. This person is generally seen as odd and eccentric by those around him. I do not have any of these traits. I do not even believe that UFOs exist or take psychic mumbo jumbo as real.
Narcissistic personality disorder. Here, the individual admires himself; he believes that he is special and as such ought to be admired by other persons; he seeks other people’s attention in a compulsive manner and wants to achieve great things so as to become famous. He is willing to exploit other people and discard them when they are no longer useful to him. Narcissistic men, who are often very successful men, such as business tycoons and politicians, often marry beautiful women and use them as their parlor trophies, use them to decorate their mansions so that other men admire what beautiful wives, houses they have but do not love them. This disorder is very tricky for it is found in most human beings and it is only a matter of degrees. Human beings generally want to seem special and important in their eyes and in other people’s eyes. Children begin out life feeling very special, at least to their parents and later learn that to nature they are not different from animals (diseases, plagues, natural disasters like hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, draught, earthquakes, volcanoes etc. kill people as they kill animals, meaning that to nature we are not special at all). I am not narcissistic; if anything my sense of specialness was damaged by nature that made my body feel weak and pained; my inability to participate in sports damaged my vanity and pride, narcissism. However, in as much as I desired restitution for my sense of weakness with power and superiority I can appear to be narcissistic. Moreover, in as much as I am self-preoccupied, thinking about my issues and not about other people’s issues I can seem narcissistic. I am not likely to devote my time serving other people’s material needs but I am likely to devote my time trying to understand other people and helping them understand themselves. (The narcissistic person is probably the loneliest person on earth; people naturally do not want to be with exploiters, those who use them and discard them like scraps of iron, as narcissists do. Yet narcissists are driven to succeed and seek social admiration; they have deep rooted sense of insecurity and inferiority, to restitute for which they seek success to the point of using other people to attain it. Adolf Hitler, probably a narcissistic cum paranoid personality, used people to succeed but had no friends hence was a lonely man. Only love for all people makes us feel belonging to those we love hence reduce our existential loneliness. Eric Fromm’s writing is very useful here. See particularly, Escape from Freedom, and Art of love.)
Histrionic personality disorder. Here, the person feels a need to be the center of social attention and wants all people to admire her body. She does not admire other people but want other people to admire her. She would do anything to get attention from those around her. She is the drama queen. This person gets along with those who admire her but does not admire any one. She has many boyfriends or marries several men (serial husbands) and keeps them for as long as they admire her but kick them out the moment they no longer admire her beauty and tell her that she is gorgeous. This disorder is found primarily in women. I do not have any traits of it.
Borderline personality disorder. This is a grab bag disorder that a person who appears normal but seems to have a whole lot of issues, such as need to be admired, to be cared for, cuts on her body to make other persons feel guilty so that they may serve her needs, a person who is confused in many areas of her life, is given. At this moment I am working with a couple of borderline personalities; you do not want to work with these folks for they occupy you with their issues but do not pay attention to your own issues. For some reasons this disorder is primarily found in women (I suppose their natural desire to be admired can be easily injured and result in the childish attention seeking behaviors, and threats of suicide found in borderline personalities).
Anti-social personality disorder. Here, the individual has underdeveloped social conscience. He has no morals and no qualms about taking what does not belong to him. He steals and does not feel remorse for doing so. Such persons even enjoy engaging in anti-social behaviors and have no desire to help other persons; they feel that other persons owe them something, have a sense of entitlement and exploit people and discard them when they are no longer useful to them. They tend to be less anxious and tend to do drugs, as if they want to stimulate their under-aroused bodies. Criminals tend to have this personality type. I do not have any traits of antisocial personality at all.
Avoidant personality disorder. I have already talked about this personality type but briefly the person with this personality desires social acceptance and fears social rejection and to avoid rejection avoids being around people even though he wants to be with people. There is underlying anxiety issues (may be due to somatic disorders and threat of death posed by childhood medical disorders).
Dependent personality disorder. I have also already talked about this disorder. Briefly, due to childhood illnesses this person depends on other people to do for him what he ought to be doing for him. He tends to be a follower and not a leader of men.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Here, the individual thinks obsessively, as if a powerful force puts thoughts into his mind and forces him to think about them and he cannot resist thinking about them; he acts compulsively, does certain things as if against his will to do so and would feel anxious if he did not do them. This is an anxiety disorder. I do think always but not compulsively. I do not act compulsively but can understand those who do. People with this disorder pursue perfection (ideals) and often are authoritarian in the sense that they believe that there is a certain way to do things and insist that they be done so and do not tolerate differences. Many of them can become addicted to smoking, alcohol, drugs, over eating and other addictive behaviors in a compulsive manner. In mild forms this person goes back to see if his stove is tuned off, to see if his door is locked, to see if his car is locked when he knows that he did those things. There is a lot of self-doubt in these persons. In major forms this becomes obsessive compulsive disorder, an anxiety disorder where the person washes his or her hands to kill non-existent germs, cleans his room to kill germs, wipes door knobs when visitors leave to kill their germs and does not like to get rid of things such as newspapers so that his room is filled with old newspapers making his room a fire hazard.
Passive aggressive personality disorder. Here, the individual goes along with other persons demands on him and fears asserting his own interest but occasionally feels angry at being a door mat that is pushed around by other persons; he may engage in destructive behaviors, behaviors that prevent the attainment of the goals of those he believes are pushing him around. I have a bit of this personality type for I am essentially a pleaser of peoples wishes, I can give folks my last penny and then have no money left and ask why I did such a stupid thing and resent those I gave to.
Anxiety disorders. Here, one is fearful most of the time. Normal persons feel fear when realistic fear arousing object confronts them but the anxious person is in a state of fear most of the time. In fear one’s body is aroused; adrenalin is poured into the blood stream and it excites most of the organs to work faster; the heart beats faster, the lungs beat faster, the nerves work faster sending messages to the brain and receiving information asking one to flee or fight whatever is making one feel threatened. Fear is a normal human response and no one can live on earth for a day if he did not have fear. It is when fear is too much that it becomes a mental disorder. There are many type of fear and anxiety disorder, such as separation anxiety in childhood, generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety (sociophobia), panic disorder, agoraphobia etc.
Delusion disorder. Here, the individual believes what is not true as true. He may believe that he is who he is not. Generally, the belief about the self is grandiose, that is one sees one’s self as a very special and important person, such as the savior of the world, God, Jesus Christ, a prophet etc. There are five types of this disorder: grandiose type (exaggerated sense of importance); persecutory type (belief that other people are out to get one); jealous type (belief that one’s girl friend or spouse is cheating on one and one follows her around trying to ascertain it and upon flimsy evidence beat her up); somatic type (here one believes that one has illnesses that medical science does not show that one has); erotomanic type (here one feels that a famous person is in love with one or is married to one). As you can see the desire to be important runs through much of delusion disorder. Human beings have consciousness and through it realize that they are nothing, at least that nature treats them as nothing, other people may also treat them as nothing and since they want to be important they may develop imaginary sense of importance and latch unto that. Even when they feel persecuted if you come to think about it what is at work is grandiose self-concept, for one must be important to be persecuted; we do not persecute insignificant persons.
Depression. Here, one feels that life is not worth living; one loses interest in the usual activities of daily living, such as interest in food, grooming, schooling, work, sports, socializing etc. One just wants to be left alone, one vegetates, is tired and lays on one’s bed not wanting to get up and go do anything; one wants to die. One lacks the energy to do anything to survive in this world. Some engage in self-harm behaviors; suicide is possible in severely depressed persons…if a person has no interest in anything, lays on her bed most of the time, talks about death that persons probably needs to be hospitalized and given some of the serotonin reuptake blockers (Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft etc…these increase the level of serotonin in the brain and that makes people feel good.), to help him or her feel good. Every person does have some depression when life goes bad but in major depression nothing external seems to cause it and the individual is simply depressed.
Mania. Here, the individual is excited, euphoric, feels like he won the lotto, is on top of the world and does things that seem silly, such as give away his money and write bad checks for money he does not have in the bank. There is always grandiosity and delusion in mania; the individual usually claims to be a famous person or a rich person.
Schizophrenia. Here, the individual meets the full definition of psychosis in the sense that he is deluded and as well hallucinates. He may hallucinate in one or more of the five senses; typically, he hears voices telling him what to do or sees what those around him do not see (auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory hallucinations.). The schizophrenic’s delusions are bizarre, not the ordinary delusion most people have. This person may actually believe that he is God or Jesus Christ and expect you to believe him. Of course people do not believe them hence they live in their own world. There are many types of schizophrenia, including disorganized (the man walking down the street talking to himself, very dirty, eating out of garbage cans), paranoid, catatonic, undifferentiated, residual etc. Very few persons have schizophrenia; if you have it you would not be reading this paper (less than one percent of the population has it).
On the whole about two percent of the human population has psychoses (mania, schizophrenia, delusions, depression). About six percent has anxiety disorder and or personality disorder. About two percent have mental retardation (IQ under 70), those found in special education classes. Thus, ten percent of the people have some sort of mental disorders and ninety percent are grossly normal persons.
There are many other types of mental disorders but we do not have to examine them for they are too specialized to affect the typical human being.
From reading the above you can diagnose yourself and see if you have a mental disorder and if you do then see a psychologist or psychiatrist for therapy and or medication. As noted when you go to clinical psychologists they have you do personality tests (and sometimes intelligence tests…here folks are given, say, the WAIS, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales, WISC, Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children or Stanford Binet, and respond to the questions and based on their responses are assigned a level of intelligence, from zero to about 140; as noted above about two percent of the people tend to have mental retardation, the majority of the people have average IQ…85-115…and some have above average IQ 118-130- and less than two percent has superior IQ 132-140) and from your yeses and no responses they are able to diagnose you.
You might as well self-diagnose for that is what you do with psychologists, anyway. Psychiatrists do not have you do paper and pencil retests; they simply ask you verbal questions responses to which tell them that you have mental disorder and what type…do you hear voices, what do they tell you, do you see what those around you do not see, do you feel excited and on top of the world and talk to yourself, do you feel that life is not worth living and want to kill yourself, do you remember past events (memory test to rule out dementia, Alzheimer disease)? If the responses are yes you can see schizophrenia, or mania, or depression, can’t you?
Mental disorders are supposedly rooted in biochemical imbalances in the brain (in schizophrenia there is excessive dopamine, in mania there is excessive noradrenalin, in depression there is too little serotonin, in anxiety there is too little GABA etc.). The medications given to the mentally ill are designed to balance the supposed unbalanced neurotransmitters in their brains: neuroleptics (such as Risperdal, Zyprexa) for schizophrenics, anti-mania medications (such as lithium, Depakote) for manic persons, anti-depressants (such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft) for the depressed and antianxiety medications (such as Valium, Librium, Xanax, and Ativan) for anxious persons.
There are no medications for personality disorders, for those are lifestyles and is a result of one’s body and social experiences, the manner one typically behaves. In personality disorder the individual is normal but behaves in such a manner that he has conflict with other persons. There are many persons with personality disorders in all walks of life. Your head of state may be narcissistic or paranoid; your judge may be paranoid, your professor may be obsessive compulsive, your fellow students may have any personality disorder.
The various personality types are grouped into three: Group A is Paranoid, Schizoid and Schizotypal; Group B is Narcissistic, Histrionic, Borderline and Anti-social; Group C is Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive and Passive Aggressive. Each of the groups is characterized by certain traits Group A is considered very close to mental illness; group B is characterized by lack of caring for other people and self-centeredness; group C is characterized by the presence of anxiety. Some people consider group C not mental illness but garden variety neurosis.
In as much as group C is characterized by fearfulness and anxiety, it is important that those who have them pay a bit more attention to fear and anxiety and try to understand it. There is vast literature on fear and anxiety. I find the thesis that anxiety has biosocial origin intriguing. Essentially the argument is that those who are fearful somehow have an inbuilt tendency to become quickly excited by fear arousing stimuli. As it were, their fear/stress response mechanism is very sharp, sharper than in other persons. If this response mechanism is construed as biochemical then we can say that perhaps they inherited a tendency for their bodies to elicit more of those neurotransmitters associated with somatic arousal (such as adrenaline, neuropiniphrine, acetylene etc.) and inherited less of those neurotransmitters associated with inhibitory responses (such as GABA and Endorphin). This type of discussion is for professionals and it would do us no good to dwell on it; moreover, the hypothesis that high anxiety is rooted in biochemistry is controversial and not yet proven to be true. Suffice it to say that some persons have a tendency to more fearfulness and anxiety than other persons. Below are random comments on fear and anxiety.
When I was a child we used to travel a lot. We traveled about five hundred miles to go see my grandparents. Those days the roads were very bad so that what would these days take less than ten hours took much more, sometimes a day and half. I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Upon one of those long distance rides in a bus for a day or two I felt like the motor of the bus was still running in my head. This is literal; I would feel that the motor is running inside me and disturbing my ease. I would ask other children whether they had the same response to long distance car travels and they would say no. I first became conscious of this issue when I was six years old. I have given it considerable thinking and conclude that I must have a highly sensitive nervous system. My memory is so sharp that when I hear something or experience something many years later I can tell you where I heard or experienced it. For example, if you said a word I can tell you where I first heard that word, even if it was forty years ago; I can remember when I first smelled a particular fragrance, especially if it is associated with food. I have often wondered whether my extraordinarily perceptive nature has something to do with my unique nervous system. Let us just say that some persons have different bodies and nervous systems; we do not need to pathologize the different, as idiot western psychologists do to what they do not understand.
Fearful, anxious and tense persons age quickly and tend to die at least ten years before they ought to die. They tend to be emotionally upset most of the time, which means that they are not happy and not at peace with themselves and with the people around them. Some fearful persons tend to have delusions of importance and defend their imaginary important self. When their imaginary important self does not get what it wants out of life they tend to feel disappointed and become depressed. (William Meisner showed the correlation of paranoia and depression).
Death can actually result from fear, especially the intense fear called freight. Poor persons who have no money and jobs do in fact die from freight. They wake up in the middle of the night and have no idea where their next meals would come from or how they are going to pay their bills and become afraid and their hearts pound furiously. They can have heart attacks and die. Fear does kill; anger also does kill people.
Black Americans live with a lot of tension. The racist societies in which they live discriminate against them. Their lives are threatened by white racists and racist social institutions. The result is that they live under a lot of fear and often develop what is called functional paranoia, feel like they are being watched by other persons (they are watched, in stores white guards follow young blacks around making sure that they do not steal; they assume that left to their devices they could steal). Simply stated black Americans live with a lot of stress and tension and tend to die twenty years younger than white Americans. Fear and stress kills black folk. Black folk generally live unhealthy life styles. They eat too much, smoke, drink alcohol etc., stuff that kills them off in their early sixties whereas white folks die in their eighties. (Some of them find solace in religion; belief in God mitigates the impact of their untenable social situation and may prolong their lives…see an old black woman and invariably you see a believer in God who uses God to rationalize her social marginalization.) Religion gives people peace and happiness despite their terrible living conditions.
CAN PERSONALITY BE CHANGED?
Can personality be changed? What is self-evident to me is that Western psychology can help us understand our personalities. However, my many years of experience in the field of psychotherapy tell me that scientific/secular psychology and psychiatry seldom changes any one.
Believe it or not what actually changes people is religion and spirituality. Although religion is filled with mumbo jumbo if one truly believes in a higher power and does what a religion teaches one is likely to change ones character. Religious persons can change. For example, regardless of one’s personality type if one is a true Christian and does what Jesus asked his followers to do, love ones self and love all people one would be a changed person. In my view, a loving person is what a healthy person is.
Upon reaching Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species at age fourteen I was convinced that we evolved and that the idea of creation is rubbish; I declared myself an agnostic. However, I believed that there is a higher power but what it is I did not know. I considered myself an agnostic until my mid-thirties.
One of my clients, a black American, Russell is his name, took me to a Hindu temple, Seattle’s Vedanta Center and that introduced me to Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zen and Oriental religions in general. I must have read every book in the Center’s considerable library.
Of course I am not an Indianan and could not really believe in what Hindus believe in. So, I transposed their religious philosophy to my earlier Christianity. In talking about this new Christian philosophy that made sense to me a friend told me that such a philosophy had been articulated in a book called A Course in Miracles. I bought the book and tried reading it. The language is verse and exhortative and not to my liking. I like simple prose and do not understand poetry. The book does not provide straight forward logical exposition of ideas but goes round and round talking about things in a way that seemed gobbledygook to me. I felt that its reasoning is circular and its language convoluted and hifalutin and threw it away. Later, an Irish friend of mine, Terry, a mathematics professor explained to me what the book was saying and I bought another copy, read it, this time with some understanding. I have read it numerous times.
It is about 1200 pages long and if one can read it through one learns a lot. It is divided into three sections, the Text, a Work book for students and a Manual for Teachers (and a section that clarified its terms).
The book was written by an American clinical psychologist, Helen Schucman, who taught at Columbia University, New York. She claimed that it is channeled, that Jesus Christ spoke through her. I do not know about that since I do not believe such psychic phenomenon as channeling. I think that she read up on Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism and of course her psychology, particularly psychoanalysis and behaviorism and somehow her unconscious mind took them and worked them into a poem (she wanted to be a poet and writer). I think that the book was written by her not by Jesus (just as I do not believe that the angel Gabriel wrote the Koran through Mohammed; I believe that Mohammed wrote it but claimed that it was channeled through him by the Angel Gabriel).
In multiple-personality disorder, aka conversion disorder, an individual, usually histrionic or hysterical woman, claims to have many selves operating in her. We call those selves her alter egos. She has her normal ego self and then occasionally flips into other egos and speak through them. I have seen some of those at psychiatric hospitals. I remember seeing a woman who would have a male voice speaking through her and she would not remember anything that he said when she flips back to her usual self. The point is that I believe that Helen Schucman wrote the Course in miracles and perhaps attributed it to one of her alter egos whom she called Jesus Christ. (I know some female professors who have borderline personality, even conversion disorder so I would not be surprised that a woman with multiple personality disorder was teaching at Columbia and writing a book on metaphysics through her alter ego. Western academia is filled with eccentric and odd folks. Perhaps the more intelligent one is the more bizarre one is!)
Regardless of who wrote it, Helen or Jesus, the book contains profound psychology albeit given spiritual coloration. It is spiritualized psychology. I believe that it teaches us a whole lot of psychology that is not ordinarily taught in secular psychology at universities. Thus, one can use it to complement secular scientific psychology. If one does that it helps one make sense of the world.
I have written at length on the course. I do not plan to repeat myself here. Briefly, it teaches that there is God, that God is one; that one God extended himself to his children, us. God and his children share one self; where God ends and his children begin is nowhere. We are joined to God. We are in God and he is in us. There is no space between us and God. (This is like Hinduism saying that there is one God, Brahman, and that he is all of us…Brahman is in infinite selves, called Atman’s; Brahman and Atman are the same).
The children of God are united with God. At some point they decided to separate from God. They did so because they resented the fact that God created them and they did not create God and wanted to go create God and themselves. In reality they cannot create God or separate from him. So, they cast a spell on them and went to sleep and in their sleep dream our world. (Hinduism says that our world is a dream of Brahman; in the dream one God now sees him as separated into the many us…Hinduism wants to help us remember that we are all parts of one God hence should love all people to love our whole self).
According to the course we went to sleep and now see ourselves as separated room God and from each other. Each of us houses himself in body and pursues his self-interests. In spirit we are equal and the same; in body we seem unequal and different and have different interests. In pursuit of our self-interest we fight with each other. Thus, our world is a place of conflict and war.
God and his heaven are unified hence in peace; our world is a separated place hence at war with itself. Heaven is love; our world is the opposite of love. Love is union, our world is separated and a place of hate. In heaven we are part of unified spirit, aka God and Christ; on earth we are separated selves, aka egos.
On earth we seek individual interests and feel separated and lonely. Since we are from a unified place we cannot really accept aloneness. Thus, Willy nelly we seek association with other people. We form what the course calls special love relationships where we enter into unions with others based on mutual interests. For example, we seek girl friends or marry to have sex and company. When such an association no longer gratifies our desires we leave them. The course sees such associations as pseudo union, substitute union, replacement union (the ego is a replacement self, a substitute self; our real self is the Christ, the unified son of God; in Carl Jung’s categories the ego is our shadow self). True union is in spirit where we are eternally unified and are always one.
The purpose of the course is to teach us that we are one and therefore that we should love one another. It says that since on earth folks do harm you that you should forgive them and that that is what Jesus did forgive those who killed him. When we forgive we have truly loved, that is returned to spiritual union. Much of the teaching of the course is centered on forgiveness.
When we separated from each other God created the Holy Spirit and placed him in our minds (he is our right mind, the ego is our wrong mind, our left mind) and gave him the job of teaching us forgiveness as true love.
In our minds are three parts, unified self, aka God, the son of God (that is, each of us) and the Holy Spirit, the part that reminds us that we are one. The ego is the false self that teaches that we are separated from God and from one another.
The goal of the course is to lead us from ego to Christ, from separation to union, from hate to love, from earth back to heaven.
As you can see the course re-explained the Christian concept of Holy Trinity, three selves in one God; God the father (the creator God), God the son (us) and God the Holy Spirit (who corrects the self the son of God made as his replacement self, the ego). God the father is the transcendent God, he is not in this world; God the Holy Spirit is the immanent God and is in this world. God the Son is sleeping and dreaming this world and sees himself as a separated self, the ego, us. (The Hindu philosopher, Shankara actually posited a similar Vedanta philosophy in the eight century of our common era.)
God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit is the same God; thus, in effect, it is God that through his aspect as God the son dreams this world and another aspect of him, the Holy Spirit corrects it. All these are metaphors, not literal truth, of course. In his book, the City of God, the Catholic theologian, St Augustine of Hippo pretty much said the same thing that a course in miracles said in the 300s AD. Plotinus in his Ennead (written in the second century AD) said the same thing.
The Holy Spirit does not destroy the world the Son of God made but reinvents it, makes it a loving place. As it were, the Holy Spirit (the immanent God in the temporary universe) leads us on the journey home, on our return journey to God, and helps us end the journey without a distance, a journey to nowhere for wherever we go is heaven, we just tuned heaven out and are not aware of it.
We are right now in heaven but blocked the awareness of it by hating each other. When we love and forgive each other we have removed the blocks to the awareness of heaven and become aware of heaven.
(To the course, God is love; God is everywhere; that is, only love exists. We live in the presence of love but veil it, mask it with our desire for separation and the ego we constructed to enable us dream that we are apart from God. The empirical universe is a dream, it does not exist or exists as in a dream; we can transcend the seeming objective world by remembering love, returning to love. Forgiveness is the best way to remember love and return to heaven. No one who hates some children of God can ever return to God. One must meet the condition of heaven, love for all, before heaven’s door opens for one to enter it. The course does not ask people not to be in this world, it says that they are dreaming and have the right to dream but wants them to have a happy dream instead of the nightmare they currently have. When we forgive all people, love all people we have happy dream, that is, we get to the gate of heaven; heaven’s gate opens when one completely lets go of the ego and does not defend it and one enters and knows ones self to be part of unified spirit. As the course sees it, at no point are we ever in body; body does not exist; we are always in spirit but dream ourselves as in body and defense of it makes it seem real to us. There is no birth in body or death; all those are illusions. In Holy Instants, mystical unions, one suddenly feels oneself as formless spirit; knows that there is no you and I, no subject and object, no seer and seen; all selves literally share one self and one mind, the self of God and the mind of God. That God self is ineffable, it cannot be explained in language for language evolved to help those in separated states, us, communicate to one another. In God there is only one self that is simultaneously infinite in numbers and therefore has no need for speech and language; it knows, and does not live in the world of perception for perception is for the separated not the unified.)
Heaven is not a place; it is a state of mind. However, heaven is not our present earth for our earth is a place of forms whereas heaven is formless, is unified spirit, we do not have bodies in heaven.
The book is poetic and all that it says can be said in simpler, prose. To me what it says is self-evidently true. It does not have to be said in religious jargon to be true. I see it as common sense psychology. I have written a lot on the course and you can always read up on my writings on it. I just wanted to introduce it as a supplement to the shortcomings of secular psychology. I find it useful in helping me accept that there is a higher power, a God, not the superstitious God of religious folks but a psychological God (our higher self) that we are all parts of. (I describe my psychology as existential psychology in the sense that like existential writers such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Frederick Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Sartre, Camus, Jasper, Heidegger, etc. I see life in body as meaningless and purposeless. See R.D. Laing’s writing on how mental illness is an attempt to escape from the absurdity called life on earth.)
I believe that at root we are spirits and are unified spirit and ought to love one another. If I have a religion it is Gnostic, as in a course in miracles. Actually, I have no need to accept any particular religion, including Gnosticism. I just take from all religions what makes sense to me. I take a lot from Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism and the course.
Religions are written in metaphors and therefore confusing to rational persons like me. What I did was transpose religious metaphors to simple prose and make them logical and throw away what is not logical. I have no need to believe in an irrational God. I simply accept that there is an impersonal force that transcends this world and that we are all part of it; I do not pray to it for it is like praying to my higher self.
I do meditate. Hinduism taught me how to meditate. In Hindu meditation one tries to tune out ones ego and tries to attain that impersonal self that we all share. Meditation helps calm me and I recommend it to all people. In meditation one forgets ones ego self and tries to have no self and have an empty mind. If one can stop all thinking one feels calm and peaceful.
Hindus believe that in meditation we can leave our ego separated selves and their world and go to Brahmaloca, the world of unified self, God. I have seen the light, in fact several times but have not entered the light yet. Therefore I cannot speak for the light.
As I pointed out in another paper, the material universe seems a mirage, a dream. If you take the various elements in the universe: hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and all 114 of them you can break them down into electrons, neutrons and protons. You can break down neutrons and protons into quarks. You can breakdown quarks and elections into photons, light.
What is light made of? During the Big bang, 13.7 billion years ago something came from nowhere and got heated up and produced light and light transformed itself to quarks and then to protons and neutrons and electrons and eventually into the various elements. We know how hydrogen clumps form the stars (and galaxies), and how inside stars, in their core, hydrogen transforms to helium through nuclear fission; we know how the lighter elements are formed inside stars and how exploding stars (supernovae) form the heavier elements. We know how the planets were formed from debris from exploded stars.
For our present purposes, it is salient that ultimately, everything came from light and therefore only light exists. I believe that light was originally spirit. I believe that we came from light, from spirit, and that that spirit is eternal, permanent and changeless.
A course in miracles, a spiritual psychology helps me make sense of this complex world of ours. I believe that man came from spirit and needs to make peace with his spiritual nature, while taking care of his physical nature. On earth we are body, mind and spirit and must pay attention to all three.
At universities they teach only scientific psychology, aka secular psychology. They do so because to be scientific they must teach what is empirical and observable and can be verified etc. Spiritual ideas are not empirical and cannot be verified hence not amenable to the scientific method and universities, the abode of science, cannot teach them. I accept the mission of the university, to teach verifiable and refutable ideas ala Karl Popper but also accept that there is more to life than is taught in our sciences. Each of us must seek a religion that makes sense to him. Gnosticism makes sense to me though I am not a Gnostic for I do not belong to any religion.
Traditional Gnosticism sees this world as a dark place and sees God as light; sees this world as evil and wants to negate it and return to the light world of God. I am not in a hurry to escape from this world. Physics tells us that the earth and its sun will be around for another five billion years before the sun dies (turns into a white dwarf) and the earth is charred to death. We have a long time to be on earth to study science and perhaps discover ways to fly to other planet in the Milky way galaxy or even to other galaxies, even tunnel or worm hole ourselves to other universes (they say that there are multiverses where we see ourselves, each in a different dimension and we do not know them). I simply want to be on earth and make the most of it, not run away from it before exploring it to the fullest. I am not a religionist though I respect coreligionists.
I find that those who are religious and pray to God and do what he asks them to do, love and forgive all, can change their personalities, from hateful to loving hence healthy.
I do not believe that scientific psychology can change people; it merely can understand them. It gives people medications but medications merely mask the problem but do not heal any one. I have not seen a schizophrenic or manic or depressed person healed by his psychotropic medications. I have not seen anxious persons healed of their anxiety by their benzodiazepams. These medications mask the problem.
Man’s problem has spiritual roots and cannot be healed until man returns to spirit. Our problem is that we are separated from our real self, unified self, aka God; in separation we are insane. It is when we return to union, to God, to love that we are healed of our insanity, healed of the delusion that we are separated from our true self, unified self.
What heals people is love for themselves and for all people. When we love we return to union with those we love and in that state of union feel peaceful and happy. Peace and joy are characteristics of mental health.
In meditation I let go of my ego separated self and attain no self, an empty mind, and stop thinking obsessively. In meditation I die to my ego separated self and attain my real self, unified self and in it feel at peace with the universe.
I have had interesting spiritual experiences that very few persons can understand so I do not need to talk about them. Let us just say that I do not see my ego self as my real self. I do not see my body as my real self. I believe that at root we are formless, bodiless, eternal selves and that at that spiritual level we are joined and are one.
In spirit we are love, for God is love. Our true self is love. Try loving you and all people and try meditation and see if you would not attain inner peace and joy (and if you also forgive all people, yourself included, you may attain spiritual union with all…what Hinduism calls Samadhi, Buddhism calls Nirvana, Zen calls Satori, A course in miracles calls Holy Instant).
I believe that our ego selves, our self-concepts, our earthly personalities housed in bodies are not our real selves. The ego is our false self and we defend it and in defense make it seem real. When we stop defending the ego and revert to the awareness of our unified self, spirit, we have reclaimed our true self, our real self. But only a handful of human beings can actually let go of their egos and return to the awareness of their unified self.
Western psychology studies the ego separated self, in effect, studies our false self, our shadow self. No matter what it does it cannot transcend the ego separated self and return us to the awareness of our true self. Therefore, it cannot heal us for healing lies in the unified self.
I talked about my earthly self as a compendium of dependent and avoidant self, that it is a result of my inherited problematic body and social experiences. But that is my shadow self. I have a different self, a spiritual self. My ego self like every ones ego is always sick for the ego is a delusion, a false self. It is what is not true that we believe is true and it seems true to us.
The ego self is a dream self, a delusion. We can make it a pleasant deluded self when as Ramakrishna said we transform it to ego of love. But even the ego of love still is an illusion. The truth is that we are Christ (in Hinduism, Atman, in Igbo Chi).
If this would not scare you, each of us also has another self, a self-made of pure light form. We are currently aware of our dense form, our bodies. The Holy Spirit, our higher self, recreated the body self into another self, a pure light self (in religious terms, purified self, a loving self for love is what purifies us). This is the self-folks who have had out of body and near death experience see. It is always with us. If you go into meditation and love all you can actually see another you in light form that has no physical dimension. This light self is still not your real self; it is still a fantasy, an illusion, a delusion, but a better delusion than the dense self we currently see.
Our real self is formless spirit. Spirit cannot be seen, it can only be experienced. When you experience our unified spirit self you know that it is real and that all else is noise.
In the meantime try to use western psychology to understand your ego self, your self-concept, your personality. That is just about all that western psychology can help you do.
All egos, normal, neurotic or psychotic are false. If you want to transcend your ego then try metaphysics, especially Gnosticism, Hinduism, A course in miracles (and my writings).
One can of course dismiss religion and the idea of God as a bunch of rubbish (I did in my youth after all). Atheists who do not believe in God grind their teeth and take the pains of existence without the illusion that there is a way out; they die and hope to go to oblivion and leave it at that. Life is easier for those with atheistic and evolutionary approach; they see people as mere animals that over the last three billion years evolved body and brain that can think. If people are animals then one does not expect them to be anything other than animals and do not expect them to be ideal. The atheist is decisive in his approach to people; people are animals and he approaches them as such. However, this is a dangerous approach for you can easily rationalize social injustices by telling yourself that the poor are so by genetic disposition and that it is no one’s fault. You can say that those who inherited low intelligence are destined to be poor and leave it at that. It is idealism that leads to doing things for the poor. Too much biological realism leads to giving up on the poor. In extreme case one can even want the poor killed for after all what are they living for if they are not going to be productive. The Nazis actually rationalized killing the poor, the handicapped and others they deemed socially unfit. I am saying that there is danger in excessive rational secular humanism. Religion has its problems but if anyone follows the teaching of Jesus Christ I do not see how he can murder another person.
I choose to respect the religions of mankind for they serve very useful purpose for us. However, if you ask me whether their theses are proved the answer of course is no. But who cares; as long as they give people consolation that is fine with me.
As long as people live to die all existence is pointless and whatever gives people an excuse to live is fine with me. Besides, those of us who are cursed with asking for explanations, why questions, sooner or later learn that there is really no explanation, no answer to our why questions. Our explanations are spurious and in time changes. As I pointed out in my writing on physics all that we currently believe are physics explanation of phenomena will change in the future meaning that we do not know anything for certain and as such ought to not criticize religious folks for their seeming unscientific beliefs. Life is tough and whatever enables people to deal with it is fine with me.
I do not have a need to judge what people do as good or bad because I understand that given the exigencies of their bodies and social experiences they have to be whom they are and do what they do. Even when we understand people’s personalities we seldom can help them change them. So why judge people harshly? Live and let live. As long as folks do not hurt other people I am fine with their lifestyles
Finally, I hope that my sharing my personality type would help you pay attention to your personality and understand it and where necessary change those aspects of it that are changeable and live with what cannot be changed in your personality and have the wisdom to know the difference. This world is not a bed of roses but in every cloud there is a silver lining. Such is life, C’est La Vie.
I began this paper with a dream, a dream to which I offered an interpretation. I observed that there are many interpretations to the dream. I am sure that psychoanalysts would offer different interpretations, and within that group the various segments, such as Freudian, Adlerian, Jungians etc. would proffer different interpretations. A friend, a highly religious person offers the following interpretation.
I am in the middle of the road. I am crawling from the world (opposite side to my house) towards my house, my home. Where is my real home, our real home? Our real home is in God, in the world of spirit. Thus, I am returning home to God, to spirit but perceive difficulties on my way (the truck coming towards me) and instead of turning inwards to God for help I looked outwards for other human beings to come and save me. People do not know how to return to God and therefore cannot save me. Only God, through his Holy Spirit, can save me. Thus, I need to turn to God, to the Holy Spirit to be saved. This is this man’s interpretation and who says that it is not as good as any?
One thing I do know. From observing myself, in childhood I had aspects of dependency. I tend to feel a need for other persons to help me do what I had to do to survive. There were medical reasons for that dependent lifestyle. People seldom came to my help. Therefore, I tended to feel angry at people for not helping me. I do not have to be angry at people for not helping me, for who says that people should help me?
My adult experience tells me that each of us is alone, that we live in dog eat dog world and that whoever wants to live in this world have to do what he has to do or get out of the world. Each of us has the capacity to kill himself if he wants to die. In as much as one lives one chooses to live. We live on earth by choice. No one forces us to live.
Our lives are in our hands. If that is the case we might as well do what we have to do to live optimally, depending as little as is possible on other persons, and certainly not feeling emotionally upset that they did not help us survive. Of course, the right thing is mutual help for we are interdependent but in the meantime we have to deal with people as they are.
Each of us believes himself separated from other persons and as having different interests and looks after his interests and often could care less for other people’s welfare. That reality notwithstanding, I choose to see all humanity as members of one family and work for our mutual w good. This is my philosophy, anyway. But while working for that philosophy one should not have the illusion that all other persons are similarly motivated and would work for our mutual good. One should take people where they are at and still live as one knows is right: serving all human beings while not expecting them to serve one. Why? Serving people gives one peace and joy. Peace and happiness is good enough gift for me, how about you? Would you rather be like the American capitalist who lives to serve only his self-interest and fills his miserable existence with alcohol, drugs, addiction to sex and other and self-destructive lifestyles? Choose, and take the consequences of your choice!
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Ozodi Thomas Osuji, PhD