This book is a Get Out of Jail Free card and a passport back into the playground.

The aim of this book is to set you free. But free from what? Free from neurosis. Free from the feeling that you have to obey authority. Free from emotional intimidation. Free from addiction. Free from inhibition.

The key to happiness, mental health and being the most that we can be is absolute and unconditional self-acceptance. The paradox is that many of our problems are caused by trying to improve ourselves, censor our thinking, make up for past misdeeds and struggling with our negative feelings whether of depression or aggression.

But if we consider ourselves in our entirety in this very moment, we know these things :

1. Anything we have done is in the past and cannot be changed, thus it is pointless to do anything else but accept it. No regrets or guilt.

2. While our actions can harm others, our thoughts and emotions, in and of themselves, never can. So we should accept them and allow them to be and go where they will. While emotions sometimes drive actions, those who completely accept their emotions and allow themselves to feel them fully, have more choice over how they act in the light of them.

Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a “good deed” under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves. And loving ourselves unconditionally, means loving ourselves exactly as we are at this moment.

This might seem to be complacency, but in fact the natural activity of the individual is healthy growth, and what holds us back from it is fighting with those things we can’t change and the free thought and emotional experience which is the very substance of that growth.

How to Be Free is available as a free ebook from Smashwords, iBooks in some countries, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

It is also available in paperback from Lulu or Amazon for $10 US, plus postage.

The ebook version currently has received 593 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Why Do We Have a Dark Side?

Copyright: nomadsoul1 / 123RF Stock Photo

What produces the dark side of we humans?

Some think that we are instinctively competitive and that the roots of our dark side can be found in our underlying animal tendency to form a dominance hierarchy.

We are biological entities with biological needs. It makes sense that a shortage of something we need might lead to conflict in the absence of a very strong cultural structure to restrain that tendency. If there is a shortage of food we might fight over what is available because our desire to remain alive overrides any disinclination to deprive others.

Among other animals there is often a breeding imperative which leads to competition for a mate. Does this apply on a biological level for humans? That’s hard to say. As intelligent beings with imagination we don’t have to follow our instincts. If we don’t listen to what our instincts would tell us about what food is healthy to eat, why would we think that we listen to our instincts when it comes to striving to win the most biologically healthy mate we come in contact with? Of course we often do put a great deal of effort into winning a particular kind of mate, but is it for biological reasons or psychological reasons? A millionaire’s trophy wife will win him the envy of his peers, but she may not necessarily be the best breeding prospect.

One of the factors which has given us the power to dominate the global environment as a species is our ability to cooperate and to override our instincts with the use of our intelligence and imagination. When faced with a food crisis, I imagine that chimpanzees don’t have much option but to fight it out. We humans can come up with a strategy for rationing the food and setting off in search of a new home where food is more plentiful.

We are less likely to compete for biological reasons than other animals, and yet, as a species, we have been far more brutally destructive for reasons which are not immediately obvious.

We follow the pleasure principle and the pleasure principle, in the absence of the kinds of dominating biological factors which lead to conflict amongst other animals, fosters love. The most pleasant form of life for us is to live in a close community, easing the burdens of life through cooperative strategies and sharing the sensual pleasure that comes through affectionate interaction of all kinds.

So what is the darkness that plagues us, standing in the way of such a blissful existence?

Psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich points out that the stifling of natural drives channels that energy into malignant symptoms. Our instincts are to love, to engage in productive activity, to learn, and to enjoy an erotic relationship with another individual. Hatred is generated by the frustration of the instinct to love. This can be the self-hatred characterised by depression and other forms of mental illness or hatred felt towards others.

But it is not simple barriers which impede the loving instinct in this way. We can see plenty of evidence that love is able to stand firm in the face of the obstacles life throws at it. It is when the loving instinct is frustrated at it’s very base that it gives rise to toxic secondary drives.

Love is a form of communication characterised by openness, honesty, spontaneity and generosity. Only if we are capable of being open, honest, spontaneous and generous in our relationship with our own self can we interact lovingly with others. Any lack of honesty with self will compromise our honesty with others. When we fear aspects of our self this compromises our capacity for spontaneity. We don’t trust ourselves to be spontaneous. And if we are not generous towards our self, then we won’t be able to be generous toward others without resenting the fact that we are treating them better than we treat our self. The ability to love our self is central to the ability to love anyone else.

So what threatens our ability to love our self? To love our self is to accept our self. Why would we fail to accept our self? What makes us feel that we are not worthy of acceptance?

From The Function of the Orgasm by Wilhelm Reich

I think the answer is idealism. It’s necessary for us to have some kind of system of thought to guide our behaviour. We need to understand that some forms of behaviour will lead to bad results for us, either directly or because they lead to bad results for others, which will be disadvantageous to us as well. But it is possible for such a system to be so strict or so harshly imposed that it comes to oppress us. It is one thing to be guided by a gentle hand and it is another to be kicked and shoved and berated by the one who would direct our behaviour. There are times when doing what is right is intrinsically very difficult. The question is whether our guidance system helps to foster courage or leaves us weak by undermining our capacity to feel good about ourselves at all. If idealistic expectations, either personal or from peers, are too strict, they will tend to engender in us increasing levels of resentment towards them. This resentment will then spill over into our behaviour towards others, and, in the extreme, can manifest as a drive to inflict suffering or death upon the innocent and defenceless.

How does this work? Well, if you feel oppressed by the demand that you be good, if you experience this demand as something which gradually erodes the self-acceptance which is, metaphorically speaking, the floor of the house in which you live, so that you just get angrier and angrier as you are backed further and further into the only remaining corner, the one thing which might give you some temporary relief is to rebel against that demand, to respond to its demand that you do the best thing by deliberately doing the very worst thing.

How did I come to this conclusion? I looked into myself, into the heart of my own darkness. I remember once seeing footage of a group of men attacking a pod of dolphins with machetes. They hacked and hacked and hacked and the bay was filled with blood. Everyone was saying : “How horrible! What monsters those men are!” I was thinking : “Hacking dolphins to death might provide a kind of relief.” This was at a time when I was prone to depression. When we are depressed we don’t love ourselves and we don’t get any consolation from the love of others. It’s almost worse to be loved when we feel we don’t deserve it. Either the other person is a fool for not realising how unworthy of love we are, or we are a fraud for not disabusing them.

I could have identified with the dolphins. Many, including many depressed people, probably would. I don’t know why I’ve always had a tendency to identify with victimisers rather than victims when confronted with these kinds of scenarios. But this tendency has an advantage for someone who wants to understand human problems. If our imagination tends to take us into the position of a victim then we may have the basis for extrapolating what is going on in their mind when they are being victimised. But if we want to understand why it is happening we have to understand what is going on in the mind of the victimiser.

I don’t think that this impulse toward defiance of the good is the only reason for the victimisation of the innocent. Another element is the resentment of the unlovable for the loved. The individual whose self-acceptance has been eaten away until they are backed into that final corner, cut off from all capacity for joy, hounded by condemnation on all sides, unable to defend themselves because their behaviour has been genuinely destructive, is the rejected of the world. How are they going to feel when people talk about how much they love the cute dolphins? What about when they see the devoted mothers dropping their children off to the pre-school? Isn’t that the darkest point to which a human can sink? The point at which a young man may take a bunch of guns to that pre-school.

We can say that the school shooter, the terrorist, the child molester, is a individual starved of love. So what are we to do? We have barely enough love for ourselves and those closest to us. We can’t go throwing our precious love into the black hole at the heart of the sociopath. It wouldn’t do any good if we did.

So what can we do about the problem of evil?

If we understand the roots of the problem in the tendency of idealistic demands to undermine self-acceptance, then we can develop a culture of unconditional self-acceptance in our own lives. If such a culture really does foster love, courage, creativity and an enhanced capacity for problem solving, then it will spread quickly. Eventually it will spread even into humanity’s heart of darkness, bringing the redemption which is urgently needed to free us from our capacity for evil.

Copyright: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

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