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negativity and self-esteem
May 16, 2000
10:02 pm
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Christie
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I read somewhere on this site that it takes 20 positive statements to counteract one negative statement. Why is it that negative comments stick in our minds so strongly? I don't understand this. Why can't positive comments be the ones to linger? Does anyone know the theory behind this? It is destroying peoples' self-esteem.

May 16, 2000
10:27 pm
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I feel the same too. People always judging us and most of the comments are negative. As a human being we seem not to accept this.WHY???? My guess is people tend to overlook... They feel giving negative comment means they have power and vanity... The egoistical mind that pushes them saying they are perfect as compare to others..Giving them the rights to condemn people.. I'd been condemn all my life but I takeit as motivation and make me a better person each day reliasing that we are not perfect and if anyone giving you negative statement just consider it as a statement from a person that had a misfortune in one phase of their life.

May 16, 2000
10:36 pm
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Christie.
In brief, our fear arousal emotional response system is triggered into action by any event that is perceived as a threat. This is an evolutionally derived attribute. A negative message usually has the immediate effect of making us wary and ready to defend ourselves.

Whereas positive messages feel good and don't usually demand immediate attention. Positive statements do not usually trigger our fear arousal system. They can arouse other survival based systems that are usually easily and quickly satisfied in our modern society. Since most of us can easily satisfy needs such as hunger, thirst, cold, sex etc these positive messages, such as "have something to eat" or "I love you" are usually not distressing for us. Well... not normally 🙂

Thus a million positive messages will only tend to keep our fear arousal system in a low level of arousal, one negative message can quickly activate emotions of fear. In response, we then choose to fight, run or immobilise. Anger is one 'fight' response. Depression is usually an 'immobilisation' response. Denial is one of many 'escape' responses. All these defense responses usually feel 'bad'.

There is obviously much, much more to this than my simplistic answer. But...I hope this little bit helps.

May 16, 2000
10:51 pm
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but tez, if we can have a fear arousal state cant we have a NON-fear arousal state? for example if something triggers fear in me, cant there be something that triggers courage in me? (like lets say, a couple of power bars or something.. um .. j/k!)
no seriously, isnt there anything that triggers good things in us ? like feeling happy, confident?
e.g. there's this thing like if i smell a certain aroma, it will make me happy and i will feel good but not know exactly why i felt so. I've read about this thing. There are certain things like this that happen. Like images, or smells that suddenly make u happy. The explanation is that e.g. in childhood, you were happy at a certain time and at that time there was also this smell around, so later when u smelled that again, you felt happy in a strange manner.
wonder if i make sense.
happiness triggers where are u??

May 16, 2000
11:11 pm
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Frieda
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For me, I believe the negative things done and said to me. I don't believe or trust the positive things. So I'm constantly trying to not have negative input, but that's all I'm really listening for.

May 17, 2000
3:07 am
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Our human preoccupation with Negativity is so basic it everything from newspapers to deodorant, and the people who drive the marketing campaigns also buy the goods. If it weren't for negativity, we'd be in Paradise.

I think self-esteem may not exist. I have never met anyone who claimed to have it. Nor have I met anyone who demonstrated it in a way I could tell it apart from not having it.

May 17, 2000
4:17 am
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Hi Vositor,
I wonder if it is just a case of how we both define self esteem, but I know many people with ego, many with good self esteem and many who lack one or the other and usually it is quite apparent to me which is which.

I think self esteem does exist, see dicussions on the positive thinking thread. But how we deifne it is always a very personal thing.

I have noticed though, that the people with good self esteem are usually the people who are happy with themselves and do not overly self criticise. Also quite often, but not always, they have had a very supportive upbringing. so in a way, many of them have never been brought up to think negatively about themselves.

However I also know people who have had terrible childhoods but have reached a place where they are once again happy with themselves and all they have learned through life. The self esteem that these people develop shines through the brightest for they also have wisdom about how tough life really can be. But these people are out there!
Peace
Hazza

May 17, 2000
7:37 pm
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Guest-guest.

You said, "no seriously, isnt there anything that triggers good things in us ?" Oh, there sure is! But triggering emotional memories that feel good is usually not a problem for us. You mentioned smells. The smell of burning bush timber, brings back very good feelings. Luckily I also have contextual memories of the events that laid down the emotional memories as well. It was when I went to holiday with my bush cousins. It was a time in my childhood that I received great love, acceptance and affection.

It is the unwarranted negative emotions that are usually a problem. Often there are no contextual memories to indicate why I am feeling the negative emotional recall. This is when I tend to 'blame' the trigger source (like, the bastard is out to get me!) That's why I think that negative emotions have more impact on us than the positive emotions. Feeling good all the time can be taken for granted and we can habituate to it. Whereas, it is hard to habituate to feeling bad.(although it happens) Feeling threatened seems to have a lot more impact on us than feeling supported. This is the point that Christie made in the first posting on this thread; I think.

May 17, 2000
7:53 pm
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Frieda.
You make a good point. Those of us who have a lot more negative emotional memories that positive ones, tend naturally to develop great faith that negative things will happen to us in the future unless we prepare our 'defences' against the 'foe'. Whereas, in reality, there is just as much if not more reason to believe that positive things will happen to us.

Well parented people tend to be naturally very positive. Most of their emotional memories are of feeling accepted, wanted, valued and loved. They feel intrinsically valuable, despite their failings. Thus it can be seen that self-esteem is a self-assessment that has both an emotional component and a cognitive (thinking) component. It is the emotional memory component that I call 'core worth' that has the greatest impact. I am amazed by the number of people that I hear say about themselves, "I know that I am a good person, and that I am smart, competent and good at whatever I choose to do; yet I feel worthless."

This is another reason for my interest in the emotions, emotional memories and the nature of their triggers.

May 17, 2000
8:12 pm
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Vositor.
You said, "If it weren't for negativity, we'd be in Paradise."

I'd like to share this experience with you. Many years ago, I was sitting in deep thought worrying about some inconsequential issue. Out of the blue, my partners eleven year old daughter came up to me and handed me a piece of paper. On it she had written in crayon the following words, "The mind is its own place. In it we can create a hell out of heaven or a heaven out of hell." I was staggered by that. Today that girl is a very beautiful woman of 23 years of age. Today, she has no recollection whatever of the event, what she wrote or why she gave it to me.

Today I know that I am responsible for my choices. Dr Viktor Frankl, the great psychiatrist said that the last freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude to things and that freedom cannot be taken away. He should know;he survived 4 years in Aushwitz, Nazi extermination camp for the Jews in which every other freedom was taken away from him.

May 17, 2000
8:32 pm
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Hazza.

I quite agree with what you said.

Dr Nathaniel Brandon wrote quite a lot about self-esteem. He said "Of all the judgements that we pass in life, none is so important as the one we pass on ourselves, for that judgement touches the very centre of our existence."

In my understandings, self-esteem is my estimation of my worth both to others and more importantly to myself. This estimation or judgement involves both what I 'think' about my self-worth and what I 'fee'l about my self-worth. It is the 'feeling' part that is the most troublesome.

I think that you made a very good point about the ego. It is quite common to come across people who have a very large ego that is driven by and hiding feelings of very low self-worth. Equally some people seem to have very weak ego strengths and have very strong feelings of intrinsic self worth. Conversely many people have weak egos combined with feelings of very low self worth. It seems to be that there are combinations and permutations of both varying ego strengths and varying feelings of core self-worth.

May 18, 2000
9:54 am
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Cici
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The mental health industry is a booming industry, mostly in Western countries. We talk about negativity, negative life-focus, low self-esteem. The reality is that self-esteem is dynamic. I can see a patient clinically on two different days of the week. I can administer personality and self-esteem tests each day and receive completely different results each day. We tend to have higher self-esteem in places or areas that we feel confident and comfortable in, lower feeling when put into situations where we are inexperienced.

Why is it that negative statements bother us so much more than positive statements can affect us? You're talking to the culture that commercialized self-help during the 1980s.

It has to do with how you process stimuli. What you dwell on, how you feel right now. It has to do with being reactionary, rather than affective. To react is to allow external stimuli to control your responses. This can lead to feelings of low self-worth and learned helplessness.

Depression is the leading mood disorder in the West. One wonders if this has to do more with how we process emotions and life as a culture, rather than individual weaknesses.

Also, consider that there is only one female theorist in the arena of personality psychology, the area most commonly associated with counseling. And there are no non-white psychological theorists. So basically, we putourselves in the hands of therapists who work from a framework created by old, white men. Do you think that these theories can adequately deal with cultural and gender differences in coping skills? I don't.

May 18, 2000
8:18 pm
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Cici.

You said, "One wonders if this has to do more with how we process emotions and life as a culture, rather than individual weaknesses."

You hid the nail right on the head. Absolutely spot on. I am convinced of the validity of this proposition.

Dr. Joseph LeDoux (1996) in his book called "The Emotional Brain' gives a good resume of his more recent research at NYU into the physiological basis for what we call the emotions. He describes what is now known as the 'LeDoux short cut'. It seems that our emotional responses are often triggered directly by our sensory inputs without cognitive sanctions at all. It seems that in such direct emotional memory recall triggerings, cognitive 'assessments' occur much later. The difference in sensory input signal transmission time taken is in the order of a factor of ten. Even then, these cognitive assessments of the emotional arousals are often very flawed.

The implication is that sensory inputs can trigger a full blown emotional arousal (a dominant response) before our cognitions have had time to do the processing of that input data. We then cognitively believe that we are being threatened because our fear arousal system is activated, not because there is some 'hard' evidence of the same!

Obviously this is not always the case. Cognitions often trigger the emotions after data has been processed. How often do we mull something over and only then 'crack up'.

If psychology is to become a 'real' science instead of an art form 🙂 , emotional processing has to be the focus of a larger portion of the psychological research dollar. Then we might not have schools becoming slaughterhouses and wars may become a memory. We can only hope.

May 19, 2000
8:23 am
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Do not defend yourself against untruths spoken about you. That only adds fuel to their unfounded fire. Do not make excuses when the truth is told about you. Stand forward and accept the truth. Above all else, do not live your life according to how others say you must live it. "To thine ownself be true."

Yes, there is a lot of negatives being bantered about, there always has, hopefully, there will come a day when it lessens. Let the negativity end with me. May I not say negative words against another. May I see the Spirit in all I meet in this lifetime. May I have the wisdom to remain silent when words would only harm another. And, may I have the wisdom to speak up, load and clear, when the time for words becomes necessary. Change starts with me, the individual.

People can write books, read books, and search for answers; however, the answers are inside of each and everyone of us. Why do we see and experience negative things? Becasue we expect to. What can we do to create the much needed change? Stop expecting the negativity in our lives. Just because we had negative experiences in the past, doesn't mean we ahve to go on down that same path. Grow up, grow wiser. Accept the fact that you are a derserving being, and embrace yourself as you would embrace another individual who is hurting. Be kind to yourself. Peace is ours to have and hold, if we accept that we are worthy. Somethings have no clear-cut explaination. Somethings must be accepted. It's up to us to make the changes. Peace to all of you through understanding, or acceptance.

May 19, 2000
9:23 am
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Cici
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Tez,

From a biological psychology perspective, I can see the logic of LeDoux's reasoning. Our brain uses a lot of short-cuts that respond to triggers with a cascade-effect on cognition and cognitive processes.

But, I still must take pause and consider that it is the Western mind that is so obssessively focused on negativity. Although now, measuring the difference in Western and Eastern cognition is difficult, being that Western philosophy has invaded Eastern universities in the same imperialistic manner with which it was created.

I propose that the physiological effect on the body triggers different response according to a pre-set locus. Research indicates that Westerners are extremely self-focused (internal locus). The Eastern mind is more communally-focused (external locus). So, when triggered into the fear-response arousal state, we react in different ways according to our locus.

Those with an internal locus react with fear and negativity when the fear-response is triggered. We see this as a threat to ourselves. Those with an external locus might experience the same emotions, but to a lesser degree, as they see the threat less focused on themselves personally. Also, Bhuddist ideology gives me the idea that there is a more lassiez faire attutide in the Eastern mind when it comes to suffering. They might simply see it as just another go-'round on the wheel of life.

Thoughts?

May 19, 2000
12:51 pm
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There's a lot I'm not so very in touch with when it comes to counselling ; I'm Irish, and over here it's a taboo subject; most people would view counselling as for teenagers or those who have suffered badly from sexual abuse, alcoholic abuse etc. i've gone for 6 counselling sessions, unsure from the start of what was wrong with me - depression or low self esteem or just downright fear of living. I have terrible habits of lettting myself go and forecasting for myself simply getting into bed, pulling up the covers and isolating myself from everyone.
I was very successful at school in literary subjects but over the past five or six years I've felt thick as two short planks, and I find it very difficult to understand systems and procedures in work. So i look back at past success and I think I didn't deserve it, which leads me to despise myself even more by having success I didn't deserve. I don't know if I can even try, or if I'll always simply defeat myself through my negative thinking. Any advice?

May 19, 2000
5:04 pm
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I think that's my point, Tez; that psychology doesn't have the right framework to answer the questions and solve the problems of brain function/personality/emotion.

When brain surgeons can say with full confidence, "show me your brain and I'll describe your personality," than that's where the attention should go: to understanding brain function and interpreting brain scans.

May 19, 2000
6:58 pm
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Cici.
Your response was very well expressed and a delight to read.

I neither support nor denigrate the theory of the Locus of Control. I see it as a stepping stone. Since External and Internal are tendencies on that locus, we humans can be 'located' at an infinite number of 'locations' on that 'locus'. I am not convinced that we remain fixated at any one point at all. I see that our bias towards either end of that 'locus' is some function of our childhood emotional experiences and the emotional memory 'set' created as a result. Traumatic experiences in adulthood can even shift that bias point by laying down more powerful emotional memories. Variations in our emotional trigger threshold can shift that bias either way. When I 'feel' positive, I feel that I have a lot of 'Internal Control' over external events. When I 'feel' negative I feel like I have no control over my environment and am a 'victim' of 'External Control' over my life circumstances. When feeling depressed for example, I feel like a helpless child at the mercy of life's storms. This is a hint that just maybe I am suffering from recall of my emotional experiences as an oppressed child!

To your knowledge, have any longitudinal studies been carried out to establish the constancy or otherwise of that theoretical perspective, the Locus Of Control Theory?

When I classify feelings, thoughts and events as negative or positive, I am generally basing such judgements on their perceived effects on my welfare; that is to say what 'survival' value that they have for me and mine.

In the West, generally speaking, there has been a decline in our beliefs in our spiritual nature. Materialism is rampant. Infants and children are taught in so many subtle ways to fear death as the termination of our existence or worse. Christianity has done little to offset that belief. It offers a 'pass of fail' alternative wherein failure means eternal torment. In any case little is offered in the way of definite 'information' regarding the 'afterlife'. As a result, for those of us who have also had materialistic, self-centred unloving parents, fearful emotional memory triggers are laid down in by far greater numbers than joyful ones are. Thus retriggering of negative emotional memories is much more likely than positive ones.

In the East I believe that this has not been the case. Buddhism, in the Bardo Thodol, has been quite specific as to what will happen after death. 'Internal Control' is on offer from the Buddha in his Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path. Eastern parental beliefs in their eternal nature and the emotional serenity therein acquired, surely aids in laying down very positive emotional memories in the eastern infants. This is why I agree with you in your point on the cultural influences on emotional processing and in particular the type of childhood emotional memories.

However, trying to convince some westerner to think positively, when barraged with a sequence of negative emotional memory triggered recalls, is like trying to paddle a barbed wire canoe up a waterfall or ride a push bike without a chain. 🙂 Firstly, to cover the barbed wire canoe with canvas such a person would have to realise the phantom nature of the emotional recalls from the past. Secondly, to change direction away from the waterfall, the person has to realise that negative feelings cannot be bludgeoned into suppression or repression without major repercussions; such energies should only be nurtured into healthy dissipation or redirection.

Thus, it is the deep realisation that any perceived threat may or may not be 'real' that, for me, is important. Any perceived threat that is the result of retriggering an emotional memory can then be assessed cognitively in an objective rather than in an emotionally subjective frame of mind. Only after realising that the threat is unreal, am I able to dissipate the 'negative' body arousal energy or redirect that same adrenalin to a more effecting a positive response; possibly heart felt laughter. If the threat is real, like the immediate presence of a wild bear, adrenalin is very appropriate. 🙂

The ultimate spiritual achievement is the deep realisation that we are all beyond any real threat, including death itself. I'm sure Spirit would agree. If only I were at that stage, myself. 😉 But I'm on the journey.

Thanks again for your well thought out response.

May 19, 2000
7:04 pm
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Biddy.

Welcome. How's the Ole Blarney going these days. Last time I was over there in 1985, it was just lovely.

I'll leave the others to respond directly to your posting.

Yours - an Irish Aussie.

May 22, 2000
9:25 am
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Cici
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Biddy,

What you're describing sounds to me like a depression that commonly afflicts women. It stems from a fear of success/fear of failure that we often experience. I know, it sounds contradicotry, but in a way it makes perfect sense.

Women are raised in a manner that teaches us to seek satisfaction in our lives through the success of or family. We should, according to society, feel satisfied when we marry, have children and our husbands are auccessful because we support them. Even in times of women's lib, this subtle curren tstill runs through women. It takes more than 40 years to change hundreds of years of social thoughts about gender roles.

When we become successful in our own right, many women often feel that they are living a lie, that they really aren't as intelligent as they have shown they are in the past, and that soon enough someone will discover that they really aren't as intelligent or talented as they were portraying and that they will be punished for this. It's a terrible thought, but many many women feel this.

This lack of confidence isn't something that can be taught. But even being aware of your feelings can help you to fight them.

The depression that stems from this is your basic learned helplessness. The constant fear of being discovered as a fake succcess creates a constant tension, which drains your energy as you divert it from other thinking processes to controlling your depression and anxiety. You feel tired, listless, and most of all, hopeless.

There are several things you can do to combat it, and I can't even begin to list them. But first and foremost, since yo have started the counseling process, is to behonest and open to your counselor. And be honest and accepting with yourself. I think as long as you have the desire to fight these feelings, you'll be successful with your therapists' help.

May 24, 2000
5:53 pm
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Cici.
You said,"When we become successful in our own right, many women often feel that they are living a lie, that they really aren't as intelligent as they have shown they are in the past, and that soon enough someone will discover that they really aren't as intelligent or talented as they were portraying and that they will be punished for this. It's a terrible thought, but many many women feel this."

I would just like to point out to the netties that this is not just the preserve of women, a lot of men are just as crippled by this self-defeating belief; or should I say feeling.

I know that you didn't intend to imply that women had a monopoly on this problem. It's just that very often many women seem to get the impression that men are free to achieve their full potential whilst women are totally constrained by society. It is just not so. As always there is no such thing as 'black and white', only 'shades of grey'. We are all in the soup together. How's that for mixed metaphors. 🙂

May 24, 2000
9:13 pm
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Throughout history women have had to be strong in order to survive. As we have evolved, technologically, we have taken the back-breaking chores away, no more scrubbing on a scrubboard, kneading bread is only if you want to develope terrific upper arm muscles, and so on. However, our lives are still just as hectic as ever. Raising children, working just to make ends agree to meet in the middle at a later time, being a compitent homemaker in the vane of a well known woman on TV, and so on. Yes, men are affected more now than ever before. No longer does a man run out and marry a woman so he has a housekeeper and someone to raise his children. Its far deeper than that. The only way to get through every day is to believe in yourself, and have a great support group, no matter where that may be. When you give up on you, who do you have? Peace to all of you.

May 25, 2000
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I am convinced that the feare of success/fear of failure thing comes from the way life is structured today.

Spirit referred to the idea that our lives are still busy today. Compared to the chores of pre-industrialized society, we have it pretty easy. And we have a lot more free time that our minds and bodies were evolved to handle.

That, I have begun to feel, is the source of a lot of the anxiety and depression and existential angst that hoardes of people are coping with today. The proportion of the popluation seeking psychotherapy has risen sharply, and I don't think it's a funciton of victimization so much as a psychological consquence of the way our lives are structured. We live so restricted. Holed up in boxes during the day, we scurry to moving boxes that move us to...another box! The only exercise we get is at the gym once a day for a hour, if you even do get exercise.

One of my professors recently proposed that as we evolve into a more modern society, the physiological structure of our brain development has not changed fast enough to cope with the new demands of a technologically evolved society. Thus, mood disorders, are on the rise.

May 25, 2000
7:14 pm
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Cici: That's one smart prof you have there. I loved listening to my grandfather tell stories of when he was growing up and how he had witnessed many inventions in his life time. Some were very useful, others only bred laziness, according to him. He passed on in the late 70's so he never witnessed the PC age, or microwaves. I can only imagine what he would have to say about those technological breakthroughs.

If mood disorders are on the rise, which we know they are, then what will happen as technology improves even more in making life "easier?" Will the next generation be better equipped to handle the idleness? Seems to me there is a definate lack of patience in this world. The ole I want it now routine is rampant. What can we, as a society do to improve that which we see as the writing on the wall? Its not just about us as individuals, rather it is about us as a collective whole. Any suggestions???

May 26, 2000
11:37 am
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For me, the picture looks grim. I mean, considering the amount of violent acts committed by young people today, it's amazing that people aren't more concerned. In the early '80s, when I grew up, there was no such thing as shootings at schools!! Unless, of course, they were gang-related.

Carl Jung, a philosopher/psychologist who was a student of Freud before spiltting with him in 1913 over the whole over-emphasis on sex thing (we all know about Freud's "cigar" obsession, ha ha), had a different theory of personality-formation than Freud. He said that humans as a species have a collective unconscious fromwhich springs aggression, creative impulses, etc. In his theory, this explains unacceptible impulses we sometimes have. They srping from the primitve collective unconscious (CU). This CU also contains achetypal images, like the God image, or the mother-child relatinohips. When we divorce ourselves from the CU, mood disorders arise. This explains why on average, people who are Atheistic report higher rates of depression and anxiety. They are ignoring the instinctual impulse to seek out an understanding of a higher power.

Jung said that everyone seeks self-realization. This isn't the goal so much as the ideal. We seek to be the balanced individual that we wre born to be, accepting imperfections in ourselves.

I think our society has become so divorced from our origin as a species that we no longer recognize these ancient drives. But I think that soceity, like the individual, cannot evolve until it recognizes the deficit. And we haven't yet reached that stage.

A stronger emphasis on spirituality, perhaps, and a stronger emphasis on education as an end in and of itself instead of merely a means to an end might help.

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