Although assertiveness is largely described as the ideal, what is often found is either submissive or aggressive behaviour. So if submissive behaviour was at one end of the spectrum; aggressive behaviour would be at the other end of the spectrum.
This means that assertive behaviour would be in the middle of the two extremes. By themselves, they are dysfunctional and out of balance. And yet these two extremes can often seem to be the only options available.
One either allows others walk all over them and takes on the role of the doormat. Or one will walk all over others and treat others as if they were a doormat. These will be the tendencies that they have and this means that these roles could change from time to time, depending on the different internal and external factors.
If one were to be in an environment or a situation where it was perceived as unsafe to stand up for oneself, then submissive behaviour may be utilized. This could be in situation where one’s life is under threat. And during other times of their life they may well be aggressive.
Another situation may require one to take on the aggressive role, while their usual disposition is one of submission. This may be a consequence of being taken advantage of to such a degree, that one explodes.
However, the two examples above are rare occurrences and are used to emphasis these two points. For some people, submissive behaviour is a day to day experience and one that they have become accustomed too. While for others, being aggressive is seen as the only way to behave.
To be assertive is overlooked and this could be due to its effectiveness being questioned. Or it may be that one is unaware of their being another option.
This could also apply to the different areas of one’s life and doesn’t always have to relate to extremes. One person may be assertive at work and submissive at home. Or one may be assertive with friends and aggressive with their intimate relationships.
A big part of being assertive is having boundaries. Here one knows where they begin and end and where another begins and ends. These boundaries allow one to create a safe space within. And from here one will be able to be aware of when they are being compromised or being taken advantage of. One will then feel comfortable standing up and speaking up for themselves.
This will be done from a place of inner confidence and belief. Here one is firm but not aggressive and polite but not submissive. And the reason one is able to do this is primarily because they feel safe to do so.
What this does is create a different perception and one that is unlike the perception that people have who are generally submissive and aggressive.
There could be many reason as to why people take on this behaviour, but at its deepest level it comes down to them being familiar and therefore safe.
To the person who acts submissive, this is the behaviour that their ego mind associates as what is safe. On one level it is causing them to be taken advantage of and compromised on a regular basis, but to their unconscious mind it is normal.
And should they act in another way, all kinds of fears could arise and these fears will then lead one to acting in the same way.
And with the person that acts aggressive, this is also what their ego mind associates as what is safe. This will appear to be the only way that one can feel safe and protected. One will feel that if they don’t act this way other people will take advantage of them.
It is then either a case of: being taken advantage of by others or take advantage of others before they have the chance.
Self Fulfilling Prophecy
Although there may be situations in life where one has to be aggressive or submissive; if ones ego mind has these perceptions, one will project these dynamics onto others. And they will also attract situations that validate what they believe about others.
This is one reason why it is important to see that there are patterns involved: patterns in how one sees others; the experiences that they have and to their behaviour.
Finding examples of others who are assertive or reading about how to be assertive can allow one to break free from these roles.
Because the one thing that the ego mind will do, through its identification to these roles, is block out any other ways of behaving. This will happen through justification and rationalization for example.
So as this behaviour is familiar, it is likely to mean that it is a consequence of one’s early years. How one was treated as a child will have a massive effect on whether one is submissive, aggressive or assertive.
If one is brought up by caregivers that have boundaries and are aware and empathic; it will be conducive to assertive behaviour being formed. And being brought up with caregivers that don’t have functional boundaries are not empathic or aware; it is likely to lead to submissive and aggressive behaviour.
And this is because the behaviour that one has in latter life, as dysfunctional and disempowering as it may be, is often what ensured ones survival as a child. So if one had caregivers that operated with no boundaries and as a result were abusive, it would have meant that one had to act in these two extremes to cope with the environment stressors.
The reaction one has to this behaviour will define the behavioural tendencies that one has in latter life. So, one person may end playing the role of the submissive victim in most situations; because of the fear of being hurt. And another may go to the other extreme and be aggressive: as a way to avoid being treated in the same way again.
These two types of peoples will often see and create the same situations again and again. And this will be interpreted as normal to the ego mind and that’s because it represents ones earliest experiences. The past is being projected onto the present.
As one lets go of the past, it will lead to a change in behaviour and in how one feels within. When this happens, one can begin to feel safe enough to be assertive. To have a choice to decide what will be the best course of action; Instead of reacting to past memories.
The assistance of a good therapist or coach can speed this process up. As the mind starts to change, so will ones reality.
When I first saw the trailer to this film I thought it looked like the kind of film that is rarely made. Ang Lee came up as the director, and it appeared to be the ultimate adventure. After seeing the trailer I soon forgot about the film until I decided to go the cinema and it was showing. My expectations were neutral and open to what I might find.
After watching the film for the first time I was amazed at how visually appealing it was and impressed with the quality of the story. On the second time of watching I began to wonder what metaphors were in the film. At first I saw one and shortly after a theme started to emerge. I would say that the metaphorical pattern that runs through the film is about letting go.
These psychological aspects and metaphors of the film are my personal view and are based on my own interpretation of what these metaphors and psychological aspects are and there meaning. They are in no way the right or only interpretation, they are just my view.
This will mean that I will miss out certain parts and only describe what stood out for me and what I felt was significant. There will also be parts that I don’t understand and that will also be a reason as to why it has not been mentioned. This will also mean that it will not be like a story board and that I won’t be describing the whole story.
So with the disclaimer of sorts out of the way, let’s begin.
Finding His Religion
Here we see that Pi Patel is searching for the religion that suits him and one that answers the questions that he has. This ranges from him looking for answers in the Christian teachings, Hinduism teachings and to the Muslim teachings. This culminates with him telling his parents that he wants to be christened.
It is also around this time that his father Santosh (Adil Hussain) shares his opinions on religion to Pi and his brother. And what becomes clear is that his father is against religion. He is more into reason and what can be proven by science. His mother Gita (Tabu) on the other hand is more accepting of Pi’s behaviour.
So here we can see that Pi wants to break away from what he has been told and to find a way of life that fits him. Not one that has simply been handed down from his family. This is an example of Pi looking for new answers so that he can let go of the answers that have been given to him.
While Pi’s father Santosh (Adil Hussain) represented the masculine side his mother represented the feminine side. The masculine is represents: attachment, acquiring and logic for example. The feminine is to do with: letting go, detachment and intuition. Both are of course necessary and needed for a balanced life.
The Music Teacher
Pi is asked to stand in for a music teacher and here he is attracted to one of the dancers. And being the highly curious individual that he is, he follows her with the intention of finding out the meaning of one of the dance moves.
He takes her to the zoo and while they are at the tiger cage he interprets the tiger’s behaviour to mean something. The dancer then explains that what the tiger was doing meant something completely different. We then see Pi opening up to this new way of perceiving the tigers behaviour and letting go of the idea that he has.
The relationship that they have is short lived as Pi has to go with his family to Canada. So he has to let go of this relationship and move on not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
Pi is forced to wakes up in the night due to the noise that is coming from outside the ship. He goes outside with a sense of excitement, but this is soon changed to fear and panic. The ship is sinking and his family are trapped on board. Pi has no choice but to get onto a boat and leave the ship.
This is another example of letting go and probably the most painful experience, as he is letting go of his family. Pi (Suraj Sharma) already had to let go of the place that he knew so well and now he has to let go of the people that he knew so well and loved; so now he has lost both. He could have stayed on the boat and waited for his family, but in order to survive he had to let go.
On the Boat
The next challenge for Pi (Suraj Sharma) is not only to survive on a boat and in the middle of nowhere; he also has to handle a Bengal tiger known as Charlie parker. At first Pi doesn’t know what to do and is controlled by the tiger. As time goes by Pi manages to trains the tiger to do as he says. He also here mentions that the tiger keeps him alert and alive.
To me the tiger is a metaphor for what is known as the inner critic and the conscience. I see the tiger as being an externalised version of Pi’s father. For example: He was critical of Pi’s search for the right religion and came down on him strongly for trying to feed the tiger. Discipline and rules were also passed on from his father.
And through these two events and many others Pi had no choice but to internalise these experiences and they become part of what formed his conscious as well his father’s critical voice taking root internally.
In the very beginning his father’s influence was strong, but over time he began to let go of this inner voice. This meant that Pi took control and was no longer being controlled by the father that lived inside. The behaviour of the tiger mirrored this inner transformation and outer peace reflected the inner piece that Pi had.
It wasn’t all negative though, as by having his father’s strong critical voice within, it allowed Pi to have the discipline to survive the whole ordeal.
On The Island
After being at sea for so long Pi and Charlie parker end up on a floating island. At first glance it seems like the perfect island; with its fresh water and peaceful surroundings. The only inhabitants are meerkats.
However Pi soon finds out that even though the island is paradise in the day it becomes the opposite during the night time. And as soon as the night is over they both leave the island.
The letting go that soon happens here does not create any problems for Pi and this is because although pleasure was there so was pain. And pleasure and pain are what the ego mind lives on.
The ego mind can become comfortable with pain if it becomes familiar. This is demonstrated by the frog in the saucepan analogy. Whereas the heat is turned up slowly the frog doesn’t notice it, if it was turned up straight away the frog would jump out.
And as these two sides are experienced so close together and in such extremes it doesn’t allow Pi to get attached and letting go is then a natural occurrence. If he hadn’t of let go, he would have certainly died.
They Arrive In Mexico
The journey comes to an end when they arrive in Mexico. Charlie Parker leaves the boat and enters the jungle. Pi says he was upset as he left so unceremoniously.
As Pi had let go of so much, this was surely the final good bye and the last physical attachment he had to where he had come from.
In the hospital he is interviewed by two Japanese men that work for the shipping company. Pi tells them the story, but they don’t believe it. They want a story that sounds believable. So he has to deny the story he has and make up a new one.
I would say that this is a metaphor for repression. In order to let go we need to face what has happened. If we run away from it and deny it, it will just become repressed. And this means that we hold on and don’t let go.
At the end of the story Pi is with the Writer (Rafe Spall) and talks about one of the lessons of life being to let go. It is here that Pi detaches form the story and gives his meaning on what it was about. When the Writer asks what the meaning of the story is Pi says why does it have to mean anything and that it’s his story now. So at the end he emotionally lets go of the story.
The writer could be a reflection of Pi’s mother that was internalised and become his inner nurturing voice. She listened to Pi and accepted him. This meant he didn’t have to act or pretend around his mother; he could be himself. And the writer allowed Pi express his truth it enabled him to finally let go of the past.
At one level the film is a great adventure story. It can be perceived as being a film of great loss, strength and courage. And while it is all these things, I believe it is a great example of one of the greatest and often the hardest lessons of life - Letting go.
There were situations where letting go was incredibly stressful and painful for Pi. This included leaving India and leaving his family on the ship. If he had stayed on the boat or on the island, Pi would have died and not have made it to Canada. And had Pi stayed in India he may never have learnt the importance of letting go.
This is something that all humans can relate to. Letting go is rarely easy and yet it is part of life. Sometimes it could be letting go of someone or something that cannot be replaced. And at other times it is about letting go of what no longer serves us.
As the ego minds identity is comprised of what is familiar; letting go is the last thing that it wants to do. What is familiar is what is classed as safe to the ego mind, and it would rather die than let go. And letting go is associated as death to the ego mind. So this doesn’t leave much room for change.
This is why awareness is so important. If one is unaware of this dynamic change is unlikely to occur. Through being aware one can often minimise the amount of pain that is experienced.
The power that I am talking about here is personal power. And this is more about the power that one has over oneself than it is about having power over others. Another term that is often used for this is self control.
And although having power can lead to having influence over others, this is purely a by-product and not a reflection of power per se.
When one has personal power they will know that they have an effect on their environment. Here they will have the ability to influence other people’s behaviour. Now, this may not always lead to what one wants, but the knowing that one has an effect will be there.
For the person that feels powerless, it comes from a perspective that one does not have an effect on their environment. However, this doesn’t’ necessarily relate to all situations. While one person may feel empowered in one area of life, when it comes to another area they may feel powerless.
Or it could be a general feeling of being powerless and this will mean that it will affect ones behaviour in a variety of ways.
The Inner Experience
Internally this will lead to different feelings, thoughts, emotions and sensations. Feeling powerless is the obvious feeling and then one can also feel: depressed, hopeless, frustrated and angry. Anger is often the result of one feeling that they have been compromised. And if one feels powerless then compromise will be a common experience; so it is the not much of a surprise if this person feels deep anger.
The Outer experience
If one feels powerless within it may seem that they will appear that way without. But this does not always happen. This can lead one to wanting to control others and to go to the other extreme of being in complete control of their environment.
For some it will lead to these internal feelings being clearly visible to the outside world. This could be in form of one always appearing as the victim, unfortunate and as a slave to circumstances.
Dysfunctional examples of this are dictators, tyrants and extremely controlling people; these are people who, out of their own sense of powerlessness, need to control everyone and everything as a way to cover up what they feel within.
What control does is allow for one to regulate these inner aspects. And yet if one feels these things within, it will not matter what goes on outside. No matter how much one consumes, in terms of possessions or people, it will never last or be enough power.
So if we were to round up two groups of adults, one group who feel empowered and another group that feel disempowered; on the surface there is probably not a lot of difference. What will be different are the perceptions that they have.
Physically they are all adults and when it comes to their mental and emotional sides there is a difference. One group perceives the world through the eyes of an adult and the other through the eyes of child.
When the past has not been processed or dealt with, it will lead to one regressing to the past. And to one perceiving the present based on associations that were formed when one was very young.
At these moments it becomes extremely difficult for one to be present and to see that they do have an effect.
It is during the time when was one was a child and before then as a baby that will have a big influence on how empowered one feels or doesn’t feel as an adult. These moments will lay down the internal perceptions that one has of their sense of power.
And how empathic ones caregivers were as a child will play a massive role here. The needs that a baby has can only be met through the caregiver; the child does have the ability to meet them.
This does not mean that the caregiver has to be tuned into every need that the baby has, it simply means that the caregiver needs to be generally aware of them.
When the baby’s needs are responded to, it will begin to see that is has an effect on its environment. That the world responds and listens to its needs and that people can be trusted and relied upon to be there.
Perhaps the caregiver was treated this way themselves or because they decided that they were not going to treat their child in the same way that they were treated.
This will enable the baby to grow into an adult that feels a healthy sense of empowerment. As it feels this within, it will not need to have power over others as a way to feel powerful because it will already feel that way within.
If the baby’s needs are generally ignored and denied, it will experience the sensations of having no control and extreme pain. It will begin to form associations that the world doesn’t respond to its needs and that people cannot be trusted or relied upon to be there.
This is typically because the caregiver is responding the child in the same way that its caregivers responded to them. And out of a lack of awareness; they same behaviour is being played out once more.
As a result of this the baby is likely to grow into an adult that has no sense of empowerment. And as a result of this deep wound, the only form of power can appear to be over others.
These experiences then become internalised and this creates ones perceptions. So even though one can be an adult, as described above, through the internalisation of these early experiences one can feel that they have no power.
The past may be long gone, but its lives within one’s mind. And this means that it will not be possible to feel a sense of power and to respond to life based on that sense. It will only be possible to create the same story all over again.
The ego mind will feel comfortable with this story, because even though it is dysfunctional, it is familiar. And familiar is what is classed as safe to the ego mind. It may seem to be how life is and that there is no other option.
How things were and the story that this created doesn’t have to control one’s life. And with awareness one can begin to realise that their present life doesn’t have to be the recycled past.
This is done from within; no matter what one achieves without or what one sees, unless the understanding is from the inside that one does have power, it won’t matter.
There are many resources out there to assist with this, from books to therapists. What matters is finding what works for oneself.
This is something that can come under many names, from self esteem, to self worth, self belief and confidence. And no matter what words are used, what it ultimately comes down to is the feeling or sense of being enough.
Here one feels that who they are is enough, and this relates to who they are as a person and is not based on what they have done or will do. In many ways it could be described as a state of mind or being, as opposed to certain external requirements being met or fulfilled.
Although some people may have this inner sense of being enough, for a great many people, this doesn’t exist. While one may want to feel enough; the ego mind mind can create all kinds of resistance.
And as the mind is automatic, it will always respond with reasons why one is not good enough and it will supply all the answers as to what needs to be done to be good enough.
The reasons and answers that the mind gives out can appear to be the absolute truth and as facts of life. And this is largely due to these inner experiences being so familiar and normal.
Because one has become so acquainted with them, they no longer appear as imposters. One is then controlled by what doesn’t actually belong there.
These feelings, thoughts, emotions, sensations and the behaviour that these lead to, had to come from somewhere. Two of these influences are the early childhood environment and the society that one is brought up in.
In is through these experiences that one forms their perceptions on: who they are and who they are not; and if they are enough or if they are not.
The power that society has on people cannot be denied or ignored. And this power probably goes back to the days of tribes; where tribes were needed to survive. Of course, this is no longer the case, however the mind generally responds in the same way.
In the society that one lives in there are certain things that one must be, do or have in order to feel that they are enough. The message is: If these requirements are met, then one can feel content with who they are.
And if one doesn’t have these things then they are not enough. Perhaps one has a few of these things and yet until one has them all, there may be a tendency to feel great unease until they are acquired.
Some people are more vulnerable than others when it comes to being affected by the pressures that society presents; while others are able to hold their own in the face of these challenges. It could be said that the people who are not as affected are the ones who have what society values.
But there are many examples of people having all that society holds in such esteem and yet still feel that they are not enough. People can have the looks, the money, and the power and still suffer from the inner experience of not being enough.
When it comes to the physical world, if there is a bottle or a container that is low on liquid, the logical thing would be to pour more in. So if one feels that they are not enough, it again feels logical that with more success or achiement one will feel that they are enough.
And this is what society is telling us either literally or symbolically. The trouble here, is that the ego mind doesn’t respond in the same way that an empty container will.
If one feels that they are not enough it can lead to two extremes being acted put. On one side there is the person that fights their feelings of not being enough and achieves success. And then there is the person that just gives up and doesn’t challenge the feeling. One could also alternate between the two.
Feelings of great power can come and go, as can feelings of depression, worthlessness, hopelessness, powerlessness and anger and frustration.
No matter whether one has achieved what looks like success in the external world or if they have achieved very little, the same feelings will rarely be far away.
The person who doesn’t feel good enough may deal with their emotions through eating, drinking, sabotaging their relationships in some way, putting up with relationships that don’t honour who they are, compromising themselves in certain situations and many other ways.
To achieve constant success and achievement in the eyes of the world can be another way that one regulates their feelings of not being good enough.
And like the first option, it rarely lasts and before long the feeling will return once more. This is why extreme pain is often an effective motivator when it comes to attaining success.
Although society does play its part, as people are often already vulnerable to begin with it is a lot easier for the society to influence people. If people felt enough, they would be less likely to fall for these illusions and dysfunctional ideas. And this is where ones childhood years come into the equation.
The way that one perceives themselves is largely the result of the childhood that they had. If one is looking externally to feel enough and internally feels that they are not; it probably shows that when they were a child they were not loved for who they are.
And this would have reflected how ones caregivers felt themselves; with them projecting onto the child what they felt. This could have ranged from numerous moments of: abuse, neglect, obligation, conditional love, criticism, rejection, abandonment and many other things.
These could have been from one end of the spectrum and fairly mild, to the other and being extremely traumatic. The child then internalised these experiences over many years and had no choice but to take it personally.
As a result of these ideas and projections that were once external, becoming internal and identified with, one can spend the rest of their life being affected by them.
These internal processes can only run one’s life for as long as they go unnoticed. And if one feels that they are not enough it is not the truth, it is simply another person’s opinion.
The ego mind often sees life through a hierarchical point of view; with this leading to one feeling inferior or superior. If one was brought up to feel good enough through what they did and not who they were; then this internal model was probably created.
When it comes to the heart there is no hierarchy, it doesn’t exist. And this is surely because duality is a product of the mind. Through this point of view one not only sees it internally, but also externally.
In order for change to occur these dysfunctional ideas have to be faced directly. And by facing them head on in some form of therapy or even a book for example, ones perspectives will change.
It has been said that a sense of self is an illusion and that it is simply an idea. Regardless of this viewpoint and any other point of view that is similar; it is clear that having a sense of self makes a big difference and that ideas are powerful.
I wouldn’t describe a sense of self as fixed, to me it is something that can change over time as one grows and expands. It is an inner knowing of ‘I know who I am and I know who I am not’. This could also be described as an inner certainty.
My Current View
These descriptions are not to be taken as the complete or only truth, they are simply my current understanding of what a sense of self is and what is it not. And of what creates a strong sense of self and what doesn’t.
A Sense Of Self
He we have an individual that has a strong inner world. This is not to say that these people are introverts, they can just as easily be extroverts. And just as they can seek the advice of others; they also listen to what comes from within. Their personal needs, wants and desires will be known and generally taken care of.
They know the difference between their: thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations and the thoughts, feelings and emotions of another person. What they are responsible for and what they are not for responsible for is largely clear to them.
Boundaries are another important part of having a strong sense of self. This means that one knows where they begin and end and where another begins and ends. And as a result of this one can say yes and no when it is required; instead of no when they should say yes and yes when they should say no.
Having the ability for self regulation is also available for these people. This means that how they feel is not purely based on how others respond. They have an inner ability to sooth and regulate their emotional experiences. And they attract others who can assist in this.
Here one will appreciate their strengths and accept their weakness and through accepting oneself more, one will come to accept others more. This also doesn’t mean that one will get on with everyone.
They will appreciate and value themselves enough not to engage in consistent comparisons or trying to be someone else. And this value is from their connection to their inner nature and not depended or reliant on achieving certain things or gaining the approval of certain people.
Self control will be the primary type of control that is valued and not the control over others or nature. Seeing that one is part of a whole and not separate will also lead to a more harmonious existence. One has value and is important and yet inherently, no more important or valuable than any other person.
And by having a rich inner world, one will be able to enjoy being by themselves as much as being with others. One may be alone, but this doesn’t mean they will be lonely. Being centred and at ease within, will lead to one not being completely swayed by the dramas of the external world.
Although assisting others in some form will be a consequence, this will not be done in a way that one compromises themselves. It will be done in a way that not only nourishes others, but also leads to self nourishment.
Being fairly present and living in the moment, will be a place that one is used to experiencing; without being enslaved to the past and to reactive and self defeating behaviour.
Weak Sense Of Self
It would be easy to assume that people with a weak sense of self are low achievers and come across as being completely different to people with a strong sense of self. However, this is not always the case. As there will likely be moments when people with a strong sense of self lose their centre and people with a weak sense of self gain one; if only for a brief period.
When ones sense of self is weak or nonexistent, all kinds of mental and emotional problems can ensue. And the world of psychology has many names for these; with the borderline personality disorder often being used.
A big challenge here will be boundaries. Knowing where one begins and ends and other people begin and end will be unclear. This will lead to one not knowing the difference between ones: thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations and what other peoples are. Another name for this is what they call enmeshment; where one feels emotionally and mentally part of another person. Feeling empty, invisible and that one doesn’t exist are also consequences.
This can lead to being controlled by others and also trying to control others; with one also projecting their own issues onto others people. Seeing in others what they have denied and repressed in themselves.
People that are described as empaths, who pick up the psychic content of others and often feel overwhelmed and burnt out as a result; have trouble with boundaries
Having a sense of personal power, self love and self control is often unknown to these people; with other people being looked up to and worshipped. This can be a reason for people who are religious; with power and guidance always existing externally.
Terms that are used in the place of valuing and appreciating oneself are often arrogance and being egotistical; with the ego minds reliance on external stimulus, the name false self, is often used.
And as the ability for self regulation rarely exists, the form of regulation available is through gaining the approval and acceptance of others, eating, drinking, drugs, shopping and other things. The outside world will often completely define who one is and who one is not.
Another way to regulate these inner processes, albeit for a short time, is to achieve massive success in the world. Gaining: wealth, power, status and influence can do this.
Ones needs, wants and desires will often be second hand and cut off from what truly leads to personal fulfilment. This person will often look to help others, while compromising their own self and all for the external approval that this leads to.
Black And White
What I have described above is extremely black and white and this is rarely what happens in reality. And so the above is just a rough guide. People with a weak sense of self are not all destructive; they can do a lot of good in the world. Just as people can go from having a sense of self to not having one
Some of the people who have a weak sense of self can be: dictators, narcissists, psychopaths and tyrants, but this is not always the case. They can also be the people who have given a lot to the world and helped a lot of people. And that will of course depend on many others factors.
What often sets these two apart is the kind of nurturing that they received in the beginning of their life. As a baby, one has no sense of individuality and only knows oneself in relationship to the primary caregiver. No boundaries exist and at this stage they are not relevant. As the primary caregiver is there to give the baby what it needs.
This is achieved through empathically tuning into the baby. Recognising the needs of the baby, as the baby cannot do this through words at this stage; which is why it is important for the caregiver to be empathic.
Now, if the needs are recognised by the caregiver, the baby can begin to see that it is separate from the caregiver. Through having these needs validated, and acknowledged, it will become clear that this is the case. The baby’s sense of personal power will also begin to develop as a result.
When It Doesn’t
If ones caregiver is unempathic, due to emotional suffering or an abusive past for example, then this process will inevitably be affected. This is unless another figure is available to supply the empathic care. Here the baby’s needs will generally be ignored and the focus will be diverted to the needs and wants of the caregiver.
This will then lead to the baby having to deny its own needs; which will lead to feelings of incredible: powerlessness, hopelessness and pain. And as a result of this, it will not come to see that it has a sense of self and is separate from the caregiver. It will be conditioned to look outside and to ignore what is inside. This can lead to incredible suffering for the baby and to consequences that can last a lifetime once the baby becomes an adult.
As I have said above, these descriptions are not black and white and neither will they relate to everyone in the way that I have described them. And yet when it comes to describing the different elements, using this format can lead to self reflection; with one coming to their own conclusion.
Unless there is awareness, nothing can change. And through being self aware, one can let go off what they are not and be who they want to be. The type of assistance that one may need will depend on ones requirements and history. Therapy may be needed or something similar.
There are people who have relationships that are generally: supportive, secure, loving and what could be described as functional. And there are others who are in relationships that are: unhealthy, dysfunctional, disempowering and even abusive.
Now, for people in the first description, this is often what is normal to them. And based on the outsiders perspective they could be portrayed as lucky and fortunate. And all kinds of things can be used to justify why they have these types of relationships.
It could be due to how attractive they are, or how intelligent they are or something similar. These points of view often come from what is visible to the human eye and what has been defined, often through societal conditioning, as what leads to a healthy relationship.
And for the person who has relationships that are similar to the second description; they are also what will feel normal to them. These are the people are often labelled as unlucky and unfortunate.
For these people it can often be put down to circumstances and how they have no choice. It may be that it’s the other people who are the problem. Society will often name these people as victims and having no choice in what is occurring.
If one were to drive to place where there are traffic lights and on the first occasion that this happened they were on red and then on the subsequent occasions they were on red again; it may appear that the lights were against one. And that there was no order to when they would be on or off.
One might then believe that one is either lucky or unlucky as to whether the light was on red. This means that some people would be lucky to get green and others would be unlucky to get red. As the ego mind takes things personally; it could seem that the lights had some kind of hidden agenda.
But if one were to observe the patterns that the light has; it would be quite clear that each of the traffic lights has a set period of time when it will go onto a certain colour. It is not personal; it is simply doing what is has been programmed to do.
The Ego Mind
And without wanting to influence the meaning that one has taken from this analogy; this relates to the ego minds way of working. Because on one side there are clear patterns in relationships and on the other it is easy to take what happens in ones relationships personally.
These patterns are there because they have been associated, though years of programming, as what is familiar and therefore safe to the ego mind. And as a result of this, the ego mind will likely take the patterns personally. This means that if one is identified with the mind, one will feel that this is who they are. To the ego mind, whatever is classed as familiar, will be what one sees as their identity.
So the only reason these relationship patterns are there is not because this is who one is or that its ones nature; it is simply because they have become what is classed as familiar. And in order to change the patterns that one has, one has to change the minds associations of what is safe.
The patterns that one has in their relationships can range from many different roles being played. This could be:
· To feel continually victimised
· Being taken advantage of
· To having to constantly compromise
· Having ones needs ignored and denied
· Routinely feeling rejected and abandoned
· Being controlled and having no choice
· Feeling invisible and that one doesn’t exist
· Having to put up with mental, emotional and/or physical abuse
· Fearing intimacy and closeness
· Feeling powerless
If ones relationships are looked at individually and are perceived as who one is, it will be difficult to notice presence of patterns. By stepping back and looking at ones time line of relationships, a better understanding of what patterns are in place will begin to appear.
This may be something one can do through remembering what happened in their mind or writing down the experiences that one has had within the different relationships throughout their life. It is then likely that specific feelings and thoughts will appear again and again.
Once one is aware of what these patterns are, actions can then be taken to change these patterns of behaviour and the internal processes that go along with it.
The ego mind will not take this lying down though; there will be conflict that arises. Because through the mind associating these patterns and familiar and safe; they are then what feels normal.
And although consciously we may want to change these patterns, to the ego mind it will feel uncomfortable to go against these patterns. On the surface this may sound ridiculous, but then the ego minds primary motivation is survival. And if ones ego mind has associated these dysfunctional patterns as what will lead to that; then it is inevitable that it will resist all attempts to change them; no matter how destructive they are.
And the longer these patterns have been around for, the harder it is to change them. These patterns are probably the only way that one has experienced life and this means that it seems like nothing more than a dream to have relationships that are fulfilling,
The way that one perceives relationships and the behaviour that one has in relationships, largely comes from how they were treated as a child. As a child, one is helpless, needy and completely reliant on caregivers.
And how the primary caregiver responds to these needs will go a long way in setting ones relationship patterns for the rest of their life. Was one: acknowledged, soothed, cared for, mirrored and regulated on a basis that was generally consistent? Or was one: rejected, abandoned, smothered or ignored on a fairly consistent manner?
These early experiences will often define what one expects from relationships in latter life. This will be from all types of relationships that one will encounter. And no matter where one goes on this planet; these expectations will go with them.
And as I mentioned above, because they were ones first experiences, they end up as what our ego mind associated as familiar.
One can only trapped by these patterns if they are unaware of them. Here one will carry on acting in the same way and the same story will continue.
With awareness, ones relationships can change for the better. Many years ago I heard Tracy Holloway say ‘Awareness is not enough’. And this of course depends on how one is affected by it.
Often we become aware and we can still act, think and feel the same and this is due to the nature of the mind: with the unconscious mind being what needs to change and not just the conscious.
This is why therapies that target the unconscious mind can be so effective in creating change.
Emotional security is something that few individuals have and what many would like to have; for the latter, it often seems elusive and hard to come by. And that’s if one has even challenged their instability; for these people it may appear to be how life is and this means that it is often accepted.
If one is emotional insecure it is going to affect many areas of life. There is of course the inner stress that will be created and this will then lead to outer stress. So, the inner instability that one feels always has the potential to increase through the combination of the two sides.
Moments Of Insecurity
There are moments in life where one will feel insecure. This could be after the loss of a loved one, during a time of illness or a relationship that has come to an end. These could be described as part of the human experience, but these are very different to the feeling of being emotionally insecure on a regular basis.
When it comes to noticing insecurity, it can be easy to spot through another’s behaviour. However, through certain behavioural patterns being used, what’s going on inside can just as easily be covered up.
It is also possible for one to have certain habits or tendencies that cover up their insecurities. And this can be done so automatically that it is out of one’s conscious awareness and soon passes without the slightest recollection.
While this may be true for some people and at certain times for others, there will be times when this approach is unsuccessful. And this can lead to a whole myriad of internal experiences being triggered.
The emotions that can make up this inner experience can range from being slightly uncomfortable to extremely overwhelmed. This will depend on many factors; from how strong the emotions are, where one is and to who one is with.
Feelings of: rejection, abandonment, shame, anxiety, guilt, anger, frustration, betrayal, hopelessness and fear are some of the primary ones. And each can create a different internal experience.
A term that is often used in spirituality is being grounded or ungrounded. When one feels grounded they feel connected, that they belong in this world and are at peace with themselves and life. If one feels emotionally unstable, this will likely lead the experience of being ungrounded.
Noticing emotional instability is a lot easier to do through observing behaviour. People who behave in ways that are consistent and reliable are often classed as stable; with inner insecurity being deemed as the reasons for inconsistent and unreliable behaviour.
When one is needy and desperate to be in a relationship, this is another sign of feeling insecure within and based on the intention that motivated one to seek a relationship in the beginning; it often leads to a dysfunctional relationship being formed.
However, it is just as easy for one to avoid relationships altogether; as way to avoid certain feelings being brought up and experienced.
Seeking the advice of another person or people is part of life and yet if this is taken to the extreme, it can reflect inner instability. For example, when one is reliant on the views of other people and avoids making their own choices, one doesn’t have to face their uncertainties.
This could be why people are often affected by what they are exposed to through the media; it simply taps into insecurities that already exist within.
There is either self control or there is the control that one has through controlling another human being. Now, there are naturally extremes to this kind of behaviour. And if one feels certain emotions and feelings within, controlling another person is one way of dealing with these insecurities
Groups And Organisations
When one feels internally unstable, there is often the tendency for the ego mind to seek the complete opposite. And this is where certain groups and organisations come into this. They provide all that one does not have within.
And this then helps to repress and cover up these internal feelings. Perhaps this is why people become addicted and attached to certain religions and societies.
When one consumes certain foods, there is not only the physical wholeness that is created; there is also the emotional wholeness. Food has many benefits when it comes to creating short term emotional stability.
In the modern day world, exercise is hugely popular for people of all ages and backgrounds. A word that is often talked about is endorphins: this is known as the happy chemical and it is released during exercise.
Emotions and feelings can be repressed in the short term through exercise and lead to opposite feelings being formed for a short while.
There are the obvious benefits that sex can bring, such as: pleasure, stress relief, sharing of love and reproduction. But what sex also does is provide short term emotional stability. Although it may not last very long; what it does do is create an instant and powerful experience.
Many years ago alcohol was used to numb oneself to physical pain, this was before drugs came to the fore, as it still is today in certain situations. Hoverer, the pain that it is numbing these days is rarely physical pain; it is largely emotional pain.
These provide an incredibly powerful way of changing ones state of mind. The trouble is they are short term solutions and through the law of diminishing returns; the amount has to be increased in order to create the same experience.
Whether it is these that I have described above, or any of the other options that this world provides, they are leading to short term emotional regulation. By themselves, they are fairly neutral and can be part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
And while they are short term benefits, they are unlikely to lead to long term solutions. If they are the only things that are used, it can lead to one going to the extreme and being addicted to such things.
Blame And Reasonability
It would be easy to blame and to point the finger at these external sources; to describe them as the problem and that regulations and law’s need to be brought in. And although this is often what happens, these options are simply fulfilling a need.
If more people had the ability to regulate their emotions or were more centred, then these external options wouldn’t be needed as much.
In The Beginning
It is what happens in the very beginning of one’s life that will often define whether one can emotionally regulate themselves and if they grow up to be a centred human being.
In the world of psychology they often use the term attachment style to describe the kind of relationship one had to their primary caregiver. And the quality of this early care is likely to define how secure one feels as an adult.
What will go a long way to creating this secure attachment is if the caregiver is secure themselves. If they are, it will then be possible for them to tune into the needs of the child. And whenever the child feels uncomfortable emotions or sensations, the caregiver will be able to respond.
The Childs experiences are then being mirrored, supported and acknowledged by the caregiver and through these experiences, the child begins to identify and then internalise this model. This also creates positive relationship expectations that are programmed into the child’s brain and these will likely be taken into adulthood.
On the other hand, if this is not the case and one is brought up by a caregiver that is emotionally insecure, this will probably be what they internalised. Due to the caregiver being unresponsive and emotionally cut off, it may have resulted in one being left to deal with their emotions without any assistance.
The above is just a rough guide and one that can cause one to start asking questions. There are whole books dedicated to the early attachment and how this influences ones adult life. This all starts with awareness and as the right questions are asked, progress can be made.
One can then look for the appropriate assistance; this could be a therapist, book or some other form of help.
To be acknowledged, mirrored and validated are psychological needs that we all have. This is a perfectly normal and natural part of being human and something that is vital for mental and emotionally stability. And like most things in life, there can be extremes and when this healthy requirement is taken to the extreme; it can lead to dysfunctional behaviour.
This could be a person who is constantly seeking attention from any one that will give it or it could be someone who seeks attention during certain times in their life.
So here I will give my current views on what I believe are some of the causes of attention seeking behaviour. This is not to be taken as the complete or only truth. It is simply what I have come to conclude at this time in my life.
There will be times in one’s life when it will be fairly normal to seek attention in a way that is out of character. Here one will seek more attention then they normally would and this will be especially visible to the peoples closest to them
Examples of this are more or less anything that causes a strong emotional reaction in someone. So, this could be; when a job comes to an end, a relationship finishes, a loved one passes on, ill health, a time of transition and when letting go happens and numerous others.
Due to the likelihood of these events creating a lot more mental, physical and emotional activity than normally exists, the need for extra attention is to be expected.
For what might be the odd occasion for some people; for others, it is a regular occurrence. Here, one has a high need for attention and this is a need that never abates. And no matter how much attention this person receives and for how long it lasts; it is never enough.
It would be like having a car with a water leak; no matter how much water goes in there, it is never full. The car has water passing through and yet this is short lived. Because once it has gone through the piping, it goes straight back out again. There is no build up of water; nothing is retained.
How this shows up can depend on many different factors. This could be the result of one’s age, gender, upbringing and social status.
For women this can often relate to their femininity and physical beauty and can include, but is not limited to: dressing in a way that draws excessive attention to their body, i.e. wearing excessively provocative clothing, large amounts of makeup and aloof behaviour.
And for men this could relate to their masculinity and physical strength and range from talking about how many women they have been with, to how much weight they can lift and many other things.
However, it is just as common for women to engage in masculine forms of seeking attention and for men to participate in feminine ways of seeking attention.
Above are examples of what could be classed as positive attention and as the ego mind works in polarities, this means there are also negative ways that the need for attention can appear.
These can range from ways that are dangerous and life threatening, to more subtle and seemingly innocent behaviours. People can develop certain illnesses as a way to gain the attention from others, playing the role of the victim in different areas of life, constantly being part of some kind of drama and many other ways.
Whether the need for attention comes out in ways that can be classed as functional or dysfunctional, there effect doesn’t usually last very long. And this is why the same behaviour is often seen again and again. It might be slightly modified from time to time, but the intentions are the same.
And so even though there is a great need for attention; it doesn’t last and it may, as strange as this sounds, be rejected. An example that demonstrates this, is of the women who dresses in a way that will attract attention and upon receiving this attention pulls away or complains at receiving so much attention
Now, while this is just one example, what it shows, is that there is inner conflict. It’s like asking for something and upon receiving it one feels the complete opposite of what one thought they would feel.
Why Is This?
What usually lives in the part of our mind that is known as the unconscious, the part that drives most of our behaviour, is the unprocessed past. And what forms most of the past are typically our childhood years. This is because our childhood is a time when our brain is forming and is more malleable that it will ever be again.
So at a conscious level, one may seek attention and crave it, but what is going on at a level out of one’s usual awareness can be against attention and reject it at all costs.
And the reason for this is that one’s ego mind has formed associations of what attention means. Because attention means something different for everyone; this is why people’s ways of gaining attention can be so different.
At a conscious level one naturally seeks attention, but the question is: what has ones ego mind associated as what attention means? And the way that one gained attention as a child will go a long way to explaining how these associations have been formed.
As a child, one probably had a way or a method that was guaranteed to gain their caregivers attention. For some this would have been doing all that one’s caregivers asked, for others this would have been to misbehave and play up.
And then there is also the dynamic of having caregivers that were distant and this meant that as a child, one would have had to work for attention, with it rarely being available otherwise.
And for others this may have involved being around caregivers that were smothering and overbearing and this meant attention made one feel compromised and even abused. It is also possible for ones upbringing to be a combination of the two, as well as one style often being utilized.
This then leads to the ego mind associating this patterns as what is familiar and this then becomes associated as what is safe to the mind. And it doesn’t matter if these ways of behaving of beneficial of functional. What the ego mind has associated as familiar is what drives our behaviour.
How This Looks
So if one had to work for attention and didn’t just receive it, the mind will have associated this as familiar. And this could then lead to people who seek attention in a way where they come across as if they are constantly trying to prove their worthiness.
For people who seek attention and then rejected it, it is probably because the attention they received as a child was destructive and overwhelming. And now, as a consequence of that, reject the attention that they desperately seek at a conscious level; with the reason one continually plays out this role, even though it is destructive, is because this was associated as familiar to the ego mind.
However, no matter how this was in the very beginning of one’s life, what is clear is that one wasn’t allowed to receive attention for being who they were. They either had to prove their worth to their caregivers or they had to take care of their caregivers need for attention and ignore their own needs (in the case of being smothered and overwhelmed)
And what these early experiences created were: thoughts, feelings, sensation and emotions. These would not have been empowering or supportive and if they are not dealt with through therapy or some other means; they would have to be dealt with in some other way.
So by constantly gaining the attention of others these inner tensions and conflicts are being regulated. This will not completely remove them; it will only ever be a short term solution and soon enough they will return once more.
In order for the behaviour to change and for one to receive attention in a functional and healthy manner, one has to change the associations that the ego mind has formed around attention.
And to begin to realise that they can receive attention without having to compromise themselves. By letting go of this inner tension and conflict, one can also begin to value who they are and as this happens the need for attention is also likely to subside.
One doesn’t need much awareness to see that consumerism is a big part of the modern day world. And depending on one’s point of view or position, it can be described as either positive of negative.
A small company or large business for example, that’s main focus is on selling physical items, might be only too happy with consumerism. However, for the consumers who are in tune with their environment; consumerism is likely to be seen as negative and dysfunctional.
The above could be classed as a stereotypical outlook; as there are now many individuals and companies that are working to conserve the environment through the use of sustainable sources. And there are also consumers who are not too concerned with the environment either.
However, my intention is not to look at whether consumerism is good or bad or right or wrong; it is to give my current view on what could be one of the causes of consumerism.
There are many causes involved and this is simply my opinion of what one of those causes might be.
Means To An End
There are a lot of products and items available that are an important and essential part of one’s life. And then there are products that are purchased for different reasons. One of these reasons is to create a change in how one feels.
This means the product per se is not necessarily needed; what is needed is the affect that the products give the individual. Here ones mental and emotional state will be altered, through acquiring a certain product or item.
Here one will be able change how they are feeling and thinking through having this item. And all or most of what is going on internally, will then be replaced and regulated through this outside influence.
Now, this may last for a short period of time or even a long period of time. But what is certain, is that it won’t be long until the next thing is needed to regulate this inner tension.
For some people this process will be a day to day occurrence, with their always being something that one needs to feel happy or content. And on the other end of the spectrum, this may be the odd occasion when one feels down and seeks the odd item to regulate themselves.
There is also the constant media influence that is trying to convince people that a certain product will lead to feeling fulfilled or to a place of happiness. This can lead one to believe that external consumption is the answer to their inner instability.
When it comes to looking at who is going to be vulnerable to these behaviour tendencies, it brings ones attention to individuals that have difficulty in regulating themselves. If one doesn’t have the ability to do this, it is only normal and natural that one would look outside of themselves.
This process will often go on out of one’s awareness; so that as soon as the tension or conflict arises, one consumes something. And before the emotion, thought, feeling or sensation has the chance to enter ones attention, it is repressed and covered up.
On one side there are the internal processes that are the result of day to day life and the challenges that it presents. These need to be regulated and dealt with in a healthy and functional way.
And on the other side, there will be internal stressors and conflicts that will be the result of unprocessed childhood trauma or stress for example.
The latter will also influence and affect the former. So by dealing with the latter, one is likely to notice a difference in the experience of the former.
By being able to regulate ones inner processes, one will have a sense of inner stability. This is not to say that this individual will always be calm and collected, it means that this person will soon return to their centre. And perhaps, if they are unable to do this for themselves, then they will feel comfortable enough to ask another for assistance.
But for the habitual consumer, this ability is not there. And just like how a drug addict is addicted to drugs, one can become addicted to extreme consumerism.
The ability to self regulate is typically formed during ones younger years. And whether one has this ability or not will largely depend on whether one was around people at a young age that could regulate them. So if ones inner processes were mirrored, validated and acknowledged by the people around them, then this ability would then have been internalised.
However, if this wasn’t the case, then as a child one would have had to deal with their emotions or thoughts in others ways. And in ways that were probably unhealthy and dysfunctional. This could have been repression, projection, denial and/or through a host of other ways.
Pleasure And Pain
If this ability hasn’t been developed in ones younger’s years, it could mean that as an adult, one will not have the ability to deal with their internal pain. Whereas a person who was regulated as a child, is highly likely to have the ability to self regulate. And the act of consuming allows one to feel pleasure and to avoid pain.
The ego mind has many defence mechanisms that it can use. And avoiding pain is its number one motivator. As I have mentioned above; sometimes this pain is years old and sometimes this pain is from a recent situation. And where this pain does come from will define what actions need to be taken.
But even though it could be pain from the past that needs to be dealt with, this can influence the present challenges in one’s life and this shows that there is no separation. One area or a time in one’s life cannot simply be separated from another; it will always contaminate the rest of one’s life.
So consumerism can be seen as another option that individuals use to deal with pain. And there are many other options available to deal with pain. Consumerism could also be a consequence of people not being in touch with their own purpose and to consume then seems like the only purpose that exists.
Giving and receiving is one of the dynamics of life. If we only take, we will be out of balance and if we only give, we will also be out of balance. And so consuming is but one side of that dynamic.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant - With Over 2,000,000 Article Views Online.
That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.