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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #20 of 52: Decision Making: Who Guides you? Ego or Christ | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #22 of 52: Memory: Past and Present »

March 28, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #21 of 52: Motivation: Why do you do what you do?

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- Each of us finds himself or herself doing certain things, so why do we do them? First, there are certain things that all of us do in common. We all desire to live and seem to fear death. To live we seek food, clothes and shelter.

The desire for physical survival is probably the greatest motivation all people have. People do just about everything they do on planet earth to procure their physical survival. Think about it; why do you work? To earn money? What is money for? To buy the things you need to physically survive. If one did not have a need to survive one would not struggle to earn a living.

Moreover, why do people tolerate social and political oppression? Why do folks accept slavery? They do so because they want to live, they want to live so much that they would tolerate other people abusing them provided they permit them to live on earth, in body. Apparently, the slave so fears death, so wants to live in body that he permits other people to abuse him physically, psychologically and in any other manner feasible.

One would think that given that life on earth is pain then we die that folks would not tolerate slavery. Death is inevitable, so why not take up arms against oppressors, fight them and, if one is killed, so what?

No, everywhere on planet earth, folks permit other people to abuse and oppress them, so long as they are permitted to physically survive, even if it means survival with psychological damages (as is the case with slaves).

The desire for physical and psychological survival is great in all human beings. People do not want their physical bodies to die; people do not want their psychological selves, the sense of I, the separated self that lives in space, time and matter, to die, so they tolerate other peoples abuse, so as to make sure that the self-concept and the self-image survives for 100 years then die, as it must.

The body has built-in mechanisms for protecting and defending itself. The body is a system of defense; it defends itself with food, medications, shelter and internal defense mechanisms such as the immune system; without defense the human body dies. Simply stated, everything that we do is to protect our bodies.

The human body is a means to an end; the body itself is not an end. There is something in the body that wants to survive. The body itself is not different from trees, animals (who also want to survive) and rocks. The same elements are found in all material and biological things on earth. There is something in animals that wants to survive through the survival of bodies.

That thing that wants to survive through the human and animal body is the human sense of self, the I, the separated self. The human self wants to live in bodies and defends body, makes sure that it does not die, so as to have the opportunity to live in bodies.

So long as a person is defending his body, that person is the separated I, the ego. As long as we identify with the separated self, the ego and house it in a body, we must defend it, for if we do not the body dies and the ego seem to die along with it. (Actually, the sense of self does not die upon our physical death. How do I know? I just know.)

Spirit is outside body and cannot be hurt by what hurts body and therefore does not need defense. Spirit is defenseless. (Body must be defensive; that is, a person who identifies with body must be defensive, for body in itself does not do any thing, is neutral and does what the self in it asks it to do.)

To be defenseless a person must deny his body and affirm his spirit. One must look at ones body and say to ones self: I am not this body and mean it literally. If one is not this body why is one defending it through food, medications, shelter, and all the things folks do on earth? It is absurd to say that one is not ones body. If one is not ones body one must not defend it.

If you did not defend your body, it would die, literally. If you did not defend the separated self, the I, it would die, literally. The separated self and the body that houses it must be defended to seem to exist. If you stopped wishing to exist in body and having a separated self and were honest and did not defend them you would find yourself die.

You would leave your body, go through a clouded area, see a point of light, enter it and become part of that light. That light has no beginning and no end. It is everywhere. It is peaceful and joyous. It is eternal. It is all knowing. That light is the home of the sons of God and their father. God and his children are one continuous light that begin nowhere and end nowhere. In that unified light self there is no you and I, there is no subject and object, no seer and seen (all are one so there is no one that is not ones self to be outside one to see; thus it is not a world of perception but a world of knowing; the knowledge of oneness and eternity).

All we need to do is posit that there is another world, the spirit world, the world of unified spirit self where all selves are literally one self and one mind. In spirit we are infinite and yet are one spirit; we all share one mind, we all have one mind, the mind of God and his children. In that oneness, each of us is in each of us and we are all in God as he is in each of us.


The founder of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, and his followers had ideas on what motivates people. According to Freud, we are born with Id, (and, later, develop Ego and Superego). The Id is sort of like Instincts (of Sex, Pleasure Aggression, and Thanatos) and it motivates us. We seek food and physical pleasures like sex because of Id; we fight because of Id. The Id energy motivates us to do most of the things we do. If we do not gratify that need we feel frustrated? If we do not have sex we become obsessed with it, as hungry persons are obsessed with food; if we do not engage in sports to satisfy our aggressive energy, our aggressive energy is not given outlet so we engage in war.

Some of our Id desires obviously could not be tolerated in civilized society. If, as Freud believes, we are polymorphously sexually perverse it follows that society cannot permit the individual to exercise his sexual desires at all times, for to do so would lead to war. Imagine a situation where a man wishes to have sex with all women and makes sexual advances to his neighbor’s wife; he could be slapped very hard by the man and the result would be social conflict. To avoid and or minimize social conflict, as Freud sees it, society represses sex. As Freud sees it, society represses many things we want to do.

In time the sum of social repressions and the force repressing them in us is the Superego. The superego, as it were, is the internalized norms of ones society. Children introject and interiorize their group’s culture, which includes how they should behave in every situation they find themselves. When they behave as socially expected, they are positively reinforced, they are rewarded with praise or material things, and when they deviate from approved social norms they are negatively reinforced, sometimes punished. The superego is an individual’s internal mechanism that punishes or rewards his behaviors.

The ego acts like a referee balancing the demands of the superego and the desires of the Id. Where it is appropriate to gratify the desires of the Id the superego permits it. For example, the Id desires sex. If society permits such sexual activity, say, in marital situations, the ego gives the individual green light to go ahead and engage in it and discourages engaging in it where society disapproves it; if the individual does not listen to the ego and does whatever he likes to do he is, sooner or later, apprehended and punished by his society. Society must punish deviates lest there is anarchy and chaos in society.

According to Freud, we repress some of our ungratified Id desires into our unconscious. From there they influence our behaviors. We need to cathect what is repressed, bring it out to the conscious. In psychoanalytic psychotherapy, folks dredge material stored in the unconscious out, through free association, and the analyst analyzes them. Now, for example, the individual learns that he had desire to have sex with his mother, and if a girl with her father. The oedipal complex is resolved.

Alas Freudian psychoanalysis does not change people. Analyzed persons are still neurotic, may be talkative neurotics. Obviously, Freud was spawning a fairy tale, a mythology that has no relevance in the world of facts. His disciples, like Alfred Adler, actually, had a more empirical hypothesis on the etiology of neurosis. Adler believes that the exigencies of this world make children feel inferior and that they compensate with a desire for superiority and that the psychotic goes further than the neurotic and believes that he is, in fact, superior to other people. The neurotic knows that he is weak and merely seeks superiority but the psychotic forgets that he is weak and now thinks that he is the fiction of superior self, hence has lost touch with reality.

Adler derived his human sense of inferiority from the here and now empirical world. A child born with organ inferiority, physical and medical disorders and or social deficits may feel inadequate Vis a Vis children born with healthy bodies and into middle class families.

It is true that organ inferiority and social deficits play a role in the genesis of inferiority feeling, but they are not the only causal factor in this all too human phenomenon. As I pointed out elsewhere, we feel complete in unified spirit and when we separate from it we feel incomplete. That is to say that the spiritual factor complements Adler’s excellent etiological hypothesis.

We do not need to waste our time talking about what psychoanalysts said about the origin of human behavior for they really cannot be verified. When I was a child I played with childish things. As a young man I played with Psychoanalytic ideas. As an adult I know that they are fairy tales, so let us not waste our time with them.


Sociobiologists like Edward Wilson tell us that we are selfish and that our genes are selfish genes. Our motivation is for our selfish genes to survive. We marry and have children and work hard to support our children because we want to survive through the children. Specifically, our selfish genes want to survive through them. Okay. But why do we want to survive at all? What makes our genes selfish?

Make no mistake about it, human beings are selfish. Just look at Nigerians and you see self centeredness at work. These folks are nothing but selfishness concretized. In all my life, I have not seen a Nigerian transcend his ego self and do something altruistically, for the public good. All I see are people who take from the public to serve their personal interests and may be serve their immediate family members. Public service? That is not known in Nigerians’ vocabulary. See, they even sold their siblings into slavery, so as to obtain trinkets to adorn their filthy bodies and do not even feel guilty from that heinous and barbaric action. These people are evil through and through.

Yes, Professor Wilson of Harvard University is correct in stating that we have selfish genes that motivate us. I do not quarrel with his empiricism. In fact, I am an empiricist plus. I add the spiritual dimension to empiricism but I do not mix both of them, for they belong to different orders of reality.


Some people pursue power, others pursue wealth, yet others pursue fame and or all three. Human beings desire attention and admiration from their fellow human beings and those motivate their behaviors.

Some persons are motivated by power and glory and go into politics to become the most powerful person in their world, and tell other people what to do. May be they become as powerful as Adolf Hitler and decide people’s life and death issues; and kill whomever they do not like. Now that is ultimate power.

Some people just want money. Wealth enables folks to do most of the things they would like to do with their lives. A Bill Gates and his billions of dollars can pretty much do whatever he wants to do in this world and that is power of sorts.

The various actors and actresses are admired all over the world. Think Movies, think Brad Pitts, Leonardo Dicapri etc and that is fame and power of sorts.


Abraham Maslow posited a formal hypothesis of what motivates people; he called it Hierarchy of needs scale. As he sees it, people are motivated by five things, in order of importance: physical, safety, social, esteem, self actualization and spiritual.

Each person has physical needs for food, clothing and shelter. Those are the primary needs and must be satisfied before other needs are pursued. Once they are satisfied, then the individual seeks the protection of his physical body; he wants to feel secure in his person; thus the pursuit of security is the next order of needs.

Once safety needs are met, the individual wants to make sure that people around him like him; he seeks social approval and does what gets it for him; every person wants to belong to a social group.

Once social needs are met the individual seeks positive self esteem and respect from other people. He wants to be seen as a very important person by people in his world and does what he believes would bring their positive estimation.

When the lower four needs are met, the individual seeks to actualize whatever he believes is his potential, his nature. Each of us, apparently, has inherent potentialities, some capabilities we either came to this world with or learn and want to actualize them. For example, one may sense that one has understanding of human nature and undertakes to write about it and in doing so actualize ones potential.

Ultimately, Maslow believes that we ask existential questions like wanting to know who we are and where we came from etc. These types of questions tend to lead to searching for our origin and that may mean paying attention to spiritual matters. Maslow was influenced by Oriental religions and equated his idea of being with Buddhism’s oneness, the sense of union with all Being and the sense of bliss derived from that Nirvana.

Other psychologists have speculated on human motivation. However, I have said enough for you to try to figure out why you do what you do. We do not need to do the whole literature review here. Instead of doing a literature review, I will merely posit a hypothesis for you to consider.


In spirit, human beings were in a state of completion and perfection. Another way of putting it is that in God human beings were completed and perfect; in the whole human beings, parts of the whole, felt completed.

When we separated from the whole, when we separated from God, in pursuit of separated identities, each of us feels little.

On earth, human beings are characterized by a feeling of littleness, incompleteness, imperfection, in Alfred Adler’s psychological categories, a feeling of inferiority. On earth each child begins out his existence by feeling inferior and inadequate. (To feel inadequate and inferior, he must have known their opposites; he knew their opposites, adequacy, completeness, perfection etc in heaven, in God).

Since our natural state (in spirit) is completion and perfection, we cannot really accept a feeling of littleness and inferiority.

Moreover, to adapt to the exigencies of this tough world requires pursuit of Power, as Adler pointed out. The individual needs power to enable him cope with his physical and social environment. He must master his world or his world masters him. Without power he cannot adapt to his world and would die. Power is a necessary instrument for surviving on this very impersonal world.

A human child, and for that matter, all animals react to their perceived sense of inferiority with pursuit of superiority. All human beings initially feel inferior and desire to seem superior.

To drive my points home, I will draw from my personal experience, not because I am narcissistic, vain and attention seeking, but to drive the points home, I am not talking abstraction here but facts. As a child, I felt totally inferior. I was motivated to seem superior. I struggled to seem superior. Since relative to my peers I was smart I felt superior to most of them. I used to wonder why they found what I found easy difficult. As an undergraduate student I actually used to teach graduate students their subjects. All said, I somehow fancied myself superior to most people around me. This perception of ones self as superior to other people is what Adler called neurosis.

The neurotic personality, which is all human beings, in degrees, would like to think that he is superior to other people.

If, in fact, one believes that one is superior to other people one is no longer merely neurotic (aka personality disordered) but psychotic. The psychotic (schizophrenic, deluded, manic etc) actually believes that he is superior to other people. He acts as if he is superior to other people and wants them to accept his delusion as true. Of course, other people do not accept his insanity for they know that despite our posturing we are all the same and equal. Feeling that other people do not accept his madness of superiority the deluded person feels angry at them. He sees them as demeaning his imaginary importance.

For our present purpose, the salient point is that human beings feel existentially unimportant, little and inferior and desire to seem the opposites of those negative states. They compensate with pursuit of superiority at the individual and social level. To be a human being is to feel a sense of internal minus and to desire a plus state. We are all this way; the difference is whether it is normal, neurotic or psychotic in one.

In normalcy the person feels group rooted superiority. He identifies with a group and works for his group’s superiority and to the extent that he does so he feels important. Adler called the normal person a person who works for social interest.

A neurotic, unlike the normal person, does not work for his group’s interests but for himself. He wants to seem important as an alone individual. He pursues personal superiority. In today’s psychiatric language he is personality disordered (in particular paranoid, narcissistic, antisocial personality disorders etc).

In unified spirit state, we are the same and equal and know it. To be mentally healthy one must feel perfect sameness and equality with all human beings and with all creation. The moment one feels inferior and or superior to other persons, one is not mentally healthy, one is normal, neurotic and or psychotic. All three: normal, neurotic and psychotic are states of relative insanity.

The normal person is insane but within the group insane level; the normal person is, in fact, as insane as the neurotic; the difference is that he seeks superiority within the group’s context whereas the neurotic and psychotic are seeking superiority in the individual context hence their insanity is very apparent to all. In normal persons the individual’s insanity is masked from himself and from those around him. In neurosis his madness…desire for superiority…is not masked; in psychosis the desire for superiority is overt, for the psychotic believes to be true what the neurotic merely wishes were true, that he is better than other people.

(Exactly a month ago, an Igbo brother of average intelligence told me that he is superior to me. He went on and on bragging about how he is rich, powerful and so on. He experienced transient psychosis. Ordinarily, he is a paranoid personality with intermittent explosive disorder. Generally, he seeks to seem superior to other people, but during his temporary psychosis he actually believed that he is superior to other people. I represented the humanity that makes him feel inferior and by telling me that he feels superior to me, he sort of felt good, psychotic good.

Nevertheless, one should make no mistake about it, for during his temporary delusional disorder episode, the individual could kill some one. Thus he is a dangerous person and ought to be reported to the police and watched. He felt totally little and restituted with fictional worth and in that false state felt justified in doing whatever he wanted to do, which included attacking, harming and killing people. People kill out of a state of insanity. In sanity they can only love their fellow human beings.)

Nigerians, like most human beings, generally are operating at normal levels. As I have pointed out at several places, Igbos tend to have a higher proportion of paranoid personality disorder and masked delusional disorder. When you push an Igbo his underlying paranoia is likely to come out and he acts out angrily. The Igbo feels inferior and wants to seem superior and works hard to seem superior.

Any one who wants to seem superior to other people is neurotic (of different varieties, narcissistic, paranoid etc).

The relevant point is that human beings feel inadequate and seek to become adequate selves. Their lives are geared towards seeming important selves. They are motivated to seem very important persons. If they are normal they can attain their fictional importance by working for social interests, by being professionals: medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, politicians, business men etc. If they were unable to satisfy their desire for existential importance, they do so vicariously, that is, pretend to be important, as neurotics do or believe that they are, in fact, important, as psychotics do.

In body, in ego state, we human beings are unimportant. To personalize, I Ozodi Osuji, as a separated self, as an ego living in body, am totally worthless and valueless.

The human being as an ego housed in body is worthless. (If you melt down the individual’s body and sell it, it is worth less than a dollar.)

I accept my total physical and psychological worthlessness. Have you?

I see you, every human being as like me, totally worthless and valueless. No matter how you package your body and what social position you have, you are garbage in my eyes. This is literal. I remember when I was a college student and had the opportunity to travel all over Europe and North America. I remember taking a tour of The American White House, where their president lives, and saying to myself: so here is where the great ape lives. The occupant of that mansion, then Ronald Reagan, had no value in my eyes. I visited similar places in France, Italy, England, Germany etc and in each of those castles the folks living in them were not different from garbage.

You get the point. I do not have negative self view and then see other people as better than me. I see all of us, as egos and bodies, as nothing. We are shit, literally. Actually we are a few pennies worth of particles, atoms and elements temporarily bonded and act as animals.

And do not go thinking that I am depressed, for if there is a real self accepting human being on earth it is me. I just happen to see things with amazing clarity, while most folks are in sleep and delude themselves that a lie is the truth.

The truth is that we have perfect worth and value in spirit, in unified state, in God. The children of God and their father have grandeur and magnificence. But in our separated ego-body state we have no worth; we are worthless and valueless.

Nothing we do on earth can make us important. The Igbos have an apt saying that no matter how much you wash the anus that it would always smell of feces( Eje nkwa ncha sa otula oga ji kwa eshi shi shi). Meaning that our lives are worthless and no matter how much we desire them to be worthwhile, they must be worthless. But do not feel depressed, for there is worth. There is worth in our real self, in our spirit self.


What I add to secular psychology is the spiritual dimension. There is an agent in us that wants to survive as a separated self. That separated self attaches itself to a body and struggles to survive in body.

The whole idea of having a body is to survive as a separated self. Body is a means of survival as a separated self.

I have explained this phenomenon elsewhere and do not intent to repeat myself here. If you have been following this series you probably have an awareness of what I am talking about.

Briefly, eternity is unified, is one self and one mind. Eternity is like a coin with two sides. God is one side of the eternal coin and the other side is his children. God and his infinite children have existed for ever and will exist forever. There is no beginning or end to God and his children.

The children of God are God; God is his children. God extended his one self into his children. Therefore, the terms God and his children are misleading, for they assume two selves. There is literally one self, God.

God is one self that knows himself as God and as the children of God. God is a whole that knows that he has parts and that he and his parts are one self.

Where God ends and his son begin is nowhere and where the son of God begins is nowhere. God and his son are one self and one mind, literally, not figuratively.

(How do I know? Because I know, and if you would stop deceiving yourself you also already know this reality).

The children of God, that is, God as his children, the whole as its parts, pretended to be separated from God.

Parts cannot separate from the whole and the whole cannot separate from the parts. So separation has not and cannot occur.

What cannot happen is dreamed. We, the children of God, that is, God, dream that we are separated from God and from each other.

We invented space, time and matter and seem to live in this separated world. We seem to put ourselves into bodies and live in bodies. We made our bodies vulnerable to feel hurt, to feel fear and anger and to be attacked so that we are perpetually defending them.

In defending our bodies we seem separated from those we are defending against. A mosquito bites you and you defend against it by killing it. In doing so, you convince yourself that you are separated from the mosquito.

But in truth there is no mosquito and there is no you, in bodies. There is only one life force, God, in both you and the mosquito.

In the here and now world each of us sees himself in body and lives in space, time and defends his body and in doing so survive as a seeming separated self.

The individual’s motivation is to keep his separated self in body alive. That is what we do here: keep our bodies alive, so as to keep our separated self alive.

If one does not desire to keep the separated self alive then one would not desire to keep the body that houses it alive. One would voluntarily undertake to have ones bodies die by not eating food or defending body when it is attacked by other people.

This is what Jesus did. His body was attacked and he knew that he is not his body and not his separated self, so he did not defend his body and separated self. It would seem like his body was destroyed. He reappeared to other folks in his light body. (Each of us has a dense body as well as a light body).

All these seem hooky but find out for your self. Stop defending your body with food etc. Fast and do not wish to be in body. Then meditate. You will experience yourself leave your body and see yourself in a light body and ultimately you will know yourself as one self with all selves.

The unified self cannot be explained in our world’s categories, for our world is a divided place and the categories of division cannot explain the categories of a unified world, the world of God and his children.


Originally, and in the present, too, human beings, animals, trees, everything is spirit. We are all part of unified spirit self. This is a fact, not speculation.

We seem to have separated from that unified spirit self. We seem to exist as separated selves in bodies. As long as we are in bodies we must feel inferior, inadequate and little.

Initially, we seek adequacy by trying to seem important in this world. We pursue the categories of the world that make people seem important. Academic attainments, political and economic power etc seem to give us worth. I was born poor but by my early thirties was running human service agencies. I was driven by neurotic ambition to seem important via achievement. In my mid thirties I recognized that nothing on earth could give me worth. I turned my attention to God and began studying the religions of mankind.

Man will always feel inferior and inadequate as long as he is separated from his creator and father, God. He can seek worth in all sorts of places but would not find it. He can only find worth when he takes his place in his father’s presence. In God we feel peaceful, joyous and worthy.

The motivation to experience our real self, unified spirit, must replace the motivation to adapt to this world. However, when the individual makes this reversal is not for any of us to say.

Some persons are totally satisfied pursuing the things of this world. Some of us, right from the beginning, saw through the tinsel nature of earthly things and gave them up. Life in separated state, in ego, is transitory, ephemeral and does not satisfy the children of God. What satisfies them is return to union with God and all of us.

Posted by Administrator at March 28, 2006 12:29 PM


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