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« Healing Human Relationships | Main | Igbos Must Heal their Tendency to Jealousy »

April 15, 2006

The Two Levels of Ego Defenses

Defense of Animal State and Defense of the Wished for Ideal Ego by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- There are two levels at which we defend ourselves. The first level is the animal level. This level we share with all other animals. Here, we identify with our bodies, as who we are, and perceive threats to them and defend against them.

All animals attempt to defend their bodies when threatened. If you surprise a mouse it would run away. It runs away to protect its life. This level of self defense is built into the body and operates instinctively. It operates involuntarily. If you walk into a dark kitchen and switch on the electric light, if there are cockroaches on the counter they would scamper away. They did so from an involuntary understanding that you could kill them. They ran to go protect their lives. Apparently, they want to live and running from you is a means of making sure that they live to see another day.
(Why do cockroaches want to live, one may ask? Considering that they are a nuisance to people, people would wish that they did not live? Good question. Let us ask the real question that was redirected to cockroaches: why do people want to live, considering that, like cockroaches, all they are doing is surviving for however long they could then die and rot and are forgotten. Why do people want to live? Perhaps, they want to live because they are wired to desire to live? Who wired them so? Who placed in them the desire for survival at all costs? They do not know? Evolutionist biologists postulate that the desire for survival is inherent in animals but they do not explain why that desire is desired. Biology and the physical sciences, does not answer why but how questions, leaving why or existential questions still begging for answer.)
Unlike animals (?) human beings individually construct self concepts and self images. Each of us has an idea of who he thinks that he is. Apparently, the self concept is constructed from the individual’s inherited biological constitution and early childhood experiences. It is set by certain age, certainly no later than age twelve. (See George Kelly, Personality as Personal Constructs.)
Each human being, in addition to struggling to defend his body, struggles to defend his self concept and self image. Whereas the defense of the physical self is largely unconscious and involuntary, the defense of the psychological self, the self concept, is conscious.
Each of us is aware of himself as a certain type of person and defends that self concept and its pictorial form, the self image. If he perceives threat to that self concept and self image he defends against the threat. If a proud person, for example, perceives another person as insulting him he could defend his mighty self concept by fighting, even killing that person. In defeating the person he believes humiliated him, he maintains his prideful self concept.

There are difference in how people’s self concepts are and how they defend them. The majority of mankind can be construed as normal persons. They tend to have normal self concepts, that is, they have normal psychological selves. Their self concepts are slightly more conscious than animal state. They, in fact, may not be consciously aware that they have separate selves that they are defending. They go about, like animals, seeking food, shelter and clothing to defend their physical existence. They are not at war with their fellow human beings; they are at relative peace with other people. They only defend themselves when something attacks their bodies or prevent them from getting the means to support their bodies.
Unlike normal persons, there are neurotics. The neurotic generally posits an ideal self concept and defends it. Generally, he sees his physical self, his animal self, as not good enough. He uses his mind (thinking, imagination) to construct a different self concept, one that seems everything that the animal self is not. Generally, he posits a perfect ideal self and wishes to become it. (See Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth; Alfred Adler, The Neurotic Constitution.).
The neurotic posits an ideal superior self and strives to become that false but ideal superior self. He is not that ideal superior self but he acts as if he is that self. Much of his motivation in life is to approximate the ideal but false self.
Since the ideal self wants to be superior he generally works hard to succeed and seem superior. He may even make it to become the head of state of his country, for that position would seem to make him seem superior to other people. Indeed, when the world is unified, as it would soon be, and a president of the world position is created, the neurotic would like to become the president of the world, for that would seem to gratify his craving for superiority and power.
Alas, even if the neurotic becomes the president of the universe, he would still feel inferior, for no amount of external position would make an inferior feeling person feel superior.

The psychotic begins out like the neurotic, seeking an ideal superior self. At some point, generally during his late adolescent years, he convinces himself that he is his ideal self. He goes from mere wishes to believing that he is what he desires, and now believes that he is the most superior person on earth. Thus, the schizophrenic, the manic and delusional believes himself superior to other people.
The psychotic lives in the world of fantasy and believe what is not true as true; they also hallucinate in one, or more, of the five senses.
All of us are the same and are equal and whoever believes himself superior to other people is not operating in the world of reality, and is insane.
Psychotics are few in number, no more than three percent of the human population, and tend to drop out of society and are unproductive.
Neurotics tend to be more in number, perhaps seven percent of the human population. Normal persons tend to constitute the ninety percent balance of the human population.
Considering that neurotics tend to be productive and at the same time destructive persons (they are single handedly responsible for much of human destructiveness, such as Hitler, Stalin etc) we must pay attention to them; As Freud said, we must understand neurotics, for they are all of us writ large. In understanding persons who exaggerate certain traits found in all of us we come to understand ourselves better.
The normal person is not entirely free from neurosis. In a manner of speaking, the normal person is a small neurotic, for, at some level, he, too, has a psychological self that wants to seem ideal and superior and he defends it, but he is generally not aware of seeking an ideal superior self. As it were, the normal person’s desire for ego ideals and superiority is unconscious, but that desire is still there, nevertheless.

As noted, neurotics include all human beings but for analytical purposes are those persons with what we now call personality disorders: paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, antisocial, avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive and passive aggressive personal disorders. See DSM 1V, section on Personality Disorders.
The neurotic, during childhood, posits an ideal self concept and an ideal self image and wants to become that idealized concept and image of himself. He uses the various ego defenses to defend his desired ego self.
(Some of the ego defenses are repression, suppression, denial, dissociation, projection, displacement, rationalization, intellectualization, reaction-formation, sublimation, avoidance, fantasy, fear, anger, shame, pride, minimizing, blaming and so on. See DSM 1V, section on ego defenses.
The neurotic wants to be ideal. He uses the ego defenses for neurotics to defend their idealized self concepts and self images. The ego defenses, in effect, exist to defend his idealized selves.
If the neurotic, all of us, in degrees, did not have an idealized self he would not be ego defensive, he would merely defend his physical self involuntarily and instinctively, like animals do.
What distinguishes human beings from animals is that whereas animals only defend their physical bodies, human beings defend both their physical bodies and psychological selves.

The ego ideal is a mental construct; it is not tangible and does not exist apart from the mind that constructed it. It is solely in the mind of the thinking person. It can not be seen and or touched; it is subjective, and it is whatever the thinker thinks that it is.
The mentally constructed ideal self is not real. Unreal or not, the individual devotes his life to protecting and defending his self concept. If you insulted a proud neurotic he could kill you in a fit of rage; he does so to protect and defend his sense of being powerful, important and worthwhile.
Much of human conflicts are a result of folk’s efforts to protect their psychological selves, their ego ideals. We kill each other in efforts to protect our imaginary important, ideal selves.
As long as the individual seeks to become an ego ideal, a superior self (I am conflating and redacting the psychological theories of Adler and Horney) he must live in fear of not being his imaginary perfect self.
The neurotic lives in perpetual tension and anxiety, for he fears not being his idealized superior self. He has neurotic anxiety disorder.
To be neurotic is to be anxious, from constant fear of not becoming ones ideal superior self in ones own eyes and in other peoples eyes (one and other people’s eyes are the same).


In therapy, if the neurotic is persuaded to give up pursuit of his ideal self, to not want to be an ideal superior self and simply accept his animal self, his anxiety level tends to become normal. He will still have fear of harm and death, for, like all animals, he still craves to live in his body, and body is vulnerable and fears what could harm or destroy it. But his anxiety level would be reduced. He would feel like he has been immersed in a bathtub full of cool water on a hot summer day. He would feel peaceful and happy.
The first order of business in psychotherapy is to persuade the neurotic to give up pursuit of his obsessive-compulsive desire to be somebody special. If this is successful, he relaxes his body and becomes less anxious. As noted, his anxiety is not totally eliminated.
To live in body is to have some level of fear. It is fear that alerts us to threats to our bodies and enables us to run or fight back. Without fear, it is doubtful that any animal, human beings included, can survive in this world.
Even the most seemingly bold antisocial personality (they tend to have less fear than normal persons) at some level is very fearful. The criminal runs if a gun is pointed at him. Whereas he may intimidate others with a gun, if others point a gun at him he runs. That is to say that he, too, at some level, has fear.
Fear is necessary for survival as a physical organism. All animals feel pain hence fear. Animals born without the capacity for pain hence fearless tend to die young, for they tend to be reckless and injure their bodies and their bodies die from such injuries.
Some religions tell people to give up all fear. A course in miracles essentially teaches their student that since fear is what maintains the body that to return to the awareness of spirit, a non-physical self that the individual must give up attachment to body and the fear that maintains body attachment. It tells people to see themselves as not their bodies and to not defend their bodies when they are attacked.
A Course in miracles teaches defenselessness via forgiveness. If other people attack your body, deny that you are a body, that is, overlook their attack, even if they killed you. This is what Jesus allegedly did: he denied that he is his body hence did not defend it when it was crucified; that he identified with his spirit self hence was able to see those who killed him as doing nothing.
Body is valueless, nothing, and to destroy it is to destroy the valueless, to do nothing important. Jesus’ real self, spirit was not destroyed, and since he was not really harmed he did not see why he should be angry at those who killed him. He did not feel persecuted by those who killed him. In a way, he felt grateful to them for speeding up his return to spirit awareness.
(I have always marveled at persons who enjoy their bodies, particularly the bodily act of sex. The very act repulses me. Just looking at human genitals and what folks do with them makes me nauseated. Sex reminds me of our animal nature and I did not want to be an animal; I had always wanted to transcend my animal status. This desire to be spirit, in confused neurotic terms, to be an ego ideal self, has been in my conscious awareness since I was age six.)
All these seem logically true but the fact remains that if a person wants to live in body, he must feel pain and fear to be able to live in body.
If a person gives up fear he would not defend himself and, like Jesus, would die. (Since we are not aware that there is another world to go to when we die, the dead person will sort that out when he is dead. If there is no life after death, he loses, but if there is life after death, he lost nothing by being defenseless and permitting other people to kill him without fighting to defend his physical life, as all animals do.)

For our present purposes, what I want to emphasize is that ego defenses are primarily used to defend the ego ideal and that when the individual gives up questing for ego ideal and stops defending that imaginary self that he tends to reduce his neurotic anxiety and henceforth only experience animal fear, a reduced level of fear feeling, a better level of fearfulness, for to live in fear is to live in hell.

The call on the neurotic to give up his ego ideal is easier said than done. He constructed the ego ideal for a reason and that reason still remains. He generally inherited a body prone to pain (may be due to some medical disorder). He feels easily pained and therefore feels inadequate to the challenges of living on an impersonal world. In childhood his pain and inability to do what his environment demands of him for survival made him feel inadequate and inferior and he reacted with a psychological desire for power and superiority. The quest for superiority and ego ideal is not something that came out of the fluke; biological and sociological factors caused it and as long as those factors remain present the neurotic is not likely to give up his ego idea hence is not likely to stop defending it.
Consider black Americans. They are in an environment where the dominant population, white folks told them that they are inferior. Many of them construct ego ideals that want to seem superior and important. They then defend their ego ideals. Many of them tend to be neurotic (paranoid personalities, delusional disorders). Their society is primarily responsible for their construction of ego ideals and defense of those false ideal selves and consequent living in anxiety (which contributes to their shortened life span, 62 years, whereas more relaxed whites easily life to be 80 years or more.)
Children who inherited medical disorders that make them feel weak tend to construct ego ideals to compensate for their physical inferiority feeling. As long as they feel physically weak they find it difficult to give up their ego ideals.

The pursuit of superior self, ideal self, is the most difficult thing to give up. Yet one must strive to give it up considering the pay off from giving it up. One feels physically and psychologically relaxed and peaceful and happy. One has less anxiety (one now only has animal fear that defends ones body and one is now more able to devote ones energies to studying to acquire a reasonable profession that puts food on ones table; neurotic anxiety preoccupies the individual’s mind that he finds his mind less able to concentrate on studies and work that earn him a reasonable living.)


The individual, during childhood, feels that his body is not good enough and by generalization that he is not good enough. He sees himself living in a society that approves people who seem good. He wants to be liked by people (society), so, he hides his no good self and constructs an ideal good self and try to become that ideal good self and present it to other people to accept.
Once constructed, the neurotic speaks and behaves from his false ideal self. But since the ideal good self is a false self it can only be pretended to be real. The person trying to be an ideal self, the neurotic, is always pretending to be whom he is not.
Appreciating that what is pretended is not real, the neurotic is afraid to show that ideal good self to society lest they see that it is false and make fun of him. Thus, he stays in the background, not participating fully in society (avoidant personality) or actively participates in society by pretending to be his ideal self (paranoid personality).
One may ask: why does the neurotic not just be the animal self and leave it at that; why pretend to be a false ideal self?
The answer to this question is that it is part of human nature to seek ideals and to sometimes pretend to be ideals when ideals are not available. Those ideals are then defended with ego defenses.
Ego defenses do not defend the real self (spirit self) and do not defend the animal self; they defend the false neurotic ideal self. One must give up trying to be an ego ideal self and give up defending that non- existent ideal self.
The reward for doing so is somatic relaxation and psychological peace and happiness. The goal of psychotherapy for the neurotic is to help him work at giving up his ego ideals and just living as his animal self with its minimal fear, anger and other human emotions.


The ego ideal self invents its own ideal standards and ideal everything. It looks at real human beings, sees their faults relative to its ego ideals and comes up with imaginary idealized behaviors that they should have. It then uses those imaginary standards to judge real people.


The neurotic ego ideal is always judgmental, it constantly judges the real self with its false ideal standards, and naturally finds the real self wanting. This way the ideal self makes sure that the person who adheres to it is always unhappy. The neurotic is always an unhappy person and makes those around him unhappy because he is always judging himself and other people with ideal standards that do not exist in the real world.


Everything one does from the perspective of the ego ideal is wrong. This is so because the ego ideal is a false self and is not a real self. The ego ideal is like one standing outside the self and looking into the self and seeing its faults and trying to correct those faults from the outside. You can only correct the faults of the self from inside the self. The imaginary self cannot understand the real self, nor can it change the real self.


The neurotic’s dogged desire to transform himself, other people and the institutions of this world, if not the physical world, too, to his conception of what they should become, ideal, is, actually, an escape from the real world.
The neurotic is trying not to cope with reality as it is, but instead to make it what it should become. He uses his thinking and imagination to come up with how he should be and behave and how other people should be and behave and how society should be organized; all these are ideas in his mind and are not real; they are mental constructs and are devoid of the limitations imposed by the reality of space, time and matter.
In our imaginations we can visualize how things ought to be beautiful but the fact is that in the real world the nature of matter and energy imposes limitations on how things could become.
Consider our bodies. We want them to remain young and beautiful and not age and die. But the fact is that we live on planet earth, a planet cycling around the sun at great speed. The earth is always in constant motion. Because it is moving, it exercises pressures on our bodies and necessarily wears them down.
If the planet were stagnant conceivably our bodies would remain static and not age, but in a moving world, our bodies must age and eventually die.
Death is built into the reality of our bodies. With good nutrition, medication and good living, we can prolong our bodies, say, to 120 years, but it is doubtful that our bodies can live forever.
The reality of matter, space and time determines the aging and death of our bodies, despite anything that we might wish.
Even our light bodies (seen in near death experience) are composed of subtle matter, photons, and, as such, must eventually decay and decompose and die.
Only the non-physical can exist, as it is, forever. Whatever is in physical form, in body, gross or light body, must eventually decay and die, our wishes for permanency in physical form not withstanding.

Wishing for ego ideals, while understandable, is really an attempt to escape from physical reality. It is a futile attempt to negate the realities of space time and matter and live in a wished for ideal world. It is doing what some unrealistic religions, such as Hinduism and A Course in Miracles do, negate the world and escape into a fantasy version of it, a fantasy that could never come into being.
Those who negate the real world do not do what they have to do to adapt to it and end up living in poverty. Hindus tended to live in poverty until they recently embraced the world of science and technology and their life styles are now improving. New age religionists, such as students of A course in miracles, do not do what they have to do to adapt to this world’s reality and end up living in poverty, and the little money they irk from whatever jobs they do, half heartedly, their religious leaders take from them by asking them to attend their unending seminars and workshops on how to understand their nonsensical conceptions of reality.


The idealist actually derives false power, divine power, to change himself, change other people, change social institutions and change the world and make them over into whatever he wants them to become. This is one of the reasons why it is difficult to persuade the idealist to give up his dreamy nature and embrace realism that merely studies what is, as it is; the idealist enjoys false power to make of reality whatever he likes it to become in his mind.
The paranoid neurotic called Hitler, an idealist, in his thinking mind changed reality and people into whatever he wanted them to become and tried to make them to become as he wanted them to become and in the process wrought havoc on humanity. For example, he believed that this or that group are inferior to his German group; of course, he was wrong for in reality all people are the same and are equal although some are backward in material development. He wanted to translate his fantasies into reality by killing those he imagined are inferior to himself and his German people.
Because wishful thinking, which is what ego idealism is all about, gives the idealist imaginary power, he does not want to give up his wishing for things to be as he wants them to become; he derives false sense of power from wishing that reality suit his imagination.
The scientific realist merely studies phenomena as it is and manipulates it with technology and does not feel powerful; in fact, he is often overwhelmed by the awesome power of nature (such as earthquakes that open up the earth and swallow thousands of people).


The idealist perceives his body as problematic and social institutions as problematic and uses his thinking and imagination to come up with alternative ideal alternatives to them. Unfortunately, what he comes up with are mentalistic and not realistic to the laws of space, time and matter. His idealism is not going to replace reality.
Socialism, an idealistic political and economic ideology that visualizes an equalitarian society where wealth is shared equally, a philosophy that wants to replace our unequal economic and political power distribution is mentalistic and cannot operate in the real world of social competition where some win and other lose out. Socialism is a neurotic idealistic conception of reality and is not ever going to come into being. Only economic realism, mixed economy, capitalism with some socialistic aspects to it, will succeed in this tough, dog eat dog world.
(Socialists, like all neurotics derive false sense of power, godlike power, from their infantile wishes to make of reality what they want of it rather than accept it as it is, that they are not always willing to give up their socialism. To give up their socialist idealism would make them feel powerless and defeated. Yet, eventually they must accept their powerlessness if they are to deal with reality objectively. In the meantime, let old socialists be in their power tripping and do not ague with them; just as you should not argue with a neurotic and other mad person.)


Life on earth may be ugly but that is all we have. We do not need to negate it and flee into impossible idealistic alternatives to it.
At any rate, just because one wishes for a bed of roses does not mean that a bed of roses will replace the crown of thorns that is our lot on earth.
Actually, judging life on earth as either good or bad, as we tend to do, is a faulty methodological approach to reality. Life on earth, properly put, is neither good nor bad, it is what it is. Life is and the rest are opinions on what it is or should be.
The most heroic approach to life is to face it the way it is, not the way one wants it to become.
The most heroic attitude to life on earth is the scientific method. Here, folks study the world as it is and address it with a technology to master it, a technology that obeys its laws. Folks accept the limitations of life and attempt to make the most of their lives on earth. They do their best to adapt to the world and live fully on earth, accepting the limitations imposed by space, time and matter. When they have done their best to understand life on earth and lived fully, they die, without regretting anything. They exit from this world having done their best to making living on earth as pleasurable as is possible for all those they leave behind them and those who come to the world in the future.
Science and technology, I believe, is the best thing that human beings have done since they have appeared on planet earth. I insist that every person study mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and the other physical sciences. Religion, philosophy and metaphysics may be useful but if they dispose folks to negate and escape from this world they are wrong.


It is clear that upon birth on planet earth some force in children invent (1) an animal self, (2) a social self and (3) an ideal self for them. That agent first appraises us as animals and invents an animal self for each of us, the self that sees itself as an animal and identifies with body. Where the inherited body is relatively healthy and is able to adapt to the exigencies of this world the animal self is pretty much normal.
Where the inherited animal body is relatively problematic, such as have medical disorders, the animal self is unable to do what the person needs to do to adapt to this world.
The force in the individual appreciates the social conditions that the individual is born into and knows that it must invent a social self for him, one that does what other people approves.
We are social creatures and must do what other members of society approve or else they would not accept us. No society on earth approves its children in what Carl Rogers (Client Centered Therapy) calls unconditional positive manner. Most societies approve their children mostly only when they do what they approve, which is what society and its culture thinks would enable the individual and society to survive the rigors of their impersonal environment.
Generally, the child who is more able to do what his culture needs to survive, work hard, excel at school, sports, work, interpersonal relationships etc is positively reinforced. Most societies reward those who help them survive. Therefore, the force in us invents a social self that society would approve. Each of us has a social self.
The ideal self is always a variant of the social self; it is the social self exaggerated. It is when a child is unable to do what his society would approve and he fears social rejection and social abandonment, fears that he would be left to die if he is not approved by his society that the creative force in him or her invents an idealized social self, the neurotic self, and in the worst case scenario, the psychotic self.
The neurotic ideal self is that self that if one is it one thinks that a conditionally accepting society would approve one. This is not the actual self but the neurotic tries to actualize it.
As Horney pointed out, the normal person tries to actualize his normal self but the neurotic tries to actualize his false ideal self and in the process lives in perpetual anxiety, for he is trying to make the unreal self seem real.
The neurotic is bound to fail; he is engaged in a futile battle, to make the unreal seem real. As Abraham Maslow pointed out, only those who try to actualize their real selves, not their imaginary ideal selves, become productive persons.
The psychotic is already defeated for he rejects the real self and lives as an imaginary ideal world and cannot be productive. He even has to be fed by other people, for his ideal mental self does not cope with the exigencies of the real world, the world of space, time and matter; he lives in an imaginary fantasy land where things are what the individual wants them to be.

My question is this; what is it in us that invent the various selves: animal self, social self and ideal self?
Biological psychology suggests that the self in us is epiphenomenal, is a product of the biochemical and biophysical processes in our brains. As it sees it, somehow, particles, atoms and elements in our brains interact to produce our sense of self.
I think that there is a non-physical self in all animals, what I call the spirit-self in animal body that invents the various selves we have.
I think that we came into this world with that spirit self. I do not fully understand the nature of the spirit self, but let it just be observed that philosophically I accept the hypothesis that there is a non-material force in animals that upon identifying with animal body invents their selves for them.
Religion and metaphysics explores the nature of that inventive self. A course in miracles, in a poetic manner, explored the nature of that real self. I have done some exploring of the nature of that self in other writings.
For now, all I need to postulate is that there is a spirit, non-material self in animals that invent their selves. That spirit self is not the various selves it invents for animal organisms. The spirit self is not the animal self and is not the social self and is not the ideal self (not the neurotic and or psychotic self).
The spirit self is always outside the selves it invents for us. As it were, it tries to use the various selves it invented for us to adapt to the tough exigencies of this world and some of them are more effective in adapting to this world than others. Obviously, the normal self is better than the psychotic self.
When we die our various invented selves die. What seems to live after we die is the inventor itself.
That inventor also invents a light bodily self for us, the self seen in near death and out of body experiences (that self, though ultimately is as illusory as the bodily self we have on earth, exists; I have had out of body experiences where I saw myself in pure light form; that form is like my current self but totally without solidity).
Eventually the light body-self itself dissolves, for it is composed of pure light particles, photons, and is bound to dissolve.
What remains is a formless spirit self, a self without physical dimension, the self that is unified with all selves as one self; this self is what the various religions call God and his children, what I have called the unified spirit self, infinite in numbers but all sharing one self and one mind, each in each other.
I must, however, add that what I said in this section is mere metaphoric expression of truth and not the truth itself. No one can express the truth of God in words and concepts. God and his world are non-conceptual.
Conceptual thinking can only take place in the divided, separated world of space, time and matter, in our world, the world of the separated selves, the world of ego and ego intellection. (All I have done here is engage in ego intellection; I did not explain the world of God. Ego intellection, however, can be so purified, cleansed and refined that it can bring one to the gate of heaven bring one near to God and if one keeps quiet, perhaps, God can reveal himself to one, and one can then experience God.)
The world of God is the world of perfect sameness, equality and union; the infinite parts of God, if you like, the infinite children of God are one with him.
Our type of thinking cannot understand the unified world of God. Therefore, none of us can explain God with our conceptual categories. All illuminated and enlightened persons know that to know God that one must stop all conceptual thinking, keep quiet and let God reveal his nature to ones open mind, a mind swept clean of all apriori thoughts of who God and his children are in fact.
Our true self, which is spirit, cannot be understood by our conceptual thinking and we must, as Buddha recognized, stop thinking, stop our ego chattering and simply learn to love and forgive one another and ask God, who is life, to reveal its true self to us when it wants to.
And when that oneness experience is experienced one cannot explain it in our ego intellectual categories. How can you explain knowing that you are all things and at the same time a part of infinite things? How can you explain knowing that you know everything, is eternal, is unified with all things, that there is no you and not you, no seer and seen, no subject and object?
You cannot explain eternity, for the very process of explaining implies that there is an other person that is not you that you re explaining something that is not you to; a contradiction of the very experience where everything is simultaneously itself and you. You keep quiet and smile at those pretending to explain God; you are amused by, say, the Catholic pope and his princes, cardinals pretending that know something relevant about God; they don’t. Those who know keep quiet; those who do not know talk about what they do not know, God.


Each of us has two levels of self, the animal self and the social self. The social self is often exaggerated into an ideal self in neurotics and psychotics.
The animal self feels fear and uses fear to protect its physical survival. This level of fear is tolerable for it is largely felt unconsciously, involuntarily and instinctively.
The social cum ideal self is felt at the conscious level and its fear is felt consciously. Its fear is fear of not becoming the idealized social self. This is the level of normal social self and neurotic and or psychotic self. In neurosis, the individual wants to become the idealized self and feels enormous anxiety from fear of not becoming it. In psychosis, anxiety is reduced by the individual pretending that he is already his wished for deluded ideal self.
The social and ideal selves are false and must be jettisoned. When the individual lets go of his desire for a social ideal self he tends to become somatically relaxed and mentally at peace with himself and his world.
The purpose of psychotherapy, among other things, is to persuade the individual to extinguish his false ideal self and embrace his real self. When the individual lives from his real self, which in the phenomenal world is mostly his animal self plus the unknown spirit self in us, he tends to be peaceful and happy.
If you want to be tense and anxious cling to your mentally constructed ideal self and try to live through it, try to actualize a false neurotic self. If you want to be peaceful, happy and productive give up the false ideal self and live from your animal and spirit self. The choice is up to the individual.
However, I must observe that neurosis, that is, the desire to become an ideal self, is compulsive; the individual pursues his conception of the ideal self and ideal society and ideal everything as if an inner force pressures him to do so; it is as if he does not have the freedom to disobey that pressure and must obey it.
Neurosis and its compulsion for the individual to become ideal is a form of religion, a personal religion with its own god, a god that the neurotic feels compelled to obey, lest the ideal self, god, punishes him.
Simply stated, it is very difficult for the neurotic not to obey his inner demon urging him to be a false ideal self. The real work of psychotherapy is to empower neurotics to develop the courage to resist the urge to deny their real selves and strive after becoming false idea selves that they think that other people, society, and their idea of God would approve.
When a neurotic finally develops the courage to accept his real self, a true independent thinker is born.
Normal persons are not independent thinkers, if they do think at all; they just conform to their group’s norms. The neurotic is an outsider to his group but is struggling to do what he thinks would appease his group so that they accept him. When he gives up trying to please society and does things that make independent sense to him, he becomes a true thinker. He blesses the world with a different way of looking at phenomena, not the currently socially approved way, but an independent way. He may produce ideas that may change the world.
Because of the neurotic’s potential for blessing humanity with useful ideas, we cannot abandon him to pursue his ego ideals; we must do our best to redirect him to thinking realistically. We must help and encourage him to think outside the box, the social system …such persons usually do not do well in organized group environments, for example, universities, they tend not to conform to the staid, dependent society that is academia…and help us understand phenomena as it is, not as we presently think that it is.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

March 23, 2006

Posted by Administrator at April 15, 2006 08:38 AM


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