Welcome to this group of excerpts from Grandiosity and the Empowerment of the Spiritual and Artistic by R.S. Pearson. Included is the entire Introduction,
parts of Chapter One, Chapter Two, and Chapter Ten, and the Bibliography.
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Grandiosity and the Empowerment of the Spiritual and Artistic
by R.S. Pearson to be published by Telical Books.
Copyright 2010 All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Pearson, Robert Scott.
Grandiosity and the Empowerment of the Spiritual and Artistic / R.S. Pearson
LC Control Number: 2009941778
Type of Material: Text (Book, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
Much thanks for editing help to Chelsey Fosburgh and Gerardo Linero Guarda.
1. What is Grandiosity?
2. General Thoughts on Grandiosity and Empowerment
3. Grandiosity and the Empowerment of the Spiritual
4. Grandiosity and the Empowerment of the Artistic
5. Seven Traits that Help Overcome Grandiosity
6. Why Intelligent Humility is Empowering
7. Aspects of Jungian Psychology and Empowerment
8. Hyperreligiosity and Hallucination in Grandiosity
9. Grandiosity and Overcoming Disempowering Ambivalence
10. Conspiracy Theory and the Mistrust of Prosperity
I am not writing as a psychologist, nor claiming to solve serious mental health issues by this work. Those who have serious mental health problems related to grandiosity should see a trained psychotherapist.
Grandiosity is a psychological coping mechanism for a lack of real functionality and accurate emotional responses. It can be an exaggerated sense of one's own ability, wisdom, or importance, often in regard to how such things affect the quality of life. It is too painful to accept one's grandiosity as false. Like other types of delusions, the person having it often cannot be persuaded against it. The grandiose feel this condition as essential to their identity and needs. When they start to see the contents of their grandiosity as based on false values, they become insecure and feel pain.
One can meet people for whom the only type of abnormality they exhibit is the grandiose trait. One person may believe they are going do something like write a book that would have extreme importance in the world, perhaps on the level of the Bible. They might be quite sincere about this and not understand the impossible nature of the statement. Another person may talk defiantly about how his painting style and technique was the best on Earth. He would spend his time belittling other living painters. Another one might talk about how he would give the world a new scientific worldview, one that would revolutionize everything, but have no hard science to back it up. Or, take for example, a person in a business that proposes ideas for marketing that only he himself could appreciate -- ideas that actually would guarantee absolutely no commercial success. He was molding the world around his concept, not using his perception of the rules of the world to influence his thinking.
Other behaviors of these people would be normal. Yet, when they talked about these specific aspects of their life, they had little grasp of reality as others perceived it. They had to make an adaptation that provided themselves with safety and a sense of self-esteem when the world was unwilling to grant them either.
One might argue it is a healthy aspiration for a person to work from the perspective that he or she will create a work that will usher in a new revolution in ideas. However, the rare people who created these kinds of revolutions probably did not herald their work in such terms. Such accolades are given by others, not by the persons themselves. Often, the greatest artists and thinkers have the most humility. Some great artists and thinkers do have grandiose traits, especially in the cases where addiction plays a role. But these did not have a pure dysfunctional grandiosity, since they were, indeed, creating works that had the objective value of being some of the most important work of their time. They already had enough functionality to create great work, and successfully market or distribute it enough so that it survived. To the extent that the artist cannot do these things, the greater or lesser is their dysfunctional grandiosity. One might call the successful people who exhibit grandiosity, "functionally grandiose," in the same way we call alcoholics who can hold down a job while deep in their alcoholism, "functional alcoholics." The disempowered grandiose, those who cannot achieve professional or functional goals, could be called "dysfunctionally grandiose."
When the artistically and spiritually grandiose are empowered they may become some of the most caring and socially aware. Maintaining oneís spiritual or artistic vision while creating a full and functional life is an excellent basis of oneís life philosophy. It can become a force for good in the society around one because of its completeness. Having functionality guide their value system, the grandiose will then become free of their negative way of over-mystifying their life. This new manifestation of empowered spiritual and artistic people may ripple around the world and help lessen othersí mental illness and other societal problems. Those who are being empowered are those who are most able to care because they are most able to understand otherís suffering as they themselves have similarly suffered.
As many others did, I saw that the way the world was operated by powerful people was less than an optimal arrangement. The word "ignorant" could be used in describing the guiding principle of many peopleís actions. I could see that many problems people suffered from were caused by poor nutrition, a lack of basic self-discipline, and a simple lack of love that surrounded them. I saw that pollution problems could be solved, and that science itself was the force that could solve issues with the environment. Since this was true, all society, and especially the empowered in society, were to blame for the majority of the ills of the planet. Staying in this understanding alone could set the stage for a type of grandiosity, because powerlessness increases the chance of grandiosity. How this develops and may be overcome will be discussed in this book.
Grandiosity is a cloud that forms over peoplesí lives and blinds them to their real possibilities. It makes the person unable to function in the role that would be right for him or her. It most likely develops because a normal role in life was cut off from the person by a parent, a teacher, or someone else, but to see exactly how this happened takes some degree of psychological understanding. They may still be living in a circumstance where they are not able to get enough normal respect so they create a fantasy life in which they can get the respect they need. This fantasy life is not the usual idea of having a fantasy by creating a "visualization" of something in the mind. It is more complex, and in effect creates a worldview that has many unique properties.
Not being able to deal with having to achieve in the real world, one creates a world in which one already has achieved the important things in life. Believing they are doing something much greater than what "average" people do, they supersede any lack in the normal achievements necessary in life or which would be helpful for them in their artistic or spiritual path.
Focusing on the spiritual and artistic types of grandiosity is important because this is where some of the greatest growth in society can occur. If grandiose artists and spiritually-minded people became more empowered in what they could really do in the world, it would contribute much to society. If the grandiose can have their understanding grow, and develop more empowerment in their lives, they may find that the world needs them, as they believed it did, but in a direct way that has a very present application.
If more of the artistic and spiritual can achieve their true potential, we would live in a better world by the added creativity, acts of altruism and community involvement they would create. While we do live in a functional world, we cannot say that we live in a world that is optimal for most people. While each person is responsible for making his or her own life fulfilling and enjoyable, there is a common good that affects us all in some way, no matter how competent and empowered we are. Many of the most empowered and financially successful people become philanthropists because they understand the need to think of the common good. The artistic and spiritually minded often have the biggest burdens to carry, which can be seen from studying history. One thinks of artists or philosophers like Kierkegaard, Melville, and countless others who, if not isolated, at least were at odds with themselves or others. Therefore, when they are more empowered, there will be positive change in the world.
Like the word "codependency," grandiosity can be a hard concept to understand even though grandiosity has an important history in Western psychology. The word grandiose is in common everyday usage and exists in recovery literature. Grandiosity is one of the subjects most covered in doctoral level psychological works. Due to the possibly serious nature of grandiosity and the fact that it is covered so often by psychologists, I wanted to limit my study. This book gives insights in how grandiosity hinders the spiritual and artistic from achieving their goals. There are other areas covered that are not only related to the spiritual and artistic but pertain to grandiosity in general.
This book identifies how grandiosity occurs in the lives of those who are artistic and/or following spiritual paths. The cognitive distortion of grandiosity is experienced by the person as having a constructive purpose. They cannot abandon their grandiose thinking because for them it may be seen as a way of being heroic. Our insight must be careful to not criticize the motivation to be heroic, to be a great artist or great scientist. It is also not wrong to want to be close to God and be spiritual. The problem comes in when one can only be judgmental against what others are in certain capacities in light of what exaggerated abilities one believes oneself has in these capacities. Therefore, one misunderstands the true nature of oneís authentic self because it is being modified against false natures ascribed to others. One neither correctly perceives the positive in oneself or the positive in others. These misunderstandings further complicate oneís place in the world.
The grandiosity that happens to artists and spiritual seekers can be distinct from the more pathological delusions of grandeur and the grandiosity that can happen to people who do not have spiritual or artistic ambitions. The latter may be more narcissistic because the spiritual and artistic believe they are dedicating themselves to something higher, that being God or art.
I use the term spiritual often in the book so I should define what I mean by it. The use of the term "spiritual" in this book is not a qualitative judgment on peopleís ethical life but merely signifies the interest in spirituality. Since, I am attempting a somewhat objective look at what happens in peoplesí lives in the area of grandiosity, I am not going to put in my own subjective views on spirituality. That would skew the book towards the direction of an authorís own spiritual beliefs. Many define spirituality by a personís altruistic qualities and instead of the word "spiritual" they could also say "altruistic." Problems in grandiosity also happen to people who focus on altruism alone -- not on religion -- and have the same challenges in psychological health and empowerment. Often there is a distinction made in peopleís minds between the terms "religious" and "spiritual." There are various areas of overlap and I am using the term "spiritual" because it covers all of these areas.
We have to use some religious terminology when discussing the topic of how spirituality and psychology interact, and this should be understood and accepted. The effort to secularize all areas of academic thinking is purely partisan, and innumerable great thinkers, such as Jung, Eliade and Sorokin to name just a few, have written with academic legitimacy on the value of the spiritual life. One cannot discuss the life of those with spiritual aims except to use terms that they themselves use to define their worldview. I try to do it without the levels of abstraction that makes it impossible for the layman to understand. When speaking of God, I describe God as if God is an existing force that the spiritual animate in their private psychological universe.
My premise with this book is that the grandiose have been disempowered to the point that they were forced to create a fantasy structure by which they get what they need for emotional survival. This allowance of a sometimes subtle fantasy is an unconscious mechanism that allows their Ego to function as well as it does. I use the Freudian sense of Ego, that is, the part in us that when healthy solves problems and controls the relationship between our Superego and our Id. Their delusion or fantasy serves to float them over the jagged edges of reality so they do not get emotionally or psychologically hurt. If they were consistently hurt without getting help from this grandiose defense, they would not have the energy to go on living.
A painter, who says to himself that he is the best, most likely if he put his energy into realistic career advancement, would sell much less than many other local painters, and probably not have the great posthumous fanfare that awaits him. Perhaps at an unconscious level, the painter knows very well that if he tried to market his work, he would only have limited success, and not sell as many copies as he assumes. If an author, who only had the skills to write in an unpolished, stream-of-consciousness style, could competently market his work, his audience would probably be less than those who write in clear, eloquent styles. By creating a fantasy structure and splitting the world strongly into good (their style) and bad (the world's acceptance of style), they are safe from any failure or threat to their self-esteem. Inactivity then becomes a safety mechanism for deep psychological protection.
Some have used the term grandiosity to refer to the powerful that rule nations and have such hubris that they are willing to create negative conditions rather than to live humbly. Instead of seeing grandiosity as only happening to those who are powerful, we should especially see it as happening to those who are disempowered. For the disempowered, delusional grandiosity is a defense mechanism to allow them to avoid aspects of their life they cannot emotionally deal with.
The grandiosity that happens to the artistic and spiritual can be understood outside of the deep crevices of doctoral-level psychology because it is an insight we all have a stake in. Grandiosity happens in various ways to many people, not just a few. Understanding grandiosity in religious life can in fact be an instrument in examining how most of us can be more spiritual. The problem is that most people do not understand what grandiosity is. Grandiosity is seen as a type of pride, but pride has a conscious manifestation whereas grandiosity is more unconscious.
A form of grandiosity is at the heart of sectarian religious or political divisions that lead to violence. There is usually not a blind pride that leads people to violence, but instead a violation of various aspects of their worldview in which they feel they must defend themselves or even attack others. They become blinded to the outcome of their violent stances, and blinded to the historical results of intolerant stances. If people intimately knew that simply believing in war as a solution might lead to the death of themselves or loved ones, that their sons and daughters will die in war, their cities will be destroyed, they might have the conscious insight to avoid war. Likewise, if the grandiose knew what they lost by being grandiose, they could find the help they need to overcome their grandiosity.
People do not often examine the idea of pride or vanity in an analytic way, however psychologists do examine grandiosity in a logical -- some would even say scientific -- way. Vanity should be separated from self-esteem. One person may take ten minutes a day for grooming while another a half-hour a day, but the latter is not necessarily vain. They may attach their career position to being attractive so good grooming becomes a type of economic necessity. Some of the grandiose may take a certain degree of pride in the fact that they only spend limited time grooming themselves. They will have grandiose delusions about their worth over others because they can only ascribe useless vanity to what others are doing. They do not allow themselves the good habits that others do. Hence, the understanding of what grandiosity is must be built up in such person to avoid such delusions.
There are many different backgrounds and intelligences among people, thus there are different degrees of empowerment they can achieve. Over time, a functional person understands what are the most empowering conditions for their psyche and tries to stay within those limits. Prosperity of various kinds can develop when one is "right sized" -- when one is willing to fit in a place that is proper and best for one. Such a person does the work that he or she is most capable of. They endorse themselves internally so they are emotionally capable of doing work that requires the highest competence that they can comfortably achieve. The opposite is someone who is unwilling to work where work needs to be done. They may be intelligent but only be willing to do a very simple job, because of an emotional and not intellectual problem.
The goal of the wise is to enter the realm of the unconscious and to fix it so it does not hinder the realm of the conscious. If the psyche of the person is too frail, due to a lack of Ego strength and a comfortable and readily accessible identity, he or she may develop grandiosity to avoid real exposure to his or her shortcomings. The only way to get over grandiosity is to first get recognition of its roots in the unconscious and then understand why one is using it as a coping mechanism. One can then see the many instances of conscious grandiosity as are available to oneís level of insight. One sees that no one is coming to oneís rescue in these areas and, if one does not do things for oneself, nothing will get done.
The liberation of the spiritual and the artistic from their grandiosity will liberate more of their force from the places society tends to limit it. If the spiritual and artistic are empowered, they will bring more healing to the world. As they are now, many are very disempowered people, people without a voice. Grandiosity for them has become an embedded excuse to not walk up the necessary ladder it takes to activate their spirituality in a social context or establish their artwork professionally. When they can stop the "grandiose speak," when they can see through their false self and build their real self, they can stop making excuses and feel more at ease doing what they truly aspire towards.
Upon researching grandiosity I discovered that the word covers a lot of ground in the psychological literature. Of the two book length manuscripts that deal with this topic, one comes from a classic psychoanalytic approach and the other comes from one that is steeped in Jungian thought, mythology, and comparative religion. My approach is that most of us by now are comfortable with the idea that religion is not something that is seen as threatened by psychotherapy. The precision of language in psychological studies should be upheld or else it is impossible to have intelligent cross-disciplinary work.
The problem about mentioning God when writing a book for both psychologists and those who only consider themselves interested in spiritual subjects is that some rigid psychologists might have a negative reaction to using the word "God." It is used here in discussing coaching a person to a positive relationship to the God idea. I am using an existential phrasing here, describing an inner experience which represents experiences with a force which may or not objectively be God. One can understand these passages as attempts to create a book where the existence of God is present without a need to be proven or disproven. The writing describes how to have a more functional experience in the relationship with God.
This writing uses the combination of psychology, philosophy, and theology. It is therefore not only religious writing, even though it deals with God as a present and real object in the lives of believers. It is different than most religious writing because such writing often comes from a certain denominational thinking without much credence to creating interfaith works based on techniques of philosophy or the scientific method of Western psychology. Academic theology is often a very abstract subject that does not seem to hold much interest in people outside of those in religious universities or institutions, but I use the term "theology" when I want to get away from the subjective nature of the word "spirituality." My first interest in college was cultural anthropology so I bring some of that perspective to my writing.
I do not write from the sole perspective of any one religion in particular. Since all religions use quotes from the Bible at times, much like how many non-native English speakers use English as a common language, I use the Bible in this sense as an interfaith book that they share in common.
Those who are psychologically balanced but still have low self-esteem, may need to see grandiosity manifested in order for it to be an available inflation mechanism for their diminished self-esteem. This is similar to how alcoholics are often supported in their disease by alcoholic peers early in life. In this way, some types of grandiosity may be "contagious," in the way that those in destructive cults have similar distorted views of the world which they share with each other and which in turn bolsters their own problems. By becoming close to the grandiose and being exposed to their views of the world, a person whose personality is often "submerged" or passive to others, is by nature of socialization accustomed to acquiescing to the grandiose or they may in fact lose the bond of friendship (Wolf and Kutash, 1991). Some views of the world that can be called grandiose are a constant critical view of the capacities of those that have normal empowerment, especially those in positions of power. It can be oriented towards those who judge what is valid in art, or what is spiritual, and so on. How skewed a person becomes is based on his or her overall level of reality testing. This subject gets complicated by going against religious statements that the world is a fallen place, or even truisms that great artists must work against the conformity of accepted styles.
I am fond of using what is known as the "literary fragment" form. Basically, this is the style of writing in short numbered statements, instead of trying to create a systematic flow in a large body of text. The fragment form is used in religious writings dating to 500 BC or earlier. Much of modern thought tries to create systems. Other authors react to these systems that seem to assume that the author knows everything there is to know about the subject. In my books, I am trying to share my experience with the subject without trying to limit the readerís perspective. Therefore, I sometimes use numbered statements, which allow readers to draw their own conclusions instead of stringing them along in what may seem like a conclusion. In the fragment form, on rare occasions, there is a redundancy of what has been said previously in order for the current fragment to be complete.
1. What is Grandiosity?
If grandiosity was a conscious choice, one could say it was a moral problem. Grandiosity is not like conscious pride because grandiosity can be a type of blindness. It is not a conscious act, but more like the coping mechanism of an unbalanced person. That is why it is considered a problem in psychology, not in morality. Serious grandiosity can only be overcome with skilled help.
Grandiosity is a term used by psychologists to describe exact concepts in a diagnosis. There is also something called "infantile grandiosity" which as discussed by psychologists is a stage of development we all go through as children. Some do not successfully mature through this stage and may develop narcissistic disorders. By grandiosity, I am not referring to delusions of grandeur which are more related to serious mental illness. A person who seriously thinks he is the Messiah is an example of a delusion of grandeur.
Grandiosity is a term common in addiction and recovery literature. Grandiosity in alcoholism relates to how an alcoholic may be in denial about his problem, perhaps thinking he has a special privilege to be able to drink alcohol many times a day, and has the special ability to drive drunk. Such people believe heavy drinking does not negatively affect them personally. In recovery literature, grandiosity refers to the sense of being owed a certain privilege from society, such as being entitled to have others pay oneís way through life, that others allow them to be often intoxicated, and so on.
Recovering from serious grandiose thinking will take a dedicated effort of the person affected by it. Therefore, one should immediately present the benefits of recovering from grandiosity to the person. Some unfortunate grandiose people will never be able to escape their grandiosity. Like those prone to hallucinations, and who get an illusory benefit from having them, grandiosity gives people an illusory help, like a type of coping mechanism to compensate for unconscious feelings of inferiority. When one begins to see that grandiosity is not helping one get oneís true needs met, he or she may then see the superior benefit of getting the needs actually met. One may then want to do the work necessary to overcome grandiosity.
There are some especially important points to make about grandiosity. One is that grandiosity can creep into lives that seem psychologically adjusted. Grandiosity in mild forms can make someone a bad business person, give one an inability to do adequate housekeeping, ruin a marriage by feelings of superiority over oneís spouse, allow frequent drinking excesses by believing one is not changed when drinking, and so on. Knowing about grandiosity can help lessen the "contagious" aspect of grandiosity, which can be seen as the excuse-making nature that grandiosity gives to a person and which others may imitate because it seems like an easy way out of the difficulties of life.
It must be made clear what is the difference between the use of "ego" in spiritual literature and the use of "Ego" in Western psychology, and how they can be mutually beneficial. In Western psychology, the Ego is not "the self" but instead is a more internal part of our psyche that helps us function in life. The distinction between "the self" and "the Ego" gets very complex and is best discussed at depth in other books. The most important difference is that, in psychology, the Ego is a positive thing, whereas in spiritual literature it is redefined as a negative thing. Everything that is not identified as a defect of character can be seen as being benefited by a functional Ego. When the behavior becomes a harm to oneself or others, it can be seen as being of the negative ego spoken of in spiritual books. The behavior can then be defined as a character defect. The thinking behind this definition is that it is spiritual to have the functional Ego of psychology that enables us to take care of our needs and not make us a burden to others. The fact that spiritual people sometimes lose the full and necessary capacity of their functional Ego is something that my books on religious psychology address (Pearson, 2005). Mature spiritual authors often speak from a perspective of the reader having the functional Ego, but because of the confusion of the two areas of ego/Ego, people can misunderstand what is being said. The lowercase ego is that which cannot fully function in accordance to the common good or one's own welfare, and eventually becomes a burden or offense to others.
In Western psychology, the Ego represents the part of our minds that is not really our "self" but instead is our functionality on a more internal level. Psychological theorists have created two different schools of psychology called Ego Psychology and Self Psychology to differentiate the importance of focusing on each area. What has happened since these two schools is that subsequent theorists have taken the best of both schools and incorporated them, building up new helpful definitions and therapies.
The functional Ego is involved in problem solving. While a person is growing up, if things go wrong in the formation of the functional Ego, it creates deep-seated conflicts and problems, which are not only in the conscious but also in the unconscious. People may consciously want to do something, but they are unable to do it because there is unconscious resistance to the achievement of what they want. There may be further problems created by what are called "Ego defenses" (Laughlin, 1970). This Ego is of course in no way related the use of the word "ego" by many spiritual authors. In their usage, the ego is anything except good at problem solving. This little "ego" is the term used to describe the whole self that will not give up harmful thinking. Such a personís grandiosity makes her believe, for instance, that it is alright if she drinks and drives, and that excessive drinking has little negative effect on her.
Given the different uses of the term "ego", it is important to understand what the popular expression "surrendering the ego" means in spiritual literature and how it can relate to psychological health. Many books that discuss spiritual matters spend time on this subject. Surrendering the ego can be described in many ways, but it always means giving up the smaller for the greater. Surrendering the ego means a person has the ability to stop believing in certain capacities of his or her own understanding and becomes able to follow a better set of principles and practices. It is the idea of turning the outcomes of actions over to the will of God, or "natural law," which can mean being humble and getting oneís due. One realizes that since all people have their own needs, sometimes in a complex society oneís own will cannot be achieved. In this way, one surrenders to the rules for outcomes that go beyond just what one desires for oneself. Therefore, in this book, the focus is not on spiritual surrender, which is described well in many books, but in the areas where one must be functional to be of use to oneself and others. There is no escaping the need to be functional in these ways.
When one's self-esteem no longer falsely resides in one's grandiosity, one can feel and enjoy a healthy self-esteem and all the benefits that come from it. The best things in life can come to a grandiose person from this healing because he finally understands his vital relationship to others, and becomes freer in time and energy. Will power increases due to the fact that one is not compulsively serving grandiose delusions. Some of these delusions may be very subtle as to why they are bad for the person, but if one looks at the economy of thinking involved, that is, how much mental time is spent processing these ideas, one can see the damage done.
A person who understands the capacities of the true self will understand the capacities of others. Areas of interpersonal power and responsibility are especially important. Studies of power are of interest here because in the past the discussion of power was a social, even academic, taboo. Power was something taken for granted, but never exposed, questioned or verbalized.
Many times people just assumed that those who were more powerful got that way because it was Godís will. This has a certain fatalism to it; to some it might mean that the evil present on Earth is pre-ordained. The powerful make most of the important decisions on earth, not the weak. If it is God alone who has put them in their places, this means, to some, that everything is the way it is on earth because it is Godís will. This exposes an interesting subject matter in the study of grandiosity and spirituality: whether each of us truly has free will to make vital decisions in our life, given a good political climate around us. This is important because the grandiose who are interested in spirituality often believe that they are in a certain condition because of divine will. No matter what befalls them, they "religionize" all situations to make them fit into their worldview, a worldview which states that they are always correct and in the right in some way. This concept of the false "religionization" of events is important in understanding the hyperreligious. It means re-interpreting an event in a personalized fashion that can color any event in religious significance. Sometimes, it can be a very dysfunctional religious conception. If the artistic grandiose are not prone to religionization of events, they may complain about the injustice of the art world and how many of the great were only recognized after their death.
2. General Thoughts on Grandiosity and Empowerment.
The empowerment of the disempowered is a noble topic. Empowerment however is demonized by many as being non-spiritual. This is hypocritical because in a sense, all spiritual leaders are empowered people, for to be in the position of authority over others is itself to be beyond the many and is not a disempowered state. We know that being in positions of religious leadership does not mean a person is spiritually pure, as thousands of destructive cults and sects have clearly testified to this. For this reason, we can see that the personal empowerment of disempowered people drawn to spirituality is important, since they otherwise easily fall prey to abusive leadership. The topic of empowerment could therefore itself be called spiritual. It is just outside the realm of spirituality that many are able to accept as spiritual. One here gets into difficult questions about what capacities make a person, at the same time, supremely ethical and empowered. There are people that are very convoluted about their understanding of the terms: powerful, spiritual, and empowered. There are many examples of empowered spiritual people, such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and Albert Schweitzer.
Self-endorsement is an important capacity in empowerment. Self-endorsement is similar to gratitude in as far as both actions show an appreciation. The lack of this appreciation can limit oneís reality testing, and there are reasons why disempowered people limit both self-endorsement and gratitude. Self-endorsement is different than gratitude in as far as self-endorsement is focused within, while gratitude is focused outward. In the spiritual life, a consistent lack of self-endorsement can indirectly show a lack of gratitude towards oneís religious deity, since one usually prays for help in changing oneself. There are many positive statements about the value of gratitude, and it seems "gratitude deficit disorder" could be another diagnoses for the problems seen in modern times. Gratitude and self-endorsement most likely produce the positive changes in body chemistry noted in scientific studies of the positive emotions. If one is unable to accept self-endorsement, no matter what temporary changes are in fact achieved by a person, they do not "stick." Since one sees oneís actions as insufficient, greater growth and maturity are not actually achieved.
To those who are disempowered, the hope of changing their lives is the true treasure. To be able to make goals and have a hope of being able to accomplish them is a type of richness. To feel this expectation animated is itself an important part of empowerment. It is something that can merely take place in the invisible world of attitude, and does not need any previous physical manifestations.
The ability to see the future in positive ways is an ability that can be either lost or retained, and this is a distinction that is understood by psychologists to be very important. To have and accept the value of hope is a therapeutic goal because it allows the grandiose to admit their need for realistic goals (Scotland, 1969). Harboring the feelings and images of what they want to do, who they want to be, and claiming force in what area of life they want to be successful, should come before the feelings of accomplishment, but in the grandiose the order is reversed. They no longer have the hope and planning ability because they already have arrived. The term "omnipotence" is often used in psychological literature to describe the grandiose.
Good psychology and true spirituality allow souls that have been beaten down by life to be assertive. Just as a blind following of what some see as "the religious good" has made terrorists out of certain people, it can make others incompetent and weak if they are also psychologically imbalanced, but in a different way. Both types may be too presumptuous to truly humble themselves and realize true spiritual help and change is available for them. In such cases, most psychologically healthy religious people believe spiritual help would be given if these imbalanced people could somehow gain humility. Humility becomes very difficult for such people, however, because their grandiosity is a type of defense or "crutch."
Those who are very out of touch with their empowerment may have needed to be overly careful about their aggressive drives. It should be remembered that these drives are called aggressive in psychological literature, but this is not the same use of the word as people usually know it. Assertive is a better word to understand the conscious aspect of this psychodynamic feature. If one looks at the concept of stresses coming in at one from the external world, and the fact that we are in a society where all are trying to get their needs met, in this sense "aggression" is a good word because it shows the play of forces at an inner, depersonalized level. Someone owns a house, and in a sense others are denied entrance to that house in a type of aggressive protection. One looks nicer than someone else because he or she wears a $500 outfit; in that sense, there is a type of unstated "aggressive" combat going on in the level of differences of quality.
A key to recovery for the grandiose is the ability to tolerate aspects of aggression. This is not aggression in the physical or combative sense. It is a type of assertive capacity in the psychodynamic sense. This unconscious aggression can be seen as a type of psychological fuel that makes a person competent enough to achieve his or her daily needs. Many statements in this book try to aim and fine tune this psychodynamic aggression and overcome the hindrances to it. When there are hindrances to it, what can happen is that a person can become grandiose. As is the problem in gaining any new skill, one initially may have a clumsy aim and overshoot the target. When seeing this initial failure to master the new skill, if one is obsessive or timid in some way, one then withdraws and no longer makes any more effort in this area. The challenge in therapy for some of the grandiose is to tolerate when their assertive drive may at first seem to be too much, because perhaps this is only their perception. In time, with outside help and feedback, they begin to fine tune their ability to get their real emotional needs meet.
On an unconscious level, assertive force must sometimes be experienced in a more direct way to be activated. The Superego hinders this in some and they may be repressed, overly nervous and timid. Those who have gained some degree of empowerment may already have some experience in working on this. Realizing that they were unnecessarily timid and powerless, they may have stood up for themselves and triggered any number of traps in the past. Some examples of these traps are gossip and slander against others, expressing anger towards others without any tact, and hurting oneself or objects by expressions of anger. Negative manifestations of the first stages of being comfortable with oneís healing psychodynamic aggressive side may scare one away from further work in this area. One may stay dysfunctionally religious, sexually immature, or any number of other negative manifestations because one is not comfortable with oneís own more assertive manifestations.
What is the inner struggle that gains the disempowered access to their power? It takes place on the internal battlefield of their ability to make statements. We are creatures who use the voice of affirmation to direct us. Many also say that it can take place on the level of the body, in that making certain movements can help empower people.
The poisoned Superego is often more insidious to our wellbeing than what we can know and expect, because it is hard to isolate it without psychoanalytic help. The Ego has to be equipped to fight the overactive and poisoned Superego, but in fact the Superego keeps the knowledge away from the Ego on how to fight it. The overreaching Superego is more insidious the better it looks -- as when it puts one in what seems like unique situations, which is the very nature of grandiosity. One unique situation is the belief one is prepared to deal with something that no one else is able to deal with. The idea of "terminal uniqueness" is often what brings addicts to their death, when they falsely believe that their life was one of the few uniquely tragic ones that made recovery impossible. The problem lies in the fact that the grandiose must be always seen as extremely good to their poisoned Superego, even when they remained flawed after being controlled by this Superego for most of their life. A lifetime of sacrifice is still "not good enough." The healing would bring more social interaction, more pleasure in life, professionalism, and other positive things, yet these are not values to their Superego.
Some gifted people are fortunately empowered by a stern attitude. They know it gives them broad defenses against all that takes their attention off their responsibilities and goals. Some gifted are stern against the lack of progress of earth in certain areas, and the possible deterioration of progress that has already been made. They may be stern against all lesser visions of the future, outlooks that could not see a positive future as clearly as they could. This sternness is a mighty defense, not only against that which comes from without to dishearten them, but that which can come from within. Toughness is another word in the English language to describe this stern condition of empowered people. It can be separated from cruelty, as one uses the expression "tough love" but not "cruel love." It means a state of having boundaries with others, a sense of demarcation in object relations that could otherwise be blurred. To other empowered people, this toughness may not seem unusual or even like "toughness," and they are even seen as gentle and well-bred to those that understand them. To the disempowered and those looking for more than justifiable help, empowered people in the world do seem very tough and hence the judgment that empowered people are less moral than they. The empowered often consider all that is lazy and "weak" without justifiable cause likewise immoral, and this seems like cruelty to the disempowered.
10. Conspiracy Theory and the Mistrust of Prosperity
Conspiracy theorists have a type of grandiosity in ongoing operation. Among conspiracy theorists, there is a belief that one has the ability to really see into the nature of things, to pull out obscure facts that most people recognize as being totally improbable. Iím not denying that there are powerful and negative forces that act against the greater good, but these are usually not hidden or mysterious.
There is a tremendous energy that believing strange conspiracies about the powerful gives one. People are not born conspiracy theorists but they can get the habit from other conspiracy theorists. Believing conspiracy theories with others is a type of bonding ritual. Some locations seem more prone to create people who are conspiracy theorists. I noticed how several people in Long Island, New York were certain that the "Y2K bug," the computer programming situation that occurred when the year 2000 hit, was certain to bring down civilization as we knew it. They seemed to have a need for making life exciting in this way. Perhaps, being born into upper middle class surroundings, or just the nature of living life in an international cosmopolitan center such as New York, they were expecting life or society at large to "entertain" them in this fashion by crumbling before their eyes. I remember how, about 20 years before, many of them were talking about the end of the world by a flood and similar types of cataclysms.
Conspiracy theorists may often do more harm than they realize. They demonize the rich and powerful in fanciful ways instead of trying to build a bridge between the rich and the rest of the world in the way a labor union builds a bridge between the owners and workers.
A "conspiracy theorist" archetype could be looked at as a type of repeating pattern in human beings in the same way as the King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover archetypes are in the collective unconscious. The conspiracy theorist archetype could be seen as an overwhelming zeitgeist that embodies much of the person's personality and outlook. The negative effect of conspiracy thinking is that it disallows positive social and economic changes in people because they may unconsciously believe that they will get killed by the, most likely imaginary, conspiracy if they protest in rational ways. They may unconsciously realize that the conspiracy they believe in actually has no way of existing and that it merely functions as a social bonding mechanism. There often is a cult of personality around the major conspiracy theorists who can attract followers.
Misanthropic views of mankind are not indicative of good results on the spiritual and psychological path of empowerment. One is instead rewarded in life for destroying oneís own loneliness as well as another's aloneness. People who have an honest liking of others are able to be the "movers and shakers" of the world, being real and engaging. Before, they may have been largely afraid of others, even though they may not have ever admitted it. Through authentic spiritual practice, they become convinced of the world's worth and develop a love for it. The outlook of those, such as conspiracy theorists, who villianize, for an example, everyone who works for the government, often has a misanthropic element and it tends to isolate them from many, except those who share similar conspiracy ideas. I do not mean "misanthropic" in that they consciously hate others, but only use it for lack of a better word. I mean a state that seeks a type of emotional compensation for being caused bitterness, hurt, or shame. It is the message of the major religions that this is a fallen world. It is as if conspiracy theorists are discovering this fact for themselves for the first time, and believes it is the first time it has even been thought of in the world. I mean this is how their unconscious might look at it, not their conscious understanding. They create their own Genesis story based on rich families, secret societies, and the like, to replace the mythologies of the world.
There are, of course, at any given time, some conspiracies in the world. Intelligence agencies by nature operate as a type of conspiracy although supposedly under accountability to their government. Political parties, and those that have a vested interest in such parties coming to power, operate at times in a conspiratorial manner. But these groupings of people are not the kinds of conspiracies that make good mysteries. For a conspiracy theory to have power, it has to have a sense of mystique, like the mystique surrounding the one-thousand year old person named "Saint Germain" who some people believe has found the secret of eternal physical life. If one is not pre-dispositioned to believe in one-thousand year old wandering mystics, one must amplify the intelligence and cunning of the wealthy families of the world, demonize racial groups or religious denominations, or strengthen the barriers between the average and the affluent. The political conspiracies that have been proven to exist compete for the immediate and very real political power there is to be had in the world. The types of conspiracies that become popular mystify human empowerment and give credence at some level to the myth of the Superman, such as various Illuminati conspiracy theories. Like the charge grandiosity gives by making oneself seem bigger than one is, conspiracy theories make society seem more mysterious than it is, and hence gives life the same kind of charge that others may get from enjoying a good movie.
To combat the tendency to lose oneís reason by believing in non-existent and farciful conspiracies, one starts by deflating the toxic self-importance regarding how one views realities that one has no proof over. One has to realize what one has possibly lost, and what one continues to lose out on, by believing in non-existent conspiracies. One is essentially wishing away oneís ability to do "reality testing," which is a term used in psychology quite often to describe the perception and cognition of truth. One has also to realize that there is always money to be made by people who sell books and seminars. One recognizes as possible charlatans or deluded, those who say that they not only believe there is a particular conspiracy, but also act as experts on it.
One interesting distinction between people can be called the ability to celebrate prosperity. Even if one does not have or want physical wealth, there is an aspect of celebrating prosperity that is functionally important. By this I mean that one looks at how one accepts aspects of quality and how one can maintain a good existence or improve oneself by thinking about this. Some feel cut off from higher qualities of things and a similar spectrum in people, and constantly create further causes that further this problem in their life. This seems to be very much an unconscious process that people are unaware of. But by quality in people, I do not mean that it is spiritual or even civil to say one person is more valuable than another, only that one person makes higher quality choices than another.
Many who have some kind of background in the Judeo-Christian religion think essentially that Jesus re-created the blessings of the Old Testament's God that were said to include those of prosperity. Not judging the prosperous is a strange type of spiritual work that many often do not seem to get right. Judging the prosperous may take one away from many artistic communities, who often are supported by the wealthy.
In studies of spirituality, we are taught to respect rich and poor, strong and weak. The idea of quality in people is looked down on by many of the spiritual, because it is hard for people to think abstractly, and much easier to do away with the idea that a virtuous person may have a certain higher quality to them. Some artists accept the student role far into their adult life because they have high respect for the idea of quality. There is a type of grandiose delusion some have about what an upper middle class person should be able to do with their standing in the world. People with this delusion believe that if they were in the upper middle class, they would use such standing to significantly change the world. They may divorce themselves from embracing quality because they do not want to be associated with the failure of empowered people to change the world. They must see that it is most likely a delusion that they would significantly change the world if they were in the upper middle class.
The love of quality is in a sense accepting the life force; it helps in a drive towards elevating the pleasure principle. Loving aspects of higher quality states of mind, or visiting a beautiful area of town can help ingrain in one a love of life. Accepting the highest level of skills and craft is not something unspiritual in itself. The reverse of this mindset can manifest as the death of appreciating things in life and not appreciating those who have achieved important things in life, like those that hold graduate degrees, composers of great music, or those who have a career in the arts. It can also manifest as the death of the hope of physical achievement, such as not having fitness or strength goals, or the lack of having order and organizational goals. Clean and organized people get comfort out of this need being filled in their life. They do not think it is negligible that their home is clean and orderly.
For a life of quality, we have to serve forces that enable us to deserve quality. Some of these things are partially economic. They are such things as holding a job, or if self-employed, not living by whims of what might make a profit, but being subordinate to real business wisdom and a real business plan. Some of them are not economic. Not being overly critical of others is important for a higher quality life. By this, I also mean understanding the right "size" of oneself in any social circumstance, and not being derogatory towards others.
Many emotionally healthy celebrate the concept of prosperity. They may imagine it for themselves. They try to attract it to themselves, and they try to be attractive and pleasing to the prosperous. They visit nice places on their vacation. Some people, sometimes those who have some kind of mild mental illness, cannot embrace life as life is and become hateful of all things prosperous. One often sees this kind of thinking in addicts and alcoholics. Life has become too painful, even early life, and they medicate themselves with drugs and alcohol instead of getting such emotional rewards from normal achievements. Since life is painful, the competent and prosperous are seen to be to blame, since they are benefiting in life.
There is much occurrence of people interested in spiritual things verbally villianizing the rich. However, linguistically there is little ethical meaning in the terms "the rich" or "the poor" because there are different types of rich people and different types of poor people. In what sense are the rich similar? In what sense are the poor similar? Many career criminals are in fact often poor. Many rich people give to efforts to feed and shelter the homeless. To look at the psycholinguistics of this issue, since there is so much villianizing of the rich, a better term to use for those who are very concerned with ethics and are focused on growing in empowerment in these financial issues would be "prosperous." In fact, most people do not feel the need to aspire to great wealth; merely having work that they can love, health care, and adequate time for leisure is considered great wealth. Instead of the thinking and statements associated with words like "wealthy," "rich," and so on, which may have unconscious resistance, one can agree that prosperity is a healthy goal. There are usually no negative connotations with the word "prosperous." On the other hand, it is often thought that having an enormous amount of money, the amount that makes one very "rich" or "wealthy" in most peoplesí eyes, may become a huge burden.
Like the wealthy, some of the poor have better qualities and some have worse ones. Some of the poor are very moral and hard workers who just have limited financial intelligence and cannot understand the more complicated maneuvers required to earn more money in a complex society. Some of the poor are very intelligent, and may even have advanced degrees, but have interest and ambition in certain areas which year after year brings them little money. They are unable to keep a balance between their interests and the type of service to society that brings financial reward. In many instances, they may serve society greatly but in ways that provide little income.
In a perfect world, everyone would be an aristocrat at birth. That is what a sane civilized society aims to do. Everyone should be educated to the maximum of the ability to educate a person, within reason of that personís capability and desire. Everyone should have the highest health care. Who would argue against these things? With these ideas as a guiding principle, one may learn to think to be more prosperous is necessarily unusual, but the way it should be for all. If the grandiose realize this, then they may not feel the prosperous are that different than them, or that it is too unusual to think that they themselves may also become prosperous one day.
Some would argue that the wealthy are often the meritocracy, that is, they are the ones who have worked the smartest or the hardest. Some would argue they labor to make the world a better place. Wealth is a very relative term. Some of the very disempowered demonize all of the prosperous. Those with false values or no values cannot see real values and instead hold many ideas that counterfeit real values. They believe the wealthy are only warmongers. A behavioral psychologist may state that the structures that create war are ancient, and people unconsciously inherit them. The "military industrial complex" is real but when and in what land did a type of it not exist? To take a theological view, many of the religious say fallen angels are essentially responsible for war on earth, and that the whole world leadership is under such fallen beings. They quote the Bible and say, "We wrestle not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers, spiritual forces of evil in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). Regardless of what faction of people actually profit off war, the majority of the other wealthy are innocent of making any profit.
There are many types in art circles who lament of all things wealthy. It is often a type of double standard in many ways since they are often the children of wealthy parents who drop out of the family social circle because of competitive family dynamics. This can be looked at as what competitive family dynamics have done to them while growing up, hence they avoid various aspects of what such social circles are like in the present.
One might say that rigorously judging the prosperous ultimately forces one to demonize quality. Such critical people may be denigrating excellence in the highest phases of culture and accomplishment. It is therefore a mask of a major type of disempowerment when some people are proud of how much they dislike prosperous people. It is actually the strangest conspiracy to imagine, and one, if it was true, that has some practical value for some to believe in. That is, it is so negative for a person to use the prosperous as a scapegoat that it almost seems like a ploy to keep a limited amount of people empowered and prospering. The more people that hate the prosperous, the less competition there will be for prosperity.
The misplacement of the concept of quality is one reason why some cannot work on themselves or progress much in therapy. They cannot create an aim because they cannot imaginatively feel what it would be like if they were more competent. Since they may have been told not to want more money, not to want romance, not to need anything, they have little motivating hope. Of course, they can start with the small things in their lives, symbolically turning whatever lead into gold that they can find. This can manifest in such things as how one keeps oneís home to how well one appreciates the others around them.
I believe this will naturally lead to the discovery of the concept of human warmth -- a quality of emotional life that can be only called "warmth."
Exploring warmth more will be a chief weapon against the need for grandiosity.
The Old Testament gives us no problem with valuing quality. But the New Testament is another story, because it tries to correct the problem when quality or prosperity becomes the only value. The Old Testament had that focus as well, but in the New Testament it became more prominent. It is interesting, however, that it is not the only focus, and even a cursory reading of the New Testament can enlighten people who only remember the self-sacrificial aspect of it.
One has to disenchant the disempowered from their fascination with poverty. The ethical rightness of an adequately virtuous personís prosperous life is an existentially experienced truth. For instance, celebrities who often volunteer for charities may also live in opulence. One does not have to be only one or the other. The obsessive spectrum in thinking that contains problems of grandiosity tends to see all things in black and white.
Some people live very comfortably with an idea of the need for force applied against the outside, the outside being other forces of society. They believe that this applied forcefulness enables and protects them. There is a whole "political" and "economic" system of protecting this applied forcefulness in oneself and oneís family. Sometimes, it extends to protecting oneís company, fraternal organization, sect, or other organized body of people, or even ideology. This is related to an idea that there is a certain competitiveness for everything in life, even if this competitiveness is not apparent to the person one is competing against. It is wise to understand this competitiveness, even though it is not always directly spoken about. Some believe the strong are competing and the ignorant are merely competed against, and do not fight back. These highly competitive people have a high self-preservation instinct. Others who are less competitive may have all kinds of positive characteristics -- even self-preservation. The ethical problem comes in when the competitive can longer cease competing. There is a force of nature in human beings that is stated, "Once a person turns a force on, it is hard to turn it off." The age-old vice of greed is a name for this type of characteristic. Lust is sometimes also used to describe this kind of force in human nature, as in "lust for power." The need for power becomes more of a blind compulsion than a rational process, something that may kill its owner with medical problems like hypertension.
It is said in motivational literature that one must be willing to try every day no matter how many failures one perceives one has created. Loving aspects of quality and the desire to be around quality is one way of keeping this motivation. We can define quality as that which is cultivated and cared for -- not solely that which is expensive. Since many people see some forms of the love of quality as countering the spiritual drive, it becomes impossible for some of the spiritually grandiose to become motivated for a higher standard of living. This also happens to artists or activists in their own way.
Grandiosity may exist when one thinks one can change the grand scheme of things. This can lead to other types of problems such as those that can happen when a person assumes that God or an angel guides them at every move.
The loss of the positive connection to self traps one into grandiose problems. Being aware of what is of value to oneís true self allows one to take care of real needs, achieve one's goals, and experience real happiness. One creates self-endorsement more frequenctly and continuously recognizes the good fulfillment of goals when they occur. One learns to be gentle with oneself, or exert exacting self-discipline if that is more necessary for one's overall benefit.
There are circumstances when a person is able to get by with very little. Voluntary simplicity is a noble goal. A community should never stigmatize those practicing it. People who are significantly underearning, however, may have their strong disadvantages, especially those who are parents. The grandiose can use their lack of income as a protective measure against emotional vulnerability. Because of all the experiences which have been denied them, the grandiose may need to grieve the lack of money they have had in their adult life, if they feel capable of facing up to this. They should mainly grieve their own lack of vocational or business mastery, not that they were victimized.
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