Psychology FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Psychology FAQ

Psychology FAQ – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about psychology, personal development, psychological growth, the ego, the wounded inner child, mind-chatter, narcissism, suffering, wanting, finding happiness and the meaning of life.

Psychology FAQ

What is the meaning and purpose of life?

We come into this world with nothing, and we leave it with nothing, so it is pointless trying to acquire lots of material possessions while we are here. Our material balance sheet is always zero at the start of our life and it is always zero at the end of our life, and no one is ever going to change that! But it is a different story with our psycho-spiritual balance sheet. If we end our life with a higher level of consciousness than we began with, then we have had a successful life. Adding to our psycho-spiritual balance sheet by developing our consciousness is the one purpose that remains the same in each and every lifetime, no matter who we are.

What is personal development?

Personal development means “growing up” psychologically, i.e. freeing ourself from the childish, defensive and reactive ego programming that keeps us from living fully consciously. Personal development is the journey of perfecting the authentic personality. It involves mastering (not repressing) our thoughts, emotions and bodies to free ourself from the fears, insecurities, conditioned behaviours, reactive emotions, critical judgements and limiting beliefs that keep us from living a happy, peaceful and fulfilling life. This is achieved by dissolving the “negative” psychological material that keeps us trapped in these old patterns and prevents us from moving forward.

I feel spiritually and psychologically stuck!

Personal transformation is not the result of “doing” – it is the result of “being” – being present to whatever is occurring in our life – internally and externally. Transformation can only occur when we allow ourself to be present with all the feelings that threaten and scare our ego. This requires us to develop the courage and curiosity to explore our inner world, and truly get to know ourself. Our outer world won’t change until our inner world changes. We can move house, take a vacation, get a new job or find a new partner, but we will still be the same person – nothing will have really changed. We will still be on life’s merry-go-round, not actually going anywhere. Stuckness is the result of our inability to let go of the beliefs and behaviours that obscure opportunity from us. Life’s difficulties are not obstacles on the path, they are the path. They are the challenges through which we experience, learn and evolve. Our development is slow when nothing new happens in our life, so we should regularly step out of our comfort zone, try new things and live life fully.

What is personal self-inquiry?

Self-inquiry is about exploring our subconscious to bring our repressed parts up into conscious awareness to liberate them from their perpetual suffering and to liberate ourself from their reactive behaviours. Self-inquiry is the intelligent application of presence and mindfulness, and it begins with a holistic awareness of our entire being (soul, mind, emotions and body). Then, while maintaining that holistic awareness, we focus our presence and awareness on a particular body sensation or emotional issue, feel into it as fully as we can, and see where it takes us. Whatever arises, we must completely surrender to it (i.e. feel it and allow it without any resistance) before inquiring into its origin and beliefs.

What is the ego?

We don’t have one single ego – it is a collection of many parts. They are called “parts” because we often say, “part of me wants to do it and part of me doesn’t”. In most people, all the parts are somewhat connected and form a single super-structure (the ego), which is a big, tangled, knotted mess. Our self can seamlessly move from part to part, when required, but the parts don’t function as a unified whole. In fact, most parts think, feel and act independently, and they often conflict with other parts, so the ego is somewhat dysfunctional.

Why do we have an ego?

Life is a drama in which our true-Self gets caught up in, but it is all part of the learning experience. The ego is a natural and necessary stage in the development of human consciousness – there is nothing wrong with it or bad about it. It has served us well for many years and has got us to where we are today. It served us particularly well when we were very young and found it difficult to cope in an unpredictable, confusing, challenging and sometimes distressing world. The ego will naturally be relinquished when the soul has experienced and learned all it can from this set up.

What is the wounded inner child?

The ego is largely “constructed” from innocent, immature, inexperienced and impressionable young consciousness, which is why we may behave like a child when things don’t go our way. We try to give the impression of being grown-up and mature, but that is just the outer layers of the ego that were added later in life. Underneath our grown-up façade lies a wounded “inner child”. The “inner child” is not a single entity – it is a collective of many parts that formed during the course of our childhood in response to countless confusing, difficult and distressing events.

What is narcissism?

Narcissism is an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and the ego is incredibly narcissistic. The ego believes it is very important, its thoughts are very important, its feelings are very important, and every aspect of its life is very important. Basically, the ego believes it is the centre of the universe. But in the grand universal scheme of things, our personal problems, issues, hurts, beliefs and opinions are practically meaningless. We need to learn to see our lives from a more objective philosophical perspective rather than a subjective personal perspective. We also need to realise that our ego-self is not the true centre of our universe.

Why is mind chatter a problem?

Have you ever noticed a quiet voice inside your head that narrates your experience of the world? It labels people and objects, judges them and categorises them. We already know what it is because we have seen it, heard it or sensed it, so we don’t really need our mind to tell us what it is; so why does it do it? The mind does it to bring the outer world into its mentally-created inner world. Mentally labelling everything we encounter is an effective way of converting them into “internal objects” or mental representations. Living in our mind’s version of reality makes life feel safer, because an inner conceptual world is more manageable, predictable and controllable than the real external world. But on the downside, it distances us from reality and stops us directly experience of life, which isn’t good for spiritual growth.

Are my beliefs the main cause of my suffering?

Yes. Happiness and wellbeing are determined less by our physical and environmental circumstances and more by what our mind tells us about them. The same applies to relationship issues – it is less about what the other person did or said and more about what our mind tells us about it. We would be a lot happier, and suffer a lot less, if we stopped buying into our thoughts. If we continue to allow our negative thought patterns, emotional reactions and conditioned behaviours to activate automatically, how can we expect anything to truly change?

What is radical acceptance?

In the present moment we can choose to accept our situation, trusting that life will provide us with the exact experiences our soul needs for its continued development. Or we can choose to resist our situation and resist life. The first option brings a huge sense of peace and freedom because it takes all the pressure off our shoulders, but the second option results in tension and suffering. Life carries on, regardless of whether we accept it or resist it; but it is a whole lot easier when we accept it. Resisting a situation that we have no control over is futile.

Why is acceptance so important?

Acceptance is more likely to bring about a shift than resistance because acceptance allows things to move on, whereas resistance causes them to stand still. Acceptance means fully experiencing “what is” without any resistance, judgment, analysis or agenda. When our consciousness is fully experiencing “what is” without any resistance, judgment, analysis or agenda, we are fully present. When our consciousness is identified with something that we are experiencing, we are not fully present. When we are fully present there can be no resistance because resistance comes from the ego. When we are fully present there is no ego, only Self/soul. Acceptance means we don’t have to be anyone or do anything – we can simply “be”. Acceptance doesn’t mean that we have to be a passive victim, nor does it mean that we have to fight back aggressively – the world is only black and white to the ego. When we stop strategizing, struggling and resisting we become more present, which allows us to tap into the intuitive guidance of our Self. When we stop listening to the ego, we are better able to hear the silent voice of our Self.

How can I know true happiness?

True happiness is not something that can be sought and acquired; it is our soul’s natural state of being and we can only connect with it by going within. We cannot connect with our inner happiness while we are busy looking for happiness externally. We cannot connect with our inner happiness while we are trying to do, achieve, feel, heal, fix or change anything. We can only connect with our inner happiness when we stop all that doing and simply “be” (abide in the inherent joy of our true nature). We discover a deeper, longer-lasting and more-fulfilling kind of happiness when we stop trying to make ourself and our life different, because authentic happiness is not dependant on external conditions or feeling good emotionally.

How can I be happier?

The secret to being happy is to be happy; to actually embody happiness. Just smile and notice what happens – you are instantly happier. Being happy requires us to be happy with everything just as it is, right here and now. If we can’t be happy now we can never be happy, because now is the only time there is. Our physical body might live for 100 years, but the only time we actually live is in the present moment. Life is a seamless series of present moment experiences, and it is up to us to live them. To be happy in the present moment, we must stop resisting life, and stop trying to make everything the way we think it should be. When we embody happiness, express happiness and keep choosing happiness, it becomes our natural way of being and connects us with our true nature.

Why do I always want new clothes and things?

The happiness that we associate with getting what we want actually has nothing to do with getting it – we are happy and contented because we don’t “want” anymore. We have incorrectly associated happiness with getting what we want, but actually it is “not wanting” that makes us happy. We are happy because the burden of wanting has been temporarily lifted. Our true nature is whole, so it wants for nothing and is always happy. The ego, on the other hand, wants because it feels inadequate and deficient. The ego is trying to make up for its feelings of lack by acquiring things – hence all the wanting. External things obviously can’t actually fill an internal hole – it is the value we put on these things that satisfies us, for a while at least. But when we realise that these things don’t actually have any meaningful value, the illusion quickly wears off.

Does chronic pain have a psychological component?

Usually. About 70% of pain has no physical cause. Non-physical pain and discomfort are the body’s way of alerting us to non-physical (i.e. psychological) problems, so that we can take remedial action. To put it simply, the body energetically records what the mind and emotions cannot handle during moments of intense psychological stress, fear or trauma. The body then sends us signals to remind us about our psychological wounds in the hope that we will heal them – restoring harmony and wellbeing.

What is the difference between pain and suffering?

Pain is physical, and suffering is psychological, so two people who are experiencing the same level of physical pain could be experiencing very different levels of suffering. This is due to their different levels of psychological resilience, i.e. their ability to deal with adversity. If we are overly identified with the victim parts of our ego, we will suffer a lot. If we are more aligned with our Self, we will suffer less. This is because the Self simply notices things as they are, without labelling them as suffering, without wallowing in self-pity and without catastrophising.

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