To establish and maintain our inner peace we have no option but to remove the emotional dysfunction of our ego.
Even though it’s important to productively feel all of our emotions, we can still divide them into two categories—virtuous and anti-virtuous feelings. This is because emotions do one of two things—they are either good for us (right) or bad for us (wrong).
Therefore, virtuous emotions are positive and beneficial, whereas non-virtuous emotions are the opposite.
Now that’s not to say that feeling anger, for example, is always bad for us. In the short term, feeling negative emotions is important because we’re human and it is part of the human experience. Instead of that negativity being suppressed, it has the space to breathe and then voluntarily give itself away to our fundamental beliefs and more positive feelings.
Yet when we feel these emotions for longer than a short amount of time, it is always going to have a detrimental impact on us and others, which is why they fall into the anti-virtuous category.
It is a common teaching in our society to behave virtuously to others, although it is debatable to how much this is actually practiced. Especially by those in big business. But what is even more concerning is that so many people treat themselves in anti-virtuous ways. And if people are treating themselves poorly, then it’s no wonder that they treat others the same.
The disheartening aspect is that good people so often treat others better than they treat themselves. For a while now I’ve been asking myself why this is the case, and it appears that there are at least several answers.
First, many of us are not true to ourselves. We hide behind how we treat others whilst secretly treating ourselves like crap. Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re doing it, yet even if we do, we don’t have the skills, knowledge or conviction to behave any differently.
Second, it’s more often taught at home, in school and throughout society to respect and care for others. Right from birth we’ve been getting lessons on how to treat people, but rarely ourselves. Ironically, we’re not going to get in trouble for punching ourselves in the face, but we will if we do it to another person.
Third, the way we treat others is usually reserved for our actions, yet how we treat ourselves also means how positively we think and feel. Therefore, it’s assumed that behaving virtuously to our fellow man is a lot less work and therefore easier then to treat ourselves well.
But I disagree. If we have a thought and/or a feeling towards someone that is anti-virtuous, but act virtuously, then we’re being hypocritical because we’re not truly being virtuous. We have all the power too, because the only person who will know what we’re thinking and feeling is us. We will appear virtuous, but we’re fundamentally not, because thoughts and feelings come first and actions come second.
For example, if we think “I am better than this person,” and feel “vanity,” but then say to them “Do you need some help?” then the first two aspects were anti-virtuous and the final part was virtuous.
So positively treating others is not just what we say or how we act, but also how we think and feel towards them. And the same goes for how we treat ourselves. If we think negatively, feel negatively, but act positively, then we’re not being truly virtuous to ourselves either. This is the source of emotional dysfunction.
If we want to properly care for ourselves then we need to live the way of the v-three; that is virtuous thinking, feeling and action. If we emotionally treat ourselves virtuously then it naturally follows that we’ll do the same for everyone else.
In today’s society, it’s scarily common to be physically healthy through committed exercise, and to create a loving family through nurturing our relationships, but then at the same time contradictorily have less regard for the way we internally care for ourselves. We’re working in the wrong direction.
Constantly being stressed, angry, sad, and jealous or an array of other negative mind states, is emotional dysfunction. Rationales like “I’ve got a short fuse” or “I’m heartbroken” reflect self-destructive behaviour. Anything negative that we continually maintain inside of us is inherently self-abuse.
Yet these states of mind are generally considered normal for people within our society, with little emphasis on the damage that these states have on our health and the real cause of these emotional dysfunctions.
That cause is us.
If we lined up 100 people and gave them each the exact same experience, we would get 100 different reactions or responses. For example, if each one of those persons were suddenly dumped by their partner of 10 years, they would all deal with it differently. Sure, it would be a challenging emotional state to go through, but with different philosophies, beliefs, emotional development etc., we’ll always get different outcomes.
One may grieve in extreme heartache for many years. Another might grieve for only a week. And another for a week and one day. The point is that it’s not the same result for each person, which clearly illustrates that there are factors which influence how we deal with the highs and lows that the rollercoaster of life takes us on.
To reiterate, the greatest influence is ourselves.
Following are 8 examples of self-harm. They’re anti-virtuous features of individual states of mind.
They are also impartial; they can be discovered both in good people who genuinely care about others, or reflect those who are generally uncaring and disrespectful towards their own people.
Ultimately though, they are dysfunctions of the human psyche which disturb inner peace.
- Unforgiving towards others
When we’re resentful towards others it’s usually because they have behaved hurtfully or broken our trust. But anyone who has felt like this i.e. everyone, knows how bad it feels. It makes us think and feel negatively.
Therefore, forgiveness is simply essential for self-care.
The empowering aspect is, with the right rationale, forgiving is easy. For example: “I forgive them because they lacked the wisdom and strength to have treated me better. I also forgive them because if I don’t, I continue to hurt myself, which is being just as disrespectful to me, as they were.”
- Easily frustrated with small matters
If we’re easily frustrated it usually indicates that deep down we’re angry or sad. We could be holding onto anger or disappointment from our past that we’ve not let go. In some fundamental way, we have not found peace and ongoing contentment.
When life is so short, it’s painfully self-destructive to be irritated all the time. It’s a stressful experience, and as the old adage goes—stress kills. Literally.
So if we fully embrace our present, then we functionally process all of our experience, including the good and the bad. Being irritated all the time is simply a manifestation of a dysfunctional mind which then also causes those around it to suffer.
There’s little reverence in a frustrated state anyway; and without wonder and awe, we suffer.
- Sadness and Depression
A lack of self-esteem and ongoing self-pity leads to depression. It is physiologically represented by a chemical imbalance, which is why there are pharmaceutical drugs designed to help realign our chemical needs. Yet depression is also representative of how we have negatively processed our past and not accepted and embraced it for what it is. The drugs don’t help us to do that, which is why they’re ineffective in the long-term without some form of psychotherapy.
Now this is not to be confused with grief. A natural process of human activity is to grieve over the loss of a loved one. Excessive grief, especially if it leads to depression, is when it becomes dysfunctional.
Life isn’t all wine and chocolate. It’s a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows due to the varying experiences that we have. Some of those experiences are harder to deal with and take a more advanced emotional development to process effectively and efficiently. So of course at times we are going to feel sad, but it becomes dysfunctional if we’re sad more often than not, or it’s easy for us to fall into that state.
- Anxiety prone
Worrying is one of the most common dysfunctional states in our age. It’s more often a nurtured or learned behaviour. Our parents and a fear-consumed mainstream society have taught us to worry about our future, about our kids, about our health etc.
The most irrational aspect of worrying is that if we add up the amount of times we’ve worried about something, and it actually eventuated in the undesired way, we’d be looking at a very small percentage. Therefore, spending all that time in a stressed and anxious state has simply been self-abuse.
On top of that, when we’re anxious about our future, sometimes we create what we were anxious about in the first place. We send out those negative vibrations and attract them back. It impacts not just us but also those around us in a negative way too. It’s totally unnecessary and unfair to everyone involved.
I love the flowchart which simplifies how useless worrying is. It says: Do you have a problem in your life? No leads to: Well why worry? Yes leads to: can you do something about it? As you may have guessed, both yes and no lead to: well why worry?
- Always negatively judging others
We all make judgements every day. The whole concept of judging people and life in general has been twisted to no longer make sense. The fact remains that it’s perfectly naturally to pass judgement; we either make negative or positive assessments on someone or something, or both at the same time. We also have realistic and unrealistic judgements too.
Usually we don’t have all the information to make a holistic and fair judgement, so it’s important to recognise this before we make any assumptions on that someone or something. When we are negatively judging others it usually occurs when we compare ourselves. For example: “I’m better than them because they don’t act like I do.” We might also meet a person and have a negative judgement on their character: “They’re a terrible person because they yelled at their kids and that’s not how I operate.”
Positive or realistic judgement is about embracing someone even if they behave in a way that we find undesirable: “It’s not the best way to speak to their kids, but maybe they just found out that their loved one died or they have not yet learned the skills to respond more constructively.” Another example would be: “Well I don’t condone the particular lifestyle that they choose, but that doesn’t mean I’m choosing the only right way to live, especially because I have not had direct experience in what they have chosen.”
It’s also about seeing the good in people: “Sure, they may be a, b, and c, but they are a good natured and genuine person.” To judge realistically would be to say, for example: “They are overweight and not looking after their health, but maybe one day they will and just need the right inspiration to do so”
If we are dysfunctional with our judgement towards others then we generally only focus on their negative traits, whether they are perceived or real. We would be unrealistic in the way that we pass judgement. We would constantly compare ourselves to other people and in our own minds justify why they are inferior to us. They’re not as smart, or they act weird etc.
The same goes for when we are dysfunctional with our judgement towards ourselves; we justify in our own minds as to why others are superior to us.
Assessing or judging someone or something is tricky business. We all do it—either functionally, dysfunctionally or both. The truth is, the way we judge is frequently a source of emotional dysfunction in our society, so to overcome it we should take our ego out of our judgment the best we can.
- Jealous behaviour
The old saying “jealousy is a curse” is super true. Envy has the ability to evolve into some serious dysfunction of the mind. It also relates closely to how we can negatively or unrealistically judge others.
Jealously is a form of delusion. It comes out in harmful ways, such as defaming others behind their back. It’s plagued with lies.
We might be jealous that we don’t have the particular strengths of an individual, that we don’t have a particular relationship with someone, or that we don’t have the money or job that someone else has. And that might be perfectly natural, yet if we’re always feeling this way, it is inherently self-harming because it isn’t positive or constructive for ourselves.
Dirty gossip is born out of jealousy and negative judgment. They did this, or they did that, is an unhealthy and unsuccessful way of building our own self-esteem. We don’t evolve our own confidence and self-worth by bringing others down; we do it by focusing on ourselves.
Regardless of what we’re jealous of, we remain in an unrealistic or delusional state of mind. Our focus is in a place that we are not. If there are areas which we need to evolve in ourselves, or our lives, then that is where our focus should be—not on the strengths or fortunes of others.
Simply, if we feel jealousy then allow it to be a fleeting state that drives us to work on our own needs.
- Holding onto Guilt
Feeling ongoing guilt over our past mistakes is also emotionally dysfunctional because it is nothing but a negative state of mind. To move past guilt, we need to learn and evolve, not wallow in shame and regret.
We all make mistakes, at times more seriously than others. If we all felt guilty all of the time, no one would be growing. Guilt is helpful to understand that we’ve done something wrong, as is shame and regret, but we should ensure they’re temporary states of mind and create something more positive and constructive out of them.
The aim is to accept and embrace what we did. Learn from it. Build strategies around how we’ll never make that same error again. Understand that holding onto guilt, shame and regret only leads to emotional dysfunction, self-pity and potentially depression.
We should always be functional and healthy in the way that we move forward with our lives, and being guilt-ridden inhibits that.
Learning to forgive ourselves is the key.
- Always being offended
Some people appear addicted to being offended. Even if we are offended over something that we are justifiably right to defend, why is it that we should put ourselves through suffering just because of what someone else said or did? Isn’t it a reflection of them, and not a reflection of us?
Of course it is. Just say a person in the street calls us ugly or stupid. We could get offended and upset because of what they’ve said, or we could understand in that moment that it’s a reflection of their lack of empathy, wisdom, compassion and emotional development.
If we invest our feelings in the way others behave, then we’re destined to suffer because there are always going to be unthoughtful and underdeveloped people in our society.
If we blame others for the way that we feel, then we are a Blamist.
For example: it’s my parents fault for what they did when I was a kid, or it’s my exes fault for what they did to me when we broke up.
Blaming others for the way that we feel is disempowering. We effectively give away our power to others. But if we take responsibility for how we think, feel and behave, we empower ourselves with the responsibility and the freedom to be who we wish.
The time we become truly free is the time that we take full responsibility of ourselves and ensure that we, not anyone or anything else, are the single most influential factor in how we evolve for the rest of our lives.
And that’s the time we stop being offended.
There are many emotionally dysfunctional states that potentially plague our contentment. Further examples include vanity, sexual obsession, stress, love addiction, living in denial, hell bent on success, hate-filled and possessive, to name but a few.
The reality is if we’re living with these self-harming conditions, then we’re not properly taking care of ourselves. They might be normal in today’s spiritually-disconnected and ego-based society, but they’re far from the natural and balanced state of the human mind and spirit.
There’s no one that can overcome these dysfunctions for us, but ourselves.
We really have that much power.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman