This article is the follow-up to the original article ‘8 Signs of Emotional Dysfunction which Disturb Inner Peace’.
The first part was well-received and resonated with a lot of people. Thanks for all your awesome feedback.
Some people, however, misunderstood the article’s message, so I thought it would be important to elaborate on that here.
It is not the ideal to be happy all the time, otherwise we are potentially suppressing our negativity. What we should be aiming for is permanent contentment anyway, regardless of how happy or sad we are in any given moment.
It is also completely normal to feel negative emotions—or as I define them in the first part—anti-virtuous feelings. They are absolutely acceptable aspects of being human. Yet when those negative sides of ourselves become overwhelming and dictate how we operate, it is indicative of emotional dysfunction.
There are many negative thought patterns and feelings that we get caught up in. If they are a temporary experience then there is no real harm done; in fact we may have learned something about ourselves and others through the experience.
It’s when they become a permanent feature of our daily mindset that they become self-harming and dysfunctional behaviors.
There are some mind states which are considered somewhat normal in our mainstream society, yet they are emotionally dysfunctional. In the previous article I discussed some of these as well as other self-abusive patterns:
- Unforgiving towards others
- Easily frustrated with small matters
- Sadness and Depression
- Anxiety prone
- Always negatively judging others
- Jealous behavior
- Holding onto guilt
- Always being offended.
These eight signs are problematic if they are permanent mindsets that we live with. Not only do they make us suffer, but those around us do too.
There’s a little more that I need to clarify before going into another eight signs.
Just because we have some emotional dysfunction, it doesn’t mean we are emotionally dysfunctional people.
An emotionally dysfunctional person would be someone who has significant mental health issues or embody many of these signs.
On the other hand, a person with emotional dysfunction would simply have some problematic processing of their thoughts and feelings. They suffer from it. And I would say most if not all of us fit into that category.
We don’t ever completely overcome thinking and feeling negatively. Even if we are an emotionally developed person, there are days where our self-control and psychological expertise is tested. We also justifiably feel sad or angry over incidents which happen in our life.
Yet emotionally developed people have the self-empowerment to process it productively and progress that negative mindset efficiently.
One aim of the article is to help readers achieve this.
Excessive self-love manifests in many ways. It’s usually born from issues of insecurity. A poor self-image and self-esteem can also be at play.
Societal illustrations of beauty have warped our collective image of what’s beautiful. Sculpted bodies, make-up, clothes and hairstyles can add to the unique presentation of a person, but they’re not what fundamental beauty really is, nor what is truly important in our life.
Beauty and attraction is not just physical: t’s also the emotional, intellectual, moral, behavioral and spiritual natures of a person, as well as other qualities.
If we’re vein, then we’re sacrificing some of our own beauty, such as our emotional health, and also sacrificing some the experience of beauty we perceive in others. If we burden ourselves in the belief that we’re better than others, then we’re suffering. How can we expect ourselves to always reach those ideals? To be in constant competition with others is unhealthy and will usually bring up other negative states like jealousy and envy.
Vanity is also the excessive self-love of other personal attributes besides image. Sure, people have strengths and weaknesses, which means for example that other people are going to be more intellectual than we are. But we may be a more emotionally developed than they are. So who then, is the better person?
Neither. We’re all essentially equal.
If we’re vein, then we’re most likely only focusing on our external strengths because we can so easily hide what’s going on inside of us. This might be how great our body looks, the money we earn, the skills that we have, the job we do, or the goals that we’ve achieved.
But they’re not forms of real success. Yes, they are successes in their own right, but they don’t guarantee that they make us a good and genuine person.
Being virtuous to ourselves and others is one of the true forms of success. And anybody can achieve it, regardless of socio-economic, racial, cultural, health or other demographic influences. For more on this topic, make sure you open the link ‘Have We Achieved Real Success’ at the end of this article.
Essentially, if we’re vein, we’re in pain. We aren’t balanced, nor at peace.
2) Sexual addiction
Sex for a huge portion of the population is unhealthy. Yes it is a primordial urge, but that’s exactly why we need to develop our self-control so we can advance our state of mind and ensure permanent contentment for ourselves.
Being addicted to sex is an emotionally dysfunctional state which is usually reserved for men, but it can also happen to women. It’s not just what men are physiologically made of, such as the genetic and chemical constituents of the body, but also the way that the consumerist world has bombarded us with the message that fulfilling ego-based desires is what will ensure our happiness.
Have sex. Buy porn. Look at how hot these women are. Keep satisfying yourself.
Now I’m not saying that paying heed to the sexiness of humanity is wrong, because there’s lots of raw beauty to be embraced. We love and lust. But if we’re addicted to having sex then we have an emotional imbalance that inhibits us from being content.
We’re always trying to find our next lay. We’re always trying to tick another box. We’re never actually satisfied.
We have many areas of our lives that need to be balanced, including our sexuality. So if we’re addicted to sex—take a chill pill—we’re probably not that good of a lay anyway.
Mainstream society has forgotten how pure it can be. It’s so much more powerful when it’s appreciated on a deeper level, especially when we begin to evoke the tantric and divine experiences which can accompany love- and lust-making between two people.
That’s the connection we should functionally work towards.
Ultimately, all addictions are unhealthy, especially over the long term. And if they are emotional addictions, they without a doubt inhibit inner peace.
There are two types of stress: healthy and unhealthy stress.
Healthy stress is when our mind and body is temporarily tested to its limits. The chemicals that are released can be good for our overall health. Therefore, we should always explore different activities that will release adrenaline and other beneficial hormones into our system.
They’re actually mild forms of meditation.
Yet unhealthy stress is reserved for those of us who live in an anxious and nervous state on an ongoing basis. We’re always freaking out about meeting that deadline. We’re always worried about some aspect of our future.
If we’re constantly living with stress in our lives then we’re not at peace. We’re on a chemical edge and doing lasting damage to our mind and body.
We can’t blame our boss, our job, our partner, our children, our parents etc. It’s up to us to properly take care of ourselves, not others. When we’re a blamist—that is, we blame others for the way we feel—we’ve disempowered ourselves.
Stress comes from within, not from without. Sure, some experiences are harder to emotionally deal with, but every person responds differently to those situations, which means we have a level of control.
We determine for how long we feel stressed.
If we process highly pressured experiences in our lives in a way that is functional, light-hearted and even humorous, then we’re emotionally advanced. If we don’t, we stress.
And stress kills. Have you ever wondered why a high percentage of people die just after they retire? It’s because they finally fully relax after such a long time of being highly strung that their body just can’t handle it.
Because they’ve lost some of their purpose and have no sustained focus on a work-related task, all that residue stress left over from unproductively processing their working lives comes back like a lightning strike and their body short-circuits as a result.
This is just one example of how stress can kill, and there are plenty more. Stress is dis-ease which causes disease. This in and of itself should be enough of a justification for removing the emotional dysfunction of stress from our lives.
Plus it’s not an enjoyable way to live either – for us or our loved ones.
4) Obsessed with some ideal of Love
Now this is the one more frequent among women, but it obviously also happens to men too. So many of us are obsessed with finding the perfect partner or creating the perfect relationship.
It detracts from living holistically because obsession occupies a lot of our thoughts and feelings. We’re imbalanced and not at peace. It’s like being addicted to a particular ideal that we want, but don’t have.
Many emotional dysfunctions are sourced to a lack of love in our lives. For example, a lot of adult trauma is birthed from not enough love and nurturing as children.
Yet the reality is that none of us always has enough love from others—that’s where it’s our job to fill the void.
We should find love for ourselves and reality in a healthy way and not expect others to do it for us. That way we can always be at peace, no matter what’s happening in our world of relationships.
Sometimes we have also allowed our love life to have a negative impact on us. When our heart hurts for long periods of time, sometimes we continue to blame someone or something else, including love itself. It’s not loves fault; love is love.
The reality is, the way we process all of our feelings and experiences, with the skills and knowledge we have at that time, will either hurt or benefit ourselves, or both.
I don’t know how many times I’ve experienced people in a ‘world of hurt’ who believe that someone they loved, or even love itself, has crushed their lives. This is not true. I know that people do hurtful things to others, but how much pain and suffering we experience really is up to us.
They cannot control how we respond to hurtful behavior; only we control how we respond to hurtful behavior.
Sure, it’s definitely hard when someone leaves us unexpectedly. Or cheats on us. Or does a myriad of other actions which challenge our emotional development.
It tests us to our limits; but to what degree we suffer is where we need to take ownership. No one person feels the same, which means we each have power in how we react or respond to both the negative and positive experiences that life offers us. Including love.
In addition, if we’re going to have high expectations of love and relationships then we better bloody well be mastering high expectations within ourselves. And having an unhealthy obsession is the opposite of that.
Throughout the years, both personally and professionally, I have seen many people who are expecting to have the ideal relationship, the ideal love and the ideal soul mate. And that’s okay in and of itself, but at the same time there is a strong imbalance when it comes to the interest they have in developing their ideal self.
We should have a serious crack at our own development before we expect to form an ideal relationship, otherwise the love is more than likely only going to be as developed as we are. It’s no wonder that so many people are disappointed in love, because they forget to focus enough on themselves, in and out of their relationships.
Disclaimer: there is no perfect love, only imperfectly perfect love. We’re human after all. Nor do we ever achieve a perfect self. Instead of aiming for complete self-idealization, we should aim for the best we can be in each moment, for the rest of our unidealized lives.
5) Living in denial
Surely we know what our current status is, right? We know what we should face-off? What are our strengths and weaknesses? What are we striving for? What is our next stage of growth? Are we actually content?
Blindly living with emotional dysfunction and not doing anything about it is one way of living in denial. Don’t we want to learn and grow and become our new more empowered selves?
Of course we do. But sometimes it’s hard. And scary. Sometimes we don’t have the knowledge, skills or willpower to overcome our problematic behavior. That’s where we should consult a professional.
If we have lessons to learn but don’t overcome them, then we’re living in denial. No matter what, our lessons don’t go away. They’ll keep remanifesting in different ways until we face them. And even when we do overcome them they’ll return to just make sure we’ve properly learned them.
They’re quite cheeky like that.
We all have areas that need attention. We should stop ignoring them for the benefit of our own health. They can include our physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, philosophical, sexual, behavioral and social vitalities. If we face our strengths and weaknesses, accept and embrace them, and then set goals to develop ourselves, then we’re not living in denial nor suffering as a result.
A common emotional dysfunction is living in denial of our fears and hates. What are we still scared of? Why? Will it kill us? Or will we kill ourselves through the unhealthy stress that fear and hate generates? Time to face those fears. Or suffer.
Embracing and functionally processing our past, releasing our unrealistic expectations of the future, and seeing the present as a gift, ensures that we’re content. And not living in denial.
In theory it’s easy, but in practice it’s more complex. But ensuring inner peace is worth it.
6) Hell-bent on some idea of success
Why do some of us spend all our time attempting to achieve some form of external success at the expense of our internal success? What is so important that we sacrifice true success?
Power. The more powerful we become, the more people will respect us and the more we will respect ourselves.
But if we’re not virtuously looking after ourselves and others, what good is the respect of others if we can’t even have true respect for ourselves?
If we’re focusing on the external forms of success, instead of the kind that makes us a genuine and truly beautiful human being, then what worth do our achievements have?
Not much if we’re living a dysfunctional and unhealthy life. If we’ve sacrificed the most important parts of being human to enter the rat race and achieve misguided success, then we’ve lost our way. We’ve probably burnt ourselves out. We’ve most likely sacrificed our own relationships. We’ve also lost the true value in the small things of life.
The only person who will ever understand whether we’re truly successful or not, is ourselves. So if we’ve lived an emotionally and philosophically unhealthy life, then it’s us that has to face it on our death bed.
If we’ve run ourselves emotionally into the ground to achieve our goals we’ve a lived stressed life. We’re not content. As the saying goes, the best things in life are free, and that includes inner peace.
Now please be assured that I’m not saying that it’s not a good thing to achieve greatness in our field of choice. The ideal is to achieve both forms of success without one at the expense of the other. There are many of us who have achieved amazing external success whilst also achieved amazing internal success, and that’s what we should be aiming towards.
And the same is the opposite. If we’re hell bent on achieving internal success and have let go of all our external ambitions, such as a loving series of functional relationships and a career that we love to have, then we’re imbalanced.
Real power is self-empowerment, not power over others. This is a common misconception.
Yet there is nothing wrong with setting and achieving external goals and being a powerful leader in our field, but when it becomes an obsession, especially at the expense of our internal success, then it’s not a truly successful way to live.
Well this is probably the worst self-abuse we could put ourselves through. Some people who genuinely have hate for other people probably have severe mental illness. But there are also some of us that are good people, who still harbor hate.
We hate the way the world is right now. We hate our job. We hate that others have it better than us. We hate that people aren’t more focused on love!
This type of thinking is self-contradictory. Filling ourselves with hate isn’t what motivates us to change ourselves or the world, it’s just fills us with hate. What makes us motivated to change ourselves and the world is love.
For example: we love that the world could be a better place. We love that we’re able to provide for ourselves and our family and that we’re striving for a new way to achieve that. We love that there are greater experiences waiting for us out there. We love that many people operate with love in their hearts and that everybody should have this natural birth right as their experience.
See what I did there? I focused on the same things, without being hate-filled. Hate is a strong word, and it’s also a strong feeling. If we have hate in ourselves, it is inherently self-abuse.
And we’re not at peace.
It’s our partner, don’t go near them! Having this type of attitude is like being a kid acting possessive over their toy. We should share the loved ones in our lives – after all, they have a right to have a life too.
We get stuck on our perceived possessions because we’re scared of losing our comfort and security. We get possessive about the way that we live because we’re scared of what change might bring us. For example, if we allow our partner to have other friends of the opposite sex, then maybe they’ll fall in love with them and leave us.
Just because we’ve found some form of happiness, being possessive about it is an unhealthy and abusive way to live. And not just to ourselves, but to our loved ones too.
If we’re possessive over our partner or over the other things in our life, we’re in a closed system of thought. If something looks like getting in the way of our possessions, it immediately brings up negative states of mind such as anger, sadness and suffering.
Possessiveness is an emotional dysfunction and inhibits inner peace.
Being open minded and embracing the highs and lows of the roller-coaster of life is a template for contentment. Be open to change. Be open to growing. Be open to new and more beautiful things entering our lives.
And be open to our loved ones having the same experience too.
Some final thoughts
There are so many negative states of mind that can potentially get in our way of establishing and maintaining contentment in our lives.
Happiness and sadness are temporary, but inner peace can be permanent. Open the link ‘Have We Achieved Real Success‘ for a practical guide to achieving contentment.
If we think and feel in a way that brings us ongoing suffering, then we have some forms of emotional dysfunction.
As described above, if we do consistently suffer, we permit it ourselves.
Yet we can learn to overcome our emotional dysfunction, we just need to obtain the skills and knowledge and seriously commit to it. If we’re aware that change needs to come from within, we’re already on our way to realizing advanced self-empowerment.
Once again, we really have that much power.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: härt-ˌbrāk at Flickr