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The Inner Child

2003-04-08

Category: politics

Many philosophers and psychologists have discussed the fact that humans try to find a person or other entity to blame for the suffering inherent to the human condition. That it is perfectly normal for humans to struggle to survive and yet anything that it is not a life at ease is assumed to be caused by some outside force. This appears to be left behind from early youth.

As an infant one is constantly pampered by one's caretakers. All of your needs are fulfilled and your time is your own to amuse yourself as you see fit. Unfortunately, we get older and must start working for our own stuff. Our needs and wants become more complex, and it takes more effort to meet them. Worse yet, we find ourselves responsible for meeting those desires.

The primitive aspects of our being demand to know why our wants are not being taken care of. Everything was handled before, what changed?

Before, it was the outside entities that fed us and cared for us. They aren't doing that anymore so it must be their fault. Furthermore, if anything bad happens to us it must be the actions of the outside entities. We know that we wouldn't do anything bad to ourselves!

This phenomenon shows up heavily in political and religious speech. If I want you to follow me all I have to do is point out that your needs aren't being met and then make an emotional appeal to your inner child to point out that the problem is those who oppose me. Then I can reassure you that, if you help me overcome my enemies, I will take care of your needs.

You can see a great deal of this any time the news shows some group that is riled up about anything. Very rarely are the people involved doing so because of something based on rational thought; they are usually motivated by emotion. A current example would be some anti-war protesters who claim that the war is about some simple idea, say oil or bravado. Since international activities are very complex, it is extremely unlikely that one thing is the sole cause of an undertaking such as war. That doesn't matter to one of these reactionary protesters. (NOTE: I'm not suggesting that all protesters have no idea of what they are protesting. Some may fully understand the circumstances and still have an objection. Unfortunately, too many that I've heard don't have a clue.)

Many times these people are easy prey for social, political, or religious predators. By offering to take on the role of the parent, the predator can lead childlike people for quite a while and never actually deliver on their promises. How long will cult members stay with a charismatic cult leader while living in squalor and misery? One of the primary problems with our current president is that he has spent too much time being serious and somber when the general populous needs a little encouragement from someone who will make promises of better times. The previous president would smile and say happy things no matter what and he was greatly loved despite being a brazen huckster.

Advertising is another realm where such behavior is the norm. Does your breath stink? Are you ugly? Do you have weaknesses that prevent normal, physical performance? Well, just buy their product and they will make everything better. You do want everything to be better don't you? I suppose we can't force you to be better if you really don't want to, even if everyone else is getting better. Are you sure you want to be left behind? I didn't think so. Here, have some of our product. Just for you, it's new and improved and we've given it a new, low price. Why do we do this? Because we care about you.

Of course every religion throughout time has done the same thing. You suffer because you have not done things in accordance with divine will. If you would wish to stop suffering, simply follow these deity-mandated steps. First of all, do exactly like I say. Why should you do what I say? Well, you are suffering from not following my deity of preference while I do not suffer. That shows that I am following the prescribed doctrine. If you wish to cease your suffering then you will do like I tell you.

I'm not picking on any particular religion because all of them do it. Again, there are some people who genuinely believe and wish to help you. You should never assume that the person trying to convert you is one of the true believers.

* * *

Think about your fantasies and daydreams. Aren't they mostly about situations where you get what you want without any real effort and with everything provided for you? Are your fantasies about power or sex or general peace and contentment? Isn't that about taking care of your most primitive wants and needs even if the manner of fulfillment is very complex or adult? Sure it is.

So, what's my point? Here's the part where I tell you that following my advice will bring you happiness. Despite my best effort at avoiding being one of those people, I've finally given up in the name of communication of the idea. The point is that you need to realize when you have emotions and what motivates them if you want to prevent them from ruining your life.

What the hell does that mean?

It's simple really. Your emotions tell you your basic needs and wants. You need to be aware of them in as honest a manner as possible. Then, you need to separate out those things that are actual needs from those things that are simple wants. The distinction is that a need is a thing that is absolutely required for your progress in life while a want is something that would be nice to have but without it you can go on unimpeded.

Here's an example. Say that you need a car. You know that it is a need because our culture is such that not having a car reduces the ability to secure those things that assure a healthy life and the opportunity to mate. The correct thing to do is to look over your budget to see what you can afford and then go purchase a vehicle that meets your needs. Auto dealers have a great number of vehicle types and optional items that you may purchase. They will also offer to finance practically anything they sell. This means that you have the opportunity to purchase a vehicle that will go well beyond meeting your needs. Does that mean you should?

Do you really get any benefit from the extra items on the car? Will it improve your social standing or your chance to mate? If all you needed to be a success was to have the right car, they would be much harder to purchase and the competition for the best would be more fierce.

Still, the feel of the wheel of that sports car or sport utility vehicle feels really good. Maybe you like the comfort of the luxury car. You can just feel how nice that vehicle is. Does that mean you need that vehicle. This is where reason comes in.

You can think about the things that feel good about the nicer cars and then actually purchase a more reasonable car with the added options that you really want. In the long run you will be happy with your purchase and you will have maintained the money to pay for other needs and wants. Though your emotions could tell you what you wanted, they would also have you buy a vehicle well beyond practical. With reason, you can buy a car that suits your needs, is within your budget, and still has a few emotionally satisfying extras.

The automobile example seems a bit obvious and in real life it is limited by fiscal limitations. Other examples aren't so obvious till you think about them. Did someone make you mad? Will you cheat on your diet? Should you gun it getting onto the highway? Will you ever actually wear that shirt? These are examples where the emotions may tell you one thing but reason may tell you something else.

There are plenty of times when the emotions may help you more than stopping to think. These are usually the primitive survival situations such as ducking out of the way when an object is heading strait for your head. The emotional part of the brain is left over from more primitive times and it can handle these situations rather well. Unfortunately, the world is not so primitive anymore.

So, what does all of this mean? What am I telling you? That's easy, slow down and think. There are courses available on logic and you can actually learn this. Logic doesn't mean that you have to turn off your emotions, no matter what the science fiction genre has taught you. Humans are inherently emotional so you couldn't turn them off if you tried. You can keep your emotions from being a problem.

Listen to your inner child, but don't be childish.


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