In our education system we would have studied every thing starting from learning numbers to history to computers. But not the most most important subject – Human Psychology. We some how get a feeling that this area may be for some one having psychological issues or disorders and not for us !!. And since we don’t know what is happening inside we reach out to Gurus, Astrologers, Psychologists, Experts and depend on Spouse/Friends/Parents, etc. Because this subject is like a puzzle for us.
While we are progressing at rapid speed on technology side, I don’t think we have built enough expertise to know basic human psychology. Why this is important?. Lack of understanding of human psychology (own and others) is the root of all major issues – starting from fight with your neighbor to war with neighboring country. Most issues can be solved with good understanding of psychology. Even if you can’t solve world problems at least you will be able to solve your own !!.
As usual disclaimer – I am not expert or have special education in this area. But have enough experiences. So I will share what I know.
You Are Unique
It all starts with what kind of base brain and body type we are born with. Genetics play a major role in this. With all these, unique DNA (except for identical twins) gets formed. Are you thinking why I am starting with brain, DNA, etc in Psychology topic?. This is very very important to recognize that we all are born Unique. And this fundamental basis is forgotten in our understanding and interactions.
Your base brain gets shaped based on the experiences you go through during early formative age. Environment, parenting and overall experiences forms your brain and associated emotions. Even though we are born Unique, mostly, no one (parents, teachers, etc) will take this into consideration. Then you are put in the society. It will be like a market place. Your unique nature will be taken out and will be measured with every one else. It starts with comparing you with your brother/sister and then in the school. You will be put in the education system irrespective of what you are made up of. And in parallel you hear the slogans like ” anybody can any thing if you have will, blah blah..”. These are motivational stuff. Reality is different. You will be able to do well what you are best suited.
You are born unique and then you get merged into the mix and then for rest of the life you try to uncover you uniqueness (mostly half of your age will be over by this time) and fight for it.
Recognizing your own uniqueness and other person’s will give most clarity and solutions to many human related problems.
Once the base brain is formed, based on the experiences person goes through beliefs gets formed. Typically, the core beliefs gets formed between age of 0 to 7 years. This 0-7 yrs period is called “The Imprint Period”. The set of core beliefs defines the the core personality.
Base brain plays a significant role in the formation beliefs. Lets say, even if we take identical twins and expose them to the same situation they will perceive the situation differently and form different beliefs. For e.g, if both grow up with an alcoholic father, one might never drink in his life and other person might get into this habit. So how beliefs gets formed is a complex process. To simply you can either think this as pure probability or predefined destiny, etc.
There are 3 different levels in Beliefs. First level is simple opinion level. This can be changed with enough evidence. Next level is belief – some thing you believe as truth. Next level is most advanced – conviction. Conviction is very firm belief. With conviction person can/will do any thing. The extreme form this is terrorists who are ready to die (as an example) for what they believe is true.
If you have to change a person (by himself or by others) then the belief needs to be changed. Core beliefs are difficult to change unless the person goes through real transformation or experience extreme pain/pleasure. This is the one of the main reason why it is very difficult change a person. But change is possible if you willing to change your own beliefs and go through the process.
In reality, no belief is right or wrong. Each person thinks their beliefs are right and try to live for them. This goes from a person to nation. When there is mismatch in beliefs conflicts arises.
It will be very useful and fun to list down all your main beliefs and test them if they are really true. You can delete all dis-empowering beliefs and install empowering beliefs.
Values are nothing but your core beliefs. For e.g if you believe honesty is very important in life then you will give value to honesty. So honesty will become part of your value system. Unless your belief on honesty changes, you continue to give value to honesty for rest of your life.
Why knowing your values are important?. This is very important as living your values are directly proportional to your happiness. And values determine who you are. Formula is very simple. If you are living your values then you will be very happy. Any deviation from your values will make you unhappy, angry, hurt, etc…Let’s say if freedom is one of your value, any time when some one is trying to take away your freedom you will be upset. This is true every where – at workplace, family and even with friends. Values are not just for persons. Values are basis for organizations and nations also.
Values have hierarchy. If freedom is # 1 and financial security is # 7 in your value list then if some one offers you a job with a very big package but if you have to work in a rigid environment then you most probably will not go for this job. If you do out of some compulsion or impulse then will be upset and you will quit this job after some time.
How do you know your values and hierarchy? There are many tools available on internet. Check out Dr Demartini’s tool => https://drdemartini.com/value_determination/determine_your_values
Values drive your life and happiness. It is worth to understand them well.
There are multiple theories on emotions. Theories on how many emotions are there, how emotions are formed and why emotional intelligence is more important , etc.
In my understanding, basic emotions comes with base brain. Feelings of happiness are linked to prefrontal cortex. Anger, fear, sadness, etc kind of negative emotions are linked to amygdala. I think, based on various factors like genetics and others your base brain and emotions gets formed. This is like you are born with out-of-box feature (in software product terminology). Then the customization happens to your brain and emotions. How does this happen? Customization happens based on beliefs, experiences and how you interpret those experiences.
I am sure your heard the phrases like “This is how I am “wired” or born with”. You see some people by nature are very happy and optimistic. While others are pessimistic and sad. These people brain is wired with these emotions. Until very recent time, scientists used to think that you can’t change your brain wiring. But fortunately, now scientists have discovered “Neuroplasticity”. This means your brain can change on its own based on what you feed (experiences, interpretations, ect) in. So the good news is you can be optimistic – called “learned optimism” with practice.
Sequence is some what like this (not necessarily real sequential) Brain <-> Beliefs <-> Emotions -> Actions -> Out comes. Finally what really drives you is emotion. This is why it is very important to have a handle on own emotions. But this is not easy and it is complex. This why there are many theories and books are written on emotion intelligence. All leadership finally end with EQ (Emotional Quotient).
All the decision making happens based on individuals own emotional strength/weakness. Every relationship is based on the emotional mix of two different people.
So how do we get to know our emotions well?. While there are many tools on this, I think the single most tool that is far more effective is Mindfulness.
Find your own tool/approach to master your emotions. Most problems can be solved with this single mastery.
Interesting thing in psychology is that you will realize that each and every aspect is very important building block. Self Esteem is really one of THE fundamental driver for one’s success and happiness.
What is Self Esteem?. Self Esteem is simply loving & respecting yourself. And, believing in your own worth. This looks so simple right? Just respecting & loving yourself. But, unfortunately loving self seem to be so difficult. It is difficult mainly due to childhood experiences, upbringing and social conditioning. If you would have got an early impression saying you are not good enough( by any measures) ,then the disease of comparison starts and self destruction begins. For most people, this process continues until end of life unless they detect and correct this problem.
Low Self Esteem is not going to impact just you. It impacts relationships and you will become burden for others. Low Self Esteem results in symptoms like – comparison, self critical, anxiety and over control behavior on others, etc. Unless you examine yourself deeply, it is very unlikely you will find you have low Self Esteem issue. Often you will have convincing story saying your behavior is based on the “other” person’s acts. But it is very like your own self esteem issue.
It is very important for you to accept your low Self Esteem problem (if you have) and take necessary help (self help or any Psychologist help)to increase your Self Esteem. It is not your fault. Some one has pushed a deep belief on you at early age and you may be carrying belief all along.
Delete those old dis empowering beliefs and install new ones. But be patient with the process. It needs deep root cleaning.
One of the main problems of low Self Esteem is emotional dependency. Most often emotional dependency might feel like real love, affection, etc. There is a big difference between actual love/affection vs emotional dependency.
Below are some of the symptoms of emotional dependency.
- Need lot of attention from some people to feel happy
- Seeking approvals from others
- Not trusting own feelings
- Afraid to be alone
- Feeling empty inside
- Often anxious and jealous
Emotional dependency impacts most in relationships. I have built a simple theory on this – “Emotional P&L”. Let’s say if there are two people involved in a relationship (any kind) and if one person is lacking emotional wealth (basically emotionally dependent) and the other person is having emotional richness then the first person try to take the wealth from the second person. Like in financial transactions it has to be balanced – give and take. But if it is one sided then that relationship is not going to be sustained. Second person can give the loan (emotions) for some time but after some time this will become burden.
Healthy relationships work when both people have emotional richness and ready to exchange. When some emotions are needed other person can loan for some time and then take it back. Overall accounting should be healthy and your relationship P&L should end up with profits. One person gives the emotions that other person does not have and in exchange some other emotions are given.
Emotions are not really some fluffy stuff as we generally think. In reality they work like business partnerships. Give a deep thought.
In the previous parts, I wrote about Self Esteem and Emotional Dependency . Main root cause of low Self Esteem and Emotional Dependency is lack of Self Love.
What is this Self Love stuff?. If you pay more attention to this and go little deep then you will discover very interesting things. Do you know any one who is generally optimistic and happy irrespective of any achievements, growth, status, wealth, etc? And at the same time do you know people who live in hurry, anxious, always achievement focused, etc (kind of Type A personalities) and live without contentment and real happiness. The most significant difference between these two types of people is SELF LOVE.
When you have sufficient self love you are generally happy – independent of achievements or any other things. Does this mean these people don’t achieve and live in just simple happy life – not necessarily. In fact, people with real self love would emerge as authentic leaders. When you have self love you do things with love and also like/love people around you. Basis of optimism is self love.
Contrast to this, people who lack self love might achieve more – but to prove a point and to fill their emptiness inside. But this kind of achievement ruptures. Most importantly SELF. Lot of ego, controlling behavior, etc are just some of the offshoots of lack of love.
Lack self of love mainly would start at childhood – from parenting, experiences and it can be genetic as well (based on how you base brain got formed).
Building self love is not a quick fix. It is a real transformation work and you need to re-design your core beliefs. Self love is worth Billions !!
Extreme of opposite of Self Love is Narcissism.
Healthy level of self esteem is very much required and it is essential to lead a happy life.
When a person is having low self esteem there are two possible routes.
- One is to recognize low self esteem and try to focus on improving
- Second option is to feel very high and think very grand about oneself just to cover the same low self esteem – This is called Narcissism.
Narcissism might look like very very high self esteem. But it is not. In fact, narcissism is more dangerous than accepting low self esteem (and working towards improvement).Self esteem is a positive way of feeling good about oneself and narcissism is most negative approach to feel good.
Below are some of the symptoms of a narcissist.
- Arrogant behavior
- Grandiose sense of self importance
- Lack empathy
- Believes he/she is very “special” and try to associate with high status people
- Fishes for excessive compliments
Some of the very strong type A behavior people and people who focus on very high accomplishments (with above symptoms) may be narcissist category. Recently there was some debate on Donald Trump if he has narcissist personality. This is just to give an idea but I do not know if he has it or not. And, you will encounter narcissist people in offices, businesses, politics and ever where.
You can Change
If you have any narcissist people with in your close circle of people, help them understand this concept. Most narcissist people are not aware that they have this issue.
Even if you have formed some dis-empowering beliefs, have low self-esteem, etc, the good news is you still can change !!. Your whole personality is combination of brain, genetics, beliefs and other factors. While some of the real core factors like genetics, body nature, etc are difficult to change, you still can change your beliefs and your base brain.
Until recently, neuroscientist believed that your brain wiring can not be changed. But now the real good news is that you can change your brain wiring. This is called “Neuroplasticity“. What this means is you change your brain through your thinking. Your thoughts are like software commands through which you can control your brain. Through the repetition of new thoughts you will form new neural path ways in your brain. Technically, it is possible to re-design your base brain.
Why I am talking about neuroplasticity in the psychology subject?. Because your brain plays a major role in every thing. And this is mainly to emphasize the point that you can change for better and your brain is ready to change if you would like to. Most often we take it very granted about brain and many people have less awareness about how brain runs.
One of the best book I have read on this topic is “Super Brain” by Deepak Chopra and Rudy Tanzi. Explore more on this and uncover the super power of your brain.
I am sure you heard and read about “Positive Thinking”. We would think this is very basic stuff. True. It is very basic thing. But very hard to implement if you have a default mode of negative thinking. For many people the default mode of thinking (esp in difficult situations) is negative mode.
I have written bit more detailed about building optimism in “Romance with Fear” series. Read more on this here => How to Build Optimism .
In yesterday blog, I have written about Neuroplasticity . The basic step to make changes in your brain is to start with positive thinking. With positive thinking, you generate positive emotions which results in positive and productive actions. And this will in turn erase your dis-empowering beliefs you would have formed at early stage into empowering beliefs.
This is very much technical and process driven. But most often we tend to attribute our current situation to destiny, astrology, blaming others, etc. Why?. Because this is easy. We can always simply pass the responsibility to others – parents, environment, genetics, etc. In turn, we can expect some secondary gains like sympathy from others. And you might get addicted to this kick unconsciously. That’s why some times even though we know we can change, we (our mind) conveniently push the ball to “others”.
Bottom line – When people say “my life got changed”, what actual changes is not life but just the interpretation. Try to interpret events, situations, people and out comes in positive way and you will start experiencing different life.
There are hundreds of theories on “Purpose of Life”. In my view, all boils down to a very simple thing – We want to FEEL GOOD. How do we feel good? We experience through positive emotions. But what blocks your positive emotions are your negative emotions.
Some of the negative emotions are – Anger, Regret, Fear, Guilt, Sadness,Jealously, etc. Like any thing else in life, negative emotions also have a role and purpose. All the negative emotions mostly indicate you that either some thing is unfulfilled or danger of loosing some thing. But most often we carry with the negative emotions instead of understanding why we are experiencing these emotions in the first place.
For example, if you are experiencing the emotion of guilt then that means you have done some wrong thing that deviated from your value/belief system. It is kind of compass to your value system. Similarly, you get angry when some one deviates from your values. Do you really understand why you got angry? Mostly no. We carry with anger emotion. Try to analyze your anger situation couple of time and most probably you will get good handle on your anger. Try it out !.
Many times we try to suppress the negative emotions. Any suppression is not good. They will eventually come out. Too much of suppression will result into different kinds of disorders. Both suppression and carrying with emotions are not good.
You need to understand your emotions (esp negative emotions) and get to the root and get meaning. This is the way to create to path to positive emotions and feel good.
Envy & Jealousy
Out of different negative emotions, the emotion of Envy/Jealousy is most dangerous one. Just this one emotion can make you never happy. It can negate every positive thing in your life.
Let me start with a simple distinction between Envy and Jealousy. Envy is a reaction to lacking some thing that others are having it. Envy is comparison between two people. Where as Jealously is fear of losing some thing (esp in relationships). So this is between three people. But both are basically in the business of comparison.
Why this comparison in the first place?. I think this is mainly because of internal inadequacy – low self esteem. People with low self esteem tend to compare a lot. And the second reason is the mindset of scarcity. In the animal world food used to be limited so if one gets and most probably other animal will not get it. So our brains still think in the old mode. Actually we live in a world of abundance not in scarcity. If your neighbor got a luxury car you can also get if you work toward it. Actually this is very simple logic to understand but our brain fools with the old emotion.
I have noticed couple of very interesting things about comparisons
- In the first place you should never compare. It is a losing game. There will be always better than you in some parameter. Even if you compare, do the overall comparison of life. Don’t just compare your wealth with other person’s wealth. Compare overall life then you will realize you are better off in other areas (may be in relationship, family life, etc)
- Second thing is very interesting. In reality (most cases), the person whom you envy may not be actually enjoying what he got. Either he may be chasing some thing else or he may be comparing with some thing else ;). Below quote summarizes it very well.
“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy” – Heraclitus
You can instantly become happy if you know how to handle just this one emotion!!
Self Respect is different from Self Esteem. Self Esteem is about evaluating and feeling positive about Self. Self Respect is about the actions you take in line with your values. Self Esteem is more on evaluation and Self Respect comes from what you do. Self Esteem is very basic requirement. But Self Respect is much more important.
Main anchor for a person’s life is values. Values are nothing but your core beliefs. Let’s say you have one of the value as Freedom. If you continue to compromise on your freedom then you will start losing the inner power and ultimately lose self respect.
Any one who lives in line with values will have greater inner power. All great leaders have enormous inner power. Which leader comes to your mind? Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela?. Self Respect is what drove them to stand up and nothing could stop them. That is the power of Self Respect. This is what I call as “Inner Currency”.
We may not and need not become Mahatma Gandhi. But we can definitely need to become ourselves. In the pursuit of chasing different things ( Career, Relationships, Money, etc) we would have compromised our values. You may get temporary benefit out of this. Soon you will realize that it is not worth all. Retrospect and correct it !!.
“Self-respect knows no considerations” – Mahatma Gandhi
Pain & Pleasure
We all know many things in terms of what is good, what needs to be done, etc. But why we don’t do? Here is the secret…
There is a powerful concept i believe in called ” Pain-Pleasure“. Basic principle is your mind/brain try to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Human beings try to avoid pain even though they know they can get more pleasure after going through the pain. This is the reason why we avoid risks and challenging things in life. We avoid criticism, failure, hard work, experimenting, pain, rejection and any kind of psychological, emotional and physical pain.
But pain is great gift if we know how to use it. Maximum number of transformations and changes happened in the history are through the pain. All major humiliations and discrimination lead to fighting for freedom and human rights . People who were thrown out of a company or job would have started much better companies. Refer to history or look around and you will find plenty of examples on this.
Change can happen through extreme pleasure also. Examples of this can be – deep love on some person or passion for some thing also can bring major change. Ideally if change comes from through pleasure then it would be joyful ride. But we may not get this way of change all the time.
Embrace pain and go through it. You will become tough and grow stronger.
I had an interesting observation recently . There are two people we are offering similar services. One person charges for the service and the other offers for free. With some variation both offer good service. Very interestingly people are so keen going with person who charges fee. While the reasons can be any thing, subconsciously we under value anything that is “Free”.
We humans place much higher value on the things that are scarce and lower value on the abundant things. Basically any thing that is become available to us easily and abundantly we don’t value much and take it for granted. When suddenly same thing become scarce then we start valuing.
This scarcity psychology concept is fully leveraged in business – in marketing, advertising, sales and negotiations. Examples of this are – “Out of stock”, “Only 1 item left” and “50% off until this mid night only”
Scarcity psychology acts in all areas of our life. When we are healthy we don’t pay attention to health. One emergency visit to hospital makes health as # 1 priority of life. Then once health stabilizes we push it to back burner. Same thing goes with relationships, career and money. This also the reason why we have less gratitude towards what we already have. We crave for what we do not have – scarcity.
Watch out the areas which you are not currently giving importance…they may become very important soon. Catch them early.
If you are not happy here is the magic reason…Personal Rules !!
Between beliefs/values and the emotion you feel there are some rules. These are the rules you have setup consciously or unconsciously. Some examples of rules.
- IF I get promoted to XYZ then IF I am given ABC = Feel Happy
- WHEN I lose weight and build lean muscle and run a marathon = Feel Happy
- WHEN people respect me = Feel Happy
- IF I make 10 times more money = Feel Happy
Like computer language you have an inbuilt logic/rules with in yourself to FEEL HAPPY. What is the problem with these rules?. The problem is we would have set too many complex rules to feel happy. We would have set these rules in such a way it becomes very difficult to feel happy. Why is this so? Most probably because of parenting and social hypnosis. Just because our parents had these rules we would have copied their code/logic or every around you builds such a complex rules. In fact, you may be passing your legacy logic to your kids and making it very difficult for them to feel happy.
There are few lucky souls who have very simple rules ( like “I am happy whatever I have “) and others beat themselves to the death with complex rules.
Because of conditioning we may feel bit uncomfortable to feel happy without much reasons/logic!!. This is the power of conditioning !!. Simple way to unconditioning is to review your current rules in all areas – how people should be and behave with you, how much money you need make, career progress, social aspects, etc. Then see if you can rewrite your old complex rules to make it very simple.
Aspire to build this ultimate logic: IF ALIVE = HAPPY
If you trace the entire chain of psychology and find out the root of all evils you will stop at Love. Since this emotion has many contexts and connotations we may write it off this as some fluffy stuff. But Love the most powerful emotion and this is the driving force. If you deeply notice most people crave for this emotion in different forms – appreciation, praise, connection, recognition, friendships, relationships, etc. This is basic human nature and need.
Lack of this emotion results into many issues. Read earlier blogs on Self Love and Emotional Dependency
If some one has not received/experienced this emotion during early childhood then this will result into all issues. Actually there are no “bad people”. These “bad people” are simple ones who not fortunate enough experience this deep emotion. All the criminals, sadistic and narcissist people have missed this emotion. Lack of this results into hatred and fear. Out of fear and hatred all evil actions starts.
On the contrary and positive side, all amazing things happens with the emotion of love. We may have different names for this – passion, mission, interest, happiness and life. All major and good transformations resulted out of deep love.
Love is the short cut cure to all issues. Starts with self love. Observe yourself and others around you will get the key.
We all heard about the strong “Mind-Body” connection and how each impacts other. To feel happy and be successful, etc we need fundamentally strong Psychology. You can think of Psychology as software. But you need strong and supportive hardware also. You hardware is your body/ Physiology.
Your Physiology directly effects your Psychology. It directly impacts how you think, how you feel and how you behave. Let’s try this. You drop your shoulders, make your face serious and walk without any power. What kind of thoughts you get – very creative and up beat kind? No !!. Mostly negative and dull thoughts. Do the opposite. Walk with power and add authentic smile and raise your chest like a body builder (just for experiment). How do you feel now? Very very different right? – Positive thoughts and feel of high confidence. This is the power of Physiology and your body.
The are two ways you can impact your Psychology. One is through mind and another is through body. Via mind is more powerful but it takes lot of effort and practically not easy. Things like meditation, mindfulness, visualization, affirmations, etc. Most easy and practical approach of influencing your psychology is through body. This can be through – following a fitness regime (of your choice) and consciously maintaining right posture and breathing patterns. This is the precise reason many many people now days following different varieties of fitness activities.
Right Physiology is quickest way to feel good and alter your Psychology. Venture into this path and it is very addictive (good way) !! . You will start seeing your God in this path.
Time to conclude this series !!
Psychology is a huge subject. This subject can be very interesting if you are hooked on to self improvement and if you can see this as the main magic behind every thing we go through. But it can be boring if you don’t have much appreciation for this. I have written this series mainly to create little bit of awareness and appreciation !!. Just a small attempt from my experiences !!.
As I wrote about different building blocks/parts, one thing that consistently came to my mind was how systematically our Psychology was built. Brain/Physiology <-> Experiences <-> Beliefs -> Values -> Actions <-> Emotions/feeling -> Actions/Behaviors and goes back to Brain plasticity, etc.
On one side I think humans can be replaced with machines if they can replicate the above building blocks. It all looks logical including emotions. But the other side, I feel what makes humans so special/unique is the self transformation ability. As long as humans can cross the boundaries and limitations we continue to retain our uniqueness.
To maintain human uniqueness we need to thrive on understanding and improving our own Psychology !!