The Importance of Feeling Important

Nearly all of us human beings desire to feel important to others, to have our importance reflected back to us, especially by those who are close to us.  “I matter to them.” “You matter to us!”

Yet so many of us lack this sense of being important.  When we do receive this from others, frustratingly the feeling often does not last long.  Then, when we try to regain this elusive inner confidence (that is brought alive so often by others), we are unsuccessful.  That’s when the real problems start.

We can feel depressed, disconnected, powerless to do anything well or right. Or, we can try to boost our sense of importance by making others less important.  The latter in particular is where so many of us are stuck on one or the other side, often on both in different situations.  

The reading I’ve done recently has convinced me that this sense of feeling important to others (and knowing their importance to us) begins prior to birth in an implicit fashion. In the womb, while there is sound, there is but one creature without any contrast created by another.  

That sense of the world ends at birth.  Now there are gaps that did not exist before. How well things will turn out for the child depends upon how quickly and how well the gaps are bridged.  But even a small gap (hunger, physical discomfort) can seem endless for a newborn, and in those endless moment, it would be easy to have an immediate, strong sense (not put into words) that there is no end to this, and if there is no end, I will die. Shame, terror, rage.

Therefore, if we do not feel important as adults, or others attempt to make us to feel and believe we do not matter, the deepest, oldest part of us instinctively fears death, which is why the drive to be seen as important is so intense.

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A Shaming and Shameful Election

Dealing with the Post-Trump Campaign Era

The presidential campaign we’ve just experienced took negative campaigning to a whole new low.  The primary method was not new — color the other candidate as awful with super-sticky paint that is water proof and flame proof.

The outcome of the election was stunning to most people, including Republicans and likely Trump himself, though he will not admit to any insecurity about anything.  Michael Moore, along with a few others, predicted that Trump would win because of the huge number of distressed white working class people in the previously Democratic states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

While it is looking as though Hillary will in the popular vote by a million or more votes, the rustbelt’s disadvantaged pushed their states toward Trump and with it the election based upon electoral votes.

What crucial factors drove this outcome?  There is one in particular that may be the most powerful source of energy:  The unrecognized emotion of shame.  Human beings are remarkably responsive to being shamed and will do (or not do) many, many things in order to avoid being shamed.  Shame is being exposed to the world as flawed, no good.  While all emotions, including shame, can be more or less intense, even a light touch of shame can be overwhelmingly intense.

The curious thing about this emotion is how painful and unrecognized it is. When anyone feels intensely shamed — mocked, humiliated, dissed, put own in some fashion, ignored — the natural, uninhibited response after the first instance of pain is outrage at being treated this way.  If someone puts us down, especially in front of others, we first want to melt with blazing heat through the floor, to disappear; then we shift and want to turn the blazing heat onto those doing the shaming.  Despite this, shame is seldom even mentioned in the overwhelming number of reports on the election and more generally in stories about crimes of violence.

This campaign was filled with inflammatory put downs, more often by Trump and his surrogates, than Hillary and her surrogates.  But both effectively waded into the muck-filled arena to toss huge globs at their opposition.  In those rustbelt states, Trump used his well-honed skills to mock Hillary while playing to his audiences.  People got a sense that he knew how limited and limiting were their lives, to the point they could not begin to compete in the middle class arena for the goodies that say, “We made it; have you?”  

No one likes to feel inferior. Think of all the revolts and revolutions mobilized by those at the bottom.  

Trump, like Rush Limbaugh and others, loves the putdown. So do his audiences. When he speaks about himself, he uses superlatives and when he speaks of others, especially his opposition, he flips to the antonyms of superlatives:  second rate; really, really bad; worst; stupid, and so on.

In the interview Monday night (11/14/16) on CBS with Leslie Stahl, Trump was busy making nice.  He praised Hillary and Bill Clinton.  When Stahl asked him if he was going to prosecute Hillary, instead of saying, “No,” he started in a list of things he hoped to do in the first day on the job as president.  

This niceness is not going to last.  He appears to be surrounding himself with tried and true losers (e.g., John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, & Sarah Palin).  But the one thing we can count on will be more of the same.

David E. Roy




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The Role of Shame in Firearm Massacres

The Shame of It All: Violence in A Culture of Disrespect

By David E. Roy. Ph.D.

In the context of the firearm massacre of first graders and the intense debate about guns and mental health that has followed, it is important to bring attention to the fact that the Judeo-Christian tradition lands heavily on the side of nonviolence.  This is the religious home of the vast majority of US citizens.

For Christians, whose roots are deep in Judaism, the Jewish Bible is known as the Old Testament.  The heart of this is the Torah where one can find a couple of versions of what’s known as the Ten Commandments.

About halfway down the list, we find a series of prohibitions, the first being against killing.  In what’s called the Beatitudes in the Christian Bible, Jesus as Rabbi takes this a step further, admonishing his followers not to return violence with more violence, but instead to turn the other cheek.

At Christmas time, many Christian church choirs and congregations sing excerpts from Handle’s Messiah, where Jesus is hailed as the “Prince of Peace!” – not the Prince of War.  The universal symbol for Christianity is the cross, connoting sacrifice, instead of a raised arm brandishing an automatic rifle.

We May Be Christians, But We Still Love Our Guns

Yet, while nearly 80 percent of US citizens identify themselves as Christian, very few are committed to any degree of nonviolence (assuming there is a range of nonviolent positions from unconditional to some use of limited force for protection).

A recent Time Magazine article (1/14/13) revealed we have the most guns per capita of any nation:  close to 90 per 100.  Compared to Canada, England, and western Europe, we also have a much higher rate of firearm homicides.  In 2007, the year these figures were put together by the United Nations, the 9,146 firearm homicides in the US were roughly 3 per 100,000 and accounted for 60% of all homicides.

By contrast, the firearm homicide rate per 100,000 for Canada was 0.51, 0.07 for England, 0.19 for Germany, 0.77 for Switzerland (which was 3rd for rate of gun ownership), and 0.45 for Finland (4th for gun ownership).  These and many other countries (but not all by any means) appear to have found ways to allow people to have weapons yet keep them under control.  This is not something we have been able to accomplish, hence Sandy Hook.

Somehow, Killing First Graders is the Worst of the Worst

The killing at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newton, Connecticut, was extraordinarily shocking because most of the victims were first graders.  All of the massacres have been and continue to be deeply unsettling, but it feels as though there is something even more primal about our responses to the murders of these children.   It touches something so basic, so universal, that it is difficult to find the words to express this sense of how wrong this was.  I am haunted by the ineffable feeling that this horrible act wounded the sacredness of Life itself.

What are We Going to Do?

Here is the question:  Now that we have come face to face with the worst mass murder most of us could imagine – first graders shot repeatedly with ultra-destructive bullets, adults gunned down trying to stop the killer and shield the children – now that this has been thrown at us, what are we going to do?

So far, the public’s response has included strong calls for stricter control of firearms, large ammunition clips, and the ammunition itself.  Strong voices also are calling for funding public mental health services at a much higher rate.

Others believe intensely that we should place (hopefully) well-trained armed guards at all schools.  And, in what seems to be a uniquely American response, gun dealers and those assigned to do background checks are reporting a huge rush to buy not just more guns but the same type of weapon used in the Sandy Hook killings, an automatic rifle, along with enough ammunition to keep those gun barrels red hot.

The cliché about people with hammers can only see nails to pound, if true, would mean there are an awful lot of Americans who can only see targets to shoot.

Again, We Must Ask, Why are these Massacres Happening?

Tragically, this soul-numbing slaughter is only the latest of an on-going series of these gruesome incidents.  We have to ask again, why are these massacres happening and what can we do about it?  As with previous incidents, many people will be analyzing details of the shooting and the shooter to try to answer these questions.

What kind of disturbed mind would conceive and then carry out such an awful act?  I have some thoughts about this, but first I want to speak to two misunderstandings that need to be cleared up.

Two Misunderstandings

1.  The first misunderstanding is that restricting gun ownership for people who are in some fashion mentally disturbed will help stop these massacres.  In reality, there is no guarantee that someone considering such a monstrous act would seek therapy.

I do believe that putting a lot more money toward public mental health services would be quite beneficial for all of us, however, and I really hope it happens no matter what.  This would reduce violence in general; and it would have the potential to keep huge numbers of people out of prison, saving enormous amounts of money and improve the quality of life for many as well.

2.  The second misunderstanding is the idea that there is some sort of similar underlying personality type or psychological disorder that leads to these murders.   In the latest round of rumors, for example, the Asperger’s condition has been mentioned as a possible cause and that simply is not true.  Nor is it because someone is depressed or bi-polar, or anything else.  It is unlikely these killers share a common diagnosis that could predict their actions.

DNA Analysis to the Rescue?

I also read that they are going to do DNA research associated with these killings.  This presupposes that something as unique and complex as this can be reduced to DNA.  While DNA at the level of eye and hair color is very straightforward, when it comes to something as multifaceted as this, it is highly unlikely that a highly unique pattern will be found.

The most that DNA analysis might do, if they were to find something that tied the killers together, would be to put a large number of people under extraordinary scrutiny; and they still would not begin to be able to predict who actually might act.   On the other hand, in the legal universe, I suppose this would open the door to the DNA defense:  My genes made me do it!

There are Common Factors, However …

A handful of shootings, including some of the massacres, have been done by people who are, clinically speaking, psychotic, namely paranoid schizophrenic.  This is where our society’s lack of support for more in depth and extensive community mental health becomes shockingly evident.

But this does not account for most of what we have been seeing.  These shooters are not psychotic but they are propelled by a most powerful motivation that is the same in all cases.  In these highly publicized shootings, as well as in a large number of less-publicized killings, there is one factor that seems to tie nearly all of these events together, a factor normally barely mentioned if discussed at all.

Here is what I can see:  In nearly all the past bloody tragedies when we learn about the killers, we can find the poison of the emotion shame hard at work, sometimes for years before the actual killings.

… and that is Shame-Driven Rage

I submit that the primary fuel for these massacres is shame-driven rage.

The depth, power, and pervasiveness of the emotion of shame is poorly understood in our society; and unfortunately, not well understood even in my profession (psychotherapy).

In its rawest, most intense form, shame is extraordinarily painful.  The automatic response to shame is to attack, to destroy the shamers with undiluted rage, thereby re-establishing the lost esteem.

Research psychologist Sylvan Tompkins named shame as one of nine innate emotions for all humans.  Shame has many names and a wide range of intensity from mild to intense.  It even has important positive functions (enforcing a group identity and deflating excess grandiosity).

What does shame feel like?  It is that experience of being exposed to others as inherently ugly, unacceptable, repulsive, humiliatingly flawed.  You stink, you are disgusting, no one is as stupid or as ugly as you are.

Important Resources

Retired Michigan State University staff psychologist and professor, Dr. Gershen Kaufmann, first introduced many of us who are practicing psychotherapists to this topic through his book, Shame:  The Power of Caring.  Not only is this a book that all professional psychotherapists should read, but at this point it should be assigned reading for all who are researching and creating policies to deal with these shootings.  In my own practice, in addition to Kaufmann’s book, I also have found that John Bradshaw’s self-help book, Healing the shame that Binds You is a valuable resource.

The Dynamics of Shame at Work

When people feel humiliated, it sets certain things in motion in them, namely a desire to level the playing field.  As they often feel powerless, however, they may not be able to do anything except brood.  This increases the intensity of shame; it becomes a static charge seeking to be grounded in order to restore a sense of worthiness.

When this rage is augmented by like-minded conspirators (as with Columbine) and reinforced by many hours of absorbing detailed violence from TV, radio and horrific games, the stage can be set for even harsher action.

Human beings in general are sensitive to being shamed and this is acutely so during most of childhood.  Unlike young children, however, teenagers are fully capable of a wide range of adult actions whether it is driving a car, using a computer, or shooting a firearm.

Much of what is referred to as bullying involves intense shaming by mocking and deriding others who are different, who may deviate to some degree from the accepted norm in dress, language, skin color, areas of interest, mannerisms, and all the other ways people can be see and experienced as different.  An unathletic brainy student often is a poor fit for a group of jocks; and vice versa:  “Hey, it’s the smartass computer geek.  Let’s throw him in the girl’s bathroom where he belongs!”  “Hey, there’s the stupid jock!  Don’t let your knuckles drag on the floor.d”

Teens and young adults who are Aspergers in their makeup are going to be different.  They often can come across as awkward, saying things in an odd manner, not tuning in to the emotional flow of a conversation and interjecting something that doesn’t fit the context and may even be jarring.  But like all human beings, people defined by Aspergers do experience shame (I’ve had this validated by several clients with Aspergers).  Their often flat affect can and does give the appearance that they don’t care, but that is not true.

If someone is extensively ridiculed and feels horribly out of it compared to the perceived norm due to Aspergers, this person may be just as likely to turn to violence as anyone else who has been intensely ridiculed for any other reason.  The Aspergers is not the cause; it is simply becomes the flaw that others pounce on for mockery.

A Tipping Point is Reached

Eventually, for some victims of extensive shaming, a tipping point has todd be reached.  It is payback time for all the slights and nasty words, all the red-hot moments of being made to look idiotic in front of one’s peers.

As many who are treated this way do not end up using a semi-automatic weapon to surprise and kill those who are defenseless, there is important work to be done to tease out the factors correlated with becoming a shooter.  In the meantime, there are definitely actions all of us can take to improve the situation, to dial down the potential for shame.

We Live in a Culture of Intense Disrespect

Our nation today is dominated by an atmosphere of disrespect, of name calling and egregious put downs of those whose options differ.  I would have to point to Rush Limbaugh as the contemporary master of the dark art of the supercharged sneer, the well-practiced (and highly rewarded) instinct to heap acid scorn on any and all with whom he disagrees.  Of course he is not the only one by far nor is his approach to commentary only practiced by right-wing Republicans on the Fox network.  But I would say, echoing others, that the Republicans today have by far the strongest voice in this battle of disrespect.

How does this relate to the shootings?  This shame-charged climate adds to a negative emotional load for all of us, in particular those who already see themselves as less than most others.  As such, this potentially this means it would take less additional input to reach the threshold for action.

This Disrespect Must End … or be Terminated

The most important step is to end the pervasive rhetoric of disgust and degradation in public and in private; and to communicate with respect for and toward those with whom we may strongly disagree.  This has to include the numerous media commentators who make their audience delight when someone else is called names, made out to be stupid, etc.

These commentators appeal to their audiences because they are implicitly saying that you, audience, are smart in direct proportion to how idiotic these others are made to look.  It seems that the most primitive form of self-esteem requires others to be idiots.  Unfortunately for the audience, but fortunately for the commentators, this type of esteem evaporates quickly and therefore needs repeated feedings.

Getting these commentators to stop the nasty putdowns or to request they be dropped from the public’s airwaves is crucial.  This is not an issue of free speech.  This is an issue of public safety as well as the quality of life in our nation.

The same is true for all of the rest of us.  Each of us must our part to help end the intensely charged atmosphere of shame that pervades our nation. In our efforts to get those in power to reign in their denigrations, their put downs, however, we must restrain our own tendencies to treat them in a similar manner.  As tempting as that might be, this would just perpetuate the problem.

Befriend Those Who are Marginalized

Finally, an essential act we all can do in our various roles as friends, parents, teachers, religious leaders, coaches, health care workers, and more, is to tune in more closely to those among us who may be or feel different, outside the norm; those who seem to draw a disproportionate amount of negative attention from peers, teachers or other leaders; those who clearly are struggling with intense self-hatred; and those who seem to be isolated, walled off, uncomfortable, ill at ease.  If they own or have access to firearms, monitoring this is essential.

We can make our society a more caring and accepting environment and we can gently befriend those who have been treated as outcasts.  If we do, we will reduce the potential for these horrible murders while creating an environment that augments Life at the most basic of levels.

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Murdoch and the Power of Shame

By David E. Roy

Some time back, I wrote an open letter to Mr. Murdoch in which I explained that keeping Glenn Beck on the air was making Mr. Murdoch look incredibly foolish. In fact, I reminded him that he had the best of the best educations in both Australia and England; whereas Mr. Beck, had virtually none and that it showed. Within a week of the letter being published in Fresno’s Community Alliance, Beck was on his way out. I admit it is hard to take much credit for this, partially because I never actually mailed the letter, but it felt wonderful at the time.

But now, Mr. Murdoch himself is subject to the full weight of shame being directed at him by those Brits and others who are repulsed that his staff at seemingly the highest levels orchestrated hacking into the mobile phones of dead people, paying a great deal of money for ghoulish tidbits. Here we have the first electronic, “virtual” grave-robbing incident, at least the first known to me.

I suppose one way for the vast majority of us is to deal with this inevitability would be to record something well in advance of our death, something that would put the hacker’s teeth on edge. But, I doubt I or my phone would be of interest unless someone accidentally hacked the wrong number. There also is the problem of keeping the battery charged long enough for the phone to be of any postmortem use. Imagine the fun if the phone started ringing in the casket as it was being lowered into the ground.

Back to Mr. Murdoch: I believe it is clear, or soon will be, that whatever criminal charges are brought against the top-tiered management, the boss will not be charged with anything. Nor will there be any real damage to the News conglomerate even if the charges result in convictions and large fines. But what is killing Murdoch’s Empire are the blows being delivered by the revulsion felt by millions on both sides of the Atlantic for the baseness and utter insensitivity of tampering with the mobile phones of a dead child (and confusing parents and police by deleting messages, suggesting she must still be alive), and the phones of dead soldiers and, likely, the phones of those killed on 9/11.

Yes, old fashioned journalists could be a hardboiled, cynical lot. In my brief period as a full-time reporter way back when, for every major holiday, reporters and editors would enter the “Ghoul Pool,” guessing how many people would die in auto accidents during the official holiday period. However, this was Tucson and there were no outlandish, scheming dirty tricks to get “scoops” away from the evening paper or the rip-and-read television news desks.

As the morning paper, the Star covered everything up until 11 p.m., and maybe a hour later if it was a critical story. This meant the Citizen was more often in the position of following up the morning news. But no one would have gone as far as Murdoch’s army. This could have been different in New York City or Washington DC or Los Angeles at the time. Even so, and I may be holding onto a certain naive idealism to say this, I really don’t think most journalists, editors, and publishers, then or now, would go as far as Murdoch’s crew. Yes, I would be surprised, on the other hand, if there were not others out there at least as willing as Murdoch’s employees were to gain a fingernail clipping’s width of advantage no matter what it took.

But to me, that is the whole point: Few would do this and one of the best barriers is not the threat of being arrested but the anticipation of being found out, exposed, shamed in the public eye. Shaming is powerful and in most cases simply the facts of the embarrassing actions is enough to trigger the searing pain associated with the spotlight of shame. The kind of over-the-top sneering that Rush Limbaugh does is really not necessary to make the case. In fact, when it is so exaggerated, it is as though the people and their actions are not really that shameful so they have to be painted with shame to make the point.

The US based news organization that remains extraordinarily shameful, uttering falsehoods directly and by innuendo on a regular basis, is (of course) Fox. We shall see if the spotlight on Murdoch broadens to include the hive of activity at Fox.

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The Lords of the Rings, Lording It Over All

By David E. Roy

While I do serve as a representative of the faith community (broadly defined) in the mix of the pages of Fresno’s progressive newspaper, the Community Alliance, it is my sad conclusion that the religions and the religious practices of more than half the world’s population are failing humanity by falling far short of their own standards, While this failure is not absolute, it is far more extensive than I would wish it to be.

Christians, Muslims, and Jews constitute roughly 3.6 billion of the world’s 7 billion people. At 14 million world-wide, Jews have many strengths but numbers is not one of them. By contrast, Muslims weigh in at 1.5 billion and Christians at 2.1 billion. Between these three religions, there should be a whole lot of peace, compassion, and altruism being expressed.

Why? Because the majority of the world’s people belong to one of the three religions that claim Abraham as their forebear and these religions traditionally elevate compassion, peace, and care for the poor, the ill, the outcasts, to the highest of all values. If so, how can we living in a world where clearly the opposite most often prevails among these same believers?

Why are the Abrahamic Religions Failing Humanity?
Is it the Devil? Evil People?

There are a number of ways in which people explain this dichotomy. Some would blame this on the clever work by a personal source of evil, pointing to the dramatic images of “spiritual warfare” and the old favorite, the Devil, Beelzebub, Satan. I certainly see the power of evil in the world, but I don’t think it is either helpful or realistic to externalize it and to assign it a supernatural status.

Another traditional tactic has been to demonize whole classes of human beings as inherently evil and, often, as being subhuman. As they are evil and subhuman, they do not qualify for the protection accorded real human beings under the provisions of the Torah, the New Testament, and the Quran.

A third tactic, at least among some Christians, is to read the bible selectively, picking verses that support their own righteousness and their condemnation of those who disagree – in the name of God, of course. Often, these verses are found in the Jewish bible (which Christians call the Old Testament). To do this requires ignoring the core of the New Testament.

The US is Becoming a Mean Nation

If what is published and broadcast by the media today is in anyway representative of the US population as a whole, we have become a nation that does not reflect or embody these religious values that are fundamental to any of these three Abrahamic religions (nor to the tenants of Buddhism or the highest values of Hinduism). Yes, I am saying that despite the rhetoric of the political and social right, we are becoming distinctly unchristian in our attitudes toward each other and particularly in our treatment of the disadvantaged.

Today’s media sports an huge, loud raucous coordinated chorus of voices raised in disgust and sneering disdain to belittle and mock those who are concerned with the Common Good, those who seek to advocate for compassion and care for the less fortunate.

The level of meanness, of callousness expressed toward those in need seems to be greater now than any time I can recall in my life. I know that this kind of subjective assessment is not always an accurate measure, but I really do believe the tone of public discourse being expressed by far too many of those leading or influencing governments at all levels, particularly at the national level, has become exceptionally mean-spirited and definitely non-rational. That is, reasonableness has no place, it seems.

What is Driving This?

What is going on and why? If it is not the Devil, what forces are driving this? What on earth could be the actual motivations and the goals for this huge wave of hostile and denigrating cold-heartedness?

There appear to be several factors at work that are responsible for creating shaping today’s contentious landscape. While these factors may not be obvious, may not be what one first considers, I believe they are heavily involved, they are universal, and basic to the makeup of our species. One set of those factors stems from our biology and another set stems from our psychology – our body and our mind.

While I will not be elaborating on the ontological nature of the body-mind relationship in this column, I will say simply that both body and mind are real, highly interactive, and made from the same “stuff.” But they have different functions. Our body is rooted in supporting life in the most basic sense and while our mind leads our passion for purpose and direction. (These distinctions are not absolute or clear cut.)

First, It is Our Biology

Our biology is that of a primate, though our evolutionary history extends back through many earlier and simpler forms of the Animal Kingdom. One of the most basic and universal biological drives is to survive, even thrive, as a species. For that to happen, the strongest fertile individuals need to prevail in both inter- and intra-species conflicts. As we know from nature films, this is often an ugly, terrifying picture – at least from the point of view of the one who has been fought, hunted, killed, and often, eaten. The satisfied victor, obviously, has a much different perspective.

To oversimplify, one conclusion we can draw is that this drive to survive is a basic part of our biological system that extends from the bottoms of our feet up to and includes the evolutionarily older systems in our brain. In its purest, raw form, our life-preserving biology would not by itself give rise to remorse nor would it be concerned about the defeated competition nor about the terrified-but-now-dead food source. It does not tend to respond in a manner that leads to empathy or compassion toward others.

The human drives to dominate and to win have to be rooted in this. A third drive also seems to reside in this powerful arena. This emerges from a related theme, namely the advantage that accrues when one has a large stockpile on hand. “If my tribe can’t make it through the winter with what we’ve harvested, we will take some of what you have – no, what the heck, make that all of yours. This is the drive we call greed.

Second, It is Our Psychology

On the more psychological side, are the dynamics of self-valuation, most often referred to as either healthy self-esteem or narcissism when the valuation is favorable; and as poor self-esteem or shame when the valuation is unfavorable. My work and my own self-reflection have led me to the realization that our need to feel positive about ourselves is a necessary dynamic in our personal psychological development.

The counterbalancing opposite of this is shame. Full blown shame is a searing, shattering experience. Most people work hard to avoid being seen as shameful, even to the slightest extent. Shame can function to temper unrealistic self-valuation, a necessary dynamic in the development of the person. But the human instinct is to stay at least at arms length from the possibility of shame. And this motivation in its initial, immature form underlies so much of human destructiveness and violence.

The Initial Stage of Self-Esteem? Being Superior to Others

Why? Because the first stage in achieving self-esteem for most of us is to believe we are superior to someone else. I can only feel good about myself if I look down on you with disgust, with contempt. In our own nation’s history, this is an oft repeated theme: The original European settlers characterized the Native Americans as ignorant savages. Among themselves, they saw women as inferior; those with differing religious beliefs as sinners or agents of Evil. Of course, not everyone felt this way, but these became dominant views.

Enslaved Africans quickly and almost universally became subhuman. According to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, even Lincoln was doubtful of the black slaves native intelligence or capacity to be fully human. In Germany, Hitler helped the non-Jewish German population overcome the mortification that resulted from the losses in WWI by casting all the shame on the Jews (and others who deviated from acceptable norms).

Religious Values Could Stand Opposed to the Worst of These Drives

These drives, biological and psychological, can and do lead to horrible outcomes throughout history. In that sense, today is no different. One of the major controls to inhibit the extremes of these primal forces has been these core religious values. In Christianity, for example, loving your enemy means there is no enemy; loving your neighbor as you love yourself means kindness and care for others; the call to help the poor, the weak, the ill, requires a good degree of selflessness.

But …

But for a variety of reasons, these values are not being fought for by religious leaders, and in many cases, they are not even being taught. I can’t say what is occurring in the Islamic mosques in the US, nor in the Jewish synagogues here, but I have seen a huge focus in Christian circles on personal salvation and not on social justice.

Further, many well-educated Christian clergy avoid bringing the fruits of decades of superior biblical scholarship to their congregations because these new ideas and interpretations challenge what has been tradition. How often does one hear today that Jesus was a radical who challenged the status quo? Instead, today he often is held out as the one who blesses the status quo.

The Lords of the Ring …

And what is today’s status quo? In the US and Europe, and increasingly in many other places, the status quo is that a tiny number of people control the lion’s share of the wealth. Through corporations and numerous financial institutions, they continue to accrue wealth and power: greed and domination coupled with highly inflated self-valuation.

If you are that wealthy, it means that you are unquestionably superior to most others; and, by god, you are going to make sure that does not go away. These are the Lords who are Lording it over the rest of us. Of course, not everyone who is at this level of wealth and power is like this, but as Frodo discovered (and Gandalf knew), this level of power is highly seductive and extraordinarily destructive.

Soon: What are some things we can do about this?


Copyright © 2011 by David E. Roy, Ph.D. – All Rights Reserved.

Author’s written permission required for duplication and/or distribution by any means possible
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or by writing to him at The Center for Creative Transformation, 5475 N. Fresno St., Ste.109, Fresno, CA 93710-8333


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