The roots of core beliefs

I have become a Freudian.

There is a way of explaining core beliefs which makes sense to me, and it comes form an interpretation fo Freud by Peter Michaelson (just as Carl Jung's best interpreter is Donald Winnicott).

This is how your brain works:

You are born. Your brain operates according to the pleasure principle, which early on means to get food, get comfortable in the diaper area, and get affection. The infant is a pure megalomaniac, believing that he is the universe and everything which happens is because of his will. And parents do a proper job of reinforcing that idea. When the baby cries, they respond. 

At some point before the baby is 18 month old (in Freud's oral stage of psychosexual development), this can go bad. The baby will cry, and nothing will happen. It gets hungry, cried more, and nothing happens. What is the baby to make fo this? It's a full-blown megalomaniac and something bad just happened. Either the baby realizes that it isn't megalomaniac and that parents are different from itself, or it concludes that it willed a bad thing to happen. The second option, believing that it wanted a bad thing to happen to it, is the first root of bad core beliefs.

Your belief as an infant that you willed something bad to happen creates what Michaelson calls a Secret Attachment to deprivation. The secret attachment exists in the unconscious (Freud's id) and begins to influence almost every aspect of your self. I'll talk about a secret attachment to deprivation in a later post.

When the child is in the phallic stage of development (3-5 yrs), and is interacting almost exclusively with parents, something else can go bad. Parents can show attention elsewhere, which the child experiences as rejection. If it occurs enough times, rejection becomes another secret attachment.

If a child experiences a great amount to control from parents or others, a third secret attraction can develop, one of being controlled.

Secret Attractions all exist in the unconscious. We are never aware of them, but they have a profound influence on our behaviors, how we see others in the world, and even the thoughts running through our heads.

I'll give an example from my own life. I have secret attractions to rejection and deprivation. Once, when I was a teen on a family vacation, I didn't want to go in to the museum or whatever the stop was. I stayed in the car and read. Nearby were some other teens my age playing frisbee. The girls were cute, and I really wanted to join them. A couple came over to the car and asked me to join them, and I said, "no." Why? I didn't know why I said no to the thing I wanted. I thought maybe I was insane, or stupid, but I felt awful about it. I still remember how bad I felt about saying no, but looking back I felt I should say no, it was the right thing to say, and that saying yes wasn't really an option. It was my secret attachment to deprivation telling me what to do. I had become convinced as a baby that it is my will to experience the feeling of deprivation, that I should experience deprivation, and that it's right for me to feel deprived. Again, this is unconscious. It never occurred to my conscious thought that I should feel deprived, but the unconscious is specacularly strong.

Freud said the mind had three parts: 

  • id: unconscious, first formed part of the mind, acts to seek pleasure (food, sex, comfort)
  • ego: mostly unconscious, seeks to balance the id and the superego to create happiness and contentment
  • superego: last formed, punitive and controlling. Ideas come largely from same-sex parent. Partly conscious

A perfectly healthy person has all three aspects of the mind active, with the ego providing some pleasure under the constraints of the superego.

The ego solves conflicts between the id and the superego with defense mechanisms. I'll talk about these in a future post.

In summary, we could have one or more secret attachments to deprivation, control and rejection, which are suppressed with defenses created by the ego. Exposing them is painful but freeing, and conquering them may take time but is easy and I'm finding to be a lot of fun.

My notes on Secret Attachments by Peter Michaelson

From Secret Attachments: Exposing the Roots of Addictions & Compulsions, by Peter Michaelson, Prospect Books, 1993

Addiction is a metaphor for the addict's deeper problems, emotional addictions to certain negative states that are left-over or unresolved from childhood.

There are three categories:

  • Deprivation. The individual focuses on, and indulges in, feeling of being deprived, denied, refused, drained, not getting, missing out, short-changed, ripped off, never satisfied, and loss.
  • Control. Foscuses on and indulges in feeling controlled, dominated, forced to go along with the agenda of others, feeling helpless, at the mercy of others or forces beyond his control. Perhaps, in a minor way.
  • Rejection. Focuses on and indulges in feeling rejected, betrayed, criticised, feeling dissapproved, being seen in a negative light, condemned, excluded, and abandoned. Feelings of being caught, shamed, then abandoned.

The addictions to these feelings are unconscious, and are secret addictions. They are the result of unresolved feelings and experiences with one's parents leftover from childhood, then transfered to the people around us. We recycle these old childhood expectations of being denied, deprived, criticised, rejected, and forced to submit in the context of present relationships. Since they have not worked through these feelings, they have secret attachments to them which cause these individuals to repeatedly entangle in experiences that produce these old feelings. These feelings of deprivation, refusal, control, rejection, and so on are like emotional addictions. Most addictive personalities are in complete denial of their emotional addictions, through clever operation of their defense mechanisms.

The Cure:

  • I have free will, and can take care of life's distressing circumstances.
  • I can understand my negative emotions and reactions, and define the deeper feelings which prompted the netative emotions.
  • My present emotional reactions are based on unresolved childhood hurts with parents and siblings, which I am unconsciously tranferring to my wife and kids.
  • The child part of my phyche is controlling my emotions, and while innocent and sweet, he is also self-centered, egotistical, and convinced that others do not have my self-interest at heart. My inner child has misunderstood and misinterpreted my parent's intentions, beliefs and actions. I will learn to tell when I am in child-mode, and when this happens, question why I am in child mode.
  • I am not helpless nor powerless over my addictive behavior once I learn to transfer my past into the present, and to define my feelings toward others, and have gained insight into my self-defeating emotional reactions.
  • I want to change my self-defeating emotional reactions and transcend my addictive identity.
  • Addictive Specialists: Negative influences of parents are responsible for creating addictive personalities. A child is sweet and innocent who is then corrupted by abuse and ignorance, parental domination, undue excercise of power and control, repression of feelings, and violations of a childs sense of self. The last two apply to me.

But this method misses more objective research which reveals that children are completely self-centered, predisposed to misinterpret the actions and intentions of the parent. Children are encumbered by the weaknesses of the parent, and the misinterpretation of the parent's actions and attitudes towards himself. Children personalize their experiences with their parents and siblings, misinterpret them into thinking that others are antagonistic. These emotions and perceptions can linger throughout life.

At the core are the three categories of secret attachments, Deprivation, Control, and Rejection. These are largely unconscious to us. To hide them we have many defences and reactions, which make up part of our personality. Outside of those are the self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors which plague us.

A method for accessing hidden feelings:

  • Think back to a situation that provoked negative feelings. Write down how the situation made me feel. go beneath anger, sadness, etc., to describewhat was done, and how it felt. Try to describe lthe victim feel I experienced.
  • Take this feeling back to the past and describe a childhood situation where I felt the same. If you can't find one, use an adult situation. Is this a common feeling for me?
  • Watch for repeats of this feeling. Do I look of it even when it isn't there? Do I anticipate the feeling? Do I use the situation to wallow in the feeling? Learn to recognize this feeling when it arrives and acknowledge how much it is part of my life.
  • Recollect how I may have perpetuated this feeling with others. How many times have I done this to others? Have I egged soeone on to producing this feeling in me?
  • Describe how I do this to myself. How do I ignore myself and shut myself out?
    Try to sense my attachment to this feeling.

For me, the negative feeling I feel most often is having someone who is supposed to love me turn away, stop caring, and leve me alone. I anticipate it in many ways with Becky, and with the kids, and sometimes expect it when I think I'm vulnerable and all they need to do is be honest and realize I'm not likable.