High self-esteem: You need an all-embracing world view

Self love or high self-esteem
Self love or high self-esteem is promoted by an all-embracing world view. Photo by De’Andre Bush.

In this piece I explain how lack of self-worth is rooted in cultural notions of good and evil; due to them we are sort of broken in two and coming to terms with the “evil” part is important for our healing process. An all-embracing world view provides a very good framework for that. I therefore propose that you consider evil to be an “unpleasant good”.

Did you ever think: “I hate myself”? Personally I tend to repeat that over and over in some cases, for instance if I feel stuck or unable to succeed in some endeavor. 

Actually I question myself too much in all kinds of situations. Then other similar lines of thought go through my head, like: “I am afraid to be wrong” and “the others won’t like me”. 

I am not alone in this regard. Mostly all of us seem to have some self-esteem issues. Giving advice on personal development, it is therefore also very common to say that we should “love ourselves”. 

But why don’t we do so in the first place?

Psychological issues are often assumed to be founded in childhood experiences but, if most of us have self-esteem issues, then it doesn’t seem to be only a matter of how we were raised.

In order to properly understand it, I think we have to apply a broader perspective and I believe that cultural notions of good and evil lie at the heart of this widespread problem. 

Good versus evil causes an internal split 

Actually, my reasoning on this matter is rather simple: We celebrate light and hate darkness. But since darkness is part of ourselves, logically we cannot avoid some measure of self-hatred.

Repression
“Repression” hide unwanted parts of ourselves. Photo by Philbo.

The judgmental “good versus evil” kind of thinking is inherently unloving. It introduces a split between the worthy and the unworthy and promotes “conditional” love; that’s love which is only granted if we behave in the right way. 

The split is internalized in the course of socialization where we learn to see ourselves with the eyes of others. 

From there comes “repression”. The father of modern psychology, Freud (1856-1939), said that we repress unwanted parts of ourselves; that is, they become subconscious and so we cease to recognise their existence.

Repressed material may for example include greed, jealousy, anger and hatred.

However repressed, those feelings still influence our lives in unfortunate ways, for instance we “project” them and thereby put the blame on others. 

Therefore psychological therapy involves rediscovering the repressed material in order to get a more balanced self-perception and to become whole again. 

No judging promotes high self-esteem 

You may think that there is no other option except to deem some kind of behavior as “good” and “praise worthy” whereas other kinds must be deemed “bad” or “evil”. 

However, even if this morality is normal and habitual for us, there is in my opinion a higher kind of ethics in modern holistic spiritually like Martinus Cosmology.

Here darkness is named “the unpleasant good”. As such it is meaningful and easier to accept. 

The holistic approach is so to speak “all inclusive”. 

It involves several arguments for an all-embracing attitude of tolerance and forgiveness towards ourselves as well as others, for instance:

  • Life experience depends on contrasts. Using white paint on a white canvas is pointless. We need the dark hues as well and so they are unpleasant but good.
  • We all do what we can based on what we have learned. To judge therefore resembles blaming the kids in first grade that they are not yet in higher school classes. 
  • Due to the law of karma, we make our own destiny. Whatever you experience it mirrors who you are and what you created; and so you gain self-knowledge. 
  • To be confronted with suffering, or the so-called evil, is how we learn both wisdom and compassion. It is therefore good and beneficial to our own development. 

I think one of the great benefits of this system of thought, or world view, is that it allows us to love unconditionally which heals the split inside us and promotes high self-esteem (as well as love for others). If everything is very good, as Martinus claims, then so are YOU.


Read my personal story about how I was taught self-loathing in a previous life: SELF-LOATHING: HOW I WAS TAUGHT TO FEEL GUILTY IN A PAST LIFE.

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Self-loathing: How I was taught to feel guilty in a past life

Christianity
In some versions of Christianity sinners are warned against hell and damnation. Photo by Marc Schaefer.

Maybe in a previous life, I was taught to feel guilty and to believe in a version of Christianity where sinners are warned against hell and damnation. This is my personal story.

At a small gathering with a few of my closest friends, one of them, O, told us about a nuisance that tormented him for long periods of his life. He described it as a recurring pain in his forehead and also came up with a possible explanation: “It may be caused by an old belief that I am not allowed to feel good”. 

“Furthermore”, he said, “I think that in a past life, I preached sin and guilt and that a remnant of this sense of guilt is left there in my forehead like a dark stain”.

I doubt that O would get into that rather unusual explanation in other settings but the four of us share mostly everything. Since we are spiritually inclined, we are also very familiar with the concept of reincarnation and receptive to ideas about how past lives may have influenced this one.

I had no problems imagining O preaching such a medieval version of Christianity in a previous lifetime. I envisioned him filled with holy wrath taking his audience to task and warning them about the flames of hell and eternal damnation.

Then suddenly, to show what kind of a preacher he once was, he turned towards me, pointed his finger at me and said in a very decisive manner: “You are a sinner!” And more stuff like that. I was sort of paralyzed and felt as if I was taken back in time. I don’t believe in sin at all but for a moment there, I was captured by his words as if I was one of his past followers.

Feeling guilty and unworthy 

I didn’t get any religious upbringing and words like God, sin and hell were hardly even mentioned in my childhood home. Today I do believe in God but my concept of God is very different from the traditional Christian one.

To me God is certainly not wrathful, but all-loving, forgiving and benevolent. To think that sinners are unworthy and subject to God’s judgment, hell and damnation, is far from my beliefs.

Therefore I was baffled by the ease with which I responded to O’s words and suddenly adopted such unfamiliar ideas. 

How could that be? 

Looking for a plausible explanation, I asked myself if traditional Christian dogmas are actually not unfamiliar to me after all, but only forgotten; maybe I was once a true believer of them and maybe I was really present there in the flesh listening to O’s sermon several lives back.

If that’s the case, then, like O, subconsciously I may still hold remnants of those dogmas even if my conscious beliefs about God and the afterlife are totally different now. 

And then my present day self-esteem issues would make better sense; for instance the fact that I sometimes hate myself for no good reason at all.

Hidden causes of low self-esteem

O’s story and my reaction to it made me wonder if self-esteem (or the lack of it) is not just taught in the formative years of our present lives, as psychologists would have it, but also something we carry with us from past lives. 

The story also pointed to how opposing ideas about the self and its relation to God may coexist in our mentality: 

On the one hand a conscious belief that God is all-loving and that each one of us is absolutely worthy of that love, and yet on the other hand subconsciously we may fear to be unworthy and undeserving.

Even if we were not taught to believe in a wrathful, unloving God in this life we may still harbor that unfortunate idea and along with it a hidden “talent” for looking down on, or even hating, ourselves. 

The unconscious God image may possibly lay dormant or it may actively undermine our self-esteem even if our conscious beliefs are well suited to make us feel good about ourselves.

If that’s the case, then I think it is important that we become aware of our subconscious God image and try to counter its negative influence. Being aware of self-hatred, and its causes, makes us better equipped to handle it. Even just naming it has, in my experience, a very beneficial effect. 


Get to know more about handling self-esteem issues and further investigate the connection between worldview, God image and perception of self: HIGH SELF-ESTEEM: YOU NEED AN ALL-EMBRACING WORLD VIEW

Why are relationships so difficult?

Difficult relationships
Relationships are often difficult and most people have tried to break up. Photo: Frankie Cordoba.

If romantic relationships are difficult for you, you probably wondered why and you probably felt bad about it; at least that’s what I did for many years. In this post I like to provide a new understanding of why relationships often fail and why so many of us are single. I hope to make you feel better about yourself. The purpose is not to give dating advice but if you come to feel good about yourself that certainly helps your dating too.

For a very long time I have been thinking about singlehood, failed relationships, bad relationship choices and issues like that. Actually, I have been thinking about those issues since I was a teenager because in those days I realized that I myself had one very difficult problem; I was unable to be in a relationship since I only fell in love with someone I couldn’t get.

So I started thinking. And since my problems in that regard were very persistent, I kept on thinking about those issues for many years. Along the way I came up with some solutions and I started to feel that I kind of solved those problems in my own life or at least I was not tormented by them anymore. Based on my own experiences and thoughts as well as some theoretical knowledge, I also started helping other people. I had clients and I even wrote two books (in Danish) about my ideas. 

I used to both pity and blame myself for being unsuccessful in relationships. I also used to believe that romantic love was the doorway to happiness and since this particular door had slammed in my face, I thought that I would never be happy.

I guess thinking like that is kind of normal because we celebrate marriage. Everyday on the radio we hear mostly romantic songs. In Hollywood movies the hero gets the girl in the end and they live happily ever after. That’s the one important happiness narrative in Western culture. Today I no longer worry much about failing in that regard because I think that the narrative is flawed. 

Attachment theory falls short

As I recall it, when I studied psychology at university many years ago I was only presented with one explanation to why relationships fail and that’s “attachment theory”. The theory was originally developed by the British psychoanalyst John Bowlby (1907-1990) and his American-Canadian co-worker the developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999).

According to them, our ability to form deep and enduring emotional bonds are based on early experiences with our primary caregivers and therefore the theory is also sometimes used to say that adult relationship patterns are modeled on those childhood experiences.

The theory identifies four different attachment patterns that are visible from an early age, that’s “secure”, “ambivalent”, “avoidant” and “disorganized”. Most children are secure, they feel safe and confident. Supposedly they also form good relationships as adults.

The ambivalent children on the other hand are insecure, distrustful and suffer from separation anxiety. As adults they tend to cling to and feel unloved by their partners. The avoidant children tend to stay away from intimacy altogether as adults and the same goes for the disorganized children who also have a hard time controlling anger and other emotions. 

I am sure attachment theory has some truth to it. In my opinion it is, however, not able to account for why so many people have overwhelming relationship issues and why large parts of us either get divorced or do not marry at all.

That’s a general trend in many Western societies and therefore it doesn’t really make sense to try to explain it in terms of individual childhoods. It seems to me that we need to develop other kinds of explanations and that if you are unable to be in a long term couples relationship it doesn’t necessarily mean that something went wrong in early bonding. 

How do you feel about intimacy?

I think it is important to discern the “why” in each individual case. Do you for instance stay away from intimacy due to fear? And, if so, is it a “good” or a “bad” fear. A good fear is when you are afraid of something dangerous. That’s reasonable, it will serve you well and keep you out of danger.

A bad fear, however, is irrational. We call it anxiety or phobia. It resembles an allergic reaction to something that is healthy. For instance, if you are allergic to apples it is probably not very sensible. For some reason your body’s immune system has categorized it in a wrong way. Likewise intimacy and close relationships are good for us, so a basic fear of that is what I call bad fear.

Intimacy
Do you fear intimacy? Photo: Sinitta Leunen

A bad fear like that may have arisen from insensitive parenting as attachment theory suggests. Since it happened at a very early age you don’t remember but subconsciously you are convinced that you must watch out for intimate relationships. If that’s your problem, then you do have a problem. 

But what if the case is very different; for example you do not fear intimacy and you enjoy close relationships but you get easily tired of being in a couples relationship? Maybe you prefer freedom. Or what if you fall in love in November but come January you already forgot about it? What if you are passionate about something else, not marriage? Or if somehow you sense that romance is not really the kind of love that you are looking for?

These examples may not have anything to do with problems in early bonding. However, since our predominant happiness narrative is so closely related to romance, I think that Western culture pretty much fails to address these issues and to provide a deeper understanding of the involved people’s psychology.

As a result, we don’t have a good framework for understanding ourselves in those situations. You may easily come to think: “What is wrong with me?” Therefore a lot of people end up struggling with both confusion and low self esteem if they don’t fit very well into our cultural notions of romantic love. 

Martinus’s view on relationships

When I was in my early twenties I started reading the Danish author Martinus (1890-1981). His writings on spiritual issues are vast and comprehensive; his main work alone, Livets Bog (The Book of Life), entails thousands of pages in seven volumes. I don’t expect you to know anything about him. Even in Denmark he is not commonly known but parts of his writings are translated into numerous languages.

Reading him I began to see things in a new perspective and I realized that my own problems might not be caused by fear of intimacy and bonding issues but rather they might be signs of something natural and meaningful. 

According to Martinus, relationship issues are not a mistake because a new kind of love is on the rise and problems with the old romantic kind is an intrinsic part of the transformational process. 

He sees modern developments in our relationship and family structures as part of a larger evolutionary scheme. He uses the term “zone of unhappy marriages” for our present stage in that evolution and says that our ability to form marriages has been degenerating for a long time already.

It doesn’t sound like a very nice idea, does it? So why would that comfort me in any way? Well, since I used to think that something was wrong with me, the suggestion that I was on the right track was very appealing. What a relief!

According to Martinus, relationship issues are not a mistake because a new kind of love is on the rise and problems with the old romantic kind is an intrinsic part of the transformational process. 

Marital love and neighborly love

He portrayed two kinds of love, “marital love” and “neighborly love”. You may say that marital love is for the one whereas neighborly love is for everyone. Martinus proclaimed that we are all influenced to some degree by both of these two kinds of love but that we differ greatly with regard to our make-up, that is some of us are very much into marital love whereas others are more or less dominated by neighborly love.

He also said that the first one is in decline and the second one is growing. Even if this transition is slow and organic, it is also progressing steadily and will ultimately, in a far off future, lead to a total restructuring of our love lives so that neighborly love takes over completely leaving no room whatsoever for marriages. 

The two kinds of love are conflicting forces because, if you truly love your neighbor, your wife or husband may easily feel neglected or jealous. They will soon realize that they are not the one and only since neighborly love is all encompassing, meaning the object of that love is not just one woman or one man but every woman and every man.

That’s why if you are looking for a partner, you would do well to consider if the two of you have similar make-ups. If both of you are dominated by marital love you will likely be joined at the hip. But if one of you is dominated by neighborly love and the other by marital love, your relationship will probably suffer a lot from that disharmony and you might not stick together for very long.

Marital love is the kind of love you feel when you “fall in love”. It is a natural phenomenon in all of the animal kingdom. It is instinctive and hormone-driven, and I think it is fair to say that this is the kind of love that will most often convince us to start a family. For some of us, though, this kind of love is not at all what it used to be. Our ability to fall in love like that has become eroded and fragmented.

According to Martinus we will experience that more and more in the future. This means that increasing numbers of us will have difficult and unhappy marriages or will not get married at all. If you are like that, your appetite for relationships is rather small and you also may no longer feel like having kids. Those big meals are too much for you. 

Heartaches in the transitional period

During the period of transition your love life may lead to numerous heartaches and give rise to a lot of confusion. At some point you may realize that you are like a wounded refugee in a no-man’s land between the realms governed by these two kinds of love.

Caught up in the middle you might try to fulfill the requirements of both but since they represent opposing ideals and practices you will probably end up failing either way. If you are no longer able or fit to marry and if you are not yet able to truly love your neighbor either, you will have to limp along doing everything in a half-hearted way.

For some that struggle may be very intense and painful whereas for others it is less acute but most of us living in the modern world will probably feel its weight to some degree.

Even if it sounds depressing it is not all bad because you may also experience some progression, for instance getting better and more intimate friendships even with your ex’es or with those girls or guys that you used to date. That’s a good sign showing that neighborly love is on the rise in your mentality.

So to recap, relationship issues may hurt a lot and getting your heart broken may happen too often, however, that doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. On the contrary, if Martinus is correct, you are probably on the right track in a large transitional process. Hopefully, thinking about it like that will allow you to feel better and more confident. That may even help your dating.


Follow this blog, I will soon give out more advice on dating and relationship issues.