Ever wonder why two brothers or sisters turn out to be so different from each other? What drives some people to love so strong, or work or play so hard? What makes your personality the way it is?
The view of human nature you will find below does not come from any psychology book. It comes instead out of my own experience, and those of the 5000 or so people who have told me some version of their life stories. So this is Psychology 101 as I see it. Please take it with a smile and a grain of salt. . . .
I think the human body is a house divided, because two people live in there. One is the true self, the heart of hearts, the light, image, spark or breath of God that we usually call THE SOUL. That’s the original tenant, the innocent heart of a child.
I believe certain aspects of temperament are largely inborn, such as energy level, stress tolerance, intelligence and curiosity. Early experiences can influence these further, and they shape our need to be comforted by food, attention, or physical affection. Getting too much or too little of these early on can cause our motivation to be highly driven by these factors.
I believe the soul is born free, and chooses who or what it will serve and trust to take care of it. Each of us deep down is motivated to either find or hook up with what we believe to be our best source of power and love.
This higher power, strongest loyalty, true identity, or our ultimate dependency can be called our god, with a small g. It’s the experience or person we’d give up everything else to have or to keep. Most souls change loyalties a few times in their lives, and often in between these soul dedications, we feel lost.
Most of the time, most of us do not seem to live out of that true self we call the soul. Usually we think we can jolly well handle life ourselves, thank you very much. What takes over then is our other self, our ego, as Freud called it. The Bible calls it walking in the flesh. Psychologists usually call it the false self, but I think of it as the SELF-MADE SELF.
If the true self by nature surrenders and trusts like a child, then the false self plays games and makes deals, like someone at a yard sale. It’s the mindset we all invent to do business for us, to get us love, attention, admiration, wealth, sex, whatever motivates us at the time.
One way we can tell if we’re living out of our true or false selves is whether we are giving naturally out of a sense of fullness and strength (as the soul does), or deliberately seeking to get something or someone out of our sense of need and weakness (as the self-made self does). Do you see your cup empty or overflowing?
The ego typically thinks of itself either as its own boss, a free agent, or as someone else’s beloved. It’s quite ironic, but when we’re in this mindset, others often sense it before we do, and at these times, we don’t come across to them as very free or loving at all, but rather more like selfish consumers.
We are usually in either a fullness or an emptiness mentality, either walking in the spirit or in the flesh. Deep inside the true self, the soul believes it is lined up with its source of all good things, and so it thinks unselfishly of giving away the love and power that continually well up from inside. Meanwhile, the self-made self wants us to go out shopping for that stuff.
In the false self, we can maintain the illusion that life is predictable because we are in charge or in love. Pain still comes in, but it seems manageable, because we have our habits, beliefs, and relationships that revive our illusions and dull our pain.
Our mindsets of self-fulfillment and romance pursue a vast and varied diet that sadly never does fill the false self full. There’s always a hole in the bottom of the be-happy bucket that only the soul can fill.
The soul can be searching for a focus, or it may give itself to one religion, pursuit, dream or job. It may also belong to one person—usually a parent, child, spouse, or lover. None of these I have found to satisfy me or anyone else over the long haul.
The only quest I have found to satisfy the soul’s longing is a relationship with our creator God who made and sustains it. I believe this relationship was purchased and demonstrated by Jesus Christ, and made fresh every morning by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Of those souls I have known who confess they have found this relationship, no two have seemed to experience God in quite the same way. This keeps life very interesting, and keeps my personal problem-solving work a mystery, an adventure, an art form, and most of all a calling from God. May your problem-solving be all that and a bag of chips!
Dr. Paul Schmidt is a psychologist life coach you can reach at [email protected], (502) 633-2860.