The Strange World of Emotion

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Character Transformation

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Two Tasks

The psychological limitations of a person fall into two broad categories : those due to the past, and those due to the present. The purpose of psychological therapy is to examine those limitations, and, if possible, change them. Therefore therapy itself has two broad categories too.

We can examine our past – this is primarily the province of psycho-analysis. And we can examine our present capabilities and future goals – this is primarily the province of existential and humanistic theories.

Sub - Headings
From Negative to positive 
Limitation to analysis
End results

The limitations caused by incidents and mis-understandings in the past are kept in place by fears and conflicts in the subconscious mind. These fears and conflicts create a variable degree of instability in the person.

In contrast, the limitations that exist due to the present conscious state of mind are due to negative attitudes, bigotry, and ignorance : these help to produce narrow-minded and restrictive fixed beliefs and prejudices. These foster stability, but at the cost of creating a variable degree of mental rigidity.

Therefore psychological therapy has two overall tasks:

1). For an adult with a lot of subconscious fears and conflict :
the aim of therapy is to remove those fears and enable the adult to stabilise his /her character. This will improve the quality of his /her life.

2). For a stable adult with conscious fixed beliefs and prejudices :
the aim of therapy is to enable that adult to change those beliefs and prejudices. This enables the adult to become more mentally flexible. This is the way that his /her quality of life is improved.

Therefore we see that if an adult is unstable in parts of their character, therapy will enable them to stabilise themself. Whereas if the adult is too fixed in their state of mind, therapy will enable them to acquire mental flexibility. Flexibility is very different from instability. Therapy is always a process.

The process of therapy is a movement from instability to stability to flexibility.

In task (1) the therapy of choice is psycho-analysis, since the subconscious mind is the centre of attention.
In task (2) the best therapies will be existential and humanistic ones, since now the conscious mind is being developed.

In both cases, the object of psychological therapy is to produce character change, character transformation.

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From Negative to Positive

A long and deep psycho-analysis has the function of removing weakness and subconscious conflict from the person’s character. Confusion and self-deception are gradually eliminated. So too is violence. Violence that is directed to relationships and the environment is merely the expression of violence that is repressed within the subconscious mind. Repressed violence is the result of subconscious conflict; repressed violence is internal violence. [¹]

External violence has its source in internal violence.

Violence reflects a person’s negative self-image; the more negative the person’s self-image is, the more prone to violence he /she will be. As negative belief systems fade, the propensity for violence fades as well. The effect of removing negative beliefs is to strengthen the person’s will. This overall process produces character change by unmasking and removing negative features of mind. The person moves from instability to stability.

When the person has gone as far as he or she can with analysis then he or she needs to switch to existential and humanistic therapies. The person proceeds with character change by emphasising and developing the positive features of mind. The person moves from stability to flexibility.

In my view, when a person has decided to commit themself to character transformation the preferred course of therapy is to start with task (1) and graduate to task (2). To use positive therapies without having undergone a prior psycho-analysis is to develop abilities upon an existing base of confusion, weakness and self-deception. [²]

Understanding the importance of beliefs enables a person to choose between therapies, especially between the multiplicity of  New Age ones. Whatever therapy a person explores, that therapy will only have a lasting effect if it enables the person to change (or manage) some of their beliefs. If the therapy does nothing more than induce good feelings then its effect is transient, and will end when the good feelings end. However, such therapies may be ideal for gently introducing a person to the idea of therapy; once he or she loses their fear of exploring the mind then they can graduate to deeper therapies.

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Limitation of Psycho-analysis

In practice, these ideas are an ideal depiction of therapy. Some of the problems that a person has do not originate in the present life, but in previous lives; these problems can be called karmic problems. They are extremely hard to overcome, especially when they are emphasised by traits of character (for example, attitudes to authority). In fact, it may not be possible to overcome them and they have to be handled differently; the person has to learn to manage them. So there is a place in the therapy spectrum for other forms of therapy, such as cognitive behaviourism.

This brings me to a limitation to psycho-analysis. Problems can be viewed under the format of  form and content. The form is the particular type of belief or attitude that is generating confusion or conflict. The content is the number of actual occurrences of this problem in a person’s life. A psycho-analysis, if deep enough, can eliminate all the anxieties and guilt that have arisen from the content of a problem, but the psycho- analysis cannot eliminate the form. The form is karmic, and has developed over many lifetimes. A person reincarnates with the form of his problems but not with any content to them. [³]

For example: a person may have a negative attitude to external sources of authority. This is the form of the problem. As life goes by, he /she will come into conflict with external authorities, perhaps many times – this is the content. When he /she goes into a psycho-analysis, the effects of the actual occasions of conflict can be dissipated. But he /she will leave therapy still possessing a negative attitude to authority. The form of the problem has to be handled by other means. [4]

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End Results

What is the end process of a long and intensive psycho-analysis?  There are two polarities for a person: they can orientate themself as an individual, or they can choose to be defined in a social context. I call the first orientation the individual identity, and the second one the social identity. This means that we can centre ourself on our individual identity or on our social identity, depending on the situation. 

A psycho-analysis eliminates weakness from the person’s character. So we become less socially dependent on other people and achieve more self-reliance: our individual identity is strengthened. And we can adopt a more mature social role, without dependency: our social identity is strengthened too. By eliminating the subconscious conflict the analysis enables the person to be more honest, harmonious and realistic in their personal relationships. [5]

The person’s total consciousness is their own production, based on their experience of life. This includes the organisation and contents of their subconscious mind. Each person’s investigation of themself will depend on the way that they relate to the subconscious mind, with varying degrees of fear and wariness. Hence each person’s relationship to the subconscious mind is unique. This means that each person’s total consciousness is unique to themself.  Therefore each analysis is unique. These ideas only say that everything is unique: the person, the mind, the analysis (and the therapist).

A psycho-analysis does not produce followers but individuals. In the journey through the subconscious mind there are no leaders and no led.


The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it.  For the addresses of my websites, see the Links page.

[¹]. There are two articles on violence on my website Patterns of Confusion. Short-term violence is the subject of Violence & the Loss of Freedom, and longer-term effects are the subject of  Destructiveness[1]

[²]. Self-deception is described in the article Characteristics of a Psycho-analysis, on my website The Subconscious Mind
Confusion is described in the article Confusion. [2]

[³]. Ideas on karma and reincarnation are on my website Patterns of Spirituality.
Other limitations to a psycho-analysis are described on my website The Subconscious Mind.[3]

[4]. There is a note on form and content in the article Levels of Suffering (section Note on Karmic Influences), on my websites Patterns of Spirituality, and Discover Your Mind[4]

[5]. I describe the two identities of a person in the article Confusion. [5]

Home List of  Articles Links Top of Page

The articles in this section are :

Confusion - snags and pitfalls of the idealist ; beginning a new quest.

Antithetical Thoughts - voices and unpleasant thoughts.

Alienation - effects of living in a society which is spiritually poor ; stupor.

Justification - from old identities to new ones ; causality & motivation.

Character Transformation - from instability to stability to flexibility.

Reversal of Values - disjunctive states of mind ; ideal mother image.

Rites of Passage - escaping nihilism by using emotional rituals.

The copyright is mine, and the articles are free to use. They can be reproduced anywhere, so long as the source is acknowledged.

Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath
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Ian Heath
London, UK

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