In his book Fear of Life: The Wisdom of Failure psychotherapist Alexander Lowen wrote that it is the fate of modern men and women (particularly in western society) to become neurotic.
The Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines Neurosis as “a mild mental illness involving symptoms such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive behavior.”
Lowen had this to say as part of his introduction:
“The neurotic individual is in conflict with himself. Part of his being is trying to overcome another part. His ego is trying to master his body; his rational mind, to control his feelings; his will, to overcome his fears and anxieties. Though this conflict is in large part unconscious, its effect is to deplete the person’s energy and to destroy his peace of mind. Neurosis is internal conflict. The neurotic character takes many forms, but all of them involve a struggle in the individual between what he is and what he believes he should be. Every neurotic individual is caught in this struggle.”
As a way of dealing with this inner struggle we tend to idealize ourselves, rather than see and accept ourselves as we really are. Or as another psychoanalyst put it:
“No one dealing with analytic psychology can fail to be struck by the tremendous and unnecessary burdens which man has placed upon himself, and how greatly he has increased the difficulties of adaptation by his rigid intellectual views and moral formulas, and by his inability to admit to himself that he is actually just a human being imperfect, and containing within himself all manner of tendencies, good and bad, all striving for some satisfactory goal. Further, that the refusal to see himself in this light instead of as an ideal person in no way alters the actual condition, and that in fact, through the cheap pretense of being able only to consider himself as a very virtuous person, or as shocked and hurt when observing the “sins” of others, he actually is prevented from developing his own character and bringing his own capacities to their fullest expressions.” ~ Beatrice M. Hinkle, from the intro to Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl G. Jung
The ego keeps us focused on a false self, an actor we create who fulfills a role in society’s play. But the true self has no desire or need to do things to improve itself or others, it lacks nothing, it is at perfect rest.
Author Jim Palmer put it this way in one of his blog posts:
“In the depths of our true Self we are peace, freedom, well-being, and contentment. On the surface of our lives there is drama because of our preferences, attachments, and not seeing things as they truly are. Your true Self is undisturbed and undisturbable. But this Self is masked by all the drama we are creating on the surface of our lives as we seek to attain happiness in ways that can never produce it.”