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Life Arts    H2'ed 1/4/12

The Three Amigos of the Apocalypse

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Three menaces to our happiness and prosperity. by bigstock/michaelson
The Three Amigos of the Apocalypse are not as well known as their compatriots in suffering, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse--conquest, war, famine, and death. Yet the three amigos are just as big a danger to health, happiness, and prosperity.

Each of the three amigos--the beggar, the slave, and the orphan--represents a negative, painful state of mind. For most of us, our psyche is contaminated with at least one of these miseries, and many of us are burdened with a trace or more of all three.

The beggar represents those of us who, however bountiful our life may be, suffer with an inner emptiness. It feels as if something vitally important is missing in our life. Even a person's regular purchase of lottery tickets can be an expression of this mentality. The feeling is, "If only I were rich (or if only I had this or that) I would be happy." On the surface, beggars are eager to devour or to acquire something, whatever that something may be. Deeper down, they're on the scent of deprivation.

The beggar mentality is a product of our lingering emotional attachment to feelings of deprivation and refusal. We're still the little kid who once screamed in angry frustration when he didn't get something he very much wanted.

As adults, the painful feeling lingers. It becomes the sense that our existence and our self are not enough. It feels that our goodness and our consciousness count for little. So we minimize these essentials of happiness, and we go out into the world begging for scraps of validation and coveting the trappings of success. Oral cravings for food and drink are also symptoms of the beggar mentality.

The next amigo, the slave, goes through life suffering with feelings of being controlled, trapped, dominated, and helpless. The slave who lives in a democracy cannot fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship because he or she is likely to be emotionally aligned with the feeling of being oppressed.

Slaves can express a second-rate power that is mostly negative. They have the "power" to complain and to rage against the "forces of oppression." They can rebel--often only passive-aggressively--but they can't reform the situations they complain about. That's because they give unconscious consent to the feeling of being manipulated, controlled, and oppressed.

An emotional entanglement in feeling controlled arises during the "terrible twos," when toddlers loudly object to feeling reined in, to toilet training, and to the process of socialization. As adults, they hate feeling controlled, yet the feeling is familiar and unresolved. Sometimes they become controllers--the ones who do the controlling--in reaction to their fear of being controlled.

Slaves are likely to be weak at self-regulation, so they are often addictive and compulsive personalities. They are also likely to be codependents and to be passively ensnared in dysfunctional relationships. Sometimes the only experiences of power they can muster are angry defensiveness and self-defeating stubbornness.

The final amigo, the orphan, chases after love and never seems to find it. This person carries the perpetual pain of feeling alone, abandoned, unwanted, and unloved. Orphans are often entangled in acute self-centeredness, a mentality that constantly recycles this mental and emotional conflict: "I desperately want them to like me and appreciate me, but I can feel the hurt and the pain of their indifference and their rejection."

The orphan is blocked from being truly loving because of the emotional preoccupation with feeling unloved. This preoccupation means, of course, that this individual dislikes, rejects, and sometimes even hates himself or herself.

No matter how much love the orphan receives, it may never be enough. More is always needed, and still it's not enough. In this emotional neediness, the orphan often turns on those who are doing their best to be friendly or loving, blaming them for his or her suffering.

Promiscuity is one behavioral consequence of an orphan's desperate yearning for love. The yearning is a defense that claims, "I'm not looking for the feeling of being unloved; look how desperate I am and how anxiously I pursue love." Orphans can be tormented by jealousy and expectations of betrayal. As well, they can fail in marriages and relationships to achieve true intimacy because they settle for the pretence of love. The orphan is terrified of true love because the feeling would "revolutionize" his or her identity.

All three amigos are acting out major elements of what is unresolved in the human psyche. Like the four horsemen, they can produce much stress and anxiety as they wreak havoc upon the world. Self-awareness can liberate us from all this suffering.

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Peter Michaelson is an author, blogger, and psychotherapist in Plymouth, MI. He believes that better understanding of depth psychology reduces the fear, passivity, and denial of citizens, making us more capable of maintaining and growing our (more...)
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