P1 The infant’s idea of happiness is fulfillment of all its desires instantly and in exactly the way it wants it. Regardless of how adult a person may be, a remnant of this infant remains with him for the rest of his life. “Only if I can have what I want, the way I want it, and when I want it, can I have happiness. I will be unhappy with any way other than this.” Included in this statement is the demand for absolute approval, admiration, and love by everybody. The moment anyone seems to fail to meet this requirement, the person’s world crumbles.
Happiness becomes an impossibility, not just for the time being, but forever after. This, of course, is never the intellectual conviction of an adult human being, but emotionally it holds true. When the infant is hungry but for a few minutes, these minutes are eternity, not only because it lacks a time concept, but also because the infant does not know that the period of hunger will be over in a very short time.
So the baby is in absolute despair, which you can observe in a crying child. The issue over which the baby cries seems in no way related to its anger, fury, and unhappiness. This part of the personality, freely expressed in infancy, remains hidden in the psyche of the adult and continues to produce similar reactions. Only the reasons change, and the outer display becomes modified or even completely covered by rational and reasonable behavior.
P2 If you think it through logically, you will find that the primitive and distorted concept of happiness actually amounts to a desire for omnipotent rulership, for unquestioned obedience from the surrounding world, for a special, elevated position above all other beings—since others are expected to fulfill what the person desires.
When this wish cannot be gratified—and it never can—the frustration becomes absolute. First, discover where the infant still exists in you with its desires, feelings, and reactions, and focus your attention on this particular aspect of your personality. You will then have reached a point from where you can start to outgrow the unrealistic and unrealizable concept of happiness and build the proper, mature, realistic, and realizable concept.
The more the child grows and learns to live in this world, the more it realizes that the omnipotent rulership it wishes is not only denied but is also frowned upon. So it learns to hide this desire until the hiding has progressed so far that the growing person himself is no longer aware of it. Two basic reactions follow. One is: “Perhaps if I become perfect, as the world around me asks me to be, I will get so much approval that through it I can attain my goal.” You then start to strive for such perfection.
Two basic reactions follow. One is: “Perhaps if I become perfect, as the world around me asks me to be, I will get so much approval that through it I can attain my goal.” You then start to strive for such perfection. (Motive is wrong) And it is wrong further because you want to reach the goal of perfection right away, since happiness through omnipotent rulership is desired at once. It forfeits the healthy acceptance of one’s own inadequacies, which enables the personality to learn healthy humility and accept being no better than the rest of humankind. The frustration becomes a double one; the first desire—omnipotent rulership in order to be happy—is not realized, neither is the second one, that of attaining perfection in order to obtain the first desire.
This, in turn, causes acute feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, of regret and guilt. For the child does not yet know that no one is capable of attaining such perfection. It thinks itself unique in having failed and has to hide this shameful fact. Even when the person has grown up and consciously knows better, this reaction, not having been aired, continues to live locked in the soul. “If I were perfect, I would have what I want. Since I am not perfect, I am worth nothing.” The second conscience, as I once termed it, continues whipping and whipping you, holding up the unrealizable goal, so that each failure causes additional despair and guilt, increasing the feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.
P3 So a particular vicious circle comes into existence, which goes like this: “If they allowed me to be happy my way, by loving and approving of me completely and doing what I wish, then I could be perfect. With that, the obstacle that now stands in the way of the world giving me what I want would be removed. Therefore, it is ‘their’ fault. My failures are due only to the denying of my wishes, which they constantly inflict upon me.” The vicious circle works like this in one direction: “I need to be perfect in order to be loved and to be happy,” and in the other direction: “If I could have the position of rulership I need in order to be happy, then it would not be difficult for me to be perfect.”
This aspect reveals again that you demand an unconditional surrender from the people around you that would put you into the position of rulership you believe you need in order to be happy. Let me recapitulate briefly the wrong concept of happiness: “I can only be happy if things go my way.” The mature concept of happiness in its highest unfoldment is: “I am independent of outer circumstances, regardless of what they are. I can be happy under any circumstances, because even the disadvantageous or unpleasant events will have a purpose, bringing me that much nearer to complete freedom and infinite happiness.”
P4 Unconsciously, the person argues: “Since happiness is denied me and unhappiness inevitable and inflicted on me against my will, I may just as well make the best of it and turn a liability into an asset by trying to enjoy unhappiness.”
P5 You will then find patterns of how you go on and on in subtle, hidden ways, provoking people and setting up negative situations, so that you can collect unhappy incidents, injustices, injuries, wrongs, and hurts. You might enjoy, for instance, the provocation itself in such a subtle way that this, too, escapes your attention. Or you might enjoy the self-pity that ensues. There is no greater guilt feeling and shame in the human soul than the guilt due to provoking and collecting unhappiness.
P6 To the measure you discover the desire for rulership within yourself and learn to give it up voluntarily, you will give up provoking unhappiness and misery. I have occasionally mentioned, particularly in one lecture about the basic vicious circle, that self-punishment and self-destructiveness are very strong factors in the human makeup.
P7 By analyzing your daydreams and desires, you will always find the same common denominator: the desire for perfection in order to attain happiness, in order to be the ruler of the world that surrounds you. The rulership-principle is inherent in every soul, and it needs to be faced, my friends, before you can really outgrow your chains. You always suffer acutely when you are disapproved of. It may even rob you of sleep at times, or of your peace of mind.
You find it so unbearable that you cannot even admit to the slightest wrong. You fight and fight against any such admissions. Why? It would destroy the picture of your idealized self. Your life seems at stake, for all happiness seems to slip out of reach if you cannot maintain the picture of your idealized self. This behavior is the infant reacting in you; your brain tries to assimilate the clamor of the infant in a rationally acceptable way, but this does not bring you peace. By bringing the infant in you out into the open, you can teach it to be willing to let go of something useless.
—The Pathwork® Guide