P1 The various aspects of the idealized self-image we have discussed are unconscious attempts to cope with life. Because they are erroneous solutions, they are necessarily rigid. In a state of health and maturity, real dangers – not only physical ones, but any threat to the healthy growth of the individual – are warded off. But in distortion the dangers are imagined and unrealistic.
When a human being feels threatened by not being loved, admired, approved of or agreed with, the danger is unreal. In general, the distortion of the instinct of self-preservation leads the soul to adopt the quest for power. The distorted instinct of procreation leads the soul to the quest for love. Yet either instinct may serve both ends, since safety as well as pleasure are necessary in life.
If the self-preservation instinct is distorted, the following process occurs: The young child experiences insecurity, either from lack of love, from lack of understanding of its own individuality, from a general uncertainty in the atmosphere or in the personality of the parents. This creates anxiety. The child senses an atmosphere of danger. In that instant the instinct of self-preservation starts to work. In order to ward off danger, the personality assumes certain inner and outer behavior patterns, above and beyond the character distortions that the distorted instinct of selfpreservation ordinarily brings in its wake.
These tendencies include aggressiveness, hostility, power drive, a need to triumph over others, competitiveness, and excessive demands. The idealized self-image will be set up according to these tendencies. In contrast, the distorted instinct of procreation contains the pleasure drive, the yearning for pleasure supreme on all levels of being. When, due to life circumstances on the one hand, and to personal limitations and personality disturbances on the other, this pleasure is not forthcoming, the distortion of the procreation instinct becomes conducive to the pseudo-solution of submissiveness, compliance, appeasement.
The quest for love is supposed to solve all problems. Being nonassertive, giving in, can be damaging by leaving one open to abuse and it is equally doomed to failure. The third pseudo-solution, namely, withdrawal, the quest for serenity, is secondary. It is the result of the previous two solutions fighting one another and tearing the personality in half. When the pressure of the inner conflict becomes too great to bear, this secondary, superimposed solution is adopted. The first two solutions are adopted in order to cope with life. The last is adopted in order to cope with the conflict resulting from the other two false solutions.
P3 For, in order to obtain happiness, fulfillment, bliss, pleasure, a certain courage is presupposed, a spirit of adventure, so to speak. Pleasure presupposes the willingness to risk. But such risk is the very danger that you feel you must avoid at all costs. So the immature soul struggles to get both safety and pleasure without daring to risk, without coming out of its shell, without taking the necessary steps. When these goals are not obtained, rebellion and self-pity set in, with no conscious awareness of the cause.
If the distorted instinct of self-preservation and its pseudo-solution, the quest for power, predominate, a vital part of the soul will starve and stagnate. If the distorted instinct of procreation and its pseudo-solution, the quest for love, predominate, vulnerability and helplessness increase until the soul is actually endangered. The danger comes not in the sense that the psyche believes, but in a very different sense: from continued self-denial and estrangement from the real self. This brings inhibition and the stunting of creative forces, which in turn cause anxiety and frustration, among other feelings.
P4 Such compromise may assume various forms. For instance, the pleasure drive will be released only on certain levels of being. You may feel that spiritual, intellectual, or mental pleasure is not a dangerous pursuit. It does not involve you emotionally and does not expose you to the risk of rejection and hurt. This process may not always be so crass that a person actively withdraws. It may be more subtle; you may unconsciously sabotage yourself and then project your failure on others.
Such failure actually results from withholding outgoing forces and being unwilling to risk giving of yourself. In order to determine this, the emotions you once felt as a child and, in a different way, still feel have to be become conscious.
P5 Submissive people, always ready to appease, to be overly modest and never to take credit or advantages for themselves, are bound to become resentful of others. Submissive people also feel guilty about these resentments because they do not correspond to the dictates of their idealized self-image. When you find such a submissive attitude in yourself, look into what exists beneath it. You will not only find the resentments and guilt, but deeply hidden, you will also find excessive demands, no less than those in the aggressive, power-driven person.
Very often the predominant tendency hides its opposite underneath. If the predominant tendency is the quest for power in order to be safe, with all the accompanying hostility, ruthlessness, pride, superiority, pretense at invulnerability, the underlying core may be the helpless child, looking for love and protection; craving pleasure and happiness; feeling vulnerable, submissive, insecure, and dependent. If the predominant tendency is a quest for love in order to receive pleasure, with all the accompanying self-effacement, appeasement, self-denial, and masochistic sacrificing, the underlying core may be a ruthless selfishness, self-centered pride and superiority, excessive demands and often even cruel impulses toward others. The underlying core always produces shame, which has to be hidden, and is then covered with its opposite.
P7 Thus, establishing balance comes from facing truth and changing whenever possible. This new balance comes automatically and is unattainable by deliberately initiated outer actions. Your inner will to go through your pain must always be cultivated anew. Pursue, persist, and persevere! This is my advice, my friends.
—The Pathwork® Guide