Rafed English

Exaggerated Opinion Of Oneself

The scope of the influence and activity of the subconscious mind is many time more powerful, complex, and deeper than those of the conscious mind. The discovery of the subconscious mind in psychology reveals that we are not aware of more than nine-tenths of our own inner mental activity. Besides what one desires consciously, there are some other very powerful urges that govern man's being and prompt him to do many things of which his conscious mind is unaware. Most of the times it is actually impossible for him not to comply with the commands of that inner power that rules man.

Many vicious and deviant tendencies and harmful habits are in fact manifestations of the vital activities of the unconscious mind. These bear testimony to the fiery character of the human spirit, replete with contradictions. It is through this channel that hidden motives in man's psychological structure work either to his benefit or to his harm. In Brief, subconscious desires, thoughts and motives can play a powerful role in a person's behaviour; they can perform both a formative and refining function as well as act as a destructive and subversive force.

Under certain conditions one may come to form an appealing picture of oneself in his mind. But this mental picture may not always correspond to reality. This picture of one's personality totally depends on one's capacity for adjustment, on one's condition of satisfaction or anxiety, mental health and sickness, and it manifests itself variously in the behaviour and activity of persons.

In every society there are many individuals who have an exaggerated opinion of themselves and who are inclined to be unrealistic and prone to overestimation in regard to themselves. This is an undeniable fact of psychology.

When the mind loses its balance and equilibrium as the mirror of reality, one's narcissistic tendencies result in the formation of an unreal and exaggerated image of oneself, easily leading one to lose contact with reality. These tendencies can develop from the childhood years. Before the child reaches the stage of self-awareness and is capable of consciously employing his power of will for the purpose of attaining to a better life, his mental constitution and world view, as well as his mental growth-healthy or unhealthy-and his self-image are greatly influenced by the reactions of his family and the suggestions and judgements of those around him. As a consequence, occasionally he grows either to be a self-indulgent person with high expectations and lacking the power of adjusting to society and environment, or to become socially isolated and withdrawing. On the whole, different kinds of behaviour play an indescribably influential role on children, whether it is positive or negative, constructive or destructive ...

Many of those who appear to be composed, healthy, and resolute suffer from acute psychological tensions. At times these tensions may surface and manifest certain symptoms which may appear to be quite insignificant to the person himself or to others. That is why these reactions go unnoticed, although these symptoms might be signs of a dangerous pathological mental condition. It may happen that a person does something unexpected and unpredictable which causes surprise. Such actions are a clear sign of some strong inner tendency and a latent tyrannical power which takes control of a person's will, against his own inclination and interests, and influences his conduct and character.

Every action that is performed satisfies some urge arising from a habit, and habits are part of one's character and nature. Common experience has established that when a tendency becomes strong, it overrides other feelings and tendencies, making a person overlook all other considerations at such times. A proud person forms a perfect image of his conduct and speech in his mind, considering it to be something ideal and faultless that satisfies his superiority complex. He tries to direct all his activities and reactions according to that artificial and contrived image. He imagines his personal qualities and merits to be so high that he does not believe that there exists any defect in his being. Therefore, he cannot tolerate hearing the smallest criticism. At times, if someone points out one of his shortcomings without any selfish motive and in a purely objective manner, he becomes angry and mad and accuses the other person of being hostile and malicious and of possessing guile and invidious motives.

Such painful occasions create a storm in the spirit of the proud person and he recoils violently in an acutely hostile manner to humiliate and shatter the critic and thus pacify his disturbed feelings.

A hidden and unconscious power constantly drives him on to prove his superiority over others, and that's why he does not abstain from any action that provides him with a chance to surpass others and to show off. Most of his associations and activities, even those which are socially useful, take place in the first place not because he has a love or liking for them as such but because he wants to be considered worthy and admirable and applauded on that account. He is always in a state of anxiety and painful tension lest others should fail to perceive him as he wishes to be perceived.

Spinoza, the Western philosopher, says:

Pride is a joy arising from a man's having too high an opinion of himself. this opinion a proud man will endeavour, as much as he can, to cherish, and therefore, will love the presence of parasites or flatterers (the definitions of these people are omitted, because they are too well known), and will shun that of the noble minded who think of him as is right.

It would take too much time to enumerate here all the evils of pride, for the proud are subject to all emotions, but to none are they less subject than to those of love and pity. It is necessary, however, to observe here that a man is also called proud if he thinks too little of other people, and so, in this sense, pride is to be defined as joy which arises from the false opinion that we are superior to other people. This being understood, it is easy to see that the proud man is necessarily envious, and that he hates those above all others who are the most praised on account of their virtues. It follows, too, that his hatred of them is not easily overcome by love or kindness and that he is delighted by the presence of those only who humour his weakness, and from a fool make him a madman. 1

Often those who rise from the lower levels of society become proud and overbearing on obtaining some kind of social status. In this way they seek to compensate for the self-contempt that they feel on account of their inadequate family background.

However, noble souls are not satisfied with a petty and confined life. When one's goals are high, the scope of one's efforts and endeavour increase proportionately. When one ceases pursuing one's high goals, life stagnates, coming to a standstill due to the absence of progress. Those who have higher aims strive unceasingly in order to build the edifice of their greatness on the foundations of true human merits and obtain a distinguished station. But they never like to make themselves appear great and worthy by taking recourse in pride and by promoting their personality, for they know well that pride does not bring greatness and merit to anyone. Men of merit are those who know themselves well and make constant progress in all their activities; they do not try to impress others with their imaginary greatness, expecting their approbation and admiration.

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1. Spinoza, Ethics, cf. Persian trans. Falsafeh nazari, p. 106.

Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"

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