How “Being Human” Influences Self-Governance

How “Being Human” Influences Self-Governance

Dear Readers,

We Agree We Are Human – So What?

I think of the ancient admonition: “Know Thyself”. In the 20th Century, we’ve gone ‘part way’ bettering our lives by “awareness of human psychology”. We’ve largely restricted our practices to personal change, close interpersonal relationships, and “successful marketing”.

This post is oriented toward how psychology influences our “consumer” and “citizen voting” choices. I re-speak points I’ve made before, but with different ‘tack’ perhaps.

I re-speak them because I believe the admonition: “Know Thyself” is one of the most critical ‘hints, clues,’ we have to direct us in exploring value, purpose, and meaning of “being human”.

Our (American) lavish self-congratulations, on “success to date” as a nation, is based on self-delusion, romanticized versions of ‘cleaned-up’ history, and complete ignorance of fundemantal factors in human psychology(Americans are not unique in these forms of foolishness.)

The point is, it’s time we made an effort to develop psychological literacy. 

Not one single genuine improvement in human society can develop unless we do this. Technological improvements count for nothing if underlying human promise is not genuinely fostered, and in hundreds of years, it has not been.

Interesting to note that for a time Freud, Jung, and Adler worked together. My personal favorite among them is Adler, with Jung a close second.

Collectively, Freud, Jung, and Adler opened doors into discovery of self, and discovery of group dynamics as influenced by any set of collected “selves”.

Recent neurophysiology research has created some interest in “not bothering” with “these old guys”. Everything we think is chemically based – right?

No, I don’t “think” so. When someone wants to sell you snake oil, hre does not first run a chemical analysis that reveals how best to persuade you.

Awareness of psychology pre-dates Freud, Jung, and Adler. Literature and history from much earlier than that shows sharp awareness (and manipulation for desired ends.) I’ve said before: Read Shakespeare, read the Bible, read history!

Neurochemistry discoveries can be useful in association with findings from the field of psychology. (By the way, some of these chemicals – some important ones – are found in the stomach as well as in other internal organs!)

It’s time we make more wide-spread use of “in-depth” self and group questions about “who we are” psychologically.

Recently, Arianna Huffington posted on Huffington Post an article examining the metaphor of “momma grizzlies” as so successfully used by Sarah Palin.

The comment I posted to her article is largely re-stated here:


Adler was “practical” – scarcely bothered to make a name for himself, but accomplished a great deal. It’s by Adler’s study we’ve come to know significance of “birth position” (eldest, baby, middle). Through him we’ve learned about appropriate ‘logical consequence’, and flaws of “praise,” when supporting best development for children and one another.

(“Praise” can operate subtly to foster ‘dependency on approval’ among other things. This does not mean we should not celebrate another’s gift, but that there is risk if praise supports ‘need for praise to feel value’. Think of celebrity lives that may become ‘train wrecks’ due to issue of needing constant adulation. What may start out as ‘praise’ meant to express delight at someone’s gift, can snowball into ‘hero worship’ of individuals – including ‘famous’ corporate and political figuresOnce we’re emotionally committed to ‘hero worship’, we want to deny problem behavior coming from these individuals. This in turn encourages these famous people to believe they are ‘beyond reproach’, or that their ‘errors’ ought to be overlooked due to their otherwise ‘excellence’ – even if the errors result in unthinkable harm and misery to many!  Think of the Iraq wars! So many were busy worshiping an assortment of ‘beyond reproach’ individuals – and a concept of ‘patriotism’ that refused anything but worshipful attitude – that we destroyed a nation, killed and maimed millions of civilians in Iraq, and certainly brought misery to many of our own whom we sent (flags flying and trumpets blaring) to wreak the havoc on our behalf.

From the start, praise can harm the ‘praisee’ and can feed ‘de-valued’ conclusions in others. It can feed  sibling rivalry and its equivalent in community and workplaces.  There are alternatives to praise that are more ‘grounded’. We can say: “I like the way you …”; or “I appreciated it when you …”; and fill in the blank with something specific.  This allows us on other occasions to say to the same person: “When you did … you caused much harm”, or “Your plan to … will only increase poverty and here’s why…”.

We *do* need to validate, to celebrate one another! If we do not celebrate one another, we create other problematic issues of confidence. And confidence – of an honest, ‘felt’ kind, not bravado or desperate – was one aspect of child development (and adult healing) that Adler emphasized.

Human psychology, at work within the individual, and therefore in our group attitudes and practices, is complex. But it is *not* a total mystery, not at all. We need much more aware and informed ‘literacy’ on ‘who we are’.  We need it as individuals and as a society.  Every choice we make in community, consumer or political activity is driven by needs and anxieties used to ‘control’ us IF we don’t know these in ourselves. This is just as true for the ‘successful’ person as for the person who struggles. (In fact, those who’ve had to explore their own psychology are often far more alert to ‘who we are’ than others.)

Advertisers selling all goods and services, and marketers in politics, already know most about what motivates us psychologically. They’ve made it a point to know – and consciously to use it to manipulate.  It’s simply not acceptable that we, who ‘own’ ourselves, pay no attention to the same information!

Jung’s work is incredibly rich, invaluable, in exposure of universally shared “unconscious operatives” such as powerful metaphorical archetypes. Archetypes are a standard ploy in advertising. (Sarah Palin’s Mamma Grizzly).

Freud’s work with unconscious or subconscious longings, needs, as the explanation for behavior was at the heart of ‘the science of public relations’.  (Public relations was labeled ‘propaganda’ until the term became tainted. Marketers wanted a label that would ‘not trigger emotions against the practice’. So what had officially been called ‘propaganda’ came to be called ‘public relations’. )

I believe if we’re to get anywhere “improved” we have got to “know” ourselves! Otherwise it’s ‘same old same old’ as per thousands of years!

Unrecognized, unexamined thoughts, beliefs, and impulses, persistently “run interference” with our higher cognitive function, (capacity to apply ‘pure logic’ to allow ‘purely rational’ conclusions.) This is not a bad thing – but to know that this is the case is part of coming to “know ourselves”! 

Psychological literacy would mean “systematic study leading to psychological self-awareness“. This does not mean we all have to go to college and get degrees! It does mean we need to be more open to learning how our psychology ‘informs’ our choices. It means we need to recognize that *every one*, not only the ‘troubled’, is driven by less than ‘upfront’ rational thinking.

Every one” does mean every one. It includes the famous and the infamous, elder and infant, wealthy and poor, religious and  non-religious, powerful and disenfranchised, tycoon and  pauper, ‘new ager’ and fundamentalist, ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’,  ‘leader’ and ‘follower’. Not a one of these – anywhere on earth – behaves by fully rational motivations. There is no way to escape from the factor of ‘human psychology’, and there is much benefit from learning about it.

If we do *not* come to know ourselves better in this way, then unrecognized, unexamined, thought, belief, and impulse, will over-ride ‘logic and reason’ in many of our choices.  You can rest assured, ‘unrecognized, unexamined motivations’ have their strongest influence on choices we make – political  voting, and major consumer – if we don’t know they’re ‘in our psychology’.

A perfect start in learning is to view all 4 BBC4 episodes of series: “Century of Self”, in-depth exploration of marketing.  From its ‘invention’ and astonishing successful application by Freud’s nephew, (Edward Bernays), right up to late 20th Century political campaign use, “public relations” has led the whole of us – while simultaneously helping us convince ourselves we have been freely, and intelligently, governing ourselves.

(Insert note, August 6, 2013: Unfortunately the link I provided to the BBC series, “Century of Self” is no longer working. In fact, many web locations no longer have working links for viewing the series. I intend to try to provide working links but due to a copyright issue it may become increasingly difficult or impossible to find the series online. You can try YouTube here.  You can also learn more about this and try a couple of other links by going here to a new post/page on which I explore the problem of nonavailability of this so very important and valuable series!  (Earlier link was a ‘Google video’ link and I’ve deleted it. – end insert.)

If you’ve not been “onto” how marketing works on you before, you – by the time you’ve viewed the series – will never look at a campaign ad the same way again.  No matter how much it congratulates you for your “independent self-governing, voting habit.”

We’ve bought snake oil by the tanker-load over the last century!

(Have fairly bathed, drunk, and fully splashed the stuff about!)


At that statement, I closed, after thanking Arianna for introducing “awareness of our psychology” into discussion.

… that’s ONE promoting greater psychological awareness … (besides me!)

My Best! –MaggieAnn

(BTW – for what it’s worth, I do NOT always agree with Arianna, in fact scarcely ever are she and I on the ‘same page’ for any duration.  With this article, she introduces psychology as a factor of monumental consequence. That’s important!  We should ‘listen up’ and begin asking questions – how much we are “unwittingly driven” by “unrecognized inner influence“.)


About maggieannthoeni

A description once given of me was "rooted in the earth while roaming the stars" - and this has felt 'right'. I believe in something akin to this for each of us. I am a passionate supporter of discovering the autonomous self while serving the whole as primary intent. I believe in discovery of innate principles, clearing the overlay of socialization that obscures this from us. I believe it is our responsibility to leave no one behind - most particularly to respond to suffering as best we can whereever we find it, whenever we are made aware. I believe in this for the insect as well as the most magnificent form of humanity. I believe in brother/sisterhood without boundary. I believe in righteous indignation when it is appropriate, but do not believe in an enemy. I believe in consciousness, in intelligence, in logic, in rationality, in emotion, in transcendence - and am convinced until we generally practice explore and honor all this in ourselves, we remain profoundly immature. (I believe real maturity is known and practiced by many young children, and not enough adults!)
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2 Responses to How “Being Human” Influences Self-Governance

  1. As I have an economic perspective I really enjoy how psychology and economics is fusing… I recently attended a lecture by Dan Ariely at London School of Economics in London where he spoke about very basic behaviour and how we choose. His latest book ( is really interesting reading. Here he describes how we make consumer choices and decisions about how to vote. Maybe this could be of interest to you…

    Yours sincerely

    Thank you Lukasz, and I apologize for a long absence, delayed response! (See today’s post on this and on the topics you raise.) I am very interested in psychology as it ‘informs’ all human choice: personal, public, and ultimately how psychology informs our social/political structures. It is always a relief, a reassurance, for me when I learn of contemporary study and publication of ideas along these lines. We need to consider our psychology when we review our human successes and disasters! I will certainly check out Ariely – Thanks again! –MA. …Later, found an address by Ariley at, and I am so glad! This led to a recorded talk by David Shenk,, whose interests are, to me, related. Thank you again!! –MA

  2. Isadore says:

    You forgot one, there was Freud, Jung, Adler, and Mae West!, She knew herself unabashedly well.

    It is all very well to come to know yourself, the real challenge lies in once knowing oneself, to love that person.

    Then there is THE question, is it possible to really know anything?

    Sometimes, “The devil made me do it.” is the best motive I can come up with, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    There was a Greek fellow some centuries ago postulated that “the will follows the good”, marketers in our century hit upon this little nugget and went about convincing us that just about anything was ‘the good’, one of my favorite examples is the slogan, “Coke is the real thing!”…NOT.

    I’m afraid we are stuck with ‘the same old same old’ and like it or not (those in power are quite happy with ‘the same old’) that’s all there is going to be and the best we can do is react to it in a positive way, which may not be reacting in ‘the same old’ way. Confused?, so am I.

    “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” The French agree, “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

    I agree with the major points of your excellent post and am not making light of them, but my head is starting to hurt and the more I am getting to know myself the more I realize the need not to take myself too seriously.

    Tilt on!

    Re: “…marketers in our century hit upon this little nugget and went about convincing us that just about anything was ‘the good’.” How true! They did indeed, and so very well at that! Thought of Star Trek recently – how Ferengi we are! The Ferengi were quite likeable – in significant part because they were incapable of successful conclusion of their grandest schemes. Others in the series – featured characters, (heroes, heroines) – were so superior (while also questioning and reflective about their own plans), that the Ferengi could carry on, more or less at ‘entertainment level’ for us viewers! Thank you for your comments, compliment, and encouragement! –MA

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