Suffering Is Self-Manufactured

Saul, Leon J. (Leon Joseph), 1901-1983 1952-05-23

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Interview Participants
And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Survival, some men say, is all we can hope for. But Dr. Leon J. Saul, one of the nation's leading authorities on psychoanalysis, sees more to life than bare existence. Author of two recent and important books, Emotional Maturity and Bases of Human Behavior, here is Dr. Saul with his convictions about people.
I believe the immediate purpose of life is to live, to survive. All known forms of life go through life cycles. The basic plan is birth, maturing, mating, reproducing, death. Thus, the immediate purpose of human life is for each individual to fulfill his life cycle. This involves proper maturing into the fully developed adult of the species. The pine tree grows straight unless harmful influences warp it. So does the human being.
It is a finding of the greatest significance that the mature man and woman have the nature and characteristics of the good spouse and parent, namely the ability to enjoy, responsible, working, and loving. If the world consisted primarily of mature persons--loving, responsible, productive toward family, friends, and the world--most of our human problems would be resolved.
But most people have suffered in childhood from influences which have warped their development. Hence, as adults, they have not realized their full and proper nature. They feel something is wrong without knowing what it is. They feel inferior, frustrated, insecure, and anxious. And they react to these inner feelings just as any animal reacts to any hurt or threat: by a readiness to fight or to flee.
Flight carries them into alcoholism and other mental disorders. Fight impels them to crime, cruelty, and war. This readiness to violence, this inhumanity of man to man, is the basic problem of human life, for in the form of war, it now threatens to extinguish us.
Without the fight/flight reaction, man would never have survived the cave and the jungle. But now, through social living, man has made himself relatively safe from the elements and the wild beasts. He is even learning to protect himself against disease. He can produce adequate food, clothing, and shelter for the present population of the Earth. Barring a possible astronomical accident, he now faces no serious threat to his existence, except one: the fight/flight reaction within himself.
This jungle readiness to hurt and to kill is now a vestigial hangover, like the appendix, which interferes with the new and more powerful means of coping with nature through civilization. Trying to solve every problem by fighting or fleeing is the primitive method still central for the immature child. The later method--understanding and cooperation--requires the mature capacities of the adult. In an infantile world, fighting may be forced upon one. Then it is more effective if handled maturely for mature goals. Probably war will cease only when enough persons are mature.
The basic problem is social adaptation and biologic survival. The basic solution is for people to understand the nature of their own biological, emotional maturity, to work toward it to help the children in their development toward it. Human suffering is mostly made by man himself. It is primarily the result of the failure of
man himself. It is primarily the result of the failure of adults, because of improper child rearing, to mature emotionally. Hence, instead of enjoying their capacities for responsible work and love, they are grasping, egocentric, insecure, frustrated, anxious, and hostile.
Maturity is the path from madness and murder to inner peace and satisfying living for each individual and for the human species. This I believe on the evidence of science and through personal observation and experience.
That was Dr. Leon J. Saul, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who believes the key to happiness and well-being lies in the understanding of men's minds.
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