Excerpts from
by David Seabury

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Book Description

Emotions are valuable in the sustaining and enjoyment of life. But untrained and not properly directed they can create chaos in everyday living.

Dr. David Seabury (1885-1960), famed psychologist, spent his life striving to help individuals fulfill their responsibilities and discover how to get more out of living. Fortunately, he also wrote beautifully and left us several great books. He was the son of the eminent Horatio W. Dresser but chose to use his mother's maiden name.

Throughout his colorful career as a spiritual psychologist Dr David Seabury's writings and lectures have had a profound impact on the American way of life. He consistently emphasizes the necessity of the individual recognizing his complex nature. Man is an emo­tional, mental, and spiritual being, and unless, and until he recognizes these three aspects of his nature and discovers how to have them harmonize with each other, difficulties will be encountered.

However, by paying close attention to these three factors, nurturing them, and carefully controlling them, a self-mastery can be achieved which will open up a wonderful new experience in living.

Chapter 1


Is there a miracle about you? That is not a foolish question. It needs an answer. If a moment is taken to consider the question carefully there will come to anyone's mind the recognition that, yes, there is something very close to evidence of a miracle in a human being, if not proof positive. The unfulfilled possibilities in a human organism strongly suggest a greater extension of our ability to express life than we have yet fully shown. There are many other indications that there are ways of solving man's inner problems if we can be persuaded to contribute some of our time to acquiring knowledge about how to use them for our own benefit.

How many of us have yielded ourselves to a careful estimation of what our thoughts actually mean and do to us and to life? Are they cheerful or gloomy? Generous or stingy? Do they contribute to health by their relaxed faith in life or get us so uptight that the blood cannot flow comfort-ably, the breath does not feel free, a cold grips the respiratory system? It is not too hard to fill out the list.

Psychology has delved into a study of human reaction from numerous angles. But in listing the extraordinary reach of man's endowments the larger number of researchers have cautiously skirted the greatest promise of all in a human being's deeper urges: the knowledge and foresight of the human soul. What, for instance, keeps a person out of jail? A combination of the meanings and realizations of certain of his attributes: his intelligence, his power of choice, and the realization of his soul. The latter element especially because it is the most keenly aware of values. It can feel most convincingly the dreadfulness of being jailed and the unfair­ness of subjecting humanity to the crushing load of trying to find an answer to the destructive effect of evil action on life and everybody in it.

Understanding of man's full nature and capacities is catching up with the effectiveness of scientific discoveries. However, there is now some chance of outdistancing the remarkable contributions of science. Though the task will not be easy for the goal in view, of freeing the human soul from the bondage of a negatively conditioned ego, it has as its main hurdle, not inanimate matter to deal with as the scientist does, but millions of individual souls; and all of these must consent to assist in trying to discover the best and most rewarding use of their own individual natures.

Will they be willing to do this? Quite possibly if the advantage to themselves, by liberation from the heavy weight of neurosis, becomes clear enough for them to see that there is an incalculable gain for them, and for the world. For we badly need to know what we are dealing with when faced with the negative power of emotion and the misplaced ingenuity of the ego.

Simplification can often bring to light the kernel of even complex tasks. It is being proved that people can do themselves a world of good by choosing two particular factors from the psychology of humanity, and getting more useful understanding of the special significance in their relationship. The first of these two factors is emotion and its wonderful and dreadful power; and the second is the ego, which has so many remarkable methods and techniques to make a good life for the individual. However, the ego spoils much of the value of its own offerings because we have not as yet much more than a smattering of knowledge of what trouble the ego can cause. If a person refuses to learn to distinguish between the sound types of assistance his ego can provide and the distorted and often neurotic varieties it too often offers instead, he can be constantly led into errors, from silly gaffs to terrible trouble.

Human consciousness is continually pelted with negative suggestions, prompting foolish or dangerous attitudes and reactions in all of us. These poor choices of attitude and reaction can settle themselves in the ego as habits of mind with their troublesome results. Being what we might aptly call the realistic representative of human consciousness, whose main job is to concern itself with our everyday needs, the ego is called upon to guide us in our ordinary choices and run-of-the-mill habits. But it is forever subservient to the emotions. It has its own share of intelligence, and a good share. But it does not have a chance against an aroused burst of rage, for instance, unless the door of consciousness and the processes of the mind are kept open for contact with the higher elements of the mind and spirit.

The factor of instinct has many forms of awareness of truths that can produce well-being for the individual. That is its prime contribution to the safety of human life. It attracts our attention to ways and means of protecting our lives and even of prodding the imagination to bring to mind methods and ingenuities that finally started the race off on its incredible journey toward today's technology.

This again brings us back to the miraculous promise involved in human nature. Nothing seems to have been left out that would be needed in the development of a superior race. Two things were left in that are so powerful, so developmental in either direction, good or bad, that we are not having too easy a time to get them in-hand and to see to it that they stop interfering with our enjoyment and success. We need to discover how to turn this Niagara of force toward the improved use of every one of the gifts that have been freely handed to us. We refer of course to the giant power, emotion, and to the clever ingenuity of the ego.

So there cannot be much doubt about the value of knowing more about what place emotion holds in life, and whether or not we should give it more space in stretching our concept of education. No aspect of life as we know it could be more dangerous to neglect. For without our being fully aware of it, emotion is a powerhouse without equal to develop our miraculous talents for the increased enjoyment of all, or for destroying each other. The ego has an extraordinary facility for dealing with the more immediate problems of life and naturally needs specific instruction not to waste its efforts on questionable tricks, when training for success is what it needs.

After all, why deny that we are more important to ourselves than anything else in existence? It is not only true, but necessary. We should be attentive to our value or we could make a worse botch of our lives than we do. For what we might carelessly believe to be mere self-love is mainly self-protection, necessary to a race if it is to succeed and evolve. A first need, however, would be to work out how we can balance this primal interest in the self with assured interest in the other fellow. For he, according to our own admission of the necessity for self-regard, must be excused for also being interested in his own needs and protections.

It was here that the thought of man as a miracle suggested itself. For a miracle can adjust to any need, if that need is understandable. It is not too hard to see that going no further than the human body we are in the presence of a miracle. With all the wealth of our factual data, which, put together, explains the human body, there remains a mystery that in all fairness we must admit suggests the realm of the miraculous.

Why does the heart go on and on? How is it that the body can separate the elements of food and distribute them where they are needed? How does medicine get to where the flesh is suffering and come up with a surcease from pain? We blandly accept it all, and then proceed to abuse the body by neglecting to take charge of our emotions.

In this day of overemphasis on the study of matter we should reinstate interest in the pursuit of knowledge about our inward selves. We need a more particular kind of wisdom in relation to self-understanding: a workable awareness of the meaning of our spontaneous, sometimes very disturbing reactions, and those of others. We should begin to become more adept at recognizing the difference between natural human identity reactions and the kind of reactions that are contaminated by emotional experiences causing neurotic feelings which then begin to settle into neurotic habits.

For example, self-pity is a neurotic feeling. How could it be normal when it is declaring that an individual, whose main drive is to increase 'the expansion, the development, of his own relation to life, is a pitiful, abused being? Such an attitude makes no sense, we say. But it could do so, could it not, if it were caused by accusations made by adults in whose power a child, as well as he can judge, finds himself to be placed? He is in no position to win over an adult, not until he is well grown, and has picked up some basic knowledge of the what-and-why of such a common human reaction as self-pity.

It is detrimental to an extreme degree, for a person's experience can be wasted in a kind of mourning over his estimation of his own value. This can lay waste his efforts to gain self-expansion by his arbitrary disbelief in that possibil­ity for him.

It will help in reducing the friction that is sure to follow the actions of disorderly emotions if we realize that neurosis is much like an inflamed sore irritating the individual. It can be cured, and it will become easier to maintain patience and hope for its cure if we will take this fact as a worthwhile belief. Average neurosis can be self-treated and cured if a person is willing to come to an understanding of a few fairly simple principles.

If anyone wanting to be free of his neurotic reactions, taken on in ignorance of how neurotic "infection" starts, will accept a paramount principle that life is a process which must be learned, he can win a good life. He can vastly improve his emotional experiences if he is willing to learn life instead of blundering from mistake to mistake because he will not study his own reactions and interpret them in relation to the increasing knowledge of their meanings. Only by building and, when necessary, rebuilding our habits to obtain con­structive help from our handling of life can we even ask to attain self-expansion. For in the end it is nothing more or less than self-mastery.

It seems that at this point we have put a finger on the factor, the activity, and the most enigmatic influence of the ego. For only the ego seems to represent man against God; or it may be more exact to say, man in competition with God. The ego is rightfully dedicated to serving humanity's central drive, which is self-expansion — the development of the human being and his enjoyment of life. But what an interesting outcome it could be if the emotions were freed from their ignorant urge to hold life in neurotic stalemate. By understanding and discarding neurotic habits we could prevent neurosis from endlessly holding emotion in static servitude to its own lower levels of fury, terror, lust, and rank inquisitiveness.

<>An inquiry in this direction might offer some relief to man's labored musings on who he is and what he is for. For instance, what was in the mind of the one who declared that "man shall not live by bread alone"? Certainly this declara­tion must have been inspired by a belief that man had further interests than just to fill his stomach and glut his sensations. 

If we have any claim to a touch or more of charm, it will come from the quantity and quality of our emotions and how we express them. The very heaven or hell of our life experience is molded from our emotional reactions. If we cannot use, and not abuse, the force of basic rage, the higher expression of which is courage, we will be apt to be in hot water a large proportion of our life. If we get a notion that fear is just a discomfort, or maybe a disgrace, we will perhaps never be able to train it into the caution and good judgment it is capable of offering us. If we cannot raise lust to its more glorious expression of love we can, according to present statistics, end up with a contagion which could deplete the power of our miracle of a body to stave off physical illness. And if we disrespectfully disregard the strength of wonder, which is interest in life and a desire to learn, we have put a sadly obstructive blockage on the chance we have of enjoying the life we purport to be interested in.

In this exciting age we need to venture more deeply and widely into the invisible world of what we passionately feel but cannot physically see—the realm of emotion where the fate of our lives is largely decided.

We have not yet accepted on a practical basis the fact that we can tell our emotions where to get off when they throw us into tizzies that shoot our blood pressure up, put our digestion out of order, and open us up to the contagion of the common cold. When a troublesome or dangerous emo­tional response is allowed to happen over and over, we are helpless to prevent its consequences. This unhappy fact is a natural element of the human equation. But new habits can be formed to take the place of old ones to free us from this constant discomfort. Such new habits can fortify our power over our emotions and reduce the chance of their having unskilled power over us.

We are not going to tell you that the causes of the more explosive examples of this mastery of an individual by his own emotions will conveniently disappear overnight. But we will freely say that those who have experienced their first victory over the battle of the ego get a sense of triumph that is apt to be larger than expected. This area of success ultimately brings more of a thrill than many objective victories.

As a matter of fact, this type of winning over our emotions, which over and over trap us into reactions that reveal ineptitude rather than self-mastery, is proof of that very thing: self-mastery. And the latter is as good as money in that realm where hard cash will get you nowhere. In still too large a number of us rage, fear, lust, and prying meddlesomeness are still much too eager to burst out and start either confusion or a battle of some kind.

Rather than aimlessly asking the doubtfully productive question, "What can I do to help?" we can really contribute something by taking a good look at how well we handle our own emotions. That is really the hopeful area where we can give some genuine help to struggling life. And as said above, success in this effort can carry a thrill that once fairly evaluated can surpass the temporary victories of objective life.

Knowledge is one of the most precious commodities anyone, any race, any nation can own. But because of its very importance and the remarkable and varied capacities the human race displays, it is too easy to grab a bit of important knowledge here, another bit there, and to find ourselves confused by their multitude and the difficulties involved in relating them.

The aim of this book then is to take up three of the central factors in everybody's life. The first is about what is called the ego, the clever, very active agent in human consciousness which is gifted with the skills necessary to keep the various aspects of this complicated organism related to each other, aware of each other, and all working together to attain that deeply desired goal of self-expansion. For that universal desire means the development into the most successful use of every talent and purpose the individual may be endowed with.

Second is the powerful, dynamic engine of emotion, which keeps the whole accumulation of abilities running, colors the many varieties of personality, and with whatever mistakes it makes is still the element that makes life interesting and worth living.

And last, but by no means least, is the capacity to think functionally; that is, to hang onto the coattails of the darting ego and bring a species of order into its electric activity. Thinking functionally, being spontaneously able to apply more awareness of how cause and effect relate to each other in our lives, could untangle many tight knots humanity is struggling to untie.

Function is a peculiarly important word, but it has not, until recently perhaps, been thought of in its specific value to the thinking of the average person. It has long been used by the scientists, mathematicians, and those who expect to use their minds to their best possible function to help them in their chosen work. As a matter of fact, effective function can be used to excellent effect by average people if they can brush off their awe of the specially trained mind and recognize that all of us can develop a better functioning of our thought processes, with added benefit to our lives.

A mind that functions well is a gift straight from heaven, but because we are miracles, over-abundantly gifted by Life, there are other powerful elements in humanity that must be brought into as good final function as the mind. The most disturbingly powerful of all is human emotion. It is of a different nature than the mind, but the latter must cooperate with it smoothly if we are to escape from that demon conflict, emotional and mental strife, which can sap the strength of a Hercules.

How shall we do it? Not certainly by refusing to consider the matter. We can learn a great deal about ourselves: how our minds and emotions work; what causes them to act contrary to our ultimate best interests; how to recognize the mishandling of emotion which is sure to end in trouble that could be avoided. And, perhaps, most of all how to react to an untrained ego which too often seeks personal self-expansion by any means, at any price.

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