Website owner:  James Miller

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One cause of lack of confidence and the inferiority complex

   Certain personality traits or quirks (such as abnormal 
   slowness, being unobservative, poor memory, etc.) predispose a 
   person towards problems of lack of confidence and an 
   Inferiority Complex.  However, there are a great many people 
   who don't have those particular personality traits that 
   predispose one toward lack of confidence problems, that do in 
   fact have inferiority complexes.  They may be very alert, 
   quick, and observant.  They seem intelligent enough.  Yet they 
   have an Inferiority Complex.  Why?  How does it happen?  By 
   what process or mechanism does it come about?  How about the 
   following as a possible explanation of the kind of thing that 
   might happen?  When they start out in school they are alert, 
   active, observant children.  However, they are not really 
   interested in school.  In fact they don't like school.  They 
   are extroverts and prefer to fool around and have fun. So they 
   don't really try;  they don't settle down and study and work;  
   they don't really apply themselves.  This goes on for several 
   years.  The teachers pass them from one grade to the next but 
   they aren't really getting the basics of reading, writing and 
   arithmetic.  Later on their lack of foundation starts catching 
   up with them.  Things get harder and harder.  You have to know 
   last year's work in order to do this year's.  You have to 
   understand yesterday's ideas and principles in order to 
   understand today's.  One thing is built on another.  Everything 
   starts seeming more and more complicated and incomprehensible.  
   Even when they put forth sincere effort and try they just don't 
   seem to be able to do it.  It is just too complicated.  They 
   are snowed.  And then they look around them and look enviously 
   at others who are understanding everything, with no trouble, 
   and doing well.  So what is the natural conclusion?  The others 
   are "smarter" than them.  Thus the "complex" has its start.  
   The direction of their mind has been established --- they are 
   started down that road of Self-Doubt.  And as all this goes on 
   day after day they go further and further down that road.  They 
   have impressed on them again and again just how much smarter 
   others are then they --- in fact, just how "stupid" and 
   "inferior" they really are.  And the more inferior they feel 
   the more they watch others and the more they compare and the 
   worse they feel.  And of course they are doing poorly as far as 
   marks are concerned so their parents and teachers don't think 
   they are very smart either.  So one thing reinforces another 
   and they don't see any very good evidence that would allow for 
   any other conclusion. 

   One question: What part does the modern school system play in 
   creating complexes?  The above explanation involved the school 
   system.  The school system was a very essential part of it.  
   A child develops an inferiority complex when he starts seeing 
   himself compared with others, when there are comparisons, and 
   school is the situation in which this naturally occurs.  And 
   then there is this IQ idea that every one learns about.  He is 
   sure to get his IQ measured so people can find out how he ranks 
   against others in "intelligence", to find out how "smart" he 
   is.  Since our intelligence is so closely connected to our ego, 
   our sense of self-esteem, our sense of self-worth, the outcome, 
   if he believes and accepts the IQ idea, is sure to affect his 
   feelings toward himself.  If he gets an average or high score 
   he may say to himself, "At least I am intelligent.  That is 
   what is important.  I don't really need to study."  If he gets 
   a low score it may be a devastating blow and kill any 
   inclination to study.  Our modern school system is a rather 
   recent development.  At one time most children, the lower class 
   children, children of the "peasantry", didn't go to school.  
   Could our school system be the source of the most of our modern 
   day emotional problems?  Could it be the major reason for most 
   of our Inferiority Complexes?  

   Oct 1977

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