The Human Experience

human experienceHuman beings are cursed with a conscious awareness of their own mortality.

Human beings, unlike other species, are cursed with a conscious awareness of their own mortality. I believe that the tragedy of the human condition is that people’s awareness and true self consciousness concerning this existential issue contributes to an ultimate irony: Human beings are both brilliant and aberrant, sensitive and savage, exquisitely caring and painfully indifferent, remarkably creative and incredibly destructive to self and others. The capacity to imagine and conceptualize has negative as well as positive consequences because they predispose anxiety states that culminate in a defensive form of denial.

The tragedy is that the same defenses that enable us to survive the emotional pain of childhood and existential despair are not only maladaptive and limit our personal potential for living a full life, but they inevitably lead to negative behaviors toward others thereby perpetuating the cycle of destructiveness. Paradoxically, ideologies and religious beliefs that are a source of spiritual comfort, relief from a sense of aloneness and interpersonal distress also polarize people one against the other. Threatened by people with different customs and belief systems, we mistakenly feel that we must overpower or destroy them.

With all of the advances of science and technology, if one takes a proper look at the world situation today, one must consider it to be utter madness. Millions go hungry, genocide reaches epic proportions, ethnic strife and prejudice are omnipresent, there is mass killing in the name of religion and warfare remains a viable solution to our differences. With better, more efficient weapons and less reason, and technology outrunning rationality, human existence on the planet may well be extinguished.

Feeling and compassion are a significant part of our human heritage, but when faced with overwhelming primal pain, we develop defenses to minimize our suffering. Cut off from our feelings, we are desensitized to ourselves and are more likely to become self destructive or act out aggression toward others. To alter this negative legacy requires a depth of psychological knowledge and compassion as well as the belief and fortitude to pursue this endeavor against all odds.

With a deep insight and feeling that we all share the same fate, and recognition that death is the great leveler, there is hope for a one world view characterized by respect, love and concern for all of our fellows. Our faith is that by learning how people are damaged and later defended, gradually eliminating faulty parenting practices and developing a better understanding of human nature and frailties, we can significantly influence the fate of mankind in a positive direction.

In this regard, comprehending the issues involved in philosophizing about an ethical approach to life necessitates a deep knowledge of human psychology and especially the importance of understanding defense formation. Defenses formed in childhood as a necessity for psychological survival also preclude to varying degrees the formation and living out of a truly moral existence. Personal damage caused by excessive criticality, rejection or outright hostility on the part of parents predispose children to become adults that are hurtful to others. There is no way to become innocently defended unless a person lived in total isolation. Whether we are aware or not, the ways we distrust and distort other people does significant damage. It hurts those closest to us, in particular our children, and then extends outward.

In conclusion, society represents a pooling of individual psychological defenses, and it is these defenses and their subsequent damage to other people that is perpetuated in the world at large. It is manifested in a failure to achieve empathy and compassion for others, outright prejudice, ethnic cleansing and religious warfare. The appropriate education about our psychological defenses, how they are formed and how they function is essential to achieving insight into the subject of ethics. It is unlikely that a person, who lives harmoniously within him/herself, is not defensive and respects other people; would raise a hand to inflict damage on others. People with an open, feeling orientation can shape a peaceful world that illustrates concern and equality for all.

About the Author

Robert Firestone, Ph.D Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, theorist and artist. He is the Consulting Theorist for The Glendon Association. He is author of numerous books including Voice Therapy, Challenging the Fantasy Bond, Compassionate Child-Rearing, Fear of Intimacy, Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice, Beyond Death Anxiety The Ethics of Interpersonal RelationshipsSelf Under Siege, and recently his collection of stories Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice.  His studies on negative thought processes and their associated affect have led to the development of Voice Therapy, an advanced therapeutic methodology to uncover and contend with aspects of self-destructive and self-limiting behaviors. Firestone has applied his concepts to empirical research and to developing the Firestone Assessment of Self-destructive Thoughts (FAST), a scale that assesses suicide potential. This work led to the publication of Suicide and the Inner Voice: Risk Assessment, Treatment and Case Management. He has published more than 30 professional articles and chapters for edited volumes, and produced 35 video documentaries. His art can be viewed on You can learn more about Dr. Firestone by visiting

Related Articles

Tags: , , , , ,

One Comment

Risda Djambek

Have found this article The Human Experiences was so refreshing and broaden the perspective toward human value, that there are so many things influence how we feel our self and behave. While changing is so fast now during the life time duration. It was so good once in a while to inspire by this article…! Thank you…

Leave a Reply