“He that is proud eats up himself: pride is his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle.” - William Shakespeare
David Hawkins, a late American psychiatrist, spiritual teacher and author of many books on consciousness and spirituality, talked a lot about this pride. In his famous “map of consciousness,” an ascending logarithmic scale that measures a variety of emotions and states of being that goes from 0 to 1000, Hawkins calibrated pride from 175 to 199 (where 200 represents a threshold between “negative” and “positive” states), right above fear, anger and guilt, but below courage, acceptance, and love. He used to say that pride is based on vanity and moralistic indignation.
However, many people view pride as a positive emotion. We often see it as a potent force that may lead us toward great triumphs and accomplishments in life. In reality, it is a complex emotion that has both beneficial and harmful aspects. We will refer to these aspects as healthy, authentic pride, and unhealthy, hubristic pride.
Two Aspects of Pride
Healthy pride is a feeling of satisfaction and confidence in our abilities and achievements. It motivates us to pursue our goals and improve ourselves. Healthy pride is a source of joy, strength, and resilience. It enables us to celebrate our accomplishments without arrogance or envy. It empowers us to grow without fear or shame, limits or constraints.
It is a complex emotion that has both beneficial and harmful aspects.
Unhealthy pride, on the other hand, is a feeling of arrogance and superiority over others. It makes us defensive, insecure, and intolerant of criticism. It can also lead to various psychological and physical problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, anger, isolation, and addiction.
Unhealthy pride is often rooted in our core ego structures, which are the beliefs and assumptions we have about ourselves and the world. These ego structures are formed in early childhood through our interactions with our caregivers and environment. They shape our sense of identity, self-worth, and belonging. Some common ego structures that can foster unhealthy pride are:
These ego structures are often reinforced by our culture and society that promote competition, comparison, and achievement as measures of worthiness. They also create a false sense of security that depends on external factors rather than internal ones.
Unhealthy pride can also be related to shame and guilt, which are painful emotions that arise when we feel that we have violated our moral standards or expectations. Shame makes us feel unworthy of love and respect; guilt makes us feel responsible for harming others or ourselves. Both shame and guilt can trigger unhealthy pride as a way of coping with these negative feelings. For example:
So how can we overcome unhealthy pride? Here are some steps that can help us transform this harmful emotion into a healthy one:
One of the main obstacles to overcoming unhealthy pride is the lack of emotional awareness. Emotional awareness is the ability to recognize, understand, and accept our emotions as they arise. It is also the ability to express them appropriately and constructively.
 While emotional awareness is a fundamental component of emotional intelligence, emotional intelligence refers to a broader set of skills that involve not only awareness of our own emotions but also the ability to understand and manage other people's emotions. It includes skills such as empathy, social skills, and emotional regulation, which allow us to navigate social situations and relationships effectively.
Emotional awareness is the ability to recognize, understand, and accept our emotions as they arise. It is also the ability to express them appropriately and constructively.
Many people who suffer from unhealthy pride have a distorted or suppressed relationship with their emotions. They may deny, ignore, or avoid their emotions because they perceive them as weak, threatening, or shameful. They may also project their emotions onto others or blame them for their problems. This can lead to emotional imbalance, distress, and disconnection.
Emotional awareness can help us overcome unhealthy pride by:
One of the most effective ways to develop emotional awareness is through mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of conscious presence in the present moment, with openness, curiosity, and non-judgment. Mindfulness allows us to observe our emotions without being overwhelmed by them or identifying with them. It also enables us to respond rather than react to our emotions.
Many mindfulness techniques can help us cultivate emotional awareness. Some of them are:
Pride is a double-edged sword. It can be a potent motivator, or it can lead to our downfall. While healthy pride can uplift us and give us a sense of purpose, unhealthy pride can make us blind to our flaws and defensive against criticism.
Pride is a double-edged sword. It can be a potent motivator, or it can lead to our downfall.
However, overcoming unhealthy pride is possible. We can transform it with emotional awareness and mindful practices. By confronting our ego structures, embracing gratitude, seeking connection, and developing our emotional intelligence through mindfulness, we can unlock the true potential of healthy pride and lead a more fulfilling, compassionate, and joyful life. Remember, authentic pride doesn't come from a sense of superiority but from a sense of purpose and contribution to the world.
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