This blog, "Attending to the Undervalued Self," is the result of years of puzzling over the ultimate foundation of our universal emotional problems. One answer I addressed in The Highly Sensitive Person: Evolution has made about 20% of us more susceptible to both the good and bad things in life.
Innate temperament cannot be the whole story, however. Research (and my own experience as a therapist) finds that low self-esteem underlies most depression, anxiety, and failed relationships. Yet in spite of our focus on raising self-esteem, we have had little success. In fact, research (Wood, 2009) low self-esteem is in a sense natural, one result of our instinct to rank ourselves among others finds that repeating self-affirmations, the most common self-help treatment, only increases low self-esteem in those already feeling bad, as many hapless souls have found.
Finally, it dawned on me that low self-esteem is about power and influence, the result of rank. Like other social animals, we constantly rank ourselves among others--competing and comparing. We always know everyone else's rank in the social hierarchy while trying to maintain or raise our own. Just as often, however we are linking--liking or loving certain others, so that we want to be near them, get to know them, and meet their needs if we can. Ranking or linking, all the time, and when in one, we are usually not in the other.
Many blogs offer theories about Tiger Woods' adultery, all of them true in their way. It is all too familiar--so many powerful men we have otherwise admired, most notably certain U.S. Presidents, have preceded Tiger. The bottom line for their troubles is that fate kept them mostly in ranking mode. It's the life of politicians, athletes, those fighting for justice, and anyone else in the public spotlight for long. Research on power tells us that anyone on top inevitably thinks less about others' welfare. You can make a conscious moral decision to use power in the service of others, but there will be slips, especially in personal life, where we just assume linking will predominate. Then there is sincere remorse. Ranking got them.