Conrad Baars and the Vicious Cycle of the Unaffirmed

Conrad Baars' circle reveals the deep cycle of feeling unloved and paths to healing.

Conrad Baars, renowned for his work in Catholic psychotherapy, depicted a profound understanding of the human psyche through his various theories and diagrams. One such notable representation is the 'Vicious Circle of Feeling Unloved,' a simplistic yet deep visual insight into the emotional struggles many face, often unbeknownst to even themselves.

At the heart of this diagram is the concept of non-affirmation, a term Baars used to describe the state where an individual feels unloved, unaccepted, and unrecognized for who they truly are. This non-affirmation becomes the starting point of a cyclical journey of negative emotions and behaviors, leading an individual down a path of inner turmoil.

The cycle begins with an individual feeling unloved, leading them to the negative belief that "I am no good." This thought pattern fosters feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, which in turn manifest as non-assertive behaviors. People caught in this stage often find themselves in a 'nice-guy syndrome,' where they constantly strive to please others, fearing confrontation or displeasure. However, this incessant need to appease and be liked can paradoxically result in neither having true enemies nor genuine friends. Their interactions are not rooted in authenticity but rather in a fear-driven need for approval.

This lack of genuine human connection breeds feelings of isolation, which are intensified by the experiences of being ignored or taken advantage of by others. The illusory belief that "everyone likes me" surfaces, but this is not borne out of genuine mutual respect and love; rather, it stems from a superficial, often one-sided, interaction pattern.

Consequently, feelings of withdrawal and depression begin to take hold. The lack of true emotional connection, combined with an inner conviction of worthlessness, becomes unbearable. The person becomes trapped in a whirlpool of negative emotions, constantly seeking external validation but never truly finding it. They are caught in a loop, always returning to the painful feeling of non-affirmation or being unaffirmed. He also calls it deprivation neurosis.

However, Baars does not leave us in despair. He points out two significant spots where this vicious cycle can be interrupted and healing can begin.

Spot "A" emphasizes the importance of asserting oneself. By daring to disagree, offering genuine compliments, being honest with oneself and others, and not suppressing genuine feelings – be it of joy, sadness, or anger – one can begin to break free. This assertion isn't about being confrontational but about being authentic. It is a call to recognize one's inherent worth and express oneself from a place of self-respect and love.

Spot "B" highlights the need to address feelings of withdrawal and depression head-on. It suggests that understanding why one feels blue, despite things seemingly going well, is a crucial step in healing. Often, confronting and understanding these feelings can illuminate the root causes of emotional distress.

He offers other steps to replace deprivation with affirmation. You can find these in chapter 6 of his book "Born Only Once."

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Dr. Marcel Lanahan

Founder, Lead Clinician

Marcel is a Catholic therapist, husband, and father of five. He is dedicated to supporting fellow Catholics with guidance on their healing journeys.

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