I did not write this article just for people with mental illness. I wrote this article for everybody, because depression and anxiety are normal parts of being human, and everybody is vulnerable to these emotions spiraling out of control. I understand that depression and anxiety are often very deeply ingrained problems caused by a host of biological, chemical, and hereditary factors, so if you are deeply ill I recommend that you go to some kind of medical professional and consider taking drugs to stay afloat. I believe that most people can take actions that can improve their depression and anxiety, but if you are so paralyzed with negative emotions that you are suicidal or cannot make any progress in your life, you may need drugs until you get to the point where you can make progress.
I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, nor do I have a degree in any kind of psychology. I am just a guy who enjoys writing about subjects that interest him. If this article helps you, fine, if it doesn’t, ignore it.
For human beings, positive emotion primarily comes primarily from two sources: 1) pursuing desirable goals and 2) feeling accepted by the tribe. Pursuing desirable goals produces feelings of enthusiasm and confidence. Acceptance produces feelings of calm, contentment, and spiritual enlightenment. Anxiety occurs when your subconscious mind feels like you are failing at pursuing desirable goals. Depression occurs when your subconscious mind feels like you have failed at being accepted by the tribe.
Anxiety and depression are linked because humans evolved to only feel accepted by the tribe after they do something to contribute to it. And to contributed to the tribe you must successfully pursue desirable goals and bring back some resource for others. People who do not feel like they are successfully pursuing desirable purposes that lead to valuable resources often feel worthless to the tribe, and this feeling of worthlessness causes depression.
Depression and anxiety are alarms that evolved to warn us if we are doing the wrong thing. Both involve a similar cycle (what I call the “Rumination Cycle”): 1) an external stimulus indicates to us that we are doing the wrong thing, 2) we feel negative emotion, which causes us to freeze and stop doing whatever we are doing, 3) we collect information, 4) we process the information we have collected to determine a new purpose, and 5) the negative emotion clears and we get moving again towards our new purpose.
Depression and anxiety become pathological when we get stuck in the Rumination Cycle and the negative emotion never clears. This can occur because 1) the relevant information we need to pick a new purpose is not available to us, 2) we fail at processing the information correctly, 3) we are overwhelmed with too much negative stimulus to process, 4) our alarms go off for the wrong reasons, and many other reasons.
Your Subconscious Mind
To understand depression and anxiety, you must understand that your subconscious mind is not “you”. Our subconscious mind is almost like another person living inside of you, who has plans, thoughts, feelings, attractions and aversions that are complexly independent of your conscious mind. When you realize that the voice is in your head is not “you” and that sometimes it is wrong, you can engage in meta-cognition, which means thinking about thinking, and disconnect your “self” (whatever that is) from your thoughts and emotions. Once you can view your thoughts and emotions with a cold, objective eye, you can start working on fixing some of the more destructive ones.
Depression and anxiety are diseases of the subconscious mind. Nobody wants to be depressed or anxious, and if it was as easy as reading a few inspirational quotes or “toughening up” everybody would do it. The reality is that our subconscious minds sometimes develop a horribly distorted view of the world which causes them to produce intense negative emotion that is completely unjustified. Oftentimes people that are incredibly rich, powerful, and loved feel depression even though on paper they are the most “accepted” people in the world. Similarly, some of the most secure and competent people you will ever meet will suffer from intense anxiety. Our subconscious mind is a strange thing and fixing it is often a very difficult task.
You may read some parts of this article and think “that doesn’t apply to me.” The truth is that the basic wiring of everybody’s subconscious minds is the same. Some people are genetically predisposed to have slightly higher positive or negative emotion than average, or to feel more or less pleasure at certain activities, but the primary difference between humans is how we tutor, shape, and accommodate our subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy, and you must work hard for it to be the former.
Battling your subconscious mind is difficult for a variety of reasons. First, our subconscious mind is much more powerful and sophisticated than our conscious mind, so we often need to rely on it. We cannot just ignore or repress it. It is impossible to consciously think about every single little thing we do, think, and feel in our lives so our subconscious mind has input into almost everything we do. Secondly, our subconscious mind often infects our rational mind with negative, counterproductive, and false thoughts in a process called confabulation (I discuss confabulation later in this article), so we are often “tricked” into thinking we are having rational thoughts when our thoughts are really just justifications for the emotions generated by our subconscious mind. To make matters worse, our subconscious mind often connects these negative thoughts and emotions to real data from the outside world, so we believe these negative thoughts and emotions are real and justified (not realizing that these thoughts and emotions are ignoring a lot of other real data from the outside world). Over time, these negative thoughts and emotions accumulate, weighing us down and tormenting us.
To defeat these negative thought-emotion bundles, it is not enough to think, talk, or wish. The only thing that changes the emotions in your subconscious mind is action. You must create a routine for yourself that generates positive emotion in your subconscious mind, and then use these positive emotions to individually attack each of these negative thoughts that have accumulated (trying to attack them without the requisite positive emotion is too difficult). This process may take a long time because you often have years of negative thought-emotion bundles to unwind and fix, but you might as well get started now.
Human psychology is best understood in terms of purposes. Everything we do is either consciously or subconsciously directed to some purpose, and our subconscious mind is always trying to figure out what purposes to pursue. Generally speaking, we evolved to pursue purposes that 1) feel pleasurable and 2) we see a clear path to attaining. Humans generally prefer delicious food over mediocre food, but we evolved to settle for mediocre food if we see a clear path to the mediocre food and the delicious food is guarded by a lion.
Humans evolved to hunt, and the neurochemical associated with hunting is dopamine. Dopamine is associated with focus, confidence, pleasure, and enthusiasm. Almost all pleasure comes from dopamine, whether it be eating food, having sex, winning something, etc… But interestingly, our brain releases most of the dopamine ON THE WAY to the pleasurable object (what I call “journey pleasure”), rather than when we are consuming the object (“destination pleasure”). As the famous comedian Artie Lange once said, “the best part of doing cocaine is the ride to your dealer’s house to get it.” Successful people often have all the money, status, and friends they need, but they still go to work every day because the hunt is what motivates them. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense why journey pleasure is stronger than destination pleasure: evolution needs to motivate us to hunt the deer; it doesn’t care as much if we enjoy eating the deer afterwards. But even though destination pleasure is much weaker than journey pleasure and lasts for a much shorter time, if we cannot find journey pleasure we will settle for destination pleasure.
Journey pleasure is maximized when we: 1) venture into the unknown, 2) defeat challenges or threats, 3) hunt down a resource-rich target (preferably one necessary for survival), and 4) bring back the fruits of the hunt to share with the tribe. Goal conquering also causes us to feel accepted and valuable because we have contributed to the tribe.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is basically an alarm that makes us freeze when our subconscious mind thinks we may be pursuing the wrong purpose (or in other words, hunting the wrong target). We feel anxiety 1) when our subconscious mind thinks that the paths to our purposes are blocked by threats or obstacles, or 2) when our subconscious mind perceives multiple equally appealing purposes and cannot decide which one to pursue. When anxiety kicks in, our subconscious mind enters the Rumination Cycle until it figures out a different purpose to pursue.
Anxiety is also caused by the unknown. In fact, most anxiety we feel comes from the unknown and uncertainty rather than consciously identified threats. The unknown induces anxiety because 1) the paths in the unknown to appealing things may be populated with threats and 2) the unknown is full of infinitely equally appealing paths.
Anxiety is linked to memory, which is why drugs that alleviate anxiety often negatively affect our memory. Our subconscious brain is always trying to build a map of the world around us, both of our immediate physical surroundings and our abstract future. It then populates this map with the threats it detects to prevent us from running into those threats in the future. For example, if we touch a hot stove and burn our hand our subconscious will register “hot stove” as a threat and try to cripple us if we consider reaching for a hot stove in the future. Unfortunately, this map can become polluted with false alarms so we find ourselves afraid of things that are not really threats. To keep us safe, our subconscious mind is overly conservative so over time our internal maps become polluted with more and more phony threats, causing us to become more and more narrow minded, afraid of the world, and stuck in our ways. Even worse, this causes our subconscious mind will write off certain paths as impossible before they even get to our conscious mind.
The opposite of anxiety is confidence. Confidence is the same thing as journey pleasure: we feel confidence when our subconscious mind feels like there is a clear path to its goals unobstructed by threat, and we are making progress towards them. Therefore, to feel confidence and defeat anxiety we need a plan that we feel like we can successfully execute. If our plan feels too difficult or riddled with too many threats, we will not feel confident and motivated. We do not need to actually achieve our goals to defeat anxiety: we just need to feel like there is a clear path to the goal. Most mentally ill people first manifest their mental illness in their mid-20s, and I suspect that is because people’s early 20s are when they are given freedom to choose their own goals and are not given any plan or routine.
Confidence also requires certainty that you are on the “correct” path, and by “correct” I mean that there is no better path for you to be on. If your subconscious mind feels like there may be a better path to be on, it will strike you with anxiety. Obviously, it is impossible to be completely certain that you are ever on the best possible path, and there is usually something better you can be doing, but you need to come to some type of peace with your purpose. I think the way to obtain this certainty is to 1) pursue the biggest possible purposes that you are realistic for you and that you enjoy, 2) spend some time every week looking at your purposes with a cold and objective eye to make sure you are doing #1.
Because anxiety depends on our progress to our goals, the goals we choose partly determine how much anxiety we feel. If are pursuing purposes that our subconscious mind feels are too difficult, intimidating, or remote, we will feel anxious and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, many people feel anxiety because they do not consciously choose their own purposes: their purposes are determined by their friends, their family, their society, their emotions, and other influences they are not consciously aware of. Part of the reason so many people feel anxiety in the modern world is because society imposes unrealistic standards as to what people should achieve, have, and look like.
Neurochemically, anxiety is our default state. The brain works by exchanging messages using chemicals called neurotransmitter, and the neurochemical GABA slows down the activity of excitatory neurotransmitters. Most anti-anxiety drugs, like Xanax and alcohol, work by stimulating GABA receptors in the brain. Too much GABA makes one drowsy, sleepy, and stop producing memories. In other words, the alarm is “on” by default until we give it something (abstractly a plan, chemically a drug) to turn it off.
The part of the human mind that controls anxiety originally evolved in primitive animals to detect physical threats in the jungle, but in the human mind it is also used to detect more abstract threats that may happen far in the future, like the possibility of getting fired from our job or dying from a lightning strike. Because physical threats in the jungle often meant sudden death, our anxiety system evolved to be risk averse and overly sensitive to threats. It makes sense to be risk-averse in the jungle: if you take an uncertain risk the award is a little bit of food or maybe some sex, but the danger is death.
It makes less sense, however, for human beings to have an overly sensitive anxiety system. Our minds can detect abstract threats that may lie in the future and outside our immediate perception, but we often do not have enough information to accurately gauge the severity or possibility of those remote threats. And because we do not have adequate information to decide our next move, we get paralyzed in the Rumination Cycle. Infinite bad things that could happen to human beings, so our anxiety system can register almost infinite threats at any time.
Our capability for abstract thought makes us vulnerable to intense, constant anxiety. In the Bible, after Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they immediately went and hid behind a bush out of fear because they realized the world is full of threats. Many psychologists and philosophers have noted that the question is not why humans feel anxiety, but why they do not feel constant, overwhelming anxiety.
Many psychologists and philosophers have theorized that art, business, religion, and philosophy are all human constructions created to overcome anxiety. Basically, humans create “civilization” to make us feel safe from threats and to give us goals to pursue that kill our anxiety. But modern society is constantly changing and becoming more and more unpredictable and complex, which has led to an increase in anxiety. On top of this, people are given goals by society that often feel remote, unreachable, and littered with threats – goals which people do not have the preparation to successfully pursue. Modern liberal society also gives us infinite opportunities, infinite potential ways to live your life, and much too much information, which it makes it difficult to pick a goal, successfully make progress towards it, and feel confident that you are doing the right thing. The decline of religion, a declining trust in authority, a failure to adequately educate and discipline children, and a news media that is intent on scaring the shit out of us also serve to increase terror.
What is Depression?
Depression is the feeling of being rejected from the tribe. Depression is a normal and necessary part of life, but becomes a disorder when you get stuck in the Rumination Cycle and feel like there is nothing you can do to be re-admitted back into the tribe. Depression is often characterized as “learned helplessness” – you have “learned” that you might as well give up because no matter what you do, it is impossible for you to contribute to the tribe and become accepted again.
One of our strongest emotions, if not THE strongest, is the desire to feel accepted by whatever we perceive the “tribe” to be. We are usually attracted to the most appealing tribe, and we perceive the most appealing tribe to be the group with access to the things we want (resources) and can protect us and the resources. When you are a child, the “tribe” is usually your family, but as you grow older it can be your friends, company, gang, romantic lovers, and society itself. The tribes you seek acceptance from are determined by your values, because the resources you find appealing are determined by your values. At the same time, however, the tribe can also subconsciously and subtly change your values without you even realizing it.
The desire to feel accepted is stronger than almost any of our other desires, which is why people often change their likes, dislikes, interests, personality, and even identity to conform to the tribes they want to join. To ensure we stay loyal, evolution has caused our desire to be accepted stronger than any of our lower desires. People sacrifice themselves for their family, their country, and even their company because their desire for “honor” and status in the tribe is stronger than anything else, sometimes even stronger than their will to live. In addition, the emotion of “love” is related to acceptance. In fact, some psychologists describe “love” as “acceptance” + “joy,” the joy presumably coming from the fact that the person is getting the things they want from the tribe now that they have been accepted. And just as feeling accepted is one of our strongest positive emotions, feeling rejected is one of our strongest negative emotions. Biologically speaking, love is acceptance and depression is grief of love lost.
Feelings of spiritual elevation are also related to feeling accepted by the tribe. A spiritually enlightened person feels simultaneously “wholeness” and “nothingness.” They feel “whole” because they have been fully accepted into the tribe, which means they have access to all of the resources of the tribe. But they also feel nothingness because now that they have access to all of the tribe’s resources, they have no desire for them. Addictions and obsessions with material things and bodily pleasures are the result of fear: because we feel like have been rejected by the tribe we have an impulse to consume as much as we can because that might be the last time we get access to those resources. Of course, this is all subconscious – you never actually have complete access to resources – it is a feeling that your subconscious mind generates based on the input it receives.
You do not need to feel accepted by every single person in the world or every tribe, but you do need to feel acceptance from SOME tribe to stay mentally healthy. Humans did not evolve to live as hermits completely disconnected from one another. “Loners” claim they are happy usually because their loved ones hurt them so badly they feel better off alone. But you evolved to seek relationships with others and your challenge in life is to find a good group of people to form relationships with.
For optimum mental health, your tribe should 1) consist of people you respect and value, 2) have fair and transparent criteria for acceptance, 3) will not arbitrarily or unfairly reject you, and 4) accept you relatively unconditionally, even when things are going badly for you.
Many things cause us to feel accepted: compliments, attention, reciprocal interactions with others, others complying with our requests, being explicitly included in activities, etc… But the thing that most solidly makes us feel accepted is being rewarded for something we did to contribute to the tribe. If we feel like we provided others something meaningfully valuable, we feel much more “secure” in our acceptance than somebody who gets compliments or attention for contributions of little objective value (like looking good). We evolved to only feel accepted after we did something for acceptance, so deep down we know when our acceptance is fake. Being competent to contribute makes us feel confident: once we know we can contribute to the needs of the tribe, that by itself helps us feel like we could get accepted by others.
Conversely, when we consume the resources of the tribe without contributing, we subconsciously feel worthless. Even if people tell us we are loved and accepted, deep down we still feel insecure. In fact, Sigmund Freud theorized that humans have a “death instinct” that makes them want to die when they feel they are no longer contributing to the tribe. This death instinct can manifest itself as consciously suicidal thoughts but it can also be subconscious, causing us to engage in dangerous and self-destructive behaviors because we subconsciously want to hurt ourselves. The evolutionary reason for the death instinct is simple: once you become a liability for the tribe, it is better off for the tribe for you to be dead. Others have theorized that humans evolved to attack enemies of the tribe, and when we feel like we are hurting our own tribe we turn that rage back onto ourselves. In other words, depression is “aggression turned inward” - our body attacking itself as punishment for hurting the tribe.
Because depression is aggression turned inward, you must be careful to not beat yourself up too much when you fail at something or you get rejected. You should characterize your mistake as narrowly as possible, fix that narrow mistake, and then keep moving. Your attitude towards yourself should be “I am a valued and important member of the tribe, and I made a mistake, like all valued and important members of the tribe sometimes do” rather than “I completely fucked up and now I am a useless drag on the tribe.” You also need to let go of your past failures and rejections with the same attitude – “I made some mistakes, I learned from them, and now I am back in the tribe.” Part of forgiving yourself and loving yourself is talking about your issues with somebody else – sometimes articulating your failures and rejections makes you realize how stupid and insignificant they really were.
Depression activates the Rumination Cycle to figure out what we did wrong so we stop doing it and rejoin the tribe. Everybody feels mini-depressions throughout their life, which are an important tool to help us correct our behavior. If you fail at something or do something to hurt others, and in return people look at you unfavorably, you probably should not feel good. But depression becomes pathological when we get stuck in the Rumination Cycle and cannot escape, perhaps because 1) we do not know what we did wrong, 2) we do not know what to do to be re-accepted, or 3) it is impossible for us to do the thing that the tribe demands to gain reacceptance.
Depression induces a stress response, anhedonia (the inability to enjoy pleasurable things), and grief, similar to how you feel when a loved one passes away. Grief comes from the same part of your brain that causes you to feel pain, so depression literally feels like you got hit by a truck. Depression also induces psychomotor retardation, which makes it more difficult for you to move your muscles. The purpose of these feelings is to feel pain, stop enjoying things, and stop doing things so you ruminate on what you did wrong. Some theorists have even suggested that one of the purposes of depression is to make lower-ranked apes stop fighting the alpha male for dominance in the tribe after they have been defeated.
The neurochemical most closely associated with depression is serotonin. The higher a person’s status in the tribe and the more solidly “accepted” they feel, the more serotonin they have. Conversely, if one feels like they are the fringes of the tribe or rejected, they have less serotonin. Serotonin is correlated with feelings of happiness, contentment, and connection with others. Serotonin also causes the release of other neurotransmitters that produce feelings of well-being, like dopamine, oxytocin, norepinephrine, and others. Serotonin is related to practically every single positive emotion a person feels, which makes sense – once we feel accepted into the tribe, we feel like we have access to all the resources and protection of the tribe. For this reason, most anti-depressants by increasing the serotonin levels in your brain.
Most psychedelic drugs, like psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and DMT also work by affecting your serotoninergic system. These drugs are serotonin agonists, meaning they bind with your serotonin receptors and produce the same feeling as serotonin. These drugs usually produce a feeling of calm, satiation, love, protection, oneness and happiness – all the feelings you get when you are accepted into the tribe. Because these feelings are so powerful, pleasurable, and all-encompassing, people report having spiritual experiences on psychedelics. I strongly suspect that feelings of oneness and spiritual enlightenment are related to the feeling of being accepted by the tribe: a person who is accepted feels protected, safe, loved, and has nothing to fear or fight about with anybody else. Feelings of fear, anger, and resentment occur when we feel like the tribe has cheated us or rejected us, leaving us alone and unprotected in a cruel and terrifying world where we must fight to survive.
Causes of Depression
Many things can cause somebody to be vulnerable to depression: biology, hormones, brain chemistry, inherited traits, etc… But I think the fundamental core of depression is the feeling that we are fundamentally “not good enough” to be a respected and accepted member of the tribe. This feeling is partly caused by real events in the world and partly from our distorted perceptions of reality.
We may feel rejected because the people whose acceptance we sought, like our parents, friends, and romantic partners, rejected us, especially if their rejections were based on arbitrary or unpredictable reasons. The purpose of depression is to figure out what we are doing wrong so we can correct it, but if we have no idea what we did wrong, we remain stuck in the Rumination Cycle. If your parents, coach, or friends are arbitrary and abusive, your subconscious mind may never figure out a pathway to acceptance. We may also feel depression if the acceptance our tribe provides us is temporary and conditional. For example, if your tribe only accepts you if you look good, you will feel insecure and vulnerable to depression because looking good is a temporary thing and not a real contribution.
We also feel depression if we feel like we are failing at meeting the standards that society has set for us, because if we fail to contribute we get rejected. Again, we can become more vulnerable to depression if we cannot figure out what we need to do to meet society’s standards, or if those standards are arbitrary and constantly changing. Anything that makes us feel like we are not good enough for the tribe can cause depression.
Imagine you are very good at your job, but your company needs to lay you off because business is bad for reasons unrelated to your performance. Most companies do not want to admit they fire people because business is bad, so instead they say you got fired because you suck at your job. Even if you suspect they are lying, you may still feel depressed, especially given that you have no idea what you did wrong to get fired. Similarly, if you get dumped you out of the blue, or bullied based on things you had no control over, you will feel depressed.
We also feel depressed if we feel like the criteria to gain acceptance are too difficult and out of reach for us. For example, if you feel like you need to be married and own a house by age 25 to be in good standing by your friends, your parents, or society, you will feel depressed if you don’t accomplish those things by 25. It is easy to say “well don’t worry about society’s standards” but we need some standard for success, and some of society’s standards are perfectly reasonable, so if society says something is a standard and we fail to meet it we feel incompetent, a failure, and unable to contribute to the tribe. As you can imagine, this problem is exacerbated by the entertainment industry and social media, which makes you feel like everybody is happy, successful, and rich, except for you.
I believe depression is increasing in the modern world because modern society has made people more individualistic and remote from one another. Community organizations, churches, and friendships are breaking down, so more and more people feel isolated, lonely and unloved. Chronic loneliness is becoming a huge problem for elderly people, especially given that many people are not marrying and having children, so when they are old they have no family and few friends. Many people try to attain a feeling of community or friendship from the internet, but those relationships often fail to produce the same feelings of acceptance as relationships in real life. The corporate media worsens this problem by making people feel they will not be “accepted” unless they believe certain things, buy certain things, and live up to certain stupid and impractical standards.
To add to these problems, the modern entertainment-media-marketing complex constantly tries to make us feel inferior. Every major social institution in the modern world peddles ideologies that are designed to make us feel weak, at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy, helpless, victims, and dependent on others. They either make us feel like it is impossible to rise in the dominance hierarchy, or they give us false advice as to how to rise. For example, the modern information machine teaches young man that the key to feeling “alpha” is fucking lots of hot girls – this causes most men to feel inferior because most men on average get laid very rarely and even when you do fuck hot girls, your place in the actual dominance hierarchy of society does not change. Even if you come from a good family and have good friends, you are constantly ingesting mountains of propaganda designed to make you feel inferior.
The modern world is also full of opportunities for “fake acceptance,” which produce a quick jolt of acceptance that quickly wears off. For example, people work for “likes” on social media sites, but that feeling of acceptance quickly dissipates because 1) the crowd has quickly moved on to like something else and 2) the person never actually contributed anything of value with their social media post, so they do not actually feel any pride or honor. People also get caught up fads, political movements, “scenes” and other communities that quickly dissipate.
And finally, depression is increasing because people are just becoming shittier to each other. To not feel depressed, you need to find a reliable, fair group of friends that will accept you and not stab you in the back, and that is becoming harder and harder to find in our modern world, especially in certain communities. People get abused and unfairly rejected, so they often go on to abuse and reject others, creating an ever-lengthening chain of broken, damaged people that can’t engage in real relationships.
Choose your purposes
Most people have depression and anxiety because their purposes are wrong. Their purposes are either too small, so they do not feel excitement and passion when pursuing them, or their purposes are too big and feel overly intimidating and impossible to achieve. Ultimately, you want your subconscious mind to enjoy the adventure inherent in your work because it equates work with progress towards a big goal. When people’s purposes feel remote, unreachable, and overwhelming, they are likely to feel anxiety when even considering pursuing them, so they get distracted by quicker, easier pleasures like porn, drugs, video games, wasting time on the internet, and other addictions. Getting distracted by addictive lower pleasures makes it even less likely that one will successfully pursue their goals, so a vicious cycle develops where the more hopeless you feel, the less progress you make.
Your purposes ideally meet the following criteria (the “Purpose Criteria”): 1) you contribute something meaningfully valuable to your life and the lives of others – preferably something necessary to survival, 2) your work and contributions are recognized, honored, and rewarded by others, 3) you pursue your purpose autonomously, without control from others, 4) you defeat challenges and venture into the unknown, 5) your purposes are outside of your current competency and require you to improve yourself, and 6) you create something. The bigger the purposes and the more rewarding, the better you feel.
Of course, it is difficult to create a life where all your purposes always meet these criteria, but these criteria should be the ideal you aim for. For example, your goal at work should be to challenge yourself, venture into the unknown, and develop a sphere of autonomy where your manager trusts you and allows you to make your own decisions. If you do not feel like your contributions are “your” contributions, you are less likely to feel the positive emotions from goal conquering. Similarly, if enjoy cooking you should always be trying to work autonomously, challenge yourself, create something new, and give to others.
When your big goals seem remote and overwhelming, which they often will, it helps to have a few small goals to get yourself some quick wins and get your dopamine flowing. I recommend things like lifting, cooking, cultivating a creative hobby, studying a useful subject, and cultivating a new friendship/relationship to tide you over with small daily wins while you march towards your bigger wins. You just want to make sure these side-quests fulfill the Purpose Criteria: they are challenging, they produce a valuable benefit to your life, and you can do them autonomously. It also helps to have purposes where a “win” is objective (for example, a business) and other purposes where a “win” is subjective (for example, something creative or artistic). Sometimes purposes with objective standards for success induce anxiety because they often take a long time before you get the win, so making some art can give you some quick wins to hold you over. You need to be careful, however, to not let your creative purposes lull you into lazy complacency: you need some objective wins as well to prove to yourself that you are indeed competent enough to objectively contribute to the tribe.
The modern capitalist economy, which promotes efficiency and productivity over all other values, makes it difficult for most people to fulfill the Purpose Criteria and feel journey pleasure in their career. Most jobs are intensely specialized, so instead of completing a project from beginning to end, most people contribute a small thing to a gigantic project and do not feel like they have “accomplished” anything. For example, a person that makes one pair of shoes a day from scratch feels much more accomplishment than a person working on an assembly line whose only job is to put laces into 10,000 pairs of shoes a day. And when the assembly line worker receives their paycheck, they do not feel the direct connection from the work to the did to the prize they received the way a hunter would enjoy eating what he killed. Most people’s jobs are also intensely micromanaged by tyrannical bosses that control every single thing they do, so they do not feel like they accomplished anything on their own. A person who makes hamburgers at McDonald’s does not feel like they “accomplished” anything because everything they do is rigidly controlled, with no room for deviation or creativity. Research has shown that people feel much less depressed when they have control over their work, and I believe that is to because people with control over their work feel journey pleasure. Unfortunately, that is becoming more and more rare in the modern world.
If you feel like you cannot fulfill the Purpose Criteria in your job, you need to consider either changing jobs or doing something on the side that fulfills these requirements. Sometimes adjusting your mindset: many people with seemingly boring office jobs generate positive emotion by viewing their work at the office as contributing to some greater good. For example, an investment banker may not feel like he is contributing to society when he is running spreadsheets, but he can change his mindset by meditating on how allocating capital is actually necessary for society. And if your career sucks, you should view your current career as a small step in your larger purpose of getting a better career.
You should also be careful as to not lull yourself into complacency with “fake” wins. Getting meaningful, valuable wins is often difficult, so people try to placate themselves by getting “wins” in things like video games, Facebook arguments, meaningless political activism, stupid hobbies that don’t actually require work or creativity, and other activities that don’t produce any beneficial result. Video games are one of the most pernicious forms of fake wins: they follow many elements of the Purpose Criteria to trick your brain into thinking you are receiving wins, but at the end you realize you have not actually accomplished meaningful for your life.
Many people choose the wrong goals because society sets unrealistic and stupid expectations for where a person should be in their life. The media, entertainment industry, and social networking websites make people think that if they are not hot, rich, in an awesome relationship, constantly doing fun things, and consistently happy they are a failure and nobody will like them. To feel excited and motivated, your subconscious mind must see a clear path to the goal, and it often impossible to see a clear path to the goal when the goal is an unrealistic, artificially constructed illusion.
You may also need to be humble and patient when your goals are far away. For example, your goal may be to a millionaire who dates a Playboy model, but if you are fat and unemployed, your immediate goal should be to find a job and lose some weight. You need do one thing at a time and focus on your small goals, with the faith that you will eventually reach your bigger goals. Many people in the modern world are so fixated on the bigger goal that they cannot motivate themselves to do the small things. Many people also lose motivation because they feel like they are moving too slow compared to their peers that are seeking the same goal.
Imagine 400 people are running around a racetrack. If you are in 356th place and think you are in a race with the others where you need to place in the top 3 to be “successful,” you will probably feel hopeless and give up. But instead of seeing the run as a race against others, if you instead just focus on enjoying the run, you will be happier and finish in a better position. You may not finish in the top 3, but you will not even care because your goal is to enjoy the run, not beat other people. When people feel like they are “behind” where they should be and it would take too much work to catch up (either because others are so far ahead of them or because the standards they need to meet are too difficult), they feel depression and anxiety, which in turn causes them to freeze up make even less progress.
Life is not a race against others. It is a race against yourself to get the things you want (or rather, the things you decided you want), and you need to consciously and rationally determine your purposes so that the things you want are realistic, attainable, and good for you. Most importantly, you must choose goals that are big, difficult, fulfilling and that you actually enjoy pursuing. You can ask other people for advice, but you should not let your purposes be determined by others. When you choose your own purposes instead of trying to impress others, you will often find that others will be impressed anyway. Because one of our strongest desires is to be accepted by the tribe, we often feel depressed if we do not feel like we whatever arbitrary the tribe has set for success. But instead of comparing ourselves to others, which will drive us mad, we should compare ourselves to objective standards that are high enough to take us where we want to go.
Create a routine
To defeat depression and anxiety, you must build a plan and a routine that gives you a steady stream of small “wins” throughout the day that will eventually lead to bigger wins. You need small wins for dopamine boosts to keep you going, but you also need an attractive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If you have no big goal that you are working towards, your subconscious mind will not be motivated to do the small things. Humans did not evolve to run on a treadmill; we evolved to hunt the things we want. Ideally, the pleasure from your “wins” will come from the game itself, but until you get to the point where you love the game you may have to motivate yourself in other ways.
Many things can be a “win”: completing a good workout, saving some money, paying off some debt, completing a project at work, cleaning your room, cleaning your car, making a delicious meal, having a good social interaction, learning something useful, etc… If you are very depressed or anxious, something as simple as brushing your teeth or showering can be a win. Obviously, you want to eventually build up to bigger wins, but something is better than nothing, and if you can make it a routine to shower every day for a few weeks, you can then probably move on to bigger things. A win can also be time-based: you can promise to reward yourself if you work for 5 or 10 minutes; once you accomplish that goal, you will feel the dopamine if the win and be motivated to do it again later.
A routine also reduces your anxiety by giving you a plan that your subconscious mind knows will lead to wins. You do not actually need to achieve the goal to defeat anxiety, you just need to have a plan that you feel will lead to the goal. If your subconscious mind looks at next Tuesday, next month, or next year and sees a plan, it will feel calm, but if looks ahead into the future and sees chaos, it will feel anxious. If you are ever approaching a task and are feeling anxious about it, go take a walk and formulate a plan that includes some very easy, specific wins you can get. Your anxiety will decrease and your motivation will increase.
Discipline is more useful than motivation, which is fleeting. You become disciplined by rewiring your brain to get excited about valuable wins and less dependent on fake wins and cheap pleasure. To become disciplined you must have a big goal you are working towards, a plan to the big goal, and a routine you stick to that gives small wins on the way to the big goal. You may also need some fear or pressure to keep you on the routine when things get tough or the wins dry up for a while, but ideally most of your motivation should come from excitement to get wins. It often helps to have a coach or partner pressure you to stick to your routine until you become disciplined and self-motivated. Most people’s routine is dictated by others (their parents, coach, boss, or teacher), and when left to their own devices they become completely useless. If you can become self-motivated, your mental health will depend less on others.
You need to force yourself to stick to the routine even when you don’t feel like it or when you are on difficult parts of the journey. In many activities, you may hit a “plateau” where you go a while without any wins, and during that time your motivation to follow the plan will wane. The only way to get back into the groove, however, is to tough it out until you get back to where the wins are energizing you. For example, if your schedule demands you go to the gym every day at 8 AM, you may wake up and feel like not going to the gym, but you may go and get the win anyway, which will make it easier for you in the future. You can also get yourself motivated by promising to reward yourself after small wins. For example, if you have never lifted weights before, you might be able to motivate yourself by saying to yourself “if I go to the gym, I will reward myself by watching an episode of my favorite TV show.” Ideally, once you start going to the gym the wins from the activity itself will be your motivation – your “reward”, for example, will be the feeling of actually having a more attractive, healthier body. But until you get your dopamine engine started, you need a routine to “force” yourself to get some small wins.
If a particular goal feels too intimidating to your subconscious mind, you can break it into smaller, less intimidating tasks that your subconscious mind feels like you can successfully accomplish. For example, if you are intimidated by the prospect of writing a paper, you can start by just opening your Word processor and typing a word. Your subconscious mind gets motivated by a clear path to the goal, so it may doubt that you can write a paper, but it knows you can type a word. It may sound strange, but once you have your Word processor open and have typed a word, your subconscious mind will oftentimes see a clear path to the next “win” – typing a sentence. After you achieve each win, your subconscious mind is more likely to see paths to bigger and better wins. This is why therapists often recommend “exposure therapy” as a common cure for anxiety – you take small steps towards your goal until the fear dissipates, and each step you take motivates you to take more steps.
You also cannot be a slave to your routine. Many people get comfortable with their routine and miss out on chances to move onto better things because they are addicted to their little wins and are too afraid to risk losing them for bigger ones. Oftentimes people that are really good at something find it difficult and painful to to transition to a different field they are not as good at because they are so used to rapid wins. The German philosopher Nietzsche warned that modern society would create what he called the “last man.” Because modern society had made life so easy and comfortable, people would become weak and apathetic and lose their ability to dream, pursue big goals, and take big risks because they would be afraid of losing the comfort, security, and pleasure he already has.
Sometimes you need to blow up your routine and plan and replace it with something better. The blowing up process is painful, especially if you are comfortable in your routine. Blowing up your routine often induces anxiety because it takes away your plan, and you need to be able to deal with that anxiety with fail that you will establish a better plan. Oftentimes, it is impossible to move to the next level of your life without blowing up your routine and replacing it with something different. Sometimes when people face an unexpected hardship they actually feel happier, because the new hardship forces them to step up and create a new, more difficult routine and that new routine creates bigger and more meaningful wins.
Dealing with Disruption
You need faith to be able to deal with disruptions to your internal map. A million things can occur to interrupt your flow of wins: you fail, get sick, realize you are pursuing the wrong purpose, hit a plateau, etc… When the flow of wins stops, you can become discouraged and fall back into a pit of depression, so you need something to keep you going. That thing is faith.
By “faith” I do not necessarily mean religious faith. Faith is anything that makes you feel you will achieve your purpose even when you fail or the immediate data appears to indicate that the path to success will be difficult. You can get this faith through various means: meditation, prayer, contemplation, psychedelic experiences, etc… You can even get faith from fictional characters, delusions, your own past, or looking down on others. In the 1960s a psychic told Eddie Murphy’s parents that somebody in their family would become world famous, and everybody in the family believed it, so they all started taking music and dancing lessons and moved through life with the belief that one of them would eventually make it. That psychic’s prediction may have contributed to Eddie Murphy’s faith and confidence that he would succeed. Anything that gives you that supernatural belief and feeling that you will succeed can work as faith.
Starting a successful business, succeeding at a high-end career, or improving yourself to the point where you are capable of having a successful relationship, are all long-term projects that take years to accomplish and are fraught with potential threats. The only way to remain steadfast is to have an iron belief that you can succeed despite whatever challenges may arise (I will discuss developing these beliefs later). Most people fail to achieve these goals because their subconscious mind, envisioning the multitude of these potential threats, subconsciously cripples them by sapping their energy when they pursue those goals, distracting them with other goals, or polluting their mind with negative and counterproductive thoughts. People develop this anxiety often because they tried and failed a few times, because they are intimidated by other successful people, or because society, their family, or friends told them consciously or subconsciously it was impossible.
You must distinguish between the emotional and intellectual aspects of faith. Having faith does not mean you need to be stupid or ignore real facts. If the facts clearly indicate that you are on the wrong path, you must pick a new path. Faith is primarily for your emotional brain. Your subconscious mind needs to see a clear path to the goal to feel motivated, so faith is there to give it motivation when you hit rough patches. Oftentimes people know in their rational mind that success if possible, but feel unmotivated because their subconscious mind is not on board.
Thing of faith like this: imagine I gave you a giant task with a huge payoff, like building a billion- dollar business or writing the next Great American novel. Most people would not be motivated to even start those tasks because their subconscious mind would not see a clear path to the goal. But if for some reason you had complete faith that you would succeed you would work day and night on these projects and stay focused and excited no matter how boring or difficult the journey became because your subconscious mind was sure there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. At some point in the journey, you may receive some data to indicate that it is actually impossible for you to complete these tasks, and you should go do something else – at that point you can switch to a new task and then have faith at the new task.
Of course, you cannot live by faith alone. You need a regular routine that brings wins, and faith only steps in when that routine is disrupted for a (hopefully) short period. If you sit on your ass with no plan and routine and just expect God or the universe to bring you what you want, you will be stuck in the pit of negative emotion. At the same time, you cannot be such a junkie for wins that you feel antsy and unhappy if you go a week without being able to work or go to the gym. Ultimately your goal is to get to the point where you feel like you can go get wins whenever you want, so even if you are not getting wins right now, you don’t feel terrible.
Disruption often requires you to re-adjust your goals. For example, you may realize that the goal you were chasing was stupid, impossible, or replaced with a better option. This type of re-adjustment is often painful because you must destroy your internal map which showed a clear path to the goal and replace it with a new map that is often uncertain and induces anxiety. For example, many engineers often fall into depression when their skills become obsolete and they need to learn a new skill, programming language, etc… Their “clear path” to money and career stability is gone and replaced with a new, uncertain, treacherous path. When this happens, you need to go back to basics: have faith that you will achieve the big goal and break it down into smaller wins.
Eliminate Threats and Uncertainty
To ensure that your routine reliably produces wins you need to minimize the threats, uncertainty, and chaos from your life. You eventually need to confront uncertainty and threats (in fact, it is good for you), but you should do so consciously, voluntarily, and with a plan. Confronting chaos with a plan is thrilling and fun, but confronting chaos without a plan creates anxiety. People with anxiety disorder often feel like they are being overwhelmed by threats from all sides so they cannot individually formulate a plan and respond to each one. Your goal should be to reduce chaos so that you have the time, focus, and attention to confront them voluntarily.
A “threat” is anything that your subconscious mind feels will block the path to its purposes. Threats become even more anxiety-inducing when they are mixed with uncertainty. Examples of threads are shitty friends or family members, health problems, an unpredictable work schedule, and other expected or unexpected emergencies. If you have a boss that arbitrarily acts shitty towards you, your subconscious mind will register that as a threat– and a particularly scary one because it is also a threat that springs from the unknown and affects your path to financial stability. Similarly, if your girlfriend randomly yells at you based on her mood that day, her attacks will be interpreted as a threat by your subconscious mind. To reduce the chaos in your life you must eliminate shitty people and any situation or person that creates a threatening and uncertain situation for you. The threats you confront on a daily basis should be of your own choosing.
The biggest threats to your routine are often your own addictions and issues. Many people cannot stick to a plan or routine because of their own impulses: their addictions distract them from their routine and their addictions create problems that distract them from their routine. If your routine requires you to wake up on Saturday morning to work out, but your addictions cause you to stay up late every Friday night and get drunk, you will not be able to perform your routine.
There are two ways to defeat addictions: starve them or replace them with something better. In both cases, your best approach is to create a routine that will fill up your time and emotions with a stream of wins because when your routine breaks down and you feel negative emotion, your subconscious brain will seek pleasure the easiest way it knows: your addictions. If you cannot easily kill an addiction, you should incorporate your addictions into your routine until it becomes weaker and weaker. For example, if you can’t help but get drunk every Friday night, create a schedule with time for getting drunk but time for wins at other times. By incorporating your addictions into your routine, they feel less like chaos and more of a problem that you can manage.
An important way to reduce threat and uncertainty is to try to articulate the threats, uncertainty, and negative emotions in your life into words. When you actually articulate your problems in words they often get smaller – instead of just feeling like an impending sense of doom, they are now a specific problem that you can make a plan to eliminate. Articulating your problems in words also makes you feel less shamed about having depression and anxiety. Oftentimes when we are overwhelmed with negative emotion, we feel like there is something “wrong” with us, but we cannot figure out what is causing these feelings. Once you do figure out what is causing these feelings you feel less shame.
Reducing Negative Emotions
When you run into threat, uncertainty, failure, or other disruptions to your map, you often feel a rush of negative emotion that comes with anxiety. For these situations, you need a method by which to flush out those negative emotions. I do something I call “getting to zero.” Getting to zero involves completely emptying your thoughts and emotions of everything, taking your mind off of all your goals and problems, and disconnecting your “identity” from everything external to you. So long as you identify “yourself” with your external appearance, your possessions, your accomplishments, your feelings, and other’s acceptance of you, you will always have some reason to feel uneasy and unhappy. Getting to zero requires you to identify “yourself” with some kind of transcendental substance, like a soul, that has no connection to anything material. Once you are back to seeing yourself as a soul, you can imagine that the soul has access to everything it needs.
You cannot stay at “zero” for long. In your daily life you eventually need to do and think about things, and deal with the emotions those things bring. But it is important to occasionally emotionally leave your daily grind and “reset” your emotions. After you get to zero, you can get back to pursuing your purposes with excitement and positive emotion. One way to visualize getting to zero is that you are taking your internal map, washing all the gunk and goo that has accumulated on it, putting it back, and get moving again with better speed and less bumps in the road.
There are different ways to get to zero, including meditation, prayer, exercise, breathing practices, massages, or some type of leisure activity. To completely empty your thoughts and emotions, it often helps to focus all your thoughts and emotions on a very specific thing, like a chant, a mantra, or an activity that occupies all of your thoughts and emotions.
You can also reset your negative emotions by engaging in pleasurable activities that get your dopamine going again. like sex, video games, socializing, or just relaxing and watching a movie.
To prevent depression, you need a good group of friends that will accept you as part of their “tribe.” Acceptance is a human need, just like eating and sex. Your friends are especially important when you run into adversity in your life and feel rejected, because they serve as your psychological safety net because they can make you feel accepted again. The feeling of rejection often makes you feel worthless, and the way to defeat that emotion is by having people in your life that make you feel valuable.
Ideally, your tribe will have the following characteristics: 1) the members of the tribe will treat you fairly, and by this I mean that they will reward you with acceptance in return for your contributions and not arbitrarily reject you for reasons you do not understand, 2) they will accept you relatively unconditionally such that you do not need meet stupid or arbitrary conditions for acceptance, and 4) you generally share the same beliefs, values, and purposes with the members of the tribe.
Your ideal tribe will comprise high-status people you respect and whose acceptance is meaningful to you. If you feel like your friends are low in the dominance hierarchy, their “acceptance” will not make you feel better. But it is more important that the tribe accept you without stupid conditions. If your friends are unreliable, cold, shitty, and make you feel like you need to walk on eggshells to remain part of the group, being around them is bad for your mental health. I would prefer you to have a bunch of solid lower-ranked friends rather than rich, cool, popular friends who don’t give a shit about you.
Many people feel depression because they either have no tribe or because they have chosen the wrong tribe to seek acceptance from. Many people seek acceptance from shitty, unstable, superficial people and then feel depressed when those same people reject them and make them feel like shit. If you hang out with scammers, drug addicts, narcissists, and party people, you may have a bit of fun, but your interactions with them may cause your mental health to suffer, especially if they pretend to be your friend and then stab you in the back. Groups that base acceptance on appearance, money, popularity, or other stupid reasons are especially disastrous for your mental health because things like money and appearance are temporary, so you will feel constantly insecure that you may get rejected. There is nothing wrong with maintaining a diverse group of friends, but you need to stable core of people you can count on to be there through the general adversity of life.
To have a good set of friends, you need to be a good friend as well. You must make an effort to make and keep friendships, and you should always try to bring value to your friends rather than just extracting value. If you are busy with work or school or other stuff, you still need to make time in your schedule to reach out to your friends and spend time with them. In the modern world people are so busy and individualistic that they often just “forget” to make friends, not realizing that having friends is an important psychological need. If you have a friend you have not spoken to for a year, that feeling of acceptance they provide will wane.
Part of the challenge of maintaining friendship is accepting that the “ideal” friendship does not exist and you need to make compromises: you may need to hang out with people who think differently than you, have different values than you, have different interests than you, etc… In the modern world, as people become more individualistic, they become less tolerant of hanging out with people who are different. I think many friendships and relationships are failing because people have unrealistic expectations for what their friends and partners should be, and they just go off on their own when their friends fail to stack up.
Beliefs and Thoughts
The negative emotions generated by depression and anxiety often manifest themselves as thoughts in a process called confabulation. Confabulation is dangerous because it causes you to think you are having “rational” thoughts when your thoughts are actually just justifications for your emotions. For example, if a guy gets dumped by his girlfriend he will feel “rejected” by the tribe, and that feeling of rejection may manifest itself in thoughts like “nobody likes me” or “I am worthless” or “I will never find another girl again,” etc… Similarly, if you fail at some goal you were pursuing that feeling may manifest itself as thoughts like “I will never succeed at this thing” or “I am will always fail at everything,” etc…. The feelings of pain from failure and rejection are real, but the thoughts generated by the feeling are often exaggerated and irrational and create a feedback loop where the negative thoughts strengthen the negative emotion, which in turn strengthens the negative thoughts, and so forth.
To improve your mental health, you can try to individually tackle these thoughts and replace them with positive ones, so for example, if your subconscious mind generates the thought “I will never find another girl again” you can think to yourself “actually, there are plenty of fish in the sea, and I will find another girl.” But individually attacking each thought is difficult when you are feeling overwhelmed with negative emotion because your subconscious mind can often pump out negative thoughts quicker than you can respond to them.
These negative emotion-thought bundles layer on top of each other, and it often takes years to “clean” your subconscious of these negative emotion-thought bundles. Essentially, you need to unbundle each emotion-thought bundle, fix the emotion, and counteract the thought with its positive counterpart. This layering makes depression and anxiety difficult for people to undo. Sometimes people without depression condescendingly say to people with depression “stop being weak” or “snap out of it,” not realizing that people with depression are often attacked by a litany of negative thoughts and emotions almost every time they do anything. Worse yet, their conscious mind often fails to realize that these negative thoughts are confabulations of its subconscious mind, so it thinks that the thoughts are “real.” For example, if you sucked at sports when you were a kid your subconscious mind may create the thought-emotion bundle of “I will never be good at sports” and actually believe it to be true. Twenty years later, when that person is trying to lose weight, they will find exercising to be difficult because of the thought-emotion bundle in their subconscious asserting they are bad at sports.
The best way to clean your subconscious mind of these negative thought-emotion bundles is to engage in activities that generates positive emotion, and then reassess your negative thoughts when feeling those positive emotions. It is just too hard to generate positive thoughts when you are overwhelmed with negative emotions. To change emotions you need action; thinking usually does not work by itself. Your actions affect your emotions, which in turn affect your thoughts.
Your negative thoughts often have some basis, so your positive thoughts should have some basis as well. For example, if you sucked at sports when you were a kid, your subconscious mind will have at least some reason to believe that you will suck at sports forever – it has at least one data point indicating that you will always suck at sports. But it may have zero data points that indicate you might become good at sports one day, so you need to feed your subconscious mind some kind of data indicating that you will become good at sports one day. Positive thoughts “work” if there is some real world referent that your subconscious mind can be persuaded by. This basis can be evidence from yourself or evidence from others. For example, if you see some other person who sucked at sports when they were a kid but get good at sports, your subconscious mind may think “oh I guess it is possible for me too.” Similarly, if you failed at something but later succeeded at that thing, the next time you fail your subconscious mind is less likely to think you will be a failure forever.
Sometimes, however, there is no evidence available to justify your positive thought. For example, if you live in a society where everybody who sucks at sports when they are a kid never gets better at sports, your subconscious mind will have no access to any information that would indicate that you might be the exception. When there is no readily-available concrete evidence to base your positive thoughts on, you may need to use faith or some type of supernatural belief system. I am not here to tell you exactly what to believe, but ultimately your belief must be of the following form: “even though I feel rejected and like I will always fail, I know I will be accepted and succeed, JUST BECAUSE.”
That “just because” can come from many sources: you can believe in God, the universe, or other magic ideas – whatever gives you the emotional strength to feel like you can get back to the process of getting wins. It often requires a long process of reflection, prayer, meditation, practice, and experience to convince your subconscious mind that the universe loves you and accepts you and that generally “everything will be alright.” But ultimately, you need to feel like everything is all right because there is no alternative. You cannot live your life in constant paranoia and fear of rejection. Even if you think these beliefs are stupid from a rational point of view, you need them from an emotional point of view.
The purpose of these beliefs is not to delude yourself into believing lies that will cause you to make stupid decisions. Instead, the purpose is to counteract your irrationally negative thoughts with irrationally positive ones. The problem is that when your subconscious is mired in negative thinking, it often makes negative assumptions about the unknown and the future, when in reality the unknown has an equal probability of being positive or negative. Instead of automatically assuming the worst in every situation where you don’t have adequate data, you should assume the best, and then only accept the worst when you receive concrete data that indicates that the negative is true.
Certain other beliefs help you maintain mental health. For example, you should believe that the world is governed by relatively stable rational rules that apply to everybody equally. If you feel like reality is governed by feelings, or magic, or chaos, or the whims of an evil or unfair God, you are more likely to feel helpless when things go wrong. Everybody’s map shatters at some point – the challenge is to have the emotional strength to work to put your map back together again after it happens. It may sound obvious to say that reality is governed by rational rules, but it not empirically obvious that the world is governed by impartial rational rules, and it appears that humans evolved to feel like events are caused by emotions, magic, Gods, the alpha male, etc…
Everything is all right
You should also believe that everything will be “all right.” Life will always present you challenges, failures, and heartbreak but you must believe that 1) there is eventually a path to success, no matter what position you are in, 2) life will only present you challenges that you can overcome, and 3) you only need to focus on one challenge at a time.
Of course, there is no rational reason to believe that things will be “all right” for you or anybody else. But you need to believe it anyway. At any moment the world can and will present you with a litany of challenges, and the only way to retain your sanity is to believe that everything will be all right, even if the data seems to indicate that everything will not be all right. At the same time, you should also realize that you have no rational reason to believe that things will NOT be all right. You have no idea what the future will hold, so it is irrational to just assume a negative outcome. Unfortunately, depression and anxiety cause your emotions to assume a negative outcome, so you must counteract those emotional assumptions with positivity.
You have no choice but to assume that everything will be all right. No matter how shitty your life is, your conscious mind has limited attention so you can only really do one thing at a time, so you need to be able to focus all of your thoughts and emotions on the thing in front of you rather than thinking about all the other stuff that can and is going wrong. Once you have done that thing, then you do the next thing. And so forth. This is called “living in the moment.” “Living in the moment” does not mean that you should act like the future does not exist – it means that you should assume that the future will be “all right” (whatever that means), so you can focus on what you need to do right now. As we discussed earlier, to defeat anxiety you must have a plan, so to live in the moment you must have a plan for the future so you can stop worrying about the future right now and live in the moment.
To believe that everything will be “all right,” you may need to readjust your beliefs, values, and purposes. For example, if your dream was to play in the NBA, and for some reason that becomes impossible, you need to believe that life will be “all right” if you do not play in the NBA. If you have convinced yourself that the only way you can be happy is by playing in the NBA, and playing in the NBA becomes impossible for you, then by definition you will never be happy. This may sound like a difficult mindset to adopt, especially when the challenge is something weighty like the death of a loved one, serious illness, or a massive failure of your dreams, but you will be amazed at how flexible and malleable the human psyche is, especially after a shattering of its internal map. Many people live miserable lives because they are convinced that to be happy they need money, fame, certain accomplishments, approval from certain people, or some other thing that they will never actually get. Being able to shift your beliefs, values, and purposes is one of the biggest things you can do to counteract anxiety and depression.
I don’t know what I can do to make you think everything will be all right, but you need to figure out some belief or set of beliefs that creates peace within you. For many people, this peace comes from believing in God. Even though there is no concrete, immediate evidence for God, the belief in God makes them feel accepted into the cosmic tribe and that the alpha male of this tribe will keep them safe. They also believe that God has a “plan” for them and the world in general, which reduces their anxiety and allows them to live in the moment. Whether or not this is true is not important – the psychological effect of this belief is what is important.
Individuals experiencing depression and anxiety often experience a type of tunnel vision where they can only think about and focus on negative thoughts. The human mind is productive and efficient because it can concentrate an incredible amount of focus on things it finds emotionally salient. This ability also causes to concentrate a disproportionate amount of thoughts and emotions on our depression and anxiety so when we are in the grip of negative emotion we form a counterproductive tunnel vision which causes us to only focus on the bad things. For these situations you need beliefs and exercises that can broaden your vision and not lose sight of the positives in your life.
This is not to say that you should become a Pollyanna and simply ignore negative events and feelings. Instead, you need to put them into their proper context alongside positive events and feelings. Your tunnel vision makes you more likely to overly focus on the negative, so you need to balance it out.
TheRedArchive is an archive of Red Pill content, including various subreddits and blogs. This post has been archived from the blog Woujo.
|Title||Woujo's Guide to Anxiety and Depression|
|Date||December 29, 2020 3:49 PM UTC (1 year ago)|
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