Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

I didn’t believe that I would survive after contracting depression 13 years ago. There didn’t seem to be light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is real and people do suffer from it. Often, I felt that I was largely alone and no one else could understand what I was going through. The solution to overcome depression is to speak about it openly. Time can heal things and words can set you free.

The Day I Died. I suffered from depression from about a year when I was 24. My great-grandmother committed suicide previously. Life was so bad that I contemplated suicide. Even my appetite was affected. This was an existential horror. I literally attempted suicide.

Death was something that scared me. And death only happens to people who have been living. There were infinitely more people who had never been alive. I wanted to be one of those people. That old classic wish. To never have been born. To have been one of the three hundred million sperm that hadn’t made it. – Matt Haig

Why Depression is hard to understand. It is invisible. Your troubles seem to be never-ending and tormenting. It is mysterious in nature and anyone can suffer from it, even comedians.

A Beautiful View. I wanted to attempt suicide when I was holidaying in Spain. I did manage to walk to the edge of the cliff. A depressed person doesn’t want to feel happy, they just want to be freed of pain. My loved ones didn’t know what I was going through. I decided not to take my life.

I think life always provides reasons to not die, if we listen hard enough. Those reasons can stem from the past – the people who raised us, maybe, or friends or lovers – or from the future – the possibilities we would be switching off. – Matt Haig

Pills. My doctor advised me to take pills, even though I didn’t want to. Even after medication, I still felt that I was divorced from reality and a sense of panic was still within me

Killer. Suicide is becoming increasingly common and it is very scary indeed. Some people underestimate the effects of depression.

Negative Placebo. I tended to drink too much when I was not anxious. Diazepam seems to increase my panic levels. To me, the drug was the problem.

Feeling the Rain without an Umbrella. We are made to believe that medication can work all the time. To me, sleeping pills were more effective than anti-anxiety medication. In reality, many people cannot do without pills like Diazepam. There are professors who believe that there are other ways to counter depression other than drugs. Examples could be intervening and recognizing when we are in a low-mood state.

Life. I didn’t get along with my ex-colleagues. I felt out of my place when hanging out with them. I quitted the job and thought that I was a failure in life.

Infinity. Normally, people only think about one thing at once so as to simplify things. However, depressed people think about hidden stuff.

The evolutionary psychologists might be right. We humans might have evolved too far. The price for being intelligent enough to be the first species to be fully aware of the cosmos might just be a capacity to feel a whole universe’s worth of darkness. – Matt Haig

The hope that hadn’t happened. It felt better seeing my parents smile. I returned to where I grew up as a child. I seemed okay for now.

The Cyclone. Depression felt like a weight, both a metaphorical and emotional one. I felt trapped in a cyclone.

My symptoms. There were many different types of symptoms at play here. The warning signs were all present. I kept thinking that I was going through this alone.

But with depression and anxiety the pain isn’t something you think about because it is thought. You are not your back but you are your thoughts. – Matt Haig

The Bank of Bad Days. You store memories of bad days but you always remind yourself of worst days.

Things depression says to you. Depression will tell you to continue staying in bed. It will tell you that everyone will be dead eventually. It will tell you that tomorrow will be worse than today.

Facts. I craved for knowledge. Many people are not open or acknowledge that they have depression. Men are three times more likely to kill themselves as compared to women. Depression is becoming more common and it is scary.

The head against the window. I thought it would be better to be the 80 year-old on the street as compared to my own current identity. The tears came from my stomach. My dad cried too. Crying can be contagious sometimes.

From the outside a person sees your physical form, sees that you are a unified mass of atoms and cells. Yet inside you feel like a Big Bang has happened. You feel lost, disintegrated, spread across the Universe amid infinite dark space. – Matt Haig

Pretty Normal Childhood. People with depression may have mental illnesses in the past. However, I was often anxious when I was younger.

A Visit. I realized that I had a phobia for tight places.

Boys don’t cry. Men are more likely to kill themselves as compared to women. Why is that? Most men see mental illness as a form of weakness. Often, they don’t like to seek help. Learn to accept that depression is a human experience after all.

It took me more than a decade to be able to talk openly, properly, to everyone, about my experience. I soon discovered the act of talking is in itself a therapy. Where talk exists, so does hope. – Matt Haig

Landing

Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Cherry blossom. You become obsessed with how your brain functions. I wished I could be a blossom that floated away from a tree. Depression is a mysterious illness.

Unknown unknowns. The brain is incredibly complex. Depression is not about chemical imbalance. It could be due to the lack of serotonin. However, there are also research which point to other directions. Neuroscience is constantly improving. However, the human brain hasn’t evolved from years ago. Our cognition ability hasn’t improved from the past. Exercise does help you to feel better about yourself.

The brain is the body –part 1. When you are depressed, your body feels it too. For instance, you suffer heart palpitations, aching limbs, sweaty palms etc.

Psycho. I realized that I talked in my sleep when I was younger. I had many troubles and worries when I was a kid.

Jenga Days. Time passed extremely slowly when I was 13. A week seemed like a voyage.

Warning Signs. Depression is essentially an illness. It is often invisible. One might feel fatigued for no particular reason. Other symptoms could be loss of appetite, irritability, crying episodes etc.

Demons. I imagined a demon licking me when I closed my eyes. The more I tried not to think of it, the more it appeared. I couldn’t get rid of it at all.

Existence. It is not easy to not think that life is hard. This is the human condition. Humans have created remarkable things in their lifetimes. However, life is sweet even though we know that nothing lasts forever.

Life is hard. It may be beautiful and wonderful but it is also hard. The way people seem to cope is by not thinking about it too much. But some people are not going to be able to do that. – Matt Haig

Part 3: Rising

The art of walking on your own. Depression is often associated with anxiety issues. I forced myself to walk into situations alone. Although I was scared, I told myself that it would be ok. Even walking to the shop alone was incredibly scary for me. I told myself that it was just a shop. I had trouble standing still after purchasing something. It is never easy for a depressive to perform even simple tasks.

A Conversation Across Time – Part 2. I kept telling myself that I could do it. I made it to the shop. I realized that I needed to give myself reasons to stay alive.

Reasons to Stay Alive. Many other people have been here before and been in your shoes. Things are only going to get better from here. The pain won’t last forever. Hurricanes will run out of energy someday. Tell yourself that life will be worth it. There will be happy moments again.

You hate yourself. That is because you are sensitive. Pretty much every human could find a reason to hate themselves if they thought about it as much as you did. We’re all total bastards, us humans, but also totally wonderful. – Matt Haig

Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile. Which is to say, don’t kill yourself. Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is a space. You are moving through that galaxy. Wait for the stars. – Matt Haig

Love. No matter how much you love, you will never be free of pain. Andrea saved me. We have been together for 5 years. Love is being able to do weird stuff with another person and be yourself fully. I was lucky. When depression hit, Andrea was always there for me. I could always talk to her. She covered for me.

How to be there for someone with depression or anxiety. Understand that your presence matters. Listen. Educate yourself and realize that depressives can’t do simple tasks. Learn to be patient and ask them what can you do to help.

An Inconsequential Moment. I thought about work. It was a neutral thought. It was massive progress for me.

Things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression. There were a lot of other things.

Life on Earth to an alien. Explaining depression to someone not suffering from it is like explaining life on Earth to an alien. It can be very intense. It is your life. Everything is magnified in intensity. Even minor changes in weather seem massive to you. It is like a sharpening of the senses.

White Space. I liked the white space. Light was everything. I started to pick up reading. It was good that I fell in love with reading all over again. Words are the escape route. Books were the way out for me.

There is this idea that you either read to escape or you read to find yourself. I don’t really see the difference. We find ourselves through the process of escaping. – Matt Haig

The Power and the Glory. I read ‘The Power and the Glory’ by Graham Greene. I loved his works. There was something which I could relate to. There was hope of redemption at the end and it was inspiring. Some of the other books which inspired me were ‘The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton’; ‘Letters of Keats’; ‘Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson’; ‘Money by Martin Amis’; ‘The Diary of Samuel Pepys’.

Paris. I was afraid of travelling and felt a panic attack coming back. I was afraid of saying no as it made me seem like a loser. Eventually I went and realized that things were not so bad. I confronted my fears calmly. Travelling gives you perspective and solution. Travel has since become one of my favorite things to do.

Reasons to be Strong. I needed to be near Andrea. I had to be strong one after I realized Andrea’s mum had cancer. It was horrible having to wait for her mum in hospital. However, eventually, they returned and I was okay again. Later, I challenged myself and eventually got a book published. I dedicated the book to Andrea.

Weapons. I was going to be a published author. My self-esteem was boosted massively. I knew that wellness was possible.

Running. Running was a great alleviator of depression and anxiety. It was difficult but that only motivated to work harder and train more. It undid the damage from smoking and drinking. Murakami loved to run too. It really helped to train the mind. My weapons against depression were writing, reading, talking, travelling etc.

The brain is the body –part 2. Mental illness leads to other ailments too. Derealisation is a symptom that makes you feel well, not real.

Famous People. Even famous people like David Foster Wallace and Robin Williams took their own lives. Depression can happen to just about anyone. Being overly attached to material items can lead to greater suffering. Depression makes us think too much.

Abraham Lincoln and the Fearful Gift. He wanted to accomplish something in his lifetime. He insisted in acknowledging his fears and delve deeper into them. He was one of the most serious men around. Depression was something Churchill had but that inspired him. The motivation behind ‘The Scream by Edvard Munch’ was also existential terror. Franz Kafka was also a depressed person. Melancholy fueled Lincoln’s great work.

I find that being grimly aware of mortality can make me steadfastly determined to enjoy life where life can be enjoyed. It makes me value precious moments with my children, and with the woman I love. – Matt Haig

Part 4: Living

The World. If everything was happy and great, why would people need anything more? However, it is important to be calm and learn to settle.

Life is the people who love you. No one will ever choose to stay alive for an iPhone. It’s the people we reach via the iPhone that matter. – Matt Haig

Mushroom Clouds. It is easy to ignore warning signs. Now, I know what to look out for. I had to give a speech in public in school and I felt incredibly nervous. A rash broke out around my skin. I experienced a panic attack but managed to finish my presentation.

The Big A. Anxiety and depression co-exist like a nightmare marriage. We are all overloaded by information in the modern world. Do we all have to live with anxiety?

Slow Down. It is important to learn to slow down. We can use CAT and MRI. Neuroscience isn’t perfect yet. Pills might not be the only cure too. Yoga is good at helping you to slow down. Take deep breaths. Learn to meditate and let the tension go. Always live in the present.

Parties. It is difficult to walk in a room full of people. I hated parties. My panic episodes seemed to be entering relapse. I ran to Andrea. Thankfully, after I left the party, the panic attacks subsided. Failure can be a step forward.

Part 5: Being

Fighting makes it worse. I learn to accept depression and anxiety. Now, I am simply glad to be alive. I want to experience as much of life as I can. I want to feel as much as I can.

I feel the sheer unfathomable marvel that is this strange life we have, here on earth, the seven billion of us, clustered in our towns and cities on this pale blue dot of a planet, spending our allotted 30,000 days as best we can, in glorious insignificance. – Matt Haig

How to be a bit happier than Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer thought that life was about futile purposes. He thought that achieving goals only brought a short satisfaction. Unattained goals cause pain. Even if you achieve your goal, you will need to set another one and the process continues on and on. The solution is to give things up. His solution was to lead a very unambitious life and deny their instincts. How do you stop wanting and worrying? How do you get off the treadmill once and for all? The answer is acceptance. Buddhists believe in mindfulness. It is important to connect with the Universe and meditate more. It is important to grateful and compassionate. One should be selfless and mindful.

We all matter because we are all alive. And so kindness is an active way in which we can see and feel the bigger picture. – Matt Haig

Thoughts on Time. We all fear death. Time does seem to travel at different speeds. Being aware is important. How much are we living in the present? We think that life is short so that we need to achieve as much as possible. However, by doing so, it seems that time will pass too quickly. We all have to accept how small we are in this world.

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The Art of the Good Life: 52 Surprising Shortcuts to Happiness, Wealth and Success by Rolf Dobelli (Part 2)

The Circle of Competence (Why It’s Important to Know Your Limits). In the circle are the skills you have mastered. Know your circle of competence and stick within it. Focus on your circle of competence in your career. You should not do things outside the circle of your competence. One often feels tempted to broaden your area of competence, but you shouldn’t do it. To master something, a lot of time will be required. It also involves a certain level of obsession. Be realistic and know that you suck at certain things in life. One outstanding skill can trump many mediocre ones.

The Secret of Persistence (Why Bores Are More Successful than Adventurers). Classy investors buy a handful of companies and they keep them. To avoid transaction costs, they buy and sell as infrequently as possible. They take advantage of a long term horizon. Longevity has its benefits as there are many old books which are still bestsellers even today. Our brains do not have instinct for duration. Long term successes are important. One can be more productive in a peaceful environment. Stick to your circle of competence for as long as possible once you have a rewarding hobby. Perseverance and tenacity are highly valuable virtues.

The Tyranny of a Calling (Do What You Can, Not What You Wish You Could). How can find your calling? People believe there is a bud waiting to be formed inside of you. However, the problem will callings are that they are illusions. A calling that makes you happy is false. Don’t go blindly chasing your ambitious goals and feel depressed if you don’t achieve them. We often only see cases of selection bias, where we see people with a calling being successful. Build on the skills you have. The skills you have mastered are the things you enjoy doing most of the time. Other people have got to value your talents.

You can pursue a craft with love, of course, and even with a touch of obsession, but your focus should always be on the activity, the work, the input – not on the success, the result, the output. – Rolf Dobelli

The Prison of a Good Reputation (How to Shift from External to Internal Validation). Bob Dylan didn’t acknowledge his Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. Grigori Perelman declined the Fields Medal for Mathematics. He is indifferent to what the world thinks of him. As you grow older, you feel that public perception has little to do with the quality of your work. This is the difference between someone with an inner vs outer scorecard. In the past, people were more concerned about their outer scorecard and what others thought of them. Humans spend 90% of the time talking about other people. However, in modern day, what others think of it is far less important. People are approval seeking machines on social media. People are going to comment on whatever please them. Don’t simply crave recognition but rather focus on achieving something.

Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover? – Warren Buffett

People will gossip and tittle-tattle behind your back. They’ll heap you with praise and drag you into shitstorms. You can’t control it. – Rolf Dobelli

The ‘End of History’ Illusion (You Can Change Yourself – but Not Other People). How much have you changed over the last 10 years? In terms of personality, character, temperament, values etc. When asked, most people feel that they won’t change a lot in the next 10 to 20 years. However, it isn’t true that personalities stop developing over time. The good news is that adults can exercise some influence over changes in your personality. Use your idols and be careful of the people you want to admire. The bad news is that you can’t change other people, not even your partner. Motivation has to come from within. One of the key rules of a good life is to ‘Avoid situations in which you have to change other people.’ Do not hire someone where you have to change their character. Skills can be trained, but attitudes can’t be changed easily.

Oh, it’s just so useful dealing with people you can trust and getting all the others the hell out of your life… But wise people want to avoid other people who are just total rat poison, and there are a lot of them. – Charlie Munger

The Smaller Meaning of Life (Which Goals You Can Achieve – and Which You Can’t). Our lives consist of many facets. It is very difficult to answer the question of ‘Who you are’. You should ask about what your purpose in life is. Stop trying to look for the larger meaning of life. However, you should ask yourself about the smaller meaning of life, your goals, ambitions, mission etc. Life goals are very important and it is important to set a few. Goals are useful because they put you in the mood for accomplishing them. Goals make decision-making easier. Life consists of making forks in the road. Goals need to be realistic though.

There is no discernable overarching purpose – not for humanity, life or the universe. The world is fundamentally meaningless. So stop looking for the “larger meaning of life”. You’re only wasting your time. – Rolf Dobelli

Your Two Selves (Why Your Life Isn’t a Photo Album). You have two selfs, the experiencing self and the remembering self. A human can hardly recall moments in the past. We can’t retain our experiences well. The remembering self has better retention and perhaps you can remember the awesome praline that you ate 24 hours ago. The experiencing self is only concerned with a 3 second interval. Our two selves often give contrasting replies. The remembering self tends to recall happy memories as compared to the experiencing self. Humans suffer from duration neglect. The problem of this that our remembering selves tend to value short-term fun more than long term ones. We need to rely on both selves and cannot simply ignore either one.

Humans remember most clearly the peak of an episode, ie., the moment of greatest intensity, and the end. Hardly anything else filters through into our memories. – Rolf Dobelli

Not even duration matters. Whether you’re on holiday for one week or three, your memory of it will be roughly the same. Likewise, whether you’re in prison for a month or a year, it makes no difference to your memory – the specific amount of time spent behind bars will be forgotten. – Rolf Dobelli

The Memory Bank. How much are you willing to pay for an ideal experience? Imagine what would be your most wonderful experience and jot down a price you would pay for it. How much would you pay for it if you weren’t able to remember it afterwards? To many, experiences only count if you can remember them. This is known as a memory bank. But this is weird, because doesn’t what you experience in the moment count? Animals have moments, but few or no memories. This is when we need to value our experiencing self more. Trying to recall happy moments are good, but shouldn’t you just try to enjoy the present as well? The human memory ain’t great and you will struggle to recall things. Even if we can recall, we can only recall the high point and the ending.

Memories are one-dimensional, shallow, abstract, frequently mistaken, partially fabricated and ultimately unproductive. In short, we overvalue memory and undervalue the experienced moment. – Rolf Dobelli

A life of wondrous yet forgotten moments is still a wondrous life, so stop thinking of experiences as deposits for your memory bank. One day you’ll be on your deathbed, and your account will be permanently closed. – Rolf Dobelli

Life Stories are Lies (Why We Go Through the World with a False Self-Image). We act smart and we need to know a lot via our knowledge of past events. Our brain sometimes does not remember information accurately. It remembers processed data and captures stories more vividly. Stories are things that are made up by humans. By turning it into a story, humans can remember things better. The 3Cs are used, compact, consistent, casual. Adults change as they age, more than they think they will. We tend to think that we are smarter than we actually are. This is known as self-serving bias. The trick to overcome this is to ask your friends what they think of you. Every human has their shortcomings and dark sides and it is important to see things realistically.

The ‘Good Death’ Fallacy (Why Your Final Moments Shouldn’t Worry You). When you have a terminal illness, you won’t have the ability to engage in philosophical reflection. Even if you can remember, chances are it won’t be accurate. Humans suffer from duration neglect. We have trouble evaluating how attractive other people’s lives are. Of course when you are old, you would not have such a good time as when you were younger. The key is just to live well in the present.

More crucial still is that the way you feel in your final moments is totally irrelevant in the context of your whole life. Contemplating your hour of death is unproductive, and will only distract you from the good life. – Rolf Dobelli

Better a life well lived and a few painful days on your deathbed than a shoddy life and a good death. – Rolf Dobelli

The Spiral of Self-Pity (Why it makes no sense to wallow in the past). Self-pity is largely useless and one can enter an emotional whirlpool if sucked into it. It is an unhealthy thought pattern that should be stopped. One has to accept their wrongs and move on. Blaming others has their own expiry date too. Childhood events have little impact on adult personality. You could blame your genes, but that won’t change anything. Life isn’t perfect to begin with.

If you can do something to mitigate the current problems in your life, then do it. If you can’t, then put up with the situation. Complaining is a waste of time, and self-pity is doubly counterproductive. – Rolf Dobelli

Whenever you think that some situation or some person is ruining your life, it is actually you who are ruining your life… Feeling like a victim is a perfectly disastrous way to go through life. – Rolf Dobelli

Hedonism and Eudemonia (How Meaning Can Compensate for Enjoyment – and the Other Way Around). Meaningful activities need not be enjoyable. What should you be focusing your time on? Enjoyable or meaningful activities? Instant gratification can seem animalistic. Striving for the higher pleasures for deemed as Eudaimonia. Every experienced moment has 2 components: pleasurable and meaningful. Good films also need to have a meaningful component. Some graduates are willing to take a pay cut to engage in meaningful projects. One needs to strike a balance between enjoyment and meaning.

The Circle of Dignity – Part 1 (But If Not). ‘But if not’ means ‘over my dead body’. This means issues that are not for negotiation. This is like your individual pledge. It protects you from 3 forms of attack: a) better arguments; b) mortal danger; c) deals with the Devil. You need to know where your boundaries lie. One should have a clearly demarcated circle of dignity. This is the solid ground you can fall upon. It crystallizes with time, around middle age. You need to know which principles you want to defend, and which you are prepared to give up. These are your core principles and beliefs which you need to defend.

The Circle of Dignity – Part 2 (If You Break on the Outside). You have to tell others what you believe in. You have to cherish your own will and keep persevering. People might attack our preferences, principles etc. They might be subtle and we might not even notice them. Each arrow can hurt your self-esteem and weaken your immune system. Verbal attacks can be very painful as well. This is one of the keys to a good life.

The Circle of Dignity – Part 3 (The Devil’s Bargain). What does it mean to sell your soul? Offer each money and the owner weakens. What are the things so sacred to you that you will not sell them at any price? What about your health and your opinions? We have to defend our principles against a) better arguments; b) mortal danger; c) deal with the devil. The trick is to defend your circle of dignity sharply. Everything in your circle is non-negotiable.

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Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 2)

Taking Back Joy. When I listened to a happy song from childhood and started dancing, I felt happy. Survivor guilt can rob you of your joy. After his passing, I tried to have fun with my children. We took things that reminded us of Dave and made it part of our lives. Allow yourself to be happy and be kind to yourself. Joy has to come your within yourself and no one else. How you spend each day matters more than only the big moments of joy. Do the small things that make you happy. Write down the moments of joy each day. Happiness does require work. Humans are wired to focus on the negative as compared to the positive. The cool breeze could be a positive moment for gratitude too. Happiness can equate to peacefulness too. Try to engage in something challenging and engrossing that can give you that flow state. Exercise can help you to achieve that flow state quickly. Joy can give us strength too. You can find joy in the small moments that you seize and create for yourself.

Raising Resilient Kids. One way is to respond to embarrassment with humour. It is wise to just announce the sad news to your kids directly. We owe it to our children to make them as happy as possible. Early intervention is critical. The school needs to protect a safe environment for kids. Disadvantaged families should be provided with home visits and counseling. Resilience is a lifelong project. Children must develop these few beliefs: they have some control over their lives; they can bounce back from failure; they matter as human beings; they have real strength. It is important to help them understand that they are in control of their lives. Pre-school has a huge role to play in this. Allow your kids to share their dreams with others. It is important to get an education. Kids should adopt a growth instead of fixed mindset. Sometimes, complimenting too soon doesn’t work. Rather, one should comment ‘I’m glad you tried your hardest’. Adults need to tell the kids that they matter. In Denmark, children are encouraged to share their problems in class. Help your kid identify his strengths by making him pick up skills. For instance, you could encourage the kid to pick up a musical instrument. Respect your feelings and try not to suppress them. Sleep matters even during times of adversity. Learning how to forgive is also extremely important. Do not afraid to ask for help and encourage your kids to do so. Sometimes, I still talk about Dave as it helps to keep Dave’s memory alive. If your kids can have a strong understanding of your family members and their parents, they have been coping skills. Nostalgia is usually good as it reflects a pleasant state most of the time. Make the most out of Option B. Keep photos and videos of your loved ones as these help to create happiness.

Finding Strength Together. Hope is the key to resilience. It is possible to bond over hope and create a shared identity. People can pray together. It is important to change tragedy into a miracle. Keep your faith at all times. There is unity in strength. Collective resilience is also dependent on shared experiences etc. Attending support groups can also help you deeply. It might be wise to join a community after a tragedy. Asking for help is actually not a sign of weakness. Shared narratives can play a big part. It is also useful to be lifted by positive ‘stereotypes’ right at the start. Support circles help to build collect resilience. It can certainly be difficult to forgive a gunman who killed so many people. As a community, we can gather together to tackle the tough problems in life. Empowering communities can be the key sometimes. As a community, we can learn to support vulnerable groups.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. – Martin Luther King Jr

Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. – Martin Luther King Jr

Failing and Learning at Work. I took my kids to visit SpaceX. We need to learn from our failures. Often, we are too proud to admit that we made a mistake. The majority of things that people regretted was the actions they failed to take. Move fast and break things. At Facebook, we go for teambuilding and often fail at challenges. Failure must be seen as a learning opportunity. You could ask colleagues what their biggest screw-up is and everyone could compete to see who the biggest screw-up is. Resilience is needed in all organizations of all sizes. We need to all focus on learning from failure. Ask for feedback on how you can improve. Learn to gather and act on negative feedback. We all have our own blind spots but often ignore them. Feedback is hard to take. Sports teams often learn from their mistakes. Learn to take suggestions from a coach too. Try not to treat the feedback personally. People are afraid of criticizing others. Everyone should have at least 1 hard conversation in the past.

The more times a government or company had failed, the more likely they were to put a rocket into orbit successfully on the next try. Also, their chances of success increased after a rocket exploded compared to a smaller failure. – Sheryl Sandberg

When it’s safe to talk about mistakes, people are more likely to report errors and less likely to make them. Yet typical work cultures showcase successes and hide failures. – Sheryl Sandberg

To Love and Laugh Again. Being alone can be an empowering decision indeed. Getting married increases one’s happiness just by a bit. I wanted to find love again after Dave passed on. If you date too soon, people may judge you. Men are more likely to date after their spouse has passed on. The responsibility of caring for children and aged parents seems to fall on the women more. Widows in some parts of the world are cruelly treated. Do not listen to others. When your heart feels like you should date, you should go ahead. However, dating does not erase the grief and that is perfectly fine. When we fall in love, we have a great sense of energy and euphoria. Dating helps brings back the humour. Eventually, one will even learn to joke about death. Joking about Dave now helps to break the tension. Humor makes situations less stressful. It is still very much possible to love someone even after they have died. It is crucial to pay attention to the everyday interaction with our partners. You must turn towards their bid. One way to re-ignite the spark in a relationship is to try new activities. Partners have to be able to overcome conflict. You can’t control whether you fall in love. There is always Option B and we can still find joy.

Resilience in love means finding strength from within that you can share with others. Finding a way to make love last through the highs and lows. – Sheryl Sandberg

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Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 1)

Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Introduction. I met Dave Goldberg in the summer of 1996. He was very comforting and lovely. It was love at first sight. He was assuring and very understanding. However, 11 years into our wedding, one day, he suffered from a heart attack while on a treadmill and passed on. I was in utter shock and disgust and didn’t believe that this was happening to me. My kids very truly upset too. I felt like I was in a void. At times, I felt like I could hear Dave calling out to me in my sleep. Ordinary events were painful to go through. I was worried my kids would never be the same again. The songs on the radio weren’t helping too. People encouraged to let grief run its course. Adam Grant gave me advice too. The fact is that many people who have lost parents turn out to be resilient. Time will heal the wounds, or so they said. I have no choice but to get over the shock. This book is about how to build resilience. Adversity is everywhere. I am fortunate for the support I have received throughout. It is possible to find greater meaning. Life is never perfect and sometimes we have live Option B.

Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity – and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone. – Sheryl Sandberg

This book is about the capacity of the human spirit to persevere. We look at the steps people can take, both to help themselves and to help others. We explore the psychology of recovery and the challenges of regaining confidence and rediscovering joy. – Sheryl Sandberg

Breathing Again. A friend I knew was too trusting and gave a co-worker a ride home. However, he raped her in the end. I offered this lady help. If you don’t believe in all 3, you will find it easier to cope. It is never all your fault and there are things which you might not be able to do better. Learn to stop saying ‘sorry’ after a while. Not everything was terrible after all. We had access to grief counsellors. Working also helps with the pervasiveness bit. However, if you return to work too soon, grief can interfere with the performance. Employers should provide flexible arrangements and financial assistance etc. Humans tend to overestimate how long negative events will impact us. I tried to banish the words ‘never’ and ‘always’ from my vocabulary. The pain temporarily eased up after a while. Humans are also wired for grief. Deep breathing helps me to calm down. The second derivative thoughts were not pleasant at all. I learnt from Buddhism that suffering is inevitable. Over time, my kids and I learnt to respect our feelings. Sometimes, it is necessary to take cry breaks. Focusing on worst case scenarios also had me feel better. We also pray before every meal and thank God for the food. Counting the blessings in your life can make you happier and feel satisfied. We are also financially stable and that is very important to us all. Once, I went for a mammogram and I was alarmed. Thankfully, it was a false positive. Even heartache doesn’t last forever. When life kicks you under, learn to breathe again.

3 P’s can stunt recovery: (1) personalization – the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence – the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. – Sheryl Sandberg

Part of every misery, is misery’s shadow… the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. – Sheryl Sandberg

Dealing with grief was like building physical stamina: the more you exercise, the faster your heart rate recovers after it is elevated. And sometimes during especially vigorous physical activity, you discover strength you didn’t know you had. – Sheryl Sandberg

Kicking the Elephant Out of the Room. I went for a college reunion with some of Daves’ friends. Sometimes, asking someone about their illness can comfort them and show that you care. I felt miserable when friends didn’t ask how I was doing after Dave’s passing. People avoid asking because they want to avoid difficult questions. However, the fact is that people who have endured terrible things want to talk about them. Some parents who have lost children also want others to speak about them from time to time. ‘Mum effect’ is when people avoid sharing bad news. By remaining silent in your suffering, you isolate others. It would be good to have friends who ask you difficult questions but do not judge on your answers. People who have been through adversity can connect better with others who are suffering too. Cultural pressure to conceal negative emotions is common. The fact is that most people do not know what to say, especially when it comes to personal matters. I thought that I carrying an elephant around. A month after my husband’s passing, I shared my thoughts openly on Facebook. After that post, I received a lot of love and compassion. Not everyone will be comfortable about talking about personal tragedy. Opening up can improve mental and physical health. Instead of ‘How are you?’; ask ‘How are you today?’. I acknowledged the elephant’s presence and after opening up, many colleagues did reveal that they did not dare to speak up because they were afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I had failed to ask him directly about his health not because I didn’t care, but because I was worried about upsetting him. – Sheryl Sandberg

When life gives you lemons, I won’t tell you a story about my cousin’s friends who died of lemons. – Postcard

When someone is struck ill with cancer, you can ask ‘I know you don’t know yet what will happen – and neither do I. But you won’t go through this alone. I will be there with you every step of the way.’ Or ‘I acknowledge your pain. I’m here with you. – Sheryl Sandberg

The Platinum Rule of Friendship. Adam encountered a kid, named Owen. He had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and later took his own life. When you are feeling stressed, you need an outlet. For instance, you can call a counsellor at any time of the day. Sometimes when we feel like reaching out to help, we might suddenly hold back because we fear saying the wrong thing or offending the person. This is like choosing escape over empathy. The trick is just to show up, showing up can make a huge difference in a friend’s life. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you are not the one suffering. Instead of saying ‘I will do anything to help you’, you could say ‘let me get you a burger, let me know what you not take’. Specific acts are more useful for someone in need. Even holding someone’s hand can be a big help too. One can offer comfort to those closest to the tragedy and gain support for those further away from the tragedy. We all grieve differently. It is very rude to suggest that someone should be over their grieving period.

Growing up, I was taught to follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. But when someone is suffering, instead of following the Golden Rule, we need to follow the Platinum Rule: treat others as they want to be treated. Take a cue from the person in distress and respond with understanding – or better yet, action. – Sheryl Sandberg

Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence. Coming to grips with ourselves. Self-compassion is rarely talked about in our society. Everyone makes mistakes. These imperfections make us human. Self-compassion is the key to a faster recovery from trauma. Focus on the mistake and not the person’s character. Guilt and shame are completely 2 different feelings. Learn from your mistakes and own up to them. Writing down your thoughts in a journal might be useful and has much therapeutic effects. The more you acknowledge the negative emotions that you are feeling, the better you can tackle them. Talking into a voice recorder can have a similar effect to writing. Learn to understand that your worth is not tied to your actions. Self-confidence is the key. I am grateful to have a compassionate boss, Mark Zuckerberg. I start journaling and realized that it helped me tremendously. Even when you are really down, you can focus on 3 small wins and write them down daily. Just reminding that something had gone well that day can improve your day instantly. Learn to count your contributions too. Take one extra step even though you are afraid. Learn to treat those who are undergoing a tough time as regular team members and praise their work occasionally. The number of single mums are rising and a lot of them are having a tough time too. Over time, I journaled less. I want to move on and start living again. I am not alone.

Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as offering the same kindness to ourselves that we would give it to a friend. It allows us to respond to our own errors with concern and understanding rather than criticism and shame. – Sheryl Sandberg

This loss of confidence is another symptom of pervasiveness: we are struggling in one area and suddenly we stop believing in our capabilities in other areas. Primary loss triggers secondary losses. – Sheryl Sandberg

Bouncing Forward. The one I become will catch me. When you can’t change a situation, you will have to change yourself. Some people can experience post-traumatic growth. This means bouncing forward. It can take 5 forms: forming deep relationships; discovering meaning in life; gaining appreciation; finding personal strength and seeing possibilities. One can walk away with greater resolve. The little things do not bother you so much anymore. If you can find your why to live, you can find meaning to live. I appreciate my close ones more. If you visit poorer communities, you might start to appreciate life more. Gratitude is the key to happiness. Now, I celebrate birthdays every year. You do not need to wait for special occasions to show your gratitude. One could write thank you notes. Every day is precious and should be lived to the fullest. Going through difficult times together can cause one to forge stronger bonds together. It is also important to find meaning in suffering. One could do so via spirituality and religious beliefs. It is important to stay hopeful in your darkest hours too. Trauma can help to build resilience. Work can provide a source of meaning. You can energize yourself with meaningful work. A brush with death can lead to a new life. Some believe in co-destiny, where bereaved parents view their child’s life in a larger framework. Parents can do good, which becomes part of their child’s impact on the world.

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends. – Old Saying

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Foreword. I only knew Paul after his death. After he was diagnosed with cancer, he had a desire to write a book. We become aware of our own mortality after reading his book as well. Paul had a flair of writing, however, had a calling of being a physician. He would eventually be a neurosurgeon. Paul writes occasionally and was an excellent writer. Paul has been very vulnerable and revealed a lot about himself.

Prologue. The cancer had spread and was widely disseminated. I was the patient this time. Lucy was my wife and she was by my side. When I had back pain, I went for an MRI scan. X-rays aren’t good for detection of cancer. Weight loss became more common as the days went by. I was an outstanding surgeon and had a bright career ahead of me. A few weeks later, I had strong bouts of chest pain. My work and the demanding schedule had put a toll on our marriage. My wife wanted to leave me. The pain was getting more severe and I was in trouble. I also started to tell friends about my cancer. My wife learnt about it and promised not to leave me.

Part 1: In Perfect Health I Begin

I never thought that I would be a doctor. I didn’t know much about medicine when I was young. We had two dogs. Once, we went to the desert and found the insects there to be fascinating. My younger brother was Jeevan. My dad was the one who brought our family to the desert town of Kingman, in Arizona. The issue with Kingman was that the education system was bad and there were many dropouts. My mum instilled in us, a love of reading. I eventually got into Stanford University. I liked a girl named Abigail in school. In school, I was driven to understand what makes human life meaningful? One of my favorite authors, was T.S. Eliot. Literature was a form of moral reflection for me. Was the unlived life worth examining? I did an internship at Sierra Camp, which was very eye opening indeed. I studied both neuroscience and literature in school. Many of the caregivers will not even show up to pay the patients of severe brain problems. Some parents even abandon their kids. Brains indeed play a crucial role in our ability to form relationships. Language of life was a passion, hunger and a love. I studied the work of Walt Whitman. I wanted to find out how biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersected. I was contemplating medical school now. After I enrolled myself into the HPS program at Cambridge, I started to realize that only by practicing medicine, I could pursue a serious biological philosophy. I cut my first dead body and it felt alright. These were cadavers or donor corpses. I hardly ever felt like vomiting. The book by Shep Nuland on ‘How we die’ was very popular. It addressed the fact of existence. Although I read about the particularities of death, being a surgeon allowed me to understand them better. I was asked to deliver a child. I was educated on how to read the fetal heart rates etc. The twins were in distress and their only hope was a C-section. However, they didn’t survive as they were premature. On my next case, the baby was successfully delivered and I was very relieved indeed. Next on my rotation was surgical oncology. Many of the medical students chose to specialize in things like radiology or dermatology, which were deemed easier. Eventually, I chose neurosurgery as my specialty. Part of a doctor’s job is about to be emotionally attached to the patient and to calm them down. Brain surgery has a huge impact on the patient’s life. Would you trade your ability to talk for a few extra months of mute life? What makes life meaningful enough to go on living? Neurosurgeons have a huge responsibility. During the first year of residency, the workload was tremendous. The papers I file are narratives of risks and triumph. I finally lost my first patient. I saw a few people die in the course of my work. Sometimes, death has a suffocating weight on me too. In the second year of training, I was the first to arrive in an emergency. I was doing a lot of overtime work, which was very tiring indeed. It was so stressful that some left the profession. Some cases were beyond hope, where even surgery would not do much good. I did not think I was a doctor who missed the larger human significance. My dad was an inspiration to me and he even when to buy meals for his patients when they requested for them. I once persuaded a girl’s family that surgery was the best option for her. Announcing the bad news to a patient is very difficult indeed. Brain surgery for cases for cancer that metastases from other parts of body, can help to prolong life. In medical statistics, there is the Kaplan-Meier curve. This measures the number of patients surviving over time for any particular disease. It is a metric where doctors understand the ferocity of a disease. Instead of saying ‘You have a 95% chance of being dead in two years’, doctors can say ‘Most patients live many months to a couple of years.’. It is useful to hold a patient’s hand when announcing bad news. Sometimes, there can be an emotional cost as well. However, it can have its rewards too. For a neurosurgeon, it is also important to keep up to date on the latest technologies available in the market too. I loved talking to other scientists. Pancreatic cancer has a low survival rate. A patient can only be under anesthesia for that long. It is like finding the middle ground between the hare and the tortoise. Time flies in the OR. Technical excellence, was a moral requirement for me. For brain surgery, it is extremely important to be precise, up to the exact millimeter. The worst part of the brain damage is the cortex, the Wenicke and Broca area. These control one’s language abilities. I was excellent at my job and rewards and awards were coming naturally. My scientist friend committed suicide one day after he had a difficult complication. This made me contemplate the meaning of life even more.

The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving. – Paul Kalanithi

Books become my closest confidants, finely ground lenses providing new views of the world. – Paul Kalanithi

Indeed, this is how 99% of people select their jobs: pay, work environment, hours. But that’s the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job – not a calling. – Paul Kalanithi

Rushing a patient to the OR to save only enough brain that his heart beats but he can never speak, he eats through a tube, and he is condemned to an existence he would never want…I came to see this as a more egregious failure than the patient dying. – Paul Kalanithi

Amid the tragedies and failures, I feared I was losing sight of the singular importance of human relationships, not between patients and their families but between doctor and patient. Technical excellence was not enough. As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives – everyone dies eventually – but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness. – Paul Kalanithi

The call to protect life – and not merely life but another’s identity; it is perhaps not too much to say another’s soul – was obvious in its sacredness. – Paul Kalanithi

A resident’s surgical skill is judged by his technique and his speed. You can’t be sloppy, and you can’t be slow. – Paul Kalanithi

Neurosurgery requires a commitment to one’s own excellence and a commitment to another’s identity. The decision to operate at all involves an appraisal of one’s own abilities, as well as a deep sense of who the patient is and what she holds dear. – Paul Kalanithi

Cease Not till Death

The CT images were not good. My identity no longer mattered. It was life shattering and it hurt me. My potential would never be fulfilled. I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Emma Hayward was my oncologist. Emma was one of the best lung cancer specialist out there. She was also compassionate in nature. I felt weaker as the cancer spread. I couldn’t know my spot on the Kaplan-Meier curve. One option for me was chemotherapy and the other was therapy targeting at molecular defects. I had a PI3K mutation. Emma suggest carboplatin as chemotherapy for me. She refused to discuss the Kaplan-Meier curves. Lucy and I went to the sperm bank to preserve gametes. There is no point in depending or reading too much into statistics. I felt a drop of hope. After a drug, my appetite returned and I was happier. I had to figure out what is the most important for me. Cancer had helped to save my marriage with Lucy. I was also in physical therapy now. I was lifting my legs, but it was so exhausting and humiliating. I kept pushing myself. Finally, my condition improved. I could ride a bike for 6 miles and that was a massive achievement. Emma was a friend to me as well. I wanted a child, but the decision would ultimately lie with Lucy, because she would take care of the child. Life wasn’t about avoiding suffering. Life was about striving. We all need to carry on living. Only the best embryos would have a chance of survival. The tumor was reduced after a CT scan. It was good news. Life was looking up now. I started reading more about mortality. I pushed myself to return to the OR. Some patients could live for at least 10 years on the drug. I felt it was a moral responsibility to continue being a surgeon. Suddenly, halfway through the surgery, I felt faint and couldn’t continue. My junior resident took over. It was disappointing. Over time, my skills started to improve and I was getting better. However, it felt joyless as sometimes I would still be in pain. I wanted to be a doctor-scientist, but there were no vacancies. I overcame my pain and continued to see patients. I wanted to run a cancer lab as it would less demanding. I had to figure out what was the most important to me. God and meaning were linked, but it was also possible to believe in one and not the other. The problem is that science cannot reach some permanent truth. Hence, it might be incompatible with human life, which is more unpredictable. Science is cold, unlike the warmth of humans. I returned to Christianity as I found it to be compelling. Humans do not like blind determinism. A new tumour emerged in my latest CT scan. I was neither angry nor scared. I felt really tired after a grueling surgery. My last surgery was a big success and I could end on a high. Chemotherapy was the only way as localized treatment was out of the question. It would start on Monday. I felt very tired and the food was tasteless. I wanted to go for graduation but I started puking and it was horrible. I had to be placed on IV drip. My condition worsened. My kidneys were starting to fail now. I was placed in ICU now. Many specialists were now attending to me. Lucy was now 38 weeks pregnant. The problem was that the specialists could not come to a common consensus. No 1 party was willing to take responsibility. Some of them suggested ill-advised tests. I struggled to listen to them. Emma was now the captain of the ship. I was discharged from the hospital finally. I was very tired again, after the chemotherapy doses. Emma finally revealed that I could live for 5 more years. Lucy was in labour. My baby was finally born and it was a complete joy. Time began to feel static. The days of the week no longer to mean anything to me as I wasn’t working.

If I were a writer of books, I would compile a register, with a comment, of the various deaths of men: he would should teach men to die would at the same time teach them to live. – Michel de Montaigne (That to study philosophy is to learn to die)

The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live. – Paul Kalanithi

Only 0.0012% of 36 year olds get lung cancer. Yes, all cancer patients are unlucky, but there’s cancer and then there’s CANCER, and you have to be really unlucky to have the latter. – Paul Kalanithi

It’s easier when the patient is 94, in the last stages of dementia, with a severe brain bleed. But for someone like me – a 36 year old given a diagnosis of terminal cancer – there aren’t really words. – Paul Kalanithi

Many people, once diagnosed with cancer, quit work entirely. Others focus on it heavily. Either way is okay. – Emma Hayward, an oncologist

If the weight of mortality does not grow lighter, does it at least get more familiar? – Paul Kalanithi

If human relationality formed the bedrock of meaning, it seemed to us that rearing children added another dimension to that meaning. – Paul Kalanithi

I would push myself to return to the Operating Room. Why? Because I could. Because that’s who I was. Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living. – Paul Kalanithi

The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. – Paul Kalanithi

The way forward would seem obvious, if only I knew how many months or years I had left. Tell me 3 months, I’d spend time with family. Tell me 1 year, I’d write a book. Give me 10 years, I’d get back to treating diseases. – Paul Kalanithi

Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world. – Paul Kalanithi

But at my back in a cold blast I hear the rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear. – T.S. Eilot

Part of the cruelty of cancer, though, is not only that it limits your time; it also limits your energy, vastly reducing the amount you can squeeze into a day. It is a tired hare who now races. – Paul Kalanithi

Epilogue by Lucy Kalanithi

Paul died on March 9, 2015. Chemotherapy stopped working a few months before his death. We still had our family dinners etc. Paul was focused on completing his book. At his late stages, he lost his appetite completely. At times, he would suffer from a really serious fever. Paul chose the do not resuscitate status at the very end. We chose comfort care at home as he didn’t want to die in hospital. His carbon dioxide levels were too high, indicating lung failure. Paul wanted to hold Cady, his daughter. Paul was really to remove the breathing support and die. His wish was for us to publish his manuscript. I hope that he would be resting in peace now. Our family continued to sing to him and look at his facial expressions. Soon, his breaths became more faltering and irregular. During his last years, Paul wrote furiously and wanted to complete the book. He was very determined to write. He was brave throughout his most difficult days. He did not avert his eyes from death and was strong. Our love stood strong and firm throughout his difficult days. Paul suggested that I remarry after my marriage. I was definitely very blessed to have known a man like him. He was an unwavering source of support to our daughter. Throughout his illness, he faced it with grace and authenticity and acceptance. He was fully alive and his life was full of meaning even in his darkest days. This book is his culmination of his life and love for literature. Paul had made great contributions in the area of neuroscience. Paul managed to face death with integrity, and I was as his wife, his witness.

Conversely, we knew that one trick to managing a terminal illness is to be deeply in love – to be vulnerable, kind, generous, grateful. – Lucy Kalanithi

Bereavement (of a partner) is not the truncation of married love, but one of its regular phases – like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too. – C.S. Lewis

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The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (Part 2)

The Failures of Heroism

The Spell Cast by Persons – The Nexus of Unfreedom. Men must hide from the truth. Men have followed leaders who seemed larger than life. Men worship power. There seems to be some fascination over those who have power. Do famous people have a halo around them? Some men respect their doctors so much that they think they are larger than life. Hypnosis is certainly possible. We all fear not being in full control of ourselves. Ferenczi admitted that we in our innermost soul, we are still children and we remain so throughout life. We all still feel the need to be subject to someone, just like how we were subject to our parents when we were younger. Freud performed a lot of research on group psychology. He tried to understand why men were so sheeplike when they functioned in groups. They fell under the sheep of their leader. He has an extreme passion for authority and wants to govern by unrestricted force. People like being in groups because it makes them feel safe. They feel safe in the group, but all this is an illusion. Every man feels like an omnipotent hero. Erich Fromm believed in narcissism. There were problems with Freud’s theory too. The leader had some traits which enabled him to hold the group together. He allowed the followers to express forbidden impulses and secret wishes. He wipes out fear in people. People think they engage in illegal activities as a group. Men likes to crave illusion. People use the leader to fulfil their own needs and urges. People use the leaders as almost as an excuse. Being in a group helps man take on individual responsibility. The leader takes the responsibility for all evil acts committed. To Freud, humans have a sexual instinct. Transference is a problem of courage. Transference could be seen as a fetish control. It literally means the need for man to exert complete control over external circumstances. Man will project all of his human qualities on an object. However, if he loses the object, he fears that he might lose himself. You can even make your own body that object. Transference is a form of narrow control that anchors our own problems. Some see transference as a fear of life. The Universe has overwhelming power but we can endow certain persons with it. The transference object becomes an obsession for the person. The more you fear death, the more you see the need for transference objects. Some people see transference as the fear of death. Now, you need the transference figure to assure your immortality and carry on you causa-sui project. It will provide shelter on your life. People want heroes for their own immortalization. When the object dies, people start to panic. Men always strives to be good. All organisms strive to feel good about themselves. The feeling is even stronger in Man. However, what is ‘right’ is not straightforward. Man feels tremblingly small and impotent in the face of transcendent nature. Rank understood the human condition really well. Transference is almost a universal passion. To Rank, Man worshipped God because of an outgrowth of life-longing and the need for meaning. This is the duality of man. Men want to be associated with values that endure. There is a school of thought where people use transference as an urge to higher heroism.

Man is a trembling animal who pulls the world down around his shoulders as he clutches for protection and support and tries to affirm in a cowardly way his feeble powers. – Ernest Becker

Transference heroics gives man precisely what he needs: a certain degree of sharply defined individuality, a definite point of reference for his practice of goodness, and all within a certain secure level of safety and control. – Ernest Becker

If all people are more or less alike, why do we burn with such all-consuming passions for some of them? – Ernest Becker

If Man gives in to his natural feeling of cosmic dependence, the desire to be part of something bigger, it puts him at peace and at oneness, gives him a sense of self-expansion in a larger beyond, and so heightens his being, giving him truly a feeling of transcendent value. – Ernest Becker

How do I realize my distinctive gifts, make my own contribution to the world through my own self-expansion? – Ernest Becker

Individuation means that the human creature has to oppose itself to the rest of nature. It crates precisely the isolation that one can’t stand – and yet needs in order to develop distinctively. It creates the difference that becomes such a burden; it accents the smallness of oneself and the sticking-outness at the same time. – Ernest Becker

Otto Rank and the Closure of Psychoanalysis on Kierkegaard. Creature consciousness is absorbed in culture. Back in the day, men was happy to serve God. Christianity made heroes of everyone. Christianity took creature consciousness and made it the condition for his cosmic heroism. For men without religion, they had to find a love object. Salvation is transference beatification. Love is the highest form of striving. Modern man is dependent on the love partner. In a relationship, we accept the other person’s body and things can joined in unity. Death is seen as the twin brother of sex. Sex ensures that the creature created will eventually die. Resistance to sex seems like a resistance to fatality. A child, will reach a stage where he will be curious about how he got his body. The body is something to triumph over. Personality is ultimately destroyed by sex. Is it good to lose yourself in another person? How can a human be a god-like thing to everything else? We expect perfection from our loved ones, but sometimes they disappoint. We feel diminished by their weaknesses. We elevate our love partner to God status because we want redemption. We need to admit our creatureliness and helplessness. Having guilt free sex might not be good too. It is defeating to want too little from your partner. Cosmic heroism must transcend human relationships. However, doing so might affect one’s quality of life and one’s individuality. Most people live based on societal norms. Women often get married, but are not happy because she sacrifices her individual personality. However, there is an aspect of self-surrender in it too. The problem with individuation is that one separates from the herd. This is the creative guy. The creative person must fashion his own idea of existence. His work is his form of ‘heroism’. However, how can one justify his own heroism? No one has a right to play God. However, the artist knows that how he is judged by others still matters and still needs to obtain meaning from outside. No matter how great his work is, he knows he pales in comparison to the transcending majesty of nature. The only way out of this is that one has to give one’s life as a gift to the powers out there. Your creative work on its own cannot provide a source of salvation. Rank wanted man to live beyond the limits set for himself. One should reach for religion. Rank thought that Man needed a religious ideology.

The idea of himself as a special cosmic hero with special gifts for the Universe. He doesn’t want to be a mere fornicating animal like any other – this is not a truly human meaning, a truly distinctive contribution to world life. – Ernest Becker

The Present Outcome of Psychoanalysis. Rank wrote about neurosis. It sums out the problems of human life. Freud could reduce insights to a few fundamental theories. The first aspect of neurosis is the trouble of the truth of existence. Everyone has their own stylistic reaction to life. It is also historical in nature. As a human, to protect ourselves, we have to shut off outside experience. This is known was ‘partialization’. Men are built more like creatures than Gods. Men thinks about the small problems instead of the big ones like life and death. Hence, men sort of refuses reality, or the ‘refusal of reality’. When the world is too much for people, neurosis sets in. Neurosis is universal in nature. Some people make their loved one their all. His ‘safe’ environment has failed him. Guilt often results due to an unused life. This is when we have potential, but failed to live according to our potential. Do not narrow-down the world too much. Some people get stuck in the narrowness. If you feel vulnerable, it is because you are not big enough to face the fears of the Universe. Some people’s fears are hysterical and have no explanation. However, they don’t know what the problem is. In order to avoid death, the person narrows down on his world. This results in isolation. Another type of neurosis, is when a person has too vivid imagination. This is a total problem. If you cannot narrow down the world, the world might seem too confusing. Some individuals cannot separate and some cannot unite. One needs to find a balance between the two. One reason for such behaviour is when one has poor social skills. When this happens, you will feel your life is a total problem. This person withdraws from the world and becomes a narcissist. A neurotic lives symbolically, not biologically. The artist is the most neurotic of all. Everyone is neurotic to some extent. The artist is better than the neurotic because he can produce works that represent his symbolic view of the world. Some level of objective creativity is a must. The neurotic tends to criticize himself too much. The artist glorifies himself because he has the talent to do so. Talent is circumstantial. The author can understand why people like to work hard at their jobs as the alternative to that is natural desperation and madness. What can keep Man from going mad? In reality, people have all sorts of personalities. Is the average man one to be emulated? It seems like our Creator has no grand plans for Mankind. People are living an illusion. On what level of illusion does one live? Man needs a new reality. Cultural heroism is important for men. Cultural play tends to vary with society and history. Men needs other acts to find heroism and not just simply raising kids. He needs revolutions and wars. Modern man is left to his own resources. He has to justify himself. Science still can’t explain the soul. To Rank, psychology was a negative sort of ideology. Psychology tries to identify what’s wrong with a person when he is unhappy. However, sometimes the cause of happiness is because of one’s relationship with the world. Hence, psychology has limited understanding of humans. Psychology tends to focus on circumstantial guilt. Psychologists in the modern age now represent the new God. The Merger of Sin and Neurosis. Both Kierkegaard and Rank reached similar conclusions on psychoanalysis. They both had the ‘theology’ world-view. Man must translate his meaningfulness on a larger level. However, justifying your own heroism is bound to fail. Neurosis is a strive for self-achieved immortality. The cure for neurosis is to change your world-view. One needs to plunge into world experiences and then try to attain meaning from it. To Goethe, men didn’t know what proper experiences were. Religion needs to be supported by external and compelling activities, not just a belief in God. What is the best foolishness to live under? The best one is the one that provides the most dignity and freedom. Religion removes our responsibilities. We can make free decisions. We can rely on powers that support and do not oppose us. Religion also allows one to explore their individual heroic personality. Also, it gives hope because it is largely unknown. It relieves the absurdity of earthly life. To Rank, Christianity ranks as an ideal. Is there a cost for failure to reach transcendence? Can an individual affirm and accept himself from himself? A creative person is too full of himself and of the world. One needs to ask important questions like what world view? What powers? For what heroism?

Generally speaking, we call neurotic any life style that beings to constrict too much, that prevents free forward momentum, new choices, and growth that a person may want and need. – Ernest Becker

To live is to engage in experience at least partly on the terms of the experience itself. One has to stick his neck out in the action without any guarantees about satisfaction or safety. – Ernest Becker

In sin and neurosis man fetishizes himself on something narrow at hand and pretends that the whole meaning and miraculousness of creation is limited to that, that he can get his beatification from that. – Ernest Becker

A General View of Mental Illness. Humans fear isolated forms of human existence. Mental illness is very complex and varied. I will try to simplify the concepts for the layman. Is there even a general theory of mental illness? Mental illness is essentially denial of creatureliness. People who have depression are afraid of life. Fear of life leads to excessive fear of death. Depressed people fear to move and do anything. Do not live simply to meet the demands of others. Men do not have the power to rely on. People hunger for immortality in their own small family circle. Transference is the use of an object for self-perpetuation. If you cannot fight or flee from your problems, you will enter a state of depression. People who are depressed want others to care for him and take care of him. There is a sense of guilt in this. Failure to have a useful social role can lead to depression. Menopause reawakens the horrors of our body. Nature is the real ‘castrator’. Once both the bodily and the cultural projects fail, one is a failure. Some form of heroism is needed. One cannot simply rely on object-embeddedness. One has to be a hero in some way. Schizophrenia is another sort of mental illness. He is a realist. He fears life and its demands and lives in mistrust of himself. We have a good theory of what schizophrenia is about. The symbolic and bodily self are completely disintegrated. He is not securely rooted in his body. As a result, he needs to hyper-magnify his world to achieve transcendence. Hence, he seems very contrived. He is open to his own anxieties. His body, to him, is a mass of stench and decay and will betray him. A normal person will use his body with confidence. He doesn’t have an ego response. Perversions are not marginal. Freud was interested in studying about perversions. To him, the fetish is a substitute of a woman. Man can find dualism strange and cannot accept impermanence of the body. Children are shamed of their bodies when they soil themselves. Death and decay are themes of obsession. Children are indeed bothered by their bodies. This is especially so if he has seen traumatic things. Their kids will grow up weaker in their body confidence. Low-esteem is a serious problem too. Wanting to sexualize is an expression of individualism. This also explains fetishism. Our body is standard, but the self is personalized. How can one reconcile this? Perversions are in essence a striving for freedom. Freud thought that the fetish object represented the mother’s ‘penis’. People with fetishism treat their bodies with a halo, like a personal thing. Some people have fetishes with shoes. Feet are ugly while shoes are beautiful. Fetishes can be charms too. Clothing has massive impact on people. Perversions are a form of private religion. Sadism and masochism might seem natural. When you rape someone, you show you can manipulate and dominate another person. It provides intensity in the place of emptiness. Masochism is a way of taking pain and transmuting them into pleasure. Rank thought that Mankind could not get rid of thoughts of masochism and sadism. Mental illness are seen as failed heroics. They all have the power of courage.

All living organisms are condemned to perversity, to the narrowness of being mere fragments of a larger totality that overwhelms them, which they cannot understand or truly cope with – yet must still live and struggle in. – Ernest Becker

The more you shrink back from the difficulties and the darings of life, the more you naturally come to feel inept, the lower is your self-evaluation. It is ineluctable. – Ernest Becker

One must pay with life and consent daily to die, to give oneself up to the risks and dangers of the world, allow oneself to be engulfed and used up. Otherwise, one ends up as though dead in trying to avoid life and death. – Ernest Becker

If you can’t be a hero within a communal ideology, then you must be a nagging, whining failure in your family. – Ernest Becker

The body is definitely the hurdle for man, the decaying drag of the species on the inner freedom and purity of his self. – Ernest Becker

Retrospect and Conclusion: The Dilemmas of Heroism

Psychology and Religion: What is the Heroic Individual? We tend to follow other person’s ideas. We find idols in our lives. We try to convert our people to our idea. The artist tries to create his meaning and he must be sustained by them. Kierkegaard thought man had to live in faith and give meaning of life to his Creator. This is the knight of faith. One needs to find what is needed to live. Man cannot get rid of his nature. The enemy is repression, the denial of death. Men sets limits for himself because this a truly human existence. Therefore, our culture or superego sets such limits. Even if you can postpone death, people might still fear dying prematurely. What kind of Gods would people in a Utopia worship? There are certainly limits to psychotherapy. One cannot have it all his own way. One must draw back in some areas and pay the penalty in some form or another. Psychotherapy does have its uses. Psychology is useless, because it helps to cure weaknesses, but it does not promise immortality. Hence, that is why psychotherapy does have use. Psychology is not a new belief system. The author believes that the fusion of psychology and religion is logical. There are also limits to human nature. There is no way to transcend the human condition. Social movements are mere fancy. Is therapeutic revolution a viable concept? Utopian societies tend to deaden human sensitivity and deny humans of heroism. There are a lot of things about creation and life which we do not understand. All we can do is speak to the life force.

A creature who takes more of the world into himself and develops new forms of courage and endurance. – Ernest Becker

Whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. – Ernest Becker

Whatever is achieved must be achieved from within the subjective energies of creatures, without deadening, with the full exercise of passion, of vision, of pain, of fear, and of sorrow. – Ernest Becker

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The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (Part 1)

Foreword. The book was first published in 1973. I interviewed him when he was dying from cancer. That moment helped to shape my views on death. Contemplation of our inevitable death adds sweetness to mortality. Another famous book of his is ‘Escape from Evil’. Human beings have a need to control basic anxiety, to deny the terror of death. Some people thought death was a taboo topic. Most people conspire to keep death unconscious. Society provides the hero system which people think can help transcend death. Some people do things because they want to have achieved something that is long-lasting. However, they might not particularly like doing such things. Humans conflict over religions etc and heroism causes much conflicts. To what extent should one pursue heroism? Mankind can hope that people channel their hatred into world problems like poverty etc. The true hero is aware of his mortality and can see impotence and vulnerability. He rejects mass culture and opts for cosmic heroism. Who knows what the future of Mankind will be? Through this book, we learn the relationship between the denial of death and the dominion of evil.

This is the terror of death: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression – and with all this yet to die. – Ernest Becker

Preface. The fear of death haunts humans. People deny that it is the final destiny for man. Some primates celebrate death as it is an elevation to a higher form of life. The dear of death is the human condition. Humans are no closer to the truth than centuries ago. Why is so much overproduction in society nowadays? People like to overproduce but the major issues of the world remain unsolved. The world needs more love, less strife. The problem with modern writers is that there is too much exaggeration. This is my first mature work. The book contains values by philosophers like Kierkegaard, Freud and Otto Rank. Rank’s works were brilliant. His thoughts spanned several fields of knowledge. His books were difficult to read so I have ‘translated’ some of his ideas here. Freud and Rank were close friends. Rank knew his work really well. I will mention more on Rank rather than Jung because Jung was already widely covered by other writers.

Introduction: Human Nature and the Heroic. We know the importance of heroism, but it somehow got neglected along the way. People here thought that the main purpose of man was the heroic. People are narcissistic after all. We are absorbed with ourselves. No one cares about the man next to him. Narcissism is closely associated with self-esteem and self-worth. Man needs to feel comfortable in his self-esteem. Humans need to feel themselves as objects of primary value. Humans are naturally competitive creatures. It is therefore natural for man to want to be a hero. However, all these have no cosmic significance. This is the way society is. Society is a vehicle for heroism. This is the idea of cultural heroism. Are you conscious of what you are doing to earn feeling of heroism? Some men will sacrifice themselves to the good of society. However, the younger generation does not believe in that kind of sacrifice. They see the horrors of society, like wars etc. Some youth scorn religion. Religion needs to work harder to convert these youth on their side. Even the whole society is like a ‘religion’ in some way. It is time for Man to ask the deep questions.

In our culture anyway, especially in modern times, the heroic seems too big for us, or we too small for it. Tell a young man that he is entitled to be a hero and he will blush. We disguise our struggle by piling up figures in a bank book to reflect privately our sense of heroic worth. – Ernest Becker

They earn this feeling by carving out a place in nature, by building an edifice that reflects human value: a temple, a cathedral, a totem pole, a skyscraper, a family that spans three generations. – Ernest Becker

Part 1: The Depth Psychology of Heroism

The Terror of Death. Freud believed in thinking about death once in a while. Death is something that moves man. It was a psychological problem. Heroism was a reflection for the terror of death. Many ancient myths believe in reincarnation or life after death. There is a lot of work on death already. For a young child, he is not aware of what death is. Sometimes, they only realize what death is when they are 9 or 10. A young child is fully dependent on his parents. People with bad experiences might fear death more. Another school of thought is ‘morbidly minded’. This means that the fear of death is in everyone, whether you were brought up well or not. It is not possible to decide whether the fear of death is a basic anxiety. The author believes with this ‘morbidly minded’ school of thought. No one is free of the fear of death. Even William James thought the same. The fact that we strive for self-preservation means that we fear death. However, the fear is more unconscious than conscious. For most people who enjoy living, their fear of death is repressed. A child has to rely on his parents. Animals are not immune to chaos too. Gradually, a child will be exposed to the cruelty of life. Death is a complex symbol, which different societies and cultures will view differently. How does kids with childhood nightmares go on to lead optimistic lives? Humans are very good at repressing our fears. Repression is a scientific concept. It is through striving that fears get absorbed in. As you expand on life and seek better experiences, the fear of death must get ignored. A strong family upbringing amounts to inner sustainment. Men tends to follow what society expects of him and doesn’t question too much. All he needs is to go with the flow and just live. It is when you have undergone a bad experience that the fear of death emerges in pure essence. There are many ways to repress death, of which religion is one way. There are different angles where one can examine the fear of death. Is it even good to be fully aware of your mortality?

Gregory Zilboorg says that most people think death fear is absent because it rarely shows its true face; but he argues that underneath all appearances fear of death is universally present. – Ernest Becker

I don’t believe that the complex symbol of death is ever absent, no matter how much vitality and inner sustainment a person has. – Ernest Becker

The Recasting of Some Basic Psychoanalytic Ideas. We know analyze psychoanalytic theories. Does man have an essence? Can it be found? Man has a paradoxical nature as he is half animal and half symbolic. However, men is like food for worms and is made of flesh. This is a complex dilemma. However, animals are simply driven by their instincts. They live in a world without time. Animals do not think of death. Everything men does is try to deny his grotesque fate. The child cannot understand this dualism too. However, the kid sometimes might soil himself and realize that his body is not all rosy and almighty. The body and the self cannot be reconciled easily. Men tries to deny his true condition. Anality is the problem of man’s dualism between his self and body. A kid might play with his feces, but later realize it’s part of his bodily functions. Men sit only on their arse. Having bodily functions also indicate decay and death. Men like to think that they are not an animal. He doesn’t like to have his body take control over him. Our creativity in life is basically a denial of the truth of the human condition. Freud believed in the Oedipus complex. Freud thought of human motives in ‘primitive’ ways. He believed that many people had sexual tendencies since young. Childhood is indeed a crucial period for man. The Oedipus project is about the conflict between narcissism and ambivalence. When the child is very young, he can cry and get what he wants. After that, he enters the ‘anal’ stage, where he seeks to control his body and master it. The child later believes that he can shape his own life. Later on, Freud developed the ‘castration complex’. Eventually, the child must get free of the mother and become independent. Soon, the child sees her as a threat. He realizes that the female model is different from male and is shocked. The female body seems alien to him and the child is helpless. He realizes that she is vulnerable. He realizes that one could have been born anything, and of any sex. It is purely a matter of chance. One has to take on the burden of one’s meaning of life and body. Sexuality is a universal problem. The body is always casting a shadow over your personal freedom. When the child witnesses sexual intercourse between his parents, he couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t take part in it. As a result, he feels betrayed. Sex is so widely practiced, but it can disillusioning too. Sex is also a private thing, and in some ways an escape from society. People need to take part in social projects to achieve meaning.

He is a creator with a mind that soars out to speculate about atoms and infinity, who can place himself imaginatively at a point in space and contemplate bemusedly his own planet. This immense expansion, this dexterity, this ethereality, this self-consciousness gives to man literally the status of a small god. – Ernest Becker

Human Character as a Vital Lie. Humans use fantasy as a lie, to distract themselves from reality. Why are so few people truly courageous? Why is man so cowardly? Is it because he is an animal. Are we indebted to society? Maslow termed the fact that people dream to be great, but don’t do it, a term called ‘Jonah Syndrome’. This is because we know we are a weak organism, so have to cut back on the full intensity of life. These are defenses against grandiosity. For most adults, we have closed off our idea of miracles of creation. We live in a miraculous and incomprehensible world. Animals work based on instincts. Men cannot take his own body for granted. His memories and dreams might be foreign to him. We are simply, gods with anuses. Freud studied about human limitation and the formation of character. According to him, Man fears knowledge of oneself. We engage in repression if we fear something that could make us seem inferior or weak. We have to repress our smallness in this world. We must repress the primary awesomeness of the external world. Humans have two fears which are distinct from animals: the fear of life and the fear of death. Man wants to stay safe and not end up in danger because he understands the fragility of life. A child does not know what it is like to possess great power. A child has to learn to build up defenses. He has to generate a unique identity. We live securely and serenely. These defenses form an illusion. Anxiety is the spur of energetic activity. We get into relationships for security, however, we have to maintain them and then to further the lie. We never really live a life that is truly ours. We need to expose the fourth level, which is the fear of death in order to live authentically. This is the psychologic rebirth. One should always live with humility. What does it mean to live with ‘full humanness’? It means full fear and trembling, at least some of the waking day. Maslow talks about self-actualization. Freud had a theory that humans had innate instincts. Post-freudian theory believed that a child was malleable and instinct free. It was the environment that shaped his development more. The child had to think of defenses in the world. Life can seem overwhelming at times. A person’s character is a defense against despair. The child’s perceptions of the world are new and fresh. The world seemed all beautiful.

He doesn’t know who he is, why he was born, what he is doing on the planet, what he is supposed to do, what he can expect. His own existence is incomprehensible to him, a miracle just like the rest of creation… – Ernest Becker

It can be the power of an all-absorbing activity, a passion, a dedication to a game, a way of life, that like a comfortable web keeps a person buoyed up and ignorant of himself, of the fact that he does not rest on his center. – Ernest Becker

No matter what men pretend, they are only one accidental bite away from utter fallibility. – Ernest Becker

The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive. – Ernest Becker

The Psychoanalyst Kierkegaard. Psychiatric and religious perspectives are closely linked. They cannot be separated easily. Kierkegaard wrote outstanding analyses of the human mind. It is because of his ambiguity that causes him to be in dread. Man cannot suddenly be an animal. Death is man’s peculiar and greatest anxiety. Man tries to avoid anxiety. How does Man lie about himself? He mentioned Man blocked off reality and lived in half-obscurity. It is similar to the term ‘repression’ of modern day. It is important to let the child fend on his own. Although upbringing is important, at some stage, it is important to let the child wander on their own. One should always seek new possibilities and choices. He described character shut-offs as men living inauthentic lives. They simply follow automatic and uncritical living. They do not belong to anyone. Men who do not think for themselves. This is the guy who imitates others. The ‘immediate’ man does not recognize himself and needs external validation. This is the guy enslaved by culture. Men chooses to live that way because of the danger of a full horizon of experience. Freedom can be dangerous. The problem of life is too much possibility. The split of the body and the self is known as schizophrenia. However, it is important to acknowledge one’s limits. The idea of consummate health is not easy to attain. Depressive psychosis is where there too much limitation placed and not enough freedom of the inner self. This happens when an individual is bogged down by daily life. Some men live a ‘safe’ live. The extreme case of this is depressive psychosis, where a man feels literally stupid. In this case, everything becomes necessary and yet seem trivial. The depressed person feels these people are his shelter. He embeds himself in others. Both excessive and too little possibility of life are bad. One has to live safely within the probabilities of a given set of social rules. Some men try to make use of their special talents to benefit mankind. However, after a while, we get tied down by other commitments. This is better an immediate man. He does want his uniqueness to result in confrontation. The last type of man is the self-created man, the man who is the master of his own fate. He will plunge into life. This could seem demonic. He immerses in the body and experiences. Kierkegaard understood the dangers of lying to oneself. What would life be like if one did not lie? What is the true possibility of man? He didn’t like the ‘normal cultural man’. The real man is one who has ‘transcended’ himself. How does one open up to new possibilities? To him, the enemy was the Oedipus complex. The childhood defenses you built since young become your life-long trap. He must know how to throw off ‘cultural lendings’. One should not live automatically. One needs to realize the truth of one’s condition and recognize one’s creatureliness. The flood of anxiety is the educator. By understanding dread may happen every moment, one will lead to interpret reality differently. One needs to face up to his natural impotence and death. The self must be broken in order to become a self. One has to feel lost and accept it and then one can begin to find himself. The self must be destroyed for self-transcendence to begin. The child relies on power linkages, which have to be broken. This leads to faith. However, does one yearn for cosmic heroism? Kierkegaard believed in the merger of psychology and religion. The brink of oblivion can seem like the brink of infinity. One can use anxiety as an eternal spring for growth into new dimensions of thought and trust.

The whole order of things fills me with a sense of anguish, from the gnat to the mysteries of incarnation; all is entirely unintelligible to me, and particularly my own person. Great is my sorrow, without limits. None knows of it, except God in Heaven, and He cannot have pity. – Soren Kierkegaard

If a man were a beast or an angel, he would not be able to be in dread. Since he is a synthesis he can be in dread…man himself produces dread. – Ernest Becker

For the self is a synthesis in which the finite is the limiting factor, and the infinite is the expanding factor. Infinitude’s despair is therefore the fantastical, the limitless. – Ernest Becker

In such a bogging down, the individual does not feel or see that he has alternatives, cannot imagine any choices or alternate ways of life, cannot release himself from the network of obligations even though these obligations no longer give him a sense of self-esteem, of primary value, of being a heroic contributor to world life even by doing his daily family and job duties. – Ernest Becker

By seeing the multitude of men about it, by getting engaged in all sorts of worldly affairs, by becoming wise about how things go in this world, such a man forgets himself… does not dare to believe in himself, finds it too venturesome a thing to be himself, far easier and safer to be like the others, to become an imitation, a number, a cipher in the crowd. – Soren Kierkegaard

One chooses slavery because it is safe and meaningful; then one loses the meaning of it, but fears to move out of it. One has literally died to life but must remain physically in this world. – Ernest Becker

It would be so nice to be the self he wants to be, to realize his vocation, his authentic talent, but it is dangerous, it might upset his world completely. – Ernest Becker

One goes through it all to arrive at faith, the faith that one’s very creatureliness has some meaning to a Creator; that despite one’s true insignificance, weakness, death, one’s existence has meaning in some ultimate sense because it exists within an eternal and infinite scheme of things brought about and maintained to some kind of design by some creative force. – Kierkegaard

The Problem of Freud’s Character, Noch Einmal. Freud tried to understand faith and deepen his understanding of man. Freud spoke a truth where nobody wanted to here. He recognized man’s creatureliness. He didn’t have high opinions of religion. To him, creatureliness was instinctive behavior. Freud had bias to his sexual theory. Carl Jung didn’t agree with Freud. Freud thought that religion was repressed sexuality. Apparently, Freud was very proud of his sexual theory. Jung thought it was not proven and had no basis. Freud thought occultism was self-deluding and self-inflating. Now, we know that the sexual theory proved to be wrong. Man did not just seek sexuality, but only had a fear of death which caused repression. The issue with Freud was that he didn’t leave his sexual dogma. He never really became an existentialist. He thought men had a death instinct and overcame it by killing. Freud thought that man carried death with him unconsciously as part of his biology. He changed the ‘death problem’ to the ‘death instinct’. Freud had many health problems and hated dissent. He was cynical towards those who opposed him. Freud seemed to be narcissistic. Many people thought of Freud to have a strong character. Freud was certainly not the immediate man. To him, death was an intimate problem. He played with the date of his death all his life. He wasn’t afraid of dying, but the grief it might cause his parents after he passed on. Sometimes, he suffered panic attacks. Freud reacted to death via panic attacks and also heroic resignation. He didn’t want to disappear into oblivion. Freud tried his best to submit to others around him. He was ambivalent towards supernaturalism. He believed in some superstitions, but failed to let that affect his main character. He didn’t want to yield because that would let one’s guard down. His psychoanalytic movement was his vehicle for heroism. The problem with being a genius is that he needs his work to justify him. Freud wanted Jung to carry on psychoanalysis. Jung was Freud’s son and when Jung rejected him, it was like the father-murder complex. Jung admitted Freud was a good teacher, but he had a mind of his own. Freud hated when Jung triumphed over him. This was the guilt of victory. Freud was largely disappointed by his father. Freud wished that his younger brother would die and he eventually did. This left a lot of guilt inside him. Jung hated feelings of helplessness. Do you abandon the causa-sui project, the attempt to be father of oneself? Freud saw the man who didn’t need sexual need and activity as having a higher aspiration as compared to a common man. Human beings are fragile and ephemeral. How far does life has to secure heroic meaning? The Enlightment’s view is that immorality means being loved by many anonymous people. Freud tried to destroy some of the letters he wrote. To Freud, psychoanalysis was his form of religion. Freud didn’t need to have intellectual dependence or spiritual dependence. Freud was obsessed about his sex talk and didn’t seem to know how to stop. However, he was still a great man. Freud refused to move from his instinct theory to the blanket idea of a death fear. He never wanted to move from scientific creatureliness to religious creatureliness.

The death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the other; through the death of the other, one buys oneself free from the penalty of dying, of being killed. – Otto Rank

It was Freud who discovered the idea of being “wrecked by success”: that when a person achieves the truly superlative, it is often felt as an intolerable burden because it means that he has won out in competition with the father, having excelled him. – Ernest Becker

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