Philosophy can save your life.
“Isn’t it unbearable to hang oneself? But when someone feels it is reasonable, he goes and hangs himself.” — Epictetus.
For Epictetus, nothing attracts the rational human being more than reason. And therefore, when your mind concludes that something for you is precisely reasonable, you go and do it.
This explains why some people commit crimes. For them — within their probable insanity — it is reasonable. Their mind believes it is justifiable or their only option.
This attraction of the mind to reasonableness makes populism so dangerous because when one person can convince the majority phenomena like fascism tend to occur.
Therefore the key is in the information to which we expose our minds.
Our minds will justify some behaviors or others depending on the information we consume. Understanding this saved my life
The world sucks
And as we get older we realize it.
Tony Robins argues that happiness equals progress. But while progress may help us lead a good life, it’s not the answer to all our problems.
I did it. I made progress. And two things happened.
- I had the wrong goal: I thought money would bring me happiness. I put my ladder on the wrong wall and when I climbed all the way to the top I realized there was nothing there for me.
- I was alone: Most of my friends criticized me and turned their backs on me when I succeeded. People grow up and their dreams shatter into hundreds of crystals that get stuck in their hearts. And when someone achieves a dream it pisses them off and they project their frustration and discomfort onto you; they poke you with their crystals.
So I end up alone, bitter and friendless. Plus, I have OCD and my mind sometimes obsessively ruminates on the same self-defeating thoughts until it manages to make them compelling.
And that’s scary. But Epictetus saved my life with his phrase.
How to avoid self-destruction
If, as Epictetus tells us, when the mind sees self-destruction as reasonable, it goes and destroys itself. What you have to do is to make it see it as unreasonable. In other words: give your mind reasons to go on living.
I have spent very dark nights fighting the voices in my head. Voices that wanted me to end it all.
And I can tell you that the reality is that you don’t want to listen to those voices, but they don’t go away.
It’s like a panic attack. You don’t want to feel a panic attack, you just get one.
For me those voices make me feel like my brain is a lemon being squeezed against my skull. It’s as if instead of my eyes, it’s my brain crying inside.
I tell you this, not to make you feel sorry for me, but to make you understand that I know what I’m talking about.
Steal my method
This situation has stopped happening to me, and I think it’s because I started actively working on giving my brain reasons to see reason to go on living.
How did I do it?
- By being grateful: I have a notebook where I write three reasons why I am thankful every day. First, when I finish it, I start another one. And so on, I pile them up on a shelf, so that every time I feel bad, I can physically look and see how many reasons I have to be happy.
- Helping others: I convinced my brain that I am relevant to the well-being of many people. My mother for example is dependent and needs me to help her. People who read me in Spanish and English also say that what I write helps them a lot. I also help whenever I have the opportunity to help people I don’t even know.
- Practicing detachment: this life is a video game that feels real when you become obsessed with things or people. The bad thing about fire is not passing your hand over the flame but leaving it over the flame. The same goes for goals, dreams and people. I learned to leave the doors of my life open for people to come and go as they please and that did me a lot of good.
Recap for the memory
You have to live more aware of the little good things you have. You have a lot to be thankful for.
Help everyone you can help and you will start to feel great. And most of all by feeling proud of yourself and useful to society you will be able to cope much better with the dark times.
Set people free. Those who love you well will come back to your life and if they don’t come back it’s because they have already fulfilled their function in your life. Don’t get obsessed with goals and expectations and live one day at a time.
Start doing it and little by little your brain will see that the only reasonable thing to do is to LIVE.
A virtual hug