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Reblogged:The Soul-Body Dichotomy vs. Work and Leisure

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Writing of the poisonous idea that she called the soul-body dichotomy (or the mind-body dichotomy), Ayn Rand once summarized, through her hero, John Galt:

They have cut man in two, setting one half against the other. They have taught him that his body and his consciousness are two enemies engaged in deadly conflict, two antagonists of opposite natures, contradictory claims, incompatible needs, that to benefit one is to injure the other, that his soul belongs to a supernatural realm, but his body is an evil prison holding it in bondage to this earth -- and that the good is to defeat his body, to undermine it by years of patient struggle, digging his way to that glorious jail-break which leads into the freedom of the grave.
A column at Ask Polly, in reply to a successful woman consumed with self-doubt, reminded me of those words, but in more concrete, day-to-day terms. The following paragraph is a great example:
Remember, it's re-creation -- and that man is a being with a self-made soul. (Image via Pixabay.)
I never really understood this until I met my husband. My husband and I are both easily daunted. If you say the words, "What's for dinner?" within earshot of either of us, we immediately crumple up like plastic wrap on a hot stove. Even when we're both at our absolute best -- working hard, firing on all pistons, exercising vigorously, sleeping well -- we are still tempted to throw it all out the window so we can sit and eat aged cheeses and watch something stupid on TV. Because we're both guilt-driven former Catholics, we both get angry at ourselves constantly just for being slow-moving animals with needs and emotions. This guilt also makes us obsessed with anything that sounds "indulgent" because we equate indulgence with a temporary escape from the guilt-inducing sounds that our brains make. [bold added]
These "guilt-inducing sounds" Polly eloquently calls "the religion of I'm Not Enough," and she attributes her own struggle to emancipate herself to her Catholic background. But the truth is that the idea Rand described (along with several other false dichotomies) permeates our culture and makes life difficult for practically everyone. Even those who reject the abstract idea will usually have psychological work to do to recover from the fact that they have probably internalized this idea to some degree. Given that fact, it is worthwhile to consider the advice contained within the column for specific things one can do to achieve better psychological health. One gem that comes to my mind is the following:
Consider giving up. My husband and I do this all of the time now, as a means of understanding exactly what we want from our lives. My husband has a tendency to blindly take on extra work commitments because he sees it as the "right" thing to do. So I often ask him, "Do you really want to spend time on that, or could you just relax instead?" I've been pushing both of us to define work and relaxation in clearer terms. When you have a history of being both ego-driven and driven by guilt, it really pays to consciously reevaluate your priorities and deconstruct your assumptions about what you want to do with your life. [italics in original, bold added]
Were I to essentialize the above and all the other steps, I would say, "Test your self-evaluations against reality, rather than some arbitrary ideal." But because both the devil is in the details and this advice is easier to hold in mind with a few concrete examples, I recommend reading the whole thing, anyway.

-- CAV

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