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Repairing the Damage From Previous Bad Philosophy

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I classify myself as an Intellectual Objectivist. The capital "I" is to distinguish between an Objectivist who is also an intellectual, and someone like me, who is an Objectivist intellectually (I think Objectivism is, basically, correct and its my intellectual framework) but who isn't an Objectivist in most other areas of one's life. The politically I am fully in alignment mentally and "emotionally" (doesn't seem like the right word but it will have to do). Even ethically, I am not an altruist, so I am at least partially in alignment there; I try to think pursue goals rationally as well. My problem is that I have great difficulties emotionally and in my automatic assumptions which guide my thinking in integrating Objectivism into my life.

The problem is the aftermath of a fully conscious strategy on my part based on wrong-headed beliefs that I held consciously (whereas now they are mostly on the subconscious/emotional level) from the age of about 6 or 7 to 16. My life was always dominated by ideas, from the time I was 6 on I loved science and it became the foundation for literally every other facet of my life. Now I love science, I am studying to be a physicist (and considering perhaps trying to get a philosophy minor), but I took the unhealthy view back then that Science was everything (it was sort of my religion, hence the capitalization of the word). I not only believed in the mind-body dichotomy, I wanted to embody it, and be as close to a brain in a jar as I could get. Spock was my role-model. And so, as a result, I never really interacted with peers outside of the classroom (and then it was in a very limited, intellectualized way), I despised sports and all physical activity (and consequently am quite overweight), etc. Around late junior year of high school I read AS and I adopted Objectivism as my guiding philosophy intellectually. I became more comfortable around peers, even got a girlfriend (which I shouldn't have, we had little in common and I simply loved being liked, it was profoundly irrational; failed after five months). Then college came, and I lost contact with most of my friends from high school, suffered from depression, grades suffered, and then I worked my way out of it after six months, back in April.

Just to make sure how way out on the edge I was in terms of this whole mind-body dichotomy, reason is everything thing: At one point a few years ago, I hated having to have a body. Eating, sleeping, bathing, going to the restroom, all of those necessary bodily functions, I despised (I did them because I had to, I never refused to take showers or anything, haha) because they were distractions and felt like they were degrading me. I hated the idea of sex and relationships so much (they were base, not purely intellectual) that I at times was disgusted with my own existence because I came from my parents having sex, which was a concession to beastiality. It was pretty ridiculous to be honest. But even though I'm over that now (certainly consciously), the aftermath still remains.

The idea of being friends with people, like hanging out and talking in a non-debate-like context is a difficult one for me to imagine (my one friend likes debating, and most of our conversations end up that way, even over trivial things, because its amusing and its the only form of conversation I'm adept at). I'm not even sure whether relationships (romantic and friendship-wise) are a value, or why they should be. And I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea of exercise, or anything like that, which hurts my ability to get physically fit. But, even so, emotionally, I don't really want to be. The idea of taking care of my body is foreign to me, even though I know I am my body and vice versa, that fact isn't real to me, its just an abstract idea.

So my question is, how do you go about fixing your own subconscious? I understand I'm supposed to make rational decisions, but I'm so great at rationalizing I have difficulty distinguishing between when I'm rationalizing my behavior away and when I'm actually given a legitimate explanation for it. Is there Objectivist literature on becoming more integrated emotionally and intellectually? And on social relationships, and their value? And another related thing, is being overweight necessarily immoral by Objectivist standards? I apologize for the long post, but I just wanted to make sure I provided everyone with what they would need to give an informed opinion on my situation, and point me in the direction of useful materials. Just to be clear: I no longer hold any of the views expressed in the 2nd or 3rd paragraphs. Just have the consequences of holding them for so long, emotionally and socially.

Thanks for your time.

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Put it this way - would it make sense to you if you really liked using the internet to neglect to take care of the computer that serves to give form and hosting to the internet for you? Would you think it shows how much you really liked that internet access if you let your computer overheat or get crumbs and sticky stuff all gunked up in the keyboard until it got hard to type or just didn't bother to replace a busted monitor or burnt out light in your screen? Would you say taking the time and care to clean out that keyboard and make sure the computer won't overheat by adding fans is showing some kind of disloyalty/disrespect to your love, the internet? Not taking good care of your body when you want to care for your mind is sort of like a kind of biting the hand that feeds. Your body is part of you, but it isn't just something that so happens to be there too, it is something which makes the mind possible; so I think that is why generally disrespecting your body necessarily to some extent casts disrespect on your mind too because the body is necessary for you as a whole to exist. Yes, your mind and body are not enemies, but very tight allies and you take care of one and it helps the other and likewise for neglect in the long run. The body is not a "necessary evil" since no such thing exists when being necessary to man's life is our very standard of good. So, if it helps, you can try to think of it as all taking care of your body is a contribution to furthering your mind's well being too, just more indirectly though just as necessarily. If you want to show you really care about your mind you need to show you care enough to put care into that which makes it possible. As one simple example, to make this perhaps more palpable, consider how when you are tired or sick or poorly nourished how greatly diminished your ability to think is even if it isn't yet bad enough to kill you. You can take care of the bodily concerns like sleeping and eating as your way to further your mental wellness. Try to go on an practice taking care of your physical well being with this sort of thing in mind and see if you can notice the differences between your mental health when you do and do not take care of yourself physically. Taking more conscious note of this may help make it seem more real to you. Maybe try keeping some brief logs over a couple weeks on the subject and note correlations between what kinds of moods and concentration you have when you neglect sleep or when you've just been binging on nothing but sugar all day and that kind of thing versus when you are taking care of your physical form. General serious realization of the value something has in your life in a way you can really see it will tend to garner more respect for something from you. (<-- goal here is to put it in a way that maybe will strike you differently than before and that way cause an emotional realignment, not to try to convince you of the rightness of not having a mind/body split, something which you already know is bad. Likewise for the following on love and friendship.)

As for friendships and romances, those I think are an issue of principles in a way. What I mean is that if something is a good thing - virtues and values - for a human person to have when it comes to you, unless there's some unusual circumstances, wouldn't it be good in another human person? You're not some magical exception to the rule where with all the essentials the same it is still the case that for you and only you is it good to be honest, productive, rational, et cetera. This recognition of good in others can earn basic respect and good will from you to various other people who display these qualities. When you get to more specific instantiations of these things that more closely mirror your own instantiations of them or ones you value more particularly in general - like people with common career interests or hobbies and such - that is when you can start seeing specific enough good things about people for a friendship. You care about and enjoy them for their values much like you care about and enjoy your values themselves because this person is sort of like a walking embodiment of them too, something making them concrete for you to experience in another human. The benefit here is in sharing with somebody else who can especially display and appreciate things that are of particular value to you as a specific individual and which therefore probably matter to you more than most other stuff. Maybe the two of you can do some projects together and get them done faster that way or through discussions with each other figure out things you otherwise may not have on topics even most other good people wouldn't have known about or been very interested in. As for romance, that is similar except it is about the more specific, personal overall view and approach you have for life. If you can't imagine much for what you could want in a friend and/or lover, perhaps you may first want to check and make sure of how well defined your personal values are, if you have things that are particular to you and not just mostly broad things that are good for humans in general that you care about.

On exercise, do as much as will be worth the cost for you. Unless you have some bad signs showing up when you go to the doctor or are heavy enough it may in the long run wear on your heart or joints a lot, in my admittedly highly uninformed opinion, you probably don't need to worry a whole lot at this time. I don't enjoy much exercise, but I don't seem to have much of any ill health problems so far due to this, so I don't worry about this too much right now myself (I don't have anything which would make me worry about joint stress or something like that even which would be a long run problem though or else I'd have at least bit more concern than I presently do.) You may want to see if you can find particular exercises you like more too. I don't really have the cash to do these much, but I've found for example I really enjoy going to the ice skating rink and swimming because I find them fun getting to move about a lot without getting too hot. Maybe you could also try doing things that let you do some other stuff at the same time, like jogging or riding a bike while listening to music or books on tape or podcasts.

I know there is more information out there though on the value of relationships and friendships and so on. Have you read much besides Atlas Shrugged on Objectivism and/or have you read some of the stuff in there recently on those topics to refresh your memory? On friendship in particular and its values I know I have a bunch of notes with me that I took from one of the optional courses at Ocon this summer on the topic which I could perhaps go dig out and relate some of to you if you'd like. If you haven't looked over it before, here's the lexicon entry on love (which also addresses friendship some too): love Hopefully there's been at least something of a little use here. If not, well, I tried. If you don't get much more useful information here soon, you could probably write in to Peikoff (though be prepared to wait around three months for an answer if you do that route) or maybe Objectivist psychologist Ellen Kenner who I know (still? I'm not sure when the thing is held) has a radio show where the site says she answers questions. As for the weight question, you could probably look up information on exactly what kinds of health issues exist related to being overweight all kinds of places on the web or ask your doctor and you can judge for yourself how much risk under what conditions you are willing to take with that thing which allows you to keep on functioning with that precious mind of yours. If you still think you need more of an Oist perspective on the issue though, I know on Noodlefood in recent times Diana has taken a particularly evident concern for the issue of weight, exercise, and nutrition generally, so she may have thought over this topic more and perhaps could speak to you a little more and with more information if you ask the question in one of the twice weekly open threads.

Oh, and by the way, I'm not going to complain about post length at all. I have zero room to complain about anybody's posts being long at all first, but also, it's your life, you should be concerned enough about it not to worry about anybody else getting cranky over one longer post from you in the start rather than giving you advice based on not getting the full context or having to spend twice as long reading further future posts correcting misunderstandings. Why bother post at all if you aren't going to make it good enough to possibly get what you actually hoped to accomplish with it? And besides, nobody is forced to read it, they only do so if they choose, otherwise they can simply move on, no harm done. ;)

Edited by bluecherry
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You write "I have great difficulty.... in my automatic assumptions which guide my thinking..."

Don't you see, you are already on your way. Self- awareness is the start of growth, imo. To be brave enough to look at you and your past, objectively and clearly, is a big battle won. All motivation follows from this.

What happens next is remaking those old automatic assumptions, utilizing your new conscious approach, until they become 're-programmed' (dislike that term) to align with what you have learned to value.

There is a time lag, I found, between one's mind, and one's emotional self, and this can't be fought or rushed too much. Excellence is a habit. (Aristotle)

Also, I get the impression that you are extremely rigorous; a fine quality in a scientist, and a philosopher. Maybe just be a little kinder to yourself..... ;)

(My two euros'-worth -- banking details to follow) :P

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So my question is, how do you go about fixing your own subconscious? I understand I'm supposed to make rational decisions, but I'm so great at rationalizing I have difficulty distinguishing between when I'm rationalizing my behavior away and when I'm actually given a legitimate explanation for it
I think it is mostly about doing more of what you know to be right, while trying to figure out how you can make it most pleasurable. You could set yourself goals for the year... a few measurable things you will do which you know are not really out of your reach if you just push yourself a little. You might break those goal down into steps and try to focus on moving toward your goal.

Is there Objectivist literature on becoming more integrated emotionally and intellectually?
I think many books written by non-Objectivists would work. Dr. Hurd has a list of books he recommends on various topics. Dr. Ellen Keller has a smaller list like that too. You might find a relevant title among those. Otherwise, check out a local bookstore and you'll probably find something at least close to what you're looking for.
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So my question is, how do you go about fixing your own subconscious?

Just a thought...You might want to consider working through some of the extensive material on repairing and nurturing objective self esteem by Nathaniel Branden. [Gasp!] (Honoring the Self, Taking Responsibility, The Six Pillars of Self Esteem, etc.) Don't take my word for it, just go to his site and read some of the essays & articles to see if he works for you.


I can say that if it weren't for NB's sentence stem techniques and workshops, I might not have integrated objectivism into my life as much as I have, and would probably not have the business I do, and might not even be alive.

On an even deeper level, you might want to investigate the works of Alice Miller, psychologist, philosopher, sociologist, & researcher in childhood mistreatment. Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, Banished Knowledge, For Your Own Good, The Truth Shall Set You Free, etc. http://www.alice-miller.com/index_en.php

On a side note, in one of her books Alice Miller pointed to a study done about the backgrounds of Euroterrorists (circa 70s/80s) which found that the most hard core of the bunch came from "families" with parents who were religious leaders, practicing psychologists or psychiatrists or practicing intellectuals. When both parents had these characterists, and where physically abusive, the result was almost certainly a terrorist who were incapable of seeing people with whom they disagreed with as human anymore.

Stay Focused,


Edited by aristotlejones
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For literature and audio that deals directly or indirectly with the topic of living a well integrated life, I recommend the following:

Dr. Edwin Locke's The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators and his other writings.

Craig Biddle's works.

Dr. Andrew Bernstein's works including his novel.

The novel Tales of the Mall Masters by David Gulbraa.

A book on epistemology called How Ideas Work: Think with Conviction and Act with Confidence by Kent Worthington.

The writings of Dr. Michael Hurd including his book Effective Therapy.

The writings of Dr. Jerry Kirkpatrick

The writings of Dr. Edith Packer

Finally, lots of stuff at the Ayn Rand Bookstore, including the book Ayn Rand Answers, which contains a few pertinent excerpts.


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