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Developing a sense of life - how?

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Tenure, it's truly incredible how much the picture you're painting of your experiences and thoughts reminds me of myself. Originally I was going to post this in the "Happy Birthday" thread, but I guess this is a more appropriate place. Anyway, just as you didn't enjoy your 18th birthday, neither did I enjoy my 17th, 18th, 19th, or 20th. In general, I haven't allowed myself to enjoy my life for about the past 4 years. There were lots of good things that happened, but I didn't enjoy much of it; it wasn't all bad, by any means, but I was generally pretty depressed. Lately, things have been getting much better. The solution, for me, has been twofold.

(1) Truly integrating the benevolent universe premise. I've always thought of myself as being very intelligent, done very well in school, and my parents gave me a good start in life. And I haven't really taken any wrong turns. But I still came to essentially hold the malevolent universe premise, because many bad things happened (losing important friends and family members, not getting that big scholarship, major romantic defeats, and the like). My accomplishments began to seem irrelevant, and my "emotional background" was "depressed." In other words, by default, I was very unhappy - when I got up in the morning, or whenever, in general. What I had to realize was that those bad things were accidents. They are not the norm. That is not what to anticipate. Rather, one should anticipate success. Man is alive; man has a rational faculty; man is efficacious, in general; therefore, success and happiness are the norm, not the accident, and actual accidents/bad things are accidents (which is why "accident" means, in addition to "something bad," something that is not supposed to, and does not, happen normally). This is really just my understanding of the benevolent universe premise, but thinking about it thoroughly - coming to the point where I can easily type it up, in my own words, and be convinced by it, and understand it, and believe it, and know it - has made all the difference in the world.

(2) While the above might be relevant to you, THIS is the thing that really strikes a chord with me when I read what you're written in this thread. The second part of my solution was establishing a sense of mental efficacy. Proving to myself, or knowing, that I can think very well, and solve complex mental problems, and be creative. You've mentioned something about focus in the current free will thread, so you know what I'm talking about when I say, "the fundamental choice to focus." I've validated the fact that if I truly choose to focus, I can be very successful in my thinking. The more you choose to focus and find success, the more often you'll choose to focus, and the better you'll feel. Thinking will become a habit. And without this habit, one cannot have a sense of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Without those, one cannot avoid accidents/be successful, and the benevolent universe premise does no good, because it doesn't apply to you. Mental efficacy is key.

I really think the second point may apply to you. I've seen several mentions on your part of feeling unable to think of things, or thinking that you cannot solve your problems, or feeling disconnected from reality and doubting your conclusions. All these, to me, suggest a lack of mental confidence/sense of mental efficacy.

Finally, here is an interesting tie-in. You mentioned having trouble feeling like you love freedom. Well, freedom = capitalism (in the political sense, which I take it you meant). Many people think capitalism is a giant competition where only the fittest survive - even I felt that, after being familiar with Objectivism for years. I felt like only the Dagny Taggarts and the Hank Reardens could win. But actually, capitalism results in the lowest unemployment rate ever in history. In America, almost everyone who tries can get a job (and we're not even that capitalistic). Capitalism is like the ultimate safety net. If you're even somewhat intelligent, you're going to be able to fit into a good job where you will excel, and you will be successful in life. When I made this integration - when I saw how points (1) and (2) basically tie into this - I began to love freedom like never before.

EDIT: I meant to include in the paragraph about (2), i.e. mental efficacy, that despite being very intelligent and excelling in school, I still developed a sense of mental inefficacy. I wanted to avoid thinking sometimes, in certain situations, and I didn't have much confidence in my own thoughts. Maybe all those 99's in high school were just too much of a disappointment, and made me feel stupid. (I'm being serious, in that comment.) My point is: anyone can develop a sense of mental inefficacy if they don't thoughtfully validate and confirm their own mental efficacy.

Edited by BrassDragon
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Tenure,

There are a great many things that can be said in response to your situation, one of them is that at your age you have a great deal yet to be experienced. There is a great deal to learn about the parameters of life, what reality will throw at you, and there is no substitute for the school of hard knocks. Sometimes you only learn not to do something when it beats you over the head. You only learn what hot is when you touch the burner on your stove. You have to take risks to test your talents, and test the world. It's just part of life.

As to the approach to use, in the widest terms, take Ayn Rand's advice and use the three fundamental values: Reason, Purpose, Self-Esteem. Always apply reason to every situation in life. Think through things logically continually, so that your subconscious is loaded with good ideas and evaluations. This will make you a more efficacious thinker and achiever. Find a purpose in life. This may be hard for you, because few people find a career at 18 years old, but a purpose is important to giving you direction. It tells you what you want to focus most on in life. If you do these two things and succeed you will gain self-esteem. And, just to help you along, if you don't have a purpose yet, make it your purpose to find a purpose.

I want to emphasize that reason is the first and most crucial step. Apply it to every thing as best you can. You can think Sherlock Holmes as an exemplar of this, or maybe Howard Roark or John Galt, whomever.

Another idea, Andrew Bernstein has said that one should live life as an achiever, and value pursuer. Live to pursue values to improve your life and happiness. Live that way all of the time, so that you are stacking things in your favor over your life. The values can be small things, like the foods you like, or it can be big things, like the career you want to live. But, live to pursue values.

As to why things are hard for you now, I think it's because your subconscious is loaded with bad/incorrect conclusions, and you're going to have to work to weed those out and correct as many of them as you're able. Your subconscious is where all of the knowledge, experiences and evaluations over your life time are stored. It’s like a library of all of your thought. There could be lots of bad books in your library, in the form of bad/incorrect conclusions. Those bad subconscious conclusions will inevitably screw up your sense of life, and they could do so in horrendous ways, depending on how wrong the conclusions are. But, the fact is you can fix them by weeding out the bad conclusions by replacing bad thought with good thought, and put your subconscious in order. This can only be done a book at a time. You have to, so to speak, make corrections to each of the books by re-evaluating the content of each one separately. This can take a long time. It can take years, but in your case, given your age, I think it won't take long. If you do this logically, your sense-of-life will improve accordingly. Build a massive objective library of thought, and put yourself in harmony with reality and your goals.

Don’t expect over night to blow the problem away, but do expect continual incremental improvement as you weed out one bad idea after another. It might be helpful to weed out the biggest problems first, if you can identify them.

As to you personally, from what little I gather on this forum, you’re highly intelligent and highly motivated, so the idea that you have no talent is ridiculous. Just don’t think intelligence is a substitute for hard work. If you never learn anything, or do anything in the next ten years, you’ll be exactly where you are now. So, you have to work and think hard to improve your life.

Again, I want to emphasize reason! B)

Anyway, I thought I’d give my 2 cents.

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Tenure, it's truly incredible how much the picture you're painting of your experiences and thoughts reminds me of myself. Originally I was going to post this in the "Happy Birthday" thread, but I guess this is a more appropriate place. Anyway, just as you didn't enjoy your 18th birthday, neither did I enjoy my 17th, 18th, 19th, or 20th. In general, I haven't allowed myself to enjoy my life for about the past 4 years. There were lots of good things that happened, but I didn't enjoy much of it; it wasn't all bad, by any means, but I was generally pretty depressed. Lately, things have been getting much better. The solution, for me, has been twofold.

Can I just say - this is the kind of thing I really need: real life examples of people over-coming their malevolent universe premises.

(1) Truly integrating the benevolent universe premise.... My accomplishments began to seem irrelevant, and my "emotional background" was "depressed." In other words, by default, I was very unhappy - when I got up in the morning, or whenever, in general. What I had to realize was that those bad things were accidents. They are not the norm. That is not what to anticipate. Rather, one should anticipate success. Man is alive; man has a rational faculty; man is efficacious, in general; therefore, success and happiness are the norm, not the accident.

That's where I am right now, and I can really identify. I wake up and generally statt dredding the day. One of the things keeping me in line is my Google Calendar - whenever I fill it up with stuff, my day feels good. Even if it's just stuff like '11:00-11:30: Create Spreadsheet for Invoices', or '14:00 - 15:00: clean all the windows in the house'. But then I read something like this guy's blog and I read him talking about how he pitys people who need to busy themselves to make themselves feel focused, and suddenly I feel really depressed and demotivated, like this crap is all I'm capable of, whilst he can wake up and think, as he puts it, "Today I'll learn Japanese!".

The second part of my solution was establishing a sense of mental efficacy. Proving to myself, or knowing, that I can think very well, and solve complex mental problems, and be creative... The more you choose to focus and find success, the more often you'll choose to focus, and the better you'll feel. Thinking will become a habit.

Do you have any recommendations? Maybe doing a Su-do-ku puzzle everyday or something, to keep my brain sharp and remind me of my ability to sovle puzzles and apply my mind? Those things annoy me - I prefer words to numbers. So maybe some sort of word games?

You're right in saying that I'm stuck in my old, bad premises about the world. But the thing is, it's really hard to get that initial bit of motivation, to get the ball rolling. When I've got no successes to look back on, I have nothing to make me think, ''Hey yeah! I can do stuff! And now I'm gonna do more stuff''. Sometimes I really wish Ayn Rand were alive today, so I could go meet her and recieve the same kind of transfusion of energy that people like Nathaniel and Dr Peikoff recieved. I envy those guys, in a good way.

I really think the second point may apply to you. I've seen several mentions on your part of feeling unable to think of things, or thinking that you cannot solve your problems, or feeling disconnected from reality and doubting your conclusions. All these, to me, suggest a lack of mental confidence/sense of mental efficacy.
You're right there.

Many people think capitalism is a giant competition where only the fittest survive - even I felt that, after being familiar with Objectivism for years. I felt like only the Dagny Taggarts and the Hank Reardens could win.
Yeah, that's actually precisely how I feel.

If you're even somewhat intelligent, you're going to be able to fit into a good job where you will excel, and you will be successful in life. When I made this integration - when I saw how points (1) and (2) basically tie into this - I began to love freedom like never before.
I've been starting to consider moving to America. The theatrical community is great here, I mean, we produce great plays whilst America generally makes great films. But the opportunities are far less. But then I really would rather be in a moderatly good play in Britain for a short run, then to have a starring role in a mediocre American movie.

I think I have a lot to figure out about what I want and what I can expect in my future.

My point is: anyone can develop a sense of mental inefficacy if they don't thoughtfully validate and confirm their own mental efficacy.

And don't I know it? Heh.

There are a great many things that can be said in response to your situation, one of them is that at your age you have a great deal yet to be experienced. There is a great deal to learn about the parameters of life, what reality will throw at you, and there is no substitute for the school of hard knocks.
And for all the correction of my mistakes, my apologies and reparations (I'm serious, I'm like some Alcoholic Anonymous graduate), I still have a lot of past mistakes to make up for, and a lot of hard knocks which I never really dealt with in my past, and that I'm having to learn to deal with now. If there's anything I've learnt, it's that time doesn't soothe wounds, and ignorance and evasion never make things better.

Reason, Purpose, Self-Esteem. Always apply reason to every situation in life. Think through things logically continually, so that your subconscious is loaded with good ideas and evaluations.

I try, but I rarely see the fruits of my labour. I make logical, rational arguments, and I think about things a lot, but they just fall on deaf ears with friends and family, and it feels like I'm making no progress with my life where it really counts. But perhaps, as you say, doing it will make me a better person.

Find a purpose in life. This may be hard for you, because few people find a career at 18 years old, but a purpose is important to giving you direction.
But what I hate, as I've stated earlier, is how everything seems fraught with failure. You can spend your life as an obscure actor, never recieving any recognition for your talents. Or indeed, you might like acting, but never actually be any good. I guess I'm just really bad at identifying what I'm really good at. I need other people to judge for me, so I can know what's going on in my life, and where it's going.

I want to emphasize that reason is the first and most crucial step. Apply it to every thing as best you can. You can think Sherlock Holmes as an exemplar of this, or maybe Howard Roark or John Galt, whomever.
I like to think of some amalgamation of Roark, Galt, Peikoff, Rand, Batman and House M.D. What strange kind of hybrid would that create?

Another idea, Andrew Bernstein has said that one should live life as an achiever, and value pursuer. Live to pursue values to improve your life and happiness. Live that way all of the time, so that you are stacking things in your favor over your life. The values can be small things, like the foods you like, or it can be big things, like the career you want to live. But, live to pursue values.
At the moment, my top values could be considered:

1) My health (I'm skinny, but because of my high metabolism, I don't pay attention to exercising or eating right all the time, because I can't see the immediate effects on my body)

2) Managing my money (I have a big trip coming up, and I still have a lot of money to make before I can go. At my current rate, I may actually end up making far more than I need. In which case, things could be very good for me).

3) Improving my ability to communicate via written expression (i.e. be a better writter).

As to why things are hard for you now, I think it's because your subconscious is loaded with bad/incorrect conclusions, and you're going to have to work to weed those out and correct as many of them as you're able.
Oh man, that's very true.

This can only be done a book at a time. You have to, so to speak, make corrections to each of the books by re-evaluating the content of each one separately.
For me, it seems more like a massive debt at the library where I've taken out all these bad ideas on loan. I can consciously say I've got rid of them, but I've still got a huge reminder of them that I've got pay back. And even then, I've probably still got a photocopy of some of the pages lying around somewhere, tucked into another book, so I can never be sure if I got rid of all the bad stuff.... maybe I'm extending this metaphor too far?

As to you personally, from what little I gather on this forum, you’re highly intelligent and highly motivated, so the idea that you have no talent is ridiculous. Just don’t think intelligence is a substitute for hard work.
Thanks. :) I'm gonna continue trying to focus my mind, but I've got to wrestle with this nagging self doubt. One way to describe it would be a deck-of-cards. I feel like I start feeling insecure about one thing, and the whole deck of cards comes tumbling down.

Take for example, global warming. It's a BIG topic to get your head around. You can't really take any stance on the topic without first investigating a wealth of evidence from both sides, and drawing your own conclusions on who you trust and why. But then I'll make one conclusion, and then I'll see someone discrediting the foundations of my conclusion. And I won't know whether to trust them or not. And basically everything gets left up in abstraction, with no firm foundation. Kind of like the Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy, I guess? Kind of.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Guys, I'm gonna be a bit of an emotional roller coaster for the next few days, probably. I'm pretty much determined to end it with my girlfriend. I just can't take this shit anymore, it's like a drawn out suicide.

Will say more later.

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Can I just say - this is the kind of thing I really need: real life examples of people over-coming their malevolent universe premises.

Well, I'm glad I've been able to help. Sorry I haven't responded in a while... I've been busy. Here goes.

Do you have any recommendations? Maybe doing a Su-do-ku puzzle everyday or something, to keep my brain sharp and remind me of my ability to sovle puzzles and apply my mind? Those things annoy me - I prefer words to numbers. So maybe some sort of word games?

My feelings of not being mentally efficacious were only possible because I was overlooking a huge amount of evidence to the contrary, from my entire life. For example, I got excellent grades throughout high school and most of college; I always read a lot and asked big questions (which led me to find Objectivism); and so on. If you really examine your life, I'm sure you'll realize how smart you are.

As far as specific things, besides schoolwork - I love computer programming. I've heard many Objectivists go into that field (broadly speaking). One of the great things is you can pick up a book on some language (say, Java) in the bookstore and be writing good code relatively soon. I love the way programming books are written - the opposite of many mathematics books I've run across in school, which require supplemental examples from the instructor. I love teaching myself from a book and becoming skilled. Now, this might not be your thing - but it's an example of something I enjoy.

Also, posting to this forum and improving your philosophy/rhetoric skills should make you feel pretty capable.

You're right in saying that I'm stuck in my old, bad premises about the world. But the thing is, it's really hard to get that initial bit of motivation, to get the ball rolling. When I've got no successes to look back on, I have nothing to make me think, ''Hey yeah! I can do stuff! And now I'm gonna do more stuff''. Sometimes I really wish Ayn Rand were alive today, so I could go meet her and recieve the same kind of transfusion of energy that people like Nathaniel and Dr Peikoff recieved. I envy those guys, in a good way.

Are you sure you've no successes to look back on?

Another thing you might try is getting a job. I've never had one (since I've considered myself a full-time student since starting high school), but I've been told earning money - even if the job isn't an intellectual or particularly stimulating one, like working as a waiter in a restaurant - is one of the most rewarding feelings. I'm sure you'll feel efficacious once you start making money.

I've been starting to consider moving to America. The theatrical community is great here, I mean, we produce great plays whilst America generally makes great films. But the opportunities are far less. But then I really would rather be in a moderatly good play in Britain for a short run, then to have a starring role in a mediocre American movie.

That's ironic... you want to come here, and I want to go to Dubai or the Chinese free zones. (Too much socialism here, and it seems to be temporarily on the rise.) Of course, we have different interests. By the way, I think everyone needs to feel successful and efficacious. If you're not going to feel that way acting, do something else. I wanted to be a writer for a long time, and I'd still like to try sometime, but I decided not to fully focus on that now, because I didn't see my chances of being successful as particularly large, and it wasn't worth the risk. Now, there are certainly some cases in which a talent or passion is so significant that it's worth taking the risk that you'll never get "noticed" by a director or a publisher... but you have to know you're good, and find validation in and of yourself.

Now, please take my advice with a pinch of salt - I'm only a couple years older than you and I have a lot to learn. I like computers but I'm not feeling very efficacious as far as careers go, because I'm half way through college and haven't made up my mind on a career.

Edited by BrassDragon
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  • 6 months later...

Just a quick update for those interested (and for those going through a similar kind-of experience in their lives):

A lot's happened since I last posted in this thread about my life. Let's see:

- I ended it with that girl. As Kendall notes, it took me 2 years to resolve the problems with my first ex-gf (i.e. to realise that I couldn't hold the dichotomy between my dedication to her, and her living a life that undercut my core values) by breaking up with her. It took me less than 6 months with this girl. And as I'm about to go onto, even less with the next (about a month and a half) kind-of sort-of girlfriend. The point being, that at a dramatic pace, I'm starting to really realise what I do and don't want out of life, and out of other people.

And onto aforementioned kind-of-sort-of girlfriend

- I had feelings for a girl I'd known for a while but had never really spoken to. I always thought she was very beautiful and cool, but way out of my league. One thing I must say, with enough charisma and daring, no girl is out of reach, if she actually makes you happy. And she did, for a short while, but I realised a lot of what made me happy was just what I'd made up about her in my mind, and wasn't really who I thought she would be.

I think I invested myself too heavily into something we both, literally, out-loud, spoken-conversation, agreed was never really going to go anywhere significant; but hey, it's just more in the "List of reasons why I shouldn't pursue irrational aims". What we had was more a 'friends with benefits' situation (nothing actually sexual beyond kissing and a bit of groping) - it was more a testing of the waters, and we both realised those waters weren't worth swimming in.

I also learnt that, overall, it is best to pursue things that might be good. They might turn out bad, or to not be worth pursuing, but you should at least take the challenge, or you'll never learn what is worth pursuing - you'll atrophy your ability to judge what's good and what isn't.

- I'm a little bit wiser about girls as a result of all this. I'm not willing to compromise myself anymore for another person, because I've seen it just won't work. It doesn't help anyone. I've also learnt that if one has made a bad decision, one should have the guts to call it out as such, and to work to correct. Don't just run from your problems - especially if it involves other people, because you'll just end up hurting people unjustly. I got scared about ending the whole thing, because I thought I might upset her, and because I felt confused about the whole situation, and, well, some people here know what happened, but for the rest of you, well, let's just say I kind of fouled up the whole situation of breaking up with her. Let's just say, if you're going to do something difficult, just do it and get it done with.

- I got two As and a B on my A-Levels! To translate this, I think a 4.0 grade average is the perfect thing for an American to get on their final exams at school, so this was like getting a 3.6 or a 3.8 (especially since that B was very close to an A). It was all down to hard work and dedication to my work. I realised that whatever I was going to do, I was only shutting a door that held some potential rational value by not applying myself, so I went for it, and I'm going to have the chance to at least discover if Uni is the place for me.

Also, my History teacher is using my paper on the Trade Policies of Britain under the rule of the Elizabeth and it's relation to the Spanish Armada later on, as the example of an A Grade paper for his current Elizabethan history class. I think I could have done better (even if I did only get a few marks off a perfect score) - I mean, I think my arguments were very good, but I could have just, well, written it better.

- Almost a week or two out of school, back in July, I started working in Promotions, which is kind of the low-level direct-to-the-people level of advertising. Think leafleting, or questionnaires, or those big activities or events you see going on to hype up a product. Or even just the little bits of advertising you see in a store for different products. You probably don't even think about them, but they just mean that your product is visible, so people think of your product as the popular, available, trust-worthy brand. Like that Simpsons episode where Homer sees the billboard for Clown College.

It's nearly the end of February now, so it's been about 7-8 months that I've been doing this stuff. It's been... interesting. The stuff I've done has been varied. I mean, it's all pretty much mind-numbing work, but the pay is better than working in a shop, and it's an interesting insight into the world of advertising (as my brother puts it: Lies compounded upon lies; the guys in promotions say they need a bigger budget to be more effective; the advertising department of the company says they need more money to come up with better ideas for the promotions guys; the heads of the company itself seems to unquestionably accept what anyone tells them about the effectiveness of a campaign, since there's no objective way to measure it except by... bum buuuum... hiring promo guys to do a survey).

It's been disheartening in that aspect, since I quite like the world of advertising, but it is in many ways a very sleazy business, due to the attitude of most of the people involved - the only likeable people are the people who are actually creating stuff, who come up with the ideas for adverts and an original way to express the benefits of the brand.

I've enjoyed earning money for my work, and I'm going off travelling soon for 3 months (including visiting OCON 08 and the Clemson Capitalism conferences; as well as visiting near-free-trade in action in Hong Kong) as a reward, so that should be fun. I've also learnt a lot about the world and myself and how to better act in the working world.

- I've taken up Wing Tsun, a kind of Kung Fu, where the guiding principle is 'forward'. That is, one only concerns oneself with what is immediately problematic (not that one doesn't think about long-term problems, but that one only deals with the problems immediately manageable). In a fight, this means one doesn't perform unnecessary maneuvers, and just focuses on the main goal: ending the fight and protecting one's life and values - it also means one doesn't get into unnecessary fights.

What this also means, is that one learns how to react to situations. One doesn't freeze up when a big, stinking monster swings a punch at you, one doesn't panic and fret about the problem, but reflexively deals with it. One learns how, when presented with something scary, one will be much safer if one heads into the danger and just starts dealing with it, than if one sits on one's hands worrying. It is better to face the danger, than to let the danger consume you.

It also means that one doesn't back away from a problem, since it gives the conflict more power against you. In a fight, if a guy comes at you, and you start backing away each time he tries to punch you, and you just keep backing away, you're giving him more time to attack you. If you head straight into him, you're dealing with him on your terms, not his. You're calling the shots, and you're not permitting the chance to attack you, because you've already broken his jaw. This is really just a concrete application of what Rand and many before her have said: that evil only exists by the sanction of good men. If you refuse to let it feed off of you, if you refuse to deal on its terms, then you've already won.

Besides these abstract concepts, it's also helped me more immediately in aspects such as health and self-esteem. I feel a lot healthier and stronger than I did even two weeks ago, when I started. I've been going four nights a week, for two weeks, and I'm going to be going for my first Grade next week. I'm kind of terrified, because I'm not sure quite what to expect, but with all the effort I've put in, I feel confident I can pull it off.

Anyway, that's pretty much my life upto now. I'm going to Uni; I'm practicing something which makes me feel self-efficacious; I'm earning money, and, yes, ladies, I'm single - so here's your chance to date Mr Future-Roark 2008! :thumbsup:

I've got to admit, as some people here know, I'm far from being on top of things. Sometimes I crash down really hard and start doubting myself and everything in my life, but I learn to apply some perspective and to only worry about the things I can immediately change. I'm not going to be the 'me' I want to be over-night; if it were that easy, it probably wouldn't be worth pursuing - BUT, I'm working on it, and I know that worrying about the goal isn't going to get me there - taking my first steps is.

I'd like to thank the people on this forum who have invested so much time in helping me, and who've always believed in my ability to better myself, no matter how much I keep self-deprecating. You've been a source of inspiration to me, and I hope one day, we can all achieve that world that we want for ourselves.

Edited by Tenure
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Congratulations for getting yourself together better so quickly. It took me about four years to go from a self-loathing depressed wreck to the confident college woman I am now, so to get to where you are now so quickly is pretty awesome. Keep that up. I'm sure you will, now that you know you can... :dough:

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  • 4 weeks later...

In Peikoff's most recent podcast, he is asked whether he believes an adult's "sense of life" can be changed. He says he's never seen it done, that he could be ignorant of the matter, but he basically settles on, "I doubt it could be done right now."

That is puzzling to me. I have changed my own sense of life significantly, both as a teenager and adult. To me it looks like people regularly do, to degrees, change in this way on the forum. In fact, I think a number of people frequent this forum for that very reason.

I guess the interesting question for me is: does anyone side with Peikoff, thinking that a sense of life cannot be changed, as the state of psychology exists today? (Peikoff notes that later down the line in civilization, a sense of life might be changed quickly with a few visits to a psychologist).

And then to throw a few things out there: can it be changed only "so deep," where maybe some darkly-styled or -themed art and stories one likes will always be remembered fondly? Or can it be totally changed? To anyone who has tried to change his sense of life, how successful were you? If successful, how long did it take you? Personally, any significant change for me took at least two years to totally take effect.

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I think what Peikoff was saying was that, since a sense of life is a broad conceptual view of life, formed from everything one encounters, it is incredibly difficult to uproot each and everyone of those experiences and place them through your new philosophical filter. This is especially true if you have long since forgotten an experience, but subconciously, your old philosophical evaluation of it remains, as a value on the side of 'Life sucks'.

As he said, he doesn't know if a sense of life can be changed, but that it could be due to the fact that he simply hasn't looked for such instances.

I'd be interested to see what a psychologist like Dr Kenner or Branden would say. In fact, I'll email them both now and tell you if I get a response.

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Did he indicate what age he considers "adult"? I believe some research shows that by about age 30, for the average person, their value system is pretty much fixed and the chances of getting such a large shift in essential values to really change a sense of life would therefore be pretty difficult. Remember these are averages. I do have friends whoa re Objectivists who are of that age or older that have told me they do feel different about things now...

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  • 2 years later...

I think what Peikoff was saying was that, since a sense of life is a broad conceptual view of life, formed from everything one encounters, it is incredibly difficult to uproot each and everyone of those experiences and place them through your new philosophical filter. This is especially true if you have long since forgotten an experience, but subconciously, your old philosophical evaluation of it remains, as a value on the side of 'Life sucks'.

As he said, he doesn't know if a sense of life can be changed, but that it could be due to the fact that he simply hasn't looked for such instances.

I'd be interested to see what a psychologist like Dr Kenner or Branden would say. In fact, I'll email them both now and tell you if I get a response.

I would say from personal experience that whether or not one can change one's sense of life is the wrong question. Let me explain; as a deluded person's sense of life is the sum of the type of things like art music, etc. that they remain to loyal to on a purely subconscious level, for a person lacking a conceptual understanding of the issues involved,they won't be able to say why they remain loyal to that which brings them pleasure. The easiest way to understand this is to think of an innocent, confused person, who consciously holds values like a belief in the mystical or supernatural that conflict with, say a love for classical music which centers around the rational creation of a musical work in an ordered, meticulous fashion. But for a person who has once held rational values but has betrayed them, all that remains is what might be termed a "sense of death." For this reason I would not seek advice from Mr. Branden.

I have skimmed Barbara Branden's unauthorized bio of Ayn Rand, and found the writing and schclarship to be of such a consistently low and inaccurate quality that I put it down after a few minutes in sheer disgust. Given this, and the fact that my understanding of Ayn Rand is such that I do not believe that she would not have distanced herself from the Brandens without cause, and that she would not have done so without rational cause I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt regardless of the errors she may have made(possible affair,etc.). From the evidence I have seen so far, and I am still pursuing my evaluation(will soon read "The Passion of Ayn rand's Critics"), Mr. Branden is even worse than his wife.

To return to the first point, when a conflict exists between what one finds enjoyment in and the values one embraces, meaning when one values something beautiful and vibrant and inspiring on a subsconsious level, but embraces consciously "values" which attempt to destroy what one enjoys, then to correct that error, one must examine one's premises,learn the cause of the disconnect, and bring one's values into accord with one's sense of life.

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I'm going through the same crisis as the OP at the age of 30. While I revere reason and justice, I recognize that the way I live my life day-to-day is significantly incongruous with my consciously-held values. I'm not a smug hypocrite but I know my self-sabatoging behavior is governed by irrational convictions that got entrenched into my subconscious decades ago and hence, became elusive to my identification faculties.

Recently, I got into a physical altercation with someone whom I could have overpowered but I made no real effort to defend myself. Reflecting on the event, I realized that I actually had been more afraid of hurting my assailant than getting hurt myself; a wantonly irrational premise.

That premise was motivated by a deeper premise: Never do harm to others. On its face, that's a palatable directive but it became self-destructive when integrated as an absolute; in reality, there are occasions when you have to step on some toes to get essential needs met especially when those toes are set to collide into your groin. I believe this is how altruism corrupts its true believers; by seeding itself into a person's moral identity to the point where irrational guilt disarms him.

Edited by Mister A
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I'm going through the same crisis as the OP at the age of 30. While I revere reason and justice, I recognize that the way I live my life day-to-day is significantly incongruous with my consciously-held values. I'm not a smug hypocrite but I know my self-sabatoging behavior is governed by irrational convictions that got entrenched into my subconscious decades ago and hence, became elusive to my identification faculties.

The same thing I'd have liked to say to the OP, is what I'll say to you; which is, don't be too hard on yourself.

(Incidentally, kudos to whoever revived this thread, it is a valuable one, with some excellent advice from Kendall and JASKN.)

30 is still young! I'm twice that and still see development in my sense of life, and appreciation of existence, and my rationality. Late developer, I guess.

You, like the others here, are doing plenty of introspection, which means that you are 'self-identifying' at a high rate.

You know yourself, you found the correct philosophical method, and you assess your performance and emotions, too. You are growing all the time.

Some things take care of themselves - excellence is a habit, remember?

My approach to violent altercations has been to avoid them, by other means - first.

If that fails, I think the secret is to tap into that deep sense of justice you possess, and allow yourself to get mad -, instantaneously, and effectively, but coolly.

"Who do they think they are to unjustly attack me, and how can they dare presume on my rational benevolence?" kind of thing.

End it fast, and walk away. Fights are nasty and unnecessary, but rather hurt an attacker than suffer damage yourself.

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  • 2 months later...

Some of the psychological issues discussed on this thread appear to fit the criteria of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, a psychological syndrome common among people who are inclined to be highly intellectual in their approach to life. Psychologist Edith Packer lectured on this topic at an Objectivist conference many years ago. You can read her pamphlet on the topic here:

The Obsessive-Compulsive Syndrome by Edith Packer

Here is a brief description:

This pamphlet deals with the obsessive-compulsive defense mechanism, which gives the individual the illusion of power and control. In it, Dr. Packer describes the elements of the mechanism, its causes, its use in everyday life, and the different varieties in which it appears. She discusses the arbitrary, out-of-context “shoulds” that motivate the compulsive personality, the compulsive personality's need for omniscience, its chronic doubting and “all-or-nothing” attitude, and the special difficulties a compulsive personality encounters in romantic relationships.

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You're only 17? Well one thing you don't need to worry about is having squandered any of your life

ages 0 - 11 nobody expects anything of you

ages 12 - 17 you need to develop general intellectual abilities (just doing a fair bit of reading is probably enough)

ages 18+ you need to start developing specific abilities that will serve you well in life and your career. a lot of people mess this up straight away by picking a bad degree, not realizing how important it is to earn money, etc. you;ve not even had a chance to squander any of that time yet.

find something to work towards. like being a computer programmer, or an architect, something you enjoy (you may need to try things out) and preferably something lucrative. then you'll never worry about what the future holds or how other people judge you, because you KNOW what your future holds. you need to make your life a journey to a certain destination... don't worry about sense of life, that;s just all the implicit values you pick up along the way. and again, don't worry about not accomplishing things, YET. take the long view

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Some of the psychological issues discussed on this thread appear to fit the criteria of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, a psychological syndrome common among people who are inclined to be highly intellectual in their approach to life.

That link has no context provided in it. It also probably trivializes what really would qualify as a personality disorder.

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That link has no context provided in it. It also probably trivializes what really would qualify as a personality disorder.

Dr. Packer clearly states (p. 4) that the focus of her paper is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. I noticed that this PDF provides only a partial transcript of her lecture. The full lecture is available for purchase from The Jefferson School website (which I guess is the context you refer to).

However, anyone interested can just as well read about it on wikipedia:

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

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Dr. Packer clearly states (p. 4) that the focus of her paper is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

To clarify, I meant the way the paper was talking about OCPD without a particular context probably trivializes what OCPD actually is (at least in the beginning, since it's a partial transcript). Similar to how ADHD is likely overdiagnosed and applied to people who are merely hyperactive people, mentioning OCPD here in the context of this thread seems to be seeking more explanation beyond what is sufficient. "Overthinking" explains things well enough. The paper you linked isn't talking about anyone in particular, so it's really easy to produce a narrative no different than fiction.

Edited by Eiuol
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