Psychology

Conquering Fears, freedom, Psychology, Self development

What Human Beings Can Be, They Must BE


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“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.” 
Epictetus

“What human beings can be, they must be” Abraham Maslow

Question. Have you ever given a thought to how much of your potential are you really using? 15% 20%? Can you honestly say that you are at your 100%? If not, why not? What’s holding you back?

It’s funny how it seems like the focus of psychology today is to prevent everyone from killing themselves and the apparent solution is pills, pills, and more pills. The terms related to the word psychology and mental health are anxiety, depression and, disorders. Although Freud left us with immense and eye-opening psychological insight, it’s fair to say that his research was extremely one-sided towards sickness and coping with life.

But what about thriving? What about winning? What about psychologically flourishing?

These were the questions early 20th-century psychologist Abraham Maslow asked himself. He thought that the goal of psychology should be focused not only on psychological sickness but on ultimate psychological health as well.

“It is as if Freud supplied us with the sick half of psychology, and now we must fill it out with the healthy half”- Abraham Maslow

The core difference between the psychologically flourishing and the sick and mediocre is the ability to self-actualize.

Ok, where to start?

The famous Hierarchy of Needs, of course.

You might already be familiar with it, anyway, let’s revise it again as it is fundamental.

In order for you to become a self-actualizer (as it is a never-ending process), you need to solve your basic needs first so that you can then focus on the more complex ones, you need to climb up the hierarchy.

Right now, as you are reading this, you’re probably not thinking about where you are going to sleep tonight, fortunately. Neither you’re worried about your safety. You would simply not be reading this at all, as you’d have greater, more basic concerns to attend to, like keeping yourself alive. This is a good thing, as you’ve already satisfied the most basic necessities and in reading this, you are actively looking for higher, more complex needs.

When you are honestly hungry, or really, really tired, nothing inhabits your consciousness other than thoughts of sleep and food. Nothing would make you happier than a delicious hamburger or a comfy bed. When you are hungry enough, everything seems to be delicious. I’m sure you’ve experimented this before, if not try hiking for an entire day without eating anything, I can assure you that you’ll eat anything they put in front of you. 

Once these needs are satisfied, magically, your focus shifts towards something else, such as that girl or boy you’ve been texting to lately or maybe having a couple of drinks with your friends. You ascend on the hierarchy. As you can see in the pyramid, you cannot begin to self-actualize until you’ve satisfied your more basic needs, so there is always work to be done. Once you’ve ascended enough in the hierarchy you’ll be ready to become everything you are able to become, to self actualize.

“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature. This need we may call self-actualization… It refers to man’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially — Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality

It’s almost as if you have to make a decision. 

The decision

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? Epictetus

Decide to commit to developing yourself to the fullest. Once that decision is made, the mastery of self becomes your way of life. The psyche is an extremely complex and interesting place, curiosity, here, will function as a torch that lights your way as you submerge into the inner realm of potential inside your psyche. You will begin to see your psyche as a vast unexplored terrain, motivated to acquire greater knowledge of your inner depths.

Is there anything in the world more interesting than finding out what’s there? To see discover how far you can go in whichever field you choose? It’s like being a kid in an amusement park once you think about it. Bear this in mind, doing this, is entirely under your control, right now. Rather than being driven by wealth or status, things outside your control, you can instead choose to commit to your self-mastery and self-created life missions. and in the process develop the necessary energies to master the skills needed to complete your goals and in the process actualize your latent potentials. 

“Self actualizing people have the wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others” — Abraham Maslow

Just like getting down from a rollercoaster ride, throwing yourself from an airplane or asking a someone you don’t know out. You will feel alive, you will feel motivated and renewed. The self-actualizer will often feel this, as there is seldom anything more rewarding than discovering new realms of potential inside yourself, these experiences will transform you in the process. 

Become Self-Defined 

If you are no longer feeling compelled to define yourself in terms of wealth or status, but instead see those things as byproducts of realizing your self-mastery, you will find that your sense of self-worth will be defined, as it must be, by yourself. Knowing this, we can logically imply that you will no longer seek approval in social standards or authority that try to determine how you should live, instead, you will actively be creating your own formula. The self-actualizer is free from the limiting need for social acceptance and the obsession of social comparison, rather, he takes care of that job for himself as Montaigne succinctly puts it. 

“I have my own laws and my own court to judge me and I refer to this rather than elsewhere”. Michael Montaigne, Essays

And further Maslow

“Self-actualizers have become strong enough to be independent of the good opinion of other people or even their affection. The honors, the status, the rewards, the popularity, the pretige and the love they can bestow must have become less important than self-development and inner growth.” Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality

The Fight For Potential

If fulfilling our potentials were easy, everyone would do it, but it is no secret that almost no one is operating at their highest. Why?

“We must understand that the dark forces are as normal as the growth forces” Abraham Maslow

Everyone wishes to be the best they could be. But, as much as we desire that, we are also attracted to safety and comfort, also attracted to avoid challenges. The comfort zone is no myth, and it is there where dreams go to die. As the very challenges and fears, we avoid, are the ones which will lead to personal growth and also make it possible for us to become self-actualized. 

The price you pay for succumbing to comfort and a life without challenge is high, as it is paid with anxiety and shame, it is paid with internal torture. 

It’s important to note though, that those feelings do not mean that all is lost, but rather, they are symptoms that cry for the latent growth forces inside of you. It’s never too late to follow your own self.

To become one of those rare individuals that become self actualized.

“He who belies his talent, the born painter who sells stockings instead, the intelligent man who lives a stupid life, the man who sees the truth and keeps his mouth shut, the coward who gives up his manliness, all these people perceive in a deep way that they have done wrong to themselves and despise themselves for it. Out of this self-punishment may come only neurosis, but there may equally come renewed courage, rightous indignation, increased self-respect, because of thereafter doing the right thing, in a word, growth and improvement can come through pain and conflict. Abraham Maslow, Towards Psychology of being

a  great complement to this read: The Mad Lust For Wins Is Getting In Your Way

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freedom

The Pathway To Psychological Freedom


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“The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of an unlived life.” 

― Erich Fromm

The definition of freedom the society imposes is completely thwarted. It teaches us that freedom is the capacity to do anything you want, anytime you want it, such as buying the latest iPhone, a car or traveling endlessly without being constrained to one place. Freedom is, ironically, being sold and marketed just as another commodity.

But what is freedom, really?

Real freedom can be defined as the exertion of the power each man has to consciously and independently choose from a constrained bundle of possibilities at his disposal. You might not be free from financial constraint or illness but you are free to do something about it. Freedom lies not on the capacity to say yes to everything but to say yes only to that which really matters to you and that you decided it’s good for you and everyone else. It lies in saying no to that which will not bring you to the few yeses you actually want in your life.

Anxiety, depression and why we are psychologically unfree

Anxiety and depression are way much more common than they need to be and the way we are solving it is completely insane. The apparent solution for our ails is pills and distraction. We believe that we will find a cure by buying more stuff or traveling more or having more of anything. This is great, of course, for the consumerist society we live in as the very system that is supposed to benefit us, encourages our anxieties further by making us believe that if we just had those pair of new shoes, even though you already have enough, you will finally quench your anxieties, but the catch here is that this little game we are all playing just makes us more and more anxious.

So, what is the pathway to free yourself from the psychological burdens of anxiety and depression?

Steven Pressfield argues in his book Turning Pro, that the solution is not to fall into the rat-race trap but to find something you are really passionate about and become great at it, turning pro. The pursuit of excellence on a self-chosen field.

The truth about life is that you are going to experience suffering, no matter what. With this thought in mind, there are basically two paths you can take. The first one, which is also the most common, is to run away from your suffering, anxieties, insecurities and all and try to hide them with pleasure or distraction like drinking, taking drugs to forget yourself or constant mindless entertainment. The second one is through work and love, through making the effort to find a calling where you can find meaning and purpose. As Marcus Aurelius well put it long ago.

The Obstacle is the way.

This can only be achieved through persistence and constant disciplined cultivation of habits and skills, self-imposed chains of discipline. While you might think that going out and having fun with your friends or girlfriend and enjoy yourself whenever you want is real freedom. Real psychological freedom will only be found in doing the work that is self-imposed, such as writing jokes or making a video, something that you find meaningful and getting your hands dirty with it, only once you know you’ve put in the day’s work can you go out knowing that you’ve contributed and you are on your way so you deserve a treat for making your life and others better.

Freedom, in its essence is the acceptance of the chains that suit you, and for which you are suited, and of the harness in which you pull towards an end chosen and valued by yourself and not imposed. It is not, and can never be, the absence of restrictions, obligations, law or duty.

Bionislaw Malinowski, Freedom and Civilization

But why? Why shouldn’t I just lay back and enjoy life? Why shouldn’t I just get a comfortable job I enjoy and spent my days having a drink and watching a good movie?

The reason why you cannot simply do this is because of the need and want for growth is entangled in your very genes. All human beings feel the need and desire to grow.

What happens when you neglect your capacity for greatness and don’t pursue your calling?

Present in body and absent in spirit, he lies back on the couch, shamed by his own potential that will not be subdued. He feels himself inwardly subversive imagining in his passivity extremes of aggression and desire that must be suppressed. Solution: more work, more money, more drink, more weight, more things, more infotainment.

James Hillman, The Soul’s Code

If you’ve ever had the experience of waking up earlier than usual and work on a personal project before anything else, and only after that, you start your day, you know what the feeling of accomplishment and having mental ease feels like, godly. By doing this, you can deal with the day in a much better way as you are no longer encumbered by the anxiety and destructiveness that an unlived life brings.

Warning

If you think that you have to end your depressions and anxieties first before you can start working or finding out what you want to do for yourself, you are getting it wrong. The process of finding out what you want to and then becoming a pro in it is the solution.

What we get when we turn pro is we find our power. We find our will and our voice and we find our self-respect. We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and to live out.

Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

How to start?

“Modern man lives under the illusion that he knows ‘what he wants,’ while he actually wants what he is supposed to want. In order to accept this it is necessary to realize that to know what one really wants is not comparatively easy, as most people think, but one of the most difficult problems any human being has to solve. It is a task we frantically try to avoid by accepting ready-made goals as though they were our own.” 
― Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom

The beginning is always going to be the hardest part. Some people find their calling early in life, and some of us find it later. Nevertheless, it is of paramount importance to try and try and keep trying until you find a field you really enjoy and would love to become great at.

When you finally make the decision to answer and to contribute with your greatness, to accept your life challenges and tasks, you might want to do it because you want the money or fame it implies, but bear in mind this is a trap, a trap on which you’ll end up in the same place.

If the end you have in mind is money or fame you will end up neglecting the psychological benefits that come with becoming great at something, applying yourself in a self-chosen field will free you from the psychological burdens of not doing something with your life. You will rise above the psychological problems and they will no longer affect you as they once did. They will become neutralized by a sense of peace and accomplishment that not many people can say they have.

Chase after money and security and your heart will never be unclenched. Care about people approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work and then step back, the only path to serenity.

Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching

a  great complement to this read: How to Start

Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.

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Hello, I’m Ricardo Guaderrama, the face behind Stoic Answers.

I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com

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