I’m a fan of Mark Manson’s work generally and I enjoyed his new book, Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope. His new book reminded me a little of Jordan Peterson’s work in that at times it seemed like he was rambling, but usually, he would use that as a jumping-off point to get to some profound thought or idea. Enjoy the quotes from his latest book!
* Here’s what a lot of people don’t get: the opposite of happiness is not anger or sadness. 1 If you’re angry or sad, that means you still give a f*ck about something. That means something still matters. That means you still have hope. 2 No, the opposite of happiness is hopelessness, an endless gray horizon of resignation and indifference. 3 It’s the belief that everything is f*cked, so why do anything at all?
* In the United States, symptoms of depression and anxiety are on an eighty-year upswing among young people and a twenty-year upswing among the adult population. Not only are people experiencing depression in greater numbers, but they’re experiencing it at earlier ages, with each generation. Since 1985, men and women have reported lower levels of life satisfaction. Part of that is probably because stress levels have risen over the past thirty years. Drug overdoses have recently hit an all-time high as the opioid crisis has wrecked much of the United States and Canada. Across the U.S. population, feelings of loneliness and social isolation are up. Nearly half of all Americans now report feeling isolated, left out, or alone in their lives. Social trust is also not only down across the developed world but plummeting, meaning fewer people than ever trust their government, the media, or one another. In the 1980s, when researchers asked survey participants how many people they had discussed important personal matters with over the previous six months, the most common answer was “three.” By 2006, the most common answer was “zero.”
* To build and maintain hope, we need three things: a sense of control, a belief in the value of something, and a community.
* The Feeling Brain drives our Consciousness Car because, ultimately, we are moved to action only by emotion. That’s because action is emotion. Emotion is the biological hydraulic system that pushes our bodies into movement. …As Daniel Kahneman once put it, the Thinking Brain is “the supporting character who imagines herself to be the hero.”
* People are always mistaking what feels good for what is good.
* For most of human history, people have been brutal, superstitious, and uneducated. People in the Middle Ages used to torture cats for sport and take their kids to watch the local burglar get his nuts chopped off in the town square.
* The Feeling Brain decides what is good and what is bad; what is desirable and what is undesirable; and most important, what we deserve and what we don’t deserve.
* The values we pick up throughout our lives crystallize and form a sediment on top of our personality. The only way to change our values is to have experiences contrary to our values. And any attempt to break free from those values through new or contrary experiences will inevitably be met with pain and discomfort. This is why there is no such thing as change without pain, no growth without discomfort. It’s why it is impossible to become someone new without first grieving the loss of who you used to be.
* There are two ways to heal yourself—that is, to replace old, faulty values with better, healthier values. The first is to reexamine the experiences of your past and rewrite the narratives around them. Wait, did he punch me because I’m an awful person; or is he the awful person?
* The other way to change your values is to begin writing the narratives of your future self, to envision what life would be like if you had certain values or possessed a certain identity. By visualizing the future we want for ourselves, we allow our Feeling Brain to try on those values for size, to see what they feel like before we make the final purchase. Eventually, once we’ve done this enough, the Feeling Brain becomes accustomed to the new values and starts to believe them.
* Whereas master morality believes in the virtue of strength and dominance, slave morality believes in the virtue of sacrifice and submission. While master morality believes in the necessity of hierarchy, slave morality believes in the necessity of equality. While master morality is generally represented by right-wing political beliefs, slave morality is usually found in left-wing political beliefs. We all contain both these moralities within us.
* Nietzsche was on top of this before anybody else. He warned of the coming existential malaise that technological growth would bring upon the world. In fact, this was the whole point of his “God is dead” proclamation. “God is dead” was not some obnoxious atheistic gloating, as it is usually interpreted today. No. It was a lament, a warning, a cry for help. Who are we to determine the meaning and significance of our own existence? Who are we to decide what is good and right in the world? How can we bear this burden? Nietzsche predicted coming conflicts between the ideologies built on master and slave moralities. He believed that these conflicts would wreak greater destruction upon the world than anything else seen in human history. He predicted that this destruction would not be limited to national borders or different ethnic groups. It would transcend all borders; it would transcend country and people. Because these conflicts, these wars, would not be for God. They would be between gods. And the gods would be us.
* A friend of mine once described parenthood as “basically just following around a kid for a couple decades and making sure he doesn’t accidentally kill himself—and you’d be amazed how many ways a kid can find to accidentally kill himself.”
* This is essentially what good early parenting boils down to: implementing the correct consequences for a child’s pleasure/pain-driven behavior. Punish them for stealing ice cream; reward them for sitting quietly in a restaurant. You are helping them understand that life is far more complicated than their own impulses or desires. Parents who fail to do this fail their children in an incredibly fundamental way because it won’t take long for the child to have the shocking realization that the world does not cater to his whims.
* Durkheim said no, that in fact the opposite would happen. He suggested that the more comfortable and ethical a society became, the more that small indiscretions would become magnified in our minds. If everyone stopped killing each other, we wouldn’t necessarily feel good about it. We’d just get equally upset about the more minor stuff. Developmental psychology has long argued something similar: that protecting people from problems or adversity doesn’t make them happier or more secure; it makes them more easily insecure. A young person who has been sheltered from dealing with any challenges or injustices growing up will come to find the slightest inconveniences of adult life intolerable, and will have the childish public meltdown to prove it.
* On the contrary, it appears that perhaps by removing healthy adversity and challenge, people struggle even more. They become more selfish and more childish. They fail to develop and mature out of adolescence. They remain further removed from any virtue. They see mountains where there are molehills. And they scream at each other as though the world were one endless stream of spilled milk.
* The philosophers of antiquity didn’t see happiness as a virtue. On the contrary, they saw humans’ capacity for self-denial as a virtue, because feeling good was just as dangerous as it was desirable. And rightly so—all it took was one jackass getting carried away and the next thing you knew, half the village had burned down.
* Because you can’t get rid of pain—pain is the universal constant of the human condition. Therefore, the attempt to move away from pain, to protect oneself from all harm, can only backfire. Trying to eliminate pain only increases your sensitivity to suffering, rather than alleviating your suffering. It causes you to see dangerous ghosts in every nook, to see tyranny and oppression in every authority, to see hate and deceit behind every embrace.
* Through Freud, Bernays understood something nobody else in business had understood before him: that if you can tap into people’s insecurities, they will buy just about any damn thing you tell them to.
* Life in the commercial age, although more complex than before, was still relatively simple compared to today. A large, bustling middle class existed within a homogenous culture. We watched the same TV channels, listened to the same music, ate the same food, relaxed on the same types of sofas, and read the same newspapers and magazines. There was continuity and cohesion to this era, which brought a sense of security with it. We were all, for a time, both free and yet part of the same religion. And that was comforting. Despite the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, at least in the West, we tend to idealize this period. I believe that it’s for this sense of social cohesion that many people today are so nostalgic.
* But, f*ck it, let’s be real: “Give the people what they want” is just #FakeFreedom because what most of us want are diversions. And when we get flooded by diversions, a few things happen. The first is that we become increasingly fragile. The second thing that happens is that we become prone to a series of low-level addictive behaviors—compulsively checking our phone, our email, our Instagram; compulsively finishing Netflix series we don’t like; sharing outrage-inducing inducing articles we haven’t read; accepting invitations to parties and events we don’t enjoy; traveling not because we want to but because we want to be able to say we went. Compulsive behavior aimed at experiencing more stuff is not freedom—again, it’s kind of the opposite. Third thing: an inability to identify, tolerate, and seek out negative emotions is its own kind of confinement. Fourth—because, f*ck it, I’m on a roll: the paradox of choice. The more options we’re given (i.e., the more “freedom” we have), the less satisfied we are with whatever option we go with. If Jane has to choose between two boxes of cereal, and Mike can choose from twenty boxes, Mike does not have more freedom than Jane. He has more variety. There’s a difference. Variety is not freedom. Variety is just different permutations of the same meaningless sh*t.
* The only true form of freedom, the only ethical form of freedom, is through self-limitation. It is not the privilege of choosing everything you want in your life, but rather, choosing what you will give up in your life.
* Over the last couple of decades, people seem to have confused their basic human rights with not experiencing any discomfort.
* Freedom itself demands discomfort. It demands dissatisfaction. Because the freer a society becomes, the more each person will be forced to reckon and compromise with views and lifestyles and ideas that conflict with their own.
* And while technology has liberated much of the planet from poverty and tyranny, it has produced a new kind of tyranny: a tyranny of empty, meaningless variety, a never-ending stream of unnecessary options.
* I dare to hope that there will be tools to help people understand statistics, proportions, and probability in real time and realize that, no, a few people getting shot in the far corners of the globe does not have any bearing on you, no matter how scary it looks on TV; that most “crises” are statistically insignificant and/or just noise; and that most real crises are too slow-moving and unexciting to get the attention they deserve.