Feeling more positive today. Worked out at the local redneck gym this morning. Deadlifts make you feel alive. I don’t want to be another meathead rhapsodizing about the man-making power of the iron but it’s undeniable. Lifting heavy things clears your head and calms your anxieties. Your testicles brim with testosterone.
You pick up hundreds of pounds and sweat out the sadness. Your muscles don’t have much to do so you force them to work and you trick your body into believing it’s fighting and winning. In the absence of conflict and embodied engagement we create artificial stressors to remind ourselves of our fleshly existence. It’s easy to forget. Comfort is deadly so we contrive threats and obstacles to stay vital.
Depression is metastasized thinking. Curbing depression requires changing your thoughts but also changing your body. Or taking drugs. If you can’t make the changes yourself then you’ll need institutional assistance. I don’t fault people for seeking help. It doesn’t necessarily make them weak and culpable.
If it’s not so bad that you need psychiatric care then you have to move around more. You have to struggle and overcome, even if the struggle is imaginary. Hold your head up and force yourself to smile. Work out and straighten your spine. Use every trick to convince yourself that you’re strong and capable. Mantras, affirmations, laughing like a lunatic, writing out lists: it’s all cheesy and you feel like an ass but it works.
People program themselves into believing anything. Their environment programs them too. Think of all the different beliefs people have held and the barriers they’ve placed in front of themselves. It starts out as what you hear from others and becomes what you say to yourself. And once it’s in your head it’s all you see out in the world. I’m miserable and the world is a miserable place. I’m happy and the world is full of beautiful people and wonderful things.
Our mental frames set us up to repeat experiences which then reinforce our frames. We establish feedback loops between ourselves and our environment, getting out of our surroundings exactly what we ourselves add to them. We tend to think that environments condition organisms when it’s just as true that organisms condition environments.
Natural selection runs both ways. I’m not a big nietzsche fan anymore but he makes the point in an extreme form. What we call an environment is nothing more than the expressive power of an organism. There is no neutral space out there separate from the shaping and forming activity of the individual.
A belief might be factually incorrect or impossible to confirm but it can produce real effects. Telling yourself that you can do anything in the world might sound silly but it can empower you to do something you would have otherwise never attempted. Some people want to scientifically test a belief before accepting it when all you need to do is examine the behavior it generates.
There are innumerable examples. People believe in an afterlife because it makes them feel good and improves their quality of life in the present. What is the payoff for being factually correct about your destiny as a decaying corpse? Congratulations, everyone is dead forever and you were right all along. Of course the afterlife idea is also dangerous because it sometimes influences people to act destructively in this life for the promise of a better beyond. But hey, what are you going to do.
The real challenge is remaining interesting and funny when you’re happy and powerful. But we know it can be done.