The subtle art of giving up false hope
Have you ever thought that hope can be harmful? Or that we are going through paradoxical times, having much more security and well-being than previous generations, but becoming increasingly fragile and disconnected from real values? Have you thought that happiness comes from intelligent self-limits and a mature relationship with pain, discomfort, obstacles?
Starting with the observation that the act of hoping is a natural process, necessary for survival, Mark Manson describes the psychological mechanisms that bring us, in return, to self-sabotage through superficial and inconsistent hopes.
In the book “Everything Is F*cked”, Manson shows how today’s society has ended up in a crisis of values, but also how we can return to a deep connection with ourselves and other people by adopting a healthy attitude towards hope.
By mentioning the viewpoints of some great philosophers and offering memorable examples of people who have heroically followed their beliefs, Manson constructs his reasonings in a direct manner.
Although the idea that there might be something wrong with our hopes could arouse reluctance, in the end the chapters of this book come together in the form of a positive conclusion: it is always in our power to find the way to integrity, commitment and constructive goals, by defining authentic values.
How do we end up getting stuck in harmful hopes?
“The overindulgence of emotions leads to a crisis of hope, but so does the repression of emotions.”
We end up formulating childish hopes, selfish goals or compulsive attachments when we fail to keep balance between our mind and our emotions, two processes grouped by Manson in the concepts of Thinking and Feeling Brains.
In the past, humanity believed that a virtuous man dominates and subjugates his emotions through reason. In reality, the two components of consciousness need each other because our actions are largely dictated by emotions, and repressed emotions prevent us from being objective or establishing mature goals.
Only through a constant dialogue between thoughts and feelings can we heal our past and act in the direction of healthier values.
Technological progress and the crisis of values
Manson also points out that hope is based on having faith that “something can be important and valuable and right, despite the fact that there will never be a way to verify it beyond all doubt”.
Whether we are referring to a belief of a spiritual, ideological or interpersonal nature (such as having faith in the concept of family), we all need to establish a kind of personal religion that makes sense to us.
Scientific progress, which has become a religion in itself, has made us move further and further away from real values and has fixed our attention on diversions and pleasures that do nothing but deepen our crisis of intolerance to pain (in reality, pain is an intrinsic component of life).
If we have not established a harmonious dialogue between our Thinking and Feeling Brains, we hypnotically immerse ourselves in buying things that make us feel better for a while. When they come to dominate our lives, these diversions become highly problematic.
How can we return to healthy hopes?
“The most significant freedom in your life comes from your commitments, the things in life for which you have chosen to sacrifice.”
We could say that if we continue to move forward at this pace, humanity will be heading straight towards collapse. This is where the subtle message built from the very first pages becomes clear: despair – or the mature acceptance of life’s unpleasant aspects – is our master on the path to returning to authentic values. In the second part of the book, Manson explains the main solutions for our society’s crisis:
- As long as we have not reached a coherent dialogue between thoughts and feelings, having an easy access to everything we want can be dangerous. We will evolve if we accept that pain is part of life, if we actively approach suffering, without trying to stifle it.
- By simultaneously training our Thinking and Feeling Brains, we learn to impose some healthy self-limits, making deep commitments to ourselves and to society.
- True market value is created through innovations that ethically aim to adapt pain (e.g., medical innovations), not avoiding it through diversion, as many current marketing techniques encourage.
- The quality of life is ultimately determined by the quality of our character, which depends on how we relate to pain. Being honest with ourselves and those around us, maturing and doing what is right simply because it is right, we come to Kant’s Formula of Humanity, mentioned by Manson: ”Act that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means.”
As for hope, the book calls for refining our attitude towards this notion:
Don’t despair, either.
Don’t hope for better. Just be better.”
What does hope mean to you?
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A review done with the support of Bookster