Despite his many innovations in the field of psychology, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) rarely spelled out the social consequences of his theories. His baseline approach was to listen to patients and analyse their mental shadows. Interpreting dreams constitutes an interesting intellectual exercise, but in terms of effectiveness, it cannot compare to vigorous rational discourse.
Civilization and its Discontents
By the time Freud dared to
present his social views in writing, he was already 74 years old. His
essay Civilization and its Discontents (1930) was radically different
from his previous publications. In this ground-breaking book, Freud
outlines his views on human psychology from the point of view, not only
of individual history, but also of interpersonal behaviour.
the overall tone of the essay is cautious and conservative, readers
noticed Freud's underlying criticism. Reviewers of the book had no
problem with Freud's listening to patients and interpreting their
dreams, but his latest opinions were out of the question. The essay
generated such opposition that Freud never addressed similar subjects
Many decades have passed, but tradition has not lost any
of its force. Its tentacles feed on the weak in order to starve the
independent; it silences doubts and paralyses initiative; it renders
questions inaudible and self-reliance unthinkable.
Being like everybody else
On the other
hand, preaching change for the sake of swimming upstream makes little
sense. Being like everybody else has substantial private and
professional advantages. It would be foolishly for anyone to discard a
secure position simply because it offers few challenges. Before making a
bold move, you should have something better in view.
one of the most destructive effects of passivity. Lack of variety is
annoying; extreme repetitiveness drives people to despair. Passivity
generates drudgery because it sucks ambition out of the environment.
Little by little, routine turns to hopelessness. Life enjoyment wanes as
individuals are emptied of their last drops of entrepreneurship.
people are completely innovative or passive. The majority of us
oscillate between the two poles, gaining ground one day and retreating
on the next. Although we are clever enough to see the long-term
disadvantages of passivity, we move away from it only slowly, in careful
Human beings require time to change essential thinking
patterns. Even if a man exerts massive efforts, he will not transform
his personality in a week. Emotional changes are the outcome of
A quick fix will not overhaul your
personality, but for all practical purposes, you don't need it either.
To improve your effectiveness, you just have to correct your thinking
when passivity makes its appearance.
from routine to entrepreneurship
We can start the transition
from routine to entrepreneurship with a mental exercise that takes only
ten minutes, but if you perform it daily for several months, your
attitude will change permanently. Here is how the process works:
the initial two minutes to verbalizing the habit that you wish to be
discard. Ask yourself why you have been acting and thinking in that
particular way. What were you trying to achieve with such behaviour? Was
it something that you learned in infancy or that you have picked up
along the way?
If you perform the exercise while you are driving
alone, take the opportunity to speak out your thoughts. In these days of
ubiquitous mobile phones, nobody will be surprised to see a driver
speaking aloud in his car. Who knows if he is dictating notes into a
recorder or giving instructions by phone to his stock broker?
a deep breath a spend the next three minutes exploring your feelings.
How strong is your motivation to change? What penalties would you incur
if you drop tasks you dislike? Can you afford to quit what you detest?
Are you afraid of changing? How justified are your concerns?
the remaining five minutes of the process, paint a mental picture of
the desired transformation. Name the benefits of the alternatives that
you want to pursue. Think of the doors that your new behaviour will
open. Speak out the advantages and let them turn around your emotions.
your disputation is sufficiently strong, a feeling of elation should
ensue. Make your defence of change passionate. Your speech should win
over your heart, not justify the past. Let optimism burn down the
remnants of boredom; let ambition bury passivity under the debris of
Ten minutes of thoughtfulness
Ten minutes of thoughtfulness can turn around
your mood. A vigorous disputation can shift your views from passivity to
entrepreneurship. Make this exercise a fun performance. Win yourself
over with sound arguments and enthusiastic words.
If you do this
once a day during several months, your thought patterns will change.
Your alertness to opportunities will increase. Your willingness to seek
alternatives will grow until you won't need those ten minutes any more.
At that point, your ship will have successfully sailed away from the
For more information about rational living and personal growth, I refer you to my book about how to be rational "The 10 Principles of Rational Living"
[Image by IaRRoVaWo under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]
Monday, 1 October 2012
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