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.
Letting go of fear
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.
Although 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 again.
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
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.
Boredom is 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.
Few 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 steps.
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 philosophical transformation.
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.
How to verbalize change
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
Devote 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
Take 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
During 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.
Get rid of doubts
If 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 broken routines.
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
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 shore.
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my books.
Image by Dan Queiroz under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us