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Made You Think

Jan 11, 2018

“It’s this denial of death that is our main psychological challenge.”

In this episode of Made You Think, Neil and I discuss The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. It’s a phenomenal book on how our fear of mortality is the core for our psychological disturbances, our motivation for taking action in life and behaving in certain ways.

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • The necessity for a heroic purpose to motivate us and the current lack of it
  • Why we do things and behave in certain ways
  • The fear of death being the core of our psychological disturbances
  • How we often take comfort in trivial things to give us the illusion of control
  • Death being a prime motivation for us to do things and take action
  • Breaking down our need for certainty and control in life
  • Balancing the need to reflect with the need to experience

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of The Denial of Death and to check out Nat’s Notes on the book!

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out our episode on The Power of Myth, to learn how to use the power of mythology to positively influence your life, and our episode on How to Think Like Elon Musk, to learn how to emulate Musk’s way of thinking for extreme advantages in life.

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0:00 - Introductory quote and a bit of information about the book itself.

4:28 - Some thoughts on living every day as your last, versus taking everything seriously due to the impact it has in the long-term. Also, some discussion on time, various aspects of human nature, and the differences between everyone’s perspective.

8:49 - Becoming conscious of what we’re doing to earn our feeling of heroism to find out that it’s the main self-analytic problem of life. Some thoughts on this and discussion on how most of the youth today do not have some big heroic ideal that they’re pushing towards.

11:10 - Some more thoughts on the lack of heroic purpose and the lack of meaning in our lives today. How this is related to motivation and depression, as well.

“If you don’t have a propelling narrative for what you’re doing with your life, then you will naturally be depressed and feel like your life doesn’t matter.”

12:53 - Tearing down our heroes to give ourselves a sense of control and this happening in society. Some examples of this and then some discussion on mentor/mentee relationships,

16:26 - Discussion on the terror of death and various examples of this theme throughout cultures, societies, and religions. Also how our fear of death influences our view of the world.

“It’s this denial of death that is our main psychological challenge.”

19:13 - The problem of us often inventing reasons for anxiety when there are none, some examples of people doing this, and how this relates to our mortality. Also, how we should try to not waste energy worrying about something that may happen, and instead saving that energy for when it might happen.

“We all just sort of invent these anxieties and reasons to worry, and they seem really important and serious to us, but to outsiders, they usually seem trivial.”

23:35 - How we need the fear of mortality to motivate us to do things. Also, some thoughts on how we’re trying to extend our lives and live forever, and some thoughts on consciousness and the ego.

“We need death to motivate us to do anything in life.”

27:29 - Discussion on empathy and consciousness in animals, the evolution of species, and survival instincts. Also, a bit on how much food we consume, and how much resources it takes to grow something and then when we lose that something, we lose all of those resources that were involved.

33:32 - Various psychoanalytic concepts and the next section on life being this chaos that we get lost in, and hiding behind these shared mythologies to avoid that chaos. Comforting ourselves to hide from the true reality of that situation.

38:22 - Thinking of information having objective value, and some thoughts on how we adopt these beliefs to gain something. Also, when someone challenges that belief, we lash out at them. How noticing ourselves having an emotional reaction when this happens shows us that that belief is most likely crony. How noticing this emotional response in others can benefit you and examples of this, as well.

44:13 - Discussion on how ideologies gain their strength, people getting emotionally invested in them, how we all need something we can cling to really strongly, and how we jump around with clinging to things. Also, some discussion on jumping around from obsessions and how people who feel strongly in certain communities will lash out on others who do or think differently.

53:40 - Some discussion and examples of us doing things more aggressively than we normally would to gain a sense of control that we’re lacking in another area of our life. Doing trivial acts to gain the illusion of control.

55:52 - Thoughts on cryptocurrency and how we will sometimes mess up things on purpose, just to regain that sense of control and do it all over again. How this can lead to loss of control, as well.

1:02:19 - How we’re always going to have various anxieties and how we can use these to trigger personal growth. Also, a bit on finding out what it is that you’re avoiding the most, and how that is most likely what you need to be doing. How taking a small action towards doing that can make it easier to do the rest and some discussion on making compromises with yourself, as well.

1:05:24 - The next section on the spell cast by persons that is transference. Describing transference, and how we deify certain persons to gain more control in our own lives due to following that person. Also, how we get offended when someone ruins our image of something that we have a fixed perspective on.

1:11:20 - How religion has to have had some survival benefit to be so pervasive throughout the world and every culture and some discussion on the shared myth of certain similarities between people.

1:12:50 - Thoughts on how we’ve lost spirituality and mysticism over the years, and how modern man tries to replace that vital awe and wonder with a how-to-do-it manual. Why we prefer this manual and why we need to think that everything is perfectly logical to remove the anxiety from the dreaded uncertainty. Tying this back into the illusion of control.

1:15:57 - How we all avoid this fear of death and dealing with our problems by tranquilizing ourselves with something trivial (celebrities, social media, the news, etc). How we need to face the uncertainty of certain situations and the true reality of situations.

1:17:25 - Feeling the pain of failure, engaging in experience and being fully invested in it to learn from it. Also, not just knowing, but actually living and plunging into experiences.

“If you have all reflection without any plunging into experience, you’ll just go crazy. And if you have just all plunging with no reflection, you’re a brute. You have to balance both of them.”

1:19:15 - Some last thoughts and how we have to face up to our need to be heroic. How culture doesn’t really provide opportunities to be heroic and helps us forget it, and how this deprives us of our heroic urge to victory. Also, tying this into universal based income and some thoughts on that.

1:22:53 - The last line of the book and some closing thoughts on the podcast, the book, the newsletter, and supporting the podcast.

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The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation, but it is life itself which awakens it and so we must shrink from being fully alive.