The Root of Liberty

People write in and ask me: “How can it be liberating to identify your contradictions? It’s painful!”

In all honesty, this is the same as asking: “Why is it better to face reality? I’d rather live outside of reality, because reality can be unpleasant.”

This makes no sense at all. Not if reality is what it is, independent of what you think, assume, want, wish or desire. The way I look at it, reality is going to be what it is no matter what your mind says. Rather than fighting or ignoring the truth, it’s better to face the truth … and then work within that context. That’s what I mean by “liberating.” If you’re constantly fighting reality, then you’re unable to focus on what’s actually possible and feasible. Instead, you’re trying to do the impossible, wasting precious time and energy that could be spent on pursuing the possible instead.

Notice how psychological coping implies a particular metaphysical view of existence. You either accept the philosophical premise that reality is what it is, or you don’t. My psychological recommendations would be very different if I held a different philosophical view. If my philosophical view was that reality can be whatever your consciousness constructs it to be, then I wouldn’t be advising you the way that I am.

None of this is to discourage innovation or creativity, either. But even innovation or creativity has to be rational. I call this “working within the system.” The “system” here refers to any facts you cannot change, at least not at this point in time. You have to separate what you can change from what you cannot, and focus only on what you can change — assuming that interests you, and that it’s connected to some particular goal or purpose you have.

Wishful thinking is a means of escaping reality. This leads to emotional problems commonly known as depression or anxiety. Depression or anxiety are false beliefs, based on faulty premises — one of which is almost always the false belief that wishing can make it so. Trying to control what you cannot control will lead to a sense of futility or “learned helplessness” in some people — the definition of depression. In other people, it will lead to a sense of danger or foreboding — the definition of anxiety. People take pills and pursue therapy for these things, but that will only be a band aid at best until or unless the underlying view is identified and corrected: One’s underlying philosophical view.

Psychology is thought to be theory-neutral, or philosophy-neutral. This isn’t possible. By definition, a therapist is helping a person based upon a certain point-of-view. One therapist will say, “Whatever you feel is right.” Another therapist will say, “I know what’s right — just listen to me.” Still another will say, “Let’s examine the facts. The facts prove that this is the right course of action, the one that will bring you what you want. Do you see any other facts to contradict this?” This last is the method of reason and logic. It’s this method from which so many are trying to escape. A good therapist challenges you, but in a supportive way. “Let’s figure out what the truth is, together.”

When you try to escape from logic and thinking, you’re trying to escape your nature as a rational creature. To say man is a “rational creature” is not to imply that he will inevitably do rational things. It implies that man must reason and think if he’s going to survive, flourish, and be happy. Attempts to escape your nature are attempts to escape your humanity. Most will claim that the essence of humanity are your emotions. But what are emotions? Emotions are the product of thought. And thoughts can be wonderful or downright rotten, logical or completely off base. Hatred, hostility and bitterness are emotions. Do these emotions imply mental health? I don’t think so. It’s the content of your emotions that’s relevant, and the content of your emotions are the thoughts and ideas implied by them. To understand your emotions, you must understand what you think.

Embrace reality, and all the good or bad that goes with it. It’s the only liberation and freedom there is.