To build and maintain hope, we need three things: a sense of control, a belief in the value of something, and a community.
Control” means we feel as though we’re in control of our own life, that we can affect our fate.
“Values” means we find something important enough to work toward, something better, that’s worth striving for.
“Community” means we are part of a group that values the same things we do and is working toward achieving those things.
Without a community, we feel isolated, and our values cease to mean anything. Without values, nothing appears worth pursuing. And without control, we feel powerless to pursue anything. Lose any of the three, and you lose the other two. Lose any of the three, and you lose hope.
Your brain can be divided into two: your Feeling Brain and your Thinking Brain
Engage the Feeling Brain on its own terms. Create an environment that can bring about the Feeling Brain’s best impulses and intuition, rather than its worst. Accept and work with, rather than against, whatever the Feeling Brain generates for you.
You don’t have control, the Thinking Brain never will. Yet, you needn’t lose hope. Hopelessness is a cold and bleak nihilism, a sense that there is no point. Hopelessness is the root of anxiety, mental illness, and depression. It is the source of all misery and the cause of all addiction.
Chronic anxiety is a crisis of hope. It is the fear of a failed future.
Depression is a crisis of hope. It is the belief in a meaningless future.
Delusion, addiction, obsession—these are all the mind’s desperate and compulsive attempts at generating hope one neurotic tic or obsessive craving at a time.
Newton’s First Law of Emotion states that when someone (or something) causes us pain, a moral gap opens up and our Feeling Brain summons up emotions to motivate us to equalize.
Potentially this is why we often develop the false belief that we need to change who we are. If we can’t achieve our goals, if we can’t lose the weight or get the promotion or learn the skill, then that signifies some internal deficiency. In order to maintain hope, we decide we must change ourselves, become somebody totally new and different. This desire to change ourselves then refills us with hope. The “old me” couldn’t shake that terrible smoking habit, but the “new me” will. The constant desire to change yourself then becomes its own sort of addiction: each cycle of “changing yourself” results in similar failures of self-control, therefore making you feel as though you need to “change yourself” all over again.
If we’re not able to equalize and act on that righteousness, our Feeling Brain will believe the only alternative explanation: “I am shit, and he is righteous.” This surrender to persisting moral gaps is a fundamental part of our Feeling Brain’s nature. And it is Newton’s Second Law of Emotion: How we come to value everything in life relative to ourselves is the sum of our emotions over time.
Newton’s Third Law of Emotion: Your Identity Will Stay Your Identity Until a New Experience Acts Against It. The network of value-based narratives is our identity. Notice when you adopt these little narratives as your identity, you protect them and react emotionally to them as though they were an inherent part of you.
Mentions the guide to starting a tribe / religion. Obtain a following by making a common enemy is central to this.
Suggests our main challenge is to act without hope. To not hope for better. To be better. In this moment and the next. It is of note that our emotional reactions to our problems are not determined by the size of the problem. Rather, our minds simply amplify (or minimize) our problems to fit the degree of stress we expect to experience.
Material progress and security do not necessarily relax us or make it easier to hope for the future.
The Blue Dot Effect. An experiment in which volunteers were shown a 1000 dots, some of which were blue and had to report when they saw a blue dot. Then they were shown another 1000 dots, but with less blue dots; soon they mistook purple dots as blue. Argues that this is a demonstration of humans warping their perceptions of reality to fit their expectations. This is the Blue Dot Effect our mind is conditioned to look for threats and issues, regardless of how safe or comfortable our environment is.
The better things get, the more we perceive threats where there are none, and the more upset we become. And it is at the heart of the paradox of progress.
We should not try to avoid pain; expect some be aware pain is the currency of our values. Without the pain of loss (or potential loss), it becomes impossible to determine the value of anything at all. Pain is at the heart of all emotion. Negative emotions are caused by experiencing pain. Positive emotions are caused by alleviating pain. When we avoid pain and make ourselves more fragile, the result is our emotional reactions will be wildly disproportional to the importance of the event. Aim to be antifragile – grow through adversity.
The Buddha said that suffering is like being shot by two arrows. The first arrow is the physical pain, the metal piercing the skin, the arrow colliding into the body. The second arrow is the mental pain, the meaning and emotion we attach to the being struck, the narratives that we spin in our minds about whether we deserved or didn’t deserve what happened.
In many cases, our mental pain is far worse than any physical pain. In most cases, it lasts far longer. Given pain is the universal constant of life, the opportunities to grow from that pain are constant in life. All that is required is that we don’t numb ourselves to our pain as that potentially deny ourselves the ability to feel any purpose in our life at all.
People purchase things predominately using their Feeling brain rather than their Thinking brain. Marketing was revolutionised in 1928 using this principle. The American Tobacco Company hired Edward Bernays, a hotshot marketer with wild ideas who was interestingly Sigmund Freud’s nephew. He used the fact that people are controlled with their Feeling Brain to advertise more effectively. Starting fake news, using celebrities and portraying women smoking to show they are as powerful as men, calling cigarettes liberty sticks were some of the tricks he used.
Advanced Artificial Intelligence: when an AI can spawn better versions of itself, at will, we will no longer have control over where we’re going. It will just happen our Thinking Brains will be too slow to react, and our Feeling Brains are too erratic and dangerous. Human hope could be harvested like a resource, a never-ending reservoir of creative energy. Suggests the old gods will be replaced by the AI gods – hoping the algorithm will help you.
The only true and ethical form of freedom, is through self-limitation. It is not the privilege of choosing everything you want in your life, but rather, choosing what you will give up in your life. Diversions come and go. Pleasure never lasts. Variety loses its meaning. The constant is you will always be able to choose what you are willing to sacrifice, what you are willing to give up. This sort of self-denial is paradoxically the only thing that expands real freedom in life.
Don’t hope for better. Just be better. Be something better. Be more compassionate, more resilient, more humble, more disciplined.