Derren Brown – Finding Happiness in the Modern World (Part 2)
This is part 2 of our discussion on Derren Brown’s excellent book ‘Happy’.
On the ‘Good Life Guys Show/Podcast’ we talk about ‘preferred indifferents’ a lot. A ‘preferred indifferent’ is something that you would prefer to happen, but ultimately are indifferent to. You are indifferent because in the final analysis, whether or not your preference comes to pass is outside of your direct control. Finding happiness in the modern world depends on your not needing things that are not under your direct control. As the godfather of REBT Albert Ellis would say, “a desire is healthy, a dire need is unhealthy!” Everything, apart from your own thoughts and actions, should be a ‘preferred indifferent’.
Even the direct results of your endeavors should be preferred indifferents. Even if you do all the ‘right’ work, the results of your work are still outside of your control. You can do the workout perfectly and fully stick to the diet and still not achieve your desired results. Because you can not control how your body actually responds. You can have the best conversation ever with a girl (all while having the best ‘hair day’ you’ve ever had) and still get rejected! Because her subjective taste in men is not under your control. So, work hard every day to recognize where you are treating desires, hopes, and dreams as more than merely preferred indifferents.
Don’t Add To First Impressions
Our brains are constantly devising stories, and leaping to irrational inferences. We receive objective sensory input from the world. To this objective input, we then add stories that are highly influenced by our own beliefs, biases, conditioned expectations. And these stories are often nonsense!
Try to see happenings in the world at face value. Don’t add embellishments to what you perceive. Keep an open mind. Everything apart from the raw sensory data you perceive is an inference.
When somebody fails to acknowledge you at a party you only know that that person failed to acknowledge you. But our brains have a negativity bias and so we tend to jump to negative conclusions. We tend to lean towards the negative. And so the inferences we make, and the stories we tell ourselves, tend to be unrealistically negative. If you can hold back, stay disciplined in your thinking, and not add to first impressions, you can live in cool, stress-free rationality. And not get lost in imagined negative scenarios.
Create Alternative Scenarios
When you catch yourself concluding things that are based on evidence-less inferences, stop. Make a conscious effort to invent a few contrary hypothesis about what may be going on. Hijack your brain’s tendency to lean towards the negative. You will soon see that many of the alternative hypothesis that you have forced your brain to devise are actually just as likely to be true as your initial negative hypothesis. This will show you how wrong the conclusions you jump to are often likely to be. Ultimately, learn to reserve judgment. Don’t be afraid to sit on the fence! It’s a comfortable place to be!
How to Deal With Anger
Lower your self-belief. Stop believing you are acting really well, and everyone else is bad and full of errors. We assume we are acting well. And that when we get in scraps or arguments it is always the other person’s fault. Learn to see your own dickish behavior. See where you are at fault. Don’t always jump to a defensive stance. See your own faults. And see the complexity of the other person – their good, bad, and indifferent behaviors. “You have the same faults as those who annoy you!”
We are all humans, capable of good, bad and indifferent behaviors. We are all saints, sinners, good, and bad!
How It Feels To Be Famous
Fame feels like….. nothing really. “Wherever you go, there you are.” Fame tends to come slowly, in small increments. People tend to acclimate to their fame. Each increment of success or fame that a person achieves, they acclimatize to. And at the end of the long journey up the ladder of fame, you look around and think “fuck, I’m famous! And I feel just like I did before I was famous!”
The Boredom Of An Immortal Life
The fear of death is widespread. We don’t want to have to leave this party. Especially when everybody else is staying on! Immortality seems pretty good to a lot of people.
But, a life without end, that dragged on literally forever, would become achingly boring. And it would lose all meaning. The fact that our life is finite gives it urgency and meaning. Our projects are special because we can only choose to undertake a precious few. And because they are sure to end someday. We have only finite time in which to achieve what we want to achieve. Nothing is guaranteed.
In an infinite life, rolling on endlessly through the eons, everything is guaranteed. Life would have no urgency – you would be guaranteed to achieve, do, think, experience everything. And you would do it again and again and again, ad infinitum. You would have the exact same experiences an infinity of times. Until they lost all meaning.
Every individual would have experienced everything there is to experience. And so they would lose all their individuality (to the extent that your individuality is the result of the unique experiences you’ve had that have shaped you).
Immanent death makes our relationships precious (because they cannot last forever). Saying “I love you” is important because you may not get another chance. Death gives work, life, and love urgency. Death makes us who we are.