You may have heard of existential anxiety – since a famous Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard kind of invented it, many others talked about this malaise, and for a good reason. It may help you understand why you sometimes have that funny feeling in your tummy that may grow so much that it is not funny anymore. However, a certain ambiguity still surrounds the term, so let’s start by shedding some light on what it really means.
This section consists of books, articles, online resources, short stories and novels that may be of interest to readers who would like to study some (or all) areas in greater depth. Sieving through an immense number of titles to make this selection was an enjoyable but daunting task. Of course, this list can never be definitive and will require continuous updating; for this reason everybody is invited to make further suggestions. Not all suggestions will necessarily be accepted, but they will all be considered. So if you have any recommendations for fictional or non-fictional material that is insightful or inspiring and can be related to one of the above areas, please let us know.
For those interested in other attempts at mapping the mind, Hampden-Turner’s Maps of the Mind offers an informative and comprehensive collection of such models.
Janette Rainwater’s You’re in Charge: A Guide to Becoming Your Own Therapist (particularly chapters 1, 4, 5 and 6), and Know Thyself in Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, focus on this area. If you are interested in introspection, read Hixon, J.G. & Swann, W. B. When does introspection bear fruit? Self-reflection, self-insight, and interpersonal choices in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 64, No.1, 1993. Those drawn to dream interpretation may find this article useful: Malinowski, J. Was Freud right about dreams after all? Here’s the research that helps explain it, in The Conversation, 2016: https://theconversation.com/was-freud-right-about-dreams-after-all-heres-the-research-that-helps-explain-it-60884. In fiction, James Joyce’s Ulysses, one of the most significant novels overall, is recommended (but it is not an easy read).
Relating to oneself
Stan Taubman’s Ending the Struggle Against Yourself and the more recent The Self-Acceptance Project: How to Be Kind and Compassionate Toward Yourself in Any Situation by Tami Simon, deal with the topic in some depth. Some may also find the article Mindfulness and self-acceptance by Carson, S & Langer, E. from Harvard University (Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Vol. 24, No. 1, 2006) useful. In fiction, a humorous account of self-distortions can be found in Who Moved my Blackberry by Martin Lukes.
Movies can be inspiring. Here are suggestions for each area:
- SELF-AWARENESS: Spellbound (1945); Magnolia (1999)
- RELATING TO ONESELF: Muriel’s Wedding (1994)
- PERSONAL CHANGE: Fried Green Tomatoes (1992)
- SELF-VALUATION: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946); Secrets and Lies (1996)
- FEELINGS: Ordinary People (1980)
- EMOTIONS: The Sound of Music (1965)
- EXCITEMENT: Grease (1978)
- MOODS: Girl, Interrupted (1999)
- LEARNING: Educating Rita (1983); Little Man Tate (1991)
- REASONING: Twelve Angry Men (1957)
- CREATIVE THINKING: F/X murder by Illusion (1986)
- INNER STRUCTURE: The Truman Show (1998); The Matrix (1999); Dark City (1998)
- HARMONISATION: Fight Club (1999)
- STABILITY: The Driver (1978)
- SELF-DISCIPLINE: All That Jazz (1979)
- DEVELOPMENT: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- COURAGE: Born on the Fourth of July (1990)
- CONFIDENCE: Billy Elliot (2000)
Infinity and Wisdom
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
William Blake (18c English poet and mystic)
This area is not in the model and is not its summary, but it overarches the model. You can benefit from it best after you complete going through the other areas. Infinity and wisdom are together as they are two sides of the same coin. Wisdom can be seen as the mastery of negotiating infinity.
Here is the very last exercise suggested in these materials:
The above is not a printing error. It is empty, which doesn’t mean that there is nothing there; the boundary is. This is not trivial. Whenever you go online, for example, you operate within the boundaries of your screen, even if you rarely think about it. Similarly, throughout this book you focused on the text within it and most likely never paid attention to a boundary. Let’s look at that now. What do you think about it? Can you step outside and go beyond it? Welcome to infinity! Boundaries can help us open a window to infinity, but we can only really meet infinity when we step outside, into reality. Reality is infinite in so many ways: go small, go big, go quality, go quantity, go possibilities – infinity everywhere. Being finite, maps, texts and images can never capture it fully. Wisdom means recognising both, infinity and our limits. We can keep pushing these limits and gain some territory, but there will still be infinity beyond the horizon. This is why wisdom is associated with being humble in the face of reality. That’s not to say though that we cannot dance with infinity.
64. Intimate Relationships
Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (French writer and aviator)
Two types of intimate relationships will be discussed here: passionate love and compassionate love. Even though some authors use different terms, they are all in agreement that there is a qualitative difference between an intense but usually short-term burst of passion, and the love that is associated with a long-term relationship. Many relationships fail because those involved do not understand the difference or do not know how to make the transition – which is what we will focus on in this area.
Passionate love is an intense desire for union with the other person. Its purpose is to break barriers and reduce the anxiety of being close to a practical stranger. It is characterised by moments of exultation, excitement, feeling accepted and safe, and even a sense of unity and transcendence. The common view is that its occurrence cannot be controlled (hence, falling in love). In fact, there are a number of factors that can contribute to and fuel passionate love: novelty; intense positive or negative experiences (e.g. having an adventure or going through some difficulties with another person); fantasies (that can be fuelled by delayed or denied gratification). The most common trigger for passionate love though is identifying somebody with the fulfilment of one’s own needs and desires. In other words, projecting one’s ideal onto the other. This is enforced by glossing over anything that doesn’t fit that ideal. And yet, nobody is perfect – sooner or later, reality kicks in and inevitable differences between the real person and the ideal cannot be ignored any more. This (coupled with excitement naturally subsiding) is why passionate love is usually temporary. When we refuse to acknowledge these differences, passionate love becomes infatuation. It may lead to an attempt to force the other to adjust to one’s ideal, which usually ends in either disappointment or rejection. Let’s turn now to dealing with the latter.