Derek Sivers
Happy - by Derren Brown

Happy - by Derren Brown

ISBN: 0552172359
Date read: 2017-03-05
How strongly I recommend it: 9/10
(See my list of 360+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Brilliant and profound yet totally entertaining philosophy book by one of my favorite people. Gives an approachable overview of past philosophies and shows how they apply to your life today better than the harmful pop-self-help-positivity stuff. Amazing perspectives on desires, death, relationships, anger, and how being present doesn’t matter as much as the story you tell yourself afterwards. His fun writing style isn’t reflected in my notes here. Get the book.

my notes

The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived lives of the parents.

Don’t become so annoyed by someone that you become a source of annoyance to others.

No one has the direct means to affect your self-control or dignity.

Everyone thinks the limits of their own field of vision are the limits of the world.

The story you tell yourself of your life is a confabulation.
Don’t mistake your constructed life story as the truth.

You are not characters in a movie whose personalities are clearly defined and predictable.
You can act out of character.

A placebo transformed volunteers because they gave themselves permission to act differently.
“I am no longer the person with this problem, because a new medicine is solving that for me.”

Blind faith is more commonly a recipe for disaster than for triumph.
That would be obvious if failed businessmen could sell their biographies as well as the successful ones.
Biographies of successful, strong entrepreneurs adhering to a vision, no matter what, and having no time for those who would get in the way or did not share the hero’s Herculean self-belief?
This success story is also a recipe for failure.
What could be more conducive to financial disaster than blindly ignoring all advice?
Many more will fail than succeed through blind self-belief.

Plan for success. Prepare for failure.

A snappy, self-assured “Ignore the h8ers” can be a dangerous folly.
By removing or ignoring the sources of honest feedback, you create a downward spiral of self-deception.

Life is chess.
Your plan is affected by the inclinations of the other player.
You must modify your plan constantly.

You know that after you snack you will be hungry again soon.
But this thought does not trouble you.
It is part of an endless chain of desires: you will eat, then, after a while, desire to eat again.
The problem is when you fail to see the same process in your less essential desires.

Your desires would diminish drastically if you didn’t need to impress anyone.
The things you desire really do little other than fuel further desires and teach you what greed is.
Envy comes from proximity, not disproportion.
Your cognitions, perceptions, attitudes and conceptions of yourself are all tied in with those to whom you liken or contrast yourself.

The places and things that insist most loudly that they will make you happy rarely do.
Joy prefers to arrive quietly and alone elsewhere, unceremoniously and unannounced.
Meanwhile, you search for happiness in distractions.

Many people who search for a consolidating philosophy tend to be eternal “seekers”, never quite comfortable in their own skin and every few years adopting a fresh external source of guidance or following some new charismatic leader.

A way of living can come from due thought rather than a passive immersion in the tangles of everyday distractions.

Your philosophy can be highly flexible and subject to great changes, but the important point is to have one.
It does not need to be easily describable in its entirety, or clearly attributable to any philosophical school.
It should stand up to scrutiny and enquiry, being thought through and considered.
It must give you a solid foundation without limiting you by insisting on a set of beliefs.

If you don’t identify and engage with your stories, you might quickly find yourself at the mercy of whatever voices happen to be loudest around you.

Death bed regrets:
Why should the anticipation of future introspective thoughts triggered by illness in the final few months of your life dictate the choices you make now and for decades ahead?
You could spend your life exploring pleasurable activities and still come to the end with regretting.
So what if you do?
Is it not potentially just as disastrous to live your life with the goal of dying without regret, just to find that you regret not living for the moment while you could?

You don’t make decisions based on your experiences.
You make them based on the stories of your experiences.
You should be more concerned with this remembering self.
Pampering the experiencing self is not enough; you want memories too.
Your bestial experiencing self has an attention span of about three seconds.
Its reports are quickly superseded by those of its story-loving, identity-forming superior.

You care a lot about endings when you consider stories.
They tend to define the character of the whole tale.

Your centre of gravity is rooted within yourself.
Work, health, family and friends still make their demands, but you can acknowledge and entertain those forces without feeling them impose directly upon your core self.
Your happiness resides quietly in the epicentre of your emotional life, an area before which you can raise the drawbridge, and from time to time close off from outside threat.

Schopenhauer was referred to as the philosopher of pessimism.
He writes about escaping the base and unpleasant forces in life and finding greater happiness.
It is more rewarding to read such advice from a philosopher whose initial presumptions about life are negative.

Schopenhauer’s ideal is to be wealthy enough to have expansive free time and the intellectual capabilities to fill it with contemplation and activity in the service of mankind.

Pain and boredom are the two foes of human happiness.
When your stability relies principally on external factors, you shuttle back and forth between the two.

Use your intellect to rise above your instincts.

The more certain you appear about something, the less you know about it.
The sign of the true expert is his modest awareness of how much more there is to know; how complex and nuanced the subject at hand insists on remaining.

Non-conformity might work as a temporary rite of passage to a more independent place.
But “fuck you” is too much about the “you”.
If you proudly walk on the opposite side of the road as everyone else, then you’d be forced to cross the road if everyone else decided to switch sides.

When you shut parts of yourself off, they re-emerge as pathologies and anxieties, or reasons for therapy.
Pay attention to your anxieties, ask where they come from and of what difficult episodes in the past they remind you.
Treat them as deep messages to enable you to reconsider your priorities.

If your walls are severely cracked, no amount of wallpaper will solve the problem.

When you make these blueprints for your life, you want to have the best advice.
Some people may be happy to hand over responsibility to a single architect and have him do all the work and decision-making.
Religion offers this relinquishing of responsibility.
Most “complete” solutions remove the need to continue asking the kind of existential questions the considered life provokes.
The answers have been provided for you.

No one philosophy is perfect, but even if there were a perfect philosophy, who could perfectly apply it?

Philosophy rarely concerns itself with empirical research, preferring instead a vertical approach: an opportunity for an individual journey of deep understanding.

Humans can know themselves.
You can use your reason to examine your unconscious beliefs and values.

Humans can change themselves.
You can use your reason to change your beliefs.
This will change your emotions, because your emotions follow your beliefs.

Humans can consciously create new habits of thinking, feeling and acting.

If you follow philosophy as a way of life, you can live more flourishing life.

A person living a considered and truly affirmed life would be happy for it to be lived over and over again.

In history, you can find the most effective answers to improving your happiness.

In Greek tragedies, audiences followed a hero trying to impose order (the Apollonian urge) on whatever random fate threw his way (the Dionysian drive).

You should rise above an attraction to beauty in a particular person.
Allow yourself to be drawn to a more general picture of beauty.
And finally to the Idea of beauty itself as an archetype, with little erotic regard for mere mortal examples of it.
In other words: move from sexual attraction to a kind of contemplation.

The Idea of beauty is part of a realm more real than the beautiful things you see every day.
The things and qualities of your everyday world are like shadows cast on a back wall of a cave.
You look at the shadows and mistake them for real things, but you miss the fact that they are mere silhouettes.
Comprehending these true objects – the Ideas – constitutes the most authentic way of living.

Science operates on the same principle as the Idea of beauty.
Scientific truth is not about looking within yourself.
Good science bypass subjective experience and human error to describe as accurately as possible the “Truth”.

Recognize what you like about somebody.
Admire it as a quality separate from that particular person, rather than confusing it with him or her.
What you admire about them are qualities that exist separately from the particular (and therefore flawed) example that they constitute.
(This also has therapeutic value if you find yourself infatuated with someone.)

Learn from the qualities you like in someone.
Develop it in yourself.
Recognize it in others.

Positive qualities you like about someone continue to reside in them even when they seem to have lost all their redeeming aspects.

The loss of self that you feel when worshipping another can feel intoxicating.
But it hurts when their all-too-human qualities become apparent.
A person will never embody the qualities you perceive in them as perfectly as you might imagine.

Socratic happiness was indistinguishable from a rising above, a virtuous elevation, a higher plateau.

Be good, rather than know goodness.

Excessive behaviours are easier to exhibit than virtues.

Ethics have muscle-memory.
Practice acting in a way until it comes naturally.

Devoting yourself to intellectual pursuits is the best sort of virtuous activity.

You can enjoy trivial pleasures, but these should only be in preparation for activities in accordance with virtue.

The experiencing self might enjoy a few hours of gaming.
But the remembering self forms a painful story in which you have let yourself down.
Your remembering, story-forming self needs a narrative of happiness in the same way your experiencing self requires its pleasures.

Daily irritations are a test that teaches you virtue, and, step by step, moving towards being a better version of yourself.

People take longer-lasting pleasure from being kind to others than having others be kind to them.

There is a deeper happiness to be had in knowing that your life is part of a story of flourishing than there is in merely pursuing entertainment.

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is surprisingly immediate and accessible.

Aristotle felt an attachment to things for their own sake is a healthy part of the good life.
This was a much more pragmatic and relaxed approach to attachment than would follow in subsequent schools.

Epicureanism: good and evil are no more than a matter of pleasure and pain; to live well is about maximizing the first and minimizing the second.

Epicureanism: indulgence in fine food and drink were rejected because it was seen as eventually causing more pain (hangover, illness, frustrated desire for further luxuries) than the fleeting pleasure they might provide in the moment.

Epicureans lived a simple, ascetic life, believing that by limiting themselves to a few natural desires (such as friendship, bread and water), they would be far happier than those who finally bring pain upon themselves through entertaining greater needs.
Pleasures were rationally chosen, so that they would not ultimately lead to misery.

Epicurus gave his followers slogans to memorize, so they could spring easily to mind when most needed.
(such as “He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing”)
Slogans can help deal with adversity or disturbance without recourse to detailed thought or study.

Epicurus tells you you have nothing more than your animalistic bodily senses to put to use.
If you pay attention to what they tell you, you will find that the good life, of the highest pleasure, also happens to be the simplest.
Happiness came in the form of tranquillity.

Utilitarianism equated goodness with the ability to bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people.

You might scoff at religious people who believe that sacred icons are mystic avatars.
But you are still prone to the same superstitious thinking.
To appreciate this, try taking a knife and repeatedly stabbing a photograph of a loved one, and preferably one who has recently passed away.
You’ll soon appreciate the power of the graven image.

You have a “meaning-shaped hole” because we are story-forming creatures, and stories should not meander without a point.

John Stuart Mill, the English Utilitarian, lost faith in the idea of happiness as our ultimate human goal.
What should replace it?
Liberty, self-realisation and personal freedom.

In developing your individuality, you become more valuable to yourself, and therefore capable of being more valuable to others.

Develop and strengthen those parts of you that feel unique.
You can contribute more to society as a distinct, idiosyncratic individual.
And therefore, ultimately, be of more use to the world.

The differences between people in a relationship are part of what makes it valuable.
See the qualities that separate them from you as precisely the features to celebrate.

Happiness is achieved indirectly through individual liberation from the levelling demands of society.

A reaction against a movement tends to inherit its structure.

To become happier, you need to feel differently about things that cause (or have the potential to cause) anxiety.
You must change your emotional experiences.

Train yourself to feel satisfied with what comes more easily.
That way, you are far more likely to reach a point of relatively undisturbed happy contentment.

Everything you need is easy to procure, while the things you desire but don’t need are more difficult to obtain.

Neediness is the destroyer of love.
You can never get enough from people towards whom you feel needy.
If you were sure that you could get by happily enough without this relationship, it’s easier to be less demanding and enjoy what the other person chooses to give.

If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgement of them.
You can wipe out that judgement now.

Feelings are provoked by an exhausting little voice inside your head.
These intermediary thoughts step in and interpret external events as a good reason to feel bad, mad or scared.
You make a judgement about the event and then react to that verdict.

Some school of thought says that intellect is of the mind and emotions are of the body - thinking you are born with your capacity for grief and anger and despair in place, whereas you learn reasoning through the society in which you live.
The Greeks, however, were not of this opinion.
Emotions stem from how you interpret events.
Your emotions are in essence “cognitive” and will change and shift as those beliefs are modified.
You can see them as fundamentally rational.

Radically reappraising the role of feelings in order to create a life of increased tranquillity.

The metaphor of “letting off steam” comes from, not surprisingly, the time of the locomotive engine.
Freud was fascinated by this invention, and for him it was a powerful metaphor for human emotion.
By comparison today, your language for the brain is rooted in computer-talk and its language of “reprogramming”.
In Freud’s time, too much built-up steam, not allowed to escape in some harmless way, was believed to create a neurosis.
Today, it feels more “modern” to talk about someone’s brain “processing” messages in a certain way or needing “rewiring”.
Steam and computer metaphors amount to the attempts of different eras to come to grips with something beyond their understanding by using a model of a technology dazzling and complex but just about graspable.

Reconsider your judgements in a way that helps you.

While being tortured on the rack, be able to smile and think “This is happening to my body, but it isn’t happening to me.”

Take responsibility for your emotions, rather than insisting the rest of the world recognise them and respond with perennial sympathy.

If you insist that you are purely the victim of your situation, consider whether someone else might respond differently to it.
If you can imagine that, then your emotional response is not the events but the way you deal with them.
Compare this to the experience of hating certain foods but realising that others can eat them quite happily.

Things themselves do not dictate your responses.
You can expect to feel the first automatic flush of emotion, but you can then choose not to replay the event again and again in your minds and make yourself feel terrible.

Don’t try to change things you cannot control.
Under your control are your thoughts and actions.
Not under your control is everything else, including fame, power, the behaviour and thoughts of other people, your property and your reputation.

Everything you learned about yourself from your parents when you were a child:
Those areas where your caregivers were stuck, will have impacted upon you like a script, dictating what you should seek or avoid in the world.
You will learn strengths from them, but also fears and needs: your own personal ways of feeling a bit scared.
Unhelpfully, these needs will feel to you entirely normal and rational!

Unconscious parent-created fears and needs will resurface when you later enter a significant relationship, as you project them on to your new partner.
Although you profess to be in love, and to have lost yourself in this other person, you are barely (at this early point) doing them the justice of considering them an actual human being.
They begin as a projection of your needs; you hope that he or she will be the perfect match, the magical “other” who will satisfy us.
It is only when you stop projecting your needs – which first means becoming conscious of them as needs – that you can release the other person from the tyranny of your expectations.

In a relationship, least stable partner will tend to project the most, thereby commonly setting the agenda for the couple.
Both may find themselves living the script set down by the past experiences of the needier partner.

Celebrate your romantic partner as an entire, separate human being, one with some disappointing peculiarities it is up to you to navigate, accommodate, forgive.

The urge for control over something is almost overwhelming.
Feeling uneasy in conversation at a dinner party, you arrange the scattered objects before you on the table at neat right angles.

You project your needs on to food in the way you do with your partners.
Many people overstuffing to feed a spiritual hunger or denying themselves in order to establish a secure area of jurisdiction.
A neurotic impulse that comes from an avoidance of deep dialogue with the self.

If you fixate on the thought “I must win this game”, then you are trying to control something that you cannot.
You can identify that it isn’t within your control and tell yourself it’s fine and none of your business.
Instead, you can enter the game with the aim of “I will play this game as well as I can.”
Even if that instruction it’s fine takes a while to truly make itself felt in your bones, you have a clear target that you are aiming.

Permit nothing to grow to you that may give you agony when it is torn away.

Learn to value those things more by appreciating their transience in your life, and you are more prepared for the moment you lose them.

Mentally rehearse losing everything you have.

The word “attachment” might be misleading:
Surely you wouldn’t want to care less about your loved ones?
Are you being seriously asked to distance yourself?
Express your feelings to those you love now while you can, to never take them for granted.

Anyone who adopted these principles in the age you are considering was called a philosopher.
The term referred to someone who lived in a certain way, not only to someone who spent his time contemplating or devising systems of thought.

The two big questions you might ask yourself when you are feeling mad, bad or sad:
I am responsible for how I feel about external events. What am I doing to give myself this feeling?
Is this thing that’s upsetting me something which lies under my control?
If not, what if I were to decide it’s fine and let it go?

Stick with your first impressions of things, and do not embellish the story.
A neurotic or anxious person prides herself on being “perceptive” when it comes to people, as if the legacy of a perennially unsettling childhood would be powers of observation as cool and perspicacious as Sherlock Holmes.
This wariness you mistake for insight; you thus decide from a place of insecurity what truth is and find evidence for it everywhere.

You too easily work to consolidate and bolster your insecurities by confirming to yourself your worst fears.

No one confines his unhappiness to the present.
Memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely.

You need to practice.
If you don’t do something for a long time, it is difficult to then do it when you need to.
Get ahead of the game.
Make provision for negative events before they arise.

Anger is driven by a desire for revenge: to harm another person.
You perceive yourself to have been slighted, ignored, disregarded or otherwise unfairly treated or perceived.

To feel anger is unavoidable but not in itself helpful; the key is turning it into something constructive.
You are angry because you would like to change something in the world.
Anger pulls you from your natural state of openness and turns you against humanity.

Call anger by another name: panic.
Usually, when you are angry, you are scared.
You are scared that someone’s actions will leave you helpless, or in some way betrayed, overwhelmed or abandoned.
You might be scared that you will lose your autonomy.
You are angry with others for not doing their jobs properly, because you in turn are then forced to struggle even more under your own pressures.
You are angry at bad service because you feel yourself being undermined or unheard.
You tend to suffer from the fear of abandonment or the fear of being overwhelmed.
The former tends to make you meet stress with anxiety, the latter to retreat.

If, when angry with someone, you first allow them to explain themselves, and if you actually listen to what they say, you can allow your anger to dissolve.

Expressing your unhappiness in a sensitive way is one of the most productive things you can do in a relationship.

Do you want to avoid losing your temper?
Resist the impulse to be curious.
The man who tries to find out what has been said against him, who seeks to unearth spiteful gossip, even when engaged in privately, is destroying his own peace of mind.

The problem is not the nastiness of the online comments; it is the fact that you are choosing to read them.

When faced with the distress of others, you tend to assume a calming role.

You keep accounts badly: you rate high what you have paid out but low what you have been paid.
You have an inflated sense of your own entitlement.

The hallmark of the truly successful: quiet charm.
His manner was masterfully understated; every action, every inch of his appearance made me feel honoured to meet a man I had never heard of.
Talking to me, he was utterly engaged and present, two hallmarks of charisma, and, like an actor playing a king, he let other people confer status upon him, playing none of it himself.
When you are happy, you have won the game, and the fact is self-evident; there’s no need to broadcast the victory.

Two common mistakes when you try to be liked: you either try to impress or you try to be like the other person.

Most people are drawn to basic qualities such as warmth and openness.
The person eager to impress might find it very difficult to freely compliment people, believing that to commend another would be to denigrate himself.

Self-abnegation is a powerful key to social appeal.
You are drawn to the person who lets you know how fascinating you are.

A large part of improving the “self” is to shift the focus from “self” to “other”.

A jar of threads: try to remove one and the whole bundle comes out with it.
A friend’s occasional spinelessness is impossible to untangle from his striking kindness of which you are so fond.

You are prone to switching off your empathy when it would require you to relate to antisocial acts.
This blinkering effect of decency: where you make it hard for yourself to understand “evil” acts of wrongdoers.
This is disingenuous of us, because, as you have seen, we all act from standpoints that are logical to us.
You yourself would very likely react in the same way if you found yourself in entirely the same position.
Thus you become angry rather than make any attempt to understand, as if trying to appreciate common ground were tantamount to the endorsing of or sympathising with the offending act.

Total adherence to one school of thought or another is likely to deny the important and beneficial expression of part of your nature.
To merely label oneself a “Stoic” is to renounce one’s own voice.
A considered life should not, like the pious one, be a matter of subjugation to any label.

Street photography: noticing the poetry of the everyday.
I feel both detached from the world yet feel very connected to people around me.
I am paying far more attention to them than normal; I’m far more interested in life.
I’m attracted to people and the snapshots of life that show through their postures and faces; I am drawn to the geometry of architecture and bodies.
I become interested in the relationships between them and the possibilities of something lovely and serendipitous arising from that interplay of a real fascination with everything human.

The secret magical formula for success: TALENT + ENERGY

Formula for being a star: STYLE + ATTITUDE
A recognisable style and a certain attitude that surrounds stars as a kind of aura.

Your world will all amount to nothing.

Terminal illness is a weird kind of privilege.
Unlike the swift, brutal finality of a heart attack or road traffic accident, I have been granted the honour to plan and prepare both myself, and my family, for what is to come.
You gain from knowing that you are going to die and having the chance to act on that knowledge.

So long as you exist, death is not with you; but when death comes, then you do not exist.
Death can’t be bad for you, because you won’t be around to experience it.

You are constantly involved in projects.
These projects point you towards the future.
Death deprives you of seeing your projects come to some sort of fruition, and of engaging in fresh ones.

Death can harm you while you are alive, because you wish to continue your projects and extend your engagements into a continuing future, and death thwarts those desires.

To live forever:
How many times would you have to fall in love before the prospect of yet another attachment filled you with tedium?
How many friends would come and go before the very idea of making any social effort seemed pointless?
When would you stop bothering?
Without death, any sense of urgency is lost.
Everything worthwhile in your life draws its meaning from the fact you will die.
You need death in order to live.

The meaning of life is that it stops.

Grief is an honest expression of loss and of how much you treasured someone who has now gone.
It can be painful, but it goes hand-in-hand with the things you value.
When that time comes, no one talks about it.

A conspiracy of silence descends, and dying often becomes very, very lonely.
Unwilling to upset or burden those she loves, the dying person does not speak about her fears to her family and friends.
Horrified at the thought of saying the wrong thing or appearing to “write off” their dying beloved, the living do everything to avoid mentioning it as well.
Instead, a new modern narrative is imposed on the situation, that of the “brave battle”.
This tale, in truth designed only to keep the living happy, can put further pressure on the person facing death and alienate her from the possibility of a deep richness that only acceptance can bring.

By forcing “positive mental attitude”, health-care professionals are not allowing patients to face reality.
Our cultural obsession with goal-setting and optimism has blindly swum into waters far too deep and dark.
“Believe in yourself; you can beat this thing”: the message is no different from any manual about achieving your ambitions.

Death, you remember, does not round off a life with the satisfying ending of a novel or a film.
It does not “complete”; it curtails.
It is up to you to bring the story to a close by recognising it as such.

For you to own your death, to author it and to shape it, is tremendously important.
You are the protagonist and the author.
If you do not insist on this central role, you may find yourself reduced to a mere cameo.
Others, stronger in body and in number, may take the leading role if you do not.
Your choices must steer the process.

Abraham Maslow’s pyramid:
As you sense your time on this Earth is getting shorter, your prime concerns “descend” within the pyramid to the here and now: to relationships and everyday pleasures.
Your current priorities don’t match those you will later wish you had.
It is natural for your needs to be different when your life still extends brightly before us.
The needs of a present that has a future are different from one that does not.
The need for self-actualisation, for example, at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, may demand certain sacrifices along the way, and may need time to come into fulfilment.

The instruction to pay more attention to the present moment is helpful in a culture that teaches you to prioritise distant horizons of career success.

Be wary of fetishising the here and now.
It is not “correct” to live in the moment.
We are storytellers and right now is always part of a continuing narrative.
How you look back on this moment will be more conducive to deciding if it’s a happy one, than how you feel about it right now.

The only “should” you need ever take on board is that you “should” get on with your life without hurting other people.

Be aware of how you are likely to later judge your current actions and check that we’re not wasting time.

As your priorities at the end shift towards the simple, the immediate and the social, your other previous concerns may appear misguided.
But this sounds like a product, again, of storytelling: it would be very easy to look back and see a story of missed opportunities, now that they are running out.
It doesn’t mean you were making mistakes at the time, when horizons were further away.
The key to avoiding regret may lie as much in what story you choose to tell yourself in the future as it does in what you do or don’t do now.
All you can do is try to anticipate that future narrative and let it gently guide some of your choices up front.

You’ll never regret falling in love. Do so over and over again.

Faced with a choice of doing a job for the money or doing a job for the fun of it, take the fun one whenever you can.
You’ll rarely enjoy the work you do for money.

Although the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death saves us.

You generally feel defined by your past.
Your past, however, is a story that you tell yourself in the present.
On the one hand it is a narrative, and on the other hand it is true.
Situations can fling you back without any room for rational appraisal to those times when you suffered.
Now feels like then.
Seek a perspective that allows you to see the story for what it is.
Without gaining something of a detached vantage point and identifying your stories for what they are, you will still remain prey to your deep-seated beliefs about who you are and how the world must work, mistake them for concrete reality and inflict them upon your loved ones and everyone else.
Consciously note the way your unconscious machinations bring these old patterns to the fore, and then, where you can, quietly smile at them.

Be grateful to your unconscious for looking out for you, while also acknowledging that it’s being hilariously oversensitive.
Each time you gently deny it its power by nipping it in the bud through your own amusement, and practise instead a new response, you break these old neural connections and form a new pathway.

Age doesn’t obliterate your individual traits and identities.
On the contrary, it heightens them.

The approach of death gives you a chance to pay attention to how your life might affect those you know.
You are dealing with the end of your story, and it is the end of the story that colours the rest.
You remember that what happens in the final chapter of a book or the final scene of a movie is the key to how you feel about the entire tale.

If you have the opportunity, you can make sure that despite the effect you may have had on a person in the past, you can finish the story well and ripple positively into that person.
Knowing that life after your deaths will continue with positive memories of you in place might help you to engage richly and simply in your life, and end your stories as satisfyingly as possible.

When you value something, you see reasons to preserve it over time.
By valuing something, you make a judgement about how an aspect of the future should be.
When the future is removed from the equation, you lose this sense of what you value.
You need to die, and you also need others to live on after you, and without you.
The continuing lives of others matter more to you than do your own.

If not in the body and not in the soul, where is that person’s “self” housed?
Perhaps it is in their personality.
Your patterns of thinking can be experienced by other people too.
For a while I think and feel like you (perhaps while contemplating how you would behave in a certain situation).

A mature relationship involves celebrating the mystery and wholeness of one’s partner.
It is standing in appreciation of their otherness, not neurotically attempting to obliterate it because at some level their separation from you might trigger responses you once had to a fallible, unavailable parent.

No one is ever entirely right for you because you are all broken.

Your ultimate aim is maybe not so much to be happy as to live fully and make sure you are moving forward.
Disturbance, then, can be a signal that you are moving in the right direction: namely, out of your comfort zone.
To remain tranquil and comfortable would deny you your growth.
To remain happy would stop you from flourishing.

The things that remain unconscious are always in charge.