“The Meaning of Life & Death” is a special seminar series inspired by Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Denial of Death.” The series comes from footage taken during a day-long session from an Aura Mastermind gathering in New York City. This seminar series explores the themes of life purpose, the meaning of life, the search for immortality, and the significance of death in human psychology and cultures.
This video series was also a bonus component in the 8-week course “Lifestyle Mastery,” which examines the purpose of life and many other related issues.
For over a decade, David Tien, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfillment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behavior, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Subscribe now 🙂
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On Becker’s “Denial of Death” (Pt. 2)
David Tian Ph.D. expounds on the topic of life and death by referencing Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Denial of Death.”
David Tian Ph.D. explains Becker’s conclusion that our entire lives in all of human history is a repression.
David Tian Ph.D. defines existential dilemma and why we have it.
In this talk, David Tian Ph.D. describes how transference terror, the horror of losing the object or of displeasing it is related to the fear of death.
David Tian: The desire to live longer, and have your kids live longer, and life lasting longer, being inherently seeming to us a good thing is a really important thing to realize.
I left last time with this slide here of total repression. What does this mean? So, in the earlier work that I’ve done in Awakenings, in Rock Solid, Masculine Mastery, in earlier summits, I went in depth for years about repression of childhood traumas, and the basic neurosis.
And one of the reasons why this book kept getting sided in all of the other literature was because, what this is doing is it’s taking it to its logical conclusion. The conclusion is that our entire lives in all of human history is a repression. We’re going to explore what that means.
I’m going to read you a paragraph from here because it puts it so well. All right, let’s start from – “We protect ourselves and our ideal image of ourselves by repression and similar defenses, which are essentially techniques by which we avoid becoming conscious of unpleasant or dangerous truths.”
“The individual has to repress globally, from the entire spectrum of his experience, if he wants to feel a warm sense of inner value and basic security. This sense of value and support is something that nature gives to each animal by the automatic instinctive programming and in the pulsating of the vital processes.”
“But man, poor denuded creature, has to build and earn inner value and security.” He has to earn it. And you might’ve heard me say at the end of Lust or Desire System, that the basic project is to earn your self-esteem. That’s a very obvious process. And that’s what we’re getting to, the problem of that.
“He must repress his smallness in the adult world, his failures to live up to adult commands and codes. He must repress his own feelings of physical and moral inadequacy. Not only the adequacy of his good intentions, but also his guilt and his evil intentions: the death wishes and hatreds that result from being frustrated and blocked by the adults.”
“He must repress his parents’ inadequacy, their anxieties and terrors, because these make it difficult for him to feel secure and strong.” “If daddy’s fucked up, then what’s going to happen to me? If mommy and daddy ever get in an argument, what’s going to happen to me? If daddy can’t handle it, what’s going to happen to me?” That’s part of it.
He must repress his own anality. I skipped the whole anality section for this presentation, but that’s pretty deep. His compromising bodily functions that spell his mortality, his fundamental expendability in nature. And with all this, and more that we leave unsaid, he must repress the primary awesomeness of the external world.” Of nature, of the fact that none of this is within our control.
There can be a random earthquake, we could all die. There could be a tsunami while I’m kayaking in Thailand and kill us all. Any of these things could happen at any moment. Don’t think about that, because that makes your life meaningless, so we repress it and get on with business as if there is meaning to it.
And maybe this is a good time to pause on that total repression. We’re going to end with this, but you worked really, really hard to get where you are in life and you’re going to continue to work hard. You’re going to go to more Tony Robbins events and push yourself. You’re going to walk over fire.
There are many things in life that you don’t enjoy doing in the moment, but you do them in order to get this other thing, the people who don’t enjoy working out, but they work out to get a better body, or to get energy that they will then use. But the working out, in the moment, is not fun. They don’t enjoy it, as for most of the world. That’s why most of the world sucks at working out, or they don’t stick with it.
And imagine, as he finishes the hard part. The hard part is done. He did the work out. He’s getting ready to receive the reward. The reward is usually not immediate, so that’s a bad example, but imagine a situation where you’re working something, you’re doing some kind of work that’s really painful in the moment in order to get some goal that you want.
Like, The Marshmallow Experiment, delayed gratification in Stanford. You’re waiting for that hour, and then the hour ends, you get two marshmallows. So, the whole time, you’re looking at that one marshmallow like, “No, no.” And then minute 59, marshmallows are going to come. [SOUND EFFECT] You get run over by a car.
It kind of sucks. You think the whole life was for this other thing. Now, that’s an obvious one. If you put off enjoying your life now for some later thing, that’s a really foolish life. So, we’re constantly balancing pain and pleasure. “What is the pain that I need to undergo now to get the pleasure in the future? Hopefully, I won’t die on the way to get that pleasure.”
But imagine the entire life is lived this way, so that you are going through some hard fought lessons. You get to the end of that life, and finally you stand on your own two feet. And as you’re getting up, “Yes, I finally see everything!” and you die. There are no movies – generally, a really fucked up movie would be two hours of you really buying into this character, and the character gets raped.
She gets raped, beaten by her dad. She somehow gets out of the house. Her boyfriend rapes and beats her. She’s in India, so they throw acid on her and so she’s disfigured. And now, she goes through these skin grafts, these painful things, and all of this. And as she’s finally making her way in life, there’s an earthquake, she dies. The end.
Lights come up. Go out of the theatre. That would be great for an art flick and the critics would love it. It would make no money, though. There’s a book about Indian beggars that came out before Slumdog Millionaire. There was an earlier book that was really well-received. It was this thick, and I read it. It was basically about two brothers, an older brother and a younger one, who went through all life. It’s 400 pages of really bad shit that happened.
When they were kids, they were maimed so that they could beg. They’re perfectly healthy, and now they’re losing limbs. Eventually, the younger brother falls in love with this other beggar girl and they’re in their 20s now. Finally, he finds love and redemption. They fall in love and they agreed to get married and have a baby, but their boss – They’re basically construction workers in exchange for food, so they live in a tent.
And then they have to go out and do hard labor and then come back to the tent. And somehow, he found a woman and they’re about to have a baby. In the last chapter of the book, the boss gives an order that while you should put these guys to sleep, and then snip snip so that they make sure that the male workers don’t procreate some more because we’re going to have rats overrunning the compound. We can’t have these guys having babies and then dropping off.
So he wakes up in the hospital, a makeshift hospital and finds out that he can’t have a baby. The end. Fucking hell! So, part of us is like, “What was the point of this guy’s life? It’s just pain and then you die.” We hope to God that that’s not us. And yet, if you look at most of human history, that’s been their lives. We don’t know anything about 99.9% of human Homo sapiens that have lived this world, our ancestors. We don’t know most of their lives or anything about them.
A peasant, which is 99% of Homo sapien history for the last 2,000 years, lived a really tough life in terms of physical labor and all that. We, as academics, think that they found happiness because happiness is relative, and this is another deep thing we can get to. But the average person wouldn’t want to go back there. We’re like, “Yeah, they were happy back then, but I do not want you to implant my mind into the body of a 17th century servant.”
So, there’s a part of us that’s just like, “That sucks. That life they led? That sucks.” “My life, yeah. I’m going to Tony Robbins. I have a good life.” There’s a part of us that wants to have our life to be significant, and yet if we just face reality, our lives in the broad scheme of the universe, or even of human history, or even of this history of this city or wherever the fuck you live is irrelevant.
In Marvel comics right now, or Marvel TV show, there’s a TV show that took all of the loser heroes, put them together, and they made a show out of them. I don’t know if you guys have seen this, but I watched the first episode. And it was like the bad guys from The Flash.
So, The Flash is a significant man, and some of the good guys in Flash and bad – they ended up in this, and then the ones from Daredevil, they ended up in it. So, it’s all the minor characters. At the beginning of the first episode, they were all taken together and made a team, and they were told, “It’s because I come back from the future, and all of you play a significant role in the future, so we need to keep you together.”
And then they beat up this guy. At the end of the episode, it comes out that guy lied. The reason they stole all these people out of their timeline was because they were irrelevant and didn’t matter when they took them out of the timeline. All of these superheroes are like, “I didn’t matter.” And that’s why we have a show about you.
So, this is your chance to make it matter! And they’re like, they want to kill that guy from the future. But the smart guy is like, “No, don’t do that!” But then they’re like, “Oh.” And then they’re like, “Forget this. Fuck this shit.” Now, they’re way back in time or some shit.
But then, what are you going to do about that? You didn’t matter. And then they’re like, “Okay, now is our chance to matter.” And some of them were bad guys in the other timeline and now they’re like, “Okay, we’re going to be significant. I want my life to matter.” And they all come back together and they’re like, “Okay, we’re back on board.” That’s the end of episode one. I didn’t watch the rest.
We relate to them. That show will work on the premise, anyway, because we as human beings have that same fear that we don’t matter. You disappear from this timeline, especially the ones with no kids, you don’t matter. You actually don’t. I mean, the immediate circle will care if you just suddenly disappear.
Fast forward 20 years, they’ll all have gotten over you. Maybe they think about you once a year on the anniversary of your death, maybe five people. But think about your friends who’ve passed away. If they’re not really close friends, they’re just peripheral, how often do you think about them?
Especially if you’re a heartless narcissist, you don’t think about them at all. And you think about yourself all the time. You should die because you’re actually a vampire on this Earth. You’re a parasite on me and on other people. You don’t care about us. We should kill you and take all of your possessions. That’s what we did 100,000 years ago in caveman time.
The only reason we didn’t do that is because according to the American style is because the fight would’ve been brutal. But if I was much stronger than you, I would’ve killed you. You’re harmful to me. You’re a potential harm to me because you’re a narcissist. I should kill you, take your stuff. No one will know about it, and then we have internal guilt. So we all live with the guilt already of the hatred and destructive things that we thought about as babies.
Okay, so the psychoanalytic revelation. What you discover as you go through psychoanalysis, is that the whole of your early experience was an attempt by you as a child to deny the anxiety of your own emergence into the world, you and your fear of losing your support, of standing alone, helpless and afraid in the world. And so, you need mom and dad because if you did, in fact, stand lonely and helpless and alone in the world, you would literally die.
So, human babies are not equipped to survive pretty much anywhere. That was a real fear. That was an obvious fear. During that period, we’re pretty helpless, which is pretty long compared to other mammals, we have to repress this fear. So, we do all kinds of contortion psychologically, and maybe physically, to appease the powerful caregivers. And so, we had those coping strategies.
The impossible situation of the child was to fashion his own defenses against the world and to find a way to survive in it with the limited mental and emotional resources that he has. And our psychological operating system, that’s my term, I’d like to call the OS of the mind; our rules, our values, how they hang together, our beliefs, came to him from his need to adapt to the whole desperate human condition.
And not merely to attune himself to the whims of his parents. Now, in the earlier sessions, in all my earlier courses, I’m focusing on how you attune yourself to the whims of your parents, your all-powerful caregivers, and now I’m talking about how, no matter what, you’re, as a human being, going to be traumatized by the planet, by nature, by the world. That’s the bigger point.
No one can escape this, therefore you are suffering from it just as I am. So, this is Morpheus. I’m telling you, Neo, about the matrix. Universal psychosis, what we all are suffering from. Despite our underlying unconscious anxiety of death, man, us, may nevertheless be perfectly well-able to live on, to be a man, as it seems. This is a quote from Kierkegaard, “To be a man, as it seems, to occupy himself with temporal things, get married, beget children, win honor and esteem. And perhaps, no one notices that in a deeper sense, he lacks a self.”
And now, we can tie in all of the earlier clinical psychology. I never thought about Kierkegaard as a psychologist, but a philosopher first and foremost, he was a philosophical psychologist. That’s what I did for my Ph.D. That was my field and I’m like, “Wow, all of this comes together now.”
And of course, I can bring in all the Asian stuff too, but I’m not going to bring it here, that the talk about true self and authentic self. That was way long ago when you abandoned that. The way you are now is not your true self, guaranteed. And even when you try to be your true self, 90% of the time, you’re not.
And it’s possible to become more and more of your true self, to increase the time that you are your true self, to increase your happiness on this planet. And if that’s all you’re interested in, then don’t come to me anymore. There’s a billion guys out there like Tony Robbins, you go to them. You just want to numb yourself with more money and babes and shit like that? The internet is littered with them.
In fact, it’s what VaynerMedia called ‘littering the internet’. Just content that has no purpose. So, just go and get it. There’s so many guys teaching you how to get more girls. Every week, there’s a new guy putting out an in-field video. Go to them. They are numbing you and putting you in this situation, perfectly well-able to live on in the illusion.
If you want to get replugged back into the matrix, go to them. So, I don’t do that anymore. I have no interesting in that anymore. I’m Morpheus, I don’t want to put you back in the matrix. But many people do. Most of the world, like 99% of the world, gets married, has children, wins honor and esteem and then dies, and then they become worms and nobody remembers their names.
And now, you might think – this is part of the legacy worry, even Vayner has that problem, Gary has that problem, caring about his legacy, still trying to escape death. You have the litter of the internet. The only way anybody will find your records 100 years from now of your videos, and most of you aren’t even producing videos, they’ll find me if they search enough, is by searching for it. Just like the internet, very quickly, without Google, was nothing, like the black hole of the internet.
There are websites that exist that you cannot find unless you have the URL. They exist somewhere, but no one’s going to find them unless they’re looking for it. No one’s going to hear about you unless they’re purposefully looking for you. And even then, it might be hard. You have to sift through lots of shit. You’re littering the internet.
Our brains are not involved for the internet, anyway. We have a deep fear already of an anxiety of death. I assumed the Homo sapiens who didn’t inherit this somehow, they just – what’s the point? They died off. They didn’t fear death and like they’re dead. Maybe they had a great time while they’re doing it, who knows. We don’t know. We are the inheritors of people who are fearful of death.
How do we deal with it? We got to get on with life. This is what Kierkegaard was talking about. This is the existential dilemma. So, able to live on in an illusion, the psychosis. Psychosis is somebody who believes in an illusion. And we think that one of the things we need to do is to build character.
If you’re a good person, you think, “I don’t want just money. I don’t just want 2.5 kids, a white picket fence, and a house and a car. I want to matter.” And how do you matter the most? You don’t matter just by accumulating possessions. Like what Tony Robbins says, it’s not about what you get, it’s about who you become. That’s the great lie.
I’m contradicting Tony Robbins here, going right at him. I’m sure he’s thought about this. Well, I think. He’s old. I think he’s thought about this. The prison of one’s character, and this runs through all of the past 200 years of psychology literature. So, I’m not just coming out of left field on this.
I can trace it all the way back to early-Buddhism as well. And Daoists, there’s an eternal debate in Chinese philosophy between the Confucianists and Daoists. They track the same debates here. The prison of your character, the adult child builds up strategies and techniques for keeping self-esteem in the face of the terror of his situation.
So, how do you get on in life? You have to have a minimum of confidence in yourself that you can handle shit, you can handle these things. You get up on your own two feet and you just keep trudging on. You fall back down. “I can do this!” You know, the kid, and he just keeps doing it. And the mom and daddy are cheering him on and he’s like, “I can do this!”
So he keeps his self-esteem, great. The very defenses he needs to move about with self-confidence and self-esteem become his life-long trap. We start to think that’s what life is about, and that’s fine if you want to think that. That is the average person.
A great quote from Becker, “In the prison of one’s character one can pretend and feel that he is somebody; that the world is manageable, that there is a reason for one’s life.” You are somebody. You matter. You matter to mom. You matter to dad. You matter. You matter in this world.
That’s important. This is called your character, the person you become. Your parents care about whether you learn math, and have a good character, and have integrity, and not spoiled and mean and stuff like that. That matters.
The prison of one’s character is built to deny one thing: our creatureliness. That’s a really packed term from Becker. Creatureliness is highlighting the fact that our human bodies are made of molecules that will disappear. Standard biology says that every seven years, we replace all the cells in our body. They die. The old ones die off and we have new ones.
And philosophers love talking about personal identity. Who is the you? You are the thing that keeps these molecules together as they change over time. Okay, so our creatureliness is the fact that we are in a thing that can die at any moment, and will eventually, no matter what, die.
And for most of our evolutionary history, we died in 30 years. Actually, for most of human history, we died in 20 years. In the last 1,000 years, it was 30. Well, in the last 500 years, it was 30. And only in the last 70 years has life expectancy suddenly shot up from 35, to 70, and now it’s – depending on what country you live in, 78, 79.
And in Japan, it’s probably higher. So, that’s new just so you know. The consciousness of death is the primary repression. So, there’s a lot of repressions; repressing the time when our peers laughed at us. We got bullied. The repression when we had to figure out how to get mommy and daddy’s love.
These other repressions I’ve talked a lot about in the past couple of years, but the first repression is the repression that this thing, and Becker and Freud spent a lot of time on anality, the first realization that you’re a mortal creature, that there’s dirty stuff that comes out of your body that you have to dispose of. Eventually, that will be your entire body.
This realization that you are mortal, and flesh, and dirt, and unclean, and stuff that should be stuffed down the toilet, some part of your human body just went down that thing, never to be seen again, or something that people are sort of afraid of – no one wants to touch poop, generally, something that comes out of your body, that’s you.
And this consciousness that you’re mortal, you have dirty stuff in you, that breaks down. There’s a part of you that you can’t control: death, aging, your mortality. You experience this as a young baby, and you repress it.
Here’s a great quote from Becker on this. “Anxiety is the result of the perception of the truth of one’s condition. What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep, inner feelings, and excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression, and with all this yet to die.”
And often, many people die with no self-expression. And for most of human history, there were castes. Most of India, they’re still castes. Those are hard lines to cross. And if you are in the lower caste, or if you were in ancient Greece or Rome, where there were slaves. The majority of human beings were slaves. If you were slaves in America. And if you were in China and you were the ruling class and then there were basically the peasants, those lower classes were not seen as actually human. The same type of human that the ruling classes were.
Their lives were dispensable like chattel. So, imagine you were one of the lower classes. Most of Homo sapien lives were not significant. There were like no chance to self-express, no chance to really fully enjoy the fullness of life in the way that we now as modern men define it, and then they die. And you think, “That’s not my problem.” You think, “I’m not going to die. That next guy is going to die.”
You think it’s not going to happen to you. You’re driving down the street and you don’t think that truck is suddenly going to veer off and crash right into you. No one thinks that, and that’s the great lie because no one thinks that. And what everyone does is, they work. I’ll get to that.
So, I’ll get to the causa sui project. I’ve mentioned this over lunch. This is a decent translation for this is immorality vehicle. I’ll unpack this. It’ll take some time, though. We live a causa sui passion, to cover over the rumbling of our fundamental creatureliness. This is what gives us purpose. This is what gives us meaning.
One of the best things that I discovered in learning more about how to do therapy with the meaning of life, is that most of the clinical psychology – So most of non-psychology thinks that meaning of life is what you do for a living, what you do during the day between 9 to 5. What’s the meaning of your life? “I’m an artist.” What’s the meaning of your life? “I’m going to make the world better by being a great water engineer.”
That’s usually what they say. What’s your purpose? And some people say, “My purpose is to be a good mother to my children”, something like that. These are all causa sui projects that you believe will give your life meaning. If you have purpose in your life, then somehow you have meaning through that purpose.
What the clinical psychology will often do instead, the good stuff, the good clinical psychology, is not to give you, “Here’s what your job is” or “Here’s what you should do to become a productive member of society” or something like that. That’s for a career counselor. That’s because you’re a lowly person who needs to make money. That’s that problem. That changes all the time depending on the economy and the situation you’re in.
What is actually the purpose of your life, the better way to look at it is, and that’s the way I lead guys through in Lifestyle Mastery, is to look through the life that you’ve already lived, and when did you think to yourself, really feel that, “This is it. This is what life’s about. Yes, this is what life’s about.” And you’ll find that very quickly the things that you – when you’re really going “yes!”, are very rarely the things that you spend a lot of time on.
How do I know this? Because otherwise, your life the whole way would be, “Yes, yes!” Just like Tony Robbins says, you should be celebrating all the fucking time, but we don’t. That’s why we go to UPW partly to celebrate because we don’t do that outside of it. I see this all the time among guys in Singapore; they’re clearing their faces. I don’t know what’s going on. You got some cobwebs in your eyes?
But they’re constantly trying to stay awake because their lives are boring, because it’s hard, because it’s what they’re doing in that moment is not interesting to them. This could be one of those times where you’re falling asleep. I don’t know. I see that all the time, but that’s constantly this, because their lives suck to them.
They might as well be peasants in the 14th century. In terms of relative happiness, a farmer touring the fields gets the end when the sun sets and then enjoy his labors. You don’t, many of us. But when do we enjoy it? Because the visualization is this: Think of a time when you thought to yourself, “This is it.” That would be a singular time. That would be something that really stood out.
That would be like, “Yes, yeah!” The only way that could stand out is if the rest of your life didn’t have that. Think of the last time you ate some good food. There’s a lot of good food, hopefully, that you’ve had. But if you’re a peasant or starving in the desert, and the last time you had a good meal was three years ago, you’d be like, “Yeah.” Why? It would be easy for you to remember that. Why? Because it stands out.
By definition, when you go through the life purpose exercises, the things that you cling to are, by definition, rare. That’s why you cling to them. All right, but even then, that’s not the point of this. If you fill your life in that, you’d still say, in some sense, you’re like a lazy bum [INAUDIBLE 00:28:21].
Unless you’re a pure narcissist, because if you’re a pure narcissist, it might’ve been that time you stood on the podium and everybody looked at you with admiration and you felt like, “Yeah!” So, that’s an exception. If you’re a fucked up guy, if you’re a narcissistic personality disordered person, then really get a therapist. That’s really your only hope, so you want to turn this off and get a therapist right now.
But if you’re like the average person, you won’t give a fuck about those things. Those things are unfulfilling. Getting everyone’s accolades like Tony Robbins says, you find out when you’re at the top, is that all there is? Because none of those things are truly fulfilling to the human being. They are momentary ego gratification and they disappear like that. What do we really carry with us almost always is in a relationship, or almost always is a flow experience.
You’re not enjoying the time after flow ends and you’re standing up there with a trophy unless you really, severely need therapy right now. Most human beings, well-adjusted individuals, remember either the flow experience, that it’s really pleasurable to be in flow, and lose track of time, and really into this activity, or in relationship, and generally that will be an in-flow relationship experience.
Maybe the time you looked into your baby’s eyes the first time, and you, “Wow, this is what life’s about.” Or maybe you were in love and maybe you’re with your family, everyone’s having a great time and you’re like, “Wow.” And you sit back. Or when you were playing music and you just lost yourself and you were like, “Yeah”, and you remember that, something like that.
Those are the times. That’s what human psychology will tell you. So, those are then, if you were smarter, you could take another level of purpose. Still, no matter what purpose you take as the purpose of your life, we will call that an immortality vehicle. Why? Because the purpose of your life is what gives your life meaning. And without meaning in your life, you are going to be suicidally depressed by definition. There’s no meaning to your life.
So, the purpose of your life which gives it meaning, we call it the causa sui project. Our personal vehicle for heroism, that is heroism that says, “I am special! I am different! There might be clones of me out there, 20 clones,” just in terms of human history, 7 billion people now, think about the entirety of Homo sapien history, how different are you really? But hey, you believe that you are. You think that’s absurd to say that you’re not unique.
I know, special snowflake, but okay. Same for me, right? Okay. I don’t want to believe I’m unique. So you are unique, that’s a heroic thing. It’s a vehicle for standing out, for transcendence of our vulnerability and human limitations, for transcending death by qualifying for immortality.
And this might be literal. We might leave a legacy. We might leave a body of work. We might leave a sculpture that says, “That is our thing that will last.” Or we might do something so awesome that we are remembered in the history books. That is a causa sui project. So, just so we know what that means, immortality vehicle.
We do something to leave a legacy, so our lives have meaning, so they’re not forgotten. We’re driven to do this out of repression of the terror of creatureliness. But there’s an ambivalence to this. Nature doesn’t care about you or your life. And Freud, he says here, “Immortality means being loved by many anonymous people, living in the esteem of men yet unborn.”
So, there’s a great movie, Troy. Brad Pitt played Achilles and Eric Bana is Hector. Great movie. It’s a very dude movie. I’ve watched that movie multiple times, especially the fight between Hector and Achilles.
And Achilles keeps talking about his legacy, and he keeps saying to these lesser men that no one will remember them. But Achilles is remembered, and in fact he is, we’re talking about him now. . The thing is, he died. Who gets to enjoy all of this ego gratification? He’s dead. There is no self to enjoy the legacy. What’s the fucking point? You’re dead.
What thing gets to have all of that ego validation? There’s no ego left. You’re dead. So many men want to ignore this because they’re driven through the repression, of the terror, of the fact that they’re flesh and blood, bone, creatures that will rot. That they say, “I will make a legacy!” and that matters. That doesn’t fucking matter. Your legacy doesn’t fucking matter.
Here’s even better: You had a great life. Let’s take the opposite. You had a great life in the moment. Everyone loved you, esteemed you, you got all the babes, all the money you want and it was great. And then you died. A year later, they found out some nasty shit about you and everyone hates you. Suddenly, they’re like – this fucking king or whatever you were, fuck them. And then spit on you. This is posthumous.
Who cares? You got away, baby. Who cares what your legacy is? You’re not there to enjoy it. Who fucking cares? But we care. We’d rather kill ourselves now, like work really hard in something that we kind of enjoy, 6-7 out of 10 enjoyment. I’d rather be sitting on a beach kind of thing.
But we go through this so that we leave a legacy, hustle legacy. So that when we’re dead, our grandkids will look at it and remember us, so other people will esteem us, so that we’ll matter in history. Who cares? What’s the weird illogicality of that? This is taking the repression to an extreme. You have to care about something. You have to have meaning in your life or you’re going to just commit suicide.
So, I got to care about the future. This is very illogical, this is not logical sense, but that’s neurotics do. They do irrational things, like giving a shit about their legacy, giving a shit about who likes them, even after they’re dead. You think you’re ego-validating right now because you’re walking through a club and you’re wondering why girls like you? You’re ego-validating when you think about your legacy even worse. You’re not even around to get a smidgen of that pleasure or esteem.
But so many of us do. We care about that. So, I was going to leave you with that thought and then take a break, but we broke early so let’s keep going.
So, before the man left, I said transference. This explains Donald Trump. Now, transference came up in psychological literature when Freud noticed this weird thing happening with his patients, and all of his other analysts who were usually former patients of his, also noticed with their patients, that the patients – once the therapy was going well, the patient projected really great things to the therapist.
And you’ve seen this if you are in Awakenings, if you’ve been following that. Some other guys are like, “I started to get a hard-on when talking to my female therapist. I started to feel love for her, and then I started feeling sexual shame. And then the next session, I brought it up with her and she said, “That’s totally normal.”” And I’m like, “It is normal. Get a new therapist. Get a male therapist. At least, it’s going to be a little harder to get hard with him.
But naturally what will happen is, if the analyst has the keys to the kingdom of your mind, you will start to see him unconsciously as your parent figure that was never fulfilled. Your parent was supposed to do that for you. Your primary, the primary caregiver, your god, when you were three years old, was supposed to lead you through that process of coaching. You didn’t get that.
Instead, you became, in a way, antagonistic to the parent. It’s just necessarily to grow up, you had to put your own two feet down and say, “No.” But you didn’t get led through it. Nobody did. You start to get led through it, and suddenly you’re transferring the life that you wish you could lead and you’re putting all of those heroic attributes onto something else, because you can’t actually have them but you want them.
You want to be individual, special, heroic. You want to be denying your mortality. You want to be immortal. You have these desires that are unmet that there’s no way that you can actually meet them, so you put them onto this figure that seems like a wise sage above you in some way who can see right into your mind. And on a minor level, that happened to between the analyst and patient.
But what the psychologists and cultural anthropologists, philosophers of human nature, have discovered is that this is what happens through the whole race. They transfer something onto another thing. I’ll get into that. But first, the reason why this happens is because of basic human suggestibility. This is really, really interesting.
This explains why hypnosis is possible. So, before the advent of psychiatry, the first thing you do when you have some general problem is start getting hypnosis and getting hypnotized out of it. So back in the day, they used to hypnotize people to stop smoking. They still have this, like hypnotize people to get out of – being fat and things like this.
So, Tony Robbins says this, in case you think it’s woo-woo. Tony Robbins has not prescribed drugs, okay? The closest to that would be hypnosis. Now, there are some people who can’t be hypnotized, and those are the people who resist it. And generally, those aren’t the people who would pay money to be hypnotized.
If you put down the money, you’re going to be open to it because you paid for it. So, you can’t use this as a sneaky seduction device like Ross Jeffrey’s tried to convince you, you could hypnotize people against their will. So, you cannot hypnotize somebody against their will. At some basic level, they have to be open. They have to allow it to happen. They got to relax the sphincters of their brain and allow you to penetrate it.
So, this was really popular until 50s/60s, and then the establishment, that is the scientific establishment, the medical establishment, even early television advertising had hypnosis in it. Did you know this? They had that spinning circle, this rainbow circle. So you had in your box TV with four channels on it, and there was like this spinning thing.
And when they got colored TV, it was colored. And it would just be saying statements that are weird for 30 seconds. And then guess what? The advertising boards or whatever it was that regulated shit that goes on TV said, “No more hypnosis.” Now, if it didn’t work, wouldn’t they just want to take all that advertising money? Yeah. The problem was it worked. That’s why they have to regulate it.
If you’ve been to Tony Robbins, you know that shit works. If you’ve seen stage hypnosis, you know it works. Only people who have bad attention spans can’t be hypnotized because you’re not actually listening to what he’s saying. So, hypnosis is possible. It’s so obvious, but the establishment resisted researching it because they didn’t believe in the unconscious.
Even now in analytic philosophy – philosophy is a great example of a secondary field from psychology that bought into all of the lies of enlightenment rationalism. Enlightenment rationalism did not want to believe that we had an unconscious mind. So, the old model was we’re like robots. In fact, if you look at any philosophy of language or mind, or cognitive science, it’s all about the computer analogy.
Input, output. That’s how we treated our brains. Over time, in behavioral economics, Kahneman and the whole Nobel Prize-winning work, social psychology, pretty much the entire field of social psychology, and then now the new field of neuropsychology has proven that we have very little access to our true motivations and intentions behind our actions.
We think we do, and that’s one of the great illusions. So, marketers who know this can act very quickly and exploit those triggers. So, Tony Robbins likes to talk about the cold cup and the warm cup. That’s a whole priming. That’s just one way that the unconscious mind affects our decisions, and we think we know why we chose to describe the person that way, or why we chose that product.
And the real reasons we chose the product were not accessible to our conscious mind because it happened to our unconscious. But that’s new. The reason why the Nobel Prize was given to Kahneman and Tversky was because it was new, because economists before the 1990s and even before the 2000s, treated the consumer as a rational decision maker.
When I was going through micro and macroeconomics in university, that’s the model we had. The consumer as a rational decision maker, the supply demand curves. We assumed the consumer would just be able to inherently choose the best value for the right price. Based on that, all we had to do was convince them, “This is the best decision.” And no clue about the unconscious mind.
So for 50 years of academia, they repressed this study of the unconscious because they didn’t believe it existed. They thought it was some weird shit that psychoanalysts get into. So for a while, psychology fell out of fashion, psychiatry came in. Psychiatry was simply give him this drug because it seems to work.
What does it do when you give a depressed person drugs? It numbs him. Suddenly, he’s like, “Hey! It’s all right.” You realized, really, you just numbed him. And so, he’s going around – or actually, he’s not really happy. He’s just not unhappy and then he gets addicted to it and so on.
Now, we know all the bad effects of it 50 years down the road because we haven’t fixed the problem. We’ve just numbed the symptoms, and now we know the power of the unconscious. So, this is really new in that sense. So, Becker was writing in 1973, right in the middle of the fall out of favor of the unconscious, the disbelief in it.
It wasn’t really until the late-80s that post-modernists were really coming back with that, and then they got picked, and then the behavioral economists put the science to it to prove it. The enlightenment lie of your own self-sufficiency, that you freely self-determine, that you chose what it was to eat when likely it was because you were primed to –
And I talked a lot about this in Rock Solid Relationships, how you prime yourself in relationships, how you’re constantly being primed all the time, whether you like steak over chicken, primed, and that you believe that you make judgments independently of anything else in a vacuum.
Or only with your brain, you make the decisions in a purely rational way like AI. Unfortunately or fortunately, you’re not AI. You’re a jumble of automatic responses and unconscious motivations. The theory of hypnosis is, there’s a universal human predisposition to submit or obey to an all-powerful parent. That was already there because we wanted that to happen.
When we were little babies, if our parents would just take care of us, we wouldn’t have to worry about anything for the rest of our lives, that’d be awesome. Wouldn’t that be awesome? You never have to worry about anything. There’s always somebody who’s got your back.
And this thing that’s got your back is all-powerful. It can lift anything. It can push anything out of the way. It can carry you long distances and you don’t even have to move your legs. It’s just a great thing, this parent thing. Too bad you had to wake up and become one yourself. That sucked, but wouldn’t it be great to have this really big person that loved you and did everything that you wanted to do? That’d be cool.
Yeah, you’re getting there. Okay, so exactly. So, we had this longing for the magical protection, the participation and the omnipotence, the oceanic feeling, and we got some of that. We got a glimpse of that, and that got us addicted to it, and that’s actually the only way we could actually survive, is with that. So, we had that for a while when we were loved and protected by parents. Hopefully, you had it or didn’t have an incredibly-abusive infancy.
And when you identified with the powers of the hero leader, you no longer felt alone with your own smallness or helplessness. A great example, a passage from Becker:
“Adults walk around looking quite independent. They play the role of parent themselves and seem quite grown-up, and so they are. They couldn’t function if they still carried with them the childhood feeling of awe for their parents, or the tendency to obey them automatically and uncritically.”
“But although these things normally disappear, the need to be subject to someone remains. Only the part of a father or mother is transferred to teachers, superiors, impressive personalities. The submissive loyalty to rulers that is so widespread is also a transference of this sort.
Okay, so the need to be subject to transfer. All of that responsibility that’s too big for you, you’d rather just rest. Now, chapter one of David Deida’s Way of the Superior Man is the great masculine myth, the big trap is to wait until the time you can rest. So, it’s like don’t wait for completion of anything.
Why do we, as men, have to be reminded of this, including women, any human being? Because we wait. We want to wait to get taken care of. If one day, I can rest, finally – why is that such a great myth? Why is that so appealing to us, to rest? Because that’s our original universal human predisposition, to leave it up to some all-powerful thing so we can just rest in big Daddy’s embrace.
So, there’s a natural narcissism. I’ve talked a lot in other courses about narcissistic personality disorder, but there’s a natural narcissism that we as human beings all go through. This is a feeling that, in Becker’s wonderful phrase, “That the person next to you will die, but not you.” Especially in this book, he launches into a great explanation of, “How do you trick young men with the fullness of their lives ahead of them to dive straight into the Germans thinking they’ll be okay?”
You ever see those Civil War movies where guys just line up, and they got their musket thing? And it takes them two minutes to load the damn thing. And while they’re loading, there’s no shield. There’s nothing .They just hope they can load it faster than the next guy. One shot, right? And then everyone’s just like – like, half the guys fall down dead. And then the next group behind them.
And as soon as you got your shot off, you got to get down and fucking reload the thing, throw the gunpowder, you know. Meanwhile, people are shooting all over the place, completely random. The Civil War stuff, the War of 1812 stuff. It doesn’t change that much in World War I.
If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan- I think you know, one of those great things, if I was in charge of Singapore’s education system, I would make them watch every great American war movie. Slavery, they need to watch slavery, they need to watch war. All of those wars are American-centric. All of this labor stuff. All of the blacks, that was American-centric.
But that is the great drama of the world lived out. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough movie money behind the drama of Singapore. There should be movies around how the Japanese raped and pillaged their way through Singapore. That would be a great movie to teach you about life, but they don’t. They just numb you so that you become another cog in the machine to fund Raffles Place and make higher office towers that are totally empty right now.
That’s what they want, and then to put more money into Temasek. Temasek now is the biggest company in all of Singapore. Gee, hey, it’s mostly owned by the Lee family, right? Yeah, how’d that happen? Huh, interesting. You make your money one way, you have another bucket. Brilliant, right? I just thought of that. I’ll take one dollar to be the president. Meanwhile, I’ll funnel all the money. Hey, that sounds familiar.
So, this is what explains how young men with the fullness of their lives ahead of them will run into war because they don’t actually believe they’re going to die. So the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, first 10 minutes, you’re totally bought into the story of these young guys riding on this boat into Normandy or something, on the beaches of some place.
And then as soon as the first thing comes down, the whole half of that boat just dies. So, all of these guys you’re watching, you learn some names, and they’re like, “Yeah, you get to know each other.” One guy’s throwing up, and you start to feel for them. Right away, they all die.
And then guys, halfway through, they start jumping off. They jump in the water. You follow them. You see the bullets kill all of these people around them. And then maybe a third of them like Tom Hanks, they make it through. So, they get onto the beach.
I love these war movies because it just reminds you of how random life is. But what kind of crazy boys go into this stuff? They’re looking for their immortality vehicle. Of course, the natural narcissism is reinforced by trusting dependence on a leader’s power. The only way that could happen, of getting all of these young boys to run into war, is because they trust that their leader knows what he’s doing, and that they can live through that leader.
They can give responsibility of their lives, and all of the meaning to the leader. And it might not just be one leader. It might be the country or the state as represented as a leader. And so, in cultural anthropology, there’s a ton of research on the first leaders of society, of human beings, of Homo sapiens, and all the ancient records as far back as we can go.
And so, there is posited a primal horde. This was the first big society of Homo sapiens. This is right around agricultural, we start to get land owners like 10,000 BC. There’s a movie about that. And so, they start to get together as cities, like the Mayan cultures and things like the Incas.
So, we get this, right? So, how did all of this happen? Why would they congregate 10,000 individual Homo sapiens in one place? That’s just stupid. Because if you were a hunter-gatherer, one of the dumbest things you can do is just hang out in one place with 10,000 other people.
All the food’s going to be taken. You can’t find any food, unless you’re farmers and you’re stuck to this land, and that’s a hard life. So, there’s a whole thing on this in the book Sapiens about how that transition actually made our lives harder but made it good for the top .1%.
And who are these .1% that basically got everyone else to work for them, like the queen bee, or the queen ant or whatever, is the leader of the primal horde. Redl, a student of Freud has this great phrase, “The infectiousness of the unconflicted person.”
I’m unconflicted relative to most of the guys who follow me. They like that. They like that I say whatever the fuck I want. They like that I say what’s in their head. They like that I can tell you exactly what you’re thinking when you see that hot girl. If I look into your face, I know what you’re thinking because I’ve been there and I’ve seen this many, many times over 12 years as a coach.
That’s a powerful thing, and that is the guru effect. Suddenly they’re like, “Woah, he’s not conflicted! He knows what he wants and he goes and gets it! I don’t know what I want and I don’t know how to get it.” They’re conflicted. They want to maintain their face, their ego, and yet they want to get this thing that requires risk. They have all kinds of conflicts.
The unconflicted person is the leader, he’s the Conor McGregor. That guy is way more unconflicted than I am, I think. He seems like it. He just walks up there, he’s sure as fuck. Everybody gives him a -1000 odds against Mayweather. And when you watch this, that may be why – I don’t know, maybe he’ll get knocked down, I don’t know, but then you start to believe in him.
And look what happened to the odds. The odds makers were driven down, and now he’s 150 underdog. It started off as 1,100. It’s crazy, right? Just after the press conference, it’s boom, down so much. And that’s somebody who is unconflicted. There’s no doubt in his mind he knows what he wants, he just goes right for it. You cannot waver him. There’s an infectiousness about this person.
And the leaders – if you combine the infectious, unconflicted person with a narcissistic personality, you have a natural-made leader. The leader allows us to express our taboo impulses and secret wishes. We wish we were unconflicted. We wish that we were unique, and special, and great. We wish that we were heroes.
Now, there’s a guy like that. There is this hero, unconflicted. He believes in himself. He’s asking us to follow him. “Yes, I’ll do it. I’ll stand behind him and in that sense I have my greatness. The responsibility for my life is on him. I don’t have to deal with it anymore.”
“The leader performs the initiatory act when no one else had daring to do it.” That is, he has to go first. That’s the burden of the leader. When he goes first, it’s hard. But then after that – this is called priority magic, going first – each member of the group can now repeat the act, and he does, whether it’s the first person who says, “Fuck you”, and then we’re all like, “Yeah, fuck the Mayweathers!” We can all do it now without guilt, because only the initiator is responsible.
That guy went first and he did it. I’m just following him now. “Don’t punish me. I just followed him.” That happens in the school yard, too. “He went first!” Like, the person who goes first gets the disproportionate rewards, but it also then allows us as followers to get in behind him and to do what he does because he went first, and now it absolves us of responsibility.
“The group transformation of the act gives it the aura of the sacred, creating a heightened reality.” And so, that one bullet point goes into a whole series of books. This is about pretty much all of cultural anthropology, explaining group thinking, group psychology, all through history. Why are there tribes? How do you mobilize as a pharaoh, all of these people to do this stuff for you?
This. The group transformation of the act, going first because these wimps – the majority of the world is wimps. You go first. They say, “I will live through you.” And so, I’m not going to reference Christianity, though I just did. So then, they give him the aura of the sacred. This is more than just the worldly. This is spiritual. This is supernatural.
“The initiator of the act takes upon himself the responsibility and the guilt if it goes bad.” And you see this in Lord of the Flies. The first bad boy who throws the first rock on Piggy, and then the rest gang up. The first one has to go through the guilt. He started this, and then it got out of control.
But all the followers throwing the 5th rock? They’re just joining in. So, this is some deep stuff, but this is how human society was born: through group transformation. So you think about, in terms of bringing primal horde leadership together with psychological transference. What do we get? People project their problems onto their leader, which is how he gets his role and status.
He decides, “I will take on your problems.” And the leader projects onto his followers their own inability to stand alone, their own fear of isolation, his own fear of isolation. So, imagine a leader with no followers. Technically speaking, he’s not a leader. He’s a potential leader, but he’s not a leader.
In order to be a leader, he needs to lead. So, referencing our earlier discussion, the leader needs followers to be a leader. What the leader does is say, “I will go first. Follow me.” Imagine the leader does this great thing. He says, “Follow me.” And he walks forward, no one comes after him. He’s just like, shit. What does that do to him? Deflates him.
He goes on, scurries off into the corner like a rejection. He needs followers because he can’t stand on his own, because he fears isolation. Now, there’s a different type of leader who is actually the recluse, but the hermit goes off into the mountains by himself. But you don’t hear about – he’s not a leader until other hermit type people follow him, and now he’s the leader.
The recluse is a different thing from the leader. In order for there to be a leader, the leader needs the followers. I’m not just saying this is like some feel-good leadership conference for corporates. This is just the reality of our human history and by definition. And what does he need followers for psychologically?
He needs them because he can’t stand on his own. He’s as pussy as them, almost. He went first, but he also cannot be isolated on his own. That means that all of us have this fear equally. Somebody went first, though, so he gets to be leader. The essence of transference is the taming of the terror, the terror of our creatureliness, and the fear of life and death in this chaotic universe.
It’s a very random universe. To walk out on the street, there can be an avalanche or whatever. That’s nature. Nature doesn’t care about you, or your meaning, or this great project you’re about to embark on. It doesn’t care. The transference terror, the horror of losing the object or of displeasing it.
That is if earlier was mommy and daddy – TR again, one of the greatest fears is the fear of not being loved, the fear of not being worthy. Underneath all of that is the fear of death. That’s why we have the transference; the terror of the transference is the horror of losing that object that will give us the thing we need, the protection from death via love and self-worth.
This is why so many needy guys also are low self-esteem. You don’t find a high self-esteem person who’s needy over a girl. Those always come together because they’re actually the same thing. The needy guy is trying to displace his fear of death by finding a love object. We’ll get to that, but first, let’s talk about the fear of death.
So, the use of the transference as a fear of death, the use of the transference object explains the urge to deify the other. The placing of select persons on pedestals and reading into them extra powers. So, this is our human need to participate in their immortality. We have this need to do that, so we create immortals.
We can’t be immortal ourselves, that’s just ridiculous. We know that. So we imbue in other human beings the immortality and we follow them. As long as they’re alive, we’re good. That’s a transference, just like the analyzer and analyzand, they just transfer that responsibility for dealing with the death anxiety.
So, the group psychology, are fantastic displays of grief, of whole peoples when their leader dies, is explained by this. “Our locust of power to control life and death can himself die, thus our own immorality is in doubt.” We talked about this at lunch.
The Thai king is a great example. He passed away last year, just November, around then. I know because they cancelled Wonderfruit in December. They postponed it to February because of his death, and then the whole country mourned. Literally, you couldn’t drink and all this stuff. And even now, almost a year later, they’re still constantly mourning.
And it’s bizarre, because most of the Thai people, like 99.9% of them, have never met this king, have never had any personal connection with them at all, and yet they mourn more than they would their good friend, some acquaintance they had that was pretty close. Because if that person passes away, you might be really sad for a month, and every once in a while you think about them, but that’s it.
So it’s bizarre because if people have no connection with this human being en masse – that’s just one example in the modern world. It’s quite attenuated, because in the modern world, we have lots of other ways of doing this, of transferring the fear of death to a great person or a high-status person. But back in the day, before the modern world, it was just the kings and emperors.
Why would we submit to this? It wasn’t just because we were forced to out of armies. In fact, if you think about this in terms of human history, how hard would it be to enforce taxation in China in the 1800s? How hard would that be? You know how big it is, of course.
And the army is fighting wars. Imagine you take the army and go down and police these people who refuse to pay their taxes. This is a constant problem, by the way, but they will still pay it, some portion of it. They always try to escape paying 50% or whatever it is that it was supposed to be back then, but they’ll pay something of it. They’ll send it out.
Why? Because they didn’t want to be part of India. They didn’t want to be part of another country. They want to be part of China. This was their kingdom. So they’re like, “Okay. We are one people. We will contribute to the cause.” It wasn’t just because they were bullies, because they were forced to. Part of the actual extent – but the kingdom couldn’t enforce – Alright, so there’s all kinds of interesting things about this, but they willingly submitted to the king, to the emperor.
When it comes to emperor, you think about an entire empire; they have to willingly submit. Even the Mongolian horde, they couldn’t hold all of that land. They’re just riding through, raping and pillaging, and they don’t come back to maintain. That’s the hard part as Americans are finding out in the Middle East; getting that over the long term.
They have to participate in it. Why? Because if the Chinese empire lives on, I live on. “What you talking about, eh?” I am a Chinese person. So, part of me lives on in this country. And so, I identify with the country, I will give money to it, and you can see this in many Americans who live abroad for many years but don’t want to give up their American citizenship and still are taxed.
They are patriots, because part of their identity is this country. If the country thrives, they thrive. And so, they want to give back in that sense. Well, that’s a very low level of how this works. But if you think about primal man, the man, the Homo sapiens whose brains you have inherited – because evolutionary psychology, there’s a 100,000 year lag. At best, there’s a 70,000 year lag.
70,000 years ago, human society was tribal. You think back 10,000 years ago, then we get the bigger cities. Who would do that? They were off in the forests perfectly fine. They can hunt and gather all they want. Who would congregate to these places? Because of the need to find an immortality vehicle. Or maybe not a vehicle in himself, but to transfer that to a group leader. We’ll pause there because the next person is taking into a different step.