Why Do We Collect Things?

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A nineteenth-century man tried to collect every book ever written. No joke.

He came closer than you might think. His name was Sir Thomas Phillipps and I’ll tell you about his quest in a bit.

Possible reasons behind his mission are interesting. Evolutionary psychology suggests early humans — “hunter-gatherers” — “collected” food and eventually those substances required to make and use fire. This increased their chance of survival and the opportunity to create the next generation. Primitive weapons* to fight off animal or human attacks also improved the odds of passing on one’s genes, whether those implements were found or fashioned.

Tools became less crude as some men learned more sophisticated uses of fire, beyond its ability to keep the small community warm at night. It would have been important to safeguard any useful object from loss, theft, or breakage. Those who invented or possessed these items might even have benefited by a boost to status, making them more desirable mates.

Yes, today is very different, but perhaps some of us are still left with the “collecting bug” inherited from distant ancestors.

Our long-deceased relatives were doubtless uncomfortable or anxious without storing food or weapons, nervous about a bare cupboard or the next attack. Thus, perhaps they passed on an unconscious desire to “collect oneself” — to deal with the anxiety over life’s uncertainties by hunting for things to be saved for the inevitable “rainy day.”

Life comes with no guarantees of its length or quality. You and I, therefore, develop ways of dealing with our fears about its impermanence and unpredictability. Often this is the job of instinct, the unconscious, and maybe a genetic predisposition developed long ago — not a careful review of a menu of possible maneuvers to quell our disquiet.

Stashing stockpiles of money might be thought of as a kind of substitute for early human activities aimed at ensuring future survival and relieving worry. Belief in an afterlife serves the purpose, too, whether the result of faith or the psychological need I’ve just described. Creating a book or painting for the ages has a transcendent quality, as well, to the extent that it looks past our lives to something more lasting. So does producing children.

For some, however, the act of collecting objects of no survival benefit appears to be only a pleasant and innocent distraction from routine. Unless, that is, you read a book by the late Dr. Werner Muensterberger.

The author, a psychiatrist, aptly titled his tome, Collecting: An Unruly Passion.

The type of collecting he is talking about is akin to a child’s use of a security blanket — holding a “transitional object” to sooth oneself.

In the course of writing the book, Muensterberger investigated some major collectors. Take the previously mentioned bibliomaniac Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) who set himself the goal of obtaining “one copy of every book in the world.”

Phillipps fell short, but did amass about 40,000 books and 60,000 manuscripts (as many as 40 or 50 per week), requiring over 100 years to disperse after his death.

Of course, this obsession took lots of money.

Left a fortune by his father, he managed to reduce himself to a debtor in order to keep buying. Sir Thomas even cut a portion of his mother’s living stipend to pursue additional purchases. Phillipps’ craze drove his wife and daughters crazy, and put some of his creditors out of business, as well.

When his wife died he sought a wealthy replacement — any wealthy replacement — the better to fund his book hunts. He asked an acquaintance, “Do you know of any Lady with 50,000¬£ (British currency) who wants a husband? I am for sale at that price.”

Sir Thomas went off the rails, but are there advantages to a less consuming hobby of acquisition?

Sure.

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Collectors functioned to safeguard precious objects, especially before the widespread existence of museums and public libraries, ensuring the survival of masterpieces of the visual and literary arts. Moreover, those collectors who enjoy a work of art or a beautiful book for its own sake (not just its rarity), take pleasure in admiring it. For the collector of recorded music, there is the delight obtained in listening.

One can achieve a pleasant sense of “living in the moment” while pursuing the desired objects — quite “alive” and focused. Collectors and non-collectors alike appreciate the fun of a “treasure hunt,” even if rare baseball cards might not be your idea of treasure. Since men are more often hunters due to the historical differentiation of sex roles, they seem more likely than women to take part.

What’s more, collectors learn a good deal while enjoying their hobby: about the time and manner of creation of objects (like stamps or coins) or the history surrounding them. In other words, a collector can satisfy his curiosity and become better educated.

For some of these individuals, the material articles (properly arranged) display a kind of personal style or taste — a distinctiveness achieved for most of the rest of humanity by the cut of their hair or the decoration of their residence, the cars they drive or the clothes they wear.

Then there are investors who only resemble collectors. Unlike Sir Thomas Phillipps, they sell or trade their acquisitions for profit.

Of course, there can be a downside to collecting without limits, as Phillipps’ mother, wife, kids, and creditors could report, if only they were around to do so.

The potentially addictive quality of acquisition should be apparent, with the desired object being like a drug, providing a temporary elation which subsides rather quickly after the “loot” is obtained. The chronic restlessness of a Phillipps-like personality needs to speed back to the hunt.

The covetousness of this sort of person — for whom too much is never enough — cannot be calmed for long. The objects are not valued as works of art to be enjoyed (even if you call the beer can in the hobbyist’s beer can trove a thing of beauty); rather, they are pursued in order to “have them.”

Psychologically, Muensterberger might say, the “thing” functions like a cell phone carried by an anxious person for the purpose of providing reassurance or control in case of an acute anxiety attack; or like an amulet or rabbit’s foot thought to guarantee magical protection from injury.

Often, he believes, the collection becomes a substitute for relationships, at least the potentially intimate kind. For Muensterberger, the pathological collector finds relationships too unreliable, unpredictable, and precarious.

In stark contrast, material items are more controllable and permanent. They will never let him down, move away, reject him, or die. In an uncertain world, the collector achieves a sense of mastery by his success in accumulating objects, even if the domain of his mastery may be trivial (as in match books or bottle caps).

I’m reminded of an old acquaintance, a fellow phonograph record collector who focused on a limited number of classical instrumental artists. But unlike the other hobbyists I have known, this man continued to buy LPs (long-playing records) in spite of staggering family medical bills, his wife’s distress over the expense of his avocation, and their mounting debt.

She rationalized this by saying, “Well, I suppose it is better than if he had a mistress or was alcoholic.” The spouse did not know, however, that her husband craftily arranged new purchases to be mailed to the homes of some of his friends, and paid in cash or untraceable money orders to prevent his wife from finding out. Later the discs were smuggled into their abode when his mate was away.

Those of you who are fans of Harrison Ford might remember the beautiful German archeologist pursuing the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The wooden cup of Christ falls into a crevasse during an earthquake, triggering the damsel’s attempt to retrieve it. Indiana Jones warns her that she is about to lose her life by reaching for the cup, frustrating his ability to hold on to her.

Sometimes, I suppose, the saying, “I can’t live without it,” is true. And live she did not. The gorgeous blond stretched for the Holy Grail until she slipped from the hero’s grasp.

The next time you find yourself at a garage sale, an estate sale, or an antique shop, stop for a moment. Where did these things come from? The same thought might occur to you as you visit the vanishing world of used book and CD stores, or their virtual replacements on Amazon and eBay. There are only two answers:

  1. People bought them and the same people have decided they want to sell them. Some might be collectors whose interests have changed, others simply in the business of making a living or clearing space.
  2. The children or heirs of the collectors are doing their best to get rid of the burden of “stuff” left to them.

With regard to the second answer, unless we are talking about fine art, those objects probably aren’t the inheritance the kids were hoping for.

*If you are old enough, you might remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” Parents of my folk’s generation encouraged their children to say this in response to name calling.

The top image is a photo of vinyl phonograph records by Burn the Asylum.

The second image is the Vanitas painting by Franciscus Gysbrechts (1672-1676). Such paintings were particularly common among artists doing “still life” in the Netherlands and Flanders in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were symbolic, in that the items depicted generally were reminders of the brevity of life. Musical instruments, for example, signaled that the sound was made and quickly left “not a trace behind.” The globe was also a reminder of the human condition and the skull of one’s mortality. Watches, smoke, hour glasses, and the like served the same symbolic purpose, suggesting the passage of time. Both images are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

Avoiding Life’s Pain: Drugs, Deadening, and the Defeat of Therapy

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Having been raised in a secular home, I remember being shocked the first time I saw a religious carving in someone’s abode. It happened in my next-door-neighbor’s house. There he was, Jesus Christ, impaled right on the kitchen wall. Lunch was an ordeal given that Jesus was suffering just over my shoulder. For me I mean. My buddy and his mom didn’t seem bothered.

Since they were raised with crucifixion images all around, some indifference to the human sacrifice might have been expected of my hosts. The effect was similar to that produced by watching the first story on the TV news day-after-day, chosen by TV producers who use the mantra “If it bleeds, it leads.” We have all been desensitized by images of dead bodies, burnt flesh, undernourished children, and violence. Words like inured, deadened, habituated, and coarsened also come to mind; as well as accustomed, toughened, and hardened.

Drugs, alcohol, and antidepressant medication can play a part on the road to both callousness and self-protection. And, as I shall try to show, the question of how much of life to let in — how much to “feel” — is a big one for those in therapy and for all of those outside of it, as well.

Take one example. How are we expected to react to the TV news story of a murder? Should it be a matter of curiosity, the same kind that causes us to slow down on the highway to check-out an accident? Should we empathize with the pain of the afflicted? Should it provoke our action to prevent future calamities of the same kind; or reach out to the victims featured in the news story? Should we immediately feel a sense of gratitude that it didn’t happen to someone we love?

How is one of the faithful expected to react to the image of Christ on the cross? Is it supposed to just blend into the kitchen wallpaper? Or, should one react as if seeing it for the first time, aware of the horror of it, and the measure of sacrifice proclaimed to be done for all of humanity?

A Wood Carved Baroque Crucifix in St. Oswald's Church, Kastleruth, Germany by Wolfgang Moroder

A Wood Carved Baroque Crucifix in St. Oswald’s Church, Kastleruth, Germany by Wolfgang Moroder

Therapy confronts this dilemma. Simply put, it faces the problem of how to live in a world where emotional injury is inevitable. Most people come to treatment feeling too much. Part of the counselor’s job will turn on the question of openness to both pain and pleasure. The intimacy that we all want requires some amount of that openness, otherwise the closeness cannot happen. But, by permitting vulnerability, we suffer more when we have loved and lost; or lost anything or anyone we value. Consciously or not, man comes to a crossroads where one path leads to a deadened life and the other to one alive with pain¬†and pleasure. You choose.

People vary in their sensitivity to even the vicarious experience of life’s emotional afflictions. Those variations are at least partially determined by the individual’s nature. I recall evaluating a teenager who appeared to have had an unremarkable childhood: no abuse, good parents, only the garden-variety of growing-up challenges. Yet, she wanted to keep a distance from others, in part because she felt their pain too acutely. Indeed, she was unable even to watch the TV news because the kinds of stories I mentioned earlier brought tears.

There are a great many ways to deaden oneself to depression and lesser states of sadness. Therapists are well-advised to find out whether their clients are using significant amounts of alcohol or drugs while they attempt therapy. Since counseling deals with emotion, those substances can keep the soft and sensitive parts inaccessible to even an expert therapist. If past losses need to be confronted, the grieving-project can be stalled by the artificial numbness or buoyancy of chemically induced mood alteration. Even antidepressants sometimes create the same challenge to reaching the wound so that one can treat it.

Therapy is difficult. Courage is required to deal with the pain, along with a therapist who can provide the most easeful way forward. Counseling can be a tightrope walk for both the sufferer and the healer: too much pain and the treatment will be as bad as or worse than the illness, too much anesthetic and there will be no cure at all; instead, a dependency on the joint or wine or antidepressant, perhaps in perpetuity.

At this point you might ask why a chemical solution to pain would be so bad. Indeed, for those who have a biologically-based mood disorder, psychosis, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), medication may be essential. But what of those for whom drugs or alcohol or medication represent an avoidance of “real life,” an escape from the job of confronting their own internal discomfort? Let me give you an example.

The woman in question had an admirable life in objective terms. Nice family, nice career, large nest egg. She was haunted, however, by her long deceased, disapproving father. Though he’d been dead for 20 years, not a day went by without thinking about him. She tried therapy because she was depressed, but her therapist never inquired about possible drug use and the patient didn’t report it. Yet, nearly every evening for those same decades she’d lived in a cannabis-induced haze and continued to do so during her treatment.

Therapy tried to focus much of its attention on her relationship with her dad, his lack of affection, and his failure to praise her considerable accomplishments. The therapist hoped that this woman could break through to a depth of feeling (both sadness and anger at the father) that would free her from the sense of inadequacy she struggled with every day. The psychologist believed that by getting her to re-experience the intensity of her injury, she would recognize its unfairness and her father’s indefensible cruelty, not just intellectually but with her whole being. Perhaps then she would no longer blame herself.

It didn’t happen. One suspects that the treatment failure — the defeat of this woman’s therapeutic project — was due to her marijuana use, a kind of self-medication that took the edge off the worst of her pain. It kept the patient just above water, but didn’t allow her (or the therapist) to go below sea level to the grip that her father had on her — a dead hand that metaphorically threatened to drown her. Had she not been smoking pot, it is possible that further exploration below the surface and into the depth of her pain would have released the dreadful downward pull of a ghost’s grip, permitting the grieving needed to free her from his verdict that she was worthless.

There is yet another reason to be concerned about an anesthetized life and reliance upon those substances that can be bottled, injected, and smoked; quite apart from the potential for addiction and bodily destruction. Yes, the blitzkrieg of life is a challenge to an undistracted, full-frontal awareness of your suffering at every moment. But if life is indeed sometimes simply “too much,” we must still choose carefully how to cope with that difficult reality so that the remedy isn’t also “too much” in a different way.

The death of pain means the death of life itself. Our defenses against feeling the bad also can prevent us from feeling the good. The question of anesthesia’s uses and misuses must be faced: whether to use it, how much to use it, and when to use it; reminding ourselves that the more anesthetic, the more we become inured to everything, the good and beautiful and poignant, as well as the painful. And the more we simply watch, sit back, and let the best of life pass us by.

The Crucifix is sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

Be Prepared: Reactions from Friends, Family, and Lovers When You Get Therapy

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Sometimes the standing ovation is a long time in coming.

Sometimes those expected to be most supportive of you are just the opposite.

Sometimes those you think are on your side are actually working against you.

When even your family dog looks doubtful, then you are really in trouble!

Who am I talking about?

A few of your friends and relatives when you enter therapy; especially, if you begin to make significant progress.

The Boy Scouts of America have it right: be prepared.

Therapy still carries a stigma in some quarters. Men, in particular, tend to believe that they should be able to handle problems without a “crutch;” that talking too much about “feelings” is not the thing that a “real man” does. For these people, going to a therapist is thought to be a moral failure — a weakness of the will.

Parents, too, can be threatened by an adult offspring’s decision to enter treatment. The public stereotype of counseling is that you will be required to explore your childhood and that, before long, you will blame your parents for everything.

An exaggeration, of course.

But, the more likely that your problems do have something to do with your parents, the more likely that they might discourage your efforts to engage in treatment.

On the other hand, unsupportive parents can use your decision to seek professional help as evidence that you are “broken.” Your need of counseling can be counted as “proof” that there is something wrong with you (as opposed to themselves or to your siblings who have not sought this kind of assistance).

But what if you suffer from alcohol or drug abuse or addiction? Surely everyone would want you to overcome this, wouldn’t they?

Not so fast.

You probably have friends and family who “use and abuse” substances, as well. If, in the course of treatment, you try to cut-back or become abstinent, little approval will follow from this group. Rather, you will find yourself with as many or more offers of drinks and drugs, as well as pressure to resume the same behavior as before, lest the change be seen as an indictment of this group and the habits of its members.

Comments like, “what, do you think you are too good to have a drink with us?” or “it’s only one drink,” or “geez, it’s really great weed; you’d really love it,” or “let me buy the drink” are commonplace. This is why such relationships inevitably either break down or the person attempting to change himself “falls off the wagon” due to social pressure and criticism.

It is also a part of the reason why support groups for addiction like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) are so important in providing the understanding, back-up, and encouragement that is lacking elsewhere.

Even if your treatment doesn’t involve alcohol or drug abuse, you may discover that parents or lovers will try to become “back seat drivers” of the ongoing discussion between you and your counselor. Some of them will wish to know all the elements of your private conversations, including the most intimate details.

This can be a problem. People frequently go to therapists because they have issues that are tremendously painful or embarrassing to confront. It can be hard enough to open up such matters with a psychologist without the knowledge that you will be debriefed at home. If your partner or parent “requires” you to talk about those delicate subjects, it can discourage you from speaking to the therapist about them, or even engaging in treatment at all.

Sometimes mom or your spouse will go so far as to suggest that your revelation of family secrets and any negative commentary (about them) to the therapist is a personal betrayal of your family bonds and obligations.

For the record, there are many times when therapeutic conversations must be absolutely confidential and free from the review of other interested parties. Your therapist knows this and will not divulge information without your clearly directed permission (unless you are dangerous to yourself or others). You should not feel compelled to make regular reports to spouses, friends, parents, or other relatives simply because they want you to.

And what if you do change, with or without the encouragement or support of the people closest to you?

They do not always welcome those changes.

If you have been docile and passive in relating to loved ones and you now become assertive and independent — not willing to “go along in order to get along” — people who used to manipulate you will be frustrated. Should you now be capable of standing up for yourself, saying “no” — refusing to be hostage to others’ disapproval or direction — you must expect that there will be “push back.”

“You’ve changed — you’re not as nice as you used to be. Therapy has made you selfish. I liked the way you were before,” and similar comments can be expected.

If they can, some of these alleged “friends” will make every effort to have you retrace your steps and resume the second-class status that has been yours historically. If, however, you withstand their efforts to restore the relationship to its previous terms, some of them will adjust to the “new you” and accept the change as a good thing for you, or a least something that is tolerable.

Others, however, will end the tie they have with you, or diminish their contact and availability to you.

Yes, you will be rejected. And, the rejection can make you wonder whether all the time, expense, and therapeutic effort were worth it. Grieving will be necessary.

But, if you can persevere, you should be able to find new friends who are healthier for you and less self-interested, while at least some of your old friends will stick around and be more enjoyable to be with.

It can be quite a disappointment to find that some of those you hoped would be most happy for you and encouraging of your growth are the least supportive.

But, as the old saying goes, “with friends like that, you don’t need any enemies.”

Opt for change and hold your ground. If you cling to your dysfunction in order to keep these pseudo-friends, you have chosen their needs over your own.

The best of your friends and family will want what is best for you.

Always.

The apparently disapproving visage of Brittany Dog is the work of Uber Phot. It is sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

How to Make Yourself and Those You Love Miserable

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It is easy to find on-line guidance to a better life. But the recommendations contained on those self-help web sites (and in books that aim at the same audience) have become almost too commonplace to make any impact.

The remedy? Something that is just the opposite: a list of suggestions on how to make yourself and others miserable. Of course, I’m not wishing that you follow these directions. Rather, I’m hoping that some of you who might yawn at still another list of “things to do” to improve your life, will be struck by the things you already do that make it much worse.

Here goes:

  • Regularly compare your material and financial circumstances to others, especially to those who are doing better than you are.
  • Make a list of all the people who have wronged you over the years and try to remember exactly how awful they made you feel. Think about those who owe you an apology. Forgive no one. Let no slight be too small to dwell on it.
  • Carry on a vendetta. Stay up late at night planning and plotting how you might get back at people. Stay angry. Let all your hatred out in blistering, profane, and cowardly “flames” behind the mask of the Internet.
  • Give your children gifts rather than your time. Set no limits on them. Then wait until they are teenagers and wonder why they are depressed or rebellious.
  • Curse the darkness, the winter, the cold, the rain, the frailty of the human condition, and all the other things that you can’t change.
  • Get impatient with the people who are walking in front of you at a snail’s pace, the couples whose bodies and shopping carts block the entire grocery aisle, and the slow progress of the check-out line at the store.

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  • Make no contribution to the betterment of humanity. Assume an attitude of entitlement. Figure out how to avoid work. Idle away your time. Ask “what your country can do for you,” not “what you can do for your country” in opposition to JFK’s 1960 inaugural address admonition.
  • Forever rationalize your dishonorable or questionable behavior or deny it altogether, even to yourself.
  • Persuade yourself that you need to wait until you feel better before you do the difficult thing that you have been postponing. Keep waiting, even if the time never comes when you believe that you can take action.
  • Do not let conversation with your spouse or children get in the way of watching TV. Keep the TV on most of the time, most importantly at family dinners. If possible have a television in every room.
  • Ignore the beauty of a spring or summer day, the newly fallen snow, and the cheerful laugh of small child. Stay in-doors as much as possible, year round.

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  • Allow yourself to be upset by overpaid, under-performing athletes who doom the home team to continued failure. Yes, Cubs fans, this means you!
  • Treat emotions of sadness, tenderness, and hurt as your enemy. Push them away and thereby alienate yourself from yourself. Curtail grieving and try to deaden your feelings to the point of numbness.
  • Work up as much hatred as possible toward opposition political parties. Listen to every talking head who wants to whip you into a frenzy.
  • Expect justice and fairness in all things.
  • Drink too much, drug too much, and spend every extra minute on the web or playing computer games instead of having direct human contact with someone who is in the same room with you. Further distract yourself from your problems by watching TV and listening to music. Escape reality.

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  • Keep using failed solutions to your problems even though they haven’t worked in years, if ever.
  • Behave in mid-life the way you did as a young person; or, if you are a young person, behave the way you did as a child. Do not reflect on or learn from experience which might teach you something new.
  • Use others instrumentally. That is, value them only in terms of what they can do for you. Lie, cheat, betray, and steal from them if that serves your interests. Then wonder why people mistrust you.
  • Spend as much time as possible worrying about the future and regretting the past, rather than living in the irreplaceable moment.
  • Aim low. Avoid the disappointment that comes with high expectations. When the going gets tough, quit.
  • Train yourself to be a miser. Practice selfishness. Hold on to your money as if you expect to live forever and will need every last cent. Make Scrooge from A Christmas Carol your hero.

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  • Judge others less fortunate than you are by using the phrases “he should have known better,” “he didn’t try hard enough,” and the like. Assume that all people deserve whatever misfortune befalls them. Disdain compassion, but remain puzzled when others call you heartless.
  • Indulge in every available excess: unprotected sex, food, spending, smoking, caffeine, etc. Don’t exercise. Ignore medical advice and, even better, avoid going to your doctor. Treat your body badly and then wonder why it betrays you.
  • Be sarcastic, passive-aggressive, and indirect whenever you are injured rather than looking someone in the eye and expressing your displeasure in a straight-forward fashion.
  • Avoid facing things. Give in to your fears, anxieties, and phobias.

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  • Don’t let anyone know you well. Believe that your vulnerabilities will always be used against you. Keep social interactions on the surface. Eschew intimacy and maintain your distance, thinking that this is the best way to avoid personal injury. Trust no one!
  • Assume that the normal social rules regarding fidelity to friends and lovers don’t apply to you. Hold on to a double-standard that favors you.
  • Insist on having your way. Don’t compromise. Don’t consider others’ needs or wants. Assume a position of moral superiority, self-righteousness, and arrogance in things religious, political, and personal.
  • Do everything others ask of you. Rarely say “no.”
  • Try to control people and events as much as you can. Don’t go with the flow. Micromanage. Hover over others. Repeat complaints to them incessantly. Remind subordinates, friends, spouses, and children of small errors, even if they are ancient history.
  • Make no significant effort to better your life. Depend on others to take care of you and make all significant decisions for you. Be a burden.
  • Raise all your children exactly the same way even though it is obvious that they are not all the same.
  • Imitate vampires (who have no reflection in the mirror and therefore keep their mirrors shrouded) by never really looking hard at your own reflection in the looking-glass. That is, never take a frank inventory of your strengths and weaknesses or the mistakes you’ve made. Be like the evil queen in Snow White, whose only desire was that the mirror would tell her that she was “the fairest of them all.”
  • Whenever you talk with someone, wonder what they really mean, pondering the possibility that they find you boring, stupid or physically unattractive.
  • Feed yourself on gossip more than food. Delight in talking about others behind their backs.
  • Value beauty, appearance, reputation, and material success over integrity, knowledge, kindness, hard work, and love.
  • Try to change others, but do not try to change yourself. Take no responsibility for your life circumstances, instead blaming those who have stymied you.
  • Stay just as you are regardless of changing life conditions. For example, if wearing warm clothes worked for you when you lived in Alaska, continue to wear them when you move to Arizona in July.

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  • Don’t forgive yourself. Maintain the most perfectionistic and demanding moral and performance standard even if you are not a brain surgeon. Stay up at night castigating yourself over every imperfection, no matter how small.
  • Make a list of all the things that are wrong with your life, all the opportunities lost, every heartbreak, and the physical features and bodily changes that you don’t like. Stew in your own juices. Salt your wounds. Pick at your scabs.
  • Take everything personally.
  • Permit friends, family, and co-workers to walk all over you. Do not stand up to them for fear of causing offense and disapproval.
  • Discount your blessings. Concentrate on the dark side of life.
  • Never even consider going into psychotherapy. Assume that this is something only for those who are weak and that anyone who needs to grapple with emotional issues in counseling demonstrates a failure of will power and logic.

With thanks for the inspiration for this essay to Dan Greenberg and Marcia Jacobs, co-authors of a very funny, but ironic book entitled How to Make Yourself Miserable.

The top image is Grief by Edgar Bertram Mackenna. The video frame that follows is from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 inaugural speech. The next image is Sommerblumenstrauss by A. Gundelach. The following photo by Andygoodell is A Jack Rose Cocktail. The fifth picture is of two children in Bangladesh by Nafis Kamal, while the sixth is called Chicklet-Currency courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. After the image from Disney’s Snow White, is a 1911 photo of Enrico Caruso, the great Italian tenor. All but the Snow White frame are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.