from The Psychology of Liberty
by Wes Bertrand © 2000, copylefted 2007

A Brilliant Sense of Life

An active mind is a crucial element of the psyche for many reasons. It primarily reaffirms the conviction that one’s mind is efficacious. One’s mind is able to think and judge the facts of reality, be they internal or external facts. Another element is interwoven in this topic, though. It involves the other aspect of self-esteem: the feeling of being worthy of happiness.

The second major psychological fountainhead vital for a free society is a brilliant sense of life—characterized by an attitude of interest, enthusiasm, emotional availability, spontaneity, and genuineness. This particular sense of life can be viewed as the emotional counterpart to an active mind. Essentially, it represents the development of an affirmative outlook about oneself (and thus others) and reality.

In intellectual terms, one’s sense of life is a pre-conceptual equivalent to one’s metaphysics (one’s view of reality in general). In psychological terms, it is the sum of one’s subconscious integrations about one’s overall view of self and existence; it conveys what a person deems important about his or her experiences with others and the world, by illustrating it emotionally in words and behavior.79

Naturally, how a person sees the world depends on his or her particular sense of life. It can reflect vibrancy and aliveness or, in contrast, a gloomy, negative, or uncertain outlook on life, others, and oneself. Of course, numerous variations exist between these two opposites. Individuals can vacillate emotionally at different periods in life.

Nonetheless, a brilliant sense of life reflects the quest to make our life and, necessarily, our experiences as great as they can be. This means we no longer merely hope for happiness (no longer view it as either illusory or transient). Rather we experience happiness.

As noted before, our happiness is our own responsibility. Life is what we make of it, oftentimes regardless of our situations. We can approach challenges and experiences with an uplifting or exuberant attitude, or not. When appropriate, we can exude a playful manner of behavior and expression, or not. If we choose to live with zest, we are very likely to affect others (and be affected by them) positively. A feedback loop is thus created.

It stands to reason that those who do not at least yearn to achieve a brilliant sense of life can have trouble identifying with it. They may perhaps feel irritated or uncomfortable about such an attitude because they have difficulty or feel uneasy expressing their own excitement. Or they may be drawn by a desire to discount values, rather than nurture and cherish them. So, they may be unwilling to consciously admit the existence of a brilliant sense of life. Yet the psychological contrast between themselves and others continues to remind them that they have the choice to change.

Fortunately, most people respond favorably, if not enthusiastically, to those who enjoy life and their interactions with others. Of course, some things might be mistaken at one time or another for a brilliant sense of life: a flippant happy-go-lucky attitude; a transient frivolity (stemming from a temporary relief of persistent psychological conflict); a placating personality; a desire to needlessly entertain, and so on. Knowledge of the character and complete personality of a person will reveal the true identity.

A person with a brilliant sense of life is not, in a personal way, very familiar with despair and boredom. That is to say, he or she considers these depressing human experiences to be mostly inapplicable to life. Over time, this person has realized subconsciously (and consciously) that there is no logical reason to maintain self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy or hopelessness. At some point, he or she correctly discovered that each individual is in control of (and responsible for) his or her own psychological condition in life. He or she embraces the idea that one should make the most of every experience, and relish the invaluable moments one has. This entails being psychologically integrated enough to dismiss various irrelevant and inconsequential things, which also means not being one’s own psychological antagonist.

It is not the case that this type of person is completely untouched by psychological ailments—for that would not be human. Rather, he or she is soon able to overcome them and cast them aside; he or she does not allow psychological ailments to define the nature of his or her life and person.

One prerequisite to this process is the courage to allow ourselves to experience and “own” our troublesome feelings when we are having them, to listen to them and treat them with the respect they deserve. From here we can take the necessary psychological steps forward. The term “psychological resilience” is perhaps the most accurate name for this attitude of self-acceptance. It illustrates the significance of emotional flexibility, which involves not being stuck in a troubled state of mind, and not being emotionally rigid and closed to other evaluative possibilities and habits.15 Thus, we deal with our experiences in a healthy fashion. On an ordinary level, for instance, we effectively defuse numerous daily potential annoyances instead of becoming “stressed out” about them.

The ability to experience any event or situation, however troublesome, and focus on the essentials of one’s existence, plays a large part in a brilliant sense of life. This psychological attitude embraces the fact that we are mortal, rational beings living on an extraordinarily beautiful planet. In other words, he or she seldom loses sight of the idea that this planet is paradise and that one is an irreplaceable part of this paradise. And so, he or she realizes that it is basically senseless to spend time fretting and worrying about nonessentials, as well as being dragged down by those who do spend time this way. He or she knows that the world can be shaped into one’s greatest values.

Without question, a brilliant sense of life remains the dominant theme for anyone who has integrated the proper evaluations of self and the world. Let us examine the main factors that cultivate this attitude. A rational and self-esteeming childhood is important——for example, having parents and teachers who give the appropriate guidance and education about self, reality, and others. However, a powerful will to view oneself as worthy of happiness, no matter what one’s childhood environment was like, is even more important. Since few persons have childhoods free of negative influences (although some childhood environments are much better than others), we must credit an extraordinary will to be happy and self-assured. Although it may not be all-encompassing, this mindset includes the early formation of a strong self-concept and positive self-image.

For example, in the face of a confusing, disorienting, or even frightening incident, one draws the proper conclusions about the strangeness of the situation. The emotional mechanism is used to one’s advantage. Instead of mistakenly concluding such things as “I am to blame” or “Life will always be this way,” one learns from the bad experience in a psychologically rewarding way. Potentially harmful situations are put into proper context, and they do not impede participation in new activities. A pattern of this sort encourages further self-assertion and self-mastery, which enables one to cope enthusiastically with innumerable events in life (social, personal, work-related, etc).

The formation of a brilliant sense of life early on—and maintaining it as an adult—is quite an accomplishment. As in any psychological trait, though, it may not be practiced or exhibited continuously. Nonetheless, this mental outlook is essential to a life proper to a human being—and to the ideal society. In the end, this mindset is a prerequisite to fully experiencing new possibilities of self—which includes living in the future ideal society. Only this mindset is able to mesh fully with logical ideas about self and existence.

We should realize that all of us have been, at one time or another, our own best examples of this mental outlook. Children are naturally full of a brilliant sense of life. Yet later on, many persons are left with a vague thought—but acute feeling—that things are not really right with themselves, others, and the world. Typically, the glimmer of a bright and fresh possibility from childhood is mixed with the desire to remedy a psychology of occasional turmoil and conflict.

The process of consciously working to change aspects of poor self-concept and self-image as an adolescent or adult can be demanding. It requires fixing mistaken subconscious value-judgments, which everyone must do to some extent (we cannot escape the nature of consciousness and the age we live in). Ignorance and procrastination seem to be the worst adversaries in this procedure. One ends up paying a price for not having formed correct assessments of oneself and one’s experiences as they happened. However, the achievement of a brilliant sense of life then becomes the ultimate builder of genuine self-esteem. We amass enough trust in our mind and worth to change in greatly fulfilling ways.

 

As we understand the psychological attributes of an active mind and a brilliant sense of life, we notice that they are both causes and effects of self-esteem. They involve choices and then actions (either mental or physical) that sustain those choices, which then create further choices; it is a process of reciprocal causation.15 Logical insight and subsequent action encourage this psychological process to continue. Eventually, we create a new view of ourselves and life in general.

More fundamental than self-esteem is the matter of self-concept. Our view of who we are and what is possible to us may become profoundly fixed in our psyche, for better or worse, at an early age. Our self-concept can influence the ability to see any of these issues with the necessary level of objectivity. The ultimate choice, then, is to save ourselves from becoming our own psychological antagonists, and from the deleterious effects such a position has on our values, if left unrectified.

The political philosophy of liberty basically represents a society of people with genuine self-esteem. People who value themselves will value others. People who respect and trust their own thought and judgment will respect and trust them in others. People who realize the absolute worth of themselves will appreciate it absolutely in others. And people who see existence as paradise will encourage others to do likewise.

We need to remember that no contradictions can be present in objective reality. Contradictions can only be created subjectively by a decidedly unfocused mind. The decision to unfocus our mind is always ours to make, although we can leave this decision mostly to the subconscious. Thus, our beliefs and actions can become the haphazard aftermath of drifting at the mercy of our unexamined conclusions and emotions. Or, they can be the enlightened consequences of a mind in search of truth, regardless of the emotions involved (or the number of others who disapprove). Deep down, we all know the effects each policy has on our ability to enjoy life.

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