I am presently in a phase of reading some of the classics of American self motivational literature. Although I continue to be highly critical of this material if used or presented as a comprehensive psychology, I am also gaining a new appreciation of its value and American character. I hope you find this distillation interesting and useful.
The following is a distillation of Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Before I read Dale Carnegie I had a stereotyped revulsion to even the sound of his name which I associated with a Readers Digest Geritol generation given to sentimental platitudes. Actually reading Dale Carnegie will correct that impression for most, and even some of his dated colloquialisms are more charming than off-putting.
Dale Carnegie, like nondirective psychologist Carl Rogers, have a very American demeanor, but underneath they are actually Taoists and both have done their research into Asian as well as Western philosophy. Carl Rogers actually lived in China for many years. They recognize that you lead people by going with their enthusiasms and being an alert listener.
The flaw in the self-motivational literature, and it is an enormous flaw if you make the mistake of adopting them as complete views of how to be human, is their aversion to the shadow, of their directing your attention toward positive framing of all occurrence. (Though Dale Carnegie, as a far wiser voice than most self-help hypsters, also puts a lot of value on stoic acceptance of theinevitable.) As Hillman says, “The soul pathologizes.” The soul needs to descend into darkness and learn from pain. Dale Carnegie, might well have known that as he quotes Jung frequently, but it is not reflected in his writings. The other flaw in the Dale Carnegie work to be distilled here is that it misses the value of anxiety. As Rollo May says in his classic On Anxiety, “anxiety is being asserting itself against nonbeing.” Something in us wants to be alive and something, usually internal, but sometimes also environmental, resists or even attacks that aliveness and we feel anxiety as a potentially priceless form of spiritual, psychic pain. Just as people who have a rare neurological disorder that prevents them from feeling physical pain are ultimately incapacitated by it, and constantly vulnerable to injury, the Prozac generation that self medicates through (pills, tv, consumerism, eating, compulsive sexuality or whatever) its anxiety into a state of being in the words of Pink Floyd, “comfortably numb” loses touch with an inner heliotropic drive that seeks, through the negative feedback of anxiety, to move a constricted psyche toward the light.
The worry that Dale Carnegie addresses is the worry of the ego resisting the TAO, the ego trying to control and prestructure the future, take back the past, imagine poor future outcomes, and seeing itself as dependent on outside circumstances to feel at peace.
Much of my distillations will be aphorisms quoted in these works and I have to admit to a love of quotations. I’ll begin with this one, which is not from Dale Carnegie:
“I hate quotations.” Ralph Waldo Emerson —-I got that one from Bartlett’s Book of Quotations
Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but
to do what lies clearly at hand. —-Thomas Carlyle.
Live in day tight compartments. —-Dale Carnegie (hereafter
unattributed quotes can be assumed to be Dale Carnegie)
Take no thought for the morrow. —-Jesus
Lead, kindly light..
Keep thou my feet: I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me. —-anonymous
So let’s be content to live the only time we can possibly live: from
now until bed time.
Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live
sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down. And
this is all that life really means. —Robert Louis Stevenson
Every day is a new life to a wise man.
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He, who can call to-day his own:
He who, secure within, can say:
To-morrow, do they worst, for I have liv’d to-day.
Life is in the living, in the tissue of every day and hour.
My life has been full of terrible misfortunes. Most of which never
Think, that this day will never dawn again.
This is the day which the Lord hath made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. —-Psalm CXVIII
Step 1 I analyzed the situation fearlessly and honestly and figured
out what was the worst that could possibly happen as a result of
Step 2 After figuring out what was the worst that could possibly
happen, I reconciled myself to accepting it, if necessary.
Step 3 From that time on, I calmly devoted my time and energy to
trying to improve upon the worst which I had already accepted
When we worry, our minds jump here and there and everywhere, and we
lose all power of decision. However, when we force ourselves to
face the worst and accept it mentally, we then eliminate all these
vague imaginings and put ourselves in a position in which we are
able to concentrate on our problem.
Be willing it have it so…Acceptance of what has happened is the
first step in overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.
True peace of mind comes from accepting the worst. Psychologically,
I think it means a release of energy. —Lin Yutang
Those who keep the peace of their inner selves in the midst of the
tumult of the modern city are immune from nervous diseases.
—-Dr. Alexis Carrel
Three basic steps of problem analysis:
1. Get the facts.
2. Analyze the facts.
3. Arrive at a decision—and then act on that decision.
If a man will devote his time to securing facts in an impartial,
objective way, his worries will usually evaporate in the light of
When trying to get the facts, I pretend that I am collecting this
information not for myself, but for some other person. This helps
me take a cold, impartial view of the evidence.
Whenever I was worried I had always gone to my typewriter and
written down two questions—-and the answers to these questions:
1. What am I worrying about?
2. What can I do about it?
When once a decision is reached and execution is the order of the
day, dismiss absolutely all responsibility and care about the
outcome. —-William James
One man Dale interviewed, who was a CEO or captain of industry of
some sort, found that he was bombarded by memos and calls from
people of the, “What should we do about the xyz problem?” sort. He
solved this by asking his staff to format all their memos in the
1. What is the problem?
2. What is the cause of the problem?
3. What are all possible solutions to the problem?
4. What solution do you suggest?
Be willing to have it so. Acceptance of what has happened is the
first step to overcoming the consequences of misfortune.
For every ailment under the sun,
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it. —Mother Goose Rhyme
Try to bear lightly what needs must be. —Jailer’s last words to Socarates
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference. —-Dr. Reinhold Neibuhr
Cooperate with the inevitable.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life, which is
required to be exchanged for it immediately or in the long run.
—-Henry David Thoreau
Whenever we are tempted to throw good money after bad in terms of
human living, let’s stop and ask ourselves these three questions:
1. How much does this thing I am worrying about really matter to me?
2. At what point shall I set a “stop-loss” order on this worry—and
forget it? …Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be
worth—and refuse to give it any more.
3. Exactly how much shall I pay for this (thing)? Have I already
paid more than it is worth?
A man is what he thinks about all day long. —Emerson
Our life is what our thoughts make it. —Marcus Aurelius
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell,
a hell of heaven.
Action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which
is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly
regulate the feeling, which is not…
This the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if your
cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak
as if that cheerfulness were already there. —William James
—-I love William James, but can’t help pointing out that pulling
yourself up by your boot straps can’t work in every circumstance.
James used to write in his journal, “Please God, give me a reason to
live for the next fifteen minutes.” —-Jonathan
Don’t expect gratitude, don’t hold onto grievances, think of the 90%
we do have, not the 10% you don’t. Remember the woman thrilled to
see the rainbows in the soap bubbles of dishwater. Remember your
prayers that have been answered.
The most important thing in life is not to capitalize on your gains.
Any fool can do that. The really important thing is to profit from
your losses. That requires intelligence; and it makes the
difference between a man of sense and a fool. —William Bolitho
Nietzche’s formula for the superior man was “not only to bear up
under necessity but to love it.”
Our very infirmities help us unexpectedly. —William James
The north wind made the Vikings. —Scandinavian saying
Alfred Adler’s prescription for depression: “Try to think every
day how you can please some one.”
About one third of my patients are suffering from no clinically
definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and emptiness of
their lives. —C.G. Jung
Man is not made to understand life, but to live it. —Santayana
During the past thirty years, people from all the civilized
countries of the earth have consulted me. I have treated many
hundreds of patients. Among all the patients in the second half of
life—that is to say, over thirty-five—there has not been one
whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious
outlook on life. It is safe to say that everyone of them fell ill
because he had lost that which the living religions of every age
have given to their followers, and none of them has really been
healed who did not regain his religious outlook.
Faith is one of the forces by which men live, and the total absence
of it means collapse.
The turbulent billows of the fretful surface leave the deep parts of
the ocean undisturbed; and to him who has a hold on vaster and more
permanent realities, the hourly vicissitudes of his personal destiny
seem relatively insignificant things. The really religious person
is accordingly unshakeable and full of equanimity, and calmly ready
for any duty that the day may bring forth.
—forgot to record the author of this quote
Prayer can help you much more than you believe, for it is a practical thing.
Turn your problems over to a higher power.
Prayer is the most powerful form of energy we can generate.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred,
let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is
doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is
darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. Oh divine master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to consoled; to
be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in
giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Someone found the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII crying. When they
talked to him, he revealed that the others boys in school had been
kicking him. They wanted to say when they were older that they had
kicked a king.
So when kicked and criticized, remember that it is often done
because it gives the kicker a feeling of importance. It often means
that you are accomplishing something and are worthy of attention.
Vulgar people take huge delight in the faults and follies of great
President of Yale, Timothy Dwight denounced a presidential candidate
in the following manner:
….We may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal
prostitution, soberly dishonored, speciously polluted; the outcasts
f delicacy and virtue, the loathing of God and man. (He was referring to Thomas Jefferson)
Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you’ll be
criticized, anyway You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you
don’t. —-Eleanor Roosevelt
If I were to try to read, much less to answer, all the attacks made
on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I
do the very best I know how—the very best I can; and I mean to
keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right,
then what is said against me won’t matter. If the end brings me out
wrong, then ten angels swearing I am right would make no difference.
I hope you enjoyed this because if you didn’t I’m not going to worry about it.