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I have the tendency to reminisce on martyr fantasies/memories. I do it because it gives me a emotional surge, ecstasy, heartache. For example I fantasies about telling my classroom of how they mistreated me so badly in the Army Basic Training they had to remind the tortures, that I was only human. This indulgence is costing me my mind. I wanna be emotionally competent. Any advice on how to be level-headed lucid/rational thinker, and stop the habit?

asked Mar 28 '11 at 23:45

Sage1's gravatar image


edited Mar 29 '11 at 10:29

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

I'm glad to see that Greg has edited the original short form of this question. I was getting ready to fire away on the difference between rationality and rationalism, and on the false alternative of reason vs. emotion.

I see two key points in the full wording of the question:

  1. What to do to be rational.

  2. What to do to break a bad habit.

These two points are separate. Objectivist ethics explains what being rational (living by reason) consists of. A key aspect of it is having a central productive purpose in one's life. One needs that regardless of how many bad habits from the past one seeks to reverse, and I don't think it will be possible to break the old habit first. What would replace it?

Given the value of purpose, breaking bad habits should be far easier. If one has recognized that one has formed a particular habit and now recognizes it as bad for one's life in some identified way, then one has already taken a major initial step toward reversing it. What one needs to do next is monitor oneself in future situations and remember one's identifications whenever one is tempted to lapse back into the old habit. One can then insist to oneself that one really does want to act differently in the new situation. One can say to oneself, in effect, "This is tempting, but now I know that it's not good for me, and I hereby ordain and insist that I'm not going to do it again this time. Decision rendered. Period."

(By the way, I believe this is the first time I've heard of the questioner having been in the Army. Depending on how long it lasted and whether or not live mortal combat was involved, breaking a resulting bad habit could be considerably more difficult than I have described. But if the questioner didn't even make it to the end of Basic Training, then he doesn't fall into the category of traumatized veterans.)

answered Mar 29 '11 at 15:38

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

I answered this question in a recent edition of my Rationally Selfish Webcast.  An audio recording of my response is available as a podcast here: NoodleCast #67: Live Rationally Selfish Webcast. The discussion of this question runs from 57:02 to 1:02:25. 

My basic view is that you need to make a firm commitment to alter your mental habits by stopping and reminding yourself not to indulge your emotions whenever you catch yourself doing that.

answered Apr 01 '11 at 17:35

Diana%20Hsieh's gravatar image

Diana Hsieh ♦

edited Apr 05 '11 at 19:40

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Asked: Mar 28 '11 at 23:45

Seen: 2,119 times

Last updated: Apr 20 '11 at 15:53