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The Crucible of the Soul

Real happiness, true love, soul mates, marriage, relationships, friendships, inspiration, stress, job burnout, depression, suicide, and more

This page last updated on or about 2-5-15

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Stuff I wish I'd known when I was 15 through 30 years of age.

Some tips on preventing job burnout and/or depression

Don't let your world get too small. Have a life. If your whole life revolves around your job, you're headed to burnout-- even if you're lucky enough to love your job more than anything else. Job love might delay the crash a bit longer than job hate, or job ambivalence, but crash you will, in all cases, eventually.

How do you insure your world is bigger than your job? Having fun with non-job friends. Spending time with family. Reading novels. Travel. Going on hikes. Taking some college classes. Pursuing just about any interest which isn't necessarily job-related. In fact, the more removed and/or different from your job a particular interest or hobby is, the better. Also, having your recreation be as different an activity from your work as possible is also recommended. I.e., if your job requires a lot of time on the computer, your recreation time would best be spent as far away from computers as possible.

Of course, it takes time to pursue any sort of activity. So if you spend too much time at work you won't have any left over for world-expanding non-job activities, and thus you'll be doomed. Merely taking sufficient time off from your job to sleep, eat, pay your bills and do repairs on your home and car may be essential in itself, but it won't be nearly enough to save you from burn out (of course, if you truly enjoy tinkering with your car or refinishing a piece of furniture or whatever, that can be a different matter, and OK as rec time (again, so long as it is UN-like your job)).

You absolutely must at least occasionally get some time off from work that's not totally filled with maintenance duties or chores.

During such free time you may occasionally feel like doing absolutely nothing. Like vegging out in front of the TV. It's normal and healthy to do absolutely nothing every once in a while. But if you're one of those folks at risk for burnout, you can't afford to allow an occasional veg out session to account for all your recreational time-- because that will be an inadequate measure for staving off burnout.

Another thing: it's far better to take these anti-burnout measures long before you're actually perched on the burnout precipice. For once you're at the cliff's edge, or even tumbling into the abyss, it may be a thousand times more difficult to discover what sort of recreational activities will heal and refresh you-- because by that late stage you may be in the grips of a black depression or deep apathy, which makes everything seem worthless or empty or incredibly sad or frustrating.

One ironic thing about burnout is that many folks who experience it are usually highly motivated people who pride themselves on their efficiency. And yet, if these same folks neglect to take proper precautions against burning out, they'll eventually find themselves pretty much a total waste of skin for months or even years in the aftermath. And their friends and family will likely get the same perception of them too.

The human mind and body are very much like other machines or systems: they require periodic maintenance of various sorts. If they don't get that maintenance, they break down. Taking precautions against burnout is really nothing more than performing routine maintenance on yourself.

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Burnout and/or depression can lead to a heightened risk of suicide for some folks.

There's plenty of things on this Earth which can lead a person to consider suicide.

Perversely, one of those things can be having too much fun (check out Playing God for one example of such excess).

But usually it's other things which bring on suicidal thoughts. Things like the pangs of unrequited love, or severe loneliness. Work or income-related despair. Incessant worrying over family members. Severe illness. Perceived great humiliation. And the list goes on.

For some things you can separate them into two distinct piles: a pile you can do something about, and a pile you can't.

If it's something you're positive you can do nothing to change, and the smartest folks you can find regarding the subject agree with your assessment, then just accept that one element of your life as being a part of who you are and your current place in the world and move on to something you can change for the better.

Some of the worst things in this pile may be people you think you love but don't love you in return. Yeah, that's going to hurt. Especially when you dwell on it. And for as long as you dwell on it. Which means your suffering can go on for weeks, months, years...even decades or a lifetime(!)

If you let it.

On the other hand, if you fill up your life with enough interesting people, adventures, and things unrelated to the lost (or never attained) love, your sadness will gradually shrink over time until finally you don't think of it for years at a time. Yay!

As for everything else (the stuff you want to change and CAN)-- what on Earth are you waiting for? Just do it!

OK. So you say you'll need money to change it? Then start making it and saving it. THEN do it.

Of course, maybe you have things you'd like to change but are waiting indefinitely to see if some easier way will come around. Like maybe you want a college degree but don't want to return to school to get it. Then find an accredited online program and take that! But do it. Don't procrastinate forever and continue wallowing in what ifs and if onlys...for that way lies only more of the same. Or...

"Gloom, despair, and agony on me! Deep dark depression, excessive misery!..." as the old Hee Haw TV show refrain went.

Of course, some folks might take a perverse joy in being miserable. If you're one of those, face up to the fact.

However, once you accept that little tidbit about your condition you'll find it no longer nearly as satisfying as it seemed when you thought you weren't in the morass voluntarily.

But let's go all the way with this one. Say you're the modern equivalent of the hunchback of Notre Dame. Out and out deformed and monstrous looking, without any hope at all of ever enjoying an intimate relationship with a normal person. And even if you had all the money in the world the doctors say fixing you would most likely kill you too. Sure, that's sad. But it doesn't have to be pathetic. You can likely still contribute to the world and enjoy a bit of companionship along the way too, if you truly want to. Especially in the age of the internet.

So what's the ultimate anti-suicide barricade? For me it's this:

Everybody dies. It's inevitable. So no matter what happens or what you do, you WILL be cashing out your chips sooner or later. And you'll be dead for a really really long time. For the rest of the life of the universe itself, at the very least. Or perhaps some 100, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (One followed by 101 zeroes) years.

That's an awful lot of blissful oblivion. Enough for anybody, and any awful arrangement of circumstances from which you crave relief.

So you will get all the death you could ever hope to there.

What'll be in short supply by comparison will be life. Consciousness. Awareness. Mobility. The capacity to take physical action in the world and try to change it, even if only in the smallest of ways.

And even if you live to be 125 years old, that'll still be less than an eye blink compared to the trillions and trillions of years you'll be dead.

So why not stick around and see if anything interesting happens in this brief moment when you're awake to it all? Heck, maybe nothing good at all will happen. But you never know.

And personally I'd be more satisfied with eternal oblivion if I was certain I didn't miss anything by exiting this life thing a little too early.

Plus, there's always my enemies to consider. Each passing day I live on is a constant thorn in their side. Heh, heh, heh.

Of course, I must admit that given enough insurmountable obstacles and unbearable suffering I might go ahead and leave this party which seems to exist mostly for the pleasure of strangers I'll never meet. But so far I've always managed to find a way to get around such obstacles and obtain some relief from such pains when they came my way. And I'm getting better at such remedial actions as I get older, and must do it more frequently.

2-5-15 UPDATE: The above text seemed to do a pretty good job for many depressed folks over the years. For almost exactly seven years, in fact. For I got plenty of emails to that effect.

But then in 2014 I got such an eloquent and touching email telling me it wasn't enough, and why, and pleading for something more and better on the subject, that I felt compelled to give them whatever I could above and beyond my original material. And apparently it worked. So if you too need more, I've now posted that extra bit here, in edited form (the original was slightly more revealing of my personal life than I am comfortable doing on a public web page; hence certain changes). I call it My own day to day anti-depression strategies. END UPDATE.

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Forming and maintaining strong relationships

I guess another subject related to this one is striking up enough good and rewarding relationships with others to insure you have a circle of friends and family around to prevent certain aspects of burnout. For some folks this is easy. For others, it's much harder. Luckily almost all of us start out with families of various sizes and scope. If we work at it and enjoy a bit of luck along the way some of those family members, whether close or distant in relation, may well end up being among our most cherished loved ones our entire lives.

Accumulating non-related friends poses something more of an obstacle in the beginning (as we must reach outside our families), but also offers the advantage of a much larger pool of folks and characteristics to choose from. This means we have a greater chance of finding someone who better fits our own needs and wants in a confidante, collaborator, ally, muse, mentor, or whatever, than we would usually be able to find among our relatives.

Ergo, for most of us, our very best friends will end up being made from someone who's a total stranger to us at some point. Sometimes perhaps even an enemy or opponent or competitor, early on.

Such friends are usually met and made in our school years. If we're lucky, we'll keep at least one or two of these our entire lives.

Making new and dear friends after our school years, during our job years, has seemed much more difficult for me personally. From what I've observed, this seems to be the case with lots of other folks too. It may be that we all get a bit too set in our ways to easily bond with others after a certain age. I've made plenty of acquaintances and associates and contacts, etc., but not a single new best friend in that stage. At least so far.

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'True love', lovers, and friends

Of course, lovers or spouses can be enormously important factors in one's social circle, at least sometimes providing types and depths of mutual support, motivation, and reward that even best friends can't match. But much more risk and volatility seem to accompany lovers/spouses than best friend relationships. So much so that these often prove less reliable and robust relationships for many folks, than best friends do.

Lover/spouse relationships also seem to be often complicated by the process of natural selection. You see, evolution has a way of driving folks temporarily insane. Making someone almost maniacally attracted to someone else via certain chemical signals, solely for the purpose of making children who are likely to possess an immune system somewhat superior to that of either parent.

Pheromones are a part of this signaling system, and may act upon our brains at subconscious levels, greatly strengthening any conscious attraction we might have for someone. These scent signals of course require close proximity (or favorable direction of moving air) to work. But remarkably, these elements can have such a powerful and drug-like effect upon human beings that we've come to glorify them with phrases like "true love", "love at first sight" and "soul-mates". Indeed, the vast majority of poetry and music and perhaps literature as well may have its roots in the mind altering effects of pheromone chemistry.

Yes, for men a woman's visual attractiveness too is a major factor. But likely not nearly as powerful in most cases as the proper pheromonal signal might be.

If and when we bump into someone with the proper pheromonal chemistry to fit what our own senses are ever on the look out for on a sub-conscious level, we often experience an immediate and primal attraction to that person.

We all of us likely have different numbers and degrees of potential pheromonal mates out there-- and of those likely only a subset will be similarly attracted to we ourselves. For there's never a guarantee that the pheromonal 'weapons lock' will be two-way in nature, or mutual. Also, even where the 'lock' is mutual, someone so affected may still fight it off consciously and logically-- at least for a while. In many cases involving total strangers we may never bump into again, merely a few seconds or minutes of restraint on one person's part may be enough to prevent forever that particular coupling. In other, more difficult circumstances, such as dangerous and awful pheromonal attractions to a friend or sibling's spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend with whom such liaisons would be ill-advised, quite strenuous efforts over many months might be required to prevent a coupling.

And that's where many of the agonies of 'unrequited love' stem from. For resisting-- or being thwarted from acting on-- a strong pheromonal attraction, can become downright excruciating at times. Enough so that if it could be suitably controlled, dictators would make it an important tool in their torture arsenal.

Fortunately, the power of a particular pheromonal attraction seems to ebb on average after 12-18 months. Keep in mind this is an average-- which means some cases could continue on for years, while others dissipated in weeks. There's also the conscious part of an attraction to deal with. For even without pheromones we can often convince ourselves we love someone deeply, if we work at it long enough. Think of it as a form of self-hypnosis. This conscious part may often begin only as a consequence of an initial pheromonal attraction, but it can theoretically last forever-- long after the pheromone effect is gone. So folks can still have this form of fallout to deal with, even after the pheromonal thrill is no more.

Aha, you may be saying to yourself. Now a lot about human relationships is starting to make more sense. All those folks who get married young and become miserable later, often getting divorced. All those folks who marry, divorce, re-marry, and divorce again. All those folks who wonder where the sexual 'fireworks' of their early relationship went, after they'd been married a few years.

Egads! This pheromonal thing looks like downright sabotage for long-lived marriages, doesn't it? And a darn awful trap for the young and unwary. But keep in mind all evolution cares about is that kids with possibly superior immune systems are born, and well-cared for at least until they're able to start getting around on their own (begin to crawl reasonably well). If you think about it the average pheromonal attraction lifespan is pretty much long enough to get the caveman father to hang around until their kid is somewhere between three and nine months old and beginning to move about on their own. After that the caveman becomes susceptible to the pheromonal attraction of a different woman, and maybe abandons his first family.

Civilized society of course has tried to moderate this behavior in various ways, over the past 10,000 years or so. But we all of us on a daily basis must still struggle with our Stone Age natures in these respects and others.

Humans may not be as susceptible to pheromone signaling (if they can sense them) as less sentient animals. The pheromones would operate on a subconscious level; the conscious mind could then follow or ignore the signals as deemed wise. Hopefully!

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Reducing the risk of and fallout from a love crash

A love crash can perhaps be even worse than job burnout. With still longer-lasting effects on your life and psyche.

Unfortunately, as the thing we call love is basically a natural form of drug addiction (only here the drugs are produced by your own body, rather than externally), avoiding a love crash may be virtually impossible. Especially when you're young and at the complete mercy of evolution and circumstances, biologically-speaking.

There's good reason the word "crush" is used so frequently in regards to such matters. For such incidents can easily leave many folks feeling utterly crushed in their aftermath. Devastated. God-awful.

About the only way to absolutely protect yourself from such things would be to make yourself a mountain hermit, thus never meeting anyone of the opposite sex at all.

But even that might not work, as our minds and bodies might well conjure up someone in our dreams with which to plague us, still(!)

So what might more practical measures entail? Well, extreme self-discipline which always always always made you hold back from fully committing yourself to a given relationship, or revealing too much about yourself to someone else, or caring too much about another person, would be a pretty good defense for those who can actually pull it off.

Of course, we're talking a level of self-discipline here that even Mr. Spock off classic Star Trek failed to maintain for a mere three year stretch. So what chances do non-fictional 100% human beings have at it?

If someone comes along whose presence 'pushes all the proper buttons' for you, withstanding such an onslaught intact may well prove impossible. In such a case, about all you can do is flee. Minimize the amount of time you're exposed to such mighty winds. Otherwise coupling WILL ensue-- unless maybe your potential partner themselves help you out by putting a stop to the matter on their end, almost immediately, before things get very far at all.

But of course many folks consider romantic or sexual love one of the few things which make life worth living. And truly it can be wonderful, at least some of the time. So working too hard at protecting yourself from a crash may well prohibit some much needed or desired zest from your life too.

And lord knows very very few of us ever get more zest than we need (or want). This seems to be the case with women too, as much as men (But most women's idea of "zest" seems somewhat different from that of most men's).

So in truth most of us have little choice but to not only risk such crashes, but risk them many times over the course of our lives. Indeed, marriage may as often be about two people trying to protect themselves from the necessity for future crashes, as it is love and companionship and raising a family.

For lord God those crashes can be bad!

One particularly nasty thing about crashes is that they can even ruin the entire memory of what came before with that person(!) Ouch! So even if your own love for someone is returned, and you have a blissful experience with them for months or years, a crash might still come about. And end up making all the previous bliss taste like ashes in your recollections. Double ouch!

It can be a terrible thing for your fondest memories to be transformed in this way.

But what can you do to minimize the risk without closing the door on the potential good times?

Treat a potential lover or spouse much like the job described in the section on avoiding burnout. That is, have a life where at least some portions don't revolve around that one person.

But this can be a very difficult balancing act. To withhold some of your essential nature and self from someone you care so much about, and want so much to divulge and hand over while things are going well. Passion is passion, after all. That's why international spies are so often lovers of their victims (yes, that part of the farcical James Bond films is accurate).

Such withholding will also tend to make the constant struggle for dominance of the relationship more favorable to yourself-- all other things being equal. But such bias may in itself endanger the relationship and make the risk of eventual crash higher. Hence, the description of a balancing act.

There's nothing easy about avoiding a crash while still leaving yourself open to love. That's what anguish is all about.

But so long as you're not fully invested in a relationship you'll usually have something left of your life (and yourself) even after a crash. And you might not afterwards feel nearly so injured or wronged as might otherwise have been the case.

There's always the possibility that you might find a lover for whom such crash insurance is utterly unnecessary. But if you're that lucky, you were probably born rich, too.

So long as you don't expect too much of a given relationship you won't often be disappointed. And be delighted when it sometimes turns out better than expected.

Love tends to make us see another as someone as endearing or wonderful or extraordinary as a character from our favorite feature film or novel. And at the same time make us blind to any flaws they might possess, or risks they might present. If all you can do is awaken from your trance on occasion to recall that little bit of knowledge, that might in itself be enough to protect you from the worst parts of a future crash.

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Tips for a successful, long-lived marriage

So where does this leave us in regards to forming and maintaining lifelong and happy marriages? I figure it this way:

#1: It's very dangerous to base a marriage solely on the mind and body altering effects of pheromonal attraction alone. And yet, when people are in the throes of such attraction, it may be very difficult for them to comprehend its time-limited nature.

Because it just feels so darned good!

#2: ALL marriages may become ever more susceptible to difficulties or divorce over time, due to encounters of one spouse or another with pheromonal based intruders. These random attacks by nature upon the institution of marriage are just something all married folk must deal with as best they can, when they meet them.

#3: Marriages which were based from the beginning on a close or even mutual best friend relationship between the partners, or else developed in that way over time, look to offer the best resistance to pheromonal-based intrusions by outsiders, as well as the capacity to heal and reconcile even if such intruders succeed in temporarily disrupting the marriage for a time.

#4: Is making a best friend of someone of the opposite sex and marrying them (or vice versa) a practical and realistic goal to pursue for most folks? This one is a toughie. I'm not sure I personally know anyone who has successfully done it. And although I cannot offer a woman's view on the issue, from a male standpoint it would seem a very, very difficult thing to do. I'm sure I'm not in the mainstream on such matters, but in my own experience it seems I only came near to truly having close female friends (as opposed to the more typical girl friends) maybe twice in my life, and in both those cases the sexual tension thing always seemed to overshadow the relationship, perhaps preventing it from broadening and deepening to the level of rapport I enjoyed with my male best friends. At least for me. My female friends and I never discussed that aspect, so I don't know what their perspective on the matter was. We also didn't have a whole lot in common in general, and much of our relationships either seemed to be mutual alliances to help one another in various social or job situations, or get insight into the opposite sex we might use to further our personal goals for lovers (in one of these cases I was smitten with a girl other than my friend at the time, and believe my friend was after a male other than myself as well).

So what's the status of those two female friends and I now? In both cases circumstances took us our separate ways long ago. Every few years I hear from or about one of them who lives maybe a thousand miles away now.

I hope I would consciously welcome developing a new, close friendship with a woman. I just don't know if such a thing is really possible ('When Harry Met Sally' not-with-standing).

And as I said before, it seems much more difficult to develop close friendships with anyone at all, same sex or not, beyond a certain age.

But ignoring the possible age limit on such things for a moment...

It may well be that there's some sort of competitive or domination aspect to a sexual relationship which often prevents or at least reduces the chances of forming and maintaining a long term peer-to-peer type close friendship with the same person.

Perhaps if two people could find sufficient common ground to become close and lifelong friends to start with, they could also successfully manage the marriage part-- so long as they kept in mind the forces of competition or struggle for dominance in the relationship which would always be threatening to burst things asunder. Becoming aware of a problem is the first step in solving it.

#5: Those people most at risk for encountering excessive numbers of pheromonally attractive mates include those who regularly meet lots of strangers in close quarters and/or do a lot of traveling through populous centers of civilization. Thus, traveling salesmen, business executives, celebrities, etc., are all prone to encounter pheromonal attacks more frequently than less traveled folks who meet far fewer strangers during their lives. This also means even us average folk will be more at risk of encountering pheronomal surprises anytime we travel to a large public meeting place where we're liable to encounter large numbers of strangers, than when we stay at home or merely frequent things like church meetings where strangers are rare.

I have a friend who, perhaps subconsciously, deduced much of all this in his youth, and so arranged his life for the maximum amount of travel and meeting of strangers he could manage. This resulted in him perhaps achieving something near to male nirvana sex-wise, as the circumstances allowed him to experience affair after affair with the pheromonal attractions pegging out at near maximum in many instances. Ever seen the old TV show Quantum Leap, where the hero spontaneously jumps from one life to another to 'put right what once went wrong'? Well, my friend managed to do his own version of that, only where he was leaping from one seeming 'soul-mate' to another, over and over again.

Don't worry-- like you I too can only try to imagine both the quantity and quality of pleasure he got from decades of such pheromone mining. And yes, he's related many tales regarding it all to me. And yes, I've spent enough time in close proximity to him business-wise not to doubt his stories.

There's other complexities in all this of course, like the different things men and women consciously look for in a suitable mate candidate. And the perpetual lust for one-night-stand conquests that afflicts many of us men perhaps all our lives (testosterone can be a terrible task-master). And also the psychological games men and women might play with one another for dominance in the relationship, or sympathy, etc. But those are whole other subjects-- and may often be over-ridden by the pheromonal attraction aspect, or the 'best friend' possibilities.

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Achieving and maintaining personal happiness and satisfaction

Though most of us will never get there, it truly is possible for a human being to experience too much happiness/pleasure/joy.

The first rule of happiness and satisfaction is that they cannot exist into perpetuity without breaks of some kind. Normal human beings simply aren't wired that way, as of early 2003. And it's a good thing too, for several reasons. One, people usually require a stiff measure of dissatisfaction to inspire them to make changes of any sort in their lives or the world. So a certain amount of UN-happiness may be vital to continued progress and advancement on both personal and society-wide scales. Two, human beings get foundered on 'too much of a good thing'. Too many chocolate chip cookies or too much happiness-- both conditions will soon get a person to hankering for something different. So something less than 100% happiness, 100% of the time, is not only healthy, but essential.

That being said, most people may never get close enough to unbroken periods of ideal happiness to really worry about excesses of same. There's all sorts of problems and troubles in the world to prevent us from reaching nirvana-- or even glimpsing it from afar. War. Starvation. Poverty. Illness. Injury. The suffering of loved ones. Lots and lots of stuff.

So let's forget about the dangers inherent in getting too close to paradise: that's a worry that need not concern 99% of us, into the foreseeable future.

So how might we find happiness in a world which often seems set up precisely to prevent it?

The answer depends upon what course you want to pursue: purely personal happiness, or happiness for everyone. Note the 'happiness for everyone' route would include yourself, but likely be much more difficult to accomplish, take far longer, and result in a smaller personal share of well being than the alternative-- at least for many folks. Some people however get significant satisfaction from alleviating the suffering of others, and so might well find the 'everyone' route quite rewarding indeed (thank goodness such benefactors and humanitarians exist! The world would be a far harsher place for us all with their absence).

In other cases we encounter 'hybrids': people not nearly as altruistic as the saints described above, but who have found themselves for one reason or another hitting a 'ceiling' on what they can do to affect their own personal well-being, and so take the more general route to get around the obstacles encountered. This enables them to feel good about helping others at the same time they are striving to better their own fortunes with efforts which might achieve both-- even if only as long shots (This hybrid category would seem to fit the author of this article: see my site map for a catalog of my own works in this regard).

Lastly, we come to the purely selfish, a classification which may describe all of us under certain circumstances or during various periods in our lives. For instance, if we're waiting in a hospital emergency room with our ill or injured child, we'd likely gladly bribe the staff to examine our kid before anyone else's, if we could. Or when the winner of a $100 million lottery is being announced, we might be willing to do quite a wide range of things to be that winner.

But some of us (like the very worst and most malevolent of our politicians, corporate CEOs, and other types of organized crimes-against-humanity bosses) may exist in purely selfish mode for most of their waking moments.

So how might one successfully increase their own share of happiness, via any or all of the channels expressed above?

Saints and near-saints:

Saints or purely altruistic folks may often have the easiest time in finding joy (even if the work involved may be exhausting and never-ending). For there's so much need and suffering in the world a saint can basically dive in almost anywhere to begin helping out, and thereby reach their own kind of nirvana.


This classification likely encompasses the vast majority of folks world-wide. That is, we may be selfish and greedy where we can get away with it without anyone else noticing or being significantly hurt by it. But we're also usually helpful and supportive to friends and family where needed-- at times even to the point of considerable personal pain and sacrifice. And we generally don't go overboard in the self-gratification department unless strongly encouraged by companions and/or circumstances.

Basically these kinds of folks need to try striking a balance. Moderation in all things -- including moderation-- as American founding father Ben Franklin used to advise, can be a potent guideline for this. This same advice was given by the Chinese philosophical classic the I Ching millennia before, as well.

Extreme mood swings are only fun on the upside; the downsides can literally be killers. And it may be that some sort of balancing act must be played out in our psyche for such swings too. Ergo, any wild upward spike in happiness may require a later plunge into utter despair to truly bring us to equilibrium again. YIKES!

So seeking out extremes in happiness may force you to experience extremes in its opposite too. So maybe it's best to avoid the biggies where possible.

Want an example? Drugs. Alcohol. Etc. Sure, some of them can make you pretty darn happy for a while. But if you survive the experience even the nicest aftermath possible won't be very much fun.

I say if you survive because some of these drugs will kill a person the first time they ever try them. Either through an overdose or by some unfortunate mixing with other drugs, medicines, certain food or drink, etc. Or by simply making you the user more error-prone in judgment or behavior. Most 'fun' drugs leave the user impaired in some fashion, and therefore more likely than usual to get into trouble of various sorts. Some users jump or fall from great heights. Some start ill-advised fights. Some inadvertently wander into dangerous parts of town. Some crash their cars into school buses. YIKES!

Imagine indulging yourself and discovering afterwards you've caused the injury or even deaths of innocents as one consequence. The guilt could last a lifetime, and maybe make it impossible to ever feel really good again.

On the flip-side of that is your own incapacitation as the result of one stupid act. You get drunk or high and wake later paralyzed for life from the waist down-- or still worse, the neck down.

How much fun do you think you'll have after that? Especially knowing it's all your own fault? Ouch!

As pointed out elsewhere we not only have external drugs to worry about, but internal ones as well. The natural ones which make us addicted to another person. Exercising too little restraint on yourself in such a relationship can result in many of the same risks to life and limb as illegal drugs.

Hobbies can be very pleasurable, but can pose risks of their own. For instance, they can lure you too far away from the real world and your friends and family, perhaps eventually leaving you totally alone for years and years. I personally found it necessary to divorce myself away from at least a couple hobbies in which I felt I'd gone too far or was likely to if I continued with them. For instance, pretty much everyone would agree I went a bit overboard with Shadowfast-- even if that project did teach me a lot about cars, physics, and mechanics along the way.

But so long as you can move on and leave behind certain things, while maintaining strong relationships with friends and family, you're likely doing the healthy thing. After all, love is for people, not things. Being too attached to material possessions simply isn't healthy, based on my own experience and reasonably wide reading of contemporary and historical texts.

Reading and learning in general

If you're at all able, you should read as much as you can. Especially in your youth.

I've personally loved to read ever since my teachers empowered me to do so (Thank you, thank you, thank you!). For decades I was voracious, reading pretty much everything which came past me.

All that reading made the world a lot more interesting to me-- and me a lot more interesting to the world.

The knowledge it imparted to me protected me from a lot of nonsense as well as immense dangers. Helped me completely avoid many of the problems and pitfalls lots of my peers had to suffer through.

It also helped me endure lots of hard times, as well as stand up for myself and others when necessary-- even against overwhelming odds.

When I was a child one of my fondest dreams was to someday hide in the Library of Congress for a few years, reading everything I could there.

Now we have the internet. Which is wonderful. Although at least 90% of the content in the Library of Congress isn't directly accessible there today, and may well never be. On the other hand, with my mounting age my eyesight is failing, making it ever harder for me to read hard copy books. The power to adjust larger the text size of the internet on big displays is a life-saver for me in that respect.

I'm pretty sure I would never have made it this far without all that reading. And even if I'm wrong and I'd still be alive today without it, I'm certain I'd be a far sadder and less capable person in that scenario.

So to boost your own happiness quotient I urge you to read all you can. Seek out your favorite subjects and read all about them until you're satiated. Then start on a new topic.

Don't know what you want to read about? Then just start reading at random until you find out!

Reading is the closest thing I know of in this world to a guaranteed good time, so long as you can find a suitable subject.

Goals, ambitions, and personal fantasy lives

Although many might consider it immoral to even mention the fantasy lives of people, it's clear that our fantasies play an important, even critical role in our day to day lives. And even in our childhood development, according to science.

Sleep is essential to survival and healing. People more prone to fantasy and daydreams fall asleep easier and faster than those less so.

Children may well almost require a few imaginary friends in order to grow up healthy and well-adjusted. Around the third or fourth grade I made up an imaginary friend named "Steve Roberts" about which I'd spin wild science fiction tales for my real friends, regaling them with his exploits in the cafeteria at lunch. Eventually I'd have a real world best friend even wilder than my fictional character. Today I use that original fictional character's name for my real best friend whenever I mention him on-site, in spots like my novel or Shadowfast adventures. If you knew more of the eerie details involved you might-- like me-- consider the alias unusually appropriate in this case.

Fantasies exercise the imagination and visualization skills: both elements without which the invention of new technologies might come to a standstill.

Fantasies also play an essential survival role for people facing the harshest of conditions. People like concentration camp inmates held by the Nazis in WWII. Fantasizing about being with their spouses and families at some point in the indefinite future helped many survivors to hang on long enough to see their freedom once again.

So unless you're emulating a mindset like Hitler's or Jeffrey Dahmer's, don't see your fantasies as evil or wasteful. Healthy people have fantasies and dreams. It's part of being a normal human being.

The purely selfish:

This wholly selfish and self-serving course, paradoxically, may be almost as easy and quick to navigate as that for saints. Because most all of us are barraged almost constantly with choices whereby we could play a zero-sum game with someone else-- that is, we could win by making someone else lose. A toddler can even do it by swiping a toy from another kid already playing with it.

I say 'almost as easy' because there's quite a bit of competition going on in the world among the selfish already. So the real opportunities for selfish plays out there can't match that available for saints.

Being selfish isn't hard at all. So why should I offer a guide here? Only a saint might need such aid-- and I don't know that the world can afford to lose one of those today-- even temporarily. Sorry, nice folks!

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Who am I to write about such important, deep, and complex subjects?

Who am I to write about job burn out? I experienced it first hand around mid-1990. I also recovered from it pretty much on my own-- although I would probably have recovered much faster with professional help. Like many other of life's possible afflictions, burnout is best handled by prevention rather than treatment after the fact. Strongly related to burn out is depression. Again, I can write about the subject from personal experience-- in that case ancient past history. We're talking the seventies here (It's still too uncomfortable for me to admit how long it lasted). Sure, I still get depressed from time to time today. But nothing like the black hole I experienced decades back.

In regards to my credentials regarding the other topics covered here, that would involve personal details which I prefer to give only in indirect fashion. So for those you might check out my brief site bio, What did geeks do before personal computers and the internet were widespread, Playing God, my supercar logs, and my novel, as well as my other writings on diverse subjects, which you may locate via this site map.

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Copyright © 1993-2015 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.