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Ask HN: How do you overcome Weltschmerz or fatalism about our future?
74 points by preya2k 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments
I‘m currently having a hard time motivating myself to do anything, really. How do the people of HN overcome the sensation of Weltschmerz, which translates to the feeling that the world is hopeless and lost. While yes, I am not denying that there are positive things happening every day, they all seem vastly unremarkable and small compared to all the horror that is happening every day. Famine, murder, terrorism, climate change, radicalism, fake news it’s all just too much for me currently. How do you motivate yourself to go to work every day, (presumably) coding for some hyper capitalistic company, that somehow feeds the whole downward spiral?





Step away from "news" and read Better Angels of our Nature by Stephen Pinker: https://www.amazon.com/Better-Angels-Our-Nature-Violence/dp/...

Not only is the world better than ever, it is getting better faster than ever, and it's accelerating.

The news is getting more negative as the world gets better. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1461670X.2018.1...

This is happening because as subscription revenue dries up, the media is incentivized toward click-bait, and the human brain is biased toward negativity. As a hunter-gatherer, a negative incident can have much worse consequences than can a positive one, so we've evolved toward a negative bias for survival reasons.


There are two main problems with Pinker's thesis.

First, he claims to show a tendential decline in war. But most casualties of war are the result of a small handful of apocalyptic wars: the sixty years wars, the Napoleonic wars, and the world wars. Each of these events has been bigger than the last. The consistent pattern is for there to be fewer wars over time, but for these apocalyptic wars to become more destructive. Clearly, that's the result of technological progress. If we extrapolate this trend forward, it would suggest that there will be an apocalyptic war in the next century that will destroy most of the world. Pinker acknowledges these long-tail events, but minimises or ignores their significance.

Second, his case is built on the back of a few remarkable trendlines: fewer wars, declining violence, better governance. Pinker does this very well. It's convincing and insightful. But these are data without context. Pinker's argument has no historical or sociological depth. If you want to understand what's taking place in the world, you have to recognise how the forces of modernity - capitalism, nation-states, techno-science, individualism - have led to both everything Pinker celebrates (pacified populations pursuing commercial gain in well governed centralised states in a globalised world) and a whole host of dangers (increasingly destructive technology, competition between nation-states, inequality and Darwinian economic competition, decentralised capitalism, climate change, and the destruction of nature, etc.).


I haven't read the Stephen Pinker book, but it sounds similar to one of my favourite books "Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think" which sounds like it covers similar topics.

As douglaswlance says, the world is getting better faster than ever!


Is there any good news for the natural world in that book? Specifically mass extinction of species cute and not.

You might “just” be depressed. You may also be in a bad place socially or professionally.

“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”

Change your environment and habits if you can. Go outside more, preferably somewhere with greenery and wildlife. Parks are great, places with few people are even better. If you don’t have an exercise habit, try and build one. Do things you enjoy. Hang out with people you like. If you can combine the two. Consider seeing a therapist or getting on SSRIs or done other drug. If you don’t see much of the sun you could just need more sunlight.

Read old philosophy on how to live the good life and apply its lessons as much as you can, whether it’s Seneca, the Enchiridon, Lucretius, Confucius or Xunzi. You are not alone and others have wrestled with these feelings. You can wrestle with them by yourself or you can do so with the help of those long dead, professionals, family or friends.

If your work feels meaningless and you want more meaning seek it out. Do work that means something. 80,000 Hours has a job board for people who want to do things that matter in their life and want to help people, lots of people. If that floats your boat look at their job board.

https://80000hours.org/job-board/


It would be a good start if you can work that inspires you. You can do some part time stuff or volunteering on weekends, these activities will recharge you and make you feel less overwhelmed by this dystopian scenarios. May be these small gestures of you, will make a better place for someone else.

Try to find something you can do that you have control over and will make things better.

E.g. I've been working in free time with local group to get safer bike infrastructure built in Cambridge. One of results of our efforts was on front page of HN yesterday. It was a group effort, but I did a little bit, and it has actual impact.

Will it solve all the world's problems? No, but it's a small step in the right direction. And it's at a scale where I can have an impact and see results.

You also have the ability to find work elsewhere that is more meaningful, some companies are much better than others in what they do (e.g. in similar realm to above, https://www.remix.com/ seems great.)


I wrote up some more thoughts here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19647192

Why do you concern yourself with all that stuff? I see no problem with _being aware_ of it, but it doesn't directly affect you.

Look outside!

There are trees! Animals! People!

Isn't that crazy? Seriously. How does that stuff exist?

I think you can be - as I am quite often - genuinely dumbfounded and inspired by the complexity around us everyday. There's a lot to appreciate right in front of you. Why overlook it? There's so much.


Relevant Bill Hicks video[0].

[0] - https://youtu.be/tGjuPJskNRE


And he died 15 years ago, this bit was from the 1980s probably. Things have ALWAYS looked terrible. In the 70s and 80s we grew up worried that at any moment the world would literally explode (USSR Nukes) and we made it.

I felt the same way in my 20s, eventually I realized that people have been worried about the same stuff for decades. I guess the only thing I can recommend is thinking about historical context. Somethings are worse now, somethings are better. Focus on the better things. Turn off and tune out "the news" for sure, especially TV news.


Your question reminds me of a Bill Hicks joke about watching too much News.

https://youtu.be/tGjuPJskNRE

On a more serious note, this learned sense of hopelessness is nothing new to humanity.

>Would you like to save the world from the degradation and destruction it seems destined for? Then step away from shallow mass movements and quietly go to work on your own self-awareness. If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.

Lao Tzu


Enjoy the decline!

But for real:

1. Stop watching news 2. Go hitchhiking for 2 weeks

When you're hitchhiking, you stop worrying about world. You focus on stuff around you. People know they will never meet you again, so they truly open up. They help you. Some don't, which makes the good people evrn better.

When hitchhiking you will see beautiful things around you and it will change your perspective. It did for me. Anectodal, so you can dissmiss :D


1 makes most sense and doesn't require too many sacrifices :-) .It's amazing how well my mental wellbeing has improved after I stopped watching news and being on Social Networks.

The perceived downward spiral is factually incorrect. Read Steven Pinker for the full breakdown. By any and every measure human beings enjoy better lives than in the past; health, violence, leisure and more. This trend is continuing.

Secondly, your thought patterns of demotivation sound more like the patterns of depression. Focus on finding your own happiness and meaning. On that note, I recommend "Man's search for meaning". The author could find his meaning whilst in a concentration camp. Powerful stuff.


History has an ebb and flow between the ability of civilization to solve problems and the ability of civilization to create problems.

Civilizations don't fall because of problems (say running old of oil, infertile soil, invasions, ...) they fall because they can't solve the problems.

The default prediction for any situation is that people will muddle through, usually they do. "Utopia" and "Oblivion" are unusual outcomes, as popular as they are as predictions.

Looking at climate change, for instance, the issue isn't that climate change is a problem, but that our ability to deal with it stuck on numerous levels.

It is very easy to point the finger at the U.S. or the Republican Party or people like the Koch brothers who have jammed our political system by spamming the agenda. (e.g. "Free Speech" is the wrong model to think about this, it is more like robocalls, electronic warfare or the use of chemical weapons.)

On the other hand, people like the Yellow Shirts in France have shown that "bottom up" movements against increased fuel prices are a thing. Practically what you find is that somebody "takes responsibility" for a role: for instance, Germany has been coming up with half-baked energy plans for decades, still burns coal and imports Russian gas. But somehow they frame themselves as the "good guys" and they can get away with it because the U.S. refuses to acknowledge the problem.

If the U.S. wasn't in the way, some other country would be the "bad child" that will take the blame. That is how politics works: it is like how legislators trade votes to balance the needs of the party vs. what their constituents will accept.


Hi preya2k,

I know what you wanna say, and I think its only a "point of view"...

So for example: Murder You think there is more and more of "murdering" going on? Well, that's a subjective point of view. In fact, the murder rate is going downwards https://ourworldindata.org/homicides#usa

Also, just looking at the dark side is not helping much ... take a look at the dark side AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

ALSO: Have a look at the bright side: Life Expectancy is climbing year by year in almost all countries. Dying of cancer is also declining https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/cancer-death-rates-by-typ...

I'm not saying that all these bad things are not terrible itself, but it is YOUR subjective point of view that leads to a pessimistic or optimistic world. This means, you can choose your point of view and you personally can change the world. It does not matter if it was you directly changing the world, it's enough if you once meet someone and change his point of view, which in turn might change the world 10, 20 years later on.

About climate change: Currently it looks like we are directly heading into hell. But again, its your point of view AND your personal action to do something about your concerns. Don't use a car, just use a bike. I think this would be enough to change the world. If everybody choose to do this, there would be no more problems with climate change.

To say if differently: There are no alternatives to being optimistic!

Best wishes for the future,

Chris


Bad things happening all over the world less and less is uplifting and we should be more optimistic because of that.

Well, I think this is pretty bad advice for times when things keep on getting worse, and it is all about perception. Feelings are pretty subjective and asserting that some objective numbers ought to change someone's perception of the world is not helpful. Maybe it is what floats your boat, nit necessarily everyone else's.


Civilisation is doomed, but it will take a good few decades, maybe over a century, to completely collapse. Just focus on stuff you enjoy personally. You personally can still have a really fun life. I wouldnt recommend going to work every day though, unless thats what youre into. I pass the time making frivolous computer games, which is a hobby I enjoy.

Maybe scientists and engineers should isolate themselves in walled communities and shun the complexities of the outside world to allow them to focus on their studies.

Perhaps different parts of each community could choose how long to be isolated for (say 1, 10, 100, 1000 years). Clocks would be important too....


REAMDE for those who don’t get the reference.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reamde



I would look at two things to see if they may be causing a big part of the feeling: personal health and external stimuli

1. "Mens sana in corpore sano". You do not need to be a fitness nut, but do make sure you get enough sleep and enough movement outside. Sleep at least 8 hours (unless you consider yourself middle age or older). Walk briskly outside (in an area you like at a time it is pleasant) for an hour a day. Or play soccer / beach volley / whatever you like.

2. Remove gloomy external data feeds, such as news. Currently most news outlets seem to sell gloom, disasters and anger. Read a book instead. Talk to people. Travel. If your job environment is toxic, change jobs, even if it means lower salary initially.

YMMV, but those two simple things may be all that you need to get that feeling of hopelessness out of your system. My 2c. Good luck!


Fatalism works in both directions. If you believe that your destiny is fixed and no matter what you do is going to make a big difference then you can do anything you want content in the knowledge that nothing can stop you for achieving your destiny. Once you realize this you'll understand that fatalism as a philosophy defeats itself. There a very good essay by Emerson on this [1].

Additionally I would like to add, read everything but don't get drowned in the teaching of idle pessimistic philosophers (who they are is up to you to decide I have my list make your own). They are rightly derided for having nothing better to do than to preach. Learn to punch holes in a theory. You can start by punching a big one in mine.

>For, if Fate is so prevailing, man also is part of it, and can confront fate with fate. If the Universe have these savage accidents, our atoms are as savage in resistance. We should be crushed by the atmosphere, but for the reaction of the air within the body. A tube made of a film of glass can resist the shock of the ocean, if filled with the same water. If there be omnipotence in the stroke, there is omnipotence of recoil.

[1] https://emersoncentral.com/texts/the-conduct-of-life/fate/


Personally, as a Christian, my hope isn't in the world. It may be hopeless and lost (in fact, from my position, it is), but that doesn't lead me to despair, because I wasn't looking for hope there in the first place.

At least, that's what my theology says. But I keep forgetting that, and looking at the circumstances of the world or my personal life, and panicking. And then I have to go back and remind myself, no, this world here isn't the bottom line. It's may fall apart, but I don't have to. My real hope will not be ruined even if everything here falls apart.


I minored in history, reminding myself how things always go in the grand scheme of things, has been a tremendously efficient way of keeping myself optimistic about our future. At least in terms of our civilisation, because the climate is fucked.

Anyway. If you look at the big picture of human civilisation, then it’s really been one long line of progress. Some times there are set-backs, and sometimes those set-backs last four a century, but over all, it’s an endless line of progression toward a better world.

Yes there is famine, but poverty is decreasing. Yes there is murder and terrorism, but we’ve never been less violent. Yes there are fake news, but we’ve never been more educated. Yes there is totalitarianism, but we’ve never been more democratic or free.

Another thing I do that helps a lot, is that I select my sources of news carefully. I don’t really care what happened today if it isn’t important enough to remember tomorrow. I do like to keep up with current events though. As a solution to this predicament I found a high quality news paper that only comes out once a week. I buy it as paper and I digest the weeks events over the weekend. Other than that I stay away from news unless something drastic happens. I also avoid social media (with HN and LinkedIn being the only exception).

The last thing I’d suggest is finding a hobby, and spending time on that instead of worrying. The less useful it is the better, because if your hobbies are about self-improvement, then you’ll end up getting stressed about them.


Ditch TV, especially news, radio and newspapers, sign off to all social media sites, then read only technical books, novels etc. or listen to technical podcasts etc. Get out with friends, meet people face to face and refuse any activity involving (or worse, requiring) social media.

I share a very similar situation and doing this helped a lot. Most of our feelings about world events are caused by perception augmented by technology. Now I'm not suggesting to stop using any electronic device as that would be plain stupid, but rather to realize that people got killed 1000 years ago just like today, we had a corrupt ruling class 1000 years ago as we have today etc. but we didn't have the media telling us about that, or with the same extent, so we wrongly believe we're experiencing events that never happened before: sadly as a species, we're still the same bunch of bastards we have been for ages. Time will help because humans do indeed evolve, but not that fast, so we'll likely need a few thousand years before we learn to pursue common goals and our own happiness together, without damaging other people.


Unplug from internet.

You don't need to know about middle eastern wars, african famines, gun related crimes in the US. All you need to know and care for is right now + right where you are. Focus on your local communities, improve things there, be a good friend, a good roommate, a good colleague, a good gf/bf, &c.

Overcome the negative bias [0][1] of your brain, and if you can't handle negative news stay away from them. There is enough bad shit happening in the world in a single day to feel like shit 24/7 for the rest of your life.

You'll be out in <80 years, enjoy your stay on this flying semi spherical blob of dirt, you don't have to be part of the rat race. Quit the city, enjoy the slow life of the country side. Or do the opposite, move to SF and join a startup.

[0] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200306/our-brain...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negativity_bias


you can just unplug from social media and news sites for this(add adblock for those obnoxious current event clickbait).

for eg i didn't even know those boeing flights had gone down til they got mentioned in a gaming podcast i listen to(it was relevant to the topic - freemium games)


I feel hopeless about the future a lot, this is how I deal with it, it doesn't come easy but it helps.

The only thing I am certain about my future is that I will die, some day every one I know will die, the world will die when the sun goes super nova, our galaxy will be sucked into a black hole and everything humanity ever knew or achieved will be erased from history, it will be like it never happened. This is true of everyone no matter how much money or power they accumulate there is nothing anyone can do about it.

Humanity struggles with plenty of problems war, poverty, hunger but these things are out of my control and can not be predicted by me. If humanity solves these problems or fails to doesn't really matter because just like me the human species will die off.

The only thing that is certain of the future is that it will be unpredictable and ultimately meaningless and there is nothing I or anyone can do about it, so why bother?

Why not focus on the stuff you can affect? If the universe is ultimately meaningless then the only thing left to me is to protest this meaninglessness by giving my life its own meaning.

You don't know what the future will be like in five years but you can decided what you want your future to be like in five years. Write down what you want and get to the core of why you really want it. Once you figure out what you want, what motivates you give yourself a means to achieve it. This can be simply writing a plan.

To be motivated you need both, a goal and a means to achieve it.

If your goal is vague it may not really be want you want for example your goal is money, but what you really want is a house or the power that money brings, then money is a means to achieve your goal not the goal itself.

If your goal is not within your means then achieving it is hopeless start small, really small. If your goal is a house don't pick your dream house in the hope that you will be more motivated, pick the cheapest shittyest house on the market, once you have that you can dream bigger, climb the ladder.

When the future seems hopeless remind yourself that you are right! give yourself a pat on the back and then get back to the plan.

There are some things in this world that I can control and some things I can not. Focus on what you can do, accept the rest for what it really is an interesting distraction.


The late Dr. Hans Rosling's Factfullness is a great read.

Spoiler: The world is actually getting a lot better really fast.

If you're looking for a more global outlook on the longer term future, then this book is a great place. You can read it for free, per Bill Gates' donation to graduated of the class of 2018, here: https://archive.org/stream/FactfulnessByHansRosling/Factfuln...

I'd buy it for an easier reading experience here: https://www.amazon.com/Factfulness-Reasons-World-Things-Bett...

Here's a quick quiz for you to test if your knowledge of the world is better than a chimp's: http://forms.gapminder.org/s3/test-2018


Something that I came across the other day really put people's opinion of the world and everything into context. I had been searching for something, and came across a forum thread from 2010.

Everyone on that thread was convinced that the end of the world was months or years away (Keep in mind this was just after the 2008 fiscal crisis and this was an economic related forum)...

They all were talking about these facts and posting statistics and everything that "proved" these certain countries were on the brink of failure..

Those events did not come to pass.

That's when I realized pretty much everyone is entirely full of shit, and ultimately life itself is your own attitude towards things.

Negativity and opinion are psychological virii.


Force yourself to do something tangible, local, and meaningful. Turn off/drown out the media and create the culture you want to see by voting with your money, time, and effort. If you have a yard, you might try researching, ordering, and planting a variety of zone-appropriate edible perennial fruit trees. This approach led me to organic gardening, which:

  - Gets me outdoors in the sun, which makes me feel better (Vitamin D, etc.).
  - Increases biodiversity, helps pollinators, offsets CO2, and helps remediate soil damaged by construction.
  - Provides a hobby that my young daughter and I can enjoy together, while also teaching her essential life lessons.
  - Will eventually provide me with tasty fruit.
  - Beautifies my neighborhood and increases the value of my home.

I had the same feeling, so decided to take Jesus at his word in Matthew 6.24-34, quit working for money, and started working for God. He has provided for me for over six years. Life is much more satisfying and I have about 95% less motivation issues.

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

I find comfort in, at least, spotting the cyclical nature of things. A despairing rant from, oh, the 14th century, (or 1950-odd) shouldn’t be as cheerful as it seems now, but it kind of is.


There are things in this world you cannot control. In fact there is probably just one thing you CAN control, and that is yourself and how you react to everything else around you. Focus on that. Everything else is out of your control anyway.

Two practical suggestions:

1. Avoid reading bad, sensationalist news about things you have no control over. Staying informed is good, but if it makes you sick you have to reduce your information intake.

2. Get checked for clinical depression.

Weltschmerz isn't a bad thing as long as it doesn't paralyze you. I my experience, as long as I have something positive to contribute I'm good. My family, my job and my hobbies demand so much attention from me that I actually miss basking in sadness like a teenager sometimes.

Also, be thankful that other people's suffering makes you feel strong emotions. As I said, tune out for some time if you feel like you can't take it anymore.


There is no money in spreading good news. "Feel-good" stories on network news are basically always sandwiched between horrific tales of violence and death, or used as a capstone afterwards to make you not completely want to kill yourself from watching.

Just watch/read less news. The world is a complex place and any individual shouldn't be expected to grapple with the tragedies that occur daily across the entire planet. There's no reason to carry that weight on your shoulders, especially when you're powerless to change any of it and have your own life and the lives of loved ones to care about.


>How do the people of HN overcome the sensation of Weltschmerz, which translates to the feeling that the world is hopeless and lost.

Watch anime.

>Famine, murder, terrorism, climate change, radicalism, fake news

TV is cancer, throw it away.


Ignorance is a bliss, really. We are badly wired to agonized over the the future. It 's comforting to know generally that the future is pretty much deterministic , in fact it is already there waiting for our timelines to cross it, mechanistically. Thinking of an idealized future on the other hand is quite self-serving . It makes one feel good, but it's not real , it s just a fantasy like any other.

Reading good history books really helps. It's amazing how hard and terrible life was for 95% of the world's population just 150 years ago.

Contemplating the misery of others is a true joy

Get a bike.

Ride it.

Think about things you can do.

That’s what I do. I try to focus on things that I can do that helps people in some way. I also focus on making my own life and those I love better.


I've found that reading history gives me hope because at every point in mankind's past, so many people would have had the same fatalism that we have now.Things have turned out OK after all :-)

Second, reading stoicism helps , too. I come from India where we have a similar school of thought which emphasises that the work at hand is the only thing you can control. This helps, too.

YMMV


Well at least I have a word for it now. Thanks!

Young people are more aware than ever, they are talking about real and important issues. You can chose to take seriously a responsibility to help give them a foundation to address those issues when they are adults, and you are retired. Listen to the people younger than you, and be motivated by their want to live in a better world.

Personally I think it is not a good idea to assume that the world/universe is supposed to have some kind of meaning or direction. At some level, none of this really matters. Humanity will be gone in due time, and none of that will have any meaning anymore. We just need to be able to enjoy the ride and focus on the good parts.

I think and feel along the same lines. Stoicism helps. As do various forms of escapism. Every time I felt overwhelmed by these feelings, it (in hindsight) turned out to be a symptom of depression.

I really, really, very strongly urge you to go and speak to your doctor for some further assistance. Don't let the black dog pull you down.


Fixing your own life is usually the cure for worrying too much about the world and everyone else. Give it a try, go see a therapist and find out what the root issue is. A minor depression isn't something to be ashamed of, wasting your life without identifying and getting rid of it, might be.

I wish I had an answer for you. The best I have is weak sauce -- I just remember two things: this too shall pass, and we have been in worse places than we are now, numerous times, and came out better in the end. I have to trust that the pattern repeats.

The world only appears bad if you approach it with an a priori expectation of the good. The world is neither 'good' or 'bad', it simply is. Evolution is amoral; the cosmos is amoral. It is not set up to teleological satisfy human interests and values. If you recognise that fact, the kind of question that you are raising dissolves.

One of the great challenges of the Christian tradition was the problem of evil: how could a benevolent and omnipotent God allow the manifest evils of the human world? But of course the problem is built into the assumed premise, i.e. that there is a God and that the world is divine. Without those a priori expectations, there would be no problem to begin with.

That is not a counsel of complacency or quietism. It simply means that your ethical field of view should be defined by the problems immanent within society today. You should start from the concrete, instead of the abstract. If you feel complicit in a destructive form of hyper-capitalism, then do something about it. Get a new job; become political; think about how you can redress humanity's problems.


Visit a therapist. They can help you.

The problem is not the world at large, but your personal circumstances. Plenty of other people live in this same world and find plenty of reasons to be satisfied and optimistic.


Not all tech work is concentrated in "hyper capitalistic companies". Try to work on something that inspires you.

For example, most of my clients are in the healthcare space.

* One is a wearable device (think watch/bracelet) that allows senior people to get in touch with family or medically trained phone operators in case they have an issue (fell down, can't get out of bed, etc). The same device is also used for locating runaway Alzheimer patients in medical facilities.

* Another is a medical device that detects certain heart conditions.

* Another is a gamified platform that employers can use to motivate employees to live a healthier lifestyle.

Yes, they are all startups, and their goal is to make money. I don't work for free either. That is how the world works right now, but that does not mean the result needs to be net-negative for humanity.

I can go to bed each night knowing that my work helped people, and in some cases even saved their life.


what helps me personally (I'm too easily triggered so I've got my work cut out here too) is disconnecting from the news circle and read long form instead. Reading more books again (not work related ones) does have the added side-effect of being able to concentrate again and immerse myself (instead of jumping from headline to headline).

If you deal with people who suffer (ex veterans, or people who went through trauma) or even working through trauma yourself this is a great read:

PTSD and Complex PTSD Symptoms, Syndromes, and Diagnoses https://www.guilford.com/excerpts/wilson5.pdf?t

I strongly believe that we are mostly products of our own suffering (which is unique to every individual but true for all as a collective), so spotting a behavior that might point to a history of trauma allows you to better think of more than just the message but the whole of the person who delivers it. For me this only works irl online it's back to square-1. In the end I have to constantly remind myself that online we're all just randoms on a market square yelling at people totally removed from our own thought process.

Online pseudonymous discussions are valuable because people tend to speak their truths which when it is the truth, is often offensive, ugly and raw. On real-name policy sites you get everyone posing and pretending so participation doesn't produce any healthy benefits there for me mentally. With pseudonymous communication I have to be aware that people just spill their thoughts.

We constantly pretend that online conversations are real but they aren't so much conversations we would have with people we know. Also they're not 1:1 or 1:5 but 1:many so social media as currently envisioned is always going to outrage. It's a short jump from disagreement to outrage online which doesn't exist irl.

Reminding myself that we either a) haven't invented the right technology yet to meaningfully replicate communication into the digital space and/or b) haven't as a society we haven't yet learned that there are major differences in these forms of communication and we need to overcome them

the push from industry and society is towards b) to press us into the chaos and just force us to learn how to be better communicators.



Knowledge is half the battle which helps, I found reading the Bhagvad Gita about the modern age (Kali yuga) helped

regardless of the fate of the world after you are gone, strive to create something that will persist beyond the span of human existence, something that will scream out to any other species that WE WERE HERE! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

The sum of current human knowledge scattered about on the moon is one such thing.


Frankly, the world is hopeless and lost. Physicists don't debate so much that the universe will end someday as how it will end. Each and every one of us is destined to be dust. Ultimately, all creation is ephemeral, but that doesn't make it less valuable.

Suffering is just a part of living and, more importantly, a requirement of growth. Think back and ask yourself if at any point in your life where you grew significantly as a person there wasn't suffering involved. It is the same with humanity as a whole. We have challenges set before us, in order to grow we'll have to deal with them. Think of it as a selection pressure, many paths are attempted and the ones that fail are ultimately trimmed, but they were necessary none the less. We may not succeed. Humanity may ultimately be unable to overcome the challenges presented by this stage of its development, but that's ok, the universe is a big place and it is likely that someone out there will, and even if they don't, well, the end result is the same anyway.

I wish there were a simple model I could give you to work with, but the problem with simple models is that they're inaccurate abstractions. The map is not the territory and all that. Navigating the complexities of what you should and shouldn't do is something you'll have to work on, but let me offer this as a starting point: You're going to die some day, therefore mere survival is a meaningless goal because you've already failed. Knowing this, presumably there is a world in which you would rather not live. Imagine what that world looks like and ask yourself "am I contributing towards creating that world?", and if the answer is "yes, definitely", then maybe you should stop.

Hyper-capitalist companies (naturally) make the most money and therefore often offer the best compensation, but compensation isn't everything. Life isn't about achieving the high-score, because you still die in the end and eventually you'll be forgotten. You are ephemeral, just like everything else. Why subject yourself to the misery of knowing you're helping make the world a worse place? You can find another job. You likely won't be compensated as well, and as a result will have a less comfortable life, you may even be mocked by your peers for not being as successful, but so what? You don't have to win. No one is handing out medals at the end of all this.


A little exercise, a little relaxation/meditation will make you feel a lot better.

Funny, just today I was looking for a similar topic.

I always had this mindset that things are all in all improving in the world. It came down crashing with Trump, Brexit and the general trend towards nationalism, especially the AfD in Germany.

I was always aware of climate change, but it used to be so far in the future that I didn‘t lose sleep about it. This changed with recent studies, comments and articles on HN, Twitter etc. which painted a more dire picture of the future, plus the heat-wave in Europe last year.

Our son was born in 2016 and around that time my optimism began to fade. Luckily, the luckiness of parenthood offset the darker moods a little bit.

With climate-change, the sex-talk isn‘t the most unpleasant talk of parenthood anymore.

Deleting most social-media-apps helped me. Unfollowing folks who post and repost triggering material is essential. I‘m usually not for hiding the head in the sand but this about mental health.

Also, sufficient sleep helps the brain to deal with those „oh no..“-moments. Aim for 7-8 hours.

There are lenses you can view those issues through, that may help you:

- You‘re not alone. Most humans also worry, and are also worried. They will have to face the same issues as you. You‘re probably better off than most of them.

- Humanity will adapt. You will adapt. Most changes, also for the worse, don‘t happen over night. (Not talking about wars, catastrophes etc. of course)

- You can make a difference. Every kilogram less CO2 in the atmosphere counts.

A few years ago, I watched German cabaretist Hagen Rether. He said „This right now is probably the best time to be alive. This is it. We have it better than our ancestors and our children.“ I‘m afraid he was right.

I think humanity needs some kind of a wake-up-call. I just hope it‘s not too late by then.


Thanks for all your answers! Trying to work through them all!

Most of these suggestions will help a bit, but with a few exceptions,they are largely individual answers that involve you coping, alone or with a therapist, with the problems of the broader society.

Joining a group of people working hard on one of these issues can be really empowering and hopeful. Use those skills for good! Code for the capitalists by day (for now, learn from them) and for the people and the planet in the evenings or on weekends.


I just quit my job. Weltschmerz levels over 9000. A company who thought of growth and profit as the end all, be all. And I like to think of myself as a libertarian (whatever that means, haha) but infringing on others basic rights is a non-starter. I left to do some coding on my own and drastically downsize my lifestyle. I do my own projects, no VC money, small profits but fulfilling. Cook at home, spend time with my mom and dad and siblings. Travel on cheap buses and trains to see friends and cool places. Whatever brings you joy, do it. We live in a strange time, it can be a dark world out there. Never forget that, but surround yourself with those you love. Practice peace and compassion. I've made it to an equal median by asking myself, "Did I have a good life? and would those I care about be proud of how I carried myself." If yes, then you're good to go.

Philosophically I'm a bit of an anarchist and a stoic. I think firstly it's a choice we make when we try to expand your awareness to a point where maybe we're "seeing" bigger movements happening in the world that are ugly and despairing to us, at the same time, when it comes down to it, this clash is more like "do I wanna be unaware of ugly truths or do I prefer to take in all that and keep working do be able to see it better, maybe act on something?".

I think studying history is very sobering because you see how much of the ugly stuff, injustices, have been present all along(also how many heroes there's always been, going against that). It's also entertaining as fuck as well as educational and makes you think about all kinds of different things.

Some bad things you just gotta be patient and let them consume themselves, e.g.: new-right obscurantism, leaders, it's just something that can't be sustained, it eventually drops because it's rotten... Other stuff have different qualities that make them stay. Anarchism is an example of this to me.

I've also stopped identifying myself with the whole. Some people are like "oh why are we like this" as if everything must move together as a single unit, as if we and the actual rulers are the same, fuck that. Everyone can act wherever they are and tip things, there's a lot of stuff that can be done(I think it's amazing really how many counter-economic things are possible, planting, cooking, for example), it only does not seem so when people think like the whole must move together in perfect harmony.

I've quit my bullshit job at the start of the year, some friends of mine, one of which is also somewhat anarchic and a damn genius engineer started a startup that's related to electric vehicles, I'm working there. I think a lot about "direct economic action" and such, doing stuff that'll let people own their lives again etc, we frequently talk about ideas like that.

On the inwards part, I do yoga, I skateboard, calisthenics. Well my suggestion is to just take care of the body and mind, practice sports, be strong, get to the level your body was designed to work on, if your body is weak you feel weak and vice-versa. The same for the mind, I'm listening to "the mind illuminated", about meditation, I'm always reading and studying interesting stuff on philosophy, history, religion. Seek nature, immerse in nature, remote areas where people live peacefully without anxiety, all that artificial stuff we try to feed on are shit, we've always had it in ourselves, I think, a healthy mind and a healthy body is not so complicated. Also as you see deep into ugly stuff, you can also look deep into beautiful stuff, music, exercising, sex, hashish, all good things! Skateboarding, for example, is awesome because it's so damn impossible, all the physics and coordination and balance involved, fuck, it shouldn't even exist, but it do!

Stoicism is also great because it's a very solid mindset, an antique philosophical mindset. If you want to put weight on this side and perspective of things, then prepare, work for it, pick fights, act etc, then it starts feeling like a big adventure. You have to make the choice sometime, I've made mine to make my own path and say it screw it to the linkedin, corporate drones running exclusively the mainstream program. I want to walk my own path and have good laughs at the blind idiots banging their heads. And I'm actually currently in a cool startup, I'm still a damn good software guy with a big project on my lap, plenty others to pursue then(secret tip: I remain interested and sharp because I don't learn, think, reflect on Software and other large things for them, I do it for myself, to be able to materialize the stuff I wanna do, to be capable of seeing what stuff stuff actually is, etc. Never had a problem getting a job, most I actually despise, the damned souls over there still love me anyway), so, I have purpose.




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