On Mental Health & Suffering

ahmedUncategorized2 Comments

Out of all the problems I’ve been researching, mental health seems to be the single most complex problem to solve, and at the same time, in my opinion, the single most important one.

Mental Health describes the efficiency of the operating system that we run through. Just how your computer runs macOS, or Linux, your mental framework has to set values to what’s good and when you’re rewarded, what’s bad and when you’re punished, and most of all, it has to follow a meaningful goal.

Mental Health is the most complex problem because the factors that influence it are almost infinite. From the piece of land you were born in, to the religion you were raised on, and all the way to the job you ended up doing. Every single interaction in your everyday life, whether with yourself or with others does influence and affect that framework.

The most successful people I have met always have their mental framework running at maximum efficiency. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they work harder or longer hours. It just means that they value some things more than others. Their value systems are more objective. They define what a ‘virtue’ is and practice what they preach to themselves before others.

My generation specifically -Millennials-, and the successor Gen Z, suffer greatly from unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression. I tried to look into why that is, and how to fix it. Because if the framework in which one does things is broken, then whatever results come out of it will not be expected to be of any good. And if no one fixes these mental framework severe issues, then literally nothing else matters.

If you have great physical health, but you’re too anxious to do anything with your life, that doesn’t help anyone. If you have great intellectual and financial resources but don’t have the motivation to use those for anything productive that helps you and others live a better life, then they’re utterly useless and may only be used to feed nothing more than animalistic cravings. And if you have a whole generation who operates like that, then you have a pretty serious and dangerous problem that may lead to nihilism, and destroy all human progress as a result.

I believe that we derive utility from providing others with meaningful work. After feeding our most basic needs, each of us needs and literally craves the feeling of being important. That is not a bad thing at all, if used productively. Everyone wants to be useful. And if given an opportunity to do something of value to others that we even mildly enjoy, we tend to do well and excel. The problem is that, while 100 years ago all you needed was a functional body to be useful in a farm or a mine, in our day and age, being useful requires more sophisticated skills, training, and a stronger mental framework. Our schools didn’t change in over 100 years, leaving us unequipped for such new age. That is a deep issue. We were raised wrong.

And with all the good that the internet has done in the world, some of its uses like social media opened up comparisons that have never existed, leaving us envious of how wonderful other people’s lives are, and miserable that we don’t or can’t have it. Add to that the fact that some of the smartest people of our generation have figured out how to hack our biological dopamine circuitry for profit, and the implications amplify. Never have men and women been more dissatisfied with themselves than today, while in reality, never have men and women been more privileged. Ever.

The alleviation of suffering that our grandparents and their preceding generations lived through is a noble and wondrous accomplishment. The byproduct of that, however, is a generation that lost interest in life due to its lack of suffering.

I am here to make an argument that suffering is as important to mankind as the water their bodies need. The continuous resolution of that suffering, to be more specific.

We feed off of solving problems. We are biologically wired to thrive when we resolute suffering, and -surprisingly- wither on the vine when we’re not suffering at all. (sometimes, we even make up problems that don’t exist just to resolve some suffering)

We have gone a long way to alleviate meaningless and unfair suffering. Famine, disease, and extreme poverty are at an all time low by huge margins, and no one wishes for any of those to come back. What I am preaching for is a higher form of suffering. One which you and other humans derive value from.

Creating meaning is a lot more complex than finding it. In our day and age however, now that we can obtain our basic needs without much suffering, we are forced to rise to a higher level and create form of suffering that is both helpful for others, and meaningful to us.

In simpler words: go and find problems, pick one you feel strongly about, and dedicate all your waking hours to solving it. Let it bother you. Don’t stop. Figure it out. When you’re done, which is a great accomplishment, celebrate it a little, and find your next form of suffering.

Truth of the matter is: everyone can be useful, and everyone can be important. And because life is so diverse now, what you define as meaningful can be very different than what I do, and that’s okay. As long as what you’re doing helps a subset of people, and leaves them better off than they were before dealing with you, then you’re helping not only yourself but everyone, essentially, be in a better place and get a step closer to a better life.

Knowing that also has its byproducts. Namely the fact that you will notice places where you are suffering meaninglessly which you can drop. Unhealthy relationships, unproductive beliefs, etc…

“No man is so faint-hearted that he would rather hang in suspense for ever than drop once for all. Meanwhile, – and this is of first importance, – do not hamper yourself; be content with the business into which you have lowered yourself, or, as you prefer to have people think, have tumbled. There is no reason why you should be struggling on to something further; if you do, you will lose all grounds of excuse, and men will see that it was not a tumble.” -Seneca

Please note that I acknowledge the fact that unfair suffering still exists today. I am not overly privileged or blind enough to not see it. I think we should still work to get that as close as possible to 0. We’re the closest to that than we have ever been in history, and we should keep going. If you hate seeing unfair suffering so much, then make that your problem, and think about how you can solve it, then dedicate your waking hours to it. (and no, tweeting to your politician or complaining about your government isn’t solving it. Do real work)

Money is not the problem. Earn it or raise it.
Time is not the problem. Find it or make it.
Capability is not the problem. Try it and learn it.

Your motivation is the problem.

Good news? It’s a problem you can solve.
Better news? Once you truly set your mind to something, everything else falls into place.

If you’re suffering from existential angst, depression, or anxiety, the best way out for you is to suffer onto something more meaningful and productive. I’m no therapist, but I have lived through this. Therapists tell you to get a job, talk to friends, get a partner. In other words, they tell you to get immersed in other problems.

Mental health for my generation is another area I’d like to suffer in (solving it).

2 Comments on “On Mental Health & Suffering”

  1. Fahad

    Well articulated. I agree that mental health is an area worth focusing on, especially because it is largely neglected while mental vulnerabilities are being tapped into (exploited?) at scale.

    I do, however, disagree with the notion of channeling suffering into something more productive. What if you focus on getting a partner, and that partner decides to leave you? I don’t think that channeling suffering elsewhere really gets at the root of the problem.

    Maybe a topic for our next philosophical discussion!

    1. ahmed

      Thanks for the comment!

      I never suggested (and don’t think) that getting a partner is a productive means of suffering. In fact I think that’s the worst idea one could pursue. One should chase ideas and goals, not people.

      That being said, I still think that this example doesn’t defy the rule. If you start suffering meaninglessly from a relationship, then move on as soon as you can and channel your suffering to something productive.

      I think defining what’s productive here would be a bit subjective depending on the person, but the core idea stays the same. If it’s not serving you, move on to something that does.

      More on this on our next road trip!

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