I came across an incredible children’s book called, What Do You Do With A Problem. I found it to be one of the best explanations of the existential approach to problems in life. It takes about five minutes to read, or you can listen to the video above. The story touches on some existential themes such as anxiety, depression, isolation, freedom, and responsibility. For the existentialist, life is no picnic and is full of problems. When dealing with the vicissitudes of life, we can ignore our problems, medicalized them, or hope they go away; or we can take a different approach. We can listen to our feelings and ask what our feelings are telling us about ourselves and our problems. We can push life problems away or use our problems as an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. By taking responsibility for our problems in living, we can often find greater freedom and perhaps even learn something along the way.
In the paper, The Economics of Szasz: Preferences, Constraints, and Mental Illness, Bryan Caplan summarizes Thomas Szasz’s views on mental illness and translates them into the language of economics. Caplan is an economist with a wide variety of interests. He is an interesting writer, thinker, and regularly provokes conversation on Twitter and his blog. Caplan won the Thomas Szasz Award in 2005 for the above-mentioned article. Caplan mentions on his blog that having a conversation with Szasz was a “highlight of my intellectual life“.
I found the interview below with George Mecouch and Will Hall of Madness Radio very interesting. The author George Mecouch emphasizes the spiritual aspect of human nature, something that the biological-reductive approach does not accept. Mecouch’s new book, While Psychiatry Slept: Reawakening Imagination in Therapy, emphasizes that humans are storytelling, meaning making animals. Mecouch uses a Jungian perspective to help those struggling with psychosis.
The book, Existential Therapy: Distinctive Features by Emmy van Deurzen is a good reminder to view each person as a free individual, responsible for their life. But, on another level, the is a book about how to push a particular set of belief on another person.
The book Heresies by Thomas Szasz delivers insights into the human condition. Szasz’s insightful observations of human psychology never cease to inform me. Since I have read Szasz’s other aphoristic works such as The Second Sin, The Untamed Tongue, and Words to the Wise, I did not think Szasz could continue to inform me. Szasz’s ability to express himself in a poetic and informative way is unknown to me by another author. Reading Heresies was a delight. It is like having a conversation with a wise friend. If you have not delved into Szasz’s aphoristic books, take a look at the many quotes I’ve reproduced in my post of The Second Sin and work your way from there.
The book, The Philosophical Practitioner, is a surprisingly interesting novel about a man who makes a living by talking to people about their moral dilemmas, and struggles of navigating life. His somewhat mundane life is interrupted when a femme fatale enters his office and points a gun at him and threatens to kill him. He is left trying to figure out what sort of quandary he has gotten himself into.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. – Epictetus
I just listened to the book, I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships. The book is a good reminder about what it takes to be a good listener. So often we are not really listening, but merely waiting to reply. The book reminds us to stop, think and try to understand where another person is coming from before responding to them.
The author encourages us, to listen and validate the other person’s point of view before responding to them. Let the other person know that you can understand where they are coming from. You don’t need to necessarily agree with the other person’s point of view, but you should try to understand where they are coming from. Seek first to understand, then be understood.
The book gives a lot of great tips about how to listen well and how to validate the other person’s point of view. Highly recommend!