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The Ancestors (And How to Be Better One to Yourself And Others)

Like many Western and Westernized (or, perhaps more accurately, American and Americanized) people around the world of my generation, I grew up steeped in the ideas of Sigmund Freud.

A part of me would like to take this opportunity to slide down my pants and take an intellectual dump on the man, but that would be immature. He had some good ideas, maybe even great ones.

But he also had some very damaging ones. Why were these ideas damaging? Not so much because they are and were bad (which can be argued either way) but more due to the fact they have become so ascendant — Freudianism isn’t just mainstream, it’s essentially the only game in town; it is the default; it is vanilla; it is the great and abominable Church.

In recent decades, cognitive behavioral therapy has been getting more play, but Freudianism remains the bedrock of (especially popular) psychology as it stands today. If Freudianism is Anheuser-Busch, everything else is a micro-brewery.

To my mind, the most damaging meme that Freudianism has promulgated is the idea that childhood experiences (particularly trauma) are not merely powerful or influential but definitive. It’s good old Greek tragedy-style fatalism wrapped in scientific, pseudo-scientific and authoritative robes.

And so you find otherwise sensitive and intelligent people spending their teens and twenties (and, increasingly beyond) fussing and complaining and blabbing on and on about what their ancestors (parents, of course, included) did wrong. How they messed errything up:

“I’m this way because when I was a kid me Mum didn’t give me enough hugs.”

Motherlover, what? No, playa, you’re just a jerk. Don’t bring your mama into this.

Even a childless (childfree? lol) man like me can see this: We are the ancestors of future generations. We are the ancestors of our own future selves. And do you know what I’ve done lately for my descendants (future me included)? Sweet jack-all. Because I’m preoccupied with just being and living in the moment as well as chilling, maxing and relaxing.

So, like, what, not only am I supposed to be a paragon of achievement, but I’m also supposed to be an ideal parent and caretaker? At the same time?

Motherlover, what?

When you realize how busy the average person (i.e. you) is with the business of living, you also realize the preposterous impossibility of the demands that Freudianism makes on us in order to satisfy the supposed criteria of ideal, “trauma-free” parenting (including good self-parenting). Just thinking of the burden is enough to wear you out.

You yourself couldn’t be the perfect parent the Freudianism has made you wish your parents were, so why do you demand so much of your parents?

Fortunately, there exists a forgotten (but, lately — in Japan especially — increasingly visible) contemporary of Freud with a better, realer, more actionable, rational and intelligent approach to life and the pursuit of happiness. His name? Alfred Adler. These are just two of the rather awesome books about his ideas floating around right now (the original is Japanese and now there’s an English translation, so, really, I’m only showing you one book right now, but there more; I own them, love them and have even read them lol):

  • [ 嫌われる勇気 eBook: 岸見 一郎, 古賀 史健: Kindleストア]
  • [Amazon | The Courage To Be Disliked: How to free yourself, change your life and achieve real happiness | Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga | Interpersonal Relations]

The 20th century was one where we repeatedly bet the farm on the wrong Austrians 1. We chose Hitler and Freud instead of Adler and von Mises. But the 21st century doesn’t have to be that way. We get a do-over. We can reach back and pick better heroes, better guides. This time, we can pick the right Austrians 2.

Stop blaming your ancestors, stop cataloguing their errors and indiscretions, and start being a better ancestor yourself. Whatever you wish they had done — including (but not limited to) teach you Japanese — do it yourself now.


  1. And then we had to get the right Hungarians to come clean up the mess lol.
  2. Dude, Austrians can make or break us. Think about it: we started the First World War because Archduke Franz Ferdinand had sloppy personal security habits. Really, bro? Really? Like, did we even like that guy? Were we even mates? Nobody even knows what this chap looks like but we’re all: “oh yeah, I’m totally willing to stake the fate of nations, empires and, you know what, the whole freaking world, on his hipster-mustachioed life. Yeah. This is…this is a good decision; this feels good; I’m glad we had this talk”. You gotta pick the right Austrian, man.

  1 comment for “The Ancestors (And How to Be Better One to Yourself And Others)

  1. Jorge
    September 17, 2019 at 11:22

    I really should take a look at Adler. Jordan Peterson mentions him in his recommended reading. I think.
    What do you think of Jung?

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