Can Your Mind Be Your Friend?

April 16, 2019

Although we don’t often put it this way, the most important relationship in everyone’s life is with the mind. The late Stephen Hawking drew the world’s attention by leading a life totally of the mind, his physical activity reduced to eye motion and blinking. The body without the mind is inconceivable, however. We cannot exist without thought. So it’s important to ask how best to relate to our minds.

I’m thinking of the most basic issue: Is the mind friend or enemy? Leave aside for the moment the traits that make it fascinating to be human: love, creativity, intelligence, evolution, and self-awareness.

These traits make the human mind unique among all life forms on Earth, but we also suffer uniquely. Our minds are the source of anger, fear, envy, depression, grief, and hopelessness. If a friend brought suffering into our lives, it wouldn’t matter how happy he made us at other times—suffering trumps friendship, especially when you consider that the mind is capable of confusing us so deeply.

The last thing the mind seems to understand is itself.

Your mind cannot be your friend unless the problem of inner suffering is solved. There are countless ways that the mind preys upon itself—the standard handbook of psychiatric diagnoses lists literally thousands of specific maladies. But it isn’t clear that anyone’s mind, even that of the most cheerful, gifted, prosperous, physically healthy person, has found a secure way to be happy. The human mind engenders irrational fears, ungoverned impulses, sexual cravings, wishful thinking, and futile dreams—all geared to make the world “in here” a morass of confusion and conflict.

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Related: Dreier –Stuck in Self Loathing?