When the world was young, man's ignorance of psychology was exceeded only by his ignorance of everything else. He knew nothing of the laws of physics, but he did have an intuitive understanding of the way humans think, feel, and behave. That's when he did a ridiculous thing: he applied what he knew about human psychology to inanimate objects.
When a volcano erupted, for instance, he figured it must be angry, because that's the way people act when they're angry. Based on this, the treatment for active volcanoes was clear--they must be placated with gifts and sacrifices. That's called superstition.
We've come a long way since then. We've learned that when things get hot, they expand, and build up pressure. Our understanding of physical science has progressed far beyond our knowledge of human psychology. When people get angry, they still act like volcanoes. We understand why volcanoes erupt, but now we want to know the proper treatment for an angry man. You guessed it--the wisdom of our time is to apply the laws of volcanoes to human behavior.
We must not allow pressure to build up; we must blow off steam, express our anger. The repression of feelings is viewed as the root cause of mental illness. This treatment is applied to all emotions, desires, drives, urges, and itches.
The application of physical science to human nature is no less ridiculous than was the application of human nature to physical objects. It is the new superstition.
We live in a very superstitious age. We're told to assert ourselves to prevent stress. They say crying will prevent depression. We believe pornography will reduce the incidence of rape, and mourning will preclude suicide. We've bought the idea that if our feelings are not fulfilled, an emotional pressure will build up within us until we explode into some form of mental illness.
But when desire is gratified, it grows stronger, not weaker. Appetites are enlarged by feeding, muscles by exercise, and skills by practice. In this respect, at least, people are different from volcanoes. Human habits are strengthened by repetition, and weakened by abstinence.
Although some invoke this superstition to justify hedonism, others are true believers. Intelligent, well-meaning parents teach their children to drink alcohol to prevent alcoholism, relax sexual taboos to hedge against debauchery, and condone recreational drugs to ward off addiction.
They believe small doses will immunize them from the potential disaster of pent-up passion. Likewise, many parents fear they've driven their own children to drugs by being too repressive. While the freaky kids are getting high at parties, it's the guilt-ridden parents who are in psychotherapy. These are the people who used to lay sacrifices at the foot of angry mountains.
The repression of feelings will not make you sick; it will make you civilized. There are people who hardly ever throw temper tantrums, yet remain reasonably healthy. Whole societies have been stoic in the face of tragedy and suffered no diminution of their mental capacity.
People can control their emotions without developing nervous tics, neurotic fears or heart conditions. The rise of civilization is the story of how man learned to repress his feelings.
I'll now reveal the secret to a happy life: do things that are good for you, and stop doing things that are bad for you, regardless of how you "feel" about it. I'll confess, this is not original with me. But it's been forgotten by this superstitious generation.