Tag: From the Editor

The Millennial Mental Health Crisis – Why Are Our Youth Depressed?

by Roman King | United States

It’s no secret that teenagers and millennials are having a serious mental health crisis right now. According to a paper published in the medical journal Pediatrics, 11.8% of teenagers in the United States have suffered a major depressive episode at one point in their lives. This is an incredibly startling statistic, considering this rate was just 8.7% in 2005, representing a 37% increase in reported occurrences of major depressive episodes among teenagers. Considering that the same study cited above didn’t find an increase in mental health treatment for teens in that period of time between 2005 and 2016, the realistic rate of depressive incidents and clinical depression among teenagers and millennials in America has likely seen an even larger increase than that.

This is an incredible problem, considering that over 50% of people who commit suicide suffer from major depression, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In regards to this terrible trend of mental illness in the youth community, it would be imperative to try and destroy something so prevalent that it occurred in the majority of suicide victims. To the dismay of the youth and psychologists alike, though, it is nearly impossible to treat something when nobody can point a direct finger to why the most recent generations have been the most depressed in recorded human history — everything from increasing college prices, social negativity, and all the other reasons among them have been pegged as reasons our youth are suffering greatly. Certainly, none of these reasons are wrong — and it’s somewhat ridiculous to generalize such issues to a group as diverse and unique as millennials and teenagers. However, the massive issue has much more to do with behavioral psychology and the unique problems millennial/teenage children have collectively had in their early youth (in the elementary and even early middle school years) than the overly political sociologists in modern academia would perhaps like to admit. The problem is much more primal and begins as young as young as the age of 2, and it’s where all of the emotional imbalance potentially begins — millennial and modern children do not get enough play time at school.

Not Enough Free Play

It is scientifically proven that free, unstructured play time is essential to the well-being and development of children. Unstructured free play contributes to the cognitive, motor, and social development of young children, and it is such an essential part of neuronal development that the same phenomena can be observed in simple rats. In an article by Dr. Steven Schlozman, associate director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry at Harvard (published in Psychology Today), Dr. Schlozman writes that rats benefit from free play by experiencing growth in the frontal lobe which controls decision making and solves problems. That same article also describes the developmental plights of the rat that doesn’t get to play, but instead spends its time in a cage eating and sleeping all day — their brains are not as fully developed as the rats that were able to run around and enjoy adequate free play. There is still more to be said about the peculiar development of these aforementioned lab rats; the younger a rat is exposed to free play, the quicker they develop from it. At a certain age, the rats begin to lose potential value out of their playing, and don’t develop from it. These lab tests showed that it wasn’t possible for rats to compensate for a childhood of unhealthy habits at an older age.

Sure enough, the same phenomena has been be found in human children; they’ve been getting less and less time out playing, and the effects have been markedly negative. According to Dr. Peter Gray, Professor emeritus of Psychology at Boston College, children in 1997, as compared against those in 1981, spent 18% more time at school, 145% more time doing school work, and 168% more time shopping with parents. The prevalence and increase in helicopter parenting has been cited as one huge reason for this decrease in play; Dr. Gray argues that parents are collectively becoming much more protective of their children, which is causing a severe drop off in the amount of children getting to have the unsupervised free time necessary for proper neuronal and cognitive development. Along with the increase in helicopter parenting, the boom of commercial entertainment in the form of television has helped produce a more sedentary generation of children — since 2000, the amount of households with a television in the United States has increased from 102.2 million households to 119.6 million households in 2018, representing a 17% percent increase in this statistic.

The scientific literature is quite clear — television is an incredible cognitive and behavioural depressant. While there are arguments to be made that educational children’s programming can result in better number and shape recognition, children are more likely to watch “normal TV” than educational programs, and the time that could have been spent at play is still lost. The cognitive benefits of children’s programming does not seem to match up to the penultimately important developmental benefits of unsupervised free play. So kids aren’t getting enough playtime with their friends as small children, and it’s obviously affecting the ability of millennials to problem solve, to participate in complex situations, and to cope with negative emotions. That alone doesn’t explain the incredible increase in negative emotions among millennials and teens, though — that just explains why our systems are doomed to go haywire from the start. It doesn’t explain what sets them haywire. For an explanation on that, we can turn to the silicon monster that dwells in our pockets — the rise of the smartphone, and perhaps more specifically what we’re doing with those smartphones.

The Rise of Social Media

2004-2007 was one of the most influential time periods regarding revolutionary methods of Internet communication, and one of the most important points of reference to the modern era of social media and interaction. In that three year period, the way people (specifically millenials and teenagers raised into that culture) communicated was radically and permanently shifted. In 2004, Facebook, one of the first social media applications, was launched in the United States in certain college campuses — you had to have a college email account to sign up for Facebook. Even for college students who did not grow up with it, it was still an incredible change in how people communicated and got information. This didn’t have an incredibly massive effect on the mental health of college students in 2004-2005 (when Facebook wasn’t completely collectively available), because it was a much smaller endeavour than it was when it became fully realized, and because the college students using it were still raised in a way that pointed towards healthier mental development (the spike in television households didn’t happen until 2000, well after the early childhoods of 2004 college students).

This changed in the year 2006, when Facebook became available outside of college communities for the first time. With this change, any 10-year-old could pretend to be thirteen and join Facebook. This on its own was a radical enough change; now that young children much within the range of what I would call the rise of the helicopter parent era were able to access social media (albeit at a limited capacity), their developmentally warped minds now had another social medium to contend with — this strange field where positive emotion was gained from whether or not the mob agrees with you. People post content and get feedback in the form of likes from the general population — a mob, almost. The specific statistics on the negativity of this phenomenon are somewhat unclear, but the psychological consensus is that mob social hierarchies are incredibly negative.

This was already bad enough, but at least those 10-year-olds had to be somewhat intuitive to use their parents’ personal computer to access Facebook. It wasn’t until the iPhone was released in 2007 that things started to get out of hand. Immediately the first iPhone was one of the largest commercial success stories in the history of American capitalism. Even the first iPhone found its way into the hands of children and teenagers (who, from what we’ve already discussed, are more suspect of being critically socially underdeveloped). By 2015, 67% of teens owned an iPhone — by 2017, that number was up to 76%. Neither of these surveys accounted for the moderately sizable minority of teens using Android smartphones, so the percent of teens with a smartphone is likely even higher than that 76% mark. With the development of smartphone technology also came new and shinier ways to fundamentally mess up human social interaction; Twitter was born in 2006 Instagram came along in 2010, and Snapchat followed up just a year after that.


With the developmental problems teenagers and millennials have struggled through in the face of increasingly protective parents, a lack of essential playtime, and the disturbing promotion of sedentary lifestyles, one could expect the rate of depression to increase just from that alone. The smartphone and its constituent social media apps, and the increase in young children being brought up with them (note: I find it incredibly important to state that the negative effects of social media dwindle the older the smartphone owner is — for older teenagers, smartphones are often indispensable methods of contacting people that must be contacted) only makes this problem worse. If you take a bunch of emotionally unintelligent kids who have never been taught any better and give them smartphone, the results won’t be pretty — it’s agreed upon that the presence of these social vices have obvious negative effects on the self-esteem and anxiety rates of teens brought up with them. So what the hell are we to do about it?

The pre-inclined parents reading this, already holding a bias towards technology, might find it apt to use this article as proof that their hypotheses were right after all. Often times, these are the same parents that commit the grave sin of being overbearing on their children, protecting them from the world around their kids. To those like that reading this, I say, hold your horses bucko. I don’t actually think the primary problem is the smartphone. There’s good reason to believe that a majority of the problems stem from your collective inability to raise your children to a healthy standard of experiencing the world. Social media just makes your parental inadequacies ten times more obvious to the rest of the world. Indeed, social media can be a new medium to explore social interactions and contracts to the healthily developed teenager — that is, if that teen is adequate in emotional intelligence, and that’s not a guarantee, with the modern trend of parenting trending towards helicopter-esque.


So what’s the actual answer? There isn’t any one clear answer, sadly — with the preexisting mental volatility of teenagers and the literally infinite amount of environmental factors that can cause depressive episodes in teenagers, there isn’t really a way to prevent children and teenagers from experiencing what can essentially be boiled down to life. Certainly, though, the answer isn’t by trying to shield children from the realities of the real world by refusing them opportunities to play and frolic freely. Instead, parents should allow their kids to play in an unsupervised, unorganized manner. This is how essential problem-solving skills are learned at a young age. An active lifestyle will also help circumvent the many downsides of sedentary lifestyles; physical activity is right behind proper diet in the competition of what blasts away obesity (an incredible mental killer, a massive reason teens have low self-esteem). There is also a case to be had about generally waiting until the later teens to introduce social media and smartphones to children. Generally speaking, though, the mental health of teenagers and millennials is being shot in both feet at a very early age, and it’s hurting us. Suicide rates are up. Depression is through the roof. If we are to improve at all as a society, we must start recognizing the mental illness crisis among the youth and start moving to solve it. We can’t do that unless we actually know where the problem arises from, however, and I tried to flail my arms about and put forth an informed, somewhat academic idea onto the table. This is that attempt. Hopefully, it can be of some sort of help to somebody.


How To Psychologically Endure Crisis: A Personal Account

By Roman King | USA

It is a genuine tragedy that I never got to know my dad. I lived with him for fifteen years until his paranoia, alcoholism, and bipolarism made him decide to ditch us and leave for Arizona. In those fifteen years, I never got to see the man my mom swears existed at one point. Perhaps the biggest tragedy was that indeed, I got to see glimpses of what could be, had his own demons not ruined him; I got to see a loving, caring man who would take a bullet for those he cared about. It was a shame, then, that this was often displaced by bitterness, drunken tirades, reclusiveness, and the tendency to change from happy to furious with the snap of a finger. I got to see glimpses of a man who was active about his hobbies, but this was offset by the constant apathy I saw him demonstrate when he laid in bed for entire weekends, not caring to participate in the family unit. Indeed, what I knew of him wasn’t much good.

I knew that there was a man with noble goals there, underneath the shadow that had fully enveloped him, but there was nothing my mom and I could do to reach down there. What a tragic story he had growing up, too. Without getting into details, it is the kind of stuff that needs copious amounts of alcohol to wash away.

The destruction of the family unit is always something to lament, but it’s hit me personally. He won’t really ever know me, or God forbid my younger brother. At least my dad got to see me begin to spring into something of a future. The odds of him seeing me come to fruition are low, but at least he got to see me do something outside of the expected realm of growing up. My younger brother is nine! Nine years young!

My dad, who has contacted me exactly once in 2018 and incredibly sparingly since the writing of this over three months ago, won’t get that luxury of watching little Alex become something closer to a man. I can only update so much; I can only give sparse commentary to my dad about the utter growth my brother will soon have. God, that’s truly awful. He won’t get to see his own son sprout into adolescence, and my brother won’t have a dad there with him. It’s heartwrenching.

It is a psychological and emotional catastrophe; it is unfair. The absolvement of that close relationship is an incredible problem because it is an intense deviation from the norm. I would argue that having a problematic dad is better than not having one there at all. This is something that is generally true throughout life; the absence of a problem is much more negative than the problem itself. Not having a problem means that there is nothing to solve and no opportunity to improve the problem because there’s not a problem to improve upon.

As much as I am angry towards my dad for abandoning his parental responsibilities and refusing to get help, I would much rather he suffer these terrible mental battles at home, surrounded by people that unequivocally love him, than at a psych ward thousands of miles away from any semblance of family. Yet another tragedy that stemmed from not confronting a shadow.

There is no point holding bitter feelings towards him, I’ve found. That’s much different than simply feeling angry; I’m of the opinion that you have the right to feel emotion when life deals you a blow. When you experience heartbreak, you are allowed to feel sad. When you are lonely, you are allowed to lament that. When you become enraged, you are allowed to boil off and yell. The problem comes when you do not take care of yourself and allow these negative emotions to continue to stop you from growing as a person. That is where things spiral out of control. Tragedies and catastrophes must be kept scaled down to the lowest scale of importance based on your own belief systems; that’s the miracle of surviving life.

To move forward in your life despite unimaginable tragedy; tragedy much worse than just losing a family member, perhaps, you must be able to control the events so that they don’t cause a ripple through what you yourself believe in. It is much better to suffer unimaginably within the framework of which you’ve set yourself in than to question the framework altogether. At least when you feel pain within your own belief system you have something to lean against when you’re out of breath; when the framework collapses, you are left with nothing. If you react to a catastrophe by leaving your belief system to the wind, you will be entirely swept away, and you will face the immeasurable peril of being completely defenseless, from a psychological perspective.

When my dad did eventually leave to the middle of God-knows-where, it was a crushing event. This is undeniable. Such relationship-altering events are bound to cause problems. As much as he was a broken person, I would argue that it’s much better to have a cracked pillar holding up a structure than no pillar whatsoever. All of the above individual factors I talked about made the entire situation incredibly confusing and painful for me to cope with.

The only reason it did not entirely destroy me is because I contained the suffering I felt within a structured, closed system that I knew well and could count on: my mother and brother. The system might be different for you than it was for me, but the important thing is that you had a structure. The direction I had planned in life was not altered. My life plans did not change. My morals, ego, and personality did not change as a direct result of the event. The psychological destruction was kept to an absolute minimum. This is indescribably important.

You can take this mindset to any problem; as a matter of fact, this is probably one of the best ways depressed people can try and take some sort of control over their mind back. Without conscious effort, a depressed person’s mind will take a moderate/minor problem, expand it exponentially, and demonstrate how it ruins the entire belief system and justify why that problem was just another reason to put a gun to their head and pull the trigger. It really is that tragic and it really is that extreme — as Jordan Peterson put it, “…these realizations hit with the certainty of absolute truth.” The best way to counteract this would be, then, to put as much effort as physically and mentally possible to limiting the problem within a small domain, or any domain for that matter.

Suffering is such a characteristic trait of life that the statement “life is suffering” is accurate beyond a reasonable doubt. Just because this is true, however, does not mean that we as people should keel over and accept that; ideally, you should try and disrupt that endless cycle. Despite your best efforts, however, you will undoubtedly suffer somewhat in your life — it is best to be prepared for strife when it knocks on your door.

From the Editor: The Title “Cultural Critic” Is Meaningless

During my time writing with 71 Republic, I’ve been called many things by my peers at school, by family members, and by people familiar with my writing. I’ve been complimented on giving solid social commentary and giving decent positions on psychological issues, which is nice. There’s one title, though, that I’ve gotten, that I want to disavow vehemently, and I never want to be associated — I never want to hear anybody ever call me a “cultural critic” ever again. The term is utterly useless, pointless, and a breeding pool for incredibly toxic virtue signaling. Here’s how.

The term cultural critic is a wide-spanning term that fits a lot of people under its tent, but a generally accepted definition is somebody who specializes in critiquing societal and cultural theory, sometimes on a rather radical scale. The tent is quite large, too, encompassing popular television personalities like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Ann Coulter, and the like — talk show hosts who point out perceived cultural and societal flaws and discusses how to get rid of them or improve upon them. Also among this group are the political commentators and writers like Nate Silver, Nick Gillespie, Ariana Huffington and the like; journalists that have a rather large sphere of internet influence and that draw a large amount of support, quite like the aforementioned television personalities.

From an intellectual point of view, they’re often harmless enough; most of the so-called television cultural critics generally load their discussion with a fair bit of bias (which doesn’t render the facts they cite their arguments with invalid, just as a rule of thumb) to try and reaffirm their viewer base and belief systems, which is standard human behaviour at best and mildly harmful at worst. Cultural critics like these people are incredibly influential in modern society and can inspire monumental acts of collective activism; take John Oliver’s fascinating battle against net neutrality, for example. People such as this aren’t problematic in it of themselves, but no matter their views they all fall under the same groups; social critic, social commentator, cultural critic, et cetera. The term is incredibly wide used; so wide used, as a matter of fact, that the term has lost the little bit of meaning it once had.

This is a problem. Tomi Lahren, in all of her hyper partisanship, faulty logic, and truth-bending, is best known by populist conservative groups as a cultural critic. Milo Yiannopoulos, who’s most defining trait is having the audacity to be conservative and gay, is an incredibly influential cultural critic. John Oliver, who’s arguments can almost all be boiled down to “But it’s the current year!” is an incredibly influential cultural critic. Even Filthy Frank, a fictitious Internet character made with the sole and express intent to offer shock humour, has been genuinely brought up on Internet discussion boards as a cultural critic.. There is a serious problem when Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and published author, can be put under the same blanket as the plethora of armchair social analysts that plague the Internet at any given point in time. If Peterson is a cultural critic, and Dave the extremely outspoken and somehow oft-viewed liberal blogger at your high school is also a cultural critic, does the term really mean anything?

Anybody can call themselves a cultural critic, because the term is meaningless. Literally anybody who is capable of giving somewhat of an informed opinion on modern events can call themselves a cultural critic, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. The very concept of cultural criticism is something that should be undertaken by a majority of people participating in the culture they’re critiquing; it should not be something unique to massive personalities, because then the culture won’t really accurately reflect the ideas of the people in it. Assigning the title of cultural critic means nothing because almost everybody is capable of critiquing culture.

You could make the argument that people like Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, and other modern intellectuals are academic cultural critics and can be called that correctly, but the expertise they have and the ideas they espouse are from the academic backgrounds of established branches of studies like psychology, sociology, social engineering and social analysis, and what have you. Their cultural criticism is secondary to their actual professions and fields of expertise. Their social commentary is secondary to their work in academia. People who are known solely for cultural criticism can’t claim that. At best, the contemporary cultural critic is an informed, extroverted individual with a platform on which to espouse their ideas. At worst, and what is becoming more and more common, the contemporary cultural critic is an egomaniac anti-intellectual who uses logical inconsistencies and fallacies to push their agendas onto other people. I’m not that. I’m a journalist, a writer, and a proud student of academia, but I am not a cultural critic, and neither are you.

The Psychology of Malevolence

Roman King | U.S.

There is this common, unearned misconception a lot of people hold of themselves — for whatever reason, a huge amount of people think that they’re absolutely and objectively too good for evil, and look at acts of evil from the perspective of an outsider, and not as somebody who identifies with that. Of course this is the case; why would you want to admit to yourself that you have an element of Cain himself deeply embedded you, when you could just live with no mental responsibility of all and spare yourself the suffering? It’s a defense mechanism, but it’s an incredibly pathetic excuse for a defense mechanism, because it defends absolutely nothing. Here’s the massive, massive problem with this sort of intellectual superiority — it eliminates all need to take responsibility for your own unconscious. Humans — not just neurotic, mentally unstable nutjobs, but the average everyday Joes — are incredibly capable of doing evil, malevolent, reprehensible things, and we can see this throughout the course of our history. Adolf Hitler sent his nation into bloody war, attempted to liquidate an entire population of people, and when his country began to crumble, accelerated the rate at which chaos manifested itself by speeding up the rate at which Germany continued its obliteration of people. He was a neurotic, self-destructive man, and when his own personal agenda crumbled, he had no problem taking down an entire nation along with him. Joseph Stalin was a power-hungry egomaniac who destroyed millions of lives by ensuring that prosperity was to be gained only from the hand of the state, which starved entire countries and launched the idea of collective guilt — all in the name of the proletariat working class. These two individuals are textbook examples of the archetypal tyrant, and they both embody the very worst qualities of humans; greed, anger, irrationality, wrath, and what have you. Humanity was left significantly worse off because of their existence here on Earth. You already knew that, though. Why, then, would there be any reason to spend a significant amount of time listing the exact ways Hitler and Stalin were chaotic and terrible? There are two important reasons, and they’re both equally terrifying: the same driving forces that lead to the deaths of millions of innocent people are the same forces that make especially industrious people successful, and not just that, but the power structures that allowed for Hitler and Stalin to take power were built bottom-up, from the individual, and not from the state.

The idea that authoritarian governments discriminate out of fear is laughable and wrong. What reason should a powerful state have to fear a minority (albeit, a significant one) of people that, generally speaking, aren’t acquainted with chaos and evil being inflicted upon them by the mighty caregiver that is the state? No, instead, fascistic societies segregate and discriminate out of disgust. According to Pathogens and Politics: Further Evidence That Parasite Prevalence Predicts Authoritarianism, a research paper and study done by Damian Murray, countries and states/provinces within those countries with a high relative rate of infectious disease tend to be more conservative/authoritarian than countries with lower rates of infectious disease. If we look at Hitler’s policies, we can see this in action. Hitler viewed the Jewish population as a parasite or a pathogen, and the Third Reich as an entire organism. He viewed the Jewish population in Germany, and the diaspora in general, with disgust and contempt — they were a threat to the imagined purity of the Aryan race. The natural course of action, then, would be to get rid of the perceived threat. Hitler was also incredibly compulsive about public health; he washed his hands compulsively and implemented many policies to try and remove imperfections from the country he governed. No wonder the Nazi government took such stringent anti-smoking policies; it was because Hitler was a compulsive health nut. This is where we see Hitler’s true evil, because while the rate of infectious disease in Nazi Germany wasn’t abnormal at all, he viewed the entire Jewish population as an unnatural pathogen; this lead to the high disgust levels that Murray’s paper outlined, and that disgust lead to the obliteration of 90% of the world’s Jewish population in Europe. Perhaps even more disturbing is that the element of Cain and chaos that lead Hitler to his incredible demolition of people in World War II is the same element that we associate Germany’s modern positives with — austerity, orderliness, and a high work ethic; these are all positive traits we associate Germany with now, and we could easily attribute these characteristics to a large number of successful businessmen. You can point to this directly on the Big Five personality theory; all of those above traits are symptoms of high conscientiousness. In no way is this inherently a bad thing. The CEOs and managers of the world; they can only fulfill their job with an incredible dedication to the field they are participating in and a ridiculous work ethic — things that are only found in people who score high in conscientiousness. The world praises Germany for being an austere, responsible country that takes responsibility for their own problems and works diligently within the belief structures they’ve constructed. On the inverse, if you tilt the orderliness and diligence too far, you’re left with obsession, compulsion, and neuroticism.

Conscientiousness is present in one amount or another in an incredible majority of the population; of course, because not only is it a Big Five personality trait, it’s also one of the only ways anything gets done. It is a trait that is universally present at the individual level. If this element is universally present, it would make sense to assert that the potential for and even the willing acceptance of obsessive compulsive behaviours is also universally available. Often times this sort of jealous compulsion is often found in the shadow, but as we know, elements from the shadow manifest themselves in conscious action all the time. People consciously drive orderliness and conscientiousness to dangerous levels all the time. If these assertions are all true (and I strongly believe they are), what reason is there to believe that the fascistic societies of Hitler and the like were built top-down, like we often believe? Why would we be so naive to assume that the average German individual wasn’t a neurotic, chaotic wreck who would be perfectly fine, if not happy, to participate in the complete obliteration of the “pathogens” facing their nation? Leaders are made by the people, not vice versa. Of course Hitler personally was already a disturbed, neurotic individual, but at the individual level, Hitler the leader was created — created by a destructive collective population consisting of destructive individual persons.

Why, then, knowing that the same traits that caused the Holocaust are universally present in some form or another across individuals, would we be so arrogant as to believe that we aren’t capable of committing such disgusting acts? The shadow is a terrifying place, and encountering it means having some terrifying realizations; you realize that there is a part of you that identifies with the camp guards of Auschwitz. You realize that you are capable of malevolence. You realize that under no circumstances can you call yourself a good person. It is a horrifying thing to try and grips with, no doubt. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to grasp, but it’s important, because if you do, you might just be able to stop yourself from being malevolent. If you’re anything close to a decent person, you’ll see your potential for destruction and strive endlessly to never touch it. Of course, if a chaotic and neurotic person looks inside himself and sees malevolence, he just might be inclined to act upon it, but that’s a completely different problem. Using the assertions from before, if the disgust of “pathogens” (which stems from orderliness) is a cause of authoritarian political ideology at the individual level, and political leaders are created from the personality of the individuals, we can say quite confidently that malevolence and disgust absolutely starts at the objective level, and that “normal” individuals are just as much at blame for fascistic and authoritarian societies as the cult of personalities that represent them.

What do we do with this information, this knowledge that individual people are capable of untold acts of malevolence, no matter how good they present themselves to be? You use this information as enlightenment so that you might have another reason to not compound the suffering of life with your inherent depravity! Think about how you and the environment around you would look if you acted upon the elements of chaos within you for 3-5 years, and recognize that by doing so, you’ve made every recognizable problem with life infinitely worse. You can become more self aware and realize the consequences of your potential mistakes before even acting them out. You can improve the world around you marginally just by not being malevolent, and by being aware of your untold potential for destruction, you’ll have even more incentive to steer clear of evil and chaos. The unaware person is at an increased risk of lapsing into chaos because they are unaware that they are capable of being chaotic and aren’t prepared for it. The naivete of the “good person” ironically makes them more likely to commit a heinous act than a more self aware, perhaps calloused person.

In this game of life we’re all doomed to, we can still make things better, bit by bit. By recognizing how malevolence is born and how chaos spreads from level to level from the individual, we as a society will have more incentive to not act for evil, and we as people will be ever closer to self-realization, enlightenment, and maybe even peace. A noble goal to shoot for, no doubt — the road to doing so, however, is a literal walk through Hell.

The Catastrophe of Hyperagreeableness

Roman King | U.S.

In the previous essay, I briefly outlined what the Jungian shadow is, its role in determining if a person is capable of being morally sound, and its place in the overall personality of any given person. In short, the ability to confront yourself and come to grips with the self-selected negative traits your unconscious ego holds, and the ability to use it to build and reinforce your value system, is one of the biggest things that determines whether or not a person is truly “good”. To incredibly oversimplify the thesis, you must be aware of your shadow and you must be capable of controlling it in order to find some semblance of self-control or self-awareness in the incredibly disorienting and catastrophic phenomenon that is life on this planet. This is simply a vast oversimplification of the vast studies of Carl Jung, who believed that “…the less embodied [the shadow] is in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” (Psychology and Religion: West and East). There is almost infinitely more to discuss in regards to this fascinating topic, but one of the things I previously mention is the phenomena of people ignoring their shadows for one reason or another (I will mention these reasons in the piece below), and how it causes you to be left wide open for a catastrophic event to take place and potentially do some serious mental damage. It is truly tragic, and there is a symptom of not coming to grips with your shadow — hyper-agreeableness.

Jordan Peterson mentioned in one of his university lectures the difference between conscientious people and agreeable people. The conscientious person expects the work to get done and doesn’t give half a damn about the life behind the task at hand, whereas the agreeable person will be more likely to sympathize with the plights of the worker in regards to their personal work. In Peterson’s words, “…not one of these belief systems is more correct than the other; that’s why both exist.” Compassion is an incredibly important emotion, and it is a massive component to our concept of human empathy. The problem is when it is disingenuous, rooted in insecurity and an unhealthy dependence on gratifying the emotional needs of other people. There comes a time where agreeableness becomes hyper-agreeableness, and this is a problem in many ways.

Well, for one, you become incredibly easy to take advantage of. When you become so structurally weak, and when you grow so accustomed to living your life with the sole purpose of making other people feel gratified, you begin to lose touch with your own needs and your own wishes. If you ask a hyper-agreeable person what they want, they’ll usually have an incredibly hard time giving you a straight answer, and that’s because they are so accustomed to living for other people that they don’t even have a solid base to stand on anymore. It’s an incredibly sad phenomenon because the utility of their compassion is lost. On the inverse, doing this same experiment with a very grounded and conscientious person will generally yield the opposite result; they know exactly what they want and they will tell you exactly how they plan on getting it, whether it be a goal or a tangible object or whatnot. Hyper-agreeable people are not assertive whatsoever. They are invalids when it comes to the art of negotiation. Almost always, they will yield too much and end up in a position where they are set to gain zero benefits — and they will often have no problem with this whatsoever, not realizing that there could have been a higher amount of utility distributed if they had stood a bit more firm! Tyrants and master manipulators (of which there are many of in this wicked world) will, beyond any doubts, exploit the hyper-agreeable person for everything they can. This is not a good situation to be in.

Another, perhaps more wicked effect of hyper-agreeableness, is that in your baseless quest to try and make people happy, if you do so without a sense of yourself, you begin to lose the very positive traits you begin to espouse. The Carl Jung quote referenced in the expository paragraph of this essay fits perfectly here. It is very possible for the hyper-agreeable person to begin to develop a low self-esteem (due to their seemingly only redeeming quality being the ability to live for other people) and lose their very real positive aspects to their unconscious shadow. That’s a catastrophic problem, too, because as the shadow becomes darker, and the more it consumes, the scarier it is to confront. It is exponentially more morbid to confront a shadow that has already come away with your positive conscious traits (empathy, compassion, what have you) than to do so with a full arsenal, so to speak. The more the hyper-agreeable person continues on the path of baseless selflessness, the bigger chance they risk of losing themselves to other people, quite literally giving up themselves for the chance of making somebody else’s day a bit better. A noble goal, but a goal that in the end benefits nobody and decimates the hyper-agreeable person. There comes a point where you become less of an individual and more of a caricature that people have constructed you as; you become something less than a personality. You yourself become a strawman, built up of the weak epithets of gratitude you receive in return.

This can spiral into full-scale neuroticism and depression in the snap of a finger. After all, if you become nothing, and you begin to ask yourself the question of what you are, what can you answer with? The hyper-agreeable person might begin to realize the emptiness they have left themselves with. They have quite literally given up their entire soul to the world, and have received nothing meaningful in return. There is now nothing left but that damn shadow. At this point, you can’t even continue to try and keep up the pretense that you’re a good person because you’re so emotionally and psychologically drained that there’s no way you could fathom continuing to be empathetic and compassionate on the massive scale you were.

All of this is assuming that, again, you hadn’t done the responsible thing and confronted your shadow beforehand. Selflessness, genuine selflessness, must be done with a foundation. If you have a grip on yourself — that is, you’ve confronted yourself, you’ve begun the road to self-realization, you can then stand on two feet without being knocked over by the slightest gust of wind. You can outpour your compassion, your empathy, and your love for humanity, and you will still always know who you are. You can stand up for yourself in negotiations and ensure your own benefit so that you might live to love another day. If you can be a sturdy pillar, you can survive when people try to take you down and take advantage of your goodness. One of the ultimate quests of humanity is to try and mitigate the suffering of life, and a truly good person who knows who they are, what they are capable of, and where they stand, might stand somewhat of a chance to make a dent in the eternal cycle of existential crisis. A hyper-agreeable person might be able to do a good impression of a truly noble man, but it is temporary and bound to fail. Happiness is not like matter, of which there is a finite amount of it. Happiness is not something distributed from one person to another. The truly good person is able to grow positives out of positives and distribute their yields of good faith however they so desire. This is not the case with the hyper-agreeable person, who gives themselves up and doesn’t take care of themselves. You can only change the world to your liking if you yourself are mentally sound. Take care of yourself before you try and give yourself up to people who might not appreciate it.