Smart and creative people are faced with a unique set of personality traits and challenges that often result in feelings of depression, anxiety, boredom, and meaninglessness. Those challenges include dealing with family structures and societies that disparage smartness, completing day jobs that do not fully utilize one's substantial intellect, dealing with physical symptoms of anxiety, feeling disconnected from family and culture, and coping with a constantly racing brain. In his latest work encouraging existential concepts of making meaning and establishing one's own virtues, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative, Eric Maisel explains in detail these difficult challenges and offers the smart and creative person a set of strategies for creating meaning and lessening the impact of the pain associated with a less-examined life.
We live in a society where smartness is disparaged and standing out as an intellectual, creative, and unique person is often discouraged. Our parents, our religions, our educational systems, and our societies manipulate and mold our personalities to a point almost unrecognizable from the original personality we were first born with. Eric Maisel suggests that humanity is an experiment in evolution, not the conscious design of a greater force or deity. This concept may come across as cold to those steeped in religion or spirituality. But upon further consideration, the thought is clear and empowering, as it encourages individuals to develop their own virtues, determine their own definitions of right and wrong, and create the meaningfulness of their own lives rather than searching endlessly outside for the meaning of life.
Maisel explains that society is all-too-quick to diagnose and medicate the mania associated with the smart person's brain. Those who don't seek medical or psychotherapeutic remedies may find their own comfort in addictions, obsessions, and distractions. When difficult questions arise, Maisel suggests we accept the gap between our challenging issues and our brain's limited capability of handling such requests. He suggests that some of the world's greatest mysteries are simply unsolvable, and we're better off focusing our energies on what we can answer and control.
As human beings, we have any number of ways of avoiding the anxiety associated with thinking. We may fantasize, shrink our ideas and ambitions into smaller and less meaningful exercises, or completely flee our thoughts altogether. Logic and language are often snares that smart people find themselves in, talking themselves into and out of certain behaviors or falling prey to easy solutions such as mysticism or even addictions. The solution Maisel offers is a conscious decision to accept one's limitations as a human being, determine one's own values system, and decide where and when to invest meaning in activities. He calls this approach natural psychology, and it requires an acceptance that life is worth living. He also explains meaning as a psychological experience and coaches his readers as to how they can choose where and when to invest in making meaning. Just as important, he explains how to choose moments to avoid making meaning. Tactics such as positive self-talk, maintaining one meaningful morning practice, defining free time, allowing for easiness, and others are all used to help the depressed, anxious, or angst-ridden smart, creative person deal with the unique challenges of the mind.
A highly readable and well-organized book, Eric Maisel's Why Smart People Hurt explains the difficult issues associated with the smartest and most creative percentage of people on the planet. Each chapter ends with a series of challenging questions that encourage the reader to delve deeper into the topics discussed and make them more personal. Where traditional methods of medication and psychotherapy fail to provide adequate answers, Maisel's existentialist approach of accountability and ownership over one's own values system and life's meaning may be the perfect answer.