How to conquer temptation, negativity, & fear
John’s life took a turn for the surreal when he met his roommate, Charles, at Princeton University.
A brilliant but asocial math prodigy, John was anxious to prove himself in his field.
When offered the chance by the Department of Defense to crack encrypted enemy communications, he jumped at it.
He was pleased when his DOD supervisor, William, gave him a new assignment to look for patterns in magazines and newspapers in order to thwart a Soviet plot.
The only problem was that Williams was not real, and neither was John’s roommate, Charles.
You’ve watched John Nash’s story in the movie A Beautiful Mind and know that his relationship with Charles and his decryption duties were the product of paranoid schizophrenia and delusional episodes.
John’s technique for overcoming his schizophrenia and delusions offers profound lessons for anyone striving to overcome temptation, fear, and negativity.
A scene at the end of the movie captures the essence. Nash is walking across the campus explaining to a colleague how he’s learned to deal with his delusions:
Nash: “They’re not gone and maybe they never will be, but I’ve gotten used to ignoring them and, I think, as a result, they’ve kind of given up on me. I think that’s what it’s like with all our dreams and our nightmares — we have to keep feeding them for them to stay alive.”
Colleague: “They haunt you, though.”
Nash: “They’re my past. Everybody’s haunted by their past. But, like a diet of the mind, I just choose not to indulge certain appetites.”
You and I don’t suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, but we do suffer from fear, doubt, and worry, and we feel tempted by our lower self to indulge in unworthy appetites.
We can learn a lot from the principle taught by John Nash.
First, we must recognize and accept that, no matter how good we are, we’re not inherently better than addicts and criminals.
The most dangerous delusion imaginable is believing we’re immune to temptation. Just ask King David.
As Emerson wisely observed, I have in me the germ of every crime.
With that recognition, two additional lessons are revealed: 1) the best way to conquer temptations is to never indulge them in the first place, and 2) to stop pointing fingers at other people’s weaknesses and instead, focus on improving ourselves.
As Robert Browning said, When a man’s fight begins with himself, he is worth something.
My Live Extraordinary Manifesto offers this counsel:
“Who you become tomorrow is determined by the books you read, the friends you keep, and how you spend your free time today.
These three things determine which appetites and desires we feed and which ones we starve.
We must starve our temptations and feed our virtue, starve our fears and feed our faith, starve our problems and feed our solutions.
Is your TV consumption feeding your higher or your lower self? How about your time spent on the Internet and other media? How long ago was it that you read a quality book that made you a better person?
Thankfully, we do not fight our battles alone. Our Father is there to strengthen and uplift us every time we feel tempted or discouraged. Sincere and fervent prayer is the single most important thing we can do to conquer temptations.
The ancient Greeks advised, Know thyself. A critical component of this is knowing the conditions that make us weak and susceptible to temptation, in order to build defenses for them.
I feel the greatest temptation when I’m tired and depressed. So I’ve learned when to shut off my computer, pray, take a nap, take a walk, or play with my kids.
Aristotle said, I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is over self.
Elbert Hubbard added, Let each man and woman set a guard over his own spirit and try to be greater than he who taketh a city.
What we feed in our minds and hearts grows.
Our lower self has an insatiable appetite for the junk food of temptation, fear, and negativity. Our higher self craves the nourishment of virtue, faith, positivity.
Which one are you feeding?