My cliff notes for “Defiance“:

Defiance is the third of Nate’s dubious virtues after desperation and recklessness.

Here, defiance doesn’t refer to defiant actions, but a mental state required before you can make defiant actions. It is a reflexive feeling of determination to act out of your own will, out of self-reliance, and without influence from authority, to fight against badness when you encounter it in the world. It is principled.

Defiance is characterized by a lack of hesitation. It needn’t be acted on without strategic thought — a petulant child may give in to eating the broccoli they hate, while cultivating a mental state of a child plotting to get their revenge in the end at the injustice. But, the child’s petulance was automatic, not a calculated decision. There was never a thought of whether or not to defy, whether or not to struggle against. Defiance employed this way should be reflexive.

Be intentional and principled with where to apply defiance. In many situations it can be counter-productive to your goals or an over-reaction.

As a rule of thumb, I suggest that it’s usually healthy to have a defiance reaction towards states of the world, and usually unhealthy to have a defiance reaction towards people.

Defiance as a driver of intrinsic motivation is very much at odds with Taoism or Buddhist notions of acceptance: You’re harnessing your defiant impulse against bad things to power you, instead of tempering your will to the “reality” of what you can accomplish to diminish your frustration. It is powered by channelling negative emotion, instead of transforming negative emotion.

It’s about being able to look at the terrible social equilibria we’re all trapped in and get pissed off — not because any individual is evil, but because almost nobody is evil and everything is broken anyway.

So this is how I suggest motivating yourself in place of guilt: Let the wrongness of the world trigger something deep inside of you, such that the question stops being whether you will capitulate or lose hope, and becomes how you will wrest the course of the future onto a different path. See the current state of affairs as your adversary; see the future as the prize that hangs in the balance. Shake off the illusory constraints, set your jaw, and rebel. Defy.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

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