(MM’s summary here. This post merely evaluates the content without providing context.)
It’s really quite good. It’s intensely practical and actionable without getting dogmatic, and well-written to boot. These are all things that appeal to the INTJ mind, which I’ve been cursed with. There have been several times when I wished for (and actually searched for) something like a workbook for Seligman’s positive psychology (e.g. given negative self-talk X, how would you reframe it from personal, pervasive, and permanent to impersonal, specific, and temporary?) and Gorilla Mindset is the closest thing I’ve found to filling that need. It summarizes the necessary topics quite well (self-talk, growth mindset, abundance mindset, sleep, nutrition, etc.) and assigns the right amount of importance to each.
My only criticism which isn’t a criticism of positive psychology in general is that the book is too short because it’s target audience is the illiterate masses of ordinary men. Rather than writing a long book explaining everything in detail, Cernovich refers you to lists of books on each subject for further reading. This is a design choice that seemed like a good idea back in 2015 when normies seemed to be the future and not a source of existential despair on account of their later revealed uselessness. I’ll let Ted Kaczynski explain why:
On the more sophisticated level the ideology should address itself to people who are intelligent, thoughtful and rational. The object should be to create a core of people who will be opposed to the industrial system on a rational, thought-out basis, with full appreciation of the problems and ambiguities involved, and of the price that has to be paid for getting rid of the system. It is particularly important to attract people of this type, as they are capable people and will be instrumental in influencing others. These people should be addressed on as rational a level as possible. Facts should never intentionally be distorted and intemperate language should be avoided. This does not mean that no appeal can be made to the emotions, but in making such appeal care should be taken to avoid misrepresenting the truth or doing anything else that would destroy the intellectual respectability of the ideology.
On a second level, the ideology should be propagated in a simplified form that will enable the unthinking majority to see the conflict of technology vs. nature in unambiguous terms. But even on this second level the ideology should not be expressed in language that is so cheap, intemperate or irrational that it alienates people of the thoughtful and rational type. Cheap, intemperate propaganda sometimes achieves impressive short-term gains, but it will be more advantageous in the long run to keep the loyalty of a small number of intelligently committed people than to arouse the passions of an unthinking, fickle mob who will change their attitude as soon as someone comes along with a better propaganda gimmick. However, propaganda of the rabble-rousing type may be necessary when the system is nearing the point of collapse and there is a final struggle between rival ideologies to determine which will become dominant when the old world-view goes under.https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/unabomber/manifesto.text.htm
(I’ll also be reviewing Industrial Society And Its Future in more detail later on. But in spite of my reservations about that book as a whole, “FC” makes some very good points and this is one of them.)
The now readily observable fact is that anyone writing a book to benefit a large class of people must make use of the trickle-down culture effect by appealing first to intelligent, upper-middle class professionals and socialites, who will then be imitated by the masses. Examples of this cultural phenomenon are the now-widespread adoption of organic food, the Atkins diet, HIIT, mumble rap, PUA, etc., all of which are now taken so entirely for granted by Gen Z that it’s considered “cringe” to talk about them since “everybody already knows” that apologizing is weak, women are sexually aroused by teasing, and eating a lot of gluten isn’t good for you. But these were all extremely fringe ideas in 2005.
The result of this design choice is that, really by no fault of its own, Gorilla Mindset is now firmly associated with a brief moment in time characterized by PUA, podcasts, fashy memes, and the Trump movement.
My major criticisms of positive psychology, which are not really criticisms of Cernovich’s presentation of them, follow from its assumption that personal resilience is such an unalloyed good that it should be pursued without much consideration for negative externalities. This comes from the American assumption (really the Western personality magnified out of all proportion) that individual competitiveness has no drawbacks. There are two assertions that ought to give us pause here:
1. You want to have an abundance mindset because this makes people like you (particularly women and effeminate men) and this creates a virtuous circle of positive attitude leading to prosperity leading to positive attitude, and so on. Abundance mindset is in reality an induced manic phase that leads to hubris, toxic positivity, waste, and long-term negative externalities that your children and their children will have to pay for. Scarcity mindset combined with a sense of duty, benevolence, and noblesse oblige is more appropriate in most situations, historically, and leads to better long-term outcomes. To make this more concrete, imagine that you have the choice of living in a community of rich people versus a community of financially cautious people. Abundance mindset ought to be treated as a highly specific tool for charisma with very specific uses, such as leadership and communicating vision and values, rather than as a general lifestyle choice. It’s necessary to distinguish this from growth mindset, which I advocate without considerable reservation.
2. You want to reframe failures as incidental, impersonal things that happened to you, because this internalizes your locus of control. Again, this is more a criticism of Seligman than it is of Cernovich. While it’s true that viewing your personal failures as due to factors outside your control increases your resilience, lowers your anxiety, and produces charisma, we should note this is and has been the philosophy of criminals and psychopaths since the dawn of time. The healthiest approach has two steps: a) to have a high sense of self-worth, such that this belief in your own moral flawlessness is your default emotional assumption, and then b) to observe this emotional bias whenever possible at the System 2 level of Christian reflection and correct for it self-consciously. To do the latter without the former produces a helpless neurotic full of self-pity, and to do the former without the latter produces a grandiose narcissist bound for Hell. To do neither produces fixed-mindset bugmen, those oversocialized animals concerned only with the pursuit of short-term oblivion. Given these options and the existence of the immaterial, one should prefer to be healthy if possible, and a neurotic before a bugman, and a bugman before a hellion. The thoroughly secularized modern person who doesn’t believe in Hell would likely prefer healthy > hellion > bugman > neurotic, which has a lot to do with the current social condition of the West.
To put the previous paragraph in actionable terms, I would first suggest that anyone with habitual negative self-talk should deprogram this with the methods Seligman and Cernovich advocate, reframing personal failures as incidental and impersonal, and otherwise create in themselves a high sense of self-worth. But this should be a brief, transitory phase with an understood level of acceptable danger of hubris and overreach, serving only to replace the love that should have been transmitted by and internalized from one’s loving parents. It should then be followed by studying the art of self-reflection and unpicking what is truly a personal failing, what isn’t, what character flaws can be plausibly unlearned, and what can’t. The basic roadmap for this process is the serenity prayer. Ultimately, growth mindset suggests that such choices come down to which personal changes can be effected most quickly with the least effort and with the best return on investment, since even small changes always turn out to require heroic efforts.