Given that we are who we are, with whatever hang-ups and repressions,
what can we do to improve our future?
To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life,
individuals must become independent of the social environment
to the degree that they no longer respond
exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments.
To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to himself or herself. One has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances.
This challenge is both easier and more difficult than it sounds
because the ability to do so
is entirely within each person's
it requires a discipline and perseverance that are relatively rare in any era,
and perhaps especially in the present.
And before all else, achieving control over experiences requires a drastic change in attitude about what is important to one and what is not.
We grow up believing that what counts most in life is that which will
occur in the future. At the end of the long struggle for achievements in our lives, the golden years of retirement beckon.
"We are always getting to live,"
as Ralph Waldo Emerson used to say,
"but never living."
The most important step in emancipating oneself from social controls/rewards when one has fully achieved, gradually become free of societal rewards and learn how to substitute for them rewards that are under one's own powers.
This is not to say that we should abandon every goal endorsed by society;
rather it means that, in addition to or instead of
the goals others use to bribe us with,
we develop a set of our own.