How to Instantly Achieve a Calm State | Sam Harris on Impact Theory

Last updated: Jun 1, 2023

The video is an interview with Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and philosopher, discussing the power of framing and how dropping back and realizing the power of framing negative emotions can help achieve a calm state.

The video is an interview with Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, philosopher, and author, discussing how to achieve a calm state. Harris explains that anxiety and excitement are physiologically similar, and the difference is in the framing or story we tell ourselves. He also discusses his perspective on human well-being, which involves effortlessly cooperating with happy strangers and building a civilization where everyone thrives to some degree.

  • Anxiety and excitement are physiologically similar, and the difference is in the framing of the experience.
  • By dropping back and realizing the power of framing, one can achieve a calm state.
  • The half-life of negative emotions is incredibly short.
  • Sam Harris is a neuroscientist, philosopher, and five-time New York Times best-selling author.
  • Living a good life involves being mindful of the present moment and not being lost in thought.
  • Having a purpose in life is important for personal growth and serving others.
  • Beliefs and emotions are intertwined.
  • Beliefs can frame emotions in a positive or negative way.
  • Realizing the power of framing negative emotions can help achieve a calm state.

How to Instantly Achieve a Calm State | Sam Harris on Impact Theory - YouTube

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Section 1: The Power of Framing Negative Emotions

  • Anxiety and excitement are physiologically similar, and the difference is in the framing of the experience.
  • By dropping back and realizing the power of framing, one can achieve a calm state.
  • The half-life of negative emotions is incredibly short.
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Section 2: Introduction to Sam Harris

  • Sam Harris is a neuroscientist, philosopher, and five-time New York Times best-selling author.
  • He has a degree in philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in neuroscience.
  • He has practiced meditation for over 30 years.
  • His ideas have been discussed by prestigious publications and he has given multiple TED talks.
  • He is the host of the webby award-winning podcast Making Sense.
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Section 3: Definition of Human Well-Being

  • Human well-being is open-ended and the horizon for ultimate flourishing of conscious minds is not fully understood.
  • We know what we don't want, such as being terrorized or constantly in conflict with strangers.
  • The generic situation we want is to effortlessly cooperate with creative and happy strangers.
  • We need institutions, laws, norms, and ways of thinking that take the friction out of pleasurable and non-paranoid interaction with strangers.
  • If we can't figure out how to build a civilization where everyone thrives to some degree, we'll have the world we currently have.
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How to Instantly Achieve a Calm State | Sam Harris on Impact Theory - YouTube

Section 4: Living a Good Life

  • Living a good life involves being mindful of the present moment and not being lost in thought.
  • It also involves being kind to others and not causing unnecessary harm.
  • Living a good life means being intellectually honest and not believing things without evidence.
  • It involves being curious and open to new experiences and ideas.
  • Living a good life means being resilient and not being easily knocked off course by setbacks.
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Personal North Star

  • Having a purpose in life is important for personal growth and serving others.
  • Sam Harris's personal north star is to see how much of his potential he can actuate.
  • Pushing oneself to always get better and improve is a victory in itself.
  • Having a specific direction based on personal goals is important.
  • Psychological satisfaction is important in philanthropy.
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Mapping Altruism to Well-being

  • It is important to map the effects of one's actions to their conscious states of psychological pain and pleasure.
  • Being outwardly altruistic should map to one's own internal state of well-being.
  • It is important to not be a callous person who leaves devastated and unhappy people in their wake.
  • It is also important to not be a person who does a lot of good in the world but is unable to internalize the felt sense of connectedness to others.
  • Mapping what one is doing to be outwardly altruistic to their own internal state of well-being is important.
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Malleability of Belief Systems

  • Belief systems are malleable and can be changed through effective communication of ideas.
  • Choosing a set of ideology that leads to more well-being for others is better than choosing one that does not.
  • Belief systems are malleable by their very nature.
  • It is important to have a belief system that leads to well-being.
  • Sam Harris does not have a specific set of tenants to hand to somebody, but believes in the importance of critical thinking and questioning beliefs.
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Impact of Beliefs and Ideas

  • Beliefs and ideas can be dangerous and lead to harmful actions.
  • People internalize beliefs based on where they grew up and what their parents and society taught them.
  • Communicating ideas effectively can lead to a change in belief system that causes more well-being for others.
  • It is important to question beliefs and critically think about them.
  • Beliefs and ideas can have a significant impact on individuals and society as a whole.
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The Importance of Having True Beliefs

  • Beliefs that map onto reality are important for maximizing well-being and serving a greater good.
  • Being strictly right about what's true may not always be optimal, but being too out of register is delusion.
  • Other people notice when beliefs are out of register and treat the person accordingly.
  • Beliefs should be open to new evidence and better arguments perpetually.
  • Human conversation is the only mechanism for error correction.
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The Virtue of Getting Educated and Surrounding Yourself with Smart People

  • Surrounding yourself with smart people and reading good books exposes you to lessons learned over thousands of years.
  • Living vicariously through others' experiences can help you avoid making the same mistakes.
  • Internalizing lessons from others can help you understand something about ethics and reputational costs.
  • Being open to the intrusions of other people's thinking is the best game in town for understanding reality and how to navigate within it.
  • Dogmatism is non-optimal and ultimately dangerous.
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The Default State of Organized Religion

  • Dogmatism is holding to an idea no matter what else comes into view.
  • Organized religion historically defaults to threatening violence when challenged.
  • Believing something strongly without evidence is dogmatism.
  • Wanting evidence is not a perversion of circumstance.
  • Experiential core of religions, like unconditional love, can be experienced.
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Beliefs and Emotions

  • Beliefs and emotions are intertwined.
  • Beliefs can frame emotions in a positive or negative way.
  • Realizing the power of framing negative emotions can help achieve a calm state.
  • Being aware of the framing of beliefs and emotions can help change them.
  • Changing beliefs and emotions can lead to a more positive and fulfilling life.
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Adopting a Scientific Attitude

  • Don't partition thinking about reality into important and unimportant areas.
  • Thinking too rigorously about important areas can corrupt them.
  • Don't be hostage to conversations that ancestors had 2,000 years ago.
  • Books were not dictated by the creator of the universe to organize everything.
  • Resolve the tension between important and unimportant areas of thinking.
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Skills Have Utility

  • Learning architecture allows building structures that have real-world implications.
  • Learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has real-world implications for self-defense.
  • Skills have utility, and increasing skill sets is important.
  • People become dogmatic about anything, including religion or belief systems.
  • People should be open to learning and increasing their skill sets.
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Regulating Negative Emotions

  • Well-being is a skill, and not suffering unnecessarily is a skill.
  • Regulating negative emotions is a skill.
  • Meditation is a skill, and mindfulness meditation is useful.
  • Practicing mindfulness means paying close attention to the nature of your experience.
  • Noticing what it's like to be you moment to moment is important.
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Framing Problem

  • Most of what people care about can be thought of as a skill.
  • Learning to pay close attention to the nature of your experience is important.
  • Not adding anything to your experience, just noticing what it's like to be you moment to moment is crucial.
  • Regulating negative emotions is a skill that can be learned through mindfulness meditation.
  • Not grasping at what's pleasant or pushing what's unpleasant away is important.
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The Power of Framing Negative Emotions

  • Anxiety is kindled just by the mere thought of what you have to do.
  • Most people live their lives as though there's no alternative.
  • Mindfulness is a way of dropping a little bit lower and realizing that there's actually a place from which you can just feel anxiety and be indifferent to it.
  • Anxiety isn't even that unpleasant, it's so close to excitement in its actual physiology that the difference between excitement and anxiety is more or less just the framing.
  • The power of framing is a skill that is a fairly esoteric one, but many people are learning it and it has immense utility.
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The Half-Life of Negative Emotions

  • The half-life of negative emotions is incredibly short.
  • You can actually be psychologically free even in their presence.
  • Your freedom and your well-being isn't even predicated on getting rid of the physiology.
  • If you're not continually thinking about all the reasons why you should be anxious, the physiology dissipates very quickly.
  • This is true for anger and anything that is classically negative.
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The Usefulness of Skills

  • Many of the things that people think they want out of life are either based on the skills they have or the skills they've never thought to acquire.
  • There's no place in a normal education where it's even indicated that there's an alternative to living with the minds we have.
  • We're not given a rule book for how to operate a human mind.
  • There's nothing at the root level of our emotional and cognitive life that can change, but mindfulness is a way of dropping a little bit lower and realizing that there is an alternative.
  • The secrets out and many people are learning the skill of mindfulness.
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Emotional Control

  • Emotional control is super powerful.
  • Once you stop reinforcing negative emotions, the physiology dissipates very quickly.
  • There were times when the speaker would stay mad for 8-10 hours, but then something would happen and he would forget why he was so mad.
  • Writing a letter to yourself can be a helpful tool in emotional control.
  • If you end up being angry for several hours, you're going to regret it every single time.
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