Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Viktor E. Frankl

Step 4: Become Unfuckwithable.

(Develop emotional resilience and become zen as fuck)

Our emotions have a fuckload to answer for.

Abuse, murder, violence untold – the pain human emotion has caused is immeasurable. Even wars look a fuckload less likely when you strip emotions from the frail egos of those in power.

Yet love, compassion, kindness, creativity, joy and humour are what makes being alive so fucking worthwhile.

So, the question is then: how do we yield this immense power to our benefit without it royally fucking us up?

Let’s have a look.



Two Types of Thinking

There’s no escaping your emotions. They are fundamental to conscious thought (1). So understanding them and how they work is key.

You might have heard that humans have a left side of their brain, responsible for rational thought, and a right side, responsible for emotional (and creative) thought. Or, you may have heard that we have three brains: our lizard brain, responsible for our instincts, our mammalian brain, responsible for our emotions, and our human brain, responsible for rational thought.

If you haven’t heard of these theories, that’s good. Because they’re certifiable bullshit (2, 3, 4), so you can forget them now.

Daniel Kahneman’s absolute masterpiece on human cognition: Thinking, Fast and Slow, explains the two systems of your brain that run in parallel. Depending on the situation, your brain will default to one system or the other.

System 1 is unconscious and includes your instincts, intuition, impulses and emotions. This system is great for tasks that are easy, simple and second nature to you, like brushing your teeth.

System 2 is conscious and includes careful thought, rationality and logic. This system kicks in as soon as we experience something more complex that system 1 can’t take care of impulsively, like using a new phone.

*Not an actual photo

What makes system 1 so great at simple problems–assumptions and educated guesswork–makes it absolutely fucking terrible at solving more complex life problems.


The Clusterfuck of Human Emotions

As we learned in step 1 – evolution has made us pretty miserable fuckers, constantly on the lookout for bad shit. So much so, that of the six core emotions we’re born with, we have two positive emotions (happiness and interest) and four negative emotions (sadness, anger, fear and disgust). (5)

As time goes on and we develop socially, understanding what it is to be a person and knowing that there are other people kicking about, we create more complex emotions: shame, contempt, guilt, love and attachment (5). That’s still 7-4 in favour of being miserable twats.

The odds aren’t exactly in our favour, are they?

Our emotions serve a purpose, though, even the shitty ones. They tell us things and guide us through life. But without keeping an eye on them they can become right little bastards. Observe:

Emotions being right little bastards

Lesson #1

Your emotions guide you through life, but they can also fuck you up.

The question is: why do they move from functional to fuckery?

Well, there’s two main areas we need to look at:

Inner fuckery involves the psychological processes that take place in your brain, including how you perceive events and situations and what you think about yourself and the world.

Outer fuckery is the world, the inevitable shit it throws your way, and the social interactions that take place between you and others.

Let’s look at both in depth, after I call us all selfish bastards.


A Note on Narcissism

Like it or lump it, we’re all guilty of narcissism to varying degrees. At the end of the day, it is our life – it’s not a terrible thing to act in our own self-interest.

There are two problems with narcissism though: acting in our own self-interest without caring at all about what is the right thing to do as part of a wider community would make you a fuckwit. Fuckwits don’t understand that their own lives are part of the whole and instead make decisions that cost the whole, not realising that if the whole becomes fucked, they would also be fucked, since they are part of the whole. Don’t be a fuckwit.

The other and more difficult problem with narcissism is knowing what actually is in your best interests. As it’s more difficult than our emotional selves will have us believe.


Inner Fuckery: The Indefensible Nature of Self

I fucking love humans. They’re brilliant. They create magical shit, they do beautiful things, and they are much, much funnier than rocks and plants. But at times, emotionally, they’re fucking indefensible.

That’s because we currently live in a world of me, me, me and now, now, now. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not pointing the finger at everyone–I’m pointing the finger at us. My default is as guilty of indefensible bullshit as anyone else’s, it’s simply a by-product of our ultra-convenient society and natural human emotions.

But understanding the limitations of these emotions is key to having a healthy relationship with them, and in turn a magically awesome fucking life.

Emotions are signals, not orders

Our emotions are there as signals to guide us and keep us safe, healthy and in balance. They aren’t meant to be absolutely in control.

A good analogy is that of a general in war. The general will have information coming in from all angles: his colonels telling him of their successes and failures in different battles, scouts telling him where his enemy is advancing and retreating, supply lines informing him of when he’ll get supplies, radio signals telling him of reinforcements and wider political movements. He must take each piece of information and paint a wider picture of the situation that supports each of his actions.

Life is like this. The world changes rapidly, each person in your circle changes day to day based on their own narrative and over time based on their trajectory, you have financial information, needs, wants and desires, physical requirements, there are laws of nature and laws of society you must contend with–and then there’s your emotions.

They’re only one signal in a wider arena of signals, you are the one in the driving seat (you’re pouring the tonic, remember).

Lesson #2

Emotions are signals, not orders.

When you let emotions play too heavy a role your decisions, you can get in all sorts of shit:

Arguably a productive day

I’ve obviously chosen extreme examples to prove a point – but we do shit like this in the micro level all the time and don’t give it a second thought.

We eat the ice cream, drink the beer and shy away from shit we should be doing. Why? Because we confuse momentary pleasure with happiness and think that by indulging ourselves, we’re just doing “what makes us happy” – not realising that very quickly these same things make us unhappy once the ice cream and beer makes us feel shitty and the work still needs to be done.

Here’s the problem: you can’t achieve happiness by pursuing it directly. 

The Law of Reversed Effort

The more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact you lack it in the first place.

Alan Watts

Watts, a legendary writer and psychonaut, popularised the ancient Taoist wisdom of the law of reversed effort. I’ll call this reverse-fuckery. Here are some examples of reverse-fuckery.

  • You can’t become happy by directly pursuing happiness. Instead, happiness is a byproduct of pursuing other meaningful endeavours.
  • You can’t make someone love you by using effort to make them love you. They can only love you for their reasons for loving you – not the reasons you’re trying to force on them.
  • The more anxious you get, the more you want to control everything, but that’s impossible, so then you become more anxious by trying to control it all.

Another psychonaut, Aldous Huxley, put the solution to this as eloquently as I’ve seen it:

We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us.

Aldous Huxley

Lesson #3

Emotional stability is the result of a healthy state of mind.

Agents of Our Own Demise

As we become mature, our basic emotions become less pronounced and instead we develop more complex interactions between system 1 and system 2. The systems work in symbiosis to our benefit a lot of the time (6), but this process can get out of hand through what psychologists call emotional schemas (5). I’ll call this self-fuckery.

Self-fuckery occurs when the interaction between our rational thinking doesn’t have a good handle on what our emotions are trying to tell us, so instead, we try to deny or suppress those emotions resulting in long-term issues (7).

An example could be not accepting that a traumatic event has caused emotional trauma because you don’t want to admit you’re a victim, so instead, you tell yourself it’s fine as you spiral into addiction.

Another example could be the end of a relationship triggering feelings of sadness, then thinking that sadness means the relationship shouldn’t have ended and so ruminating and obsessing over the sadness for years to come.

Self-fuckery occurs when we fail to understand our emotions and the fact that they are simply signals based on our experiences and are normal and temporary events.

Lesson #4

Your emotions fuck you up most when you don’t understand them.

The Ripple Effect

Not only do emotions fuck with you, but there’s another level of emotional fuckery layered on top called meta emotions (8, 9). I’ll call this fuckery-squared for the crack.

Fuckery-squared is when we feel emotional because of our emotions. Here’s an example of what they look like, adapted from Mark Manson’s article on emotions (10).

Too much fuckery for one picture

These have our obsessive and neurotic little minds feeling all sorts of shit long after an event, simply because we attach meaning to emotions too easily when sometimes, our emotions mean fuck all.


A Note on Anxiety

One of the most prevalent manifestations of fuckery in our modern society is anxiety.

As we touched on in step 3, anxiety can stem from a value system that is too focused on what we can lose. That might be something tangible like our home or our job – or it could be something abstract like the validation and approval of society through social media.

This is to say – anxiety is a secondary emotion. It manifests as a proxy for something else that isn’t being addressed in your life.


Outer Fuckery: The Unknowable Nature of Life

Life is an unknowable and chaotic mess of self-serving agents and random events. This is a total headfuck, of course, and can fuck us up when we’re unable to process it and understand how to deal with it.

That’s because our brain doesn’t deal well with unknowable things, it likes to categorise things, as we’ve seen.

The problem with categorising things that are complex, is that we make errors in our judgements that can lead to prejudice and bitterness.

Remember what we learned in earlier steps: having an internal locus of control is a huge predictor of happiness in life. So, let’s take another look at our model of inner and outer fuckery:

Simple as fuck

That’s much better.

Lesson #5

You can’t control the world. You can control your reaction to it.

Outer fuckery is firmly placed in the out of our control area and as such we have to accept life is going to be a little bit of a bitch at times.

The best way to get through those times is realistic optimism.


Superpower: Realistic optimism

This isn’t the kind that deludes you into thinking shit is rosy when it clearly isn’t, but the kind that tells you: “no matter what comes my way, I’m probably going to be just fine.”

This is because it is simply a fact that by taking control of the inner fuckery you will be able to improve the majority of situations in your life, and those you can’t – you can improve your perspective on enough to make shit bearable.

And not just that – being a realistic optimist is genuinely useful. If in hard times, you believe that things can or will improve, that gives birth to hope, the key step before action.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

Helen Keller



Your emotions guide you through life, but they can also fuck you up.

Emotions are signals, not orders.

Emotional stability is the result of a healthy state of mind.

Your emotions fuck you up when you don’t understand them.

You can’t control the world. You can control your reaction to it.


Who Are You Really?

In Step 2, we looked at who you are psychologically. But as we explored – your personality traits can change if you decide you want to change them.

So, if you change your traits, but are still you – who are you really?

Michael Singer asks this question repeatedly in The Untethered Soul:

Who are you? You can’t be your actions – otherwise you’d be the same as everyone else with those actions.

Who are you? You can’t be your thoughts – you have a million of them a day and they’re different each hour.

Who are you? Your beliefs can change in an instant, each time you learn something new, so you are not your beliefs.

Who are you? Your emotions come and go like the rain – so you are not your emotions.

This continues, as he strips back everything you thought you were.

So, then, who are you?

The ultimate answer Singer arrives at is the same one you’ll find in much of ancient wisdom: you are the observer, sitting in your own seat of consciousness, experiencing these actions, beliefs, thoughts and emotions.

You experience them, but you are not them.

Lesson #6

You are not your emotions.


Yet Another Fucking Note on Identity

We’ve covered so far how you are not your beliefs or emotions. The more you attached identity to experiences in your life, such as your job or your partner, the more you give these things power to shake your world, because you can’t definitively control them.

Instead, when you realise you are not your experiences, you can see just how light your identity actually is. Separating experience from identity is like climbing out of the limo we discussed in step 3, saying goodbye to the baggage (and the clowns) and wandering off into the forest as light as a frolicking fawn.

And as your identity becomes lighter and nimbler, the less you’ll feel emotionally evoked to defend it, and the bigger the space between an event and your reaction becomes.

You after doing this work


Becoming Unfuckwithable

In steps 1-3 we looked at foundational stuff: getting your house in order. Step 4 is where you reach levels of self-mastery that Buddha will be envious of. Overcome your emotions, and you can achieve anything.

Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power

Lao Tzu

The problem isn’t actually your emotions. The problem is when your emotions react unnecessarily because you think something is more important or pressing than it actually is.

Let’s look at another ridiculous model to explain things:


This is what situations can feel like when you don’t have control of your emotions. A situation occurs and very quickly you’re feeling the heat.

But what’s really happening is this:

Life when you know some things

There is a space between steps 3 and 4 where you get to consciously decide how you’re going to react, with a flamethrower to your own face or with something a little less facemelty.

Lesson #7

Nobody can anger you without your consent.

Going beyond ridiculous models becoming unfuckwithable requires two elements.

First, you want to create space between a situation and your reaction, specifically between steps 3 and 4, by engaging in emotional control and mindfulness. We’ll call this being Zen as Fuck.

Second, you want to prepare your resilience in general so that you can better handle the clusterfuck that life is. This is called emotional resilience. Let’s look at each part in turn.


Part 1: Being Zen as Fuck

Self-mastery involves developing a mindset that isn’t easily pulled off centre. The best example of this is in Zen Buddhism, where monks foster famous levels of inner peace and presence.

Here is a range of techniques pulled from Buddhism and modern psychology that foster a zen as fuck mindset.


The first step is to accept shit the way it is. By not accepting life, life doesn’t change. So, by not accepting things the way they are, you guarantee they continue. (How’s that for reverse psychology?)

Here’s a list of shit you need to accept:

  • Your shortcomings – where you’re not perfect
  • The parts of your situation that you don’t like
  • The traits of others that are toxic or unhealthy
  • The undeniable fuckedupness of the world

I get it: accepting you don’t live up to certain ideals or accepting that you’re not that fucking thrilled with where your life is right now is a difficult thing to do.

But here’s the thing: acceptance ≠ condonation.

By accepting something about yourself, your situation, someone else or the world, this doesn’t mean you’re condoning it. You’re just submitting to reality. I’m pretty fucking defiant, but reality is one opponent I have to submit to.

By first accepting things, you can get to work on changing what you feel the need to.

Lesson #8

You must accept things the way they are, especially if you want to change them.

Expectations vs Agreements

Misaligned expectations cause more emotional upset than anything else I witness.

You become disappointed with people because you expected more from them. You become disheartened towards situations because you thought it would be different. You become distressed over events because you expected them never to occur.

If you didn’t expect anything from people, situations or events then you’d save much of this angst. That single mindset shift can change your life.

If someone agrees to do something for you, in a personal relationship or business sense for example, this is different. That’s an agreement. But people not meeting your expectations is on you–not them.

Lesson #9

Expectations are not agreements. You’ve got no right being upset when they aren’t met.


You know too much psychology when you can’t get mad at somebody because you understand everyone’s reason for doing everything.

Tom Hardy

When you understand how psychology fucks people up, you stop seeing people as good and bad. Instead, you see them as people just doing their best with varying degrees of fuckedupness and emotional baggage.

Looking at people this way takes the blame from them for their shortcomings and allows us to meet them where they are. This not only helps them by removing judgement from the situation, but it helps us too as we can then let go of the judgement of others.

Lesson #10

Everyone is doing the best they can. Accept that and do the best you can.

Emotional Control

We’ve already learned that suppressing your emotions doesn’t fucking work (see self-fuckery above). So, if anyone tells you to suppress your emotions, tell them to fuck so far off that they come up behind you and apologise.

Instead, let the emotion in. Let it do its thing – feel it. It’s just an emotion – sit with it and let it have its say. Listen to it. Understand it.

Then, if it’s really bothering you, here are a few tactics to deal with it that research supports (11).

Reappraisal or reframing involves changing the context of the situation, so you understand it from a wider perspective. Usually, we’re so obsessed with the moment that we can’t see the bigger picture. Reframing is zooming out to give a situation the proper, rational perspective that it deserves.

Let’s take the example of a lifechanging event such as losing your job or your relationship coming to an end. This is often met with an existential crisis, usually because part of your identity was wrapped up in that job or relationship. But the only thing you know for sure is that things are going to be different. You don’t know whether that’ll ultimately be good different or bad different until you’re looking back. Only time will tell. But guess who gets the biggest fucking say in which way that goes? You. (At least if you’re a realistic optimist.)

Dual emotion involves defining the opposite emotion to that you’re feeling and doing something to experience it. The most famous example of this is writing down three things you’re grateful for each day, as studies have shown gratitude can combat sadness.

If you feel full of rage, play some calming music; if you feel disgust, try thinking how the person who disgusts you became that way (empathy); if you feel fear, try to muster courage and tackle the things you’re scared of head-on.

This took me a while

Time delay involves delaying your reaction to a situation until you can think about the situation on a clear mind and then decide rationally the action you want to take.

A good tool to do this is to remind yourself of all the shit you’ve been through in the past and think of these words: this will pass too.

The issue with this approach, and them all to some extent, is in being able to create that space between yourself and your emotions. That’s where mindfulness comes in.

Emotional Control

Mindfulness is really just about being mindful of what’s going on inside and outside of yourself. It’s about understanding how you feel moment to moment and connecting that with your experiences in the world.

There are loads of methods to practice mindfulness, but the two big ones are meditation and yoga.

The benefits of meditation are phenomenal, but actually sitting down and doing it on the regular is more difficult that you might think. Luckily, there are apps that help keep you consistent. By taking the time and effort to incorporate this into your life, you’ll do the single biggest thing to build emotional resilience that I know of.

Yoga is obviously more physically demanding, but the beauty of yoga is that you go at your own pace and move in ways that work for your shape. Much like meditation, yoga takes the effort to make time and commit to it, but again as a practice it has powerful effects on creating space in your life.

Lesson #11

There are techniques that put you in control of your emotions. Learn them. Use them.

Having better control over your emotions and being mindful is great – it can take your finger off the flamethrower and stop you melting your eyeballs with anger. But it doesn’t necessarily stop life’s inevitable shit from fucking you up when you do encounter it.

Enter emotional resilience.


Part 2: Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience is your ability to handle both the inner and outer fuckery of life.

The Foundations of Resilience

There are three dimensions of emotional resilience: psychological, social and physical (12). The psychological is the biggest area of focus, but the social and physical are the foundations upon which psychological resilience is built.

If you’re physically unhealthy, lethargic and unfit, psychological resilience isn’t impossible, but you’re always going to be starting with a disadvantage.

Similarly, without strong social ties, emotional resilience isn’t impossible, but without that support there from a good network during the few times you might need it, it’ll be more difficult to remain on track.

You can lose weight eating only potatoes, that doesn’t mean you should. The same goes for building emotional resilience without building your physical fitness and your social network – it’s possible, but not recommended.

What Resilience Looks Like

After studying the topic for 20 years, Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney are resilience masters. In their book, Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Great Challenges, they outline 10 key similarities between the most resilient people in world.

  1. Realistic Optimism
  2. Face your fears head on
  3. Have a moral compass
  4. Practice Spirituality
  5. Lifelong Learning
  6. Cognitive flexibility
  7. Have resilient role models
  8. Purpose
  9. Get support from community (social element)
  10. Physical Fitness (physical element)

This list aligns with the Going Rogue journey almost too fucking well. I’m probably going to email the publishing house and tell them I’m suing them as soon as I finish typing this.

As you can see though, this list covers a lot, and each element can have a huge positive impact on your emotional resilience and your life in general.

Facing your fears, for example, is the key to overcoming them, as most of them are just a fear of the unknown (13).

Lifelong learning, as another, has been shown to make you happier, healthier and more successful (14).

Each of these steps has an overwhelming amount of support, and each should be considered in one form or another to maximise your time on this rock.

Lesson #12

Emotional resilience is a skill that can be learned and perfected.


A Note on Loss

True loss occurs at different points throughout our lives in many different forms. From losing loved ones to the end of relationships, loss often changes our lives forever.

This is a massive topic and one that I’ll explore at some point in more depth, but by building emotional resilience you can be better equipped to handle inevitable losses when they do occur. Not so you don’t feel the pain, in effect the contrary–so that you can feel the loss more fully without the risk of your own life imploding.

Sometimes, during great adversity and colossal shocks to our system, we close down. Our brain closes the doors as it cannot process what has happened. This can make the process more convoluted and likely to spill out into our lives causing damage elsewhere.

By building emotional resilience, we are better equipped to handle loss, and as such can process it more fully, being able to take the time to mourn what we have lost without the collateral damage.


Take Action

Step 1: Becoming Unfuckwithable

This is a list of areas that you can spend time working on as you feel the need to. These areas are instrumental in developing psychological resilience and a mental state of inner peace. As such, they can be used liberally and should at very least be used occasionally.

  • If something confuses you about the world or other people, spend time learning about it. How did it/they become this way?
  • Practice mindfulness using meditation, yoga or other science-backed techniques.
  • Find a way to exercise that you enjoy and build a habit of doing it.
  • Spend time in nature as often as possible.

Step 2: Staying Unfuckwithable

Emotional resilience is a skill, like any other. But unique from other skills, this isn’t a skill you can practice whenever you choose to.

That’s because resilience is only ever truly applied in difficult situations. So, every time a difficult situation arises, it presents an opportunity to face your fears head-on and practice your resilience.

The task here then is to keep an eye on your mind, and the next time you get upset, angry, annoyed or feel almost any negative emotion without suffering genuine loss, then examine why you’re upset. Ask yourself these three questions:

  • Have you accepted the situation for what it really is? (acceptance)
  • Is it based on an unspoken expectation? (expectation)
  • Is someone just doing the best they can? (empathy)

Learn from the lesson. Absorb it into your being. And move on, that little bit wiser, stronger and more unfuckwithable.


Final Thoughts

Your emotions provide richness to your life and help keep you safe and happy, but left unchecked they can wreak havoc. By taking the time to build mindfulness and emotional resilience, you can truly master your life and whatever comes your way.



Your emotions guide you through life, but they can also fuck you up.

Emotions are signals, not orders.

Emotional stability is the result of a healthy state of mind.

Your emotions fuck you up when you don’t understand them.

You can’t control the world. You can control your reaction to it.

You are not your emotions.

Nobody can anger you without your consent.

You must accept things the way they are, especially if you want to change them.

Expectations are not agreements. You’ve got no right being upset when they aren’t met.

Everyone is doing the best they can. Accept that and do the best you can.

There are techniques that put you in control of your emotions. Learn them. Use them.

Emotional resilience is a skill that can be learned and perfected.