There’s at least two ways of isolating oneself from the harshness of existence. The physical one where you just hide yourself in the places where you find the most comfort, and try to avoid every place that causes discomfort. The other one is the mental one. By repressing any kind of discomforting memory or idea you can isolate yourself and makethe world seem like a happy, just and good place.
Anchoring is our way of trying to find some kind of valuesystem or group that we can rest our identity on. Like a religion, your country, traditions, family and so on. There’s too much for an individual to comprehend a constant chaos of the universe, so anchorpoints to come back to seems to be of the essence. Comfort zones don’t last forever, but in our mind we forget this. They help us to isolate ourselves from any discomforting stuff.
Our ability to distract our mind is a very powerful defensemechanism, Zapffe acclaims. If you wonder why you sometimes feel the unplanned need to sit for hours every day doing something that distracts you from thinking about the real stuff, then this is it. The pressure and stress of life often makes us just want to distract ourselves from it as much as we can.
Drugs, alcohol, television, eating, computergames and all this stuff can help to distract you from reality and keep everything at a comforting distance. If you wonder where your strange addictions and OCD’s actually come from, this might be the roots.
Sublimination is the fourth and rarest of the mechanisms according to Zapffe, but also the most rewarding and beautiful one.
Instead of repressing any of the troubles and sorrows of your life, confront them! By describing them, discussing them, write about them, reflect upon we can shrink it. Another way is make something creative out of your stuff. Sublimination of your real life is a way to makes it able to cope with them. This might be the roots of any artistic work. (Although obviously a lot of art is made to distract us as well.)
Zapffe seemed to think sublimination was the preferable way if there ever was one, although he still thought life was as a despair in the grander schemes of things.
What about religion and God?
Zapffe was not a religious man, but a selfproclaimed atheist. He dismissed religion as a distraction and an anchor, and a way for people to substitute a meaning to their existence and distract themselves from the real reality as a comforting lie.
He was accused of blasphemy a few times, but there was an interesting part about Zapffe when it came to Jesus, the christian prophet. Zapffe seemed to be very inspired by the person Jesus, whom he considered a biographical person. There was a small Jesus relics hanging over his desk, which would tend to get a lot of people to think he was christian. He even wrote a biography about Jesus.
In some cases it seems like he had a lot admiration for the character Jesus, but in others he seemed to have some kind of contempt. Even refering to Jesus as a psychopath in one of his latter days interviews. So its a very weird relationship. Surely worth its own topic.