Turns out Mark Manson, whose self-help bestseller “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” was adapted into a documentary by Universal Pictures, actually does give a f–k about what people think.
“Seeing myself on screen really dredged up a lot,” Manson told TheWrap. “”It’s funny when you write a book, you get insecure but you get insecure about ideas. When I put out a book, I’m more worried about ‘Does this story make sense? Is my logic solid? Am I referencing the right study?’ Those are the things that I get anxious about.”
“With the film, it’s so much more of an instinctual ‘Oh my God, I hope people like me’ type of insecurity, which I have not felt to this extent since I was like a teenager probably. It’s been interesting to have to confront that again, but I mean, I’ll be fine,” he explained.
Abramorama released “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a #@%!” in select theaters Jan. 4 before it became available for digital download Jan. 10 via the Universal Pictures Content Group. Directed by Nathan Price and produced by Matthew Metcalfe, the film adapts Manson’s book documentary style, weaving together elements of Manson’s life story with pieces of wisdom he has developed and collected from philosophers and life experience. The book has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide since it was published in 2017.
“It’s definitely a different process on film than it is writing,” Manson added. “As an author, you don’t see people reading your book and they don’t see you — so there’s there’s kind of this kind of abstract layer of protection. But with filming it and speaking the story, it feels a lot more intimate and a lot more personal. But to be honest, it’s funny because when we were doing the interviews, I felt fine talking about it. It was once I saw early cuts of a few scenes like actually saw itself onscreen talking. That’s when all the insecurities started coming up.”
One could say the best-selling author experienced a tenet of his own law — Manson’s Law of Avoidance.
“It’s basically just: The ego is always trying to protect itself. The ego is always trying to stay exactly where it is. So whatever beliefs, stories you have about yourself, the ego wants to keep those stories and beliefs intact,” he explained. “And it will fight away threats with emotional responses and anxiety and anger and things like that.”
Manson’s law focuses on the psychology of change, specifically how the mind adjusts to both negative and positive changes.
“It’s basically just this idea that people avoid change in all forms. Obviously, we avoid changes that we think might be bad for us. We get nervous, we get anxious, we get angry. We protect ourselves. We avoid certain things, but we also do the same thing with positive things that could change us as well,” he explained. “The whole point about Manson’s law is that those two things are kind of the same thing. Even positive change is scary.”
One not-so-positive adaptation — at least for Manson and probably many of his readers — involves the lack of performances from Disappointment Panda, a beloved imaginary character of Manson’s who delivers bad news in pretty mundane ways.
“There was a point of frustration, which is, we originally wanted to do more stuff with the panda, but the panda suit, you couldn’t see out of it. So we had all these ideas of like cool little scenes and appearances with the panda that we were gonna do. But then once we got a guy in the panda suit, he was like, I can’t see anything.’ He’s like running in the walls and tripping over tables. So we were like ‘All right, this isn’t gonna work.’ So we had to scrap some of those ideas.’”
Manson describes the influences on his attitude toward life as a mixture of Zen Buddism, which he practiced throughout his 20s as well as a mix of philosophical ideas from the likes of Nietzche, existential thinkers and the stoics. He also shared his thoughts on therapy and the self-help space.
“I think therapy is great. I think it’s very useful in general. I wish it was more available to people, but I understand why it’s hard to scale one-on one-conversations to hundreds of millions of people. You’d need like 100 billion therapists. So I understand why it’s expensive and difficult, but I do think generally, it’s a great thing,” he said. “I think probably more people should do it than do. I also think that a lot of people approach therapy like ‘Okay, well here’s my money. Solve my problems,’ and like they don’t realize that it’s very much a ‘You get out of it, what you put into it.’ If you’re kind of just showing up and being very passive and not thinking critically, not asking difficult questions. Then you’re not going to get a whole lot out of it.”