Bushido – Living the Way of the Warrior

by | Oct 26, 2020


Years ago I went to a psychiatrist who was shockingly unhelpful. I’d tell him of my struggles with OCD and anxiety and he’d respond with statements like, “you shouldn’t worry about those things,” and “just tell yourself to stop doing those compulsions.” Worst of all, I felt totally judged by him.

In our last session, before I switched to a much better psychiatrist, he left me with this nugget of advice: “I’ve been reading a lot about the samurai and their code of conduct called ‘bushido’ — I have been thinking that you and my other patients would see marked improvement if you’d study bushido and follow the way of the warrior.” With that advice in mind, below are the eight virtues of bushido.

The Eight Virtues

“Bushido” means the “way of the warrior” and is the code of conduct for Japanese samurai warriors. The code stresses loyalty and duty and is heavily influenced by Confucianism. “Bushido required warriors to exhibit a strict sense of honor and self-control at all times. They were to maintain a benevolent yet detached attitude toward life; caring for the earth and other people without developing passions that could cloud their judgment.” Source.

The bushido code is made up of eight key principles:

1. Justice. Sometimes listed as righteousness, this virtue means doing the right thing and pursuing what is fair.

2. Courage. This virtue goes beyond just actions on the battlefield. Courage requires the strength to do what is right all the time and also to face your life as a whole with confidence. It encompasses living life completely and fully.

3. Compassion. Use your power and strength for the greater good. View the world through the eyes of others and help others at every opportunity.

4. Respect. Deal with others with politeness and courtesy. Acknowledge and have regard for the experiences and feelings of others.

5. Integrity and Honesty. A person’s word is their bond and what they say and what they do should be equivalent. Be honest in your dealings with others and speak the truth.

6. Honor. This means living a life of self-worth and being true to yourself. How we live and the decisions we make define who we are. You cannot hide from yourself.

7. Duty and Loyalty. You should have loyalty and feel a sense of duty to those in your care such as your friends, family, and co-workers. Act in furtherance of your society and country.

8. Self-Control. Adhere to this code under all circumstances — not just when it’s easy. Act in private as you would act as if you were being observed.

While learning about these virtues didn’t help my mental health, I do find myself thinking of them periodically and striving to live up to this code of conduct. So, I guess I did gain something from my laughably bad psychiatrist. Speaking of bad psychiatrists, one of my favorite books I read in 2019 was My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh. The main character goes to what is probably the worst psychiatrist in all of literature. If you are looking for a good fiction read, I’d highly recommend it.

1 Comment

  1. I just finished My Year of Rest and Relaxation today, based on your recommendation. The phychiatrist was probably my favorite character in this unusual book. Haven’t read anything quite like it before. Thanks!


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