The Unholy Trinity

When do our survival instincts harm us?

Whether or not you believe in the existence of God, what no one can deny is the existence of The Unholy Trinity. Let us understand that better and think about how you can gain mastery over it. If you don’t, you will not have a wonderful life and not because I say it – but because it is the way the universe has been constructed.

To motivate today’s conversation, we have a quote from Epictetus, an early Stoic:

“God has entrusted me with myself. No person is free who is not master of themself. A person should so live that their happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things. The world turns aside to let any person pass who knows where they are going.” ― Epictetus

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The 3 Parts of the Unholy Trinity
Why does this Trinity Exist?
Contrasting with the Christian Doctrine
Why call it “Unholy”?
The Root Cause of the Unholiness
The Unholy Trinity on the Wellness Tree
When you Allow the Unholy Trinity to Control You
The Unholy Trinity and Other Animals
Subjugating the Unholy Trinity
The Anti-Trinity
Parenting and the Unholy Trinity
Wealth Management and The Unholy Trinity
Final Message


The 3 Parts of the Unholy Trinity [top]

  1. Avoid pain
  2. Seek pleasure
  3. Conserve energy

Why does this Trinity Exist? [top]

There is a set of natural instincts programmed into every living creature, in order for it to escape danger, survive shocks and procreate, so as to pass on copies of genetic information to future generations. This gives rise to this Trinity.

This Trinity must exist for life.

Contrasting with the Christian Doctrine [top]

Unlike the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity, not accepted by numerous branches of the Christian faith, what one cannot deny is the truth of the Unholy Trinity. This Trinity predates human history and holds true for all living creatures – not just animals and plants, but viruses, bacteria, fungi and algae too. Humans or their belief in God are not needed for the existence of this Trinity!

Why call it “Unholy”? [top]

Given that the Unholy Trinity is very natural, I don’t really think it is either holy or unholy – it has nothing to do with religion. However, that adjective makes us aware of the danger that lurks.  In the Abrahamic faiths, Satan or Shaitan appears in many forms, all the time, and we are warned to be alert lest we go down a path that is suboptimal in the long term.

The Root Cause of the Unholiness [top]

If the Trinity is important for our survival what made it Unholy?

With the invention of man-made technologies from the wheel to smartphone apps, the Unholy Trinity has been creeping in extremely slowly. However, the major acceleration to catastrophic levels at a global scale has happened only in the more recent decades.

You are part of the world’s population that does not need to escape wild predators or have to move your body much to locate food for fuel. Pleasure is no longer available for only brief moments when nature wishes to provide it with the chance availability of sweet fruit or a beautiful sunset.

Machines running on external fuel, i.e., not human-powered like bicycles and pedal-pushing sewing machines, have allowed humans to convert the planet into a fascinating place with many time-saving and energy-saving devices. The use of external fuel, be it fossil fuel or green energy, has freed up leisure time significantly to a point where now large parts of both the developing and developed world can spend more time relaxing and less time working. They can spend more time eating than working to put that food on the table. And, that is because machines running on different types of green and non-green fuel are doing a lot of the work.

Although external technology invented and improved by humans has evolved, the internal technology that drives decision making within the minds of humans has not. This is a mismatch – between how a human’s environment has changed outside them while the factors that drive the choices being made inside their heads have not yet evolved. This evolutionary mismatch is what sets up the problem for the birth of the Unholy Trinity.

What makes the machinery of the Unholy Trinity unstoppable is the fact that the world is now run by shareholder interests. Benevolent queens and emperors have been replaced by national governments that are effectively just legitimizing extensions of corporations. The primary aim of corporations is to increase shareholder value – making citizens genuinely better off is usually an outcome only by chance, not by design. But, when a bulldozer is hurtling towards you, it’s best to learn how to side-step it!

With greater freedom granted to choose and fewer responsibilities demanded from citizens, society is now set up to allow the Unholy Trinity to dominate over you across the entire age spectrum. Let’s look at simple examples of this.

Parents who do not want to make the effort (conserve energy) to teach their young children how to develop a healthy relationship with food, place toddlers in front of screens to be transfixed while they are fed.

Children as young as 9 are granted the right to swipe their phone screens to order junk food without executing any responsibility to play sports daily. (seek pleasure, avoid pain, conserve energy!)

College students are gifted motorized vehicles when they can walk, cycle or use public transport to get around. (Student – conserve energy, seek pleasure, avoid pain of public transport; Parents – avoid pain of arguments)

The corporate executive claims he has no choice but to eat unhealthy food and drink alcohol (seek pleasure) at restaurants because his colleagues and clients expect it. (Saying “yes” is viewed as avoiding pain.)

Most elderly people with lifestyle diseases use their daily habit of taking modern prescription drugs to avoid simple activities like walking and will make unhealthy food choices because they think that the pills that they pop compensate for the damage they are doing to themselves.

The Unholy Trinity is always around us now, from birth to death.

The Unholy Trinity on the Wellness Tree [top]

The Unholy Trinity can appear anywhere and everywhere on our wellness tree with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual branches.

As with other animal species, we observe in ourselves too, the physical dimension e.g., physically escaping from dangers.  But this means we also take the escalator or elevator to save energy (read “lazy”) when the stairs are perfectly safe! The biggest risk almost everyone takes is the pleasure conveyed by the taste buds without adequate thought about the impact the food one eats has on oneself or the planet. All one needs to do is engage the brain in 2 stages (see this) to eat food that is yummy and that is good for you and for the planet! It can be so easy, but humans like other animals don’t want to use more energy to think than is absolutely necessary.

We see it in the mental dimension e.g., searching for excuses for not picking up the guitar that is gathering dust in the corner. Watching mindless TV instead of reading or learning a new language.

We see it in the emotional dimension e.g., escaping from the pain of negative emotions that accompany facing the truth, about ourselves, often. Going from one dopamine rush to another on social media.

When you Allow the Unholy Trinity to Control You [top]

…you suffer!

But that suffering is not seen in the short term. It is usually only in the long-term that the suffering sets in, and typically lasts longer than the sum total of the moments of pleasure that you may have experienced when being a mindless slave to the Unholy Trinity. Earlier on, you thought you were enjoying life, but it is short-lived. With the inability to truly fathom what a long life is or a healthy long life can be, giving in to the Unholy Trinity will mean that you will suffer for much longer than anyone really should. And if you think you are going to be unique, you aren’t. There are many millions suffering around you in this world but you just can’t see them. Though the young ones giving in to the Unholy Trinity are out and about, appearing to be enjoying life, the older ones are typically indoors – now afraid to really be alive for very long – their days not much better than their nights – pain, not just physically but mentally and emotionally too.

The signs of the suffering to come exist from an early age – usually undetected.

The child develops early signs of heart disease even before their teens. The parents are clueless as the entire family seeks endless pleasure from salt, sugar and fat in ultra-processed foods.

The young and eager corporate executive gives in to all the temptations they, perhaps, could not afford as a student. Lifestyle diseases are not too far around the corner. There is willful blindness because no one wants to seek out any bad news that requires a change in action. Thorough health checkups amongst the 20-something and 30-something urban dwellers are uncommon.

The middle-aged corporate executive does, indeed, not have as much time as he would have had had he, indeed, taken public transport daily. The golden years of retirement are with money but not life. Instead of enjoying a bicycle, trips are made in an ambulance for twice-weekly dialysis in a hospital. To live and to be alive, he realizes, are quite different. This realization happens, often, too late.

Rather than be an asset with a long life of experiences and wisdom to impart, the elderly person becomes a burden on themselves, their family and society.

The Unholy Trinity and Other Animals [top]

The Trinity has been beneficial for all species including humans for all of the earth’s history.

Now, however, the Unholy Trinity today has a negative impact on other animals in at least 3 ways.

First, we domesticate many of them for entertainment or for our security. We try to create symbiotic relationships in exchange for having cute pets, caged birds, guard dogs or workhorses. Instead of enjoying brief encounters when they are in their natural habitat, we often make them unable to survive in the wild. Using the excuse that “they will always live in my home” is not very different from “I will always feed the prisoners on my slave ship”.

Second, we eat a lot of them for the pleasure conveyed through our taste buds, when plant-based is scientifically better for humans who want a longer Healthspan. We have been programmed by certain interests to enjoy the output of tortured animals for milk, killed animals for meat, or being party to them being killed at birth if they are of no use to the animal agriculture industry. Very few meat-eaters stop and think that what makes dead animals taste good is the plant kingdom products (herbs, spices) that we add to the flesh of animals killed for our pleasure.

Third, even if we are vegan and don’t eat or own them, we don’t think of the damage we cause to their habitat for our own comfort with our simplest of choices. Turning on the air-conditioner will only help this generation stay cool. The planet is heating up for all of us! This affects even those animals that live very far from humans.

Having lived in harmony with other living creatures for most of human history, now our behaviour, driven by the Unholy Trinity, is making the lives of future generations of all living creatures more uncertain.

Subjugating the Unholy Trinity [top]

Alertness – a state of always being mindful of environments and signals that might work against your best long-term interests is no different from what various ancient philosophies or religious traditions have advised us to be. Be alert! Once you let the enemy over the walls of the fort, you are likely to lose the battle.

Unlike literally watching the walls of a fort, the tipping point with the Unholy Trinity is not always physically visible. An ice cream made from dairy is visible, but an invitation to eat it is not. One trick for the modern world is to continually remind yourself – whenever I am being tempted to do something (especially eat or drink something) I should be alert that it may not be for my survival but just a temptation from the Unholy Trinity.

What then matters is your response speed. At the point of realization that you are facing the Unholy Trinity you have the greatest likelihood of saying “no” to temptation.  The longer you take to deliberate, the greater the risk that you will say “yes”. Set yourself up for a fast mover advantage.

As part of your internal culture, take responsibility for your actions. Your internal culture should be such that you don’t look to blame others for what happens to you.

Ignore the small failures, learn from them and focus on being a Consistency Conqueror.

To do all of the above, you don’t have to live off the grid. Just being mindful and actively developing wisdom will make you better equipped for subjugating the Unholy Trinity.

The Anti-Trinity [top]

You may want to consider this Anti-Trinity for a long Healthspan – a life with a very long period of good physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The Anti-Trinity also has 3 parts:

  1. Seeking pain                (not avoiding it)
  2. Avoiding pleasure       (not succumbing to its temptation)
  3. Consuming energy     (through movement and using our energy-hungry brains)

About each of these, I have spoken at different times in the past.

Parenting and The Unholy Trinity [top]

Parents can teach children about the Unholy Trinity from a young age when they see them behaving sub-optimally. Not only will they improve their behaviour, but they will also mould their internal culture to have a better life. Such education is not given in schools or colleges!

Wealth Management and The Unholy Trinity [top]

External Wealth can be used for purchases for the Unholy Trinity or you can use it for good things for you and the planet. You can use it to buy fuel to drive to the gym, or you can use it to buy a cycle to get around. We are grateful for the convenience of Amazon that made Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world. Use your resources for your betterment, don’t let the Unholy Trinity control your life.

Final Message [top]

You can avoid pain or voluntarily choose it. You should seek pleasure, but within reason and wisely. You should conserve energy but with care, as not to put the planet at risk.

If you banish the Unholy Trinity from your life, you will automatically serve God, whether or not you believe in the existence of God!

Pain is temporary – glory is forever!

If everything you do is consistent with your core beliefs and desires, then a long and healthy life of joy is pretty much guaranteed to be yours. If you want to be guided in detail, you know how to reach me, and if you found this useful, please do share it with others.



Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.


  1. […] Always be conscious that it is natural for you, like all species, to [i] conserve energy [ii] avoid pain [iii] seek pleasure. That continuous consciousness is what will separate you from others who may look like human beings but have not developed any wisdom in the face of technology to live fully like other animals do, and like their own ancestors did earlier. Read more about it here. […]


  2. […] Internally, your biggest risks are your monkey brain and the Unholy Trinity. A life journey with a consistent focus on developing greater mindfulness will help you overcome both these survival instincts in a modern world without constant danger of the prehistoric kind. [Read more about The Unholy Trinity] […]


  3. […] The Unholy Trinity forms a natural barrier towards directing our thoughts beyond just very short-term survival. A primary area of outcome focus of Purunoia is longer time horizons, and those kinds of horizons, your lizard brain typically won’t focus on. […]


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