November 13th, 2013

green leaves

Some methods for combating psychological inertia

While I'm not exactly zipping along, I'm not as stuck as I was. Aside from general work on self-hatred, there are some specific things which help.

I paid attention to what it felt like when I wasn't having problems doing things, and I reminded myself that doing something useful didn't get me struck by lightning. This is also a way of changing my focus from "there's something wrong with me-- look! everything isn't perfect!" to "there's something right with my life as I experience it".

Sometimes, paying attention to counting fifty breaths in a row would get me out of bed. I'm not saying this is necessarily good for everyone (I'm probably better than average at keeping count), but it's worth playing around to see if there's something. I'll also note that counting fifty breaths is a challenge for me, and not always possible. It's possible that it's the right level of challenge for some moods.

Alison Brosh's brilliant Hyperbole and a Half:Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened has a couple of comics about using shame as a motivator. Depression Part Two is available online. "Motivation" is only in the book, and is probably clearer about how using shame as a motivator looks when one isn't in the depths.

I declare Brosh a Hero of Introspection. She should get a medal with ribbons and a pension.

In any case, I've got what I'd call sufficient evidence that shame (the idea that one is a bad person for not doing whatever) is a very dangerous tool to use as a motivator. I'm not going to say it never works, but it tends to create resistance and eventually destroy motivation. I think it's worse if it includes an attack for not wanting to do whatever. An attack for not having already done whatever is bad, but not quite that bad.

I find it can help to ask myself what my reason for doing whatever is. That sometimes gets me moving with amazingly little friction.

A recent realization that's still in progress is that I have to get a grip on my imagination. It's much easier to imagine what it would be nice to have done without thinking about what resources I've got for doing it, not to mention actually doing those things. If I let the "it would be nice" list take over, then I just feel bad because I haven't done all those things.

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green leaves

A general theory of abuse and recovery

I've been online since the 90s, which is a great opportunity to observe human behavior a little from the outside.

One thing I noticed was the huge amount of energy a fairly large proportion of people put into being abusive. This is amazing, considering how little they get out of it according to more usual ideas of human motivations.

This led to thinking about in-person abusers, and what drives them. While I don't understand all the reasons for ongoing abuse, some of it is obviously status enforcement. I believe the reinforcement for in-person abuse is seeing the other person being stressed by it. The advice to not let them see they've hurt you is of moderate value-- it helps sometimes, but not everyone can conceal the signs of emotional hurt completely, and (as with trolls on the internet) I'm pretty sure that some abusers can keep themselves going by imagining they've hurt their target.

In any case, I'm pretty sure abuse isn't just intended to cause hurt, it's intended to prevent the target from feeling good. If the target feels good, they might leave or shove back effectively.

From which it follows that someone who's been a target of extended abuse has been trained into the pattern that feeling better leads to feeling worse.

Recovery involves developing a gut-level belief that it's safe to feel better.

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