I recently found out what the process was, and just so that you can have the pleasure of guessing if you like, I'm putting the answer under a cut.
It felt like read pep talk => get angry => do nothing. What I couldn't see until it was obvious was that the pattern was read pep talk => not respond to it => beat up on myself because obviously the person doing the pep talk knew what people ought to be, and I was bad for not responding => get angry => not want to do anything. I don't know why that particular pattern. I've got it filed under hypertrophied shame reaction-- I'm assuming that some random pep talk person is the authority on how I ought to live and the only way I could be motivated to live that way-- but there's obviously something weird underlying that.
I don't know exactly why I suddenly saw that-- probably one of those overnight success due to years of work things. While this particular insight didn't happen while I was writing, I've been doing some poking around inside my head writing, and it helps.
This kind of thing sounds absolutely crazy when it's laid out. All I can say is that the crucial second and third steps in the process were totally invisible to me until I saw them. And I didn't realize it until I wrote it out, but there are some important missing steps between anger and paralysis. More research is required.
And while it's not fun thinking about this stuff, there's satisfaction to knowing what's going on rather than guessing or theorizing about it. There's a huge difference of actually following one's own consciousness. I do x and then y and z follow. So it's a matter of memory, but it's fairly short-term memory.
At this point, I'm wondering if pep talks work for anybody, or if it's just that it's satisfying for some people to give them. That's probably an over-generalization.....
It was an effort not to title this "creeping sanity" or something with "gradual" in it. However, there's no need for me to judge this process as slow. Compared to what? Oh, yeah, my fantasy of instantly clearing the crap out of my head, when I probably don't even know the details of what is crap and what isn't, and when there's no reason to think this can be done in a moment.
Anyway, comments welcome as usual, but I'm especially interested in thoughts about pep talks, and about what tends to increase mental clarity.