Holding on to Hope

Great to hear the bank holiday weekend is going well mate!

I've also got into bad routines with phones and sleep - I'm trying to be increasingly strict with not bringing my phone into the bedroom. To help with that I've invested in one of those natural light wake up alarm clocks so that I don't have to use my phone as my primary alarm (and to make the wake up process a bit less sudden). It's mixed results so far but it feels like an 'easy win' to keep the phone and the bedroom separate, so I will keep working on it!

One more day off to enjoy - here's hoping we both have good ones
 

Simonly

Member
Hi @Simonly. Good to hear from you. I'm having a good bank holiday weekend, thanks. Main issue I'm facing is that I've been really tired. I think that part of it is the anti-anxiety medication that I started a few weeks ago. But also, I think that I've not been in a great routine with sleep. While I was depressed, I got into the habit of messing around with my phone while in bed. Not acting out but just scrolling through youtube videos about various topics and things like that.

I've started to take steps to improve my sleep. I tidied my bedroom today. It had got into a real state while I was depressed.

I'm certainly trying to unravel my thoughts and make sense of my past. It's been really helpful and rewarding. But also frustrating and confusing and I think it's also interfering with my ability to rest. I'm working on finding a balanced approach to it.

Thing are going to get really busy at work next week. It will go on for a few weeks. So I need to prepared for that challenge and prioritise rest.

How's your long weekend going?
Thankfully the weather has been good this weekend. It has been nice to feel some warmth in the air for the 1st time this year. I've been keeping busy getting the garden tidied up for what will hopefully be the start of summer.

Messing about on phones is a habit that envitable leads to PMO, especially before going to bed.

Try not to overthink things, especially if it is not helping depression. I initially struggled to understand and make sense of some of the things I had been through in the past ... and eventually had to "let it go".

... and so onwards we go!
 
Thought I'd just write some more thoughts. I've been re-reading the book "Maximum Willpower". I first read it years ago. It's nothing like you would think based on the title. It really goes into the neuroscience and psychology of how we are tempted to make decisions based on short-term pleasure seeking rather than based on our values and long-term goals and what we can do about it. Along with "The Biology of Desire", it's one of the two best books that I've read on the subject.

I just wanted to make some notes about the ideas from the book. There are two chapters in particular that really jumped out at me. One is titled "
What the Hell: How Feeling Bad Leads to Giving In" and the other is titled "Licence to Sin: Why Being Good Gives Us Permission to Be Bad". The two chapters seem to complement each other.

In the first of these chapters, there is the following passage about how people cling to the belief that they need to be hard on themselves in order to change:
we first learned to control ourselves as children through parental commands and punishment. This approach is necessary during childhood because, let’s face it, children are wild animals. The brain’s self-control system does not fully develop until young adulthood, and kids need some external support while their prefrontal cortices fill out. However, many people treat themselves as if they are still children – and frankly, they act more like abusive parents than supportive caregivers. They criticize themselves whenever they give in to temptation or fail in their own eyes: “You’re so lazy! What’s the matter with you?” Each failure is used as evidence that they need to be even stricter with themselves. “You can’t be trusted to do anything you say you will.” If you think that the key to greater willpower is being harder on yourself, you are not alone. But you are wrong. Study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control.

It recalls the connection between making changes as an adult and the way that a parent attempts to change their child's behaviour that I wrote about earlier. This book is probably one of the places where I got the idea from.

In the second chapter, there is the following quote about the "moral licensing" effect (which I think is basically where people "treat" themselves to short term pleasures that sabotage long-term goals if they think of themselves as "good" people who have been doing a great job at resisting temptation and working towards long-term goals):
Moral licensing turns out to be, at its core, an identity crisis. We only reward ourselves for good behaviour if we believe that who we really are is the self that wants to be bad. From this point of view, every act of self-control is a punishment, and only self-indulgence is a reward. Moving beyond moral licensing requires knowing that who we are is the self that wants the best for us – and the self that wants to live in line with our core values. When this happens, we will no longer view the impulsive, lazy or easily tempted self as the “real” us. We will no longer act like someone who must be bribed, tricked or forced to pursue our goals, and then rewarded for making any effort at all.
and
When you think about your willpower challenge, which part of you feels more like the “real” you – the part of you who wants to pursue the goal, or the part of you who needs to be controlled? Do you identify more with your impulses and desires, or with your long-term goals and values? When you think about your willpower challenge, do you feel like the kind of person who can succeed – or do you feel as if you need to fundamentally suppress, improve or change who you are?
I find this really useful. It's the sense of self again that I was writing about before. I think it's so important. One thing that I think it's important to remember here is the idea that our sense of self is affect by the addiction itself. Over years of being addicted, we lose trust for ourselves and inevitably come to be identify more with the part of ourselves that wants to give into temptation. Recovery is about regaining that sense of self. That said, I think that my sense of self as someone who can be trusted to resist temptation and pursue my own goals was something that was never allowed to develop in childhood. Working through this has been and will be an important part of my recovery. I don't think it would be helpful to say that my lack of trust in myself only came about because of the addiction. The addiction may have strengthened this belief and prevented me from moving beyond it. But in recovery, I definitely need to face the childhood roots of this belief.

I think that this also helps me to expand my understanding of what it means to be triggered. My most powerful triggers are not just events that cause the brain's motivational system to create feelings of cravings. They also cause me to switch back to seeing myself as a bad child that needs to be controlled which ironically makes self-control all the more difficult.

There's a quote from "What do you say after you say hello" that seems relevant to this:
Provocation or seduction is what makes lechers, addicts, criminals, gamblers, and others with losing scripts. For a boy it is the real Odyssey scene of a living Ulysses, mother as a Siren luring him to his doom, or as Circe turning him into a swine... In early years it starts out as a general invitation to be a loser: ‘He sure is clumsy, ha ha,’ or ‘She sure is a shit walker, ha ha.’ Then it moves on to more specific jeers and teases. ‘He’s always banging his head, ha ha,’ or ‘She’s always losing her pants, ha ha.’ In adolescence it is promoted into personal transactions. ‘Take a good look, baby!’ (and maybe an accidental or on-purpose feel), ‘Have a drink,’ ‘Now’s your chance,’ ‘Throw it all in, what’s the difference,’ each accompanied by its ha ha. The come-on is the Parent’s voice whispering to the Child at the critical moment: not to stop thinking about sex or money, not to let them get away with that. ‘Come on baby. What’ve you got to lose?’ This is the demon in the Parent, and the demon in the Child responds. Then the Parent does a quick switch, and Jeder falls flat on his face. ‘There you go again,’ says the gleeful Parent, and Jeder answers ‘Ha ha!’ with what is colloquially called ‘a shit-eating smile.’ The come-on is what promotes hang-ups in children, and for that it must start early. The parent takes the child’s yen for closeness and turns it into a yen for something else. Once this perverted love is fixed, it becomes a hang-up.
I can't say I understand all of this or how it fits in with the idea of life scripts more generally but this idea of a "come on" in my script seems to make sense to me. A controlling parental voice in my head that puts me back into the mindset of a bad child that needs be controlled. That sets me off fixating on the thing that I'm trying to avoid, using strategies of self-control that are doomed to failure. There's also the idea that this isn't really driven by parental care but by sheer frustration with the child and perhaps even a desire to sabotage the child and punish them further. I think I'm back to that idea of the drama triangle and the way of reframing it that I found so unhelpful - people who were sabotaging me and then saying "I'm only trying to challenge you".

I'm thinking about someone looking over your shoulder waiting for you to mess up. how this causes stress that can make you more likely to mess up. How this effect is enhanced when you feel shame about not being very good at what you're doing.

There's probably a lot more to unpack here specifically about the messages I received about sex while I was growing up.
 
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Another quote from "Maximum Willpower":
Forgiveness – not guilt – helped them get back on track. These findings fly in the face of our instincts. How can this be, when so many of us have a strong intuition that self-criticism is the cornerstone of self-control, and self-compassion is a slippery slope to self-indulgence? What would motivate these students if not feeling bad for procrastinating the last time? And what would keep us in check if we didn’t feel guilty for giving in? Surprisingly, it’s forgiveness, not guilt, that increases accountability. Researchers have found that taking a self-compassionate point of view on a personal failure makes people more likely to take personal responsibility for the failure than when they take a self-critical point of view. They also are more willing to receive feedback and advice from others, and more likely to learn from the experience. One reason forgiveness helps people recover from mistakes is that it takes away the shame and pain of thinking about what happened. The what-the-hell effect is an attempt to escape the bad feelings that follow a setback. Without the guilt and self-criticism, there’s nothing to escape. This means it’s easier to reflect on how the failure happened, and less tempting to repeat it. On the other hand, if you view your setbacks as evidence that you are a hopeless loser who messes everything up, thinking about your failure is a miserable exercise in self-hate. Your most urgent goal will be to soothe those feelings, not learn from your experience.

I think this comes back to the idea I wrote about before of letting go of the "NOT OK" position from Transactional Analysis.

Forgiving ourselves allows the self-reflection that allows us to stay in the adult mindset of really wanting to do better and planning for how to do better and avoiding falling into the mindset of a child who needs to be controlled by shame and fear and seeks ways to comfort themselves from these awful feelings.

It's about staying identified with the part of ourselves that wants to work on longer-term goals that are in line with our values even when we are tempted and even when we have slipped up.
 
More from "Maximum Willpower".

Moral judgements are also not nearly as motivating as our culture likes to believe. We idealize our own desire to be virtuous, and many people believe that they are most motivated by guilt and shame. But who are we fooling? We are most motivated by getting what we want and avoiding what we don’t want. Moralizing a behaviour makes us more, not less, likely to feel ambivalent about it.
most people think of all forms of self-control as a moral test.
When we think about our willpower challenges in moral terms, we get lost in self-judgments and lose sight of how those challenges will help us get what we want.

This makes sense to me when I reflect on my situation. The unhelpful aspects of thinking of self-control as a moral test, particularly regarding sex.

The idea of getting lost in self-judgements also feels very important. I become more concerned with feeling like a good person or not feeling like a bad person than I do with what I'm actually trying to achieve.

The book gives lots of examples about how this can become a problem. For example, making some progress towards a goal can give people the sense of being "good" but they lose sight of their longer term goals and then "treat" themselves. Feeling "good" becomes a goal that overshadows working towards the actual goal. There are even examples in the book of how even setting a goal can make us feel like a "good" person which then takes away our motivation to keep working towards it. This effect is seen particularly strongly when people have suffered a setback and resolve to start making a change. The resolution to make a change give a sense of relief from the feeling of being a "bad" person that arose from the setback.

I feel like I'm getting my head around something quite important here. The idea that we need to separate our sense of self-worth from our goals. If the goals are only important to us because of how they prop up our self-esteem then we are setting ourselves up for problems. I'm also wondering how this relates to the idea from "The Biology of Desire" where it talks about how our "sense of self needs to be connected to our emotional goals". I still think that this is really important. Our goals need to matter to us. However, it's important to not slip over into feeling that the goals becoming essential to our sense of self-worth.
 
I'll just write some more about these ideas from the "Maximum Willpower" book. I find that writing this out helps the ideas stick in my head.

It's these chapters from the book about how we see ourselves that I'm thinking about. There's one chapter on how feeling bad about ourselves can lead us to give into temptation and to prioritise the escape from feeling bad over acting in our long-term interests. I particularly liked the idea about how people can make grand commitments to change after their behaviours have led them to something they feel especially bad about. The grand commitments aren't always realistic desires to change though. They are ways to escape the feeling of being bad.

There's also stuff in the book about how feeling good about ourselves lead us to giving into temptation. It's the idea of moral licensing. Feeling "good" about yourself leads people to think "They were more likely to listen to an instinctive bias and less likely to consider whether a decision was consistent with their broader goal". Real commitment to change means acknowledging that we will be tempted and planning and anticipating for it.

If we make unrealistic commitments to change with a mindset of escaping the feeling of being bad by making ourselves feel good then this is not the best mindset to acknowledge that we will be tempted in the future and plan to deal with it.

I think there's another issue here where it's important strike a mental balance. There was also something in the book about how we need to identify our "real" selves as the part of us that wants to act in our long-term interests rather than seeking short-term pleasure that will harm us in the longer term. I think that this is also very true.

So, I think the idea is stay strong in our "real" self that wants the longer term goals but to also acknowledge that we will be tempted and will sometimes give into temptation if we don't take precautions. I think these ideas can feel slightly contradictory but aren't necessarily so. I think it comes down to being able to not frame our willpower challenges as moral issues. Acknowledging that we will be tempted then doesn't mean acknowledging that we are "bad". It hasn't been easy to change my thinking in this way. I think this is where self-compassion comes in. There's certainly some pain involved in this process. Self-compassion helped me to face up to the pain of realising that being tempted makes me feel bad. Especially after the feeling of being bad has built up over years of giving into temptation and then making unrealistic commitments to change and then feeling even worse when they don't stick. There's a saying in SAA about moving "from shame to grace". I think this is what it's talking about. In shame we want to escape the feeling of being bad. In grace we can accept that we will be tempted and will sometimes give in to temptation and still keep moving forward in recovery.

There's so much in the books "Maximum Willpower" and "The Biology of Desire" about our sense of self and how it relates to addiction and recovery. I think these are really key ideas for helping me to understand my years of chronic relapse.

I think that another important idea from "Maximum Willpower" is the idea of how we picture our future self and how this influences our decisions. The author writes about experiments that show that the more that a person identifies with their future self, the better they are at making decisions that are in their own longer term interests instead of indulging in immediate pleasures. She also writes about brain imaging studies that show the parts of the brain that are activated when thinking of our future selves. It sounds like it varies from person to person. In general the brain activity when thinking of our future self looks more like the brain activity when thinking about another person than it does like thinking of ourselves in the present. However, the more the brain activity looks like thinking of ourselves in the present, the more we seem to identify with and have empathy for our future selves and the better we are at making decisions that serve our long-term interests.

There's also something in there about how people tend to idealise their future selves, imagining that their future selves will be more motivated, more committed and more able to resist temptation that their present selves. This might behind the tendency that people have of always putting off difficult change until tomorrow. This has really got me thinking. This idea of an idealised future self reminds me of the idealised self that is a part of narcissistic traits. The idea of suddenly being different at some point in the future reminds me of the idea of "magical thinking" - part of which is the idea that change will happen "magically" without deliberate effort. I also think the idea of magically changing into an ideal self at some future time is kind of related to the unrealistic commitments to change after I' had done something that made me feel particularly bad about myself.
 
Just a few more thoughts about that idea of identifying our "real" self as the part of ourselves that wants to act in our long-term interests rather than indulge in immediate pleasure and which needs to be controlled. I touched on the idea that I have a life script with things in it that trigger me into identifying with the part of me that wants to give into temptation and needs to be controlled.

I might have written earlier about my problems with overeating that go back to childhood. I clearly remember one time that I was fixated on food and my mother looked at me in disgust and said "you've got no willpower at all, have you?". I think this kind of thing set up my strong identification with the part of myself that wanted to give into temptation and needed to be controlled.

It also set up the connection between making positive changes and feeling bad about myself. The way that I internalised these kinds of messages kind of "ruined" the idea of taking care of my health for me. There's a sense in which looking after my health feels like giving in to bullying.

I think an important idea from the idea of life scripts is that "you've got no willpower at all, have you?" became a voice in my head that says it's trying to motivate me to do better but actually feels more like "go on, give in to temptation". I think depression plays a role in why the message got internalised in this way. Depression stopped me from standing up, asserting myself and making an effort to say "I'm not worthless like you think I am. I'll show you".
 
I've been re-reading some more chapters of that "Maximum Willpower" book this weekend.

There's some more good stuff in there that I want to write about. I'm generally staying with the idea that my sense of who I am is important for my recovery because it seems to have been the problem behind my many relapses over the years. It also seems to be a key theme in a lot of things that I'm reading at the moment.

the author break down the idea of willpower into three components: "I will" power, "I won't" power and "I want" power. The "I want" power is the one that really interested me when reading the book this time.

"To exert self-control, you need to find your motivation when it matters. This is “I want” power."
"To say no when you need to say no, and yes when you need to say yes, you need a third power: the ability to remember what you really want."
"The third region, just a bit lower and in the middle of the prefrontal cortex, keeps track of your goals and your desires. It decides what you want. The more rapidly its cells fire, the more motivated you are to take action or resist temptation. This part of the prefrontal cortex remembers what you really want, even when the rest of your brain is screaming, “Eat that! Drink that! Smoke that! Buy that!”"

I'm not sure what region of the brain is being referred to "just a bit lower and in the middle of the prefrontal cortex". I think it might be the ventromedial PFC. In "The Biology of Desire" Marc Lewis writes about the importance of the vmPFC in connecting our sense of self with out goals on an emotional level.

The author expands on the idea of "the rest of your brain screaming "Eat that! Drink that! Smoke that! Buy that!"".

"the system of self-control was slapped on top of the old system of urges and instincts. That means that for any instinct that once served us well, evolution has kept it around – even if it now gets us into trouble."

"This is what defines a willpower challenge: part of you wants one thing, and another part of you wants something else."
"When these two selves disagree, one version of us has to override the other. The part of you that wants to give in isn’t bad – it simply has a different point of view about what matters most."
"I know, you think that what you really want is the chocolate cake, the third glass of wine or the day off. But when you’re facing temptation, or flirting with procrastination, you need to remember that what you really want is to fit into your skinny jeans, get the promotion, get out of credit card debt, stay in your marriage, or stay out of jail. Otherwise, what’s going to stop you from following your immediate desires?"

This is where I think it's important for me to remember what Marc Lewis wrote about the sense of self and addiction. It isn't all about the PFC competing with the limbic system for control of decision-making. The sense of self in the vmPFC can also have competing elements. He gives the example of the addict who spent her life selflessly serving others and had a part of herself that saw her addiction as the only way to meet her emotional needs and therefore actually did want to act out her addiction.

Some more interesting quotes from "Maximum Willpower":
"As we aim to improve our willpower, we’ll look for ways to use every bit of what it means to be human – including our most primitive instincts, from the desire for pleasure to the need to fit in – to support our goals."
"Though our survival system doesn’t always work to our advantage, it is a mistake to think we should conquer the primitive self completely."
I think this is really interesting. Recovery isn't about a fight between out "higher" self and our more "primitive" self. Marc Lewis says something similar. He uses a good analogy to explain it which I'll look up later.

"We also possess self-awareness: the ability to realize what we are doing as we do it, and understand why we are doing it. With any luck, we can also predict what we’re likely to do before we do it, giving us ample opportunity to reconsider."
"Without self-awareness, the self-control system would be useless. You need to recognize when you’re making a choice that requires willpower; otherwise, the brain always defaults to what is easiest."
"Most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re making a choice. For example, one study asked people how many food-related decisions they made in one day. What would you say? On average, people guessed fourteen. In reality, when these same people carefully tracked their decisions, the average was 227. That’s more than 200 choices people were initially unaware of – and those are just the decisions related to eating. How can you control yourself if you aren’t even aware that there is something to control?"

Another thing I'm remembering here from "The Biology of Desire" is the way that the connectivity between the PFC and the striatum lessens as compulsive behaviours are repeated and become more and more habitual. Habits form so that action happens without conscious awareness. It's kind of the point of habits but in addiction this process happens in the extreme and it becomes harder to switch back to conscious control.

In "Maximum Willpower" the author writes about the role of meditation in developing willpower.
"what he was doing in meditation was exactly what he needed to do in real life: catch himself moving away from a goal and then point himself back at the goal (in this case, focusing on the breath)."

The author talks about one client who was getting frustrated with the practice of meditation because they thought that they were failing at it because they couldn't control their thoughts and distractions. He was reminded that the point of meditation was to notice distractions and refocus. In the book "Overcoming Depression", there's something about compassionate refocusing. I find the idea of mindfulness without self-compassion quite tricky. If I can't meet my thoughts and feelings with compassion then allowing myself to become aware of them is so difficult. I'm also reminded of the way that frustration seems to play a key role in learning. I guess the frustration has to say to you "damn it, I know I can do this, keep trying". Depression makes you experience frustration as "damn it, I give up". I think the idea is to use self-compassion to help you stay on the right side of this line.

Also, I think it's important to remember that self-compassion combats the deeply ingrained habit of self-criticism. Noticing distractions and urges can trigger this self-criticism. Another way of thinking of why I find self-compassion essential for mindfulness.

Another idea I had was of shame being closely related to the drive to hide things and how this can cause difficulties with self-awareness.
 
Just thinking back to the idea of how the need to feel like a "good" person and to avoid feeling like a "bad" person. how this can make people forget their true goals and lose the motivation that comes from their true goals.

I'm making the connection with how I was motivated to perform academically when I was a child. My parents frustration and criticism. My motivation became to "look clever" and not "look stupid" rather than to apply my mind to achieve anything useful. It stopped me from enjoying learning and stopped me from growing.
 
Another idea from "maximum willpower" is the "pause-and-plan" response.

The author compares this to the fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight response makes us more emotionally reactive, less rational and more impulsive. It prepares us to deal with external threats.

The "pause-and-plan" response can kick in when we realise an impulse that might lead us to do something that we know we will regret later. the author characterises this as the body's response to an internal threat.

It's an interesting one. I've not come across this way of thinking about it before.

"Your brain needs to bring the body on board with your goals and put the brakes on your impulses. To do this, your prefrontal cortex will communicate the need for self-control to lower brain regions that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and other automatic functions."

This feels really important. The chapter talks about heart-rate variability and this is an important indicator of how effectively someone can exercise willpower. The author says that heart rate variability is an indicator of a nervous system that is in balance. The body is receiving signals from both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and is reacting properly to these signals. I've also heard that heart-rate variability is a key indicator for depression. The book "The Upward Spiral" talks about this so that's a chapter that I'd also like to re-read.

I'm also thinking about how my mind might sometimes get confused between an external threat and an internal threat. If my mind was conditioned in childhood to react to my impulses with more intense emotions such as shame and fear, rather than with self-reflection then the "pause-and-plan" response doesn't really get a chance to do its job.
 
I'm just thinking about what to read next. The stuff that I've been writing about so far has seemed to focus on ideas about wanting to change, developing an attitude to change that makes change sustainable and self-image.

There's a lot from the books that I've read about cravings and how to manage them and topics related to that. That's definitely something that I want to write about at some point but for now I think there are other things that I want to focus on.

I've got two Christian books on my reading list. One is called Unstuck which is about making changes from a Christian perspective. The other is called Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. I'm not actually sure what this is about. It was recommended to me by someone.

One other topic that I want to read more about is decision-making. I've always struggled with decision-making. I think it's related to the depression. The depressive tendency to always focus on the negative and worry about what might go wrong seems to have held me back from making good choices. There are two books that I want to read that are about decision-making. One is called "Decisive" and it goes into the decision-making process, what can go wrong and what is going on when people make good decisions. I think it looks at the emotive aspects of decision-making so that seems very relevant to what I've been struggling with. Another book that seems relevant is "The Intelligence Trap". I've read that one before but because I wasn't making notes on it, a lot of the ideas didn't stick. It's about how over reliance on the analytical skills that we normally call intelligence and an under-reliance on other mental skills can lead people to underperform and make poor choices . It talks about something called "dysrationalia" which is a term that someone came up with to describe the phenomenon of people with a sound level of intelligence but who make decisions that are not in their best interests.

There are a few reasons why working on my decision-making ability is related to my recovery from addiction. Firstly, the thought that I'll go through my life making poor decisions takes away the hope that I need to motivate my recovery. Secondly, I do believe that my addiction and compulsive behaviours may have directly interfered with my decision-making capabilities in all aspects of my life. It certainly made it harder for me to recover from depression and anxiety which were interfering with my decision-making.

I also think that working on my decision-making is also a good sign that I'm really engaging with life again.

It certainly ties in with some of the ideas that I've written about in my earlier posts. It's certainly an example of changing something about myself that I'm not happy with. Self-image comes into it. It also ties in with those childhood feelings about proving that I'm "clever" or at least "not stupid". I'll need to make use of all the ideas that I've come across about having a positive attitude to change.

I may also need to revisit some ideas about depression and also some ideas about confidence but I'm going to start by reading about decision-making and see where the ideas lead me.
 
I think I need to up my game in some ways. Particularly around sleep routine.

I went to bed fairly late last night after watching a film and I took my phone to bed with me. I did start acting out. I do have blocking software in place so I had to stick to social media stuff but there's plenty enough stuff on social media for it to get pretty dark in terms of indulging my humiliation fantasies.

I'm not getting too hung up on it being a slip that's interfered with my "reboot" but I do want to think about why I fell into this trap again.

The first thing that I want to keep in mind is that this kind of thing is not that unusual. There's a quote from the "Maximum Willpower" book:

she would tell herself, “I will definitely go to sleep earlier tonight,” but by eleven p.m., that resolve was nowhere to be found. I asked Lisa to describe her evenings and she told me about the million and one things that each seemed more critically urgent the later it got. Browsing Facebook, cleaning the fridge, tackling the stack of junk mail, even watching rubbish on the telly – none of this stuff was urgent, but late at night, it felt strangely compelling. Lisa was hooked on doing “one more thing” before she went to sleep. The later it got, and the more tired she got, the less she was able to resist the immediate gratification each task promised.

I think this is important to remember. This "one more thing" effect is really common. Lots of people talk about watching one more Youtube video before going to bed etc. When that "one more thing" is searching for porn, I guess it's over-stimulating in a different kind of way to watching TV or Youtube and affects my mood in a different way. But it's not unrelated.

Also the fact that I got over-tired and that made me less able to resist temptation. I had stayed up later than I intended watching a film with my housemate. It was a dumb file that I've seen before and not all that interesting. It didn't put me into a great mindset for going to bed.

I need to start sticking to a night time routine. I think my inability to do this highlights the extent to which I don't know myself. I'm not sure whether I do better if I have routine of staying up late and getting up late or of going to bed early and getting up early. I guess I've never had a stable enough routine to be able to get to know myself in this way. Because I work somewhat flexible hours, I can be flexible with my sleep routine so I need to make a decision. I think I'll start with going to bed at 11pm and getting up at 7am. It allows me 8 hours in bed.

I want to try making sure that I start winding down for bed at 10:30pm. I'm not sure what this involves. Perhaps having a cup of herbal tea and listening to some relaxing music?

I also need to have a good morning routine. I think this will be easier once I've had a good night's sleep. I often take a long time to get moving in the mornings. I will wake up feeling groggy and lie in bed messing on my phone. I've avoided acting out but I'll watch youtube videos about film and things like that. I need to remember that when I do get up and get ready, the feeling of grogginess will pass, especially if I have slept well.

I also need to remember why I want to have a better sleeping and waking up routine. I want to be as alert as possible. I want my mental functioning and willpower to be as good as possible. I've also read that it helps improve metabolism.

I need to do all of this from the point of view of really wanting to do it and taking pride in it rather than feeling like I need to control myself.

Another thing is this feeling of judging myself in the morning for not getting moving fast enough. It's been a problem for ages and I think it's related to my depression and has built up into a habit over many years. This feeling of judging myself is really off-putting though so I need a way around it. The goal is to get up as soon as the alarm clock goes off. Resolve to not think about it. Have a reminder that the grogginess will pass. And approach the task with compassion and pride rather than with judgement and self-ctriticism.

I need to identify with as a person who wants to have a good sleeping and waking up routine but also remember that I'll be susceptible to the temptation to stay up a later and to lie in bed in the morning and prepare for ways to avoid these temptations. I'm going to start by simply having reminders of what I really want (good sleep routine). If it doesn't work and doesn't motivate me then I'll start looking for other ways to motivate myself.

I also need to remember to have to have a large breakfast that includes protein and (healthy) fat. I've been having a small bowl of cereal, a small amount o full-fat yoghurt with berries and a whey protein shake. I suppose there are better breakfasts that I could have but this one has been serving me well for a few months now. It's quite straight-forward to prepare and keeps me full for most of the morning.

While getting ready, I need to keep myself focused. That idea of compassionate re-focusing is important. I need to become aware of when I've mentally drifted and refocus on the task of getting ready and getting out the door as quickly as possible.

I also need to brush my teeth and have a shower every morning. Until recently, I wasn't doing this. I suppose that I need to remember that I have already made progress with this. The reason was mainly that some decisions were weighing so heavily on me that I could hardly face getting out of bed. The idea of making the wrong decisions felt like my life would be ruined. That's why I've decided to look into decision-making in more detail. With the help of my family, I've made the immediate decision that needs making now and I feel quite strong in it. I'm facing challenges in seeing the decision thought but I'm getting through them. I just need to keep this upward momentum going and not allow old habits to get in the way.

I'm just going to get some food then write some more about how to resist temptation to act out.
 
So thoughts on temptation to act out.

I think one of the reasons why I gave in last night was that I feel like I need a sexual outlet. I'm 39 years old and have never been in a relationship so porn does feel like my only sexual outlet. I won't go into details about why I've never been in relationship. I'm sure that porn addiction plays a part in it but I think there are other factors such as depression and sexual shame.

I think I imagined that I would look at porn and masturbate and then be done with it for the night. But it usually doesn't work like that. When I start looking at porn, I go into seeking mode. I want to keep clicking to find the perfect fantasy.

I think that this is quite important to remember. I think I'll look at a bit of porn, be aroused by it and enjoy masturbating to it. But the reality is that when I look at a bit of porn, it just puts me into seeking mode. It's not enjoyable at all. It's a feeling that's not compatible with relaxation or even with enjoyment really.

Again, I don't think it's unusual or unique to porn use. Lots of people will keep clicking on youtube videos or scrolling through social media. They start thinking it will be entertaining or relaxing but it sucks them in. They think the next video or post will be great and keep clicking or scrolling. I think that's lost of people's experiences anyway.

Maybe some people can do these things for a bit, enjoy it and then switch off from it. I think I can do this sometimes, even with porn but often I can't.

I think it's easy to think of looking at porn as choosing short-term pleasure but I don't think it is like that for me. Maybe it was once but now it's not. I might think that it will give me short term pleasure but that's just a lie that my feelings are telling me.

There's another great chapter in "Maximum Willpower" about why it's easy to confuse feelings of "wanting" (coming from our striatum and limbic system rather than the wanting that comes from the pre-frontal cortex) with the idea that we will actually like what our feelings are telling us to pursue.

The author writes about how these feelings of "wanting" can actually be quite agitating, frustrating and anxiety-inducing. The brain's wanting system (in the striatum and limbic system) hasn't evolved to make people happy. It's supposed to make people seek out things that will help their survival and help them to pass on their genes. It will motivate them to seek out these things using feelings of desire and wanting but also with feelings of anxiety and frustration. I'm reminded of how feelings of fear can damp down the moderating influence of the pre-frontal cortex and make us more impulsive. The limbic system is actively trying to stop our thinking from interfering with the seeking of these things that will satisfy the basic biological impulses. It stops the "pause and plan" response from kicking in.

The wanting system learns through experience. This is the stuff from "The Biology of Desire" that I might have written about before. How the brain learns to start wanting things when it's in a situation when it "thinks" based on past experience that reward is just around the corner. I have the feeling that it learns to use all the aspects of wanting, including the anxiety inducing aspects to make us pursue these rewards.

Anyway, I think the conclusion that I'm reaching is that I think that looking at porn will give me short term pleasure whereas all it usually does these days is to trigger my wanting system and that this can induce agitating and anxiety inducing feelings that make me want to keep looking for more porn. I think that remembering this will help me to make the choice to avoid looking in the first place.

I think I also need to remember to be aware of what's happening when my wanting system is triggered. There are ways to calm it down. but I need to remember that I want to calm it down and not pursue it into more seeking. What makes it hard to remember that I want to calm it down is that looking at porn feels like my only sexual outlet. I think I can become more committed now.

One thought I'm having here is about the idea of "courtship gone awry" that I came across in Patrick Carne's writing. The wanting system and sexual arousal system should be motivating me to seek out sexual relationships with actual women. But in my case these motivations have got misdirected or stuck at one stage of "courtship". Probably at the stage of seeking out partners. I'll need to re-read his writings about this. I can see why I get stuck at this stage given the infinite amount of images to seek out online. However, there are probably other factors. Notably the feeling that this is my only sexual outlet that keeps me stuck at this stage of courtship. Sexual behaviour is stuck in fantasy. I'm not sure this entirely makes sense but I feel like there might be something in it.

I'm also remembering something from a youtube video by Marc Lewis about how cravings intensify and the brain mechanisms that are involved. In the "biology of desire" he also talks about the idea of addictive rituals. Rituals are also something that Patrick Carnes writes about. Rituals are patterns of habits associated with addiction that intensify desire and excitement. I think the porn "seeking sessions" are something of a ritual so I'll revisit writings about this at some point.

Anyway, I think the thing I need to remember now is that I think that looking at porn will give me a sexual outlet and immediate pleasure but in reality it often just triggers the start of a porn-seeking ritual and intensifying of desire and wanting for more porn which bring associated with feelings of anxiety and agitation. This interferes with my important goals of sleeping and working on my mental health and learning to make better decisions. When I'm tempted to look at porn, I need to remind myself that it is likely to bring me no pleasure anymore. Only feelings of agitation.
 
I did pretty well with getting to sleep at a reasonable time last night. I was in bed for 10:30. I ended up putting on a podcast while I fell asleep. Not sure whether that helped or not. I think I must have had a lot of sleep to catch up on because I woke up feeling very tired. I was tempted to stay in bed and I fell back to sleep for a while. It was quite a sluggish morning.

I had intended to get up and do a short workout this morning but I didn't have time after falling back to sleep. I think I was a bit disappointed in myself about this. I kept thinking about what time I could fit in a workout later in the day. I eventually gave up on the idea and decided to try again tomorrow.

Things that would help. Sticking to a good evening routine. I need to make sure I get to bed at a reasonable time and don't get sucked into TV watching or worse. I also want to brush my teeth before I go to bed. It's been years since I've done this. I went to the dentist last year for the first time in many years and thankfully my teeth were ok. I'm extremely lucky about that - with how much sugar I've eaten over the years and how I didn't brush my teeth at night for so long. Anyway, I thought making this small act of self-care part of a night time routine would be a really good idea. Having little routines and habits will give me a base to build other good routines and habits on.

I also need to remember that idea that I keep coming back to. The idea of continuing to identify with the part of me that wants to avoid lying in bed and wants to get up and work out - but at the same time being aware that I will be tempted to stay in bed in the morning.

I need to prepare some things for the morning. Having a glass of water next to my bed will help, I think. I've been tending to wake up feeling dehydrated and groggy. Not sure how much of that is due to medication. I drink a fair amount of water throughout the day, I think. Maybe something to keep an eye on.

Also, getting all my workout clothes ready tonight so that I can see them in the morning and remember my intention.

I'll also need to plan what I'll eat before I exercise. Perhaps a single slice of toast or just a banana. I think I should eat something before I work out. I'll also need to plan how to warm up. Will I got for a brisk walk around the block or just do some warm up exercises at home. I also think that planning my workout properly tonight will be a good idea. I can't rely on being motivated to make these decisions in the morning. I think that all this planning makes the idea of getting up and exercising feel more solid and real rather than just a vague hope. I'm reminded of that idea of hoping for an idealised future self to show up that will suddenly have the motivation that I lacked today.

Coming back again to the idea of identifying with the part of me that wants to avoid lying in bed and wants to get up and work out - but at the same time being aware that I will be tempted to stay in bed in the morning. I think I've thought through the second half of this with regard to getting up and exercising. I think I need to remember the first half of it though. I'm the person who wants to do this, not the person who needs to be controlled and "forced" to do this. It's easy to slip into the second kind of mindset when planning ahead to avoid temptation. Especially given my history with weight-loss and exercise, going back to childhood.

I sort of think this idea that I keep coming back to (identify with the self that wants to change, prepare for temptation to not change) is key for me to understanding what responsibility is. I always found the idea of responsibility quite hard to wrap my head around. Again, I think this sort of goes back to childhood. For example, I was quite forgetful and unfocused when I was a child. I remember it winding up my teachers at school. I remember thinking things like "how on earth do people remember things? do they just worry about them all the time?". I think I've always had this connection in my head between taking responsibility and worrying about things constantly.

As I'm typing this, I realise that there's loads of things I could say about this. I think there's something in this about remembering to look at the things that I can't change and the things that I can and remember the difference between them. I think this is relevant to the idea of responsibility. Also, I had this thought a few years ago when I was worried about something going wrong and I wanted to do everything that I possibly could to make sure that it didn't go wrong. I had to remind myself that I sometimes need to think in terms of doing everything that I reasonably can rather than doing absolutely everything that I can.

Anyway, I want to keep thinking about this idea of how part of what responsibility is is the idea of being the self that wants to change but also preparing for temptation. I think it's quite key for me. I think it would be worth looking for some more information on the psychology of responsibility. I'm also remembering what I read in the book "Maximum Willpower" about how it's important to not see every willpower challenge or failure in very emotive moral terms otherwise it's easy for the goal to become to "look like a good person" and it makes people lose sight of the goals that really motivate them. I think the term responsibility can become loaded with so much emotive moral thinking for me and that's why it's been such a tricky concept. I think that staying in touch with the goals that really motivate me is another key part of what responsibility is.

I'm going to start planning for tomorrow and try to see what this idea means in practice.
 
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Decision making.

I've read most of the book "Decisive" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Indecisiveness has been a key problem for me throughout my life. I think it's primarily related to depression, anxiety and lack of confidence so I thought that this would be a good book to read to help me start addressing this issue. At the moment my depression and anxiety are manageable. But having suffered from these things for so long, I think they have prevented me from learning the life skills that would help me to make decisions.

I'm also thinking back to a book I read in 2021 called "The Intelligence Trap". This talks about how good levels of intelligence don't necessarily lead to good decision making ability and in some cases greater levels of intelligence can lead to poorer decision making abilities (eg. the tendency to over-think). The book also mentions a proposed condition called "dysrationalia" where people have good levels of intelligence but poor decision making abilities.

The book includes the following definitions:
"Instrumental rationality is defined as ‘the optimisation of someone’s goal fulfilment’, or, less technically, as ‘behaving so that you get exactly what you want, given the resources available to you’. Epistemic rationality, meanwhile, concerns ‘how well your beliefs map onto the actual structure of the world’."

The issue I've been most concerned with is my lack of "Instrumental Rationality". It's clear that I've not been able to make the most of the resources I've had. I've found this quite distressing and it really feels like a huge loss to see how much it has affected my life.

I think that much of this was due to lack of confidence and not ever being able to take the leap and do things. Some of this lack of confidence was arising from fears that came from my addiction and issues around sex. But that said, I do think that my lack of confidence and emotional issues were causing me to process information and make judgements in ways that were quite dysfunctional.

I'm not sure where to start with thinking about decision making so I'll just start typing and see where it leads.

In the book "Decisive" they break decision making down into four stages:
  • You encounter a choice.
  • You analyze your options.
  • You make a choice.
  • Then you live with it.
They also write about the four "villains" of decision-making that affect these stages. They also give a way to counter each of these villains.
  • You encounter a choice. Villain: But narrow framing makes you miss options. Response: Widen your options.
  • You analyze your options. Villain: But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving information. Response: Reality test your assumptions.
  • You make a choice. Villain: But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one. Response: Attain distance before deciding.
  • Then you live with it. Villain: But you’ll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold. Response: Prepare to be wrong.
I'm finding it hard to map my issues with decision making onto these stages and "villains". I think I'll be able to make use of this but it's probably not the best place to start.

There's a quote from right at the end of the book that stays with me:
"Short-run emotion, as we’ve seen, makes the status quo seductive. But when researchers ask the elderly what they regret about their lives, they don’t often regret something they did; they regret things they didn’t do. They regret not seizing opportunities. They regret hesitating. They regret being indecisive.

Being decisive is itself a choice. Decisiveness is a way of behaving, not an inherited trait. It allows us to make brave and confident choices, not because we know we’ll be right but because it’s better to try and fail than to delay and regret. Our decisions will never be perfect, but they can be better. Bolder. Wiser. The right process can steer us toward the right choice."

They also talk about how a process can give us confidence:
"In our quest to convince you of the merits of a process, we realize we’ve been facing an uphill battle: It would be hard to find a less inspiring word in the English language than “process.” It’s like trying to get people giddy about an algorithm.

What a process provides, though, is more inspiring: confidence. Not cocky overconfidence that comes from collecting biased information and ignoring uncertainties, but the real confidence that comes from knowing you’ve made the best decision that you could. Using a process for decision making doesn’t mean that your choices will always be easy, or that they will always turn out brilliantly, but it does mean you can quiet your mind. You can quit asking, “What am I missing?” You can stop the cycle of agonizing.

Just as important, trusting the process can give you the confidence to take risks. A process can be the equivalent of a mountain climber’s harness and rope, allowing you the freedom to explore without constant worry. A process, far from being a drag or a constraint, can actually give you the comfort to be bolder."

As I'm writing this, I think that a good way for me to start applying the ideas from the book would be to look at how emotions affect all the stages of the process that the authors have described.

The chapters of the book further break down the stage of the process, the "villains" and the responses.
  • Widen your options
    • Avoid a Narrow Frame
    • Multitrack
    • Find someone who's solved your problem
  • Reality-test your assumptions
    • Consider the Opposite
    • Zoom Out, Zoom In
    • "Ooch" (a coloquial word for taking small steps to try out an approach rather than going all in straight away)
  • Attain Distance before deciding
    • Overcome Short-Term Emotion
    • Honour your Core Priorities.
  • Prepare to be wrong
    • Bookend the future (analyse worst case and best case scenarios)
    • Set a Tripwire (an event that will make you assess how your decision is going and make adjustments if necessary)
There are loads of ways that emotions come into many of these steps. For example in the "Multitrack" chapter, there's the following:
"How you react to the position, in short, depends a great deal on your mindset at the time it’s offered. Psychologists have identified two contrasting mindsets that affect our motivation and our receptiveness to new opportunities: a “prevention focus,” which orients us toward avoiding negative outcomes, and a “promotion focus,” which orients us toward pursuing positive outcomes."

I can definitely see how depression has biased me towards the prevention focus mindset and prevented me from seriously considering options from the promotion focus mindset.

There are other chapters in the book where emotions come into some of the ideas. I'll pick these out later to see how they relate to the problems that I've been having.

I'll definitely put a lot more thought into learning about decision-making. I'm wondering if looking further into the idea of "dysrationalia" might be a better place to start.
 
Some more ideas from the book "Decisive" about how emotions impact decision-making.

Zoom In, Zoom Out
"Psychologists distinguish between the “inside view” and “outside view” of a situation. The inside view draws from information that is in our spotlight as we consider a decision—our own impressions and assessments of the situation we’re in. The outside view, by contrast, ignores the particulars and instead analyzes the larger class it’s part of."

"Take the outside view. You should distrust the inside view—those glossy pictures in your head—and instead get out of your head and consult the base rates."

"Should we really be willing to trust a set of data over our own antennae? Isn’t that dehumanizing somehow? Overly analytical?

The advice to trust the numbers isn’t motivated by geekery; it’s motivated by humility."

"the right kind of emotion can be exactly what we need to make a wise choice."

" When we assess out choices, we’ll take the inside view by default. We’ll consider the information in the spotlight and use it to form quick impressions.

What we’ve seen, though, is that we can correct this bias by doing two things: zooming out and zooming in."

Consider the Opposite
"Hubris is exaggerated pride or self-confidence that often results in a comeuppance."

"we are more than twice as likely to favor confirming information than dis-confirming information."

"confirmation bias was stronger in emotion-laden domains such as religion or politics and also when people had a strong underlying motive to believe one way or the other"

"The confirmation bias also increased when people had previously invested a lot of time or effort in a given issue."

"We know that the confirmation bias will skew our assessment. If we feel a whisker’s worth of preference for one option over another, we can be trusted to train our spotlight on favorable data."

"develop the discipline to consider the opposite of our initial instincts. That discipline begins with a willingness to spark constructive disagreement."

"for high-stakes decisions, we owe ourselves a dose of skepticism. If you have teenagers, they may be a good resource here. Our typical tendency is to flee these skeptical conversations rather than embrace them, but that reflects short-term thinking. We want to avoid the momentary discomfort of being challenged, which is understandable, but surely it’s preferable to the pain of walking blindly into a bad decision."

"The most important lesson to learn about devil’s advocacy isn’t the need for a formal contrarian position; it’s the need to interpret criticism as a noble function. An effective promotor fidei is not a token argumentative smarty-pants; it’s someone who deeply respects the Catholic Church and is trying to defend the faith by surfacing contrary arguments in situations where skepticism is unlikely to surface naturally."

"The downside of proviking disagreement is that it can curdle into bitter politics. Roger Martin56, the dean of the Rotman School of Business and the author of The Opposable Mind and other well-regarded business books, said that people often complain to him that their strategy meetings “descend into adversarial position-taking.”"

"Let’s stop arguing about who is right, he said. Instead, let’s take each option, one at a time, and ask ourselves: What would have to be true for this option to be the right answer? Surely it’s possible, he said, to imagine a set of evidence that would persuade us to change our minds. Let’s talk about what that evidence would look like."

"What if our least favorite option were actually the best one? What data might convince us of that?"

“If you think an idea is the wrong way to approach a problem and someone asks you if you think it’s the right way, you’ll reply ‘no’ and defend that answer against all comers. But if someone asks you to figure out what would have to be true for that approach to work, your frame of thinking changes…. This subtle shift gives people a way to back away from their beliefs and allow exploration by which they give themselves the opportunity to learn something new.”

"We are all pretty good at digging up disconfirming information to respond to a sales pitch."

"The problem comes, of course, when we sort of want to be sold."

"Sometimes we think we’re gathering information when we’re actually fishing for support."

"When we want something to be true, we gather information that supports our desire. But the confirmation bias doesn’t just affect what information people go looking for; it even affects what they notice in the first place."

"listing some of the key assumptions underlying their efforts, an exercise that surfaced the “conventional wisdom” that, in most organizations, is never articulated or questioned."

"Reality-Testing Our Assumptions is difficult. We’ll rarely do it instinctively. That’s the whole point of the confirmation bias—deep down, we never really want to hear the negative information. That’s why we are advocating so strongly in this book for the use of a process, something that becomes habitual. Otherwise it will be too easy to discard this advice in the heat of the moment."

"to embrace a certain cosmic humility. From the perspective of our brains, we are unique. Our challenges and opportunities feel particular to us. From the perspective of the universe, though, we are utterly typical."
 
I realise that I'm just making notes about things that I've read now. I'm not sure why but I think it helps to type them in this journal rather than just making notes on my own.

So just coming back to ideas about emotion and decision-making.

Honour your Core Priorities
"the choice made her anxious."

“I felt nauseous pretty much every day…. I felt like I couldn’t get my head straight. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
"continued to agonize about the decision until, eventually, she realized why she was stuck: It wasn’t just a job decision; it was a values decision."

"she was being forced to make a concrete choice between the two visions of herself."

"Even after she let her feelings settle, though, she was still confused, and this is where we move beyond the principles from the last chapter."

"the phrase “considering her preferences in life,” while accurate, is a pretty colorless description of what she experienced. She wasn’t rationally cataloging her preferences in the clearheaded way you might compile a weekly to-do list. She agonized. She felt nauseous. Her decision was loaded with emotion—it’s just that it wasn’t visceral emotion, the kind that fades when you “sleep on it.”"

"When you strip away all the rational mechanics of decision making—the generation of options, the weighing of information—what’s left at the core is emotion. What drives you? What kind of person do you aspire to be?"

"Those are emotional questions—speaking to passions and values and beliefs—and when you answer them, there’s no “rational machine” underneath that is generating your perspective. It’s just who you are and what you want. The buck stops with emotion."

"In the last chapter, we saw that part of what’s “good for you” is distancing yourself from short-term emotions, because they’ll often distract you from your long-term aspirations. Now we’ll turn our attention to dilemmas like Ramirez’s, in which you find yourself torn between two options, both of which have long-term appeal. An agonizing decision like hers is often a sign of a conflict among “core priorities.” We’re using the word “core” to capture the sense of long-term emotion we’ve been discussing; these are priorities that transcend the week or the quarter."

"this navigational role is supposed to be the whole point of organizational mission statements and values. Unfortunately, the top executives of most organizations have chosen to retreat behind vague endorsements of values"

"That’s why it’s so important to enshrine core priorities, not just cheerlead for generic values."

"This is one of the classic tensions of management: You want to encourage people to use their judgment, but you also need your team members’ judgments to be correct and consistent."

“guardrails that are wide enough to empower but narrow enough to guide.”

"people rarely establish their priorities until they’re forced to."

"while priorities are vital for making good decisions, they are also totally voluntary. You will never be required to articulate yours."

There's an interesting anecdote about how an organisation articulated its core values when faced with a decision. They write "it’s easy to imagine how other organizational leaders, facing Interplast-style values conflicts, might escape without pinning down their priorities. A more egotistical CEO might have simply said, Here’s what I’ve decided, settling the issue by fiat without articulating anything about priorities. Or a more wishy-washy CEO might have resolved the issue politically, supporting whichever faction she needed to curry favor with that quarter."

"The goal is not to eliminate emotion. It’s to honor the emotions that count."
 
Just some notes on another chapter from that book "Decisive". I'll try to write a journal entry later this week on how these ideas apply to the problems that I've been having and to how I'm going to apply these ideas to solving my problems.

Overcome Short-Term Emotions
There's an anecdote where a journalist gets a job as a car sales person to learn more about the sale process for an article. "Phillips quickly learned that the art of car sales was getting customers to stop thinking and start feeling."

Interestingly, he is quoted as saying "As I reached the couple I gave them a cheerful, “Good afternoon!” They turned and, in an instant, I saw the fear on their faces. Fear of me! … What were they afraid of? The short answer is, they were afraid they would buy a car. The long answer is that they were afraid they would fall in love with one of these cars, lose their sense of reason and pay too much for it. They were afraid they would be cheated, ripped-off, pressured, hoodwinked, swindled, jacked around, suckered or fleeced. And, as they saw me approaching, all these fears showed on their faces as they blurted out, “We’re only looking!”"

"adding a false urgency to the process"

"If they were excited about the car, they wouldn’t be rational when it came to making a deal.”

“Car salespeople are good at making us feel obligated to buy from them,”

"Occasionally, though, we’ll encounter a truly tough choice, and that’s when we’ve got to attain distance. It’s easy to lose perspective when we’re facing a thorny dilemma. Blinded by the particulars of the situation, we’ll waffle and agonize, changing our mind from day to day."

"When people share the worst decisions they’ve made in life, they are often recalling choices made in the grip of visceral emotion: anger, lust, anxiety, greed."

"the distance we need will be emotional. We need to downplay short-term emotion in favor of long-term values and passions."

"To use 10/10/10, we think about our decisions on three different time frames: How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months from now? How about 10 years from now?"

"without consciously doing the 10/10/10 analysis, it didn’t feel like an easy decision. Those short-term emotions—nervousness, fear, and the dread of a negative response—were a distraction and a deterrent."

"10/10/10 helps to level the emotional playing field. What we’re feeling now is intense and sharp, while the future feels fuzzier. That discrepancy gives the present too much power, because our present emotions are always in the spotlight. 10/10/10 forces us to shift our spotlights, asking us to imagine a moment 10 months into the future with the same “freshness” that we feel in the present."

"It’s not that we should ignore our short-term emotions; often they are telling us something useful about what we want in a situation. But we should not let them be the boss of us."

"Conducting a 10/10/10 analysis doesn’t presuppose that the long-term perspective is the right one. It simply ensures that short-term emotion isn’t the only voice at the table."

"If you’ve been avoiding a difficult conversation with a coworker, then you’re letting short-term emotion rule you. If you commit to have the conversation, then 10 minutes from now you’ll probably be anxious, but 10 months from now, won’t you be glad you did it? Relieved? Proud?"

"Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, then, but more like contentment."

"the mere-exposure principle also extends to our perception of truth."

"Repetition sparked trust."

"some of it will only feel true because it is familiar. As a result, when we make decisions, we might think we’re choosing based on evidence, but sometimes that evidence may be ... nonsense ideas we’ve come to like because we’ve seen them so much."

"A preference for familiar things is necessarily a preference for the status quo."

"people act as though losses are from two to four times more painful than gains are pleasurable."

"When you put these two forces together—the mere-exposure principle and loss aversion—what you get is a powerful bias for the way things work today."

"Why does “distance” help so much? A relatively new area of research in psychology, called construal-level theory"

"when we’re giving advice, we find it easier to focus on the most important factors."

"when we think about ourselves, we let complexity intrude."

"our advice to others tends to hinge on the single most important factor, while our own thinking flits among many variables."

"When we think of our friends, we see the forest. When we think of ourselves, we get stuck in the trees....we want to go a step further and argue that the forest perspective really is the right one, because when people fail to prioritize the most important factor in the decision, their decision gets muddled. When we revel in complexity, we may cycle through our options constantly, changing our minds from day to day. But that kind of mental circling is risky, because it means that our choice may be determined by where we are on the merry-go-round when we’re forced to make a final call."

"We tend to be wise about counseling people to overlook short-term emotions."

"The bias to overweight short-term emotions can have paradoxical effects. Sometimes it makes us erratic and too quick to act, as when we react aggressively to a driver who cuts us off on the road. More commonly, though, short-term emotion has the opposite effect, making us slow and timid, reluctant to take action. We see too much complexity and it stymies us. We worry about what we must sacrifice to try something new. We distrust the unfamiliar. Together, these feelings make individuals and organizations biased toward the status quo."
 
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