0472 – experiment with pretending you don’t have problems

A: Hey, you free for a chat?

B: Always. What’s up?

A: I was hoping to catch you in a more relaxed, unprofessional sort of mood. I feel like every time we talk, we typically end up talking business. Or even when we’re not talking business, there are sort of all these subtle, implicit, implied expectations. I know they’ll always be there, but I think even then there are conditions where they’re more prevalent and they’re conditions where they’re not so prevalent, and that there must be some utility to the latter. Or it might just be fun. There’s utility in fun. We might need a little fun.

B: *chuckles* Sure. How can I help you?

A: I guess I wanna start by saying thank you. Thanks for being here for me. Thanks for talking to me, listening to me, asking me the right questions, being patient with me, guiding me. It’s made a lot of difference to me. I sometimes seem grumpy or lethargic or unhelpful or unproductive, but when I take the long view it’s clear that I’m a much better person than I was before, on almost all counts, and your role in that is substantial.

B: That’s very touching, but…

A: If I want to repay you, the best way to do it isn’t with feels, but by giving you what YOU want.

B: Righto.

A: And what you want… is for me to perform at my best.

B: Simple as that.

A: And yet strangely… I don’t seem to be doing that. Against my better judgement, against what I know to be optimal, it seems like the parasites or the saboteurs within me are always looking to weasel their way out of being accountable to hard reality.

B: Sounds pretty creepy.

A: It… does, doesn’t it? But yet it never seems creepy to me while I’m swimming in it.

B: That’s the creepy thing about creepy things.

A: So… I feel like there must be some things that I’m not telling you, that we haven’t addressed or talked about, and I want to try and get at them now.

B: Sure.

A: I’m not sure what to say.

B: Keep going.

A: I think I still carry a lot of stupid shit around. Have I said that already? I’ll say it again. I’m still carrying a lot of stupid shit around. A lot of weight and baggage. It feels like I’ve thrown a lot of it overboard, but there’s more where it came from, and I become conscious of how much more there is, and suddenly it feels heavy all over again. And intellectually I know that all of it is imaginary, right? I can just let all of it go. I was reading an article today about how placebos make people feel better at a dramatic rate, so much so that the “sham treatments” aren’t really “sham treatments”, but they’re practically… actual treatments!

B: Mmhmm.

A: So it’s a game people play. This is my game. I’m stuck in this cycle of being the irresponsible or errant child that needs to grow up, and yet it’s still a very small loop that I’m in. The maximum amount of initiative I take is still surprisingly small, surprisingly limited. I can and should be able to expand myself greatly beyond that which I am right now.

B: What do you mean?

A: It seems like I limit myself psychologically so that I can continue to play a familiar, predictable game of being barely tolerable.

B: What do you need to do to remove this limit?

A: Well… in the past it was physiological. It was a lack of sleep, exercise, bad diet, I was smoking. I’m sleeping and eating better now. Eating better, for sure. I exercise semi-regularly, and I need to be more regular about that. I went cold turkey completely of cigarettes, then I smoke once in a while… I’ve had moments in time where I was better on each count, but if you look at the big picture on all counts, the overall trend is good. I’m progressing.

B: So what are you worrying about?

A: Worry is part of how I limit myself. I worry instead of act. I get all self-conscious about my performance instead of performing. I feel sorry for myself, or I think about all the drama and perspective… I still haven’t fully internalized the fact that there’s a very simple underlying reality to things, and I don’t have to worry so much about interpretations and such if I just focus on getting the reality right. I’ve definitely written about this, several times.

B: So…

A: Why haven’t I gotten past it? I guess I’m addicted to it. I’m addicted to drama and worry and rushing from point to point and chasing after deadlines at the last minute. It makes me feel relevant and significant. It makes me feel alive. I like the thrill. It’s like … autoerotic asphyxiation.

B: That’s a disturbing image.

A: I know. But it probably is that, some sort of deep kink or perversion that’s wired deep into the way my mind functions. And the most twisted part seems to be that _talking about the kink perpetuates the kink_. It seems to be that way. Everytime I talk about my problems, I’m reminding myself that I am a person who is significant in the sense that he has problems. It’s the placebo effect of sorts, isn’t it?

B: So what does that suggest you should do next?

A: Well, the hypothesis I haven’t tested is– let’s spend 12 weeks pretending that I DON’T have problems. I mean, I have challenges or whatever, but let’s just pretend my childhood and everything never happened. “What was it like growing up?” “It was perfect. I literally had a perfect childhood. Everything went great for me. I was happy, satisfied, fulfilled. I love my life. Lots of opportunities. Lots of excitement. The only thing I’m sorta bummed out about is that I didn’t contribute more, but I’m making up for it now.”

B: You think that will help?

A: Worth running an experiment.

B: If you say so.

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