a.k.a. reasons I could avoid sitting down to write
- It’s cold and I just don’t want to move, which also means I don’t want to think
- The incessant leaf-blowing going on outside my window
- The little boy next door who screams like he’s being skinned alive
- The return last night of the skipping heartbeat sensation
- The annoyance that two clients have yet to pay invoices
- The stress of phone calls from creditors who I’ll gladly pay when my invoices are payed
- The feeling that everything I do is for nothing
- The lack of confidence I have in my last podcast episode
I could go on and on. That’s the problem with this kind of thinking. I don’t even have an accurate word for it, but I do know that something happens when I start listing these thoughts out; when I put them in the spotlight. I wouldn’t call it a cure. I would maybe call it shaming my fears; exposing them and seeing if they can stand up to scrutiny.
- It’s only across the room. And if I avoid sitting or lying in one spot where I get overly comfortable then there is less pull on me. It’s easy to avoid not wanting to get up by simply not getting down in the first place.
- Get good sleep. Avoid sugar. Relieve stress. Hug my dog. This is how I overcame this last year. I know the formula, I just need to follow it.
- They will pay, I’m just being impatient because I want to pay these creditors. I hate being past due.
- See above.
- This is just how I feel. I go through this often. Ride the wave.
- Focus on the next one, not the one that’s already done.
- Do I have a cure? Can I find the cure? No. Then shut the fuck up and feel shitty about it like everybody else.
Of the nine things, two of them are dealt with by removing the illusion of choice that I have in each. I have no control over when people pay invoices nor do I have control over COVID-19. Sitting around imagining that I do have control of those things is taking pain and transforming it into suffering.
On the other hand, to prevent the rest I simply need to create systems of automation that actively remove my volition. If I maintain good sleep, a low sugar diet, focus on stress-reducing activities, and hug my dog ten times a day, then I won’t have to deal with a tumbling chest. It simply will never arise. Every time there is noise outside the window, I should automatically reach for my earplugs. On cold days, avoid sitting still. Stay active. Keep busy. Plan a routine of activities to add on cold days, like an emergency plan. Have it pre-set and just follow it. And it the case of mood and confidence I simply have to practice acceptance. I have look forward not backwards. I have to focus on my internal motivation; on why I do things. If I enjoy something, then regardless of everything else it is not without meaning.
It seems simple but in a way, it all connects back to satisficing, which in the simplest terms is accepting what is good enough when it cannot be determined what is best. “Do I need the best pencil to write a note, or will a decent pencil do?” As Daniel J. Levitin says in his book The Organized Mind:
Satisficing is one of the foundations of productive human behavior; it prevails when we don’t waste time on decisions that don’t matter, or more accurately, when we don’t waste time trying to find improvements that are not going to make a significant difference in our happiness or satisfaction.(p. 4)
I’m gonna drive myself crazy worrying about things that don’t really matter much in comparison with larger, more important things. And if I’m smart and I find a way to remove volition from these situations, I can save my limited supply of free will and sanity for the those important choices.
I’m hoping that writing things like this will hammer them into my brain. I keep telling myself that journals are a place where things collide, but journals are also a place where I convince myself of better truths (and yes, sometimes, better fictions.)
While I can see on a daily basis that there is a functional difference between debating something in my mind and debating it in a journal, I don’t actually understand why. While some of it certainly does relate to my ideas regarding the necessity of form, that still begs the question. If journals work because they bring our thoughts into tangible reality, and it’s useful to bring thoughts into tangible reality so that they are forced to take a shape, then why is a thought having a shape important.
We can see that a shape is important when dealing with physical reality. Of course, sculpture can only become sculpture when it leaves the mind and enters into a lump of clay, but what about thoughts? Why must thoughts be transmuted into something other than pure thought for us to process them?
I think that we can look at it as a sort of filtration process. The thought must leave the mind and becomes words on page or a screen. They must be expelled from the source. Once outside of our minds we can see them as outside of ourselves and separate from ourselves. Once externalized we can not only understand them from an observational perspective but we can shave, snip, and pound away what doesn’t belong. And then we can accept them back in.
This is very similar to one of the cognitive defusion techniques that Stephen C. Hayes recommends in his book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life. The technique is called physicalizing:
- take a feeling and imagine it out of your body, 4-5 feet in front of you, and place it on the floor
- decide what shape and size this emotion would have if was a tangible object? What about color? basically imagine every psychical characteristic it would have from weight to texture
- Try to experience the object you are imagining for what it is. This requires working out any issue that you have with it. See it for what it is.
- Imagine picking it up and putting it back inside of you. You have to accept it for what it is and then accept it as part of you.
Is this so different from writing in my journal that “I want to be more grateful” or that “I will pay off my debt?” Doesn’t writing, and in turn reading what I’ve written put my thoughts through the same process of acceptance?
It presents interesting questions about what a thought actually is and about the existential differences between inside and outside of our minds.