Developing object permanence around flinches

Many years ago, I did an exercise where I made a list of thoughts that I flinched away from. Then, I made spaced repetition cards with the thoughts.

The cards were statements like: “As of March 2009, I am currently uncomfortable with the idea that quitting my job might be the right move.” (Totally fake example to communicate the format.)

I think it was a really useful exercise, and it’s pretty easy to implement, and I basically recommend it to people.

I don’t think the part about spaced repetition software specifically was all that important–I think the idea was that I developed something like object permanence around these mental flinches of mine, and that was the way I accomplished that.

If you try this, I wouldn’t try to force yourself to consider the uncomfortable thought at the object level. I would try to internalize that you are in fact uncomfortable considering it at the object level, and maybe meditate on possible cognitive chilling effects of that situation.

Because, in my experience, human brains are pretty good at back-propagating these flinches, and that can cut off a lot of otherwise useful thought. (The linked article is very good, but includes a framing and approach that are, IMO, importantly different from what worked for me. YMMV.)

From Divia Eden, via Alexey Guzey.


My current boss showed me the simplest trick: on Friday afternoon write in paper the unfinished work of the week. It would seem masochistic to make a list of all your pending work just before you leave the office for the weekend, but it's the opposite...the worries stay on the paper and not in your head.

PS. of course, this trick works for everyday worries: calculations, reports, invoicing, sales. When the project you're leading will finish as a write-down, nothing beats a wine bottle or a several beers ;)

I used to do that, write a short list of what to finish next day/next week. I stopped doing it when my boss found such a list and wrote rude remarks on it.

1. Get new job...

Got new boss.

Oh... that's a problem for some people? I have this mental OCD, because of which I usually spend all of my time going over any problem I might have (both big existential and small minute details) and doing the constant "flinching". I constantly plan for all the possible outcomes, even tragic ones (loss of family members, children, mental degradation, losing job, cheating, alcoholic overconsumption, drugs and so on and so forth). This way I am usually mentally prepared for any problem.

Ditto. Though I think the circle of uncomfortable thoughts should be wider than just personal contingency planning. e.g.

"I don't have a convincing moral objection to vegetarianism / incest / selective political murder "

I do not have moral objections to anything. I am a sociopath. I am usually thinking in the vein of "How can I continue to have a functioning good family, when I have no empathy to anyone outside of it" or "how can society move forward, when there is still a lot of people like me in it".

Why would I want to do this? It sounds like you are giving yourself PTSD. There are better ways to get "useful thought".

Just wait until she reads about struggle sessions!

I doubt Tyler's 'totally fake' example of wondering if he should quit his job is actually fake. The dude makes a lot of money now from his career - and that sinecure at George Mason is attractive but it comes with the muscular tongue work needed to please an administration that all academia requires, even when you're tenured. Academia is an agony of tiny trapped minds -- the folks who spent their lives in their bedrooms as kids who now have a tiny bit of power and lots of ability to whine and inflict their psychic trauma on others. I'd quit, too! Go for it, Tyler! Then you can write a book blowing the lid off academia and showing that 90 percent of it is shit.

Show us on the doll where the bad professor touched you...

Except that isn’t Tyler’s example. He is just quoting the blog he is linking too.

Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Brief, on point, thoughtful. Gotta give +3 internet points for this rarity from rayward.

Sure, he stole it from God!

Agreed but God doesn't need internet points

Was this guy, Matthew, against insurance?

I first read the title as "finches" and was quite confused. Why privilege this one type of bird over the humble sparrow or starling?

My reaction was similar. With the movie "The Goldfinch" coming out I thought Tyler had found something that connected with that.

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