Archives for July 2013

Musings on Nihilism and Metaphysics

Today’s post will be a bit weirder than the usual fare. Ever since a fun discussion at Ephemerisle, I’ve had a bunch of things on my mind related to many worlds, the simulation hypothesis, and anthropics in general. I don’t understand anthropics. As far as I can tell, no one does.

In the narrative of my relationship with others, they’re the one who are nihilistic, not me. But, of course, it’s more complicated than that. We all have nihilistic parts. Mine is somewhat in shadow, mostly because of my judgments that it isn’t useful and that some of its conclusions are embarrassing or not prosocial enough.

I’ll explain how mine works. In fact, I’ll let my nihilistic part write a whole bit from its perspective. Here’s what it has to say:

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Still on Vacation, Self-leadership

The usual personal-growthy stuff is less on my mind than usual (despite having gotten some good related reading done), since I’m still in Maine on vacation with my family, and I once again didn’t get around to writing my usual Monday post. 

I’ll just throw out a brief story from my life.

I wrote a longish description of what “Self-leadership” means in IFS terms, but it bored me to reread it. Basically, it’s acting from your own best judgement, in a way that feels right and natural, devoid of “should” affect.

One of my historical patterns is getting upset to the point of crying when there’s something that seems important to me that I want from someone and am afraid I won’t get, particularly if I can’t “justify” the want. Unlike anger, sadness has been on my list of emotions to welcome and express for many years now now, which is one reason I’ve gotten a bunch of mileage out of using this pattern to short circuit angry feelings.

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Where I’ve Been, and a Brief Taxonomy of Bad Patterns

I didn’t post yesterday because I was traveling all day. I got up extremely early and took Lydia on a cab to SFO for a flight to JFK, then took another flight to Portland, ME, then another cab, then a ferry. Add in time being pushed three hours ahead, and that’s the day. I also didn’t have my computer last Wednesday-Sunday because we were at Ephemerisle, which we got home from late, with just barely enough time to nap and pack. The weekend before that, we went to Napa for my cousin’s wedding, and before that we were at the EA Summit…

Never being at home is pretty bad for getting writing done. But hanging out with interesting people all the time is good for generating ideas. I’ll sketch out at least one idea today and will state that it is my vague intention to get more writing done on this trip than I do in an average week.

There are many, many ways to divide up and classify destructive emotional patterns, but I’ll share one that occurred to me.

Some bad emotional patterns are, at their heart, crappy strategies. They’re likely outdated and originally formed by a less-resourced self, but I wouldn’t say they’re a result of trauma. The other month, I noticed that I was resisting changing my emotional state in the thick of discussions with Will because I wanted him to practice the skill of being the one to change the emotional tone.

It wasn’t working. Once I put my finger on what I was doing…I just asked Will to get better at that. And that seems to have worked pretty well. Much better than the other thing, anyway. I would call that one a bad strategy. There was no huge underlying childhood emotional pain to be processed. And I knew how to do something better, once I unraveled my reasons for not doing so. I’m actually pretty good at changing my state on command when my whole brain is on board with it.

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Being “Soulful”, Animal Training, and Finding Your Bottleneck

Ever since I had a conversation with Anna Salamon a few weeks about about “soulfulness”, my thoughts keep returning to the topic. I don’t have a great definition of what being soulful is, and I’d say that it probably lines up pretty well but not perfectly with most people’s intuitive definitions.

Anna explained it using a picture, which was helpful. I won’t try to replicate it here though, both because drawing pictures interrupts my flow significantly, and because I think I’ll personally get more value out of trying to use words.

I’ll take it for granted that humans have a bunch of subsystems. Insofar as this is just a metaphor, I’ve found it to be a very robust one. The subsystems don’t start out perfectly exchanging information–I can tell by observing my daughter that it takes a while for internal communication to come online. (For example, despite because physically able to clap, she seems so far unable to do so consciously. Whatever subsystem is hooked up with trying to make gestures for social reasons isn’t connected to the subsystem that moves her hands towards each other. On the other hand, she can point consciously.)

But, while communication doesn’t start out high bandwidth, that’s different from being actively blocked. That seems to happen to just about everyone, and it happens later. I’m a bit confused about how much of it happens when, but that point, while of practical importance to me, is not central to this argument.

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I’ve Been Resisting Unblending

There’s been a pattern going on in my own life recently that I’m going to try to articulate, mostly in hopes that doing so will help something shift.

There’s a sense in which I can always unblend from my current trigger, go into Self, get some more perspective, laugh at myself, and get into a good mood. But I don’t always want to. There’s something that feels newish about this way of being, and something that feels much older. I used to be much less emotionally aware, and I didn’t take the data from my emotions seriously. That changed in a big way a few years ago.

I am interested in the progression, even though I suspect it ultimately won’t inform my current situation that much. I think I used to be very practiced at stepping out of my emotions and saying something more aligned with my verbal loop goals and beliefs. Though it was also uneven. I was much more reactive and prone to emotional displays with my family than I ever was with my friends, and I remember knowing it was that way and wondering about it at least by the time I was 12 or 13. 

Then, I leveled up in things like NVC, IFS, and rationality, and I made a huge push to try to use those tools in difficult situations when I was feeling triggered.

I think I’m better than ever at those skills, since I still practice, but I’m also feeling a yearning, that I’m pretty sure has in fact been there all along to let my more triggered, vulnerable, reactive parts have more of a role in my life. But then, I have a decent amount of tension around this desire because intellectually I’m actually not all that convinced of the value of doing so, except in some more abstract sense that I’ve decided over the years to take my yearnings and intuitions more seriously.

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