23 Weeks of Lydia

It’s been another week! No huge updates this week, but there have been a bunch of little things. I keep meaning to take more regular notes about what’s going on during the week, but I’m mostly just glad that I’ve been getting around to making these updates every Wednesday, since it all changes so quickly.

Overall, I’d say Lydia was in a pretty good mood this week. The almost cold of last week went away. There were a few times where she was quite upset, but her overall mood was good.

No big disruptions this week. No more camping :-). One party where she fell asleep pretty early in. We did go see Birth Story in the Mission, which went okay but not great. From the invitation posted to the home birth mailing list, I thought there would be more babies there, but my friend Tiffany and I were the only ones who brought ours. Lydia was fine during parts, but would also make noise sometimes. When she did, I stepped outside with her. Our midwife, Maria came in late and took her for a while, since she’d already seen the movie, which was really nice!

So, it probably wasn’t super appropriate to have her there, but it was way more acceptable than having her at any other movie would have been. And a few people came up to me afterwards and said it was nice to hear the babies from time to time, since it was thematic.

I would recommend the movie to anyone interested in Ina May Gaskin, birth, or hippie communities.

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How I Think Pathological Guilt Works

“If I do something wrong, I have to feel bad about it forever.”

I used to believe that, and that belief has been on my mind because I really don’t believe it anymore, and I was just talking to someone who expressed pretty much that exact belief.

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22 Weeks of Lydia

Lydia turned five months old this week, and also went on her first camping trip. I got a really mild cold for a few days last week, though Lydia didn’t seem to be affected much. She was a bit sneezy, and I think she may have been sleeping more because of it.

We were camping from Friday-Sunday. We hiked to a camp ground Friday, stayed there Friday night, then hiked more and went to Harbin hot springs and camped there Saturday night. Sunday, we hiked a bit more before heading home.

My prediction had been that she’d like camping, and that was mostly borne out. She definitely liked hiking. Camping was okay. Sleeping in a tent didn’t seem to be her favorite, but it wasn’t a disaster either. The car rides were probably her least favorite part, though she did spend some time sleeping.

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Heuristics for Spotting Distorted Thinking: “It Would Be One Thing If… But…”

I have a whole bunch of heuristics I use to notice distorted thinking. I’ve covered some of them here. Today, I wanted to highlight the speech pattern “It would be one thing if X, but Y,” typically used to describe why someone’s behavior is objectionable.

The language can vary a little:

“I know that she needs to do X, but Y seems like a bit much.”

“It wasn’t just X, it was Y!”

“I’m a reasonable person. I’d be okay with X. But he went so far as to do Y.” [Read more…]

21 Weeks of Lydia

Lydia will be five months this Sunday, and I’ve started telling people she’s “almost five months” instead of “four and a half months”.


I don’t think she’s woken up in the middle of the night this week and stayed up for a while. I skipped swaddling more times this week, so those nights were less restful for me, with more squirming and waking on her part. But nothing particularly memorable happened here.


She seems bigger again this week, though I haven’t really noticed any difference in nursing patterns. 

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Your Past is Never the Reason

I’m a huge fan of the Internal Family Systems therapy method. This method involves (among other things) digging into your past to find emotions you never finished processing and sorting them out. I’ve seen this method work very well to shift repetitive thoughts and behaviors relatively effortlessly. Doing the work is often fun and rewarding. While fake memories can come into play (it’s happened to me), my experience tells me that most of the memories people access when doing IFS relate to actual incidents.

Once those incidents are revisited and consciously processed, it’s easy to change the related story and then your behavior. [Read more…]

20 Weeks of Lydia

Twenty weeks already! I’ve been referring to Lydia as 4.5 months old, but next week she’ll be nearly 5 months.

Probably the biggest thing this week was her four-month vaccines.


A couple of times this week, Lydia has woken up in the middle of the night for a while, not just to feed. Not sure what’s going on here, but it wasn’t actually very disruptive. She didn’t need much soothing at all, and I honestly don’t remember much about what happened or how long she was awake. I just remember her lying there squirming a bit and occasionally making a little noise. I occasionally fed her, and I think one of the times I ended up pottying her before she went to sleep.

I don’t really have a theory about why this happened, but it doesn’t seem to have become a regular pattern. Some nights this past week we skipped the swaddle, and she did seem to both wake up and move around more frequently, so the rest of the time we went back to using it.

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If You Have A Strong Feeling, It’s Yours

I’ve had a plan to blog about something related to personal growth every Monday. I’ve managed this the last two weeks, and I’m doing it again today.

I read an IFS book about relationships a couple of years ago that had an articulate explanation of why strong feelings are always about us, never the other person. Will and I just hosted an NVC webinar, where we talked about the importance of taking responsibility for all of your feelings. The basic idea is that even though there are external triggers that prompt us to feel emotions at certain times, something always happens in our head between our sensory perception of what happened and our reaction to it.

And we have control over that something that happens. We can change our narrative, and therefore change our feelings about a situation.

While this principle basically always holds true, today I’d like to focus on the specific case of really strong feelings. One heuristic I use is that if a reaction seems disproportionate, it’s because the person isn’t actually reacting to the situation at hand.

If I get a little annoyed at my roommate for eating my cheese, ask her not to do it again, and forget about the whole thing, I think it’s basically fair to say that I was annoyed about the cheese. If my roommate eats my cheese and I’m in tears (yes, I’ve done this…), there’s something else going on. I’m pattern matching my current circumstance to an unresolved incident, probably from my childhood.

If someone says or does something that makes me feel absolutely terrible, I always try to remember that whatever the trigger was can’t possibly be what I’m really upset about. It doesn’t make sense to say that I’m in a really bad mood “because my friend was late” or “because Will joked that ‘you only think of yourself’ when I didn’t unplug his power cord for him”.

It doesn’t make sense to frame it that way, because I’ll never actually be able to resolve my emotional state by focusing on the trigger. Setting up my life to avoid situations that pattern match to the past probably won’t work, and (in my opinion) would be counterproductive even if it did. Because the trigger brought my attention to some emotional pain that was already there.

My model of how this works is that actually feeling better means owning the feeling and opening up emotionally. In doing so, my mind will naturally go back to the original incident where I created a distorted narrative instead of processing the emotion. Once I can see the mental movements I’m going through, it’s not usually hard to change the pattern.

So, if you find yourself complaining, either to yourself or out loud, about how bad someone made you feel, or about how much someone is making your life difficult, try getting curious about what’s going on underneath the surface.

And if you can manage it, try feeling grateful to the other person for drawing your attention to something that already a problem.

(If the thing the other person did to you is actually huge, like killing someone you care about, then this heuristic doesn’t apply. That’s a different story.)

Nineteen Weeks of Lydia

Lydia tuns nineteen weeks old today, and it was a very active week. She’s getting stronger by the day!


Sleep was unmemorable this week, which is exactly where I want it to be! She seems to be past whatever was making her more fitful last week. We have been breaking out the swaddling blanket at night pretty often though. Sometimes she’s clearly tired, but is having a hard time settling, and the swaddle usually does the trick. She still hasn’t been resisting it. If it continues to be useful, I may have to get new blankets though, because I don’t think she’ll fit into the ones we have now for that long.

Last night, Lydia gave a very clear signal that she wanted to go to sleep, which was nice. Around 9:30, she started getting quite upset and rejecting my usual soothing measures, until I tried feeding her lying down in the bedroom. Then she was happy. [Read more…]

Your Inner Virtue Ethicist Should Like Self-Compassion

If you haven’t read Virtue Ethics for Consequentialists, I highly recommend it. As I see it, consequentialism is obviously correct, and virtue ethics is how you implement it on human hardware.

I’m also a big fan of self-compassion. Today, I was working with someone, and while we did some good IFS work together, we didn’t manage to wrap things up in a nice little bow at the end of the session. That happens sometimes. So, I recommended an operant conditioning exercise to work on in the meantime.

Basically, imagine the situation that was triggering her and feel compassion. Practice this enough times, and it gets easier to feel compassion in the real situation.

She said, that her inner virtue ethicist objected, because it seemed like rewarding herself for undesirable behavior. That’s not how I see it at all, so it seemed worth it to me to write up my reasons for seeing it differently.

Compassion is a game-theoretic hack.

Or something. 

Many people end up using some sort of internal system where they aim to feel good when they do something aligned with their moral system, and bad when they do something that isn’t aligned with their moral system. This is a relatively intuitive way to set things up. And compassion is generally experienced by people as positive, so I could see why it might seem backwards to “reward” yourself with compassion for, say, feeling resentful.

But here’s how compassion is a hack. Yes, compassion feels good. But in order to feel self-compassion, I have to be updating. As humans, we tend to store data that tells us that the world is worse than we realize. We cordon it off and prevent ourselves from looking at it. If we were to take it out and look at it, we would get sad. And if you look at your sadness from the right angle, you get self-compassion.

Compassion lets you feel good while updating your model of the world to be accurate even when you’re getting bad news. But you’re not going to start doing the undesirable behavior in order to get more compassion, because feeling the self-compassion at all requires that you be in exactly the sort of observer state that means you’ll be updating as you feel it. If you take in the compassion, you’ll accept the world as it is,  feel better about yourself, and then not have the emotional impetus to do the problematic behavior anymore.

(I’m somewhat worried that this post isn’t particularly articulate, as this isn’t a concept I’ve tried to put into words very often, but it seemed worth trying. I may revisit this topic later.)