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POSTED
2020-06-19
07-081940
08-47148
09-081966
10-31

I really like myself, but my good-/right-by-default attitude has the built-in failure mode of making it difficult to identify areas for growth. Nevertheless, I've found a few things I can work on.

This page is a stub, created on 2020-06-19 (last updated on 2021-10-26). Its contents are notes on the issues and angles I want to address about this topic.


  • psychological dispositions
    • caring too much (qualitatively and quantitatively) what others think, both about me and about the truth in general
    • defensiveness about being misunderstood
    • uncritically defaulting to connecting with other people in intellectual/academic ways, trying to talk talk talk through everything
    • learning how to navigate the line between
      • leaning into discomfort and pain, wrestling with and processing difficult emotions (without this being an intentional pursuit of misery)
      • redirecting attention to more pleasant experiences / "distracting" myself (without this being numbing / evasion / repression)
    • learning how to not allow my now-automatic compassion and empathy
      • to overwhelm me emotionally
      • to function as enablement, when it's in response to others' inappropriate behavior (ie, figure out how to hold people accountable while knowing that they're doing their best and are trying to pursue legitimate values)
    • procrastination
    • learning how to differentiate between "running away from a problem" and "running toward a solution"
      • figuring out when to cultivate resilience (eg, the situation is temporary or part of normal difficulty or challenge in life) versus saying "fuck this shit" and moving on (eg, the situation is inherently toxic or otherwise profits me not)
      • concrete example: Is moving to the mountains "running away from my problems", where I would better learn how to be resilient to the stresses of human interaction and city life? After all, I even say, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that I'm doing it because I want to get away from people. Or is it really the pursuit of genuine values and my love of being out in nature and the life I want? (A third alternative is chasing a ghost in the form of what I wanted with Adam, but that's merely a complication for this particular example, not the main principle of this point.)
    • risk-aversion, the devil I know, inertia; my orientation toward routines and comfort undermining taking action to make bigger, non-incremental changes
    • learning to how to better navigate the line between
      • deescalation, being tactful, avoiding/preventing conflict ("conflict-aversion")
      • standing up for the truth, being authentic, not being a doormat, saying "no" to inappropriate behavior
    • overcoming my propensity to make false excuses to spare hurting others' feelings; instead, finding a way to be direct and kind and truthful, even if it's unpleasant for them ("direct is kind")
    • learning how to be sensitive, compassionate, caring, understanding, tactful without its landing as overthinking, game-playing, manipulation, sociopathic
    • learning how to determine when, if ever, "tough love" is appropriate instead of softer compassion
      • whether it's justified to artificially use a sharper, tactless tone because it will land better / be more effective in the moment with a person whose wounds might cause compassion to land badly (and what the long-term consequences of doing this might be)
      • connection to how Libertarians will often use any argument, no matter how inessential or false, that is convincing to a particular group/person in the moment, sometimes pandering to (and thereby encouraging and enabling) things like religion and altruism
      • what the cost is to authenticity to intentionally do an unkind thing when I do not want to be unkind (whether it's being disingenuous to myself and my values and who I am to be tactless because it's pandering to another person's unhealthy dispositions)
    • susceptibility to the sunken-cost fallacy
    • how the anxiety of one-way door decisions (or cost of reversing certain decisions) leads me to indecision and inaction
      • eg, plane travel
      • not wanting to "use things up", then losing them anyway (eg, stickers, food items)
    • letting the "perfect" be the enemy of the good
    • (better) overcoming FOMO and being disciplined about pursuing my own values and interests (eg, going to bed instead of staying up late, socializing)
    • being willing to renegotiate plans when I'm not feeling up to them, rather than feeling absolutely obligated or responsible for living up to previously made commitments
      • It's not that I've ever struggled with being thought of as a flake, so I wonder why I feel so bound by plans I've made. Could it be
        • not properly differentiating from living up to contracts/agreements generally?
        • hating when others flake on / inconvenience me with last-minute schedule-thrashing, so I don't want to do that to them?
        • a reaction to times when I was a kid when my parents failed to live up to their commitments on plans we've made?
    • learning how to appropriately integrate the needs of
      • prioritizing fun/play (ie, not think that I can't do fun things until I've cleared my to-do list)
      • doing responsible adulting (ie, dealing with important/urgent administrative tasks)
    • dealing with change better; not being so overwhelmed and distressed by it
    • worry, rumination, and emotional resilience to things outside my control
      • I find that my mood can fluctuate wildly in response to external factors that I have no control over, simply because those things have a profound power to affect my values and well being. This makes me vulnerable to severe emotional dysregulation, which is particularly problematic when it manifests as dorsal vagal collapse (since it turns into a vicious cycle of incapacitation/inaction and inviting more external factors that work against my interests). While there are strategies to come out of such a state, I wonder whether I can develop some way of being or skill around "accept[ing] the things I cannot change" and thereby avoiding the intensity of the emotional reaction in the first place. My hope is that my daily meditation practice has already helped tremendously in this regard, but it's hard to know for certain.
      • I'm also wondering whether this kind of "resilience" can be scoped to only unpleasant emotions. In general, I've found (and my understanding of the science is) that emotional intensity is agnostic to the substance of the emotions, even at the coarseness of pleasant-versus-unpleasant. (And this is why attempts to numb unpleasant emotions, especially pharmacologically, also results in numbing joy and happiness.) So what would the effect be on the experience of pleasant feelings (in response to value-supporting events outside of one's control) of being more "stoic" about value-threatening events outside one's control? Offhand, it seems that "uncalibrated" joy in response to good things is not really a problem, and, if anything, rather nice.
  • specific behaviors
    • investigating dermatological phenomena (apparently called "dermatillomania" or "excoriation disorder")
    • nail-biting
  • general skills
    • mind-body-emotion connection: better awareness of my physical body experience, especially in the grips of powerful emotions, but also in using physical body experience as a way of influencing emotional experience
    • being more aware and careful about my own enthusiasm about stuff going on in my life (ie, my self-absorption) and how it may land with people as implying a disinterest in them; related to asking people about themselves
    • writing shorter letters
      • combatting my default disposition to explain all the things and lay things out in a chain-of-reasoning way
      • bottom line up front (BLUF) / not burying the lede
    • time/energy/bandwidth/focus management: learning to say "no" more often
    • learning how to judge people more accurately, tempering my "all in" trust with some ability to see and consider warning signs