Friday, February 8, 2013
Winning streaks and outsourcing
This is not a design flaw. If I had made anxiety easy to turn off, I would turn it off whenever it was inconvenient to me to feel that way.
I'll give you an example of why it might be good or necessary to not have control. I have never been a gearhead. So I have a friend who makes all of my choices of what to buy in those particular areas. Sometimes I question his judgment, think maybe I might like something else. I was telling another friend about this and he said, "so why don't you just buy what you want then?" But that's the thing. I have outsourced the decisionmaking to my gearhead friend. If I second guessed all of his recommendations, then really I have not outsourced anything to him. I have just decided to get his opinion about things. But that's not what I want. I want to not have to decide.
Similar with the anxiety. I used to not care at all. I used to do the craziest things. Then I didn't like the consequences, so at least in certain areas of my life I set my brain to thinking more about particular important tasks. At first I made it a game. Can I do this simple but important task better than anyone else? Then the game became about consistency -- can I achieve this level of superior skill for the longest streak ever seen?
It was such a successful tactic that I kept adding tasks to care about. It's funny, in my mind and in my life I must have hundreds if not thousands of these little games going on by now. All simultaneous. All keeping my life together. And they are sort of important, that's why I singled them out once upon a time to care about. But now when something goes wrong, the feeling of loss or letdown I feel is out of all proportion to the relative significance of the small skirmish lost. Because it's not just the one mistake, it's the end of a winning streak.
It's sort of laughable, that I have made myself like this -- chosen the choices I have led which have, when compounded with hundreds of similar choices, made me care a lot about certain little things. I should maybe rethink the plan. But I also now better understand why most people are the way they are -- why nature or God has chosen to reinforce our important decisions like mating with emotions like love. We have to give ourselves some sort of system to rely on when our minds might be distracted -- some way to make sure that important things don't slip your mind or through the cracks. And my system does that too, and probably just as well or better than emotional reinforcement. But my system takes an incredible mental toll. And when my mind gets taxed just slightly above what I have expected it, I can push myself into mind sickness. So that's why I might have to reconsider my system. Or maybe I should just to outsource more.