Re: Musing for no particular reason.

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Maybe anxiety seems so unpleasant to you, because you don't feel it that often. People who live with constant anxiety get used to it.

As for jealousy and anxiety -- some of my worse times have been waiting for a lover/spouse to come home, and it's getting later and later, and I'm fluctuating between jealousy and anxiety, trying to figure out if I'm more worried that she is cheating on me, or that she has been killed in a horrible accident.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:44 AM
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Look on the bright side, peep: maybe she got killed coming home from cheating on you.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:50 AM
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Maybe anxiety seems so unpleasant to you, because you don't feel it that often. People who live with constant anxiety get used to it.

Maybe so.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:50 AM
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Death-by-cheating! How sordid.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:51 AM
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2: Thanks JRoth! You're just a glass half-full kind of guy, aren't you?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:52 AM
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"Heebie's house is a very, very fine house."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:57 AM
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I think anxiety is probably one of the most unpleasant feelings. Either that or jealousy colon cancer.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:58 AM
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From what I've read, people who study emotion use the word "anxiety" to refer to basic unpleasantness, and then describe other negative emotions as elaborations of anxiety. For instance, my ethics text describes shame as a feeling of anxiety caused by a perceived failure to live up to a socially recognized but personally internalized norm. Another example David DeGrazia claims that very simple animals feel anxiety, but not fear. Fear is a kind of anxiety directed at a particular perceived threat. Something like a lizard might not have a clear conception of any threat, but hides under a rock out of a general feeling of unease.

I think of anxiety as a very primeval emotion. The first feeling that things are bad.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:58 AM
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From my fairly close experience with several people who suffer acute and at times debilitating anxiety, I can say that past some level, people do not get used to it. Anxiety is the mind-killer. (On preview, agree with RMH, a really fundmental emotion, originating deep in the stack, in many ways the straw that stirs the drink, for good or ill.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:03 AM
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Maybe anxiety seems so unpleasant to you, because you don't feel it that often. People who live with constant anxiety get used to it.

I disagree.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:06 AM
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If you get used to it, you don't really have an anxious personality. Also, you aren't feeling anxiety anymore.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:07 AM
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From what I've read, people who study emotion use the word "anxiety" to refer to basic unpleasantness, and then describe other negative emotions as elaborations of anxiety.

To what extent? Because neither sadness nor loneliness feel like forms of anxiety to me. Maybe anxiety has to somehow have a note of uncertainty in it?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:09 AM
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This illustration on Wikipedia amuses me.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:10 AM
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13: me too.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:17 AM
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I've always found anxiety to be the hardest emotion to access and manipulate. I can often think my way out of acute sadness by following trains of thought that have worked in the past, but when I'm anxious nothing works. It really does feel like some primordial, unkillable beast that just keeps stalking me.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:21 AM
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I created this work entirely by myself.

While suffering from boredom?


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:27 AM
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I have two basic moods. One is anxiety. The other is sleep.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:28 AM
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When I'm about to hit a magazine deadline, I'm in a keyed-up and anxious state which relates entirely to getting everything* done by the required time. As a way not to allow myself be distracted, the anxiety is actually pretty useful: I am VERY EASILY distracted in non-deadline time; but as zero hour approaches. distraction becomes actively (albeit mildly) distressing.

*I try and tick things off on lists but this never works and the lists end up discarded, half ticked. The master list is in my head.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:32 AM
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10, 11: Well, it seems everybody think I'm wrong.

The disagreement may just be about definitions. I would say I'm a little anxious a lot of the time, and it's not horrible.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:32 AM
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17: Mo MacArbie is the Rat Thing.

"He gets excited. He gets angry. He gets a little bit scared, but he likes being scared, to him it is the same thing as being excited. Really, he has only two emotions: sleeping and adrenaline overdrive."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:35 AM
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I have two basic moods. One is anxiety. The other is sleep.

I sleep anxiously.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:40 AM
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Essear is a colorless blue idea.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:42 AM
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Open question: How much of your temperament do you feel is nature, and how much nurture? Do you like your basic temperament or would you change it?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:44 AM
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People talk about anxiety it always brings to mind a line from a Winnie-the-Pooh LP my parents bought me. It's from the story In which Piglet is entirely surrounded by water:: "It's a little anxious to be a very small animal entirely surrounded by water."

I listened to that LP surreptitiously well into my teenage years. By which I mean until I was 19. I should buy it again and put it on my ipod.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:47 AM
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I think I would fucking rule on the veldt. But The Man keeps me down in these sadly reduced times.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:48 AM
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The Floating Bear and The Brain of Pooh, have two more endearing craft ever sailed the blue?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:50 AM
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Nature provides a set of tools for coping; circumstances and choice strengthen some of these. Some people get lots of aggression, others lots of calculation, and so on. Long practice gets some people to always play to their strengths, others to make best use of weaknesses. Goffman's Stigma is an excellent book.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:53 AM
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Nature provides a set of tools for coping

It seems to have provided my family with a higher genetic predisposition for bipolar disorder.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:56 AM
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23: I don't know nature v. nurture, but I do think basic temperament is very resistant to change. I'm very equable -- not much upsets me severely -- but my normal mood is slightly discontented and anxious. I really notice the difference talking to people whose normal, central mood is cheerful (like Buck! Very volatile, but the center point he returns to is very cheery.) I'd like to reset my center to something slightly happier, but I'd hate to give up the equanimity.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:57 AM
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I believe my temperament is primarily a product of nurture. I'd change som things, like the anxiety part.


Posted by: di kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:58 AM
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23: I suspect that it's more nurture than nature, but they are completely intertwined. You learn behaviors and attitudes from your parents, but part of the origin of those behaviors and attitudes is your parents' way of dealing with their own innate impulses and predispositions. You share their DNA so inasmuch as these things are genetic you share some measure of those impulses and predispositions.

My maternal line is chronic depressives going back at least four generations. It's interesting to see how people have accommodated that, ranging from my grandfather, who was just a straight up pessimist with a mild persecution complex, to my mom, who treats occasional bouts of deep depression more or less the same way she treats a bad case of the flu*. My own approach to it occasionaly veer towards grampa's, but I try to shift towards mom's when I realize what's going on.

* No, not with a Neti Pot.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:00 AM
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12: You're right, I certainly don't want to say that anxiety is a component in every negative emotion, just a lot of them. Also, it seems like anxiety serves as some sort of evolutionary ancestor to all of the emotions it is a component of.

According to Paul Ekman, fear is one six (or maybe 17) basic emotions. I think the other stuff I was looking at simply amounts to a genealogy of that branch.

Really, I'm just being a dilettante again. It is an alarming portion of what I do, brought on by a short attention span, which comes from being anxious most of the time.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:03 AM
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I do think basic temperament is very resistant to change

Yeah, I think this is right. AWB had a recent post on trying to delete the emotional impact of various experiences and one of the commenters offered an explanation that emotional memories are more or less permanent, and when we seem to dull them it's because we have interjected enough other barriers in our (non-emotional) memory to impede access to the emotional memory. So I can fight anxiety by working really hard to create a lot of shiny happy stable experiences that will make serenity the more readily accessible emotional cue, but then some new trigger will come along and tap back into the anxiety and it's harder than before to stomp that back down.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:08 AM
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"Is your temperament nature or nurture" is a good question, but I prefer "Which of your parents do you blame for your crappy temperament."

Why is there an "a" in temperament? Does anyone say temp-ur-UH-ment.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:08 AM
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33 was me. And I blame my parents equally. Because I am a feminist.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:11 AM
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Why is there an "a" in temperament? Does anyone say temp-ur-UH-ment.

Yes. Although the first vowel after the 'p' and before the 'r' is quite short.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:12 AM
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I'm generally pretty happy, and don't get upset by much. I've noticed I have a hard time interacting with people who do get depressive or anxious, as I haven't learned any techniques to deal with them.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:13 AM
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You've probably figured this out already, Heebs, but parenthood and an anxiety-prone temperament make a sucky combination; your spawn feed your anxiety constantly. Pot helps sometimes, unless it tends to make you anxious, in which case you're screwed.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:17 AM
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I have found that parenthood hasn't increased by anxiety levels, but it has given me things worthy of being anxious over. In the past, I had to work to create drama in my life so I could be anxious about it. Not anymore.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:19 AM
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I suppose I'm mildly anxious a lot of the time, this comes from the same procrastination and short attention span that other people have mentioned. I always feel like there's something I ought to be doing that I'm not. This isn't super-rational since I actually get quite a lot done. The short-attention span thing combined with a good memory and the ability to concentrate pretty fiercely is pretty functional in jobs that need you to learn a lot of shit and work to deadlines.*

* i.e. any job that calls for a smart-arse, basically...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:20 AM
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I haven't found parenthood particulary anxiety-producing, yet. But Hawaiian Punch is not yet out there interacting with the world, with its cars and sidewalks, without me. I don't feel anxious about daycare, which begins soon.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:26 AM
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You want anxiety? Last night after downstairs was closed up, AB went down to get a brownie, and as she came back to the steps, she saw a guy in our vestibule*! I turned on the lights and roused the dog, but there was nothing to be seen. She was anxious for quite awhile after that.

Then Kai woke up an hour later and stayed awake for 3+ hours, god help us.

I realize this isn't the anxiety you're talking about. But I work in the house, and sometimes I just need to share, dammit.

* For ventilation purposes, we keep the outer doors open in summer, so air can flow through the transom above the deadbolted inner door.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:31 AM
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I'm a generally anxious person, cheerful with an undercurrent of panic (if that makes any sense at all). My dad's family was full of depressives, I think, although that conclusion is complicated by the fact that they lived in the dark weirdness that is the fucking Yukon. My mother's family is a bunch of lunatics as well, but towards the hysteric/paranoid edge of the spectrum, I'd guess. Almost all of these people were high-functioning, mind you. My sister the geneticist suspects we all carry the contributing genetic markers towards autism (lots of scientists and engineers). Who knows.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:33 AM
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BTW, we're pretty sure that it was just someone looking for the house next door - it happens every so often.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:35 AM
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I'm a generally anxious person, cheerful with an undercurrent of panic (if that makes any sense at all).

Makes exquisite sense.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:38 AM
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cheerful with an undercurrent of panic

Yup, I can relate to that. It tends to manifest itself as dark humor, which works fairly well to help maintain an even strain when everything's going to hell in a handbasket.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:44 AM
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I identify with JM's description of herself. I sometimes have difficulty convincing friends that I experience anxiety and panic attacks, because my outward behavior is so cheerful. And, like W. Breeze, dealing with other anxious people makes me very anxious. In fact, maybe that's why I conceal my anxiety (because I think it will make others around me anxious, too)?

13: Among the things I don't get about that graph: when faced with an unchallenging task, highly skilled people will relax, while those with lower skill levels will be bored or apathetic. Huh?


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:09 AM
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This is a timely post for me. I've been feeling moderately anxious over the last couple of months, and it's been really frustrating.

I know that I have a low threshold for what it takes to create anxiety (e.g., I have been described as "a bit tightly wound") but I also tend to be a mostly happy person. So my normal experience is to be more or less happy with semi-constant interruptions of anxiety.

But the last couple of months have involved sustained (low-level) anxiety which feels really different from frequent sporadic anxiety. That usually means I'm trying to emotionally process something difficult, but knowing that doesn't usually make it easier to figure out.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:10 AM
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43, 45-47: So what we're saying, JM, is that you are just as sane as the rest of us.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:14 AM
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I am extremely jealous that you are not inclined towards anxiety. I'd really like to know what that feels like. But, speaking as the anxious-type, I quite agree that it's awful. I would trade...oh, so many things (although probably not colon cancer)...to never ever again have to lie awake for hours, repetitively solving problems that don't exist.


Posted by: Sydnew | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:18 AM
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Feelings of boredom and futility often accompany my own bouts of anxiety, along with restlessness and the short attention span-y thing mentioned by others. Sometimes I can talk myself out of this. Sometimes I can work it off with exercise, sometimes by lying down and listening to music. But every once in a while I have an attack of panic/anxiety that's so completely awful that there's nothing to do but curl up in a corner somewhere and wait until it passes (or if I can't do that then flip out and lose my shit over some trivial irritation).


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:20 AM
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Does Unfogged self-select for anxious people? Or just this thread? Or is it this prevalent in the general population? I am struck by how many of you describe yourselves as having a pretty constant low-level anxiety.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:26 AM
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or if I can't do that then flip out and lose my shit over some trivial irritation).

Oh man, yes. Which never ever winds up creating brand new anxiety-producing situations...


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:28 AM
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52: I suspect that there's a correlation between anxiety and repetitive blog-checking behavior. For me anyway. "Shit, I'm never going to finish this brief on time. Better check Unfogged."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:30 AM
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It doesn't seem too odd that anxiety is correlated with short attention spans, does it? And short attention spans are obviously correlated with Unfogged.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:31 AM
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Does Unfogged self-select for anxious people?

I think it goes with the type. We're largely highly-educated, verbal people who are wasting a lot of time at work. That goes with ttaM's: "I suppose I'm mildly anxious a lot of the time, this comes from the same procrastination and short attention span that other people have mentioned. I always feel like there's something I ought to be doing that I'm not." which I could have written myself.

It's not going to be everyone, but higher than the population average, I'm pretty sure.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:32 AM
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The funny thing is that I can clearly remember as a kid being able to concentrate on one thing for many hours, days even (interrupted only for sleep, meals, etc), at a time. Now... not so much.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:34 AM
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Does Unfogged self-select for anxious people?

In that there's likely a very high correlation between a tendency to feel anxiety and a tendency to problematize, I'd say yes.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:35 AM
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I do not think of myself as an anxious person. Indeed, I usually am quite the opposite. Still, this:
"Shit, I'm never going to finish this brief on time. Better check Unfogged." is certainly behavior in which I often engage. Like now, for example.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:35 AM
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re: 57

I can still do that, but it definitely feels like more work than it used to, yeah.

I've been consciously trying to do more 'slow' things recently to counter-act the gadfly tendency. I've been reading longer works of philosophy cover-to-cover, properly reading the magazines/journals I subscribe to rather than skimming, etc.

re: 56

Yeah, that said, I don't think of myself as a particularly 'nervy' person. I'm fairly chilled out a lot of the time, it's just there's an underlying current of mild 'shit, I should probably be doing something else' that really never goes away.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:40 AM
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I find that swearing a blue streak at all the inanimate objects in my life helps. But to seventh JM, I am usually fairly cheerful on the outside. I guess I tend to project my own misanthropy, so who the hell wants to hear me piss and moan?


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:40 AM
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61: A habit I picked up from my mom is talking to inanimate objects. If I'm looking for something I call out to it as if I'm calling a pet, for example. Sometimes I threaten to kick its ass if it's being particularly hard to find.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:47 AM
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I recently reconnected on facebook with a friend from high school who amused me with his steady stream of cheerfully cynical remarks about his daily life. Now I read his twitter stream through facebook, and it is like old times.

I suppose cheerfully cynical is a standard type of twitter/facebook status personality, the opposite pole from the bible quotation personality.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:47 AM
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I'm very clear, when I'm at work, that what I'm doing is urgent-but-not-important. At the end of the day, if a bunch of kids got a horrible math class: eh. And I don't think I'm in any danger of delivering a horrible math class; I think I do a pretty good job.

So maybe this conviction that my job can't be screwed up, and that I basically enjoy my job to boot, goes a long way in preventing anxiety from gathering in me. In other words, maybe it's circumstantial.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:47 AM
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I'm not an anxious person. I don't worry about my kids either. And when there is something to worry about, just like heebie I hate it and find it really upsetting - I am basically crap at worrying. I leave all the anxiety to C, who is full of it.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:48 AM
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re: 64

I think mine is partly situational. Not actually having an academic job (but wanting one) there's always the thought that I should be writing papers, doing CV polishing activities, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:52 AM
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Also, I'm finding this topic extremely fascinating. Please wax on about yourself.

Here, I'll probe:
- Do you see other traits in yourself that are paired inextricably with anxiety, in such a way that if the anxiety were lessened, you'd lose something you value?
- Did your temperament change with puberty? (I'm not assigning a nature/environment cause here, since both change so drastically at that age.) If it did, has it changed back? (Mine changed, and then changed back. I've said that I feel most like myself as a fifth grader.)
- Does your temperament match your parents or whoever raised you?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:53 AM
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Did your temperament change with puberty?

Mine definitely changed during puberty. I used to have really strong emotional swings as a child that I had a hard time controlling. Once puberty hit it was pretty much like someone set my emotional response from 11 to 1 overnight.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:56 AM
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Also I'm off to swim, but I am looking forward to catching up on this thread later.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:57 AM
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Don't let me down!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:57 AM
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Do you see other traits in yourself that are paired inextricably with anxiety, in such a way that if the anxiety were lessened, you'd lose something you value?

Yes. Caring deeply. In fact, virtually all negative emotions I experience are tied inextricable to the fact that I care way too fucking intensely about pretty much everything. I have certainly had moments of entertaining the thought that I wish I just didn't care so much, but I don't really wish that. I know plenty of people who seem perfectly content in their apathetic lives, but I have a very hard time seeing the point in going through life without really caring one way or another.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:58 AM
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- Do you see other traits in yourself that are paired inextricably with anxiety, in such a way that if the anxiety were lessened, you'd lose something you value?

My anxiety is tied to being a highly responsible person. One of the things that increases my anxiety levels most quickly is feeling like someone else is waiting for me to do something (that's been part of what's going on these last couple of months and, unfortunately, the thing I want to get done at work isn't under my control).


- Did your temperament change with puberty? (I'm not assigning a nature/environment cause here, since both change so drastically at that age.) If it did, has it changed back? (Mine changed, and then changed back. I've said that I feel most like myself as a fifth grader.)

I've never been a good sleeper, and "l[ying] awake for hours, repetitively solving problems that don't exist" is one of the most frequent symptoms of anxiety for me.

- Does your temperament match your parents or whoever raised you?

I'm more anxious than either of my parents, but both of them tend to be extremely responsible people as well, so it's a related personality trait. I think I have both a much stronger sense of privacy/personal boundaries and displeasure at loss of control of my environment than either of my parents, and both of those raise my anxiety levels.

I'm also far more introverted than anyone else in my family (who are, in general, introverts).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:02 AM
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Do you see other traits in yourself that are paired inextricably with anxiety, in such a way that if the anxiety were lessened, you'd lose something you value?

I think that whatever anxiety I feel is almost entirely counterproductive. A fair amount of it is of the sort ttaM describes in 66.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:04 AM
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One of the things that increases my anxiety levels most quickly is feeling like someone else is waiting for me to do something

Oh yes, this. But I don't expect the same of others. If someone is waiting for me to do something in order to move on with their own work, I fret about it and feel a lot of pressure to get it done quickly. If I'm waiting for someone else to do something that I need, I don't put any pressure on them at all, and 2/3 of the time end up just doing it myself.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:06 AM
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I think there was a surface change at puberty, but not a change back. What confidence I had was obliterated by horrible acne.

By the time that faded though, I had attained enough self-awareness to obsess over my faults but not enough to address them.

I am a bit glad over it though. Elementary school me was an asshole. So, improvement!


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:06 AM
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Mine definitely changed during puberty. I used to have really strong emotional swings as a child that I had a hard time controlling. Once puberty hit it was pretty much like someone set my emotional response from 11 to 1 overnight.

Apparently, CJB and I are the same person.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:13 AM
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My anxiety is tied to being a highly responsible person.

OH HELL YES.

This thread is timely for me; I've been in therapy for the past few months trying to deal with anxiety that had gone beyond the normal low-level stuff and was starting to really make me unhappy. When I first started, one of the things I told my therapist was that, insofar as I have a guiding principle in my life, it's "people cannot be trusted to do the right thing". It's an extremely valuable attitude to have at work, since it means that when I design tools and processes I do a pretty good job of building them so that people *can't* fuck up, but it really gets in the way in the rest of life.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:47 AM
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So I can fight anxiety by working really hard to create a lot of shiny happy stable experiences that will make serenity the more readily accessible emotional cue, but then some new trigger will come along and tap back into the anxiety and it's harder than before to stomp that back down.

This is where I've found cognitive behavioral therapy to be extremely useful. The main thing my therapist has had me do is a thought chart, where I write down the thing that's causing me anxiety (always in the form of "thinking about X" rather than just "X" -- as she put it, X isn't the problem, my *response* to X is the problem), an enumeration of my fears/anxieties (framed in the second person), and a response to the things I've enumerated (framed in the first person). I've found both that giving voice to the fear brings relief and that I do a pretty good job of talking back to it.

And having done that a few times, I've found myself much more able to respond positively and productively to new triggers. Yeah, I still get that flash of anxiety, but I can look back at the very concrete ways in which I've made improvements, and I've been able to internalize the fact that I *can* respond to the anxiety, that it doesn't have to send me off into a spiral.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:54 AM
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To the main post, I'm a very anxious person. It has only gotten worse post-college, to the point that I wondered if I need to be in therapy to deal with anxiety. (I've decided not, because I'm fairly sure in my environment - woo grad school! - there's not a lot that could be changed and I've gotten better with my coping mechanisms recently). It doesn't cripple me, but it can have a significant impact on my sleeping habits, etc, which then influence my productivity. The odd thing is, I don't think most of my friends or family would identify me as an anxious person.

And on to the questions!

- Do you see other traits in yourself that are paired inextricably with anxiety, in such a way that if the anxiety were lessened, you'd lose something you value?

Not really, although what Di said about caring deeply about things might apply to me.

- Did your temperament change with puberty? (I'm not assigning a nature/environment cause here, since both change so drastically at that age.) If it did, has it changed back? (Mine changed, and then changed back. I've said that I feel most like myself as a fifth grader.)

I was a very depressed child through 14 or 15 or so, and then morphed into a much happier person, over all. I think I was always anxious, though.

- Does your temperament match your parents or whoever raised you?

My mom and I are fairly alike but I don't think we experience anxiety in the same way. When we talk about it, she understands what I'm feeling but it doesn't seem to be as prevalent in her life.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:55 AM
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Do you see other traits in yourself that are paired inextricably with anxiety, in such a way that if the anxiety were lessened, you'd lose something you value?

Working hard at my job. When not commenting, I'm actually a very thorough, hard-working and nimble employee. This is largely because I'm terrified that someone will think I'm no good at what I do, since what I do has the potential to be fairly complicated.

Did your temperament change with puberty?

Yes. I went from being a confident extrovert to being a paranoid introvert. The end of puberty saw an incomplete unwinding of that. I'm not sure puberty, itself, was the root cause on either end except that one of the major contributors to becoming an introvert was that puberty, for whatever reason, caused me to go from beanpole skinny to overweight in basically no time flat - in sixth grade I was a stick-boy and in 7th I was fat - and that did a number on my self-image.

I am now someone who is generally quite calm and cheerful until I hit a rock in the path and then I convince myself that I've fucked up everything, ever. Sometimes it's not even a thing that I do or that happens so much as a rediscovery of some past error. A friend and I call this the mind's Deck of Many Unpleasant Things, on each card of which there is some memory of some past humiliation ready to take psychic center stage for a day. On the 90% of days on which that's absent I still generally can convince myself that there are a hundred better things for me to be doing.

The last time this happened was when I tried to do a load of laundry in a machine we knew was on its last legs only to have it die halfway through the wash cycle. I then spent three days on the verge of tears because I felt like I had somehow caused us to need a new washing machine when, in fact, we already knew we needed a new machine. It didn't even feel like the blame came from myself so much as from an inner iPod loaded with nothing but the internalized voices of criticism from my (introverted, self-conscious, lard-ass, pubescent) youth.

Does your temperament match your parents or whoever raised you?

My temperament matches my father's, including that when I berate myself over something minor it sounds an awful lot like my mother.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:02 PM
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||

http://econospeak.blogspot.com/2009/07/keynes-friends.html

>

Makes me want to weep quietly [or hit someone].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:05 PM
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My anxiety levels are highly dependent on what's at stake. Mishap that affects me only? Whatever. Mishap that somehow affects somebody else? Freaking the fuck out.

Like, my car wouldn't start the other day. In other circumstances, I would have been totally blase about it. In this case, I was supposed to go pick up my friend from somewhere transit-inaccessible and was completely freaking out the whole night until I knew that she managed to get a ride from someone else. Even though, you know, my friend has a very well-paying job and could easily take a cab home if she couldn't get a ride.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:05 PM
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Not particularly anxious, wondering how I ended up with you people.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:10 PM
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Bible quoters
Eccl 4:19 Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath [b] ; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.

Also maybe relevant:
5:12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether he eats little or much,
but the abundance of a rich man
permits him no sleep.

Though Kohelet does not seem like an axious dude overall. Isaiah and Jeremiah seem pretty tense.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:13 PM
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as she put it, X isn't the problem, my *response* to X is the problem

See, my gut response to this is, "X sure as fucking hell is a problem!" I mean, yeah, I get the idea, let's not focus on the trigger but on how we respond to it. But for me, that feels an awful lot like saying "X isn't really important" and X actually is very important to me. While I'd like to not get so upset by X, I'm not willing to quit caring deeply about X in order to do so.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:13 PM
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Whatever. Mishap that somehow affects somebody else? Freaking the fuck out.

There's a moderate level where that's just being normal, though. I'm sure we all know people who are quite blas├ę about that kind of thing. Those people don't have healthy anxiety levels; those people are dicks.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:14 PM
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I endorse 86. And 85, while I'm at it.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:17 PM
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I should add to my comments in this thread that my general levels of anxiety that I'm describing really are pretty low.

Anxiety is a very familiar feeling for me, but it isn't generally problematic.

Thinking about, there are times when I cultivate anxiety as a way to get things done (like the description in 18). I learned in college that it can be useful to trigger an adrenal response as a way to get extra energy for mental problems. There are days at work when I make the conscious decision, "I'm going to consider solving this problem to be absolutely critical because making that decision will allow me to access additional energy." I don't think that's a bad trait, but I try hard to avoid getting stuck in that mood too often -- it can be both very draining and addictive.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:27 PM
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While I'd like to not get so upset by X, I'm not willing to quit caring deeply about X in order to do so.

Even when it starts to interfere with the rest of your life? That's the point I got to: the way I was manifesting "caring deeply about X" was fucking with everything else. Well, that and the fact that responding to it the way I was just wasn't doing any good.

And I'd say two things: 1) that I found that a lot of the things I thought were very important to me turned out, after being able to get some distance from them and break out of the intense reactionary response, to be not quite so important and 2) there are still things I care very deeply about that doing a thought chart helps me approach far more usefully.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:28 PM
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I often have a low-level anxiety that I can't quite connect with any specific cause. It comes and goes, but I'd say it's present at least half the time. I also get fairly acute anxiety about things that I'm procrastinating; sometimes this is acute enough that I actually take care of things, sometimes not.

My anxiety doesn't really correlate with anything I value about myself. I'm fairly responsible, but I'm not at all sure that that's connected to the anxiety I feel. I think I was actually more anxious before and during puberty than I am now. Both my parents are very anxious/fear-based people; I probably have less anxiety and deal with it better than either of them.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:29 PM
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I'm not generally that anxious, but some situations do bring it out in force. These are almost always about an conversation with another person - right now I'm quite anxious because I'm supposed to call my landlord and start the process of bargaining my rent down. Expecting (or feeling the need to initiate) a Relationship Talk is another big one.

Can't say if puberty made a difference, in part because my memory of myself in that era is terrible, and seems to entirely be mental snapshots but without any emotional recollection.

This might or might not match my parents. I think I do a good job hiding it when it happens, and perhaps they do too.

I don't think I'd lose anything if I shed this flavor of anxiety. I have a bit of the care-deeply aspect, but it doesn't seem to tie in to this. This is much more about feeling like I've disappointed someone or am likely to be yelled at.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:31 PM
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This is much more about feeling like I've disappointed someone or am likely to be yelled at.

Definitely familiar. Something I've recently touched on with my shrink is the extent to which not wanting to get in trouble continues to be a motivating factor in my life and emotional responses.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:33 PM
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I'm basically quite a confident person so I don't suffer from 'adequacy' anxiety: the worry that I am continually going to fuck up, or not be good enough. I know a lot of people that do, though, and that just seems horrible.

I suspect if someone came along tomorrow and offered me 100K a year to teach a couple of days a week and do a bit of writing* then I'd not be anxious much at all except when deadlines approach.

* they could deliver the appointment letter by flying pig ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:34 PM
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Even when it starts to interfere with the rest of your life? That's the point I got to: the way I was manifesting "caring deeply about X" was fucking with everything else. Well, that and the fact that responding to it the way I was just wasn't doing any good.

This is a totally reasonable question and the "healthy" response seems pretty obvious. The way you phrased it is actually making me think of alcoholics or other addicts -- when it starts to interfere with the rest of your life is a pretty damned good sign that it's a problem. But it's hard to let go of that intense emotional response anyway. Complicated also by the fact that generally X is something that interferes with my life regardless of how I react to it, so some degree of anxiety or whatever does help push me to finding solutions. Or, sometime to making things worse.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:36 PM
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not wanting to get in trouble

Pretty much. In spite of years of evidence that these things that I'm anxious about generally don't get me in real trouble.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:39 PM
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they could deliver the appointment letter by flying pig

The arrival of swine flew is more likely.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:41 PM
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The way you phrased it is actually making me think of alcoholics or other addicts -- when it starts to interfere with the rest of your life is a pretty damned good sign that it's a problem.

That's exactly what I was thinking of.

But it's hard to let go of that intense emotional response anyway.

Oh sure, and it took me a long time to get to the point of letting go and deciding that I wanted to change the way I addressed things. (BTW, this is not to say "everyone who's got some level of anxiety needs to be in therapy!", just that I found it intensely useful, and in a very focused way.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:42 PM
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Pretty much. In spite of years of evidence that these things that I'm anxious about generally don't get me in real trouble.

Outside In

Don't worry 'bout the future, you can't afford the price. / There's madness to the method when you pay the piper twice. / Once when you start to worry, / once again when you begin to take the future on the chin. / I know that you think worry is your ever-faithful friend, / cuz nothin' that you worry over ever happens in the end. / And there might be somethin' to it, but it sure gets in the way of fun today.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:44 PM
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In spite of years of evidence that these things that I'm anxious about generally don't get me in real trouble.

This was the other thing that drove me to therapy: realizing that the anxiety was *not amenable* to the kind of rational response I was giving. At one point it occurred to me that in all the times I'd freaked out about something, I'd never once been right... and it didn't help at all.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:48 PM
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Contrary to Di, I don't think either the existence, or level, of anxiety demonstrates either the existence, or depth, of caring. I think it's perfectly possible to care, and care deeply, without being anxious.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:56 PM
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Foolish is he who frets at night,
And lies awake to worry
A weary man when morning comes,
He finds all as bad as before.


Posted by: Odin | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:59 PM
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100: What do you call the justified fear of harm to the thing you care about?


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:02 PM
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102: "fear" ? I'm presuming here a reasonable persception of actual imminent risk. I don't think "justified" gets you much further than that.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:04 PM
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92: Another "me to" to that. I can handle fear of actual bad consequences with no difficulty. Fear of 'getting in trouble' with an authority figure? Much more upsetting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:05 PM
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For instance, I am now anxious over the possibility that Wolfson will chastise me for misspelling "too".


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:06 PM
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But for me, that feels an awful lot like saying "X isn't really important" and X actually is very important to me. While I'd like to not get so upset by X, I'm not willing to quit caring deeply about X in order to do so.

But no matter how deeply you care, it doesn't make sense to be anxious about things you can't change.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:09 PM
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100 seems right to me. Not that I am never anxious. But since there is nothing to be gained in worrying about things one cannot change, I try not to be anxious even about things about which I care deeply if there is no benefit from it (which there seldom is).


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:09 PM
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85
A snapping bow, a burning flame,
A grinning wolf, a grunting boar,
A raucous crow, a rootless tree,
A breaking wave, a boiling kettle,

86
A flying arrow, an ebbing tide,
A coiled adder, the ice of a night,
A bride's bed talk, a broad sword,
A bear's play, a prince' s children,

87
A witch' s welcome, the wit of a slave,
A sick calf, a corpse still fresh,

88
A brother's killer encountered upon
The highway, a house half-burned,
A racing stallion who has wrenched a leg,
Are never safe: let no man trust them.


Posted by: Odin | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:09 PM
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I previewed, really. But NPH pwned nonetheless.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:09 PM
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Some of you people are insufficiently neurotic, and you should be ashamed.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:14 PM
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106, 107: The rub lies in correctly distinguishing those things you can change from those you cannot.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:15 PM
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I'm basically quite a confident person so I don't suffer from 'adequacy' anxiety: the worry that I am continually going to fuck up, or not be good enough.

There are times when I have a pretty serious case of impostor syndrome.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:16 PM
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102 -- Am I afraid that my children will die? No. I know they will, and I will too. Am I afraid they'll die tomorrow? No.

Am I afraid that my new business will fail (most do, by a large margin), and ruin lives in the process. Not really. All I can do is take my best shot.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:16 PM
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Some of you people are insufficiently neurotic, and you should be ashamed.

I am often ashamed that I am insufficiently neurotic, but then I realize that this shame is itself neurotic, which makes the shame go away, but, then, because I am no longer neurotic without the shame, I become ashamed again.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:18 PM
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There are times when I have a pretty serious case of impostor syndrome.

That almost comes with the territory.

Fwiw, while there seem to be a (very?) few academics who never suffer from this, from what I can see it has no correlation with either talent or achievements.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:18 PM
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111: Exactly so. But that chore is made harder, IMO, if one equates anxiety with caring, because then one tends to feel duty-bound to be anxious and the anxiety interferes with clear thinking about what one can reasonably do to change things (if anything).


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:19 PM
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Don't worry. Be happy.


Posted by: Bobby McFerrin | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:19 PM
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That's the tough part. The anxious response happens too quickly for rationalization to talk it away. Instead there's the "Oh shit, I'm freaking out again!" freakout. Ya just have to train yourself to feel differently.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:19 PM
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109, and NPH was in turn pwned by Odin, by like 1,000 years.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:20 PM
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115: This is one area where I kind of think there's something to be said for the upper middle class, elite education sense of entitlement, provided it's constrained by decency and humility. Anxiety about whether you really belong where you are can be pretty debilitating.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:26 PM
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I don't doubt that people can care deeply without being anxious -- and there are many things I care quite deeply about without suffering any anxiety. It's just that the things that do make me anxious are things I care deeply about and my anxiety generally is only relieved by (a) actually finding a way to resolve whatever it is that needs resolving or (b) deciding not to care.

Like with Charlie's new firm. If I were in that boat, I'd first address my anxiety by busting my ass to succeed. If this looked like it wasn't going to be enough (and sometimes, if stars fail to align, busting your ass and being really good aren't enough), I would start looking into other employment opportunities so that succeeding wouldn't be quite as critical.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:32 PM
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A boiling kettle?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:34 PM
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Am I afraid that my children will die? No. I know they will, and I will too. Am I afraid they'll die tomorrow? No.

Move to strike as non-responsive. Togolosh asked about "justified fear of harm." There is no foundation that you would be justified in fearing your children might die tomorrow.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:36 PM
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120: Although I heard one professor at MIT say that the minute you stop wondering whether you belong where you are, you don't belong where you are. There was a murmur of approbation from the assembled professoriate.

I for one was quite disturbed; I don't want it to be the case that impostor syndrome needs to stay with me always. It makes me unhappy and I haven't ever figured out how to turn it into a productive spur; instead I have a nasty tendency to avoid conferences and undermine advisor relationships because each contact with colleagues and superiors is a chance that I'll be found out.

This is crap, and I know it. But I don't know how to shake it.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:38 PM
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78: This is where I've found cognitive behavioral therapy to be extremely useful.

For sure. One great aspect to CBT (Apo, be quiet!) is one can learn to do it for oneself. I'm basically a cheerful optimist overlaid with a nasty case of early PTSD, and it didn't take all that long to learn how to abort the old programs once I took them seriously.

Near as I can tell they can't be erased. However, the time lag from when they kick in to almost automatic recognition and shut-down can be shortened considerably. (Unless I'm very hungry. Then insane rage over trivia seems perfectly appropriate. People who know me know the signs and just toss raw meat into the cage.)


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:39 PM
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108: "He is like Mighty Thor? Thor has big hammer, seems like good Communist."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:40 PM
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Hey, a thread about anxiety! This is a great place to recount my anxiety dream from last night--or not so much an anxiety dream as an anxiety hypnagogic state. Between about 5:30 and 6:30 this morning I lay in a semi-stupor trying desperately to reconcile my belief that gender is largely socially constructed with my belief that trans people are right to seek gender reassignment surgery. This is not a train of thought which gives me trouble in waking life. The stupor revolved around the phrase "we know there's some part of character which is determined by gender, but we don't know which it is" and this troubled me deeply.

I suffer virtually constantly from anxiety, but it's been worse lately. In fact, I'm often anxious for no reason at all, and have to remind myself that my deadlines are met, I'm still employed, no one particularly hates me, the house is fully insured, etc.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:40 PM
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120: IME that doesn't really work for academics, the way it seems to for many others. Perhaps a little bit of correlation with UMC, but I don't know that i have a big enough sample to slice it up that much.

Part of it probably is that at some point, your educational & class background, whether it helped you or hindered you, isn't enough. You have to stand on your own merits in a way that is at least in theory very publicly visible.

More broadly though, there is a lot of research supporting roughly this idea, how a solid sense of middle class entitlement helps people negotiate many systems in our culture in a way that poor and working class people may not access effectively.

Of course, for the UMC, it just makes them unsufferable.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:40 PM
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There are times when I have a pretty serious case of impostor syndrome.

In an interview with Frank McCourt several years ago, the first thing he told me is that he felt like an impostor. I found it very comforting. I mention this despite my anxiety that I might be accused of name-dropping.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:47 PM
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One great aspect to CBT (Apo, be quiet!)

I don't know from CBT, but I do know that Albert Ellis' pants are teh awesome and only improve when viewing that picture at full size.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:48 PM
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I found that letting go of notions of personal identity helps a lot with impostor syndrome.

The null theory of personal identity creates all sorts of problems, but it is really very useful for freeing yourself of the standard problems.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:52 PM
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124: Impostor syndrome combined with a strong and enduring need to prove oneself is one recipe for great success, but at the expense of contentment. I like contentment and I don't care very much about proving myself so I achieve less than I'd be capable of if I were more driven. That's OK, but I also achieve less than I would without impostor syndrome-type anxieties, which is less OK.

Of course, for the UMC, it just makes them unsufferable.

Eh, sometimes, sometimes not.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:53 PM
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||

Does anyone know anything about the Woodside Int'l School in SF?

|>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:56 PM
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The null theory of personal identity creates all sorts of problems

Especially when you're also self-loathing and have traces of Messiah complex. Or, um, so I'd guess.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:57 PM
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Pretty much what ttaM said way back—I tend to have a tonic low level of anxiety during my "free time" that is tied to a sense that there's something else I should be doing. So I should take care of those things in order to feel less anxious, right? The problem is that they are all very big things—data analysis, figuring out what I want to do after graduation—that I can't see myself finishing within the allotted time.

This activates a subroutine in my brain that says, "Well, even if you are good and do some work this evening, you'll at most have only made it a few steps up that mountain." The sheer size of the task discourages me from even beginning, I believe because my inner emotional forecaster anticipates that if I work, I'll get the negative feelings of working in addition to the continued anxiety over the monstrous size of the task, whereas if I screw around, I'll just have continued anxiety So instead, I start surfing the web, etc., but fail to really enjoy the free time I take, because I know all along that my tasks are getting bigger, and the time I have for completing them is getting smaller. I understand this to be pretty much bog-standard procrastinator psychology. The obvious out is to have a large scale plan so you can see how your little progress each day is getting you closer to your goal, and to learn to take satisfaction in each day's little progress and then shut off at the end of the day and allow yourself some bona fide anxiety-free free time. The little bit of Getting Things Done I read (never finished it, hurf-durf) was talking a lot about the anxiolytic effects of simply being organized, which I could easily imagine.

Academics seem to be bad about this more often than not. Presumably the long-term project/low-supervision environment that is academia allows these tendencies to both be a bigger factor and go unchecked for longer than in non-academic jobs. It's discouraging to look at some faculty and realize they still haven't figured out how to kick these habits.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:58 PM
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McCourt is an impostor.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:58 PM
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How so?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:59 PM
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Indeed.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:00 PM
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The sheer size of the task discourages me from even beginning, I believe because my inner emotional forecaster anticipates that if I work, I'll get the negative feelings of working in addition to the continued anxiety over the monstrous size of the task, whereas if I screw around, I'll just have continued anxiety

This, exactly.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:01 PM
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McCourt is an impostor.

Not any more.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:06 PM
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132.last I see my joke tag was broken.

As far as the UMC entitlement thing goes in academia, upon reflection perhaps manifest. After all for someone who starts off in an elite school (particularly due to UMC leverage rather than talent and/or drive), the typical academic career path is rather sharply downward in terms of school status. So you do have a number of people whose education was at first rate schools teaching at relative backwaters, and perhaps they do feel a sense of entitlement beyond that of some of their peers with more humble origins. So they may be more comfortable in their work that way.

I don't think you really see the same thing in active researchers though, where it seems nearly everyone has imposter syndrome, ime, at least at times. This seems to cut across the usual lines.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:07 PM
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You people sure are a worried lot. I almost never feel anxious. Really, only when projects have conspired to have multiple deadlines coming due at once and at least one of them is fucked up in some big awful way.

Of course, I suppose I do a fair share of self-medicating.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:09 PM
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Another typically anxious Unfoggedtarian here. I don't have a whole lot to add to what everyone else said.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:10 PM
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141.1: There is a certain amount of anxiety involved in trying to raise an overprivileged kid to be neither unnecessarily anxious nor insufferable, so I will cop to being a bit humor-impaired.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:13 PM
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143: It must make you anxious to post what amounts to a "me too" in a forum that places a high value on more substantive comments. Glad I'm not in your shoes!


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:15 PM
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It's not obvious to me how a lawyer would end up with impostor syndrome. Went to college & law school - check. Passed the bar - check. Apply skills to other people's messes, just like a dry cleaner - check.

And have you seen some of the schmoes they let practice law?

I had wondered about whether I'd be good at it, but not after I spent a semester working for a federal judge, watching big firm lawyers who couldn't litigate their way out of a wet paper bag.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:15 PM
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I stopped reading articles about impostor syndrome when they started to feel repetitive (thanks, Harvard Business Review!); they were already unsettlingly familiar. Someone remarked on my poor self-esteem in a recent performance review, which was unpleasant.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:16 PM
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a solid sense of middle class entitlement helps people negotiate many systems in our culture in a way that poor and working class people may not access effectively

I'm only just now starting to figure out how to play this game. I spent an absurd amount of time after I first came to the US permanently in a sort of quiet figure-things-out mode, which really interferes with that sense of entitlement. You really have to have a clear sense of what ought to be happening in order to feel entitled to treatment you aren't getting. If your sense of what ought to be happening is too sensitive to what other participants think ought to be happening you lose the entitlement premium.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:16 PM
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And have you seen some of the schmoes they let practice law?

The fruit, low hanging though it is, is of the poisoned tree.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:18 PM
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I have to admit, I'm a little surprised that nobody has chimed in to agree with my 88. I would have thought that would be a common experience among the people here.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:20 PM
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146: Put that way, the same is true of most professional work, and yet the syndrome is there. Part of it is that there's always more to know and more wrinkles to catch, and even if you know that you're ahead of most of those other schmoes you're always at risking of running into a real expert on the other side of something that's new to you.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:24 PM
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149: While in Wisconsin I went cherry picking with my family. Because I didn't want to hoist the kids on my shoulders, I had to save all the low hanging fruit for them. Until then, these were all things that I had only thought about metaphorically.

Cherry jam is good, though.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:26 PM
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middle-class entitlement

IME it is pretty complicated to figure out when to call people on their incompetence or apathy, which is a lot of what entitlement is. I think that good diction and work habits from a white collar environment (you're saying what exactly? Can you write that down? Is there a transaction number I can use to refer to this?) translate into a threat to effectively report bad experiences.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:36 PM
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It's not obvious to me how a lawyer would end up with impostor syndrome.

A few years back, my boss admitted to me that he suffered from impostor syndrome from time to time. While your points generally are sound, in this specific instance I found it fairly understandable.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:39 PM
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this is making me feel anxious. quitting drinking helped a lot with the feeling of impending doom, but I'm still anxious and freaked out much of the time. lying awake thinking of embarrassing things that happened to me when I was 11? meat and drink, baby.

not speaking of which, I'm coming to NYC for two nights next week, the 3rd and 4th. my mom will be there to take care of my kids, so I could go to an actual bar-type setting to meet people. anyone up for it? I guess I can put up a post.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:40 PM
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152: I love literalizing cliches. Somewhere in the archives is an account of how, while wading down a stream in Samoa because the bush on each side was too thick to hike through, I discovered that still waters run deep.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:41 PM
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It must make you anxious to post what amounts to a "me too" in a forum that places a high value on more substantive comments.

It actually kind of does!

I'm a little surprised that nobody has chimed in to agree with my 88. I would have thought that would be a common experience among the people here.

I agree with it! I've found that the adrenaline rush from the anxiety can be very useful in getting things done once I overcome the sense of impossibility that the anxiety fosters (as Otto noted).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:42 PM
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Somewhat more substantively on the impostor syndrome thing, there are people who find it genuinely difficult to acknowledge any uncertainty or weakness at all. They, then, really do become impostors in that they go to great lengths trying to maintain an image of infallibility and omniscience. I actually make a point of admitting to Rory when I've screwed something up so that, hopefully, she'll grow up to be comfortable with not being perfect. It took me a long time to get there.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:45 PM
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I love literalizing cliches.

We once tried to fit a camel through the eye of a needle. He wasn't impressed.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:51 PM
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I am not, nor have I ever been, an island.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:54 PM
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158 is a good point, I've certainly met the type. We need a different name to describe it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:56 PM
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I've certainly met been the type.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:56 PM
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Little Miss [or Mister] Can't be Wrong


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:04 PM
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quitting drinking helped a lot with the feeling of impending doom,

does anyone find this is a general effect of drinking? I'm not a problem drinker, but even if I have three drinks in a night I feel this a little bit the next morning when I'm sober. Like some kind of metaphysical hangover. Other drugs don't seem to have that effect.

135 is the biggest reason not to be an academic.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:17 PM
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I believe anxiety is among the classic symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:20 PM
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Er, that didn't come out right. I am familiar with it as a symptom of withdrawal. It seems reasonable to think it could also be a symptom of coming down (up?) from alcohol.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:22 PM
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I've been trying to figure out if caffeine contributes to low-level anxiety. I can't really tell, though. It seems like cutting back my caffeine intake makes me feel generally less anxious (albeit sleepier), but it might be a placebo effect. If only I can figure out how to design a proper double-blind experiment on myself.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:23 PM
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Smoking definitely contributes to anxiety for me. As does quitting.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:24 PM
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The obvious out is to have a large scale plan so you can see how your little progress each day is getting you closer to your goal, and to learn to take satisfaction in each day's little progress and then shut off at the end of the day and allow yourself some bona fide anxiety-free free time. The little bit of Getting Things Done I read (never finished it, hurf-durf) was talking a lot about the anxiolytic effects of simply being organized, which I could easily imagine.

I'll tell you what works way better for me than drawing up plans or listing GTD-style subtasks. That stuff eats up tons of time in its own right, and often I can get twitchy and procrastinate about the planning, because it's linked to the awful enormous thing, and then you're right back where you started, only with an additional anxiety-producing thing to do.

Instead, I make a policy whereby working on X project(s) AT ALL each day constitutes Being Good. Once I open up the file and change anything at all (say) I am Good. If I miss a day, then I am Not Good. But all I have to do to fix that is to do something to each of the ongoing projects, and then I'm Good again.

A lot of the time I will, of course, do more. But sometimes I really won't, and it's crucial to declare that this minimal interaction still counts as Good. Because otherwise, I will start to get really anxious about the project because I haven't looked at it at all, and that makes it very difficult to break back in to working on it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:26 PM
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I feel inordinately more anxious (did I pay such-and-such bill? what about that shirt with the missing button? what the hell is up with my Time Capsule automated backup, Steve Jobs?) and unhappy when I go two or three days without working out.

A friend of mine said recently, when I was trying to describe my anxiety about my career prospects, "You sound more worried about being unemployed than you do about dying doing any of your crazy outdoor hobbies, you know."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:29 PM
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I feel this a little bit the next morning when I'm sober. Like some kind of metaphysical hangover.

Yeah -- there's a minimal hangover which involves no actual headache, nausea, or other identifiable symptoms beyond some emotion that there's probably a word for in German, equidistant between angst and weltschmertz.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:32 PM
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Instead, I make a policy whereby working on X project(s) AT ALL each day constitutes Being Good. Once I open up the file and change anything at all (say) I am Good. If I miss a day, then I am Not Good. But all I have to do to fix that is to do something to each of the ongoing projects, and then I'm Good again.

That is a great idea. It doesn't fit my current work perfectly, but there have been points in time where I would have benefited greatly from adopting that mindset.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:33 PM
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...equidistant between angst and weltschmertz....

Sorge?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:35 PM
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Gesamptkunstwerk.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:39 PM
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nicotine and regular exercise both help a lot with anxiety for me; I tend more to depression than anxiety, and they both help for that too. Alcohol is for me at least terrible for depression.

The Czech word for anxiety has a common root with the word for "narrow," it's an evocative word for the feeling of constraint.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:40 PM
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Regular exercise helps. Meditation sometimes helps, although it's only been toward the end of the two meditation retreats I've done that I've become aware of yet another level of anxiety underlying what I normally feel. Me: not a pretty sight.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:44 PM
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176: "It's anxieties all the way down!"


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:46 PM
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rfts, that's brilliant. Especially so insofar as there's a straightforward way to get out of being Not Good; it's very very easy for me to start the not-good spiral, but I don't have a concrete plan in place ahead of time for how to get out of it, and whoops, there goes another month.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:50 PM
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That is a great idea. It doesn't fit my current work perfectly, but there have been points in time where I would have benefited greatly from adopting that mindset.

In fact, I had spent a whole ton of time working on one of my current projects today and just realized that meant I was in danger of being Not Good regarding three others. I just checked in very quickly with all of them and will feel a lot better tonight and tomorrow as a result.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:50 PM
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The Good/Not Good scheme saved my dissertation. I should say that I came up with it after Heebie recommended The Now Habit to me. It's not the plan in the book, by any means, but was definitely a result of Heebie's encouragement.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:55 PM
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I've been using a similar approach to shrub's, and it seems to be working well.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 3:58 PM
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Hooray for gradual productivity! We should write a book and get rich.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 4:11 PM
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I also sort of feel like America is a highly anxiety-conducive culture. We're not that friendly to the basic human truth that being a fuckup is a part of life, and actually not a bad part.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 4:12 PM
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I feel like many of of my productivity problems are related to working with other people. If I do a little bit of work on a project every day and e-mail it to my collaborators who are doing none at all, after a while it just starts to feel passive-aggressive.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 4:16 PM
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We should write a book and get rich.

I'm down. We can write one page a day.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 4:17 PM
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If I do a little bit of work on a project every day and e-mail it to my collaborators who are doing none at all, after a while it just starts to feel passive-aggressive.

Do you have to email it all the time? You could just sit on it and let it pile up for a bit. I know what you mean, though--when there's a big discrepancy there, eventually you feel obligated to let things drop until someone else does something and gets things moving again.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 4:32 PM
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Do you have to email it all the time? You could just sit on it and let it pile up for a bit.

That's what I usually do, but then it's harder to keep myself going. Really the lesson is that I should work more with people whose work patterns match my own.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 4:40 PM
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I feel like many of of my productivity problems are related to working with other people. If I do a little bit of work on a project every day and e-mail it to my collaborators who are doing none at all, after a while it just starts to feel passive-aggressive.

In my experience this happens with housework among roommates 100% of the time. As soon as I do the same chore two consecutive times I start feeling unappreciated and exploited. Maybe if I lived with them for several years it would become clear how the chores could be feasibly divided among us in a predictable way instead of being on an ad hoc basis.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 4:45 PM
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Really the lesson is that I should work more with people whose work patterns match my own.

There's a horrifying thought.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 4:55 PM
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I don't think you really see the same thing in active researchers though, where it seems nearly everyone has imposter syndrome, ime, at least at times. This seems to cut across the usual lines.

Wouldn't you expect imposter syndrome to have a causal relationship to success? If you are worried about people finding out that you don't know what you're doing and don't deserve your job, an obvious way of dealing with that is to work really, really hard.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 5:55 PM
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My anxiety is generally pretty high, but it's lower than both my mother's and my best friend's, so I have plenty of proof that it could be worse. Therapy and focusing on my self-talk have made a big difference, but I suspect that I'll always have an anxious personality. This is actually one of the big reasons that my husband and I aren't going to have children.


Posted by: JennyRobot | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:14 PM
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Wouldn't you expect imposter syndrome to have a causal relationship to success? If you are worried about people finding out that you don't know what you're doing and don't deserve your job, an obvious way of dealing with that is to work really, really hard.

A popular alternative is to work really, really hard -- not at your job but at elaborate obfuscation so that no one ever notices that you have no idea what you are doing.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:14 PM
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192 cont. -- which does indeed seem to correlate with success.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:16 PM
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You really have to have a clear sense of what ought to be happening in order to feel entitled to treatment you aren't getting.

This is a good point.

And RFTS's 149 is interesting too. I have not previously thought of big projects this way.

In my adult life I've been pretty surprised at the wide continuum of how people define anxiety and imposter-itis. I think that's one of the hardest things about working in a group environment -- the bell curve is so flat, and it can take a lot of getting to know each individual person to learn how to calibrate your reactions to their reactions.

For some people "legitimate" anxiety is hysteria over whether the name tags should be alphabetized by last name or by organization, and for other people it is whether their parent is going to die in a foreign country before they can get a visa.

For some people the fear of appearing to be of an imposter can be triggered by a "I'm on a panel in front of an audience discussing current events and someone asked my position on an unrelated controversial Supreme Court case from 100 years ago." For other people, it appears that absolutely nothing up to and including BEING an imposter can trigger awareness or shame.

I don't have a real point here, except to say that I do find these terms to be useful descriptors of a phenomenon, but not always very helpful in assessing how you should deal with other people's manifestations of the phenomenon.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:18 PM
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Really the lesson is that I should work more with people whose work patterns match complement my own.

Completely by accident, I ended up with two bosses in a row who did this. It was (is) fantastic. Occasionally I worry about what it will be like in the future if I'm not lucky enough to fall into another one.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:20 PM
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Just chiming in to say that I think 169 is indeed brilliant. I should do that more often - I do it sometimes and it does help.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:52 PM
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Otto, you might consider getting a coach/therapist for a few sessions. There are people who can help you break a big task down into smaller steps.

Sometimes, I have conscious anxiety and then CBT techniques work, though I've found distracting mindfulness works better. But stopping catastrophic thinking can help.

I have had really terrible free floating anxiety about nothing in particular that was absolutely crippling. My heart would race, and I couldn't think at all. I'd lie down waiting for it to pass and hoping to fall asleep. The beta blocker propranalol has helped a ton.

I think I feel things more strongly/ care more than other people. Often enough, I am more upset by injustice than a lot of people. I'd be much better at working to alleviate them. Often enough I'm overwhelmed by sadness at the sight of a homeless person or so angry about something that I can't think strategically. I wish I felt less, but I wouldn't want to be apathetic.

T.S. Eliot had a wonderful line in Ash Wednesday, "Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to be still."


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:18 PM
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169 sounds like way too much pressure; but I gather it's referring chiefly to work-related projects rather than what I think of as the real stuff, which tends to go like: I don't really like where I live, yet this is where my life is. Oh noes!

And: I'm terribly worried that my brother will die*, and this is going to mess me up something terrible, so the project, if you will, is to build up additional support networks so that, if/when it happens, I will not be so devastated.

That's the sort of thing -- life projects -- which in theory admits of strategies, but in practice creeps up on you in the middle of the night. I thought I heard some of that in Otto's 135, which mentioned that "The problem is that they are all very big things".

* My brother's HIV-positive, and while it doesn't routinely keep me up at night, it's in there, low-level.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:21 PM
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First, thank you all for answering my questions or just speaking introspectively. I appreciate that kind of generosity and totally enjoyed reading this thread. Not that it's over.

100: What do you call the justified fear of harm to the thing you care about?

I've got justified fear of harm of my mom, being that she's very sick at the moment. But I don't feel anxiety over it. I feel a lot of sad, and it's pretty upsetting that she's in a lot of pain. But I don't have that heightened tension that comes with anxiety.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:35 PM
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Yay! I am Good for the day. I will have to keep this up.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:45 PM
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Which is to say, I agree that rfts has a good system.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:46 PM
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Hooray! System is basking in the praise. I will be thrilled if it turns out other people find it as useful as I do.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:12 PM
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Speaking of anxiety, I'm starting to have those dreams where your teeth feel loose - except I'm not actually asleep. I know I'm just imagining things, but I swear that from canine to canine on my upper jaw the damn teeth are wiggling in a way they're really not supposed to.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:14 PM
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I'm also inspired by the Good/Not Good Scheme of Aught Nine, and pleased to find I had a hand in it. Today I was Good.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:17 PM
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I swear that from canine to canine on my upper jaw the damn teeth are wiggling in a way they're really not supposed to.

Maybe your teeth actually are loose. Have you been eating enough fresh fruit?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:21 PM
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||

This is one hell of a thunderstorm going on right now.

|>


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:23 PM
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Here's something I never expected to learn. I''m the most well adjusted person here. I have never felt more compassion for my fellow human beings than I do at this moment.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:28 PM
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Oh, argh. I actually have a 'dead' tooth, killed when I was in first grade (hit by a car!), and every dentist I see reviews the x-rays and says, "You know ...."

Yes, I know! And yet the dear tooth continues on in quite reasonable shape, and only every 3-5 years goes through a period of feeling a little wiggly, which freaks me the fuck out (dreams of being suddenly toothless, panic).

Meanwhile, I'm interested by the extent to which people's self-esteem is connected to their work, and/or, possibly, any monetary reward they receive from that. I'm a little, though only a little, surprised that so many of the stories of anxiety related here have to do with work.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:31 PM
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Maybe your teeth actually are loose. Have you been eating enough fresh fruit?

While I don't snack constantly on fruit the way a friend does (I have watched him eat 6 different pieces of stone fruit absentmindedly while working in less than an hour) I do eat plenty. And lately have been addicted to orange juice. So I don't think the scurvy has gotten me, though I haven't been to a dentist in many moons due to lack of dental insurance (ah, another source of anxiety!) so who knows what is going on in there.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:35 PM
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Work is stressful, and hence anxiety-producing. Self-esteem being tied to work or money doesn't have to enter into it at all, though of course it may.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:35 PM
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Meanwhile, I'm interested by the extent to which people's self-esteem is connected to their work, and/or, possibly, any monetary reward they receive from that.

Me too. I can't remember where I recently read something like "Work can only make you unhappy-to-neutral, whereas it takes relationships to make you happy." Oh you know what? I think I read it somewhere on the Penelope Trunk site. Should I be embarrassed?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:36 PM
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Should I be embarrassed?

Maybe?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:39 PM
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Of course, it depends on the kind of work. My job, for instance, is stressful, but it's not structured in a way likely to produce much procrastination or resulting anxiety. It's both very routine and highly regimented. If I have to give a tour at 10:00, I have to be there at 10:00 no matter how much I dread it. There may be anxiety involved, but it can't make me miss the tour.

For someone in an office job who spends all day writing reports, however, and even more for an academic, work consists of a series of projects which are easy to put off. Procrastinating leads to anxiety, however, because of the feeling that the work really does need to get done.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:40 PM
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Many of us have jobs that are identity consuming - they creep into every aspect of your life and they brand you, for lack of a better word. This is perhaps not the most healthy thing, but it seems pretty obvious why, then, anxiety would largely be tied to work.

Not me, though. I'm anxious about work, about my cat (god forbid I have children), and that time I got suspended in junior high and profoundly disappointed my mother.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:43 PM
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And your teeth.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:43 PM
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And yet I'm mostly happy and disturbingly cheerful!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:45 PM
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Oooh! I have a hypothesis! I wonder if on-the-job anxiety is related to the urgent vs. important axes.

I like to say that in grad school, everything was important but nothing was urgent. Like, you're working on your Big Old Dissertation, but with no deadlines ever. Whereas at my teaching job, everything is urgent but nothing is important (as I mentioned above.)

Hypothesis: having a low-urgency/high-importance situation creates anxiety.

Although I wasn't particularly anxious in grad school, either. So who knows.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:47 PM
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I guess I'm digging a little deeper into the imposter syndrome, which in the course of the thread has developed into being an imposter in your work. Whereas there are other forms: I'm not as good a person as I think I am/pretend to be/want to be.

I think that's where I was getting the troubled connection between work and self-esteem. With respect to the imposter syndrome, I'm just as interested in the latter form (I'm not as good a person, am not living the life I want, am not walking the talk) ... as in the former. I do completely understand the former, the submerged fear that you'll be found out not to be as good as you're pretending to be in your work.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:54 PM
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I think I mostly find work reassuring, not anxiety-provoking. Obviously there are specific situations that are horribly anxiety-provoking (having to lay somebody off....ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh awfulness).

But by and large, the stuff that has been most upsetting to me has been other life stuff that work actually helps distract me from and alleviate anxiety. Chronic illness, death, violent crime, alcoholism -- that stuff is hard, even when you're one degree removed. Going to work doesn't stop that from simmering in the back (sometimes the forefront) of my mind, but does let me tackle problems I can actually fix, and sometimes even supplies villains.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:55 PM
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I felt like an imposter for the first couple years in grad school, but really I was just lazy. Or really, I just do not love math research, and didn't spend the time to do it right and invest in my future as a researcher, and when I awoke and decided to pursue a teaching career, the fraudulence kind of fell away.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:01 PM
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T.S. Eliot had a wonderful line in Ash Wednesday, "Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to be still."

Love this. Please, please teach me!!!

Speaking of anxiety, I'm starting to have those dreams where your teeth feel loose

Wait, that's associated with anxiety? I have "holy crap my teeth are falling out dreams" recurringly. Not as often, though, as the one where I'm on the way to or at my softball game and realize I've forgotten my glove and cleats.

Work can only make you unhappy-to-neutral, whereas it takes relationships to make you happy."

Yeah, I can see this. I really like the job that I do, but work is making me very unhappy lately and that's mostly about the relationships or lack thereof. I've had really good friends at previous jobs and this current state.... is deadening. The anxiety comes from finding it wholly unpleasant to show up to work, but realizing I don't have alot of alternative options on the table.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:04 PM
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"holy crap my teeth are falling out dreams"

These are very common. I think Freud said dreams about teeth are really about masturbation, but I suspect he was wrong about this.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:24 PM
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the Penelope Trunk site

Was that the part where she said when you're unhappy, you answer questions by saying, "Well, I have a great job," or "Work is going well," but if you're in love, work can be going horribly and you'll still answer ther question "How are you?" with "Great!"?

I actually thought that sounded pretty plausible.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:26 PM
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I think Freud said dreams about teeth are really about masturbation, but I suspect he was wrong about this.

Yeah. I think it's just about your teeth falling out. Combined fear of and attraction to the tooth fairy, no doubt.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:33 PM
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223: It does sound pretty plausible. I shouldn't judge the woman just because she said that she's a convert to the plastic surgery school of happiness.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:45 PM
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I think Freud said dreams about teeth are really about masturbation, but I suspect he was wrong about this.

This sounds familiar, but it doesn't seem to be in The Interpretation of Dreams, unless my copy has a shitty index.

Is there anything Freud was right about? He just made shit up, and he did it in a brilliant and entertaining way, but I think he was wrong about basically everything.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:49 PM
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Freud was right that civilization is necessarily built on the repression of certain impulses.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:56 PM
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Next essear will be telling us that Jung was full of shit.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:00 PM
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It could be a whole series. "Psychologists Who Are Full of Shit: From Adler to Zimbardo"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:07 PM
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Though I guess "ethically dubious experiments" doesn't translate directly into "full of shit".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:09 PM
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I might pay to read that. Okay, not really. Makes for a good fight, though.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:12 PM
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229 is a good book idea. The one I'd really pay to read, though, is Halford's history of the LAPD. Where is he, anyway? Hopefully off somewhere writing it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:23 PM
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Work can only make you unhappy-to-neutral, whereas it takes relationships to make you happy

I'm not so sure I agree with this. When work is going well, and I'm seeing connections and properly having ideas and the error bars are small and there are choirs of angels etc., work makes me very happy indeed. To a large extent I think that's to do with the feeling (which, sadly, never lasts) that I'm in the right place after all. Of course this is a different kind of happiness than the basic sense of well-being that comes from having people with whom one is completely at home, but it's a happiness, and one I'd be loath to forgo.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:31 PM
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On further reflection I'm not sure how much of the science-happiness is just relief from impostor feelings, and how much is relief that, as a non-impostor, I'll be able to contribute in my chosen way after all, and how much is exhilaration at standing on the shoulders of giants, and how much is giddiness about the coolness of whatever system I'm studying at the time.

Whatever it is, I want to make it happen more often. I'm pretty sure I'm more pleasant to be around when it does; I certainly like my own company more.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:50 PM
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Off topic, sort of: Any suggestions on finding a decent therapist? I'm generally optimistic and cheerful, with a side order of making mountains out of molehills. I've worked on diminshing that tendency over the years w/ some success, mostly using the combinatinon of troubleshooting the issue then being satisfied that I've done my due diligence and will deal with what happens when it happens, and laughing at myself/the issue.

But two traumatic incidents last year within two months have left me reeling. The physical trauma (accident w/ orbital blow-out and sinus bone fractures plus broken bones and dislocated fingers on each hand, followed by tag-team facial (plate insertion) and eye surgery - cue Clockwork Orange nightmares) which seemed like quite enough, thank you, was minor-league a few weeks later when my brother, the person I was closest to throughout my entire life, commited suicide.

CBT seems appealing, from the little I know of it, since (I think?) it focuses on working on specific issues. Any suggestions?


Posted by: honigessig | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:52 PM
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235, CBT is good. I'm not sure what is the best way to find a good therapist, but I know many people end up trying multiple until they find one who works for them.


Posted by: Frostbite | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:14 PM
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217: Hypothesis: having a low-urgency/high-importance situation creates anxiety.

And low-urgency/high-importance is pretty much the defining characteristic of the larger project of your life taken as whole (assuming you're above the lowest levels of the hierarchy of needs).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:14 PM
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I am anxious for people to know that 237 was me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:16 PM
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I know there was a long thread on this recently but I can't find it. Someone with better google skills needs to find it.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:25 PM
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237: The Psychology Today website has therapist listings, which you can search based on a number of criteria, including specializing in the particular thing(s) you're looking to work on, cost, and therapist orientation (CBT, gestalt, psychoanalytic, and so on). It's how I found my therapist, and she's awesome.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:35 PM
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And as far as CBT goes, I've found it tremendously useful and in a lot of ways more valuable than the other therapy I've done. It's very highly focused, and not at all concerned with the deep hidden events in your past that cause you to feel/act the way you do now, which really appeals to me. And as Biohazard mentioned above it's something you can do by yourself, instead of having to have your therapist's involvement.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:39 PM
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Aha, I found it. There was indeed an ATM on how to find a therapist.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:41 PM
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235: Sorry to hear about your physical trauma and the tragedy of your brother. These are certainly topics that people work on in therapy.

Re how to find one, one thing you could do, given the number of people here who have mentioned good relationships with therapists, is give your location. Someone might be in your area and able to email you a name of someone they like[d]. There's an oft-cited meta-analysis somewhere out there that concluded that the efficacy of psychotherapy is does not depend on the therapeutic orientation, but rather on the quality of the relationship between therapist and client. So the conventional wisdom is that when looking for a therapist, you should be mainly interested in whether you "click" with him or her.

This means that you may have to try a couple. The first time I tried therapy, I just didn't get what it was supposed to be all about, and the therapist didn't seem interested in explaining it to me, so I never went back. In grad school, I got comparatively lucky: I went to student health and asked for an appointment with whomever, and they paired me with a woman with whom I immediately comfortable. After 2 sessions, she asked if I wanted to continue with her, and I had no doubt that I did. It seemed like she understood what I was talking about, didn't make me feel like a freak because of the things I said, etc. Now it's been almost 3 years, much of that 2x/week, and I think we remain a pretty good, albeit not perfect, fit. I can imagine it would be a pain in the ass to interview a bunch of dud therapists in a row. I think some people will even ask to talk a bit on the phone before doing a face-to-face session.

Orientations. As a practical science-y type CBT is in some ways appealing to me, as it focuses, much like Josh describes in 78, on developing awareness of thoughts patterns that fuck up your life, and in sort of reasoning your way around them. (I'm sure a real expert would find that description inadequate.) It's sort of a mental re├źngineering-type approach. I believe it is also more typically deployed in situations of short duration.

However, it turned out the psychiatrist I was paired is more from the psychodynamic world. This means a lot of free-wheeling discussion, discussions of one's mother, drawing of connections between the past and present, increasing of awareness of one's behavioral patterns, and attempting to learn from the relationship between therapist and client looking out for the reemergence of one's behavior patterns in the context of that relationship. When I read a description like that, I think, "OK, and the mechanism by which things get better is where?" And it's not clear why things have gotten better for me, but they have. (Yes, this is a better-adjusted who posts here.) And this getting better has been correlated with my being in therapy, so.

Good luck.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:49 PM
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242: See, you do have good Google skills. Believe in yourself!


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:54 PM
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244: Only because I remembered the Psychology Today thing coming up in the conversation after Josh linked to it. Previous combinations of therapy + half remembered topic revealed that we talk about therapy a lot here.

But yes, I'll go give myself a pat on the back now. Thanks!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:55 PM
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Yes, this is a better-adjusted who posts here

In fact Otto has become essentially egoless.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 11:58 PM
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re: 229/232

There are loads of those books, e.g. Dolnick's "Madness on the Couch". Psychiatry/psychology does seem to attract shite-bags in fairly high numbers.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:03 AM
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Yeah, there are a lot of typos in there, but because I have so much self-esteem now, my entire self-worth is not out the window because of those mistakes!


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:03 AM
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I don't really experience anxiety about work; that's more just like stress, which feels different, in that it tends to be more physical. (I have to get up after being up late, can I afford to spend the time to make dinner?, I need to leave now to be on time--that kind of stuff.) Work gets done, in its way, and I've been pretty chill about that for a long time.

Anxiety tends to be more about worrying that people are mad at me without remembering what I could have possibly done to make them mad. In the past few years, I've come to some peace about this by deciding that, frankly, I just don't care anymore if people are mad at me if I can't even remember having done something anger-worthy. If it's a good enough friend or a close enough partner, they'll tell me what I did and we can talk about it, including apologies if necessary. (I'm willing to accept that I can be insensitive, but if you can't be bothered to point it out to me, and I can't think of it on my own, it's obscure enough that I deserve a hint.) Otherwise, I probably don't care if something I don't even remember doing pissed them off. Also, I've come to realize, finally, after decades of trouble about this, that when people start to be distant or negative toward me, it often has just about nothing to do with anything I've said or done and everything to do with something I don't know anything about.

I feel like I wasted way too many years of my life apologizing for things I imagined could have maybe been responsible for people treating me differently from how they used to, in part because my mom is pretty much always angry at me about some phantom thing she claims I did or said wrong. I grew up apologizing all the time for everything and feeling anxious that my apology would never be enough.

But the nice thing about having relationships with people other than my mother is that if they treat me like shit and expect me to grovel for imagined sins, I don't have to apologize to them. Ta da!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:04 AM
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And yes, 235, psychologytoday.com is great for finding a therapist. Good luck!

I am currently trying to find a new therapist, but longing for the old one, which I find is about as successful as browsing personals ads while mooning over an ex. No one is good enough. I've tried asking for referrals from friends, but they're either close enough that I would feel weird sharing a therapist (in that we'd be tempted to theorize about one another) or they don't like their own therapists very much. You'd think, in NYC, I could find a decently-priced Winnicottian analyst, but, well. Hm.

A pattern: three (3!) separate people have confronted me in the past six months saying that the reason they feel distant toward me is that I am always (always!) rejecting them sexually. Old Me would have spent a lot of time trying to learn what their cues are and being anxious about whether I'm a sexually withholding person or where all that stems from and what I think I'm achieving with it or whatever. New Me says, "Well, I guess you're going to have to be less subtle." I am much less anxious when I just go with the whole being-an-asshole thing.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:18 AM
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New Me says, "Well, I guess you're going to have to be less subtle." I am much less anxious when I just go with the whole being-an-asshole thing.

Yeah. One of the most liberating things I've ever discovered is the phrase "That's YOUR problem, not mine". It's amazing how many situations it fits.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:29 AM
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Interesting thread. I have a good deal of anxiety in social situations, and relating to them, but alone with my thoughts I'm pretty mellow.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:52 AM
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AWB, have you contacted the person to whom your old therapist referred you? You could just talk for a bit to see whether they'd be a fit.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 5:56 AM
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247: My sense is that a lot of people go into psych because they are trying to figure out their own issues, and their thrashing around trying to make sense of their own fucked-upness manifests itself in their research and theorizing. IOW Freud was a goddamn pervert.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 6:53 AM
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67: I've been thinking about heebie's questions, and I realized that a lot of my constant anxiety has to do with compensating for my known tendency to extreme absent-mindedness. I know from experience that I am capable of unthinkingly doing things (or forgetting to do things) that could have terrible consequences. So my constant low-level anxiety is a way of keeping myself on my toes. It works most of the time.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 7:18 AM
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I love reading Freud. There's one side of him that's absolutely laughable -- super anxious about presenting analysis as firmly on the true path of science, creating all kinds of theories on basically no evidence. But there's this other side that's engaged in really radical questioning and doesn't rule out any answers in advance, opening up some breathtaking flashes of insight. These two sides of Freud are often present in the same paragraph, even the same sentence.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 7:48 AM
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My only reading of Freud was "The Interpretation of Dreams," which I thought was kind of spotty. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the fact that some of his more radical ideas are now conventional wisdom. I read it for a psych course on sleep and dreaming, for which I wrote the easiest paper ever - we kept a dream journal and then we had to write a paper interpreting our dreams. I used a Freudian approach, which made things quite simple, especially since one of my dreams involved a submarine that fired hot dogs instead of torpedoes. Sometimes a thing that's long, hard, and full of seamen is just a submarine, mind you.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 8:26 AM
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a submarine that fired hot dogs: clearly you were anxious that your dream was not going to provide adequately Freudian material, and your subconscious -- enjoying your subliminal discomfiture -- decided to play a hilarious student prank on you.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 8:31 AM
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Freud was a neurologist before he was a psychoanalyst, and I'm told that his work was good. He didn't have the private means necessary to pursue a scientific career.

There was an interesting Charlie Rose show, available online, with Eric Kandel, Peter Fonagy and Aaron Beck about Freud's legacy at 100. Kandel maintained that Freud believed that all of his theories would be supplanted by biology but that the tools of the day were too crude, and a theory of mind that was more sophisticated than the behaviorist view was desperately needed.

I haven't read any Freud except a bit on for a class on autonomy and alienation. Any ideas on where to start?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 8:43 AM
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There are some suggestive passages in Freud where he anticipates sophisticated psychopharmaceuticals. The "good," inquisitive Freud probably wouldn't be surprised about how wrong many of his ideas have proven to be.

Dora is fascinating, as are a couple of other of his case studies I've read. I also picked up an old paperback collection of Freud's papers on "Therapy and Technique" that was fun. I remember Interpretation of Dreams as being fairly spotty, like togolosh says.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 9:03 AM
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Is there anything Freud was right about? He just made shit up, and he did it in a brilliant and entertaining way, but I think he was wrong about basically everything.

it's always funny to see scientists collide with Freud. Not least, as Bave points out, in Freud himself, where he draws on what now looks like this wacky scientism for authority.

I'm always taken just in daily life by how much Freud seems to have right.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 9:03 AM
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The only Freud I read in school was in a class on the origins of contemporary thought, and the professor pressed and pressed the point that Freud ripped off a bunch of Nietzsche and then made it easier to read. No idea if this take is widely accepted. If only there were some philosophy types about...


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 9:03 AM
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Adam Phillips is a very good writer and neo-Freudian analyst whose essays have a lot of thought-provoking stuff.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 9:07 AM
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the point that Freud ripped off a bunch of Nietzsche and then made it easier to read.

Sure there was plenty of influence, but your prof seems to have had some kind of chip on his shoulder. I mean, Freud is for sure harder to read than Nietzsche.

From a conservative perspective, Phillip Rieff is full of interesting stuff on Freud. Here is Stephen Gardner's introduction to Rieff's book "The Triumph of the Therapeutic".

In some ways, it's Freud's fate to have been so influential and powerful as a thinker that much of what's true in him now seems obvious or passe.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 9:41 AM
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Doesn't Harold Bloom argue that Freud got his best intuitive material from Shakespeare (and yes, some of it from Nietzsche)? Bloom is a titanic c0ck in many many many ways, but I think the idea that art got the best read on psychology long before science came tiptoing along to give it grown-up confirmation is not an inherently bad one.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 9:53 AM
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I'm always taken just in daily life by how much Freud seems to have right.

Agreed.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 9:55 AM
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Wow, Parenthetical links to an earlier thread (oops, I should have RTFA), Josh posts a very useful link, Otto shares practical advice... thanks, Mineshaft! Y'all are the best. Will get to work on this.


Posted by: honigessig | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 10:30 AM
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265: Freud borrowed a lot from British lit in general, which is part of why he's so popular as an origin for literary theory. It's very hard to read Swift now, or Dickens, without seeing Freud everywhere--it's mostly heart-pounding anxiety about shit and inappropriate desire. But yeah, Shakespeare too. I'm not a big fan of psychoanalytic literary criticism overall, but it seems totally fair to bring in Freud to talk about these texts that clearly inspired his way of reading patients.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 10:42 AM
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real question: Does 268 use "shit" meaning "shit", or "shit" meaning "things"?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 10:48 AM
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Shit meaning excrement.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 10:52 AM
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My week at work has been totally full of excrement.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 10:54 AM
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259:Psychopathology of Everday Life
Civilizayion and It's Discontents
Future of an Illusion
....
Three Essays on a Theory of Sexuality is hardcore. The Outline


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 11:45 AM
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My dad was a neurologist who was into Freud, and when as kids we claimed that some boneheaded behavior was an accident, he used to remind us that "as Sigmund said, there are no accidents." This later became "what would Sigmund say?"; eventually, he would just roll his eyes, look upward and say wearily, "Ah, Sigmund."


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:03 PM
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264: I mean, Freud is for sure harder to read than Nietzsche.

This is for sure a mystifying statement.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:08 PM
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Hey parsimon, check your email.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:10 PM
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274:I never felt as much immediate need to internalize and experience Nietzsche's myths, symbols and metaphors as I did Freud's. Ressentiment was something other people did;the Ubermensch was some other guy. And these were metaphors and symbols.

(In some ways Nietzsche is harder. All those characters in Zarathustra need to be internalized into a dynamic self-understanding. Especially the ass. And Nietzsche makesi it easy to laugh off, the Devil)

But as I was reading Freud I was an ego mediating between a superego and id;if I wasn't conscious of the resistance and transference in my reading, I wasn't conscious. And Freud wasn't giving us symbols but facts. A different level of suspension of disbelief is required.

(I have said that Kierkeggaard can only be understood by Christians. Or people who spell his name right.)


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:44 PM
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the Ubermensch isn't some other guy though


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:46 PM
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275: Done.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:48 PM
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The guy I don't get is Darwin.

If evolution is limited to biology, and we all now disregard the Spencer stuff and lessons from the veldt etc, don't we; than I don't find Darwin very interesting or useful.

I do think, as a Victorian, Darwin might have meant, coyly himself, to extend evolution to culture and history. Many of his peers thought so.

Ah well, all four of the giants:Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud were way too optimistic for my tastes.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:52 PM
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Parsimon supports me in email.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:54 PM
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277:Doesn't Nietzsche himself, and Zarathustra, claim only to be precursors to the Ubermensch?

One of my big disappointments was a little note about James Joyce coming downstairs from reading Nietzsche and saying:"I am the Uvermensch!" Leopold & Loeb adolescent narcissism. I was embarrassed for him.

The Ubermensch would just be too noble to reveal herself to the likes of us.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:57 PM
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276: PGD's "Freud is harder to read than Nietzsche" could be read in any number of ways, but I hadn't thought of that one. I see what you're getting at, though. On the other hand, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the Apollonian and Dionysian in Nietzsche are impulses in tension within each of us; it might be a mistake to suppose that they each name particular (types of) individuals.

In any case, I just initially read PGD's remark somewhat comically, like: dude, Kant is hard to read. Spinoza is hard to read. Derrida is hard to read. Freud is not hard to read. Nietzsche is harder to read than Freud!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:57 PM
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279: I don't see how one could find biology uninteresting or useless, veldt or not...


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 12:58 PM
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Nietzsche is a precursor to everyone living; Zarathustra is 6th century BC, so that goes double...

Nehemas: "In engaging with his works, we are not engaging with the miserable little man who wrote them but with the philosopher who emerges through them, the magnificent character these texts constitute and manifest, the agent who, as the will to power holds, is nothing but his effects, that is, his writings."

It's the Trolls' Manifesto!


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:05 PM
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Nehamas is so weird.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:07 PM
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283:Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud can help me understand the health care reform politics. Nietzsche and Freud, and maybe even a commanding moral Marxism, can motivate me to diet and exercise.

WTF can Darwin do for me?

It is only crummy science.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:10 PM
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I saw him interviewed once, on a hilariously trashy TV documentary about Hitler and Atlantis. He seemed to be having a good time and said smart stuff considering -- which sadly I have forgotten. Also I can never spell him.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:10 PM
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What's yr line on Kuhn, bob? He is Darwinian. Marx is too.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:13 PM
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I miss Emerson.

Science is just bells and baubles to distract and regress the masses so they don't notice where their labour's going. Enlightenment's exact replacement for religion.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:15 PM
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...Hitler and Atlantis.

Go on.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:16 PM
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Don't know Kuhn.

Matx's eschatology is famously one of his weak points. I said above Marx was too optimistic, a believer in progress.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:17 PM
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Darwinism isn't about progress or eschatology, it's about fitness to purpose in the locale: it's as bleak as you like.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:22 PM
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Freud was right that erotic conflicts and jealousies among father, mother, and child are often important developmental influences. He was wrong that they are a universally important developmental stage, and full of it about some of his specific inferences about how children would likely react to them. Just about every psychoanalyst I've ever read falls down on their illusion that they're using a method that lends itself to really developing a systematic and total explanatory framework, as opposed to just observing some things that happen sometimes.


Posted by: cynique | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:25 PM
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Flippanter I have forgotten everything about the documentary except that it was on the UK's Channel 5 in its early days (when it was wall-to-wall trash and soft porn); and that in the middle of it, in among the lunies, suddenly here was Alexander Nehamas of Princeton, talking abt Plato, Nietzsche and Hitler. I never saw him on TV before or since.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:26 PM
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bob, I could see you having some fun with Social Darwinism for awhile. And I mean that quite sincerely. Not that you'd adopt it as a personal code or something, but you seem to enjoy thought experiments.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:26 PM
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290 seconded.

I haven't actually read Nehamas on Nietzsche, though I have, or had at one time, a rough understanding of his reading. Problematic, it seemed, but I'd have to review in order to say what was problematic, so it's snarky of me, to say the least, to impugn him.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:26 PM
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295: For example: The Japanese are way smarter than us.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:54 PM
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The Japanese are way smarter than us.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 1:56 PM
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Freud was also right that people have compulsions to repeat scenes they've enacted before.


Posted by: Cynique | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 2:02 PM
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299: First as tragedy, then as farce?

(Kobe!)


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 2:04 PM
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bob, if you're still reading, you really might find Kuhn of interest -- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. See in particular the notion of incommensurability. Related is Paul Feyerabend. Neither of these will seem to you as ... romantic ... as the reading you seem to prefer, though Feyerabend might, actually, but it's worth a gander.

Has Emerson read these people, I wonder?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 2:31 PM
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bob, if it's romanticism you're looking for, I'd say you're missing out by skipping Darwin. He writes (somewhere in Beagle or in contemporary letters home, I forget which) that the book he absolutely can't put down is Alexander von Humboldt's Cosmos---about as romantic as you can get, and you can see the effects all through Origin.

But possibly this is a much smaller argument than you want to have. I don't even know where to begin on 289.2, and I can't stick around to engage; I have to go swim do science.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 2:41 PM
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Darwin might have meant, coyly himself, to extend evolution to culture and history

Darwin was an excellent empiricist, very careful. The closest he came to culture is I think in his excellent The Expression Of The Emotions In Man And Animals written late in his life. He understood acutely the religious implications of evolution, and likely found these very difficult personally. However, he kept his beliefs and his reasoning separate.

Feyerabend is an interesting read. Like many radical relativists and agitators against method, he did not lead a morally noteworthy life. In particular he was awarded an Iron Cross for his service during WWII. Not necessarily an indictment of his less-than-coherent view of science, but all intelligent collaborators can provide detailed explanations of why telling right from wrong is extremely difficult.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 2:48 PM
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302: I'm the one who spoke of romanticism. bob should speak for himself.

I miss Emerson too.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 2:48 PM
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his excellent The Expression Of The Emotions In Man And Animals

Yes! I used this in a course I taught a couple of times, dubbed "Animal Language and Intelligence." The biology majors in the class paused and thought, hopefully not just at that reading.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 2:58 PM
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I thought all the depressingly necessary work at Goon Park probably wouldn't have been necessary if EEMA had been more widely read. Also, great drawings of dogs.

...Darwin and policy: Why Antibiotic Use should be Regulated for the Public Good; also, Spending Lots of Money on Pesticides: Will There Ever be an End? Very useful.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 3:12 PM
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come now clew, you don't honestly expect policy to be anything but loosely related to best practices and knowledge, do you?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 3:13 PM
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You took a comment that correlated Zen, Schopenhauer, and Flatt & Scruggs as as an expression of my serious opinion?

OTOH, the Japanese are really advanced


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 3:18 PM
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308 t0 297 although maybe pwnd by 298

apo is so 3-D

I know a little of Kuhn & Lakatos & less Feyerbend.

There is, or can be, a romanticism in philosophical pessimism. A martyrdom to low expectations, a delectation of misanthropy. But what's this pessismism for, anyway? I don't know, but it just feels so bad, you know?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 3:39 PM
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but it just feels so bad

Is that in the Michael Jackson sense of Bad?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 3:47 PM
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thanks, Mineshaft! Y'all are the best. Will get to work on this.

We live to serve. Or at least, I live to procrastinate.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 5:39 PM
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If evolution is limited to biology, and we all now disregard the Spencer stuff and lessons from the veldt etc, don't we; than I don't find Darwin very interesting or useful.

I do think, as a Victorian, Darwin might have meant, coyly himself, to extend evolution to culture and history. Many of his peers thought so.

Whether or not Darwin himself meant to do this, others certainly have.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 6:03 PM
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I probably have mentioned this before, but there is something about Darwin and evolution that really bothers me, something I have trouble articulating. Something in the opposite direction from the creationists.

I can't reconcile random mutation and adaptation on an emotional level. I know the evolutionists strongly resist interpretations that say if the world floods humans will just grow gills, but I don't think they resist quite hard enough, or that they really want to. Random mutation really means, to a degree that the exceptions are meaningless, that everything fails to adapt and dies. That evolution looks at the survivors is like chemistry looking only at the rare isotopes.

Toss a coin a million times. One series runs fifty heads in a row. The evolutionist tells me:"Isn't it interesting that we got fifty consecutive heads? I'm not saying it means anything, or indicates anything, but it is a fact that we got fifty heads in a row, and isn't it interesting?"

"Get out of my face you weirdo. No it is not at all interesting."

Now of course human thru technology can create adaptive mutations, but that isn't evolution, is it?

Mutations don't prevail. Mutations kill.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 8:58 PM
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I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at bob, but I suspect it is akin to the following from Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker):

But, however many ways there may be of being alive, it is certain that there are vastly more ways of being dead, or rather not alive.

That which to find interesting in such a scheme is of course an individual choice.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 10:16 PM
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Similarly from Unweaving the Rainbow

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 10:19 PM
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314:That which to find interesting in such a scheme is of course an individual choice.

The facts are chosen to fit the narrative. The narrative is too much about the successes. This is a human habit with pernicious rersults.

Having worked in at least a dozen restaurants, I found the failures at least as interesting as the successes.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 10:24 PM
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313: no contradiction. All you need is genetic variation for selection to operate on. Genetic variation obviously exists, people are not clones. Of course if the environment changes fast enough then it is entirely likely that there will not be enough genetic variation to allow for any individuals to survive in the changed circumstances. If the environment changes more gradually (the usual case), things are different.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-31-09 1:29 PM
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soup, I think I expect policy to be based on knowledge; but only the outdated knowledge. Minerva's owl flies backwards.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-31-09 1:52 PM
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