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Key Realizations For My Life

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A list of realizations I’ve had in my life that make a big difference to my ability to cope, written down because I’m worried I won’t remember them.

General

  • Waiting is also a strategy. That is: my urge to always be fixing things can be satisfied by choosing the fixing strategy of waiting until something changes. (Ref: therapy session, May 17, 2011)
    • As an addendum: Sometimes a situation is done, and even if I don’t like the outcome, I’m never going to fix it. I should ask myself, “am I learning anything new from thinking about this?”. The answer is probably “no”. At that point, the strategy of waiting is specifically realizing that I can’t go back in time, that I’m done learning from this, that I have to move on, and what I’m waiting for is for time to reduce my concern, to leave I less bothered by the situation. This is a legitimate use of waiting, and is a legitimate life strategy.
  • I trust myself to continue to be a basically good and decent person who takes care of those around him and does the important things in his life. It is not necessary for me to experience severe anxiety or hold myself to ridiculously strict rules to trust myself in this way. The evidence is that the odds of me ever changing is these respects is very, very low. (Ref: Therapy 25 Feb 2020)
  • When I feel angry, I should check to see if I’m actually feeling anxious, and responding with anger. (Ref: So Many Therapy)
  • It is not necessary to pick the perfect life path. It is also, obviously, impossible, and attempting to do so is ridiculous. This particularly applies to leisure activities: it is not necessary, or even possible, that I pick the very most perfect thing to do with any given chunk of leisure time; that’s not leisure, that’s neuroticism. It is only necessary that I actually relax and enjoy it. (Ref: therapy 8 Aug 2013)
  • It is better to lose track of to-do items than to track them by mentally treating everything as urgent. My life so far shows that I actually quite rarely fail to do anything actually important, but tracking everything as urgent is mentally toxic for me. Further, a to-do item is not a sacred promise, it’s just a reminder. (Ref: Therapy 4 Feb, 11 Feb 2020)
  • If I choose not to be desperately anxious about my to-do list, nothing bad actually happens. (Ref: general life experience, Therapy 11 Feb 2020)
  • I have had a very complex relationship with anger over the course of my life. My current feeling is that in general I want to not be angry; I don’t enjoy it at all, and it only very rarely helps. I do sometimes need anger to accomplish things, but it’s very rare. I’m OK with “it’s time to be angry” needing to be something I have to consciously decide, even if that comes with a cost in response time. (Ref: Therapy 7 Jan 2020)
  • Negative motivations (i.e. being motivated to not be someone or something) seem to work our poorly for me, and lead to a bad emotional state overall; try to notice when that’s happening and stop it. (Ref: therapy 29 Oct 2019)
  • I sometimes find myself wanting to work on a personal project, and then I get stuck on what to actually do. A thing that’s worked is to ask myself “What’s the biggest problem with this?”, and to allow answers of the form “I don’t know (how to do) X”, and then go solve the problem thus revealed.

Interpersonal conflict

  • When I’m upset that people don’t like me and I can’t stop, I can try to turn it around: realize that they are going to be fine if they are not my friend. Make it about empathy for them, to allow me to walk away. It’s bizarre that this works, but it seems to. (Ref: email)
  • About anxiety over preparing for difficult conversations: I do, in fact, trust my unconscious mind to do 80% of the work of coming up with important things to say or exact ways to phrase things. The outcome of such conversations will be fine if I just treat them like normal problems to solve and do my usual (minimal) prep. The other 20% isn’t worth the endless hours of anxiety. (Ref: Therapy 26 Nov 2019)
  • When I was young, I was taught that universal love is an ideal to strive for, and taught how to choose to feel forgiveness and love for anyone, regardless of their actions. I don’t actually agree with this philosophy anymore, but it turns out that choosing to feel forgiveness/compassion/love for someone when they’re annoying me (and being angry/upset at them isn’t useful; situations where I’ve already done all the things I’m going to do to fix it) is far easier and more effective than other responses I’ve had to such situations, such as trying to respond to annoyance with mindfulness. (Ref: Therapy 28 Jan/4 Feb 2020)
  • It is common for me to be treated poorly by someone and immediately turn around and treat them well. This seems to be partly a memory issue and partly a wanting everybody to love me issue. Trying to hold on to anger at the person turns out to be toxic as fuck for me; this needs to be handled, but it needs to be handled dispassionately if possible. I can make a strong mental note when someone treats me poorly or, if there’s an ongoing problem and that’s not working, write things down and check those notes when the person wants something from me. (Ref: Therapy 4 Feb 2020)
  • About my fear that I’ll end up friendless and alone: friends are not anymore a resource that needs renewing. That is, at this stage in my life, I have a core group of friends that I can reasonably expect to have until I die (especially the younger ones). (Ref: Therapy 3 Dec 2019)
  • Further on the topic of my fear that I’ll end up friendless and alone: my mental images of losing all my friends have never, in fact, included losing my real, close, core friends. If everybody else hates me but I still have them, I’ll be OK. (Ref: Therapy 3 Dec 2019)
  • When working with two people I care about who are in conflict, instead of trying to be a champion for each of them, be a mediator for both of them. Furthermore, it’s possible to be a champion for someone without using anger; just calmly speak on their behalf as needed. (Ref: Therapy 17 Dec 2019)
  • Telling people to calm down when they’re upset can be experienced by them as an attempt to control their behaviour. (Ref: Therapy 7 Jan 2020)

Mentoring

  • It is not my job to tell other people to make permanent decisions in their life, and attempting to do so is far more likely to be harmful than helpful. Treat all difficulties people are having as something they could overcome, if that’s what they want. Give people the chance to rise and grow. (Ref: that painful thread in #help-and-advice on Rands slack)
  • To the specific point of telling people that they don’t seem to be cut out for tech work, even if I’m right, I don’t need to say it. They will hear it from other people. Be the person who provides support and encouragement, instead. I can’t help them if they hate me. If they decide they want to try something else, be supportive of that, too. (Ref: that painful thread in #help-and-advice on Rands slack)