Harnessing the Power of Confirmation Bias

The mind constructs the world we live in. There is an objective, implacable and uncaring brute reality, but that is not where we live — where we live is in the mental representation of that base reality — and we construct that representation around us, before us, and behind us.

The past is, as we remember and experience, a story we tell ourselves. The future even more so. The present is rarely considered, being as it is an instant and therefore less amenable to storification, stories relying as they do on progression through time. The present can only be experienced not constructed, and that is why meditation is both useful and difficult.

But the representation we live is deeply imperfect. We make it and remake it, forget most things, embellish others, and distort and edit as the mood takes us, each new mood creating a new reality, that reality in turn creating new moods.

The seminal points, the themes and characters, the underlying narrative structure of our created world are dictated most by what we pay attention to. We see what we expect to see even if it isn’t really there and we ignore what we are not looking for even when it would be obvious to impartial eyes.

So we can change our world, and thereby change ourselves, by changing what we pay attention to.

The time has come for me to start paying attention to progress and to the good things and people that I have in life. That is what is called “gratitude” and really it seems to be that it is a sort of deliberate use, or at least habitual use, of confirmation bias to reshape the reality we live in.

So today I am grateful for that insight.

I am grateful that I will get to talk about it should I wish.

I am grateful that I have been able to apply for jobs, and through that may be closer to having some income.

I’m grateful for the pain I have felt because it can teach me to be other than I have been.

Sertraline

Aat the suggestion/insistence of P I’ve started something I once thought I’d never try again — medication. I’m doing my best to be open to this and to allow for the possibility that it could be effective and helpful. Given recent sudden and severe collapses in mood, and the sheer diligence in the application of effort required to mitigate those collapses, I have to look for ways to make life easier. The homebrew CBT, recent forays into meditation, and a regimen of physical exercise (running now) is effective in mood support, up to a point, but it’s hard and constant work. If an SSRI, or even the belief in an SSRI, works… then I have to try it.

There are risks — the side-effects principally — but in that case I’m prepared to try again with another drug rather than abandon the project.

 

Back at the bottom of the well…

The countdown has begun again.

I’ve spent some time finding out what it would take to change my life into one worth living. I’ve done a lot of thinking about what it would take to change myself into a person who could be worthy of life. I cannot escape the conclusion that on both counts I come up short. I cannot give what I do not have.

It’s disappointing.

 

We were talking about The Handmaid’s Tale. The book not the TV series. I gave my opinion on the failings of the series — how it gave too much away immediately, and it should have avoided the use of narration. I was trying to seem clever. I don’t know if she was impressed…


We were in her car — a small hatchback of some kind. She was driving down the quays. She had a big book of luminous painting. It was by someone whose name looked like mine, but was not. She said it contained “So much beauty…” She wouldn’t talk. I was frustrated. I asked to be dropped off, not really wanting her to do so, but hoping that she would chose to talk instead, but she pulled in to the kerb. I felt sad and angry. Shut out.

The Silent Treatment

She always understood the power of saying nothing.

She understood that if she wanted to say the worst possible thing to me, she should say nothing at all. Then I would say it for her, fill the silence with something more cutting, more cruel, more permanent, more perfectly bespoke and crafted to cause maximum pain, more painful than she could ever contrive. And I would keep saying it, over and over.

I’ve been saying some of these things, on and off, for at least 15 years.

And the pain is magnified because I will never feel that the last thing I said was heard. What I said will be left, hanging, ringing in my ears as I agonise over how I might have said it differently, better, or not said it at all. It’s a painful thing: to be unheard. Unheeded. Unlistened to. To be denied the relief of being understood. To be made to feel unworthy even of acknowledgement or response. It’s a form of anhilation.

But now I must see it as a gift. Maybe it’s cruel to be kind. Maybe it’s just cruel. Maybe the distinction doesn’t matter. The point is SILENCE IS A RESPONSE.

I must see it as the clear and unambiguous message that it is. I must understand it. I must accept it. It tells me everything I need to know. Not everything I want to know — I’ll still be left with a lot of mystery about who and how she is… but it tells me enough. It’s really very informative: She doesn’t want to hear from me. She doesn’t value my well-being enough to even respond. She doesn’t care enough, and is prepared to inflict pain to make that point. She is, despite what I took to be signs to the contrary, prepared to ignore please for help. She is not good for me, and does not want me to think she is. She will not help. She cannot help because she is the rock upon which I would break myself. There is only pain there.

So I must move on. She is the past. The now distant past. And the time has come for me to look to the future, to commit to it and to let go of the desire to look back. I have to do it honestly. I have to mean it. It can’t be a pose. It can’t be something I do with an eye to ‘someday, when I’ve sorted myself out then maybe I’ll be able to go back to this…’ thinking. I have to ‘grok’ the fact that attachment leads to suffering.

I’ll know that has happened when all this seems old and tired and utterly irrelevant. That’s hasn’t happened yet, but I’m looking forward to that day.

Application

Everything is possible if you apply yourself. Nothing is possible if you don’t.

And that can (and should) be read in several ways — to apply yourself as in to try hard, to make the honest attempt, AND to literally make an application, in this case for a job.

It’s been a long long time since I’ve done that. So long that to do so had become one of those things that seems impossible. I mean, my CV is so threadbare and embarrassing that my recourse is to try to see it as funny. Serious consideration of the situation is too painful. But I made it, I got a referee, and I submitted it. All things I should have done  15 years ago. It’s strange that it wasn’t even that hard. After all the build up I’d given it… a lesson I wish I could learn there.

So far it’s just been pushing buttons on a keyboard. Yes, that has ramifications in the real world, but I haven’t felt them yet. The next step — interviewing, face to face interaction, having to actually explain myself to strangers — is terrifying.

But everything I want is on the other side of fear.

So fear is evidence of progress.

 

Goal: Get Laid

That is something I unequivocally want to happen. I don’t want to die without ever being with a woman again. Whether it be a brief encounter, a series of dates, or a meaningful relationship, perhaps even love… I want that to be part of my future.

In a sense, everything else is a means to that end. Why did men go to the moon? Why do we write poetry? Why do we work out? And read good books? Bathe? Grow up? Go out? Do anything at all? Ultimately, whether you believe in the ‘Biological Imperative’, or Schopenhauer’s ‘Will-To-Life’, the answer eventually comes back to this: sex.

At the moment, realistically, it’s a long way away. There is a lot that needs to change to make it a possibility, but… maybe it can be done.

But it can only be done if I have a reason to do it. I’ve been grasping in the darkness for purpose, for “a goal”, for a reason to become. There’s a lot of “Follow your dreams!” advice out there but what about those of us who have no great dream, who aren’t guided by some certain sense of destiny? Well, maybe this is it for me. I don’t have a higher purpose. I can’t see myself deriving my sense of self from any particular career… but if a career is a means rather than an end? Maybe that can be my reason.

A job, a place, a change of attitude and demeanour… I could be entirely fuckable in the not too distant future. Sure, it’s agonisingly far away, but that time will pass whether I change or not, so I might as well change.

The process thus becomes one of filling in the blanks — I’m not picking a desired destination, I know what that is: sex, closeness, intimacy, honesty, love. I know where I am now. The task is to find and navigate a path from here to there.

That isn’t just a question of changing my life, though that in itself is a huge task that will have to be done. It’s also a question of changing myself. I must become someone worthy of the time and attention of women. Someone attractive, interesting, benign, caring, decent and genuine. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. I don’t want to deceive anyone. I want to be what women want.

The clock is ticking.

Hi

Just thought that I’d let you know that I did as you advised and went to my GP – he referred me on to a counsellor and am trying to sort myself out. So thank you for that. I might have eventually done it anyway, maybe, but the nudge you gave made me do it sooner and I’m glad I did. I’m grateful.

I do understand that it was probably quite strange and inappropriate of me to ask you like that – all I can say is that I was at a bit of a low ebb and that I am sorry. It won’t happen again.

I hope you’re well and that life is good. If a day ever comes when you feel like saying hello, you can always drop me an email – it’d be nice to hear from you. *****@gmail.com. I guess that’s unlikely but I’d rather regret leaving that door open than regret leaving it closed, and those, so far as I can tell, are my options.

Be well and good luck in the future,

Shame

I actually sent it.

Now that I’ve done what must not be done, can I stop? Is that enough?

Hi

Just thought I’d let you know that I did as you advised and went to my GP – he referred me on to a counsellor and am trying to sort myself out. So thank you for that. I might have eventually have done it anyway, maybe, but the nudge you gave made me do it sooner and I’m glad I did.

Not sure it’s likely, but if you ever want to say hi or anything, it would be really nice to hear from you. Just as old friends. No pressure though – I know I might be inappropriate or have terrible timing here, but I’d rather regret knocking on that door rather than presume it’s locked.

Really like your twitter feed by the way. Genuinely interesting and thought provoking stuff. Keep at it.

Be well,

Shame

There’s a rubbish bin not too far from here with about an ounce of it in it. That took me too long, but it is done.