Monthly psych appointment today. Although I seemed to spend most of my time talking around in circles around a knot I can't identify one good question was raised;
What is the difference between the way I engage with activities which will benefit other people and those which will benefit me?
This is in relation to the way I can get myself out of bed with just enough time to get through my morning routine and to work with just enough time to make the amount of hours I need to do for the day to contribute to my weekly target-ish (even allowing for other commitments later in the week) or to get to the Hall /just/ before a booking or to make an appointment on time; but
I cannot even force myself out of bed an hour or three hours earlier to make the time I could use to
- or work on any one of a number of languishing but theoretically rewarding projects (a number of which will also benefit other people, but there is no urgency);
or even get the household chores done before they become /necessary/; even though
I feel wide awake in body and mind at that time (and remember I'm stuck spending 10-12 hours a day in bed for no apparent reason, that's a /lot/ of lost time).
The psych described it as sounding something like an internal game of chicken; the part of me that wants to stay in bed / not deal with the world against the part of me that wants to get things done; but that metaphor doesn't usefully ring true to me.
What is true is that getting out of bed does inevitably lead to things which consume more energy than they deliver reward. Work or Hall, often. Hall emails and related matters, on a daily basis. The gradual erosion of my faith in humanity / my faith in myself (not that staying in bed actually helps with that last /at all/).
Still you'd think that having planned "this good thing" to do to start the day would counteract that to some extent. Nope. Better unhappy drifting in and out of pseudo-oblivion than being active with that feeling of impending doom? If it isn't a commitment which somehow involves another person I am stuck. (Using the word involve rather than benefit because appointments eg I had a dentist appointment yesterday to fix up a filling - no problem getting out of bed in plenty of time.)
So I guess you could rephrase the question:
What is the difference between the way I commit to activities which will involve/benefit other people and those which will mainly benefit me?
And actually I have no trouble with committing to things with a clear and immediate ongoing benefit eg aforementioned dentist appointment (I only chipped the tooth over the weekend).
So there is a definite cost/reward dynamic in effect. Wonky though they are I care more for my teeth than, know better than (and yes, can afford better than) to let a gaping hole remain in one of them even if it is not currently discomforting.
Situations where the main benefit to me might be that "I feel better" however are a different thing. I am "terrible" at discounting my own enjoyment of life against even the convenience of others; and I have the whole "good of the many outweighs the good of the one" complex going on. (Oddly enough I never class myself as one of the "many"...)
Discounting the value of future benefits against the value of immediate gains/losses is of course a well studied aspect of human behaviour.
Here's one possible answer:
- The benefits to others are usually clear and concrete. If I do this thing, at this time, this persons life is made easier / happier.
- The benefits to myself are usually uncertain. I'll achieve this thing, but there is "no urgency" (in a life full of other things clamouring for
my attention can I just shut one of them up for a while?
). It will still be there tomorrow and the day after and the day after ...). I'll (probably) feel good about having done it, but the feeling will be fleeting and will it really be worth the investment from the energy I have available to me right now?
If I had a crappy life perhaps I would weight things which bought pleasure to /me/ higher. But I have a good, comfortable life. The things I can do to look after / entertain / bring pleasure /to myself/ are easily accomplished and frankly provide little reward. And therein perhaps lies another clue - with "limited" energy reserves, why spend them on something which is not materially going to improve my well being? Fundamentally completing the project / doing the thing becomes just. more. work.
Work (the paying kind) is probably worth a tangent here as that is after all what five days out of seven I eventually drag myself out of bed to go and do. Work is a slog and has been for some weeks. I do not have the energy to push myself to finish an ongoing project any quicker than the much-longer-than-it-ought it is taking. I sense if I try I will actually crash and burn again. I need
a holiday, but not as much as I "need"
(want, am stubbornly determined) to clear my projects list first.
Work has become something I am doing primarily because income. I enjoy the coding, but if I wasn't coding at work I would probably be doing so for my own projects. If I lost the income ... I really don't have a plan B beyond "eat the house" until "something comes along". This is perhaps my greatest anxiety.
Getting back to the point (if there is one)... So anything which strongly resembles work - in subject matter or in process - automatically comes with some feeling of exhaustion attached. And that includes the majority of my outstanding projects and things which would normally be considered recreation such as reading a book or watching media (I deal with text and screens /almost all my waking hours/).
I know picking up an exercise regime would do me the world of good immediately and long term but I lack the willpower to get started. Just to add another hurdle the fact that I "should" be exercising also triggers a small internal rebellion.
Trying not to angst ... and failing ... I crave the distractions of pleasurable company - but that is not something I can /give myself/ and my history with trying to seek it out consists overwhelmingly of failure.
Have I answered the original question in all that? Maybe. Am I any closer to a solution? It does not feel like it.