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January 13th, 2020
This episode extends episode 386 of Tinkered Thinking entitled White Diamond.
That episode seeks to introduce and describe the concepts of vicious and virtuous cycles. They are most accessible by thinking about good and bad habits. Both compound in opposing ways and they gain momentum in their respective directions.
All personal development might even be described as merely building good habits and doing away with the bad ones. Easier said than done.
There’s a fishy phrase that floats around talk of the bad habits. When self-destructive habits compound to the point where we might hit Rock Bottom.
The problem with this idea, this rock bottom, is that when it comes to compounding vicious cycles,
there is no bottom.
There are only breaking points when some small heroic part of our mind looks at the mess and says ‘enough is enough’.
This might even happen often, because it’s the next step that’s hardest. After reaching a breaking point and saying ‘enough is enough’, where do you go from there? It’s not simply a matter of feeling a sudden surge of motivation to turn your life around. Doing such doesn’t happen in a day, nor a week, nor a month. It happens on the same time scale that habits do; a month is a good start, but in order to really turn things around, it’s important to think in terms of years and decades. Empowering moments when we feel flooded with rare positive outlook… these are fleeting, and while they feel good and might help us with a burst of productivity, they are unstable and are prone to feel like a let down when the high passes.
Left unaided, vicious cycles spiral downward forever. They are asymptotic. It’s simply impossible to get to the bottom in order to bounce, as rock bottom is often said to be of good use for. Rock bottom is a deceptive myth. It’s a false comfort in a dangerous way, because it implies that no matter how bad things get, you can always let things get worse because you’ll just eventually hit rock bottom. This, however, isn’t the case. Just as the addicted keep trying to chase a certain high, rock bottom forever recedes until other things simply give out. Like a person’s mental health, or even their bodily systems, as we see with so many accidental suicides and deaths via the opiate crisis. How many of these people were un afraid of taking a step further down such a path, thinking that they’d eventually hit rock bottom?
What many people call rock bottom in retrospect, was really a breaking point. Some part of the mind wakes up and tries to exert a rare influence on how things are going. A person might come across many breaking points as they try to gain a footing and climb back up the wall of that slippery vortex which has become a life and a mind that feels out of control. It’s counter-intuitive but when things are so dismal, it’s a strange relief to give up effort and slide down even further. But another breaking point occurs and we try to stop sliding and then attempt the superhuman feat of climbing back up against the slippery tide. We lose the grip and slide again. Back and forth, this is the sort of mental and emotional struggle that inundates the minds of those who feel like they’ve lost the ability to move forward in life. It doesn’t help that the sort of stress that abounds in such situations cripples the mind’s ability to think critically and make long-term plans. It becomes harder and harder for a person to discern what the best course of action actually might be as they descend further. The mind becomes quite literally drunk on stress.
If you have a decent life and things are going well, it’s worth wondering about it in this way: Would you make good decisions if you were hooked up to a perpetual I.V. of alcohol and you were forced to stay up and sleep only an hour or two a night? Of course not, but this might serve as an accessible analogy to understand those who just can’t seem to turn their life around. Who seem stuck. Can you imagine a life where every waking moment is so difficult that you are in a perpetual search for relief? But you can’t rip out the I.V. and you can’t keep yourself asleep….
While such people might seem unnecessarily angry and destructive, it’s worth remembering that the path and experience of such vicious cycles is an incredibly lonely one, even if there are lots of people around. It’s lonely because such a person feels as though they’ve lost touch with the most important person, the one that could actually change it all: themselves.
Without your one guaranteed friend, it’s easy to feel like the world is against you. And if a person feels like the world is against them, they become desperate for some of that world to join them. Such a person feels broken, having lost themselves, so they want to break the world.
Just so they don’t feel alone.
The situation is as though a person’s demons are actually caged angels. Something needs to be broken, but it’s not the world, and it’s not other people, as so often happens when hurting people lash out. It’s the vicious cycle they are in that needs to be broken. That’s the breaking point we blindly try to hit as we lash out in such situations.
But all too often our flailing makes the situation worse. And it is always a mistake to think that rock bottom will show up. We lose too many people, and this small turn of language might seem harmless, but like all language it’s a part of the brick and mortar of how we make sense of the world. We make better sense of the world without rock bottom.
donating = loving
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