010 – When I am struggling to find a solution often is because I don’t really need a solution but just some love and encouragement

Every day I ponder about what to do. That pondering is not in a vacuum. It is based on a specific model of reality, which hinges on a set of assumptions. I am noticing that one of those fundamental assumptions is that I operate independently from my context and environment.

More precisely, while experiencing my day I ask myself questions such as

  • what do I want to do?
  • what is important to me?
  • what would make me happy?

I think of myself as something that has desires and takes actions to satisfy them. Thinking in this way is a common pattern. That’s how the characters of most stories operate.

Something I like about this mental model is that it entails a lot of freedom. At any time I am free to take action on whatever seems most important. Perhaps one can hardly be freer than this.

However, I feel that there is something missing in this model. While it puts me in the foreground, it leaves the rest of the world in the background. It treats everything outside of me as something that just happens to be there and that doesn’t have much importance.

More specifically, when pondering about what to do, I could ask myself very different questions such as

  • in response to what I am feeling what I am feeling now?
  • what could make me feel better?
  • what could others need from me?
  • what could the enviroment need from me?

The place where I live and the people (and animals) I interact with offline and online shape my experience as much as the actions I take. Yet, I seem to pay most of my attention to what action to take next.

I seem to live under the assumption that my actions are all that matters. That I only need to take the right action. And in some sense, that is not wrong. Taking some action is the only thing I can do. However, obsessing about what action to take could actually take me further away from the right action.

I have been operating on the assumption that what I want and what I do about it are the only important information required for me to behave.

This assumption presupposes and implies that

  • Most times, I know what I want or I know how to find it out
  • What others want is secondary to what I want
  • Unless prohibitive, the cost of doing something weighs less than its importance

And these ideas seem at best imprecise and at worst wrong and illusory.

Is it possible that I have been using a model to decide what to do that is so flawed? What is going on here?

Perhaps most of the time I don’t actually use this model. Perhaps when I don’t think too hard about what to do I rely on a more realistic model which evaluates reasonable options given my context. But why when I think more explicitly about what to do I end up using this flawed framework?

Could it be that when I think more explicitly about what I want to do other needs emerge? For example, perhaps when I think explicitly about what to do, I am also experiencing the need of feeling like I can do anything that I want. Perhaps this model is not serving my actions insofar as they produce a result in the real world as much as it is serving my need of feeling independent and mighty.

What to do?

On one hand, I am tempted of thinking less and taking action more lightly. Thinking less explicitly about what to do could allow me to take action that is less oriented towards satisfying my need and more towards generating a specific result in the world.

On the other hand, if I have a need to feel independent and mighty I don’t want to turn the other way and ignore it just because it sometimes makes me unproductive. If that is the case, I can just recognize that when I am thinking more explicitly about what I want to do is because maybe I just want to feel the empowerment of being independent and unconstrained. Perhaps I am not asking myself a specific answer but only some encouragement.

This reminds me of a funny misunderstanding that often happened between me and my mum. At times she would come to me distressed and unhappy and start talking to me about some problem of her. In response, I would start trying to solve the problem for her and provide her with an answer. Most times, she would not resonate with my attempt and resist my suggestions. A few times she explained to me why. She did not need nor want an answer. She was not in the state of wanting to solve the problem nor taking action on it. She was fully capable of solving the problem and most time would do so at a later time. When talking to me, she was only looking for emotional support and encouragement. She laughed at my attempt to offer practical help and said that I was very much like most men.

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