Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pre-crastination and Counterphobia

From a much-passed-around piece from today's NY Times titled "Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate" :
Pre-crastination is the urge to start a task immediately and finish it as soon as possible. If you’re a serious pre-crastinator, progress is like oxygen and postponement is agony.
This strikes me as an example of a form of behavior well-known to psychologists, but not to the general public.

A great many mountain climbers started out acrophobic. They've fought back so hard against their fear that they've gone the other way, to the opposite extreme. The term for this is "counter-phobic".

Other examples abound. For example, many staunch meditators are former alcoholics. As they unravel their longing for completion from a certain special material substance, they find themselves transcending materialism, period. Again, it's about reaching the opposite extreme.

Psychologists know people have this capacity, yet they don't seem to speak up about it much. That's sad, given that this is the single most hopeful insight I've ever heard from their entire field (but, hey, psychologists get paid to revert people to the mean, not to facilitate transcendence).

While I find this unsung human behavioral pattern incredibly hopeful and comforting, it's important to note that it's not always a great idea to aim for infinity. A little extremism goes a long way.

If the notion of flipping faults into strengths appeals to you, I recommend a short read of my parable of the iron. Or you can get lost down a rabbit hole with The Enneagram (which I found insightful, though ultimately not as rich a terrain as adherents claim).

No comments:

Blog Archive