Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Wagon Hitching, Credit Taking, and Reframing

In my posting on Devas, I wrote that I have unusually lithe ability to shift perspective; to reframe. Sometimes I can induce such a shift in others (though I often fail miserably). Oddly, when it works, I'm never recognized as having had anything to do with it. That's how devas roll. When it's clean like that, you're doing it right.
I thought of a relatable example. It will take me a few minutes to work up to it, though. But, to reward your patience, it will include a fix for procrastination. 

Say there's a task someone's procrastinated. Not because they hate the task. It just slipped away from them, launching a vicious circle of shame and aversion. The symptoms are familiar (if you're someone who can watch your mind work): whenever you try to tackle the task, you suddenly get REALLY HUNGRY....or think of someone you need to call...or remember you haven't picked up the mail or marinated the chicken. You have a sudden need to drink a glass of water or lie down because CAN'T YOU GET A GODDAMNED MINUTE OF PEACE AND RELAXATION??? Your brain helpfully fires off a creative blitz of enticements and distractions. That’s how procrastination works.

There is a cure. You simply need to hitch your wagon. I'll explain.

You can't execute an abstract proposition. The reason it's hard to lose weight is because losing weight is an abstract proposition, not a doable thing. Try it! Reader: LOSE WEIGHT! Go!

Nothing, right?

Trying to pursue an abstract proposition makes us a little nutty, prompting shame and confusion rather than pragmatic action. You can persuade yourself (or others) to take a walk, or do a push-up, or eat a healthy egg-white omelet. Those things are eminently do-able, and will eventually, if repeated, lead to weight loss. But a person cannot be persuaded to LOSE WEIGHT, because that's beyond the human ken.

You can take a single step toward a larger process, but it will feel like a measly step, not a grand process. The grander you frame it, the less doable it becomes.

So here's how you hitch your wagon. Identify a single nugget of pragmatic action. Preferably one that's reasonably pleasant, and somewhat intriguing. Start thinking, playfully, about this nugget, just as an isolated thing, without any reference to the over-arching goal. Coax yourself into absorption. And, before you know it, you'll be up and doing it. Just don't let yourself pull back the framing to a painful long view. If you do, look past it. Guide yourself gently but persistently into the finite task at hand. Reframe it, in other words, in close-up, rather than a long shot.

Say someone's procrastinated listing his household clutter on eBay. It's the bane of his existence, but he can't seem to get to it. How could you help? By guiding him away from the monumental storyline (which is enticingly familiar; he's visited it 10,000 times in his head) of pain and futility. Frame him down to one manageable task:
"Is there anything really valuable?

"I have one book that might be worth something!"

"Geez, I wonder what it's worth! Enough for, like, a steak dinner?"

"Let me fish it out of the box and check, just to satisfy my curiosity!"

"I'm curious, too!"

"[Pausing, body suddenly freezing in mid-action] I really need to organize all that stuff. [Scowl, stress, moan]."

"Well, don't sweat that for now. Let's just check price for this book!"

"Ok, ok. Let's it is, and I see on eBay it's worth....$150!"

"Wow! Y'now, if you hit that link "Sell One Like This", your listing publishes instantly!"

"[Freezing again] I wasn't planning to get involved in this big project right now...."

"No, of course not! But if you list this book, you'll break the ice! You'll prove you can do it!”
You creep quietly away, leaving him to it. His wagon's been hitched. Four hours later, he reappears, proudly proclaiming  serious progress.
Nothing momentous was said. It was entirely mundane. I'm assuming lightning bolts didn't shoot from the page as you read that. So, upon reflection, I have to concede that the commentor here made a fair point. If there's no "there" there, what's the difference between powerful slippery guidance and just sayin' some shit? The difference is art, which I define as "any human creation devised to induce a reframing of perspective".

Jackson Pollack's work looks, superficially, like mundane paint splatterings. Great art works on a deep, subconscious level, inducing a shift of perspective (leaving one moved, inspired, transported, etc.), often with little indication at the surface level. And a deva works at the extreme end of the indication curve...ideally to the point of invisibility/cleanness. That's who a deva, ultimately, is. But I digress.
Now here's the question I've been building up to: Would your friend notice what you'd done? Would he call you after this productive afternoon to say anything like the following?
"I want to thank you for the way you shifted my perspective from a painful monumental task into a more manageable finite task, enabling me to finally tackle this project. You ignited my curiosity and I tore through it like a champ! Thank you so MUCH for reframing this situation for me and allowing me to get going! What a brilliant and generous bit of persuasion that was!"
No. Nobody says that. Nobody even sees it. When perspective shifts (not just to some new tangent of thought, I mean a fundamental shift of perspective), we don't register a cause. That's because, unlike thought, we don’t view perspective from a higher vantage point. The world seems to shift, because we project our perspective, and you’re a whole different person and it's a whole new day. Born again!

No one ever goes back and fishes through the weeds for an impetus. That would require the converse shift, which is hardly enticing. And it would also require facility with a framing function everyone steadfastly ignores. We figure the world shifts externally; we don’t see it (frame it!) as arising from an adjustment of internal perspective.

Imagine opening a door for a bored golden retriever who runs exuberantly out into the meadow. House? What house? No house! No door! No person-who-opened-door! Just glorious MEADOW, everywhere! What individual could possibly trigger GLORIOUS MEADOW EVERYWHERE? “GLORIOUS MEADOW EVERYWHERE” is a universe. How could such enormity possibly stem from some stupid arm opening some stupid door?

No, this was God’s work, conjuring GLORIOUS MEADOW EVERYWHERE via command, ala Genesis. And so long as we posit a Supreme Being upon whom we project our framing faculty, we will remain oblivious to stupid arms opening stupid doors, much less to rediscovering our innate freedom to shift at will.

This explains why no one ever shares Slog postings. I could publish Jesus Christ's personal cell phone number, and it wouldn't ripple. That's because I offer shifts of perspective - reframings - here. Many readers roll their eyes at what seems like overheated bullshit, or are puzzled by the "weirdness", but those who draw value run out into the meadow without looking back. It’s “clean”.

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