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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-11-2020, 04:30 AM Thread Starter
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Stream of consciousness problems


Does anyone have a problem forming coherent thoughts here?

I've been struggling for a long time trying to describe this issue, but since it's getting worse every year, I feel like I'm starting to get a better understanding of what exactly is happening to me.

I've always had an ADD-like stream of consciousness, I get easily distracted and I prefer ad-hoc random thinking and have always felt very uncomfortable with structured forms of thinking / studying. I've never been able to convince anyone I had a problem because I got A's in school and university, so I wasn't "allowed" to complain, but I've always known I have certain limitations with structured thinking, I just had my tricks of getting over them in some way, and I've come to interpret my randomness as creative or artsy in some way.

But since graduation it's gotten worse and worse. I failed at grad school, I kept changing my job, I lost all friends and I got through a horrible relationship that left me with a lot of textbook PTSD symptoms for a couple of years.

Fast forward eight years, and my ability to think coherently has consistently deteriorated. I don't know how else to put it. I feel like people generally don't understand me or believe me when I describe this, but I've sort of developed a lifestyle that pretty much drowns all my internal thoughts. I mainly use audio (youtube and audiobooks), and I've gotten to the point where I can't work without being distracted, I can't read without listening to something, and I can't sleep without it. Even if I wake up in the middle of the night with the audiobook snoozed, I quickly turn it back on until I go to sleep again.

If I'm listening to audio all the time, my brain sort of mistakes whatever I'm listening to with it's own stream of consciousness, and it can generally function a little better, even though it's really really poorly, because multitasking isn't really a thing, etc. But if I don't have something to listen to, and I keep trying this trust me, I just get either really confused not knowing what I'm thinking and just getting random negative thoughts that just make me feel really bad and not able to do anything, or even if I cut out time for this "exercise" of listening to my stream of consciousness, I also get lost. It's just feels overwhelming and completely negative, and absurd too. I mean it doesn't even tell me something consistent I can try to fix. It just seems like a group of random unrelated horror movie monsters talking all at once in my head. I can't negotiate with them, I can't shut them up by pure will, because in a way I am them. There is not "me" that transcends them, if that makes sense. And I know this is the most difficult thing to explain to other people. There is no "me" that transcends all this noise, and I feel that people generally don't think this is possible. And maybe it isn't without using external distractions (which I do as I've explained).

I'm not really looking for solutions here honsetly. I just want to find someone who relates to this in any way. I feel like I have no identity or self, and not in a philosophical or poetic sense, I mean like literally I think I've managed to smother my stream of consciousness over the last decade that it's just not there anymore.

One thing before I end this long rant that annoys me. Someone would say something like: how are you even functioning at this point? how are you able to go to work etc? Well, the short answer is that I'm not functional. I depend on my family for pretty much everything at this point, and the only functional thing I still do is go to work, and I mostly do it through twisted subconscious thinking methods. (I know people will never believe this is possible). The problem is that some things can't be done randomly or through these "sub conscious" means, like giving detailed presentations, or write documents, even basic planning, etc. And I know this because these things are becoming increasingly impossible for me to do (I've had a couple of ... well something that looked like nervous breakdowns in the past months just trying to do these things, and no amount of words can explain how difficult it is for me to write anything about anything that has a structure and a logic, and it makes me so frustrated trying to explain this to anyone because no one seems to believe me on how impossible certain mental tasks just feel to me these days, not just difficult, just flat out impossible to do).

How I am able to write this thread? Well, I just took the lid off my normal distraction. This IS my stream of consciousness. If I just don't post this, and go write in a journal or something, I can keep writing in the same topics, but it wouldn't get to anything that can be solved or understood, and when I write to myself, it's even harder to remain coherent.

I've done a lot of "crazy people" things lately, which I rarely did before. But my mind just kept getting stuck in loops, and it seems like the world isn't there and I just kept screaming certain words or sentences because my mind was just literally stuck at one specific thought for hours. I started taking Seroxat after a few of those episodes and I feel a lot calmer. I don't get the heavy anxiety that I used to, but my ability to think coherently has not improved at all. And it's virtually impossible for me to do certain mental tasks (writing, reading certain things), and I also can't cut off the audio (not cold turkey, not in steps, I've been trying for years), I just find a black hole waiting for me when I do, and more importantly no "me" to make sense of that hole or my relation to it, because there is no coherent me. And I don't think there is anything to be found on the other side of the black hole. I don't want to use poetic language, but my life feels like a badly written Lovecraftian horror trope.


^ creepy movie btw, I feel like movies with lovecraftian horror should be done in black and white.

I keep repeating myself, so I'll just stop here. I really wish someone else relates to any of this. Even if it's just a part of it. I feel so alone in this.

Ma 'alena
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-11-2020, 05:36 AM
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I feel a lot of existential horror at myself at times, so I relate to that part. I also find it really difficult to concentrate on things and have major issues with attention, organisation, planning, among other things. The inside of my head is always chaotic and I don't think things in an organised way either. I've always done pretty poorly in school though as a result of my various issues so I wasn't able to compensate.

I also have to distract myself constantly, but I'm actually very poor at that, but when I manage things go better.

I don't really relate to having several horror movie characters in my head, probably just the one lol. I am compartmentalised in other ways though.

Oh another thing I often can't think of how I feel about certain things. My imagination isn't that great in regards to myself either. I need to find a better way to articulate this sentence though, my brain isn't functioning that great right now either lol.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-11-2020, 10:01 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Persephone The Dread View Post
I feel a lot of existential horror at myself at times, so I relate to that part. I also find it really difficult to concentrate on things and have major issues with attention, organisation, planning, among other things. The inside of my head is always chaotic and I don't think things in an organised way either. I've always done pretty poorly in school though as a result of my various issues so I wasn't able to compensate.
Yeah, I've seen you mention having issues with motivation. I think I have that too, and it's sort of related though for me it doesn't always feel like that. I mean I probably would be able to concentrate a little better if I had more motivation for something, but I just can't find any.

Having random thoughts has always seemed so natural for me all my life, I get irrirtated when people who are more organized want to impose that or say it's the "right" way of thinking. I don't know. It's pretty dumb, but I sometimes just get annoyed by someone trying to keep conversations "organized", lol.


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I also have to distract myself constantly, but I'm actually very poor at that, but when I manage things go better.

I don't really relate to having several horror movie characters in my head, probably just the one lol. I am compartmentalised in other ways though.
I think the different voices just represent different ways for me to think negatively about myself or life. Or just different traumas or anger I'm suppressing. I just don't let my thoughts free because I know they will sort of go places that will make me feel very distressed. But the reason for distress can be pretty much anything, since I have a lot of problems, so it really depends what's the most urgent and it gets the loudest voice.

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Oh another thing I often can't think of how I feel about certain things. My imagination isn't that great in regards to myself either. I need to find a better way to articulate this sentence though, my brain isn't functioning that great right now either lol.
I think you're pretty articulate honestly. Do you find speaking more difficult that writing? I often mix up words when I'm talking, like I can mean one thing but say the opposite or just say incoherent sentences, and it's sometimes frustrating to have to focus on what I'm saying, because I tend to just lose track of it, lol, and end up just saying "uh, um, um".

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-11-2020, 11:26 AM
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yeah I definitely find writing easier than speaking but still have trouble sometimes with answering say questions and things like that but if I'm just rambling about crap that's fine but yeah in real life it's worse and I forget words or say um a lot. I struggle to understand what's being said on TV programs etc often too unless I listen closely. Have to rewind bits a lot and sometimes I stick on subtitles.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-11-2020, 11:28 AM
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I've had a couple episodes that remind me a little of this, but in my case there was no verbal thought at all, just hours of visual pictures. The first time it happened it was a black void filled with endlessly growing pipes moving in all directions. The second time was like a constantly changing surrealist/abstract painting in some weird alternate dimension with a cartoon black cat that kept turning into a white cat (or something). I described these to someone else and they told me I must have been dreaming but I was wide awake at the time they were happening and they were far more random and senseless than my dreams are. I had no way to control what was happening and I couldn't stop the episodes. There was no rational thinking at all, just pure terror over not being able to control my mind. Idrk how to classify those experiences, but schizophrenia runs in my family so I assume my brain chemistry just went a little outside the norm. It was honestly like being on a bad acid trip. I had a psychotic episode after taking drugs once, too. But in that case my short term memory was completely obliterated and I kept "waking up" every second or two wondering what terrible thing I'd just done. Worst experience of my life.

As far as my normal thinking goes, it's not like I'm constantly choosing what I'm going to think about. It's more that I can consciously decide to start thinking about something if I want to (at least until something in my environment triggers a new train of thought). It's like breathing: if I don't consciously decide to breath faster or slower, it just goes at its own rate, but I can consciously intervene and breath faster or slower if I want to. In this case, my mind will just think about whatever randomly until I decide to start thinking about a different subject. And then at some point my mind will wander again and I'll have to bring it back to whatever I need to be thinking about. I think this is how most people think. What doesn't happen is that I don't become confused about who I am or feel like there's no me at all. I can think about who I am and be pretty clear about it any time I like. My preferences are always pretty much the same, I always know what my preferences are, and who I am is basically just a list of my preferences (and things that have happened to me).

My normal thinking can be (and often is) interrupted by intrusive thoughts (images of myself being injured or dying in horrible ways, sudden physical urges to do terrible things, obsessive thinking about health problems, etc.). Those thoughts/urges happen to me and have nothing to do with my regular train of thought. Often it feels like they're messages from my body to resolve stress ("You're under too much stress, kill yourself, here's a suggestion").

I also don't really recognize myself when I look in the mirror/have the strangest sensation that I'm looking at a stranger. It creates a profound feeling of alienation. Sometimes I feel like a mind trapped inside a body and that the two things have very little in common. And I tend to associate the self/other-destructive thoughts/urges with the body that I don't recognize. So I often feel that there's a real split psychologically bordering on multiple personalities. But in my case there's only one conscious me that can guide the direction of my rational thinking and that has a firm identity and then there's another "me" that is my body that has violent reactions to stress and which occasionally intervenes in my thinking through intrusive thoughts/urges.

So yeah. I don't really get what you're describing, but I have my own weirdness that I don't think most people can understand. My conscious self is pretty much always able to exert conscious control over my thinking and has definite aims. I would not describe myself as impulsive and I don't really feel confused or unfocused. It's just that I have some other part of me that tries to take over at times and that subjectively can feel very hard to control.

Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-11-2020, 04:30 PM
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I can't say I fully understand what you are saying. But it does remind me of something that went around in the media, that some people just don't have an inner monologue. It seems like you do have negative thoughts running (that you drown out with audio), but not a you beyond the negative thoughts? That's the part I don't get, of what you expect the "you" to be.

https://www.today.com/health/experts...ologue-t173490

It also brings to mind a cartoonist was explaining she learned that she could not visualize things in her head the same way everyone else does. And had to look at reference drawings all the time. I think its okay that not everyone thinks the same way, but I bet it would be nice if you could figure out in what way it is different. I wonder if the disconcerting part for you is a change, like if you always thought that way it wouldn't be so bothersome.

I will say I do have trouble keeping concentrated on work especially lately, like it always amazes me people that can work really long hours, I feel like my brain just can't focus that long. But for the most part I am okay with organized thoughts. Maybe just trouble expressing it sometimes.

I also think maybe you are over-stressing about it? Your complaints may be valid, but for example some people with a stutter then focus on it and the stuttering becomes worse? I don't know just a thought. Because while I don't quite understand all of your post, I think that is because of the nature of thoughts, not because you weren't forming coherent sentences.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-11-2020, 05:51 PM
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I have a lot of problems focusing on things. I was tested for ADHD a long time ago and was diagnosed with it - but I never sought help for it tbh. I can remember when I was young scanning through the newspaper for example - and I'd make a mental note of which articles I wanted to go back and read. But then I'd get annoyed because it was literally painful to read them - I had to force myself to concentrate.

Even now my mind is always a bit scattered. If I want to do something like put an ad on ebay for a book etc it's much better if I have a small amount of Valium etc. It seems to just take some of the chaos away a bit and let me relax enough to concentrate.

Sorry, but that's not really the same as your situation.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-12-2020, 12:30 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by truant View Post
I've had a couple episodes that remind me a little of this, but in my case there was no verbal thought at all, just hours of visual pictures. The first time it happened it was a black void filled with endlessly growing pipes moving in all directions. The second time was like a constantly changing surrealist/abstract painting in some weird alternate dimension with a cartoon black cat that kept turning into a white cat (or something). I described these to someone else and they told me I must have been dreaming but I was wide awake at the time they were happening and they were far more random and senseless than my dreams are. I had no way to control what was happening and I couldn't stop the episodes. There was no rational thinking at all, just pure terror over not being able to control my mind. Idrk how to classify those experiences, but schizophrenia runs in my family so I assume my brain chemistry just went a little outside the norm. It was honestly like being on a bad acid trip. I had a psychotic episode after taking drugs once, too. But in that case my short term memory was completely obliterated and I kept "waking up" every second or two wondering what terrible thing I'd just done. Worst experience of my life.
Yeah that sounds familiar. My sister insisted it was extreme anxiety for me.

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As far as my normal thinking goes, it's not like I'm constantly choosing what I'm going to think about. It's more that I can consciously decide to start thinking about something if I want to (at least until something in my environment triggers a new train of thought). It's like breathing: if I don't consciously decide to breath faster or slower, it just goes at its own rate, but I can consciously intervene and breath faster or slower if I want to. In this case, my mind will just think about whatever randomly until I decide to start thinking about a different subject.
That sort of reminded me of something I read about a while ago. In one theory they divide brain functions into two systems (system 1 and system 2 - that's literally the name they chose for some reason). It's sort of like "conscious" and "unconscious" but slightly different.

Here are the wiki examples:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow

Quote:
In the book's first section, Kahneman describes two different ways the brain forms thoughts:

System 1: Fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, unconscious. Examples (in order of complexity) of things system 1 can do:

determine that an object is at a greater distance than another
localize the source of a specific sound
complete the phrase "war and ..."
display disgust when seeing a gruesome image
solve 2+2=?
read text on a billboard
drive a car on an empty road
think of a good chess move (if you're a chess master)
understand simple sentences
associate the description 'quiet and structured person with an eye for details' with a specific job

System 2: Slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious. Examples of things system 2 can do:

prepare yourself for the start of a sprint
direct your attention towards the clowns at the circus
direct your attention towards someone at a loud party
look for the woman with the grey hair
try to recognize a sound
sustain a faster than normal walking rate
determine the appropriateness of a particular behavior in a social setting
count the number of A's in a certain text
give someone your telephone number
park into a tight parking space
determine the price/quality ratio of two washing machines
determine the validity of a complex logical reasoning
solve 17 24
You can see that for system 1, it's sort of easy to imagine a non-person doing it. You don't really need a motive to do any of these tasks, and you sort of can't stop doing them in some way (you passively react to something in the external world).

System 2 is like what you said about "choosing to start to think about something". I mean look at the last example "solve 17 24". For a person who hates numbers like myself, I really need a motive to solve it. And to have a motive, you have to "choose to start solving it" and you have to stick to that choice. You won't just randomly solve it just by staring at it for a few minutes (unlike the "2+2" example in the first group. You can't help but think "4").

For me, I keep relying more and more on System 1 (I obviously still have some System 2 control, but it seems much less than normal people, and getting less with time, probably due to losing motivation or "faith" in life or whatever).

Most tasks I feel like I should "want to want to do" feel like a "solve 17 x 24" task. It's effortful and absurd. If that makes any sense. Take writing a paragraph for work for example, I can think an initial thought "I want to write this paragraph explaining xyz", but then I just feel confused. Normal people at this point would start asking themselves internal questions about "xyz", "why xyz?" "how xyz?" "when? where? etc". They would think (or just find thoughts or strings of thoughts about that topic they decided to think about). For me, I mostly just get a blank, and the more I interrogate the blank, I start getting to the existential monster stuff. Instead of my mind pursing the "xyz". It starts asking me "why do I want to write this paragraph?" "what are you doing with your life?" "who are you really?" etc. Stuff I just don't have any answer to. So I try to avoid complex mental activity as much as I can. I float through the day as if everything can be done automatically.

I mean even the 17x24 can be done automatically, lol. You can just google examples for long multiplication (System 1), copy the steps (System 1), replace the numbers with the 17 and 24 (System 1). You can eventually reduce it all to some combination of tasks akin to the "2+2" thing. Look at them and find the solution. Voila, no brain required.

Quote:
And then at some point my mind will wander again and I'll have to bring it back to whatever I need to be thinking about. I think this is how most people think. What doesn't happen is that I don't become confused about who I am or feel like there's no me at all. I can think about who I am and be pretty clear about it any time I like. My preferences are always pretty much the same, I always know what my preferences are, and who I am is basically just a list of my preferences (and things that have happened to me).
The no identity thing is hard to explain. I know some people have like disassociation episodes and I don't experience those, but it's just hard to describe how I feel without it seeming like I'm describing disassociation. I guess I can try with the System 1 & 2 idea. If you spend your time, say, sleeping 24/7 or in a coma, do you really have an identity? That's an extreme example, but my point is that what we mean by identity is generally stuff we do in System 2 mode. Trying to spend as much time as possible in System 1 mode makes me think there is nothing constant in my life, because everything (well most things anyway) I experience are a direct result of my environment. (which I do not try to control, controlling it is very System 2). Even having a strong opinion about how you feel about it is a System 2 thing.

I can have strong emotions about some particular thing, but if the emotion went away, I won't try to stick to the meaning behind it or keep any form of consistency.


Quote:
My normal thinking can be (and often is) interrupted by intrusive thoughts (images of myself being injured or dying in horrible ways, sudden physical urges to do terrible things, obsessive thinking about health problems, etc.). Those thoughts/urges happen to me and have nothing to do with my regular train of thought. Often it feels like they're messages from my body to resolve stress ("You're under too much stress, kill yourself, here's a suggestion").

I also don't really recognize myself when I look in the mirror/have the strangest sensation that I'm looking at a stranger. It creates a profound feeling of alienation. Sometimes I feel like a mind trapped inside a body and that the two things have very little in common. And I tend to associate the self/other-destructive thoughts/urges with the body that I don't recognize. So I often feel that there's a real split psychologically bordering on multiple personalities. But in my case there's only one conscious me that can guide the direction of my rational thinking and that has a firm identity and then there's another "me" that is my body that has violent reactions to stress and which occasionally intervenes in my thinking through intrusive thoughts/urges.

So yeah. I don't really get what you're describing, but I have my own weirdness that I don't think most people can understand. My conscious self is pretty much always able to exert conscious control over my thinking and has definite aims. I would not describe myself as impulsive and I don't really feel confused or unfocused. It's just that I have some other part of me that tries to take over at times and that subjectively can feel very hard to control.
hm. I wonder if identity comes from confronting other people. Maybe the internal voice people have is built through interaction with others, drawing boundaries, setting limits, etc. What do you think?

Ma 'alena
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-12-2020, 12:54 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by introvert33 View Post
I can't say I fully understand what you are saying. But it does remind me of something that went around in the media, that some people just don't have an inner monologue. It seems like you do have negative thoughts running (that you drown out with audio), but not a you beyond the negative thoughts? That's the part I don't get, of what you expect the "you" to be.

https://www.today.com/health/experts...ologue-t173490

It also brings to mind a cartoonist was explaining she learned that she could not visualize things in her head the same way everyone else does. And had to look at reference drawings all the time. I think its okay that not everyone thinks the same way, but I bet it would be nice if you could figure out in what way it is different. I wonder if the disconcerting part for you is a change, like if you always thought that way it wouldn't be so bothersome.

I will say I do have trouble keeping concentrated on work especially lately, like it always amazes me people that can work really long hours, I feel like my brain just can't focus that long. But for the most part I am okay with organized thoughts. Maybe just trouble expressing it sometimes.
I guess the reason I'm so frustrated is that I feel like being able to think in an organized way is such a vital part of life for anyone. Even like simple things can make a lot of difference. It's so hindering to constantly struggle with it. Maybe it's a skill people have that I've lost over time. Maybe I just have too much suppressed emotions, and my loss of sense of self is sort of a side effect of too much suppression. And I can't have focus because I don't feel motivated. I don't know.

Quote:
I also think maybe you are over-stressing about it? Your complaints may be valid, but for example some people with a stutter then focus on it and the stuttering becomes worse? I don't know just a thought. Because while I don't quite understand all of your post, I think that is because of the nature of thoughts, not because you weren't forming coherent sentences.
I was super anxious a few months ago, but I'm feeling a lot calmer with the medication. I'm just not seeing any difference in my ability to concentrate. I've been thinking of seeing a psychiatrist about this. I just don't want to have to talk about all my problems. I just want to tell them "Look. I can't concentrate at all. I can't do my job well." Maybe they'll just give me some medication that will make it a little easier to focus. Not sure if that's a thing. I'd almost be relieved if there was something physically wrong with my brain at this point, it's frustrating feeling you can't do simple tasks. :/

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-12-2020, 01:01 PM Thread Starter
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I have a lot of problems focusing on things. I was tested for ADHD a long time ago and was diagnosed with it - but I never sought help for it tbh. I can remember when I was young scanning through the newspaper for example - and I'd make a mental note of which articles I wanted to go back and read. But then I'd get annoyed because it was literally painful to read them - I had to force myself to concentrate.

Even now my mind is always a bit scattered. If I want to do something like put an ad on ebay for a book etc it's much better if I have a small amount of Valium etc. It seems to just take some of the chaos away a bit and let me relax enough to concentrate.

Sorry, but that's not really the same as your situation.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure I have ADD to some extent (I was never diagnosed, but I seem to have all the symptoms). It seems to get worse the older I get though. When I was at school, especially like when I was really young, I felt a lot more motivation to focus, because for my mom getting high grades was the most important thing ever (or so it seemed to me as a child). Her love/approval seemed to me to be related to that, and I guess that was my big motivation growing up.

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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-13-2020, 03:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Myosr View Post
Most tasks I feel like I should "want to want to do" feel like a "solve 17 x 24" task. It's effortful and absurd. If that makes any sense. Take writing a paragraph for work for example, I can think an initial thought "I want to write this paragraph explaining xyz", but then I just feel confused. Normal people at this point would start asking themselves internal questions about "xyz", "why xyz?" "how xyz?" "when? where? etc". They would think (or just find thoughts or strings of thoughts about that topic they decided to think about). For me, I mostly just get a blank, and the more I interrogate the blank, I start getting to the existential monster stuff. Instead of my mind pursing the "xyz". It starts asking me "why do I want to write this paragraph?" "what are you doing with your life?" "who are you really?" etc. Stuff I just don't have any answer to. So I try to avoid complex mental activity as much as I can.
I don't think most people "want" to write a paragraph for work. Some people may have an intrinsic interest in the work itself, depending on what the work is, but most people want a promotion or recognition or something else that they can only get by writing that paragraph. It sounds to me like you have no ulterior motives to fall back on.

Most people have an idea of how they want their life to be, and they have a sequence of objectives leading to that life. So they have an idea of themselves as a successful business executive with a wife and kids and a big house and they take whatever steps they need to take to get there. They write the paragraph so they can impress their boss so they can get the promotion so they can make more money so they can attract a wife so they can have some kids and stick them all in their big, fancy house. If you have no long-term goal to fall back on, you're just left with the meaningless chore "writing this paragraph", which is, indeed, meaningless. If you're faced with a meaningless task, it's not surprising if your mind rebels.

The image people have of their ideal life tells them what they need to do to achieve it. If you have no ideal life, well, "where there is no vision, the people perish".

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The no identity thing is hard to explain. I know some people have like disassociation episodes and I don't experience those, but it's just hard to describe how I feel without it seeming like I'm describing disassociation. I guess I can try with the System 1 & 2 idea. If you spend your time, say, sleeping 24/7 or in a coma, do you really have an identity? That's an extreme example, but my point is that what we mean by identity is generally stuff we do in System 2 mode. Trying to spend as much time as possible in System 1 mode makes me think there is nothing constant in my life, because everything (well most things anyway) I experience are a direct result of my environment. (which I do not try to control, controlling it is very System 2). Even having a strong opinion about how you feel about it is a System 2 thing. I can have strong emotions about some particular thing, but if the emotion went away, I won't try to stick to the meaning behind it or keep any form of consistency.
Speaking very loosely, your identity is what you recognize to be true of yourself. If you're in a coma, you have no (psychological) identity because there's no self-reflective awareness. You have an identity when you recognize that some quality or preference accurately describes you, and when you have memories of things that happened to you. "I was in a car accident two years ago. I'm a person who has been in a car accident. I'm a little bit nervous about driving." <- This is part of your identity, if it happens to be true. "I try to avoid driving if I can." <- This is an operational goal that drives behavior. When presented with the task of driving somewhere, you try to find some way to avoid it, because you would prefer not to drive. You are a person who prefers not to drive. This is why I say identity is essentially a list of your preferences (and memories, which have helped shape those preferences).

If you have an ideal future that involves being a successful business executive with a wife and kids and a big house, then that ideal future is part of your identity. That ideal exists now in your mind. It is a part of your current experience. And it drives your behavior. You try to find ways to make your external reality come into alignment with that ideal. You may not be a successful business executive yet, but in a very important way you are already identified as one if that ideal is driving your behavior. If you have no ideal future, if everything seems pointless (nihilism), or you don't enjoy anything (anhedonia), or you don't believe you're capable of achieving anything (poor self-esteem), or you just plain can't make up your mind, then you're going to have identity issues of one sort or another, because goals are an important part of identity. At the very least, you're going to feel very different from all the goal-directed people around you.

So yeah, it's 'system 2' stuff, in the sense that you need to be able to figure out the steps you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be and how to complete each of those steps, but the ideal itself probably isn't system 2. People don't sit down and decide what they're going to want; they just want what they want. What they sit down to do is figure out how to get it. I can't tell you how people end up wanting what they want.

I'm fortunate in that I have a long list of experiences I would like to have, and I'm not suffering from nihilism or anhedonia. I'm unfortunate in that I don't seem to have the ability to get any of the things that I want. The problem for me is not a lack of meaning or purpose or any conflict over my identity but a lack of ability and/or resources.

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hm. I wonder if identity comes from confronting other people. Maybe the internal voice people have is built through interaction with others, drawing boundaries, setting limits, etc. What do you think?
No one invents themselves out of nothing. We come to understand who we are in part by contrasting ourselves with other people. "I'm this, he's that." A lot of it depends on language and definitions.

People sometimes try to push you to be a kind of person that is more useful or convenient for them (parents, for example), and that often involves manipulation or persuasion. So, in that sense, you have to be able to set and enforce boundaries. "No, I don't want to be that person, I want to be my own person." And that might show up in your internal monologue. "They can go **** themselves. I'm not doing that." But this all depends on your ability to know what it is that you actually want. And other people can't tell you that. Only you have the ability to figure that out.

Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-13-2020, 04:00 PM
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I have several similar problems. One problem is its basically impossible for me to turn my brain off. It jumps from thought to thought to thought without any coherent pattern. This is particularly problematic at night when I'm trying to go to bed. Its impossible for me to just be in the moment and and to quiet my mind. It races all the time. One of the only ways I can quiet it or focus it is to listen to music, which is just a distraction really and doesn't actually quiet my brain I guess. It's just something else to think about. I've been tested for ADD and the psych who tested me didn't think I had it but gave me Ritalin anyway which didn't really help.

I also have difficulty maintaining my train of thought when I'm speaking to someone. Like I get lost. I'm not sure if this is due to the chronic insomnia or the SA or both or maybe the ADD or some other issue. But I often feel lost when engaging in a complex and prolonged verbal interaction.

My working memory and recall sucks too. This could be due to the insomnia or stress but I always have a hard time finding the right word or label for something. I know the thing more by it's essence than its english name or description.

So these things all coalesce into a stream of consciousness deficit. I try to overcome them through organization, pre-planning and just brute force, i.e. by doing extra work on a project or extra prep for a call to make sure it goes smoothly.

Everybody knows you only live a day but it's brilliant anyway
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