Your brain does not live in the moment.
It’s lives 80 milliseconds in the past but I’ll spare you that.
What I’m talking about it that your brain is trying to live in the future. It’s watching moving objects and their speed to predict if they’ll hit you and it’s monitoring your comfort level and betting against your ability to sustain it.
Ultramarathon runners do what they do by canceling out the rehearsal machine. They are in pain, no doubt, but it’s their brain telling them that the pain is going to get worse that makes people stop running.
Just like it’s our brain telling us the pain is going to get worse that makes us kill ourselves.
Our brain thinks tolerability is a sliding scale, our brain thinks we’re cooking in an oven and even though the external temperature is stable internally we’re going to keep burning up.
And if you run enough you can illustrate that your brain is wrong. Running doesn’t feel worse the longer you do it. (Unless you’re injured but follow me on this…).
Running feels good and bad in fluctuations no matter the duration yet you’re emotional system never feeds you that. It always feeds you that you must be unprepared or injured or incapable.
Your brain (your amygdala, I want to say) is just one of the roommates of your body and it’s fearful and selfish.
Well mine is. I know some people whose rehearsal and prediction machine always seems to tell them that things will turn out in their favour. Actually they broadcast that things will always return to baseline and since I’m not happy at my baseline I guess it all still makes sense.
Sam Harris makes a great point that after 3 seconds of legitimate anger to a stimuli the thing that keeps you angry is you telling yourself a story. Over and over you repeat the incident and you rehearse what you should have done, who you’re going to tell, what you’ll do next time. You instantly start living in fantasy worlds.
And it’s because your ego wants you to do something. You are so special and this slight so severe you can’t do nothing. So you rehearse. And you rehearse. And amp up your own misery for no benefit.
Same when we get depressed. It’s not that the present is unbearable, we don’t get depressed having a hand on the stove, we get depressed when we’re well fed in climate controlled rooms surrounded by likeable people and it’s the prediction, the rehearsing, of it lasting forever that makes us want to die.
As if sadness is the temperature in the oven and it’s going to more damage even as it stays stably the same. And just like running for some reason the notion, the known fact, that you will feel better again at some point has no power.
Our brains just rehearse feeling awful thinking they’re doing the house a favour by preparing for the worst. But we don’t prepare. In our culture that would be seen as giving in to pessimism. So we deny. We try to force the downer roommate into not seeing things the way they do.
We have two courses of useful action opposed to that though. One, go ahead and prepare. Engage with outlandishly bad thoughts and figure out what you’ll do should they arise. Write them down so you have to see on paper how unreasonable they really seem then come up with reasonable solutions anyway.
Like me and my couch surfing phase.
Two; force yourself to give equal time and likelihood to moderate or positive outcomes. If you have no evidence how things are going to go then treat all outcomes as equal. Because what’s the worst that can happen if you’re wrong? You get depressed? Oh no…
So your takeaway is to notice all the things that your mind is rehearsing, living in fantasy futures good or bad rather than living in the present.