Popeye is a weakling relative to most of us.
He has to pop a can of spinach to grow his muscles, but we have our worry muscles pumped ready to go.
The best feedback I’ve received this year from anything I’ve written was in response to Winning Like A Loser.
Wake up stressed. Fill your mind with overwhelm. Worry about everything. Go to bed at night feeling like you failed to get it done and looking forward to losing another day…
Plenty of people told me that they were ROFL reading it, before going on to tell me how much it resembled their days…
No Laughing Matter
Writing about the insane way we’ve been conditioned to live I was laughing all the way to the publish, but I was also shining a light on something serious.
Because I’ve spent decades ridding my head of the human condition I can never go back to “not-living” that way, but for plenty of years I did.
Back then I didn’t see a problem with it.
It was “normal” to wake up whining about my job (just talk to many people, even at Goldman Sachs), confused what my life was about, terrified it wouldn’t work out as I dreamed, worried about the utter lunacy of the world.
If you’d asked me I would have told you I was completely justified living that way, “it’s just how it is,” I would have said I was “happy,” but now I’d rather be the walking dead.
As I wrote about here, for most of my life I believed that when I was doing what I want I would feel amazing, but now I know we only feel as amazing as we train ourselves to feel.
Creatures of Habit
You have a standard routine for dressing in the morning. Maybe underwear first—not you, P—then socks, perhaps your pants or skirt before.
No matter your “process,” I know every time it’s the same.
You shower and brush in the same sequence too, because just about everything we do is habit.
And while this serves us in many ways—e.g. you don’t have to figure out whether your socks go on before your shoes—our habits of thinking tend to punish us the other way.
The data is astounding—each day we have somewhere around 60,000 thoughts, of which some 90% are redundant and 80% are negative.
It’s sad, but when you consider the nature of the human predicament, it’s obvious why it’s true.
We’re not built for happiness, but survival. Our brains aren’t set up to wander through predator-infested territory smelling the roses but to fixate on what might eat us.
Biologically we’re built with a negativity bias, and we live in a predatory society that feeds on our fears, which ensures many of us are world-class worriers.
To A Man With A Hammer…
His hands are often beaten.
And to a mind that has been feeding on worry, and developed a Popeye-sized worry muscle, there’s always something more to worry about.
See, the problem with muscles is that once you’ve built them you’ve gotta feed them, and indeed mental muscles do a nice job of feeding themselves.
And this means even if there’s nothing “real” in our life to fear—e.g. unlike our ancestors, no Neanderthals are predating us—the brain will find plenty of fake fear to binge on.
Sadly this means, once you’ve built these muscles, it’s near impossible to be happy, other than pretending to be happily-worried all the time.