Wednesday 27 August 2008

Addictions, Aversions

Bank of Scotland arête, Nairn High Street

It’s been another week of ups and downs working on our film of Echo Wall. We were most definitely in need of a break from the screen by Friday. It was Claire’s birthday so we headed for Tilda Swinton’s very retro cool film festival in Nairn. Just being outside the house was so brilliant. I got really excited to be out travelling around Scotland after so long indoors. On our return I managed two brief escapes to Sky Pilot to claw back the fitness, throwing myself on the problems like no tomorrow.

The film inches closer to a final cut. Most exciting! We’ve certainly chosen the right moment to be editing a film. The Lochaber monsoon has been impressive as usual, but excelling even itself for August.

As always, I’ve been learning lots from the whole experience of doing Echo Wall, even though the route itself is done. I was expecting to feel, and did indeed feel a massive sense of nothingness after doing the route. After so long aligning yourself to one goal, it’s suddenly gone and you are left with no focus until something replaces it.

That’s nice because it reminded me just how much I like the simple act of climbing, solving climbing problems being outside. A massive reminder has been of my need (or addiction) to exercise. I’m not sure if it’s exercise or rock movement or whether they can be separated at all. But either way, it’s real! I’ve been in total withdrawal these last two weeks, literally climbing the walls in the house. This is a happy addiction. If it dies before I do, I’ll be extremely surprised.

I’ve been reading a lot too about approaches to risk, and satisfaction from things like sport. Partly for my own sake and partly to help me distill my ideas to communicate in our film.

Three general traits of human nature, demonstrated in research, but obvious and tangible to ourselves only in moments of clarity, usually after a highly emotive experience, stand out for me.

The first is our aversion to loss. People hate to lose things more than they take pleasure in gains of a higher magnitude. A gift of an amount of money affects our mood far less than the stress caused by losing an equivalent amount. This aversion to loss progresses to a default position of unreasonable aversion to risk when coupled with a second trait. We aren’t very good at visualising probabilities and usually end up stressing far too much about remote possibilities while distracted from the really important stuff. We worry more about small chances of injury, public failure etc than we do about the rewards and satisfaction of going for something good.

The third is our rather poor ability to forecast our own feelings down the line. In general, we place way too much importance on immediate gratification, at the expense of suffering short term discomfort for a much larger windfall of satisfaction later. This has the secondary problem of us not giving enough weight to things that will make us happier for longer, but forecasting in error that sources of immediate happiness will last much longer than they actually do.

Avoiding these natural pitfalls is a tough job, requiring constant attention. But awareness of their constant pervasive influence at least allows the opportunity to stay above them.

More on this later


  1. Wow; fascinating. Thanks for posting.

  2. I have a simple philosophy, you get the results of what you focus on! For example if you want to achieve a goal, and all you think about is what you don't want to happen - ie fail, lose love and respect, rejection or worse still, if you continually vividly imagine all the negative things that could happen, then you are sending a clear signal to your unconscious mind. As a consequence, the unconscious will just follow those instructions and low and behold you will feel and experience all those nasty things. You will probably not even try to take the actions to fullfil your goal because the fear has been created so explicitly and it would be too painful to even try!

    However if you have a goal and what you do is daily focus on what you do want to happen, then this in contrast is providing the unconscious mind with a blueprint for success!! It will follow through and provide you with the resources to succeed! This does not guarantee success because you still have to work through the stages of achieving the goal (if it is learning something, you will inevitably fail or not grasp the skill or concept right away). It takes failure to get the vital feedback you need to learn how to do it for real!! The important thing is that a failure does not mean in global terms you have failed, it is just a signal that you need to re-align your energies, not give up!! If you have a strong determination then you will not let setback affect your next action or step in moving forward.

    See one of the most potent forces of the human personality is to make certain that the behaviours you indulge in are consistent with your sense of identity. Therefore when you consider the above, If you have a negative self image, see yourself as incapable, unworthy, not good enough, not as good as others, then what the personality will do is make sure that your actions thoughts and feelings are consistent with this mental programming.

    The answer, simple. You must look at your identity and see if it is limiting by identifying the negative, disempowering belief systems you hold about yourself. You then have to sit down and question those beliefs and ask whether they are supporting you in your goals or are they limiting you. Just by making those disempowering beliefs conscious, is a revelation in itself! Then, you choose an identity that is empowering, self supporting, confident, then you have to do a bit of mental conditioning and reharsal so that this new self image becomes a permanent part of your brains programming - it becomes part of your identity. Then the personality will try to actualise this new positive self image and hence will provide you with resources and confidence and surely align you on the path to achieving success.

    So it is too risky to let your brain run you!!! It is a shame because a lot of people dont understand the processes that go on in their heads and therefore cant interact or interupt the beliefs, attitudes, traits etc. They think they are stuck with it, but in fact, they are stuck with it because it is their choice to continue with it. It is because it is comfotable for them and predictable and will not cause pain. It essentially would be too painful to move outside this mental safe zone because of fear of the unknown. The fact is that we are either always trying to aviod pain and constantly seeking pleasure, but I think a lot of people get mixed up with this. The things people really want to achieve (dreams) are too far out there because it will involve some pain or sacrifice. But, if the desire was compelling with an sense of excitement and energy, then this would be a constant driving force to keep you on track to succeeding.

    Most peoples Pleasure principle = comfort, stability, predictability, but in fact this pleasure principle is what is holding people back. In fact this is causing more pain because they are still dreaming what it would be like if life was better!!


  3. On the topic of how psychology affects judgement I recommend the book 'Predictably Irrational'. It is a fairly easy read, but contains exhaustive references. There is also a good blog associated with the book by the author, google it and it should pop right up.