April 26, 2021•1,133 words
Happy Monday and welcome to Take Notice! I’ll be writing 3 times a month and there are 5 wonderful friends (plus wife who I unwittingly subscribed) reading 1000 words all over the world, yay!
Auto-pilot / not the better pilot.
Part of the reason I want to start writing is because I've been on auto-pilot for the better part of our past year. You're probably familiar with 'fight or flight' but how does that figure in what you've experienced in the past year?
Auto-pilot is what I use to remember the meaning of the word 'Heuristic', which are our mental shortcuts for making judgment and decisions, everyday experiences. Kahneman's book 'Thinking, fast and Slow' goes into more details, but here's my approximation. A more recent heuristic you will have made while walking out doors is a cough = threat, determine vector, walk away. Or for a more arresting visual, hearing a cough can make you feel, based on your risk perception, like you heard a balloon pop or a bullet being fired.
evidence accumulates on how easily the risk perception of a virulent agent can be biased showed that the more emotional impact a given risk has, the greater the risk itself seems. This phenomenon is known as the “affect heuristic.” Recent work found fear to be a crucial predictor of preventive behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic While fear is known to increase the perception of risk, anger was found to diminish risk perception.
For myself, the fear of losing people, outweighed the anger of curtailing my freedom. To oversimplify, what's mostly played out in the world population was less fight or flight, and more a polarity between The Scream by Munch and the football hooligan by the overvalued English football League. Watching bread and circus sports is boring, I said it.
Think back to when the pandemic was unfolding. In those days, the auto-pilot was slowly switching off for most people. We needed to constantly consider new pieces of information until a lock down order put us back into a form of auto-pilot. The pandemic became the wall we paint the remainder of our life on. This makes me feel tired. So tired that I'd let auto-pilot be my default state at home as well.
Positive reappraisal, a form of meaning-based coping, is the adaptive process by which stressful events are re-construed as benign, valuable, or beneficial. Research has demonstrated that the ability to find benefit from adversity is associated with improved health outcomes.
In our current context, positive reappraisal or 'seeing the silver lining / bright side' is challenging. A study in China points out the benefits of having "higher perceived knowledge" about the outbreak was associated with "a stronger sense of control". The keyword here is "perceived", early in the pandemic Covid-19 was compared to the common flu, and people in power (world leaders, the World Health Organization) seemed to be thinking out loud, with the media, both social and traditional, compounding the confusion about the risks of the virus.
In China, the drop in overall emotional well-being associated with the surge of COVID-19 reached 74%. link. A nationwide survey in which a total number of 14 000 respondents took part pointed out that the risk of contracting the virus, being in the high-risk group, relational issues and personal knowledge about the virus are some of the most important factors affecting mental well-being during pandemic.
So far, I've spoken about the world 'out there'. It's a fact that the majority of my time is not physically spent in the world 'out there'. It's indoors with my family, but the world 'out there' has consumed almost every part of my world 'in here'.
Notice the cream cheese.
I'm currently fasting, so my energy is low. What's interesting is, it doesn't feel any lower than it had during the past year. I've cut my processed sugar and caffeine consumption close to nil, so on balance, my persistent state of cloudy with a chance of covid has been my default state.
I came to this conclusion because of cream cheese. I got some amazing bagels, and I was looking forward to eating them before dawn. I just needed some cream cheese. My wife promised there was enough cream cheese, so there was no need to buy any in the store she was walking into.
We got home, I checked the fridge, there was not enough cream cheese for a bagel. I was disappointed and hangry.
She yanks out a cream cheese out of the bag, "Garlic and chives!" My face was anything but excited, I just wanted cream cheese.
Later that day, we go for a walk, we'd forgotten other items so we pass by another grocery. I didn't ask for cream cheese.
When we were almost home, my wife (for unrelated reasons), mentions what she was thinking when she was buying cream cheese. When she first went into the store, she felt sure there was enough cream cheese. But then, she saw the cream cheese section. Then the Garlic and chives, and thought
"I'll get him something fun, plain is boring", so when she saw my underwhelming reaction, she felt disappointed and felt she did something wrong.
At the second store, she forgot to get the cream cheese, at this point, I was over the cream cheese. But this sparked the conversation for the unrelated reason I mentioned. It was about choosing what gets you down in life and cream cheese decidedly was not.
When I finished listening to her, I apologized, because her intention, should have been acknowledged, irrespective of my covid clouds.
What I'm noticing, is that the world 'in here', has been assaulted in ways we can't yet understand. So I'll be taking a page out of a friends book, and continuing what I started doing at the beginning of Ramadan, removing as many unsolicited influences (applications and websites) from the world 'out there'. If what you read over the coming weeks, does not contribute to your ‘Feng Shui | Walak shwaya’ please let me know. I’ll understand.
Fun fact: Some cities in the United States made it illegal to ignore "no soliciting signs", the burden was on the solicitor (usually door-to-door sales people) to look for the sign, and leave. At some point in my life, I thought "No Soliciting" signs were rude. Now I think we desperately need the digital equivalent.
A laugh for your troubles
See you in 2 weeks! Let me know if you bought cream cheese.