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Friday, May 4, 2018

Post Title Would Go Here If I had a Good Title for This Post

Here's an idea I want to try: figure out everything I have control over. Everything for which I am the "decision maker." For an adult, this means discretionary spending, what color socks to wear, what to eat, how to spend free time. For a full professor, it also means allocation of effort on different projects, where I want to focus my attention.

This is what we might call the sphere of personal control or autonomy.  The first revelation I am having is that freedom means that I am the decision maker, not someone else, so freedom and control are the same thing in this sphere.

Having a lot of it is good, but then again it is also more difficult because everything must be decided. The next step would be to exercise optimal choices within this sphere.

You might find that there are constraints that operate within what should be the sphere of personal autonomy.  Suppose you fear wearing colorful socks because people will ridicule you. Also, you would prefer to wear $2,000 suits but there are economic constraints. Autonomy is never absolute.

Then there are cases where you can't really control what you eat, though that should be within that sphere. Or you are addicted to opioids. Then that indicates a problem. Any discrepancy in what is ideally autonomous indicates a level of dysfunction. I can choose to skip a crossword puzzle, or decide that I want to never skip one. If I skip one and feel huge anxiety, then I am addicted.

[This exercise leaves out the things that are not under your sphere of autonomy, ever.  For example, other people's private sphere of autonomy.  We're just not worrying about that right now.  

It also leaves out things from a relationship that impinge on autonomy.  In a healthy relationship, you should still have hobbies that the other person has no say about, things you can go off and do alone without worrying about it.]

What I have discovered, then, is that I do have great personal autonomy, but I haven't quite learned to use it optimally. A lot of the anxiety I have is about how to use time, energy, and money.

The first exercise might be to choose something over which to exercise control over in a week. Start with something easy (for you).  See how difficult or easy it actually turns out to be.  Look for the points of tension.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All right, I'll play. I've been doing dishes once a day, but now I will do them after every meal. This, I know, has a ripple effect.

I tend to say what works is to start with what's hard, i.e. what is basic. As in: becoming aware of a limiting gestalt and doing nothing conscious to change it, not asking so much of oneself, but simply aiming to notice it. Always doing the dishes will be the figure of such awareness, the Zen practice to parallel and foment it.