Bleeding edged sword

​Its reassuring, and at the same time depressing, to find that the same underlying snippets of neurocircuitary can drive exactly opposite behaviors.

Reassuring because most of our shortcomings can act as our strengths. Clichéd much? Well… I’m stressing this possibility only at a more neurological level rather than in the usual self-help tone.

Depressing because, sadly, vice versa.

e.g. The exact systems that work to desensitize us to painful or stressful experiences also work to make us take the beauties of life for granted. One of these effects prevents us from misery, while the other rips off the essence of life from life.

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No profit, no loss

Birth.

First few years. No questions. Serenity.

7th birthday. Still no questions. But answers! They start giving answers to questions I don’t have.

17th birthday. I do have questions now. Do I look for answers? But  they already have been pumping my head full of these for a decade. . Pretty convenient. Could those uninvited answers be wrong? I have asked that from parents. Asked teachers. I am warned never to ask again. I am trying to enter a forbidden territory, they say. Whatever I am told is the absolute truth, they say. The ultimate truth, they say. Because? Because they say so. Because someone else said so.

I ask for evidence. They’ve got it, they say.

“It cannot be cross-examined, as a rule. It is immune to criticism”, they say. Good. These measures maintain the prestige and assertiveness of the “evidence”. These rules defend its followers from the agony of dissonance.

Everything is going on well. Life is beautiful. Until…

I find the evidence fallacious.

But I keep the secret to myself.

They learn anyway.

Questions no more.

Life no more.

UBL Omni vs MCB Lite

I have been using UBL Wiz Internet Card for the last 5 years and my experience has been mixed. Recently I acquired an MCB card. I’ll post an objective comparison here. Lets start with the similarities:

  • Both are independent of bank accounts
  • Annual charges are around Rs. 300 for both
  • Both can be acquired within one day
  • Both support ATM withdrawals
  • Both support Internet transactions

The differences:

  1. Issuance:
    1. Wiz: You have to visit the bank. Some branches do not issue wiz cards whereas those which do may not have these available and you may be asked to come later or visit another branch.
    2. Lite: Fill in an online form and the card is delivered to you within 4-7 days.
    3. Winner: MCB Lite
  2. Documents required:
    1. Wiz: CNIC + Proof of your source of income
    2. Lite: CNIC only.
    3. Winner: MCB Lite
  3. Activation:
    1. Wiz: Activated at time of issuance
    2. Lite: Need to visit a lite-enabled (aka “litized”) branch to get the card activated. In my case it only took 5 minutes.
    3. Winner: UBL Wiz
  4. Interfaces available:
    1. Wiz: None
    2. Lite: Desktop (web) and smartphone apps.
    3. Winner: MCB Lite
  5. Statement and Balance enquiry
    1. Wiz: Monthly statement sent by email. Balance enquiry only possible via ATM. SMS alert upon every transaction without indication of remaining balance.
    2. Lite: Can check statement anytime via web interface or app.
    3. Winner: MCB Lite
  6. Deposit procedure:
    1. Wiz: Go to a UBL branch and fill in a deposit form. Some branches require you to fill the more complicated remittance form instead, which I learned after having wasted lots of hours. The account number is a certain subset of digits from your WIZ card. While all UBL branches allows deposits to WIZ card, a separate “system” has to be online for it and all these transactions have to be “supervised” by a senior banker which is cumbersome. The only other way to deposit is by use of UBL ATM card in a UBL ATM.
    2. Lite: Go to an MCB bank. Fill in a simple deposit slip. Write your phone number in place of account number, and the deposit is made within a few seconds. Even better: You can transfer to your Lite card via any other bank’s account using the other bank’s ATM card or Internet Banking. I made a test transaction from another bank and it went on quite smoothly. Furthermore, you may receive instant transfers from other MCB Lite users. MCB claims that it will be introducing cash depositing machines soon too.
    3. Winner: MCB Lite (by an enormous margin)
  7. Usability:
    1. Wiz: Only ATM, POS and online shopping.
    2. Lite: In addition to above, you can use the card for sending money to other bank accounts (only for Rs. 20), or to pay your bills and to send donations… All via the MCB lite app.
    3. Winner: MCB Lite
  8. Online acceptance:
    1. Wiz: In my  personal experience, it is accepted at most popular gateways. However I have had a small list of websites which the card failed to work with and caused me considerable inconvenience.
    2. Lite: Yet to test extensively.
    3. Winner: Draw

CONCLUSION: MCB Lite is a clear winner in most aspects. I would strongly recommend it to everyone thinking of getting a card for online transactions. Click here to apply for it now.

Nihilism

Nihilism is wonderful. It is to philosophy what zero is to mathematics. Multiply it to any magnitude of beauty, emotion and meaning and you end up meaningless. Add it to any of these and you add nothing, but also lose nothing. It’s nothing. It cannot stand on it’s own, yet has the power to void the tenets of human values in a snap on one hand, and to impart incomprehensible infinity to the trivial on the other.

Beyond being physical

Raining.

Heavenly music.

I’ve gradualy left my physical existence and transcended beyond the material world.

I cannot smell anymore, cannot hear, cannot see, cannot touch, for I have left my body. It feels dizzy up here. Everything feels cloudy. The clarity of reality is gone. But I still love it.

I can feel pure and free joy, needing none of your serotonin.

Oh! I feel you’re somewhere around too.

I know because I suddenly remember what brought me here. It was you. Alas! I now wish I could see and touch once again.

Someone please turn off the music and bring me back. Bring me back from this unreal trip.

Why? Why doesn’t somebody do that?

Just that little off button and I’d be back.

Back to you.

Wait! Stop! Don’t yet.

Oh my! It’s you. I can see you now. Up here… not physically though. But better.

I can hear you better.

I can feel you better.

Mind Toolbox

I’ve been observing and assisting surgeries for the past couple of months, and everyday I was surprised to see new surgical instruments that I had never heard of before. The instruments would play small very specific roles, but play those really well.

I’ve spent my entire life in search of a simple and minimal set of mind tools that would help me fix my serious motivation and productivity issues. I’d try one mind tool, and then abandon it for another one days later… working on one tool a time. Why one? Because I wanted to keep things dead simple.

But now I have come to this important conclusion that I’ll have to work on building a rather comprehensive set of tools, and that a simple unified model of motivation/productivity etc might not be the right way to go.

Dysfunctional Motivation Profile and OCPD

Those who are correctly diagnosed with OCPD have unmistakably dysfunctional social or professional lives. This text hypothesizes one axis that makes the lives dysfunctional. This may only be valid for perfectionists of certain types.

According to this hypothesis, the affected individual faces four challenges:

  1. Dysfunctional motivation profile (DMP) which narrows down the tasks the individual is interested in to one’s own disadvantage.
  2. DMP results in neglect of the real world leading to what I call “depletion of headroom“. Practically this may mean bankruptcy, and serious social rejection.
  3. Headroom depletion forces the individual to make a choice between the real world and one’s inner world, leading to cognitive disonance, which translates to stress and anxiety.
  4. The affected individual may end up trying to escape the cognitive dissonance in wrong ways, such as through denial and withdrawal, resulting in further deterioration of life.

We’ll look into these in detail one by one before moving onto solutions.

Dysfunctional motivation profile (DMP):

The tasks that interest an individual get limited and unimportant activities may interest the individual more than the important ones. The affected individuals find themselves motivated by:

  1. Tasks purely driven by intrinsic motivation i.e. tasks that are not good only for extrinsic rewards, such as money, repute or fame.
  2. Tasks that lead to positive outcomes and not only serve to prevent the negative ones. (read this mindlog for more)
  3. Tasks with a moderate level of difficulty. Too easy or too difficult are hard to stick to long enough.
  4. Scalable tasks, in which there is always something to match the individual’s increase in competitiveness with time.
  5. Tasks that the individuals know that they will be able to finish. They won’t work on the ones they know they will only be working on transiently.
  6. Tasks not involving much social interaction, especially to start with.
  7. Tasks not having major hurdles in the initial stages. e.g If the individuals need money to take a certain exam that they are highly passionate about, but lack that money, they wouldn’t be interested in the exam at all. This contrasts with one typically expects from a passionate or obsessive person.
  8. Tasks which are not to be done only because they pave way for other tasks, the other tasks being the ones of actual interest to the individual. e.g the individuals from the example in #7 will avoid taking a job, regardless of how interesting it is, if its primary purpose is earning enough to pay for their examination.
  9. Tasks that are not important only because they add value to something that has already been completed out of one’s interest.  e.g. a writer who has written a bulky novel in an entire decade may be satisfied enough in doing that. Now if he gets it published, he can add value to his hard work. Even though doing that needs little effort, and may possibly have a dramatic outcome, he feels unmotivated for that.
  10. Tasks which serve to make the meaninglessness of life (absurdism) less evident, rather than more evident. This affects only those with existential crises.
  11. Tasks that are nearing completion may either feel very interesting, or very uninteresting.
  12. Tasks that lead to tangible outcomes that can be hoarded. This one is interesting, since it can be used to one’s advantage, e.g in planting a desire to earn (and collect) money in an otherwise care-free individual.

Headroom Depletion:

At any point in life, one is more or less free to comply to one’s motivation profile. I call this freedom “headroom”.  A decent earning, having fairly working relationships, being debt-free, having accomplished family responsibilities, are all required for a decent headroom. These requirements would vary person to person, and may be pretty dramatic for some, and non-existent for others. Neurotic perfectionists, e.g , will have to meet a lot of expectations of people around them in order to be mentally relaxed enough. Narcissists on the other hand will not care of any societal pressures, and would rather use the society to their advantage. The pressure of having enough earning would however be fairly universal, I believe.

Maladaptive behavior on headroom depletion:

If one depletes one’s headroom, one undergoes one or more of these:

  1. Surrendering own tasks. The person with depleted headroom shall surrender to the external pressures and give up intrinsically motivated tasks they were working on. Earning, and societal approval will be on top of their priorities, more or less transiently. The issue with this choice is that it completely ignores one’s psychology, leading to burnouts.
  2. Denial. Some people will continue to adhere to the tasks of their private interest in denial of the headroom depletion, only to deplete it more. Others will continue to adhere to their private tasks with the belief that if they’re successful with those tasks, they’ll regain the headroom. To them, a depleted headroom is inevitable for their success. They may or may not be right.
  3. Withdrawal: One may completely withdraw from both one’s private goals, and the headroom related responsibilities. This, I believe, happens with perfectionists who are as much pressured by their inner obsessions as their external responsibilities, such that they cannot figure out which way to go and end up in cognitive dissonance. Others have an innate tendency of withdrawal on stress.

Solution:

This is too early to be able to propose solutions, both because of the primitivity of the above hypothesis, and my lack of exploration of solutions. Here are a few things to start with:

  1. Task crafting: This involves: (i) Carefully looking for tasks that both serve one’s innate obsessions and help heightening one’s headroom in any way. (ii) Finding some motivating aspect in tasks that favor the headroom.
  2. Fixing one’s motivation profile, by intellectulization, if possible.
  3. Headroom objectification: This involves: (i) Enlisting the things that increase and decrease one’s headroom, and sorting them based on imminence. (ii) Identifying things which should not affect the headroom, and are unnecessarily putting oneself in pressure, such as meeting absurd expectations of relatives. (iii) Identifying things that contribute to the headroom but you weren’t well conscious of, or were in denial of.
  4. Dead-end management: If you have depleted your headroom already, then realize that it’s more important to steer free of maladaptive behaviors than to try to re-establish it because doing the former would probably already accomplish the latter.
  5. Stamina building: No matter how much we excel in technique #1, we will encounter tasks which fail to be motivating at all. The OCPD inflicted must build their stamina to endure such tasks, while at the same time protecting themselves from training too hard,or burnouts, or ego-depletion. Those trying to build such stamina learn to defend intrinsically unmotivated activities through a host of cognitive distortions such as effort justification. Let me give an example. I started physical exercise because it is classically known to help fight conditions like depression and learned helplessness. The effects, however, were not readily apparent, and I lost motivation to continue. However, somehow I decided to try for at least two or three months. Now I was regularly engaging in an activity which didn’t motivate me, and surprisingly it got easier and easier. Biases such as the “choice supportive bias” and effort justification started making it easier for me, and now I am doing it on regular basis and enjoying it, and harnessing a sense of accomplishment from it. Experimental psychology believes we all have ego reserves that get depleted, and I am talking about putting those reserves to actual use, and of defending those reserves against overuse, and of increasing those reserves.

Double Bind : Notes

Recently I learned about this amazing concept called Double Bind. I won’t explain what it is over this post as you can read about it on wikipedia. This article only adds to the concept.

Binding magnitude:

Siblings encounter same or similar double binds coming from parents however their response to them can be remarkably different, not from a coping perspective, but in the magnitude of binding they feel. This difference may be easy to understand when we see how is it that the parents are punishing. If the parents are punishing by not allowing the children to socialize with peers, an introverted child will obviously be less affected than the extroverted siblings. More commonly, however, the punishment comes in form of withdrawal of love, or expression of hatred or anger. The personality traits among the children that correlate with these latter punishments would be: desire for love, emotional sensitivity, and perfectionism. The more the children differ in these traits, the more different their sense of binding would be.

Why double binds?

I haven’t found much information on the etiology of double binds, so I’m pressed to fill the gap myself.

i) Double binds arise when the issuer’s mental confusion gets translated into his implicit and explicit orders.

ii) The directives issued by the issuer may not actually be paradoxical, and there may only be a misunderstanding by the victim… However, the victim cannot clear up the confusion because of the issuer’s repulse to meta-communication.

iii) Since moderation is good, the issuer may have goodwill in issuing the conflicting orders, and the intent of the issuer might just be keeping the “victim” in a presumed-as-correct “gray” zone. e.g a parent asking a child not to pay video games too much, or at all, may at the same time ask the child to not study obsessively. His or her intent is keeping the child’s behavior moderated, but unfortunately it turns into a troubling double bind because the children has been given subjective directives, such that a child will have difficulty realizing what amount of playing, or study, is good enough. The issuer may exploit this situation to their advantage, by blaming the child upon wish since the subjectivity of their orders means that they can always argue that they orders were never met.

iv) The issuer’s preferences have changed over time, but the victim has internalized both the old and new preferences of the issuer. This internalization is so strong that even though the issuer’s preferences have changed, the victim can not get rid of his or her older directives.

v) Defense. The issuer hasn’t really issued contradicting orders, but the victim has extrapolated a contradiction out of them, either intentionally or subconsciously, only to justify either their hatred for the issuer or their own laziness in carrying out the orders.

vi) Sometimes the directives given by the parents are free from any threats of punishment, explicit or implicit. However, the pseudo-binded persons (children) continue to have this pressing want to fulfill those directives, not because they’ll be punished if they don’t, but because they may be rewarded if they do. Classically double binds are studied in light of punishment only, whereas I see we’ve been missing the other half: Getting binded for rewards. Such behavior may be secondary to tendencies in the children themselves, such as primary perfectionism, or result of parents chronic lack of expression of love such that the children end up craving for it so much that they end up in such awkward situations as double binds.

vii) In classical double binds, children actually get punished. If this happens over and over, children grow up with learned helplessness, such that even when parents have stopped punishing their children, any paradox in their benign suggestions get enforced as a double bind. This is different from (iv) in that the set of directives are new and not temporally spread.

Orient Econotech Smart Airconditoner Mini-Review

As an AC, it does good enough.

As a “smart” air-conditioner, it doesn’t. Although publicly advertised to support remote controlling via wi-fi, it just doesn’t work out of the box. It probably needs some additional hardware, however that isn’t obvious in the first place. The AC comes with no documentation about making it work with wi-fi, nor does its smart application that can be downloaded from the Play Store. The salesmen do not know either, and the Orient help line offers no solution either.

Although I may be able to make it work eventually, I want to shout out loud that my first experience with Orient’s customer support is a very disappointing one.

The difference death makes

Image

What harm does a bullet do to anyone or anything in it’s brief transit through flesh?

Pain?

What would that be? Nature’s way of alarming it’s subject of harm to it’s body? Why alarm for that? For protecting it from the inevitable? Pain would indeed be a harm in it’s absoluteness, yet be as absurd as everything fundamental in the universe: life, laws of physics, origin of universe etc because it can’t help at all in preserving life indefinitely, and is thus pointless in the greater picture of life and death.

Death?

Death of a man is the annihilation of the universe for him, something that adds great weight to this philosophically absurd event, but only for a while. As always, it gets exponentially absurder as we move out to the greater picture. In this case, the greater picture of one’s death, and thus of his entire universe, is the death of the actual universe at some point in distant future which, again, is absurd since what meaning would annihilation carry when creation carries none? What then makes death a mournable crisis, apart from the emotional connotations? If Absurdism, the philosophy, is the uneasy chronic belief in man’s inability to unravel the answer to the infamous question of “meaning”, death is it’s acute implementation in which you couldn’t procrastinate over the question anymore and finally receive the greatest blow you’ve always feared, even if you philosophically claimed not to give a damn.

Inconvenience?

If a dying man leaves behind a family which relied upon him for it’s food, there sure is some inconvenience in death, inconvenience to the dependents. Ironically, such harm is again in form of pain or death of the dependents. We’ve already seen how absurd such harms would be.

So?

So, all the bullet did is shout out loud to the world the inherent meaninglessness of the universe, only to be silenced soon by the psychobiological defenses of the listeners. It tried doing something, but failed. It did nothing.