Sunday, April 20, 2014

Truth-Powered Mind Hacking

Two days ago, I experienced a flash of social anxiety, which is something that hasn't happened in months.

I was trying to better understand odds and why they're better than probabilities for Bayesian reasoning, and I was writing with a marker on large sheets of paper. Then Eliezer came home and opened the door right behind me, and I panicked. I think System 1 doesn't want him to know that I struggle sometimes with really basic math in addition to provability theory and topology; it doesn't look impressive to re-learn how to translate between odds and probabilities. So I felt this huge spike of embarrassment (which used to be so familiar) and quickly hid my work.

Last night at a party, I noticed myself fearing that panic from before, and imagining the anxiety made me anxious. It was mildly discouraging. I notice now that I tried to hide from that.

If my freedom from social anxiety depends on nothing ever going wrong with that part of my brain, it'll be extremely fragile, and I don't want that. Alternately, it could depend on my ability to ignore or rationalize problems when they do happen.

Although I clearly have that ability, I think I don't want to exercise it. I want to learn to stare into frightening problems and discern the truth about them so I can bring all my powers to bear on solving them once certainly understood. I want all of me to believe true things about my challenges, and I'm confident that if I can meet them with self deception, I can meet them at least as well without it.

A couple months ago I'd not have written this post, because I'm explicitly acknowledging a fact that I fear may indicate a sudden and complete slide back into constant anxiety. It sounds dangerous for self-fulfilling-prophesy reasons. But I know that if I lied to myself, that slide wouldn't happen. I believe that if I believe that I won't relapse, then I won't relapse, so by Lob's theorem, I believe that I won't relapse. So, in full knowledge of having been anxious, I now declare it an isolated event.

Will I triumph, or will this happen with increasing frequency until I return to my previous state of constant crippling fear? Place your bets!

P(free of anxiety in 1 month)

P(free of anxiety in 4 months|free in 1 month)

P(free of anxiety in 4 months)

Don't refrain from betting against me because you're afraid it will discourage me and affect the outcome. The whole point is to demonstrate that I can direct my self-modification by embracing the truth.


What is true is already so. 
Owning up to it doesn't make it worse. 
Not being open about it doesn't make it go away. 
And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with. 
Anything untrue isn't there to be lived. 
People can stand what is true, 
for they are already enduring it. 
—Eugene Gendlin

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