Ch1 L17: why we can hardly think these days

  1. In the last post, we discussed that due to minergy [1] and the fear of taking responsibility, we’d be rather inclined to receive suggested solutions than to think to solve our problems [2]. Earlier we discussed why fear is the most fundamental and dominant emotion [3]. The diagram below illustrates how fear can affect our decisions [4].

Screenshot 2018-11-03 19.31.10

  1. Fear works like an alarm. If its noise is too low to be detected, we won’t feel that we need to complete our tasks. We simply ignore it which can be described as boredom. If dealing with a problem raises the level of stress hormones, it becomes more important, so we pay more attention till we get it done. That’s how we reach the sweet spot of the performance curve. But if the alarm is nerve-wrackingly loud, we’ll get anxious, lose self-control, make more mistakes and finally, we go to the freeze stage (mostly mentally) and stop performing [5]. We also talked about how fear can stop neocortex and other high energy-consuming parts of the body like stomach while dealing with a stressful problem [6]. So, this is another situation in which we can’t think clearly and we respond to our emotional responses. Through this post, we’re gonna discuss what leads us to make mistakes or sabotage a project.
  2. First of all, we need to recognize the paradigm shift. Our ancestors had a physically difficult and dangerous yet mentally simple and straightforward life; however, nowadays we experience the opposite situation. If around 200 years ago, the literate could stand out globally [7], today having a college degree is expected of almost everyone without which you might feel embarrassed. We also need to know many things about different cultures and parts of the world that our predecessors weren’t supposed to know [8]. Many students are expected to learn and understand math which is very abstract. That’s why they struggle with it and if they can pass, they will always recall it as a torture or trauma.
  3. Therefore, the rise in the level of expectations, especially in towns and cities, has caused more stress among people, and especially teenagers. We discussed that fear goes off as soon as it detects there’s a gap between reality and expectation and it will shut down when we meet the expectations. So, when expectations are too far to reach, we spend days after days suffering from stress and anxiety. Since we’re mentally tired or wounded, we don’t have enough energy to think about our problems and we use the solutions around us.
  4. Media is the most important factor in setting expectations. Showing very successful celebrities and especially telling rags-to-riches stories about those who are statistically outliers, might create the expectation which implies you’re a loser if you don’t get there. Since the programs are short, you just see the tip of the iceberg and you can’t see their struggles and hard work [9].
  5. What these stories also miss is considering the factor of luck. Who could tell that Steve Jobs could’ve revolutionized the computer industry if he’d been born in Lebonan? Or Michael Phelps could’ve won 28 Olympic medals if he hadn’t had the ideal body for swimming [10]? There are many factors out of our control; so, we should give our best shot; we hope that we get what we want and celebrate our achievements even though they’re small and move forward [11].
  6. Imagine that you were the only baker in a small village. If one day you didn’t feel so you couldn’t open the bakery, the other villagers would come to your house and inquire about your health. You’d be highly loved and respected because you’re an indispensable element of the society. Now you were a baker in a metropolis with thousands of bakeries around you. What would happen if you closed your bakery for a day? If you’re a charming and friendly baker, your customers might feel sad a bit but they’d buy their bread from another bakery. That’s why, in my opinion, being dispensable in many companies and systems is another stressor because when you don’t feel secure, your second-tier need isn’t being satisfied so you can’t perform well to get to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
  7. The outcome of modern life is many people desperately looking for anything to shut down the alarm; things such as alcohol, drugs, games (especially video games), and social network [12] whatever that can flare our happiness and makes us forget about the cold and harsh reality like the matches of “the little girl with the matchsticks” [13].
  8. A general solution to this problem is to slow down and evaluate what’s going on which requires to accept and bite the bullet instead of looking for instant gratifications. However, our insanely fast lifestyle might not let us achieve it. Milan Kundera [14] has shared a brilliant insight about speed in “Slowness” [15]: “In existential mathematics, that experience takes the form of two basic equations: the degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.”
  9. In conclusion, there are many factors stirring up our emotions which prevent thinking for which we should decelerate and examine our life, to detect what’s causing stress and suffering and how to deal with them.


[1] Link to minergy.

[2] Link to the previous post.

[3] Links to the posts about fear. 1 2

[4] For more information, you can refer to “Social intelligence“.

[5] Link to the post about Freeze.

[6] You can find the discussion about stress shutting down the stomach, causing ulcers in the link.

[7] In 1800, 85% of the world was illiterate. So, you can see the huge shift and pressure exerted on us within the 200 years. Link.

[8] Again 200 years ago many people even didn’t know what’s going on in neighbor towns or cities unless a stranger entered their town and shared stories with them.

[9] Another danger would be setting the expectations based on the characters of the movies next to whom most of us would feel we or people around us would come up short.

[10] Link to the analysis of Michael Phelps’s body structure.

[11] In my opinion, we might feel disheartened if we do our best and fail if we don’t consider that there are possibly many odds against winning. Then we might hardly get up and try again.

[12] Social networks can be the topic of a full post and how they affect us. In a nutshell, we receive diluted emotional supports, shared attention and mostly reciprocated likes as if we’re in a huge party; so we’d trade a warm and friendly conversation with hundreds of small talks.

[13] Link

[14] Link

[15] Link to Slowness which is highly recommended.


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