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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Measuring Psychological Resources

Here is a little exercise on measuring one’s psychological health. Make a list of your compensatory mechanisms, or things you do that might not look like the best use of your time yet are crucial to your getting through the day. Here are some examples:

  1. gaming;
  2. addictive online shopping;
  3. aimless browsing of websites;
  4. binge watching of TV shows;
  5. smoking;
  6. alcohol;
  7. pot;
  8. flipping through channels;
  9. active and time-consuming Facebooking or Instagraming;
  10. protracted news-watching long after you have learned everything that happened today;
  11. binge eating.

As I keep saying, these are not bad activities. They are good activities in that they literally allow you to survive. Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT try to limit these activities by applying willpower. It will only deplete your energy and make you need more of these mechanisms. Psychologically healthy individuals, a.k.a. lucky fuckers, also have their compensatory mechanisms but instead of the above, they do the following:

  1. exercise;
  2. pray;
  3. meditate;
  4. take bubble baths;
  5. play a musical instrument non-commercially;
  6. write poetry for fun;
  7. cook for fun;
  8. knit, scrapbook, do puzzles (but the physical, not the online kind);
  9. walk.

So once you figure out your compensatory activities from list 1, track how much time you dedicate each day to them and what triggers them. If cumulatively they take more than 10-15% of your awake time in a day, that’s a sign that your psychological health is not great. 7% to 10% is borderline. Under 7% is optimal. (List 2, of course, can and should be pursued for as much as one wants.)

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17 thoughts on “Measuring Psychological Resources

  1. This is brilliant. I of course do all the positive ones but not enough, can do #4 above but mostly don’t, do do #9 above and it, with blogs, does add up to too much time except that so much of this time is involved with the secret Facebook group “A. B. B. and his family” — my current hobby, piecing the past together with my faraway cousins — that I cannot tell whether it is good or bad. Here is what is bad: I want to do more things on the good list but think I should be working, so do things from the bad list.

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    • In other words, guilt makes you want to compensate especially strongly. Which is extremely normal.

      Researching your genealogy is very psychologically healing. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. And it isn’t accidental that you started getting heavily into it now. It means you are recovering from some major trauma.

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  2. Does gardening belong to any of these lists? Whenever I am under stress at work, I find myself strangely drawn to spending a lot of time in my garden.

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  3. My weekends are the worst when I have a lot of work (which is always, really). I cannot go to work as the family wants me at home, and they are too loud and always need stuff that I cannot actually work at home. So I feel the pull to work and sit at the computer, but do all these stupid things like browse the web. So neither quality time with kids, nor chores, actual work, relaxation. That’s when I don’t mindlessly snack from boredom. My mind needs to always be extremely busy for me to feel content, yet life is filled with required activities that do not engage the brain very much, even if they do the heart (“Oh, look how cute my kid is!”) or the hands (cleaning, cooking). I think that’s the main issue for me — there not being enough time when I am free from the rest of my life to do the things that require full mental engagement and quench the mental thirst.

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    • “My mind needs to always be extremely busy for me to feel content, yet life is filled with required activities that do not engage the brain very much, even if they do the heart (“Oh, look how cute my kid is!”) or the hands (cleaning, cooking). ”

      I can understand this very well. I identify with the need to have my mind busily engaged all the time. If I can’t do that, I start to load it with silly things like browsing my newsfeed obsessively. My fuel is words, and I need a steady supply of long, interesting, verbalized ideas coming my way all the time.

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  4. What??? sex, masturbation, porn, doesn’t make it to the top ten? not even for the “lucky fuckers!” 🙂 🙂

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  5. Jonathan on said:

    Yes, in a blog post recently I called your first list “tier three” activities. Tier one consists of things you are meant to do, that are truly fulfilling and valuable for their own sake. Tier 2 consists of things that are supportive of the first tier, like cleaning and organizing, and tier three are the exact kind of activities you view as harmful to mental health.

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  6. Interesting. I read news well after I know everything about a topic, and I know that it stresses me out, but on some days I just cannot stop. Perhaps we do these things on the first list to avoid facing something that might come up when doing an activity in the second list? Taking a bath might bring you in contact with your body and writing poetry with your emotions. The items on the first list are all numbing. The annoying thing about news-reading is that it seems so rational to do it — what is happening in the world is objectively more important than what I feel like today. So for me at least it is such an easy trap to fall into. I need to pay closer attention to what triggers this mechanism for me… thanks for the good advice! 🙂

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  7. You forgot “Listening To The Stereo”.
    What’s the matter with you?
    Never had a record collection, cassette tape collection, or CD collection?

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  8. Do you think blogging is an unhealthy or healthy past time? I’m finding myself on WordPress much of my spare time. I love reading other people’s blogs and commenting on posts. I’m in a social media class for college so I only really get to post once a week. I would greatly appreciate it if you would follow me or check out my blog on vaping which is probably my unhealthy psychological crutch. But it’s fun and I like it, plus it could always be worse right? I don’t hurt anyone else by doing it. Psychological crutches aren’t bad unless they are harmful to others like drunk driving or something. Either way thank you for your inspirational writings. Hope to read more. -bel

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