Recognizing and releasing self-defeating behaviors

What matters most for your health and wealth?

TOPIC: Recognizing and releasing self-defeating behaviors

First, I can recognize in my own history many occasions when I was aware of behaviors that I perceived to consistently produce favorable results, yet I did other things anyway (or simply “nothing at all”). I have even done many things that I expected would be “counterproductive” or at least wasteful. Is any of that familiar for you so far?

Eventually I got curious why I would form “self-defeating habits” and how to break those habits. As I witness similar behaviors in others, I naturally speculate and explore questions like “how do self-defeating behaviors become habitual and (perhaps much more importantly) how do those habits cease or get replaced with more functional patterns?”

I will jump right ahead to a few rather deep questions: what if I have a deep attraction to experiencing grief? What if I actually prefer (over some of the priorities or goals that I might claim) experiencing at least occasional helplessness, guilt, shame, isolation, or even despair?

What if behind all of that is a desire for others to notice me having those experiences and then “get involved?” What if I crave to be rescued, like as a validation that at least one or more other people relate to me as someone “worthy of being rescued?” What if I have been identifying myself (as in relating to myself) as someone whose mere existence
needs to be justified (in order to be worthy, deserving, acceptable, etc)?

 

To clarify, my interest here is the possibility that I might have been practicing thought patterns that have led to reduced effectiveness, plus that there could be a major improvement in my future effectiveness by removing or replacing those habits of thinking. Further, if those thought patterns are just habits, routines, or programs, then can I in solitude directly explore what may have been unconscious or semi-conscious thought patterns so as to improve them and the results that then get produced? (Or, in contrast to me directly exploring them alone, would involving other people in my exploration be preferable or even essential?)

The issue of solitude (or partnership) bridges in to a key issue. Have I been thinking in ways that lead me to avoid effective partnership (or to avoid solitude and any effectiveness that might result from that)? Have I been targeting partners that would lead to disappointment for me? Or have I even been neglecting or compromising partnerships that otherwise might have been far more productive?

In the moments of me typing these sequences of words, I do so in private, though with an expectation of sharing these words with others (and probably in a rather public way online like on social media). That detail reminds me of many experiences of gratitude from repeatedly finding great value in content that I encountered online (either by researching for it directly, by “stumbling upon” it while exploring something else, or by seeing it when someone else shared it “randomly” on social media).

When I first considered making this post, I thought to note that it might seem surprising that I would focus much at all on the topic stated here (of updating ineffective thought programs) instead of simply promoting some of my breakthroughs. Why not just publicize once again my recent 70% gains in under 3 months (or promote my latest discoveries in cutting-edge health treatments that mainstream health practitioners are too busy / too wealthy to explore or develop)?

Repeatedly, I have been surprised at how uninterested so many people seem to me to be in those results (and methods). So, I keep getting curious about why so many people seem so much more interested in other pursuits, such as condemning particular ideas or political celebrities (rather than in investing in directly promoting their own well-being).

Further, what I observe in others reminds me of me (whether in my distant past or quite recently). Why would we invest so much time in condemning distant targets or vilifying ideas that we claim to consider to be not just unintelligent but unworthy of our time?

“Those other people over there should not waste so much time complaining about which people waste the wrong amount of time focusing on the wrong topics in the wrong ways. They are basically ruining my life by victimizing me with their MANY faults, especially their lack of a sense of humor.

Instead, they just keep investing their time in ways that lead them to neglecting an awareness of how much time they are investing and of the results of those investments. They seek an ongoing flood of emotional drama and controversy to distract them from perceptions that are much more personally humbling and frightening.”

As I said at the very beginning, my own history contains many occasions when I was aware of behaviors that I perceived to offer superior results, but I did those things less than I could have (or only weeks or months after my initial perception of their superiority). But so what? I’m mainly just interested in that detail as a bridge to exploring how to release ineffective habits and develop more beneficial ones.

I certainly could comment a lot on how we get influenced or even programmed to adopt certain habits of thinking, presuming, interpreting, and perceiving. I may be quite brief though, for I expect brevity to be most efficient. I want to quickly  get to “what to do instead.”

 

Imagine that there are a few possible social systems that could form (in this case, among humans). Could we rank a few contrasting social systems in regard to how efficiently they influence lots of organisms to generally sacrifice their own interests to promote the stability and expansion of that social system?

At least during certain periods of time, is it logical that any system that produces lots of devotion and conformity and self-sacrifice will generally tend to “outperform” any other systems? Potentially least robust would be systems that effectively promote functional independence and social diversity (and here I do not mean “lip service” to a particular ideal of diversity, but actual diversity or variety of behaviors and ideas), right?

However, I expect that there could be a cycle (or alternating “waves”) in which totalitarian religions and governments do well for a while, followed by times when experimentation and innovation “outperform” (in contrast to being neglected, ridiculed, penalized, or entirely prevented). As a side note, as I see social waves of ridicule of people for allegedly “rejecting science,” I notice that some of the most passionate critics seem to me to cling to programmed dogmas about science that are pseudo-scientific at best.

When the pro-conformity messages extend to ridiculing “all religious traditions,” that is itself to me just another religion of contempt, ridicule, and of course blind conformity.
When the “glorious champions” of mainstream science ridicule the possibility of dissent or controversy among science enthusiasts, that is to me an ironic avoidance of actual scientific inquiry.

 

So, here are some attributes that might fit an “ideally-efficient social system” during certain periods of time at least:

1) the vast majority of the public is far from satisfied (even deeply discontent or in despair), but extremely ashamed of their own experience (and thus chronically anxious about hiding it or reflexively justifying it with socially-acceptable rationalizations, such as being victimized by someone else or by “fluke” circumstances).

2) A popular perceived solution to their shame and anxiety is to devote themselves to reforming the political system toward fulfillment of specific programmed ideals (like “liberty” or “universal basic income”) through specific programmed methods (like voting for a better Prime Minister or donating more money to lobbyists who will finally bribe the ruling Monarch in to “doing the right thing”). Instead of improving their own results through refining their methods, they invest in reforming the policies and results of their rulers. If they dare to talk about “going to another political jurisdiction where the policies are FAR more attractive,” they do so with anxious guilt about “abandoning” the “holy cause” of the government to whom they “owe so much.” (Also, in places where the core principles of national socialism are dominant, the more that a citizen  has been forced to contribute financially to a social welfare program, the more that they hope to receive benefits when they retire… which leads us to the next issue.)

3) the vast majority of the public experience multiple forms of dependency. For instance, they may be chemically dependent on several prescribed medications, psychologically
dependent on future government benefits (like social security), and financially dependent on their current job and credit. Even those who are in fact relatively wealthy will perceive themselves as “close to the edge of embarrassment.”

4) Experiencing themselves as “dependent,” their primary hopes are for first of course defending any present external support structures and second expanding them. So, how will they predictably experience any data suggesting that an “entitlement” program is nearing financial insolvency or political collapse? They will carefully attempt to filter it out (so as not to deal with it). Then, if confronted with it, they will fiercely resist and ridicule it.

5) Being so emotionally dependent on external social validation, they will also devote themselves to rigorously defending their prior choices and their current biases (as in their current patterns of action and their current conceptual presumptions, of which they will likely claim to have none).

 

Next, consider the issue of bias as it applies to prices in investment markets. The more that the social system can get the masses to invest in the same things, the more that prices of those things will soar.

Gamblers gathered around a table playing a card game like poker do not all cheer because the pile of chips in the center of the table is growing to historic extremes.  They each celebrate individually when moving a big pile of chips from the center in to their own pile.

However, mainstream investors have been programmed to relate to rising stock prices as being completely unlike a growing pile of chips in the center of a table of poker players. Until they sell their assets, the current market price of their assets is relatively trivial. Until a poker player moves the chips from the center to their own pile, the number of chips in the center may be intriguing, but not more intriguing than looking at what cards are in your own hand.

Also, poker games require ongoing investments in order to reach the end and a possible “profit.” To continue to have a chance at a big profit, it takes bigger and bigger investments to “keep playing.” What is more important to how much more one should invest in this hand of poker: the amount of chips currently in the center of the table or the “quality” of the combined cards in your hand?

 

So, what action drives up prices of a particular stock? More buying than selling.

What other action drives up prices of stocks? Nothing.

Among stock market investors, everyone is not getting rich together. It is the same with poker players. The growing pile of chips is not everyone getting rich. It is everyone risking more and more.

For stock market investors, they are not all spending their way together to mutual prosperity. They may all be increasing their risk levels. Someone will profit when the masses all dump funds in to a particular stock and drive up prices.

However, the mechanism for their profit is that they will sell to someone else (who provides the wealth that the seller moves from the center of the table to their own private pile). There is no magic creation of value in stock markets. There is simply transfer of wealth, just like at a poker table.

 

As simple as these realities are, like for a ten year-old child to comprehend, try telling it to someone who in recent decades has invested $50k or even $500k in to mutual funds or other stock holdings (or is expecting a pension fund to be solvent in 10 years or 20 years). Their resistance and distress at simple realities can be enormous.

But they are not the extreme case. The extreme case is real estate speculators.

These people might invest several thousand dollars of their own funds while borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars that they promise to repay over a few decades. Then they all pour in to real estate markets and watch the pile at the center of the poker table grow and grow.

They may be taking actions that historically are clearly evident to be occasionally catastrophic to their personal finances (or the finances of the corporation or pension fund that they operate). But they are conceptually “blind” to the basic realities of what is driving up real estate prices.

More buying than selling is the only thing that drives up prices, just the same as how the pile at the center of a poker table grows. Everyone is not making each other rich. Everyone is making each other more and more enthusiastic and confident, but in a delusional way.

When a few people want to sell real estate or stocks, that just creates a tiny influence on overall market values. However, what if 20% of the homeowners in your town all list their home to sell at the same time? What happens to prices?

What if 50% of the homeowners in your town all try to sell at once? What if 100% all try to sell at once?

 

Again, the only source of profit from speculating in real estate or stocks is the next wave of buyers. There is no other source.

If that next wave is smaller than expected (or does not happen at all), then prices drop or even plunge. That is not because the physical real estate lost practical value (like a hurricane ripped off the roof). That is simply because there was never any lasting significance to the current size of the pile of chips in the center of the poker table.

Retirement investors often just dump a portion of their paychecks in to the center of that pile. They may never look at the details of what they are investing in (as in never looking at the cards in their hands). They may not even think about the possibility that the size of the central pile is a totally distinct issue from the quality of the cards on which they (or the managers of the 401K funds) are betting / gambling / investing / speculating.

They simply look a few times a year (or less) at the growing pile of chips in the center. They actually may think that those chips in the center of that poker table are effectively their own private stash of chips.

But all of them cannot be correct about that. They all see how much everyone else has been dumping in to the central pile.

They look at the market value of their real estate. They look at the market value of their IRA or 401K. They look at the amount of chips in the center.

 

 

They are like poker players saying “there are four people playing this hand of poker and I put in about 25% of the chips in to that central pile, so I can count all the chips in the center and divide that number by four and call it mine.” That is delusional. No poker players do that.

But that is basically what stock market investors do. They see current market prices, multiply by that by the number of shares they hold, then think of it all as functionally identical to holding that amount of cash. That is inaccurate (as in delusional).

Everyone cannot sell their stocks at once without market prices collapsing. Same for real estate.

And pension funds have been dumping assets negligently in to stock markets and real estate for decades. But for now, let’s just focus on the detail that I personally see the current situation in investment markets as the biggest opportunity in modern history.

In contrast, the same opportunity that I am very clear about (and have seen lots of statistics to measure how historically extreme it is) will likely be ignored by the vast majority of people already invested in to markets that they HOPE are stable. The more invested financially they are in to any particular market, the more psychologically invested they are likely to be in avoiding or discounting contrary evidence.

The more resistant they are to clear realities (and to clarity about those realities), the more they will avoid or even ridicule those who dare to challenge their presumptions about how all the poker players are going to get rich together. “Look,” they may say, “the central pile is getting bigger, so that proves that everyone at this table is getting richer the more that we move chips out of our own private stash and toward the central pile!”

In fact, they may complain that when their investment strategies clearly do poorly, the problem is that there are too many people who ruined “my finances” by not playing poker at “my” favorite table (whether that table is bitcoin, gold, real estate, tech stocks, marijuana stocks, or something else). Perhaps the real problem (according to them) is that there is more than one table and the government should come in and properly fix this situation, right?

What if the primary function of certain government programs is to present the idea to the masses that the government can fix a certain issue (and will do so in the immediate future)? Again, note that in the prior sentence I made no reference to actually creating any result other than presenting a particular idea.

You could invest in the next promises of political salvation from basic economic realities. Or, you could invest in a partnership with someone who has demonstrated the unusual profitability of applying certain very simple principles.

Will a government reform create a new influence on stock prices to solve the “problem” of the possibility of rapid decline in market values caused by selling? That may be promised. Over and over and over, in direct conflict with an abundance of actual evidence, that idea may be promoted so well that many naive investors
all count the pile of chips in the center of the table as “mine alone.”

If it was a poker game, one may have a pair of threes in their hand and another has a pair of fives. But they do not look at their cards and instead they both say to each other “it is a very complicated thing to evaluate the quality of the cards in one’s hand because the rules of poker are very mysterious, right?”

They just keep dumping money every paycheck in to the central pile. They just keep counting the chips in the center and relating to all of those chips as “mine alone.”

Are they all getting rich together? Or all they all piling in to enormous risks together?

What if there were groups who designed campaigns to promote certain perceptions in the general public? Why would they go to the trouble of creating
huge bureaucracies to publicize certain ideas or presumptions or doctrines or dogmas? Why would they invest huge amounts of money in to those
publicity campaigns?

Are those groups trying to help everyone get rich together? Or, might those groups be investing in the value of biasing the masses?

Who should you and I bet on (or bet against)? For most retirement investors, they have already placed their bets (though they could
easily change their bets). But most of them are remarkably resistant to changing their bets. Most of them will continue to take actions
that generate profits for the prudent and produce catastrophic losses for the rest.

Should it be this way? Oh no, it certainly should not!

It should be whatever way the publicity campaigns program the masses to believe that it should be. Any day now, political salvation will be delivered right to your door like a dead lizard brought by a house cat as a gift to you.

All we need to do is have faith. The new political savior will be victorious, so we must be very patient (and do not do anything to move our investments from the center of the table to our own private stash).

The more you invest in a particular strategy, the more biased you may be to continue to invest in it – as in without regard to the actual results produced by that method (or without regard for contrasting results produced by contrasting methods). In fact, there are no other methods than loyally waiting for the (political) savior to rescue you.

You know the savior that I mean. I obviously do not mean the alleged savior of the idiots who disagree with you. After all, we know that they are idiots as established by the fact that they disagree with you on certain things, right?

So, what exactly shall we do to those who tempt you away from being a glorious patriot who patiently waits for salvation? Those crazy fanatics should be avoided, ridiculed, and then beheaded (though perhaps not in that specific order).

You owe it to society to loyally dump chips in to the center of the poker table as fast as you receive them. You can be part of the glorious achievement of driving up stock prices (or real estate prices, bitcoin prices, etc) to new levels. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing for millions of people to put on their headstones at their gravesites?

In conclusion, there is no such thing as a self-defeating pattern. We will all get rich together by pretending that there is some other source of rising prices than buying. To clarify, by ignoring that delusional idea that buying raises prices, we will all get rich together. In other words, together, we will all get rich by ridiculing a long list of things that obviously do not exist (or at least, according to certain publicity campaigns, should not exist).

 

As a final side note, I have about $4 trillion of real estate that I am selling because it will definitely be worth 6 or 7 trillion really soon, so let me know if you are interested in getting in on the safest and simplest profit in history. After all, real estate prices always rise because they never decline.

Or, if you think stocks are the way to go, I have a few trillion of that stuff and you should buy all of them right away because stocks always rise in value too, right? Or, if you like Barrack Obama, he told me last week that he is pouring his assets in to bitcoin because it may not always rise in value, but it will definitely bring down the Federal Reserve (probably within the next 72 hours), and he just feels an obligation to his children and grandchildren to do the right thing, right?

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