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Why Am I So Lazy? (thecut.com)
472 points by colinprince 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 230 comments



> I see this shit every day in other parents: “She hates to read!” “He’s lazy!” “She’s bad at math!” You are imprisoning your kid with your words, fuckers!

That's spot on. It's really upsetting to hear people say that about children, especially people with authority (parents, grandparents). DON'T DO THAT!

Or, if you have to do that (!?!) at least be positive. Don't tell a kid she's bad at math, tell her she's good at math and you're surprised she doesn't get good grades -- she's a natural! all of this should be sooo easy for her! there must be something holding her back.

People tend to conform to other people's opinions of them; they will get good at math just to match the image we're projecting on them.


In think this has been shown to get worse results than praising effort.

I call my kids out for being lazy when they're being lazy.

Examples from this morning "I don't know what the second rucksack is": meaning "I can't be bothered getting it out the rucksack, you do it for me", my answer "You just want someone else to do it, stop being lazy and get it yourself". Also "I can't do it [take off my boots]": meaning "I don't want to bother, and my hands will get dirty", my answer "why should someone else get their hands dirty, just because you can't be bothered to pull" (then I demonstrated what to do, then mimicked his pretending he couldn't do it in order to demonstrate I knew what he was up to). It's not for nothing my kids get me Darth Vader merchandise!


I think there's an important distinction here: in "stop being lazy" it is a verb, an act which is temporary and can be overcome, while in "he is lazy" it is an adjective, an attribute which can all too easily be taken as an indelible personality trait. I think it's only the latter that can be harmful.


Reminds me of a part from Cryptonomicon:

> '"I don't like the word 'addict' because it has terrible connotations," Root says one day, as they are sunning themselves on the afterdeck. "Instead of slapping a label on you, the Germans would describe you as 'Morphiumsüchtig.' The verb, suchen means to seek. So that might be translated, loosely, as 'morphine seeky' or even more loosely as 'morphine-seeking.' I prefer 'seeky' because it means that you have an inclination to seek morphine."

> '"What the fuck are you talking about?" Shaftoe says.

> '"Well, suppose you have a roof with a hole in it. That means it is a leaky roof. It's leaky all the time—even if it's not raining at the moment. But its only leaking when it happens to be raining. In the same way, morphine-seeky means that you always have this tendency to look for morphine, even if you are not looking for it at the moment. But I prefer both of them to 'addict,' because they are adjectives modiying Bobby Shaftoe instead of a noun that obliterates Bobby Shaftoe."


Though the word "Sucht" may imply that it derives from "suchen", it does not [1][2][3], making the translation "süchtig" into "seeking" just plain wrong, even loosley.

süchtig = addicted, hooked seeking = suchend

[1] https://de.wiktionary.org/wiki/Sucht [2] https://de.wiktionary.org/wiki/suchen [3] https://michelmasters.wordpress.com/category/etymologie-und-...


Plus one for Cryptonomicon reference ... such a great read once you get up to speed with the book. I finished it on my third attempt after quitting twice. Currently stuck on REAMDE ...


Honestly, I didn't find REAMDE to be worth the time. Re-reading Cryptonomicon would be time better spent.


Parts of REAMDE lagged, and it was weirdly paced - there were at least three parts of the book where I was sure I was approaching the conclusion, only to look down and see that I was 20%, 40%, 80% through the book. But overall, I enjoyed it.


I highly recommend SEVENEVES. It's like NS doing "The Martian" but weirder.


> in "stop being lazy" it is a verb

It isn't.


That's very pedantic! While I didn't mean "it" in that statement to refer just to the word "lazy", I suppose it's true that "being lazy" also isn't technically a verb. Other commenters below have found more precise language, but I think a charitable reading of what I wrote is pretty clear in meaning.


How about "stop [acting] lazy"? 'Acting' has more of an implication of something you are putting on that can be easily changed, rather than 'being' which possibly implies something you are, that is not easily changed.


This is deeper down a rabbit hole than I really meant to go, but I personally think "being lazy" is appropriate; I spend time being lazy pretty often, and it isn't an act, it's true laziness, but it's also temporary.


No, but "being lazy" is an action, which can be stopped. It's much harder to stop being lazy if you are being told it's a facet of your identity.


Lazy, here, is a state. It could be understood as a temporary state like being asleep or being hungry, or a facet of one's identity.

"Stop slacking" might be better; it unambiguously refers to current behavior that a person can change immediately.


I thought that maybe another language would have a word for this, and I found

https://spanishto-english.com/spanish-dictionary/haraganear

It calls "being lazy" an intransitive verb


Lazy is an attribute.

"Being lazy" is a transient state.

That's the important distinction here.


Context. Tearing down vs empowering.

I loved volunteering in my son's classroom(s). But I admit to having rage-fits when a beautiful, sweet, talented little 6 year old boy forfeits on a task, telling me "I'm stupid, I can't do anything".

There's no question how his parents talked to him.


I am not sure I would blame the parents. As a kid I would say that I was stupid and couldn't do anything even though everyone around me was telling me how smart I was. I watch the same thing occurring in my six year old daughter now, even though I am sure nobody is saying that to her. It was a confidence thing for me. This didn't change until I was in my teens and was clearly better at certain things than others.


For me it was effort required. I was an early reader, and the first few years of elementary were a breeze, but at some point I decided if I had to work at anything, I didn't want to do it.

If I couldn't immediately answer the question, I felt was just stupid and it wasn't worth my time.

This, in spite of a family insisting I was the greatest.


> This, in spite of a family insisting I was the greatest.

Some would argue it's because of your family insisting you were the greatest, in part.

>At some point I decided if I had to work at anything, I didn't want to do it. If I couldn't immediately answer the question, I felt [it] was just stupid and it wasn't worth my time.

Yep, you are a smart, great person. Your family loves you because of all of the smart, great things you do, in part. If something is hard and doesn't come naturally to you? It must be something stupid and not great. So don't worry, you are still smart and great, and people still love you. Don't try anything hard.

I'm obviously being facetious, but according to some experts (though not all, not even most), that emotional dynamic is encouraged by praising kids for their intelligence or abilities, instead of effort. I don't know how much I believe it, but that type of weird insecurity does seem fairly common among intelligent people who were extremely precocious.


If a kid thinks “smart” means that she knows the answers to lots of things then when she runs into things and doesn’t know the answer, she figures everyone is wrong and she is stupid. When a kid thinks that being smart means being able to sit there and figure things out and ask for help when needed, then she knows what to do to live up to the “smart” expectation and can accept the vision of herself as smart when she runs into something she doesn’t already know.


It's infuriating, but it's also an opportunity to do your little push towards a growth mindset: tell them that then they could practice more so they get better at it.

I'm convinced that the more we all tell kids that practice beats talent by a long shot, the happier our next generation will be. Even if only some people around a kid talk like that I'm convinced it can make a difference, get people into this growth mindset when they're big.

(TED talk about the growth mindset, if the term feels like manager bullshit mumbo jumbo to you: https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing...)


Well, as long as your convinced.


Hm, interesting. I assumed most people agreed by now that this growth mindset thing is real but maybe I missed something.

What would you say to a kid who says "I'm stupid, I can't do anything"?


I was that kid, and my parents and entire family were constantly telling me how smart I was. They were never verbally abusive.


Please note that it can also be his friends. Kids can be real assholes towards one another.


There isn't necessarily no question.

I went through a phase in high school where I was convinced I was very stupid. My parents certainly didn't talk to me that way, though.


You're right, I'm always surprised when I see parents carrying their kid's scooter or bike back from the park. How do they instill grit in children if the "hard part" of things are always done for them (assuming of course the child is actually capable of doing such things). Now they shouldn't flat out call the child lazy, that harms self esteem. But it should be clear that their child is expected to bring home the scooter they were just so happily riding around on.


Toddlers are pretty good at psychological manipulation (combination of genetic cuteness + constant practice) and some parents aren't very resilient against it.

Learning to fake cry to get adults to do things is pretty much the first intentional communication a baby learns as far as I can tell.


I so much agree that praising ability instead of effort is a mistake.

However, a word like "lazy" is a bit tricky. While you are saying "stop being lazy" (meaning - please cease the behavior you are exhibiting in this moment) it can have an undertone of "you are lazy", especially if repeated over the course of days/months/years.

I wonder if there is a better phrasing to respond in a scenario like a kid not searching for his own backpack. Maybe "Do the work!"


Be careful with the coldness.

This may backfire on you down the road.

Your children may stop respecting you as they gain independence.


Yes, but also my role as parent is not necessarily to be liked: I'm concerned to help him develop resilience and self-reliance above my own desire to be liked. It's a delicate balance.


> my role as parent is not necessarily to be liked

I wish more people understood/accepted this.


As long as you do not burn bridges, I think this is spot on. In the long run, when your kids are adults they will like you more for it than if you had been their "friend" during childhood.


Umm my parents had this idea. It seems that me and my siblings internalized the idea that our parents didn't like/care about us and ended up with quite low self esteem. Most of us developed some anxiety disorders or depressive issues. Now my 24 year old brother sits in my parents house and plays DotA all day and my parents just complain about how he needs to get a job.

e: this is after massive academic self sabotage that ended up with him barely graduating from high school on the special ed track despite being probably 130+iq. He would show up late to every class, refuse to do his assignments, and roll his eyes and loudly yawn to mock the teachers the teachers before falling asleep at his desk. Despite this he'd still end up topping out exams in physics, chemistry, etc. But there were other issues at play like my mother being sick our whole childhood and my father having emotional and social problems from an abusive childhood.


"Liked" and "respected" are not the same thing. You can be one, both, or neither. You are right that the role of a parent is not necessarily to be liked, but it is to be respected.


Does anyone care to actually rebut this, or is it just going to be silent downvotes?


I don’t think tough love makes children lose respect for their parents. Anecdotal, but my parents were pretty strict when it came to discipline and habits, and weren’t really warm people, and I have tons of respect for them.

Children lose respect for parents that are inconsistent, don’t have their shit together, or that do literally everything for them.


Telling your kids to knock the shit off and do X is not "being cold."

As pointed out in sibling comments your job as a parent is not to get your children to like you.


Your job is to get your children to behave in a way that keeps _you_ liking _them_.

I don't mean that in the sense of "unconditional love" but a pragmatic day to day annoyance and dissatisfaction that keeps building up. Don't accept that as normal.

If you start resenting the presence or behavior of your children you need to act. Better act long before that.


Kids are little psychopaths when they are young; they will manipulate the shit out of you if you let them. They can bring this behavior into adolescence and adulthood if not corrected. They absolutely need to be told, in no uncertain terms, to cut out the shit every once in a while, that teaches them you aren't going to put up with their manipulation and shows your high expectations for their behavior. It also shows them that there's going to be people in the world (bosses, for example) who are just going to expect something from you. That's not being cold, that's being a damn good parent.

And you know what, they actually do learn over time and their behavior does improve.

Saying "okay darling, I'll take your shoes off," doesn't built respect, quite the opposite, it teaches them to continue to manipulate you and that leads to a massive amount of disrespect.

The person I respect most in life is my grandma and she is the only one who called out the bullshit in me when she saw it. Same with my baby cousin (I'm more than 20 years older than him), he's a teenager now and I'm his favorite person in the world and I was the only person who called him out and let him know I expected him to behave around me, his parents let him walk all over them. He certainly had and still has zero respect for his parents.

Speaking of my baby cousin, his dad once asked me why I correct his grammar. I told him I didn't mind how he talks around his friends, but I wanted him to learn to speak correctly for the times he needs to portray himself professionally, like a job interview.


Yes, not screwing up your children is a an excellent goal for a parent, if not a moral imperative.

But the truth is that parenting is a huge messy business that never goes according to plan. You will screw up your kids in subtle ways, even if you avoid the major landmines. This is not due to any failing beyond being a human being that was also raised by fallible parents. The other parents on HN will appreciate this: how many times have you heard the words coming out of your mouth and thought "Oh my god. I swore I would never say that to my child! I sound just like my mother(or father)!" Way too many times, lol. It's completely unavoidable. This thought is usually followed by a small voice which sheepishly admits "So that's why they said that to me!"

As the article says, it is truly up to each one of us to remove the imaginary shackles of self-definition. We, as children, are willing co-conspirators in the building of our own false self-image. It is necessary to have a rigid model of ourselves in childhood? I guess that's debatable, but I would argue that it probably is. I think it gets us through to adulthood, where it can and should be gently discarded as a tool (like bicycle training wheels) that was once useful but no longer is.


Parenting is a huge messy business that never goes according to plan

Totally, and that goes for systems as well as children.


> This thought is usually followed by a small voice which sheepishly admits "So that's why they said that to me!"

It’s amazing how a lot of my childhood memories started making sense after I had a kid.


I don't think you should ever say that someone is naturally good, "a natural" or anything like that. Instead kids should be praised for effort, for trying and having a growth mindset.

If we only comment on how inherently good they are they might get lazy as whenever they get bad grades excuses like "I wasn't trying" works. It doesn't matter if the parents continue being surprised of the bad grades, the answer can also be "I was just lazy".

This is exactly what happened to me and I'm still trying to reprogram myself.


The name for this topic is fixed vs growth mindset:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindset#Fixed_and_growth

You'll see that and related phrases as buzzwords sometimes.


> This article may lend undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, or controversies.

Psychologists can't replicate Carol Dweck's 'Growth Mindset' claims: https://www.buzzfeed.com/tomchivers/what-is-your-mindset

> The findings of Dweck’s key study have never been replicated in a published paper, which is noteworthy in so high-profile a work. One scientist told BuzzFeed News that his attempt to reproduce the findings has so far failed. An investigation found several small but revealing errors in the study that may require a correction.

It is likely another hypothesized model from the social psychology field that doesn't actually exist, in the same category as Stereotype Threat and Power Posing.


I don't know why this was downvoted. Dweck's claims are the subject of enormous scepticism in the psychology community. Her data is a bit too neat, her effect sizes are consistently stronger than we'd expect, there's a complete lack of replication. It's not being rejected out of hand, but there are a lot of red flags.


On a personal level, I just find life better since my mindset has shifted from static to growth. I used to consider myself only good at logic and programming, and I would not even attempt anything remotely artistic, literary or athletic. I would rationalize this as being part of my identity, and it would conveniently allow me to avoid confronting failure or getting out of my comfort zone. Changing this view of myself has been liberating honestly.


Thanks for the article. It appears that the field is rife with issues, but I imagine it's a difficult topic and a young field. Another bogus model from the article is positive psychology.


I don't know why these terms are thrown out like they're useless, as they pretty much explain most people's way of thinking. If you give up you have a fixed mindset, where you simply think you weren't born to be good enough to know something. Whereas a growth mindset will try to break down the problem into smaller chunks and try to figure them out first, and grow their knowledge.

It often just takes mentioning these concepts to someone for them to have an epiphany and get on the growth mind track.


I'm my own sample but when I was growing up and got C's and lower my parents' consistent message was that I had certain 'gifts' but it required me to put in the effort in order to reap the benefits of those gifts.

I'm not sure they meant it this way but now that I'm older I realize that those 'gifts' could simply have been a healthy brain, free of any obvious learning disability, chronic fatigue or ADHD-like symptoms. And lo and behold, when I did in fact put in the effort I'd get Bs and As.

As a parent I use that approach with my son and, so far, it seems to be working.


Sometimes it's hard to avoid because it's fairly evident. For example, if you have two kids and get them both instruments for Christmas and a day later one is playing little songs and the other can hardly make noise, it's hard to come up with any other explanation than "your sister just picked it up more quickly than you did".


This idea, while tempting to lend weight to on the surface, is highly overblown. Stereotype Threat doesn't hold up to repeated testing.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rabble-rouser/201512/is...

And what's more, this "grit" trait, the propensity to follow through and get stuff done, appears to be a set of inherited traits as well.

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-limits-of...


Wow. That description of the Seahawks milieu says to me that it's not developing traits like grit and optimism, but rather selecting for them. I wonder if intervention studies for this sort of thing ought to be done with intention-to-treat analysis, just like with drug studies [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intention-to-treat_analysis


Don't lie to your children about their strengths and weaknesses. Help them appreciate that everyone is good at some things, not so good at others, and teach them to figure out which is which, improve what is important to them, and choose their own path through life. Not only will this make them happier with themselves, it will empower them to improve, and help them appreciate the differences of everyone surrounding them.


It seems like a tricky balance to me. I think even adults are quite bad at telling the difference between "I'm not good at this" and "this is a very hard thing". In other words, I fear the message you're suggesting would lead to the list of "things I'm good at" just being all the easy things, and "things I'm not so good at" being all the hard things. This is the classic "I'm bad at math" problem - maybe some people are, but I mostly hear it from people who have bumped up against its fundamentally difficult concepts and have drawn a premature conclusion.

I myself did this after struggling with a really good (ie. hard) chemistry class in high school. I avoided it in college until I was forced to take it, and found that I loved it. I have always regretted drawing a premature conclusion about my aptitude for chemistry.

I don't think you're really wrong, I just think it's much harder than you're making it sound, and I wonder if the cure is worse than the disease.


> Don't tell a kid she's bad at math, tell her she's good at math and you're surprised she doesn't get good grades

I think one must be careful with this. I'd use that approach if my kid got a single bad grade among otherwise great grades in math. But I wouldn't tell her that if I knew she wasn't good at math - that would just be dishonest, and kids can tell.

My approach with my daughter is to praise her for things I've observed she's good at, and to make comments about the thing itself when I see her struggling. When she struggles with something, I encourage her by telling her that the thing itself is hard, instead of downplaying her ability to accomplish it. When applicable, I tell her it's hard even for me, as in "it's hard even for a 30-year old grown ass dude like me, so don't fret over it."

And finally, if I see her struggling with something I believe she shouldn't at her age (e.g. handwriting), I look up resources that will help me help her, or ultimately seek external help.


This touches on some personal experience:

Since I'm reading HN of course I'm good at math. However, I don't really believe there is any such thing -- rather I had some good teachers, and father who knew math and who was willing to invest time explaining it to me, and something of a desire to "understand everything" which of course includes (starts with) Mathematics. Deep down I guess I think that perhaps when you get to Hilbert's problems _then_ you might be talking "hard math" but until then it really isn't that much to get your head around. You just need a decent teacher, time and effort.

So now I have two sons. Both I will say struggled somewhat with Math up to 7th grade when they hit a good teacher. By "struggled" I mean they got constant A/A+ but I had to put in significant work (as did they) to get them there. First son now in 9th grade gets continuous A+ without any help from me. Sometimes I ask him questions about what he's studying, and try to expand his horizons accordingly. The other son in 7th grade is still somewhat struggling but I can feel he is getting to a turning point.

Second son would often become disillusioned and say "I'm just not good at math". I can just imagine teachers and family members nodding in agreement. I didn't do that : I told him he just doesn't understand it yet but he will.

Anyway, my concern in this is : how many kids end up believing they're "not good at math" due to their teachers, family and environment? How many scientists and engineers (or just members of the public who understand statistics and interest rates...) are we losing because the idea that "math is hard" is so widely held and propagated like a virus?


> Since I'm reading HN of course I'm good at math.

I read HN, I assure I am not good at math. :P

Note that a) your sons are linked to you genetically; b) your sons' genetics likely differ. You can't actually derive any useful information from this anecdote alone.

I think it's a mixed issue. There most likely are differences in effectiveness of picking up math in people, and they may be significant, but the environment is making them too significant and creating unnecessary thresholds (i.e., if you can't do X math by age Y, there's a problem).

From what I've seen, most institutions want the most easily teachable students, which automatically selects for all ducks to be in the row, regardless of whether these factors are fatally influential. So if someone just has an easier time with math, for whatever reason, they'll have an easier time in general, because they require less work from institutions.

I think we have very little data of what good teaching can do because it largely doesn't exist, so mostly we're just looking at flat ability.


> You can't actually derive any useful information from this anecdote alone.

Understood. I think the information I feel I can derive is this : with sufficient effort you can turn a "can't do math" person into one that can, modulo your theory that there are some "untransformable" people.

>I think we have very little data of what good teaching can do because it largely doesn't exist

True, although in the case of my kids' teachers I can immediately tell which of them has any real appreciation for Mathematics and it seems to correlate strongly with outcome. For example our schools like to hire English teachers to teach math in middle school. That doesn't seem to work out so well.


Tons -- if you want to look at the evidence, look at the gender and ethnic makeup of programs for kids gifted in math in the US. First-generation kids are deeply overrepresented, and by the third generations kids of any ethnicity are all equally bad at math in the US. Cultural attitudes have a lot of influence on people's approach to mathematics.

Moreover, in my experience I see lots of people in the US say "I'm bad at math" if they are not good at algebra. Algebra is not math. Neither are fractions. Geometry is part of math. So are combinatorics, logic, numerical analysis, etc.


Do you mean "school algebra" is not part of math? I'm pretty sure "Algebra" is : groups, fields, rings, whatever.


Actually the thing to do is remove the violence of the language. Simply acknowledge whatever situation with no subjective statements. “Your math grade is a C. Would you like tutoring?”

Violent language like your examples hurt people. Those hurts sum to resent and ultimately more violence. The following book goes into this in depth: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Marshall B. Rosenberg, Arun Gandhi


“No.”

(Goes off and plays video games.)


Yes with kids you probably have to carry it out further. The point, I think, is to remove emotionally charged or conclusive statements. “I know you like the ability to afford a new computer every other year. That will be difficult if you don’t have the technical knowledge for a higher paying job.” Etc


Has this technique been proven to be successful? Otherwise I don't think it's right to call it "the thing to do".


My experience so far as a parent is that there is no such thing as universally appropriate parenting technique. Every child has their own personality and responds to different things in different ways.

Still, I prefer to use techniques that don't make my children feel unhappy, for obvious reasons. First the carrot, then the stick.


People indicate the methods from that book saved their marriages. I’m not aware of any studies because I don’t have time to become an expert on this. Violence comes in many forms and diminishes peoples’ autonomy. That’s almost the definition of violence. So remove the diminishing language as a start.


I would like to add that praising can backfire as well.

For example, if a child gets a good grade and you praise its intelligence instead of their work it seems that they won't put in the effort next time.[1]

1: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007....


I think this was me. Being praised as an intelligent kid, thought I didn't need to practice or study as hard. Being smug, possible narcissistic tendencies, thinking you're better than other kids. Then getting frustrated when other kids who shouldn't be smart do better etc. It can develop into a manipulative and damaged personality.


Ugh, yes. When I was little my parents kept telling me I'm smart so every time I got a bad grade they told me I could have done better (but didn't show me how) and whenever I was sure I was going to get a bad grade because I knew I didn't fully understand something or hadn't prepared well enough they just reassured me I'd be fine because I'm smart.

At the time all I would have wanted to hear is "it's okay if you don't do well on this one" (because it'd have taken the pressure off when I knew I couldn't do well) but what I really would have needed to hear would have been "yes, you're not well prepared, so you might not do well on this one but we'll help you prepare for next time so you won't be in this situation again".

I mostly got by avoiding homework and underperforming (I had the talent to do well enough but didn't put in the effort to take advantage of that) but my parents only intervened when I was at risk of having to repeat a year -- and at that point the only way to make progress was rote learning, which I hated and was (and still am) extremely bad at (because I had never done it before).

So IOW you may think your kid's a genius but the important thing is not to let them rest on their laurels. Don't obsess over grades but make sure your kid participates in class and does their homework like they should or else they'll skip on that out of habit and will be woefully underprepared when they run into situations where they can't get by on simply being a "genius" (which may be sooner than you think).


I agree. Another failure mode is that of my sister in law. She spent ten years throwing pens, pencils, paper, Lego, books, all in the bin because they make a mess.

Everything creative was an inconvenience.

Her eldest is in and out of prison. Her daughter was pregnant at 14. Her youngest is violent and has already got a social worker.

If every creative or intellectual outlet is taken away from someone or they are demotivated, what is left?

It makes me sad when I hear of parents prescribing anything negative.


As a chid I was told I was smart, as you suggested and to fit the description of what I was labeled, I resorted to chronically lying about my skills to measure up.

There's no sliver bullet to this problem.


Wouldn't positive comments imprison also? You have to live up to the image that has been created. I know lots of Indian kids are drepressed and driven to suicide. My high school roommate commited suicide due to this.


Yes. Overly positive comments can have a negative effect as well, if not accompanied by the reassurance that it's ok not to be good at everything/screw up sometimes.

Also, a positive comment for consolation purposes ("but you're so good at it!" when they actually aren't) is dishonest and kids can tell (I know I could at least, and I know my daughter can).

There's a really good book that talks about this (among other things) called How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk [1].

[1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005GG0MXI/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?...


I try (although its hard) to avoid both positive and negative "x is y" phrases. Instead I try to frame it as growth mindset.

"Wow, you have learned so much math this year because you worked really hard."


Do you have kids?


My wife is very similar to the person who wrote this article. She will not do anything she can procrastinate. Nothing. I personally think its some sort of insidious depression. It's destroyed our lives together, and I'm on the verge of asking for a divorce for the... 3rd time, except this time, I'm going to just file.

It is absolutely impossible to have the energy for both people in a relationship. My health is suffering from the stress. Things are so bad that I have to make sure she eats.

Nobody but me knows this side of her, she projects an image of a healthy, successful person.

edit: A marriage is a zero-sum game. Any chore she doesn't do, I am forced to. I've gradually had to give up everything that makes me happy to fund this depression of hers. I used to be a serious lifter, I was well into writing two novels, I did electronics projects, had an active night life, went to concerts. Now, I'm just a robot that does chores.


I'd say that a bad marriage is a zero-sum game, but a good marriage results in both sides ending up better than they started.

I don't know you or your wife and can't presume to tell you how or whether to fix the situation (assuming it could be), but the lesson I learned long ago regarding relationships is to honestly evaluate yourself and define your capabilities and needs (not wants, but the things you absolutely require) and to either have your partner do the same (or less optimally evaluate them yourself as best you can). If you have a need that cannot be realistically satisfied by the _current_ capabilities of your partner, or vice versa, then end the relationship as quickly as you can. Attempting to have a relationship with someone who does not satisfy your needs, or you cannot satisfy theirs, is a doomed effort and the longer you remain in the relationship the worse and more hostile it will become. Walk away as friends before you build up resentments and end up leaving as enemies.


This is great advice thank you.


> Things are so bad that I have to make sure she eats.

That definitely sounds like depression.

I think I know what the answer is going to be, but have you approached her about seeing a therapist?


Thousands of times. I have tried everything. She lies to the counselors/therapists and herself I suspect. She has a deep need to protect this behavior.


I have suffered from depression (and still do sometimes) so believe me when I say: unless you're a trained professional, it's not your job to be her therapist. If she actively sabotages her therapy and her therapists can't figure that out, either her therapists are bad at their jobs or she's not yet in a place where she accepts that she needs help.

For me it took a long time to acknowledge that it's not just my personality, it's a mental health issue and that there are people I could talk to about it (and that it needs to be an outsider). But most importantly I had to come to this realisation myself. You need to be willing to cooperate and to understand that this is a problem you want help solving.

Sometimes the risk of losing the person you love is what it takes to make that step. But sometimes people need even more than that.


Only trained lifeguards should try to save drowning victims, lest they pull their would-be rescuers in after themselves. Godspeed on your third attempt.


You're enabling your wife's depression. Stay married. Just stop enabling her. Be loving and respectful, but stop helping her. In the short run she'll likely flip out on you. It will take a few months to get results. Don't tell her what you're doing, just do it. Don't be tough with her, don't tell her what to do, just go back to being happy and taking care of yourself.


Tried that. Believe me. I appreciate the advice though.


I'm so sorry. Why did you go back to covering for her?


Because love is irrational? Because I'm an idiot? Because when we seperated she got herself into a horrible amount of trouble which to me proved that she can't make it in the world without someone looking out for her. Because how am I going to move on and be happy while she's suffering even if its by her own hand? And because even if I could live without her and I can-- our daughter, cannot.


That's rough. If it's any consolation, I was in the same boat. Hard not to enable when there are small people to look out for. I've only stopped enabling recently, but it seems to be working so far. I hope you can find something that works for you and your kid.


> Successful

Does she show motivation 9-5? If so there might be an answer that's more elaborate than "broad chemical imbalance," and a solution a lot more emotionally tractable than a divorce.


I don't know since I can't observe her at work but by her reviews are good. She's just getting her career started (in her early 30s). So time will tell.

But yes, there's another dimension to it. In her mind she classifies things as helpless and not helpless, and has incredible compassion for helpless things but very little for everything else. I do not understand this.


I am like your wife, a chronic procrastinator. It is almost like my mind gets stuck in a local minima that is hard to get out of. Tasks just seem harder than they are (before I start).

Some things that help me: exercise, meditation, minimalism, routine (kaizen). These help to get me out of the procrastination zone.

A small question though: how does she increase chores compared to if you were living alone? is she very messy, or is it just annoying that you are doing the work for two people?


Hi, thanks for your reply. When we lived alone we lived like animals. I did every chore I could but, one can only do so much. I was supporting the family, every night, I came home, cooked dinner and did chores until I literally would collapse. Weekends, Sat I'd do yard work, laundry, pay bills, random repairs to the house, cars etc. Sunday morning, hit up Costco, grocery store, get home, do more laundry, if I'm lucky, an hour in the gym. Suddenly its 1:00am.

Ironically, living alone was much easier. The wife unit has good intentions but doesn't recognize her own limitations-- which are severe. When I lived alone I could socialize. I had a cleaning service, my wife didn't' like this for some reason. She insisted I fire them but didn't pick up the slack despite being unemployed at the time. I had fewer dishes and shopping to do, less wear and tear on the house. One less car to do maintenance on. I could go out with friends We had to move in with my parents--after two years of three to 5 hours sleep, my brain was cooked.

To answer your question... She is beyond messy. Clothes were strewn next to the clothes hamper. I bought her a trashcan with an automatic lid and set it 9 inches from where she sat most of the day. She stacked her trash on the trash can.

You cant make this stuff up. I love her to death which is admittedly a dumb thing to do. But, this self-protection circuit in my brain kicks in and says "This individual will drag you to hell, don't let her."

Two days ago I sent her this text, because we can't talk anymore, "I’m at my breaking point. Again. 10hth time in our marriage at least? I’d like to discuss our options at this point."

She's put in a lot of effort since then (made dinner for the first time in a year). But, it's all an illusion. As soon as I decide I can live in the marriage, she'll revert to her pitiful state.


Sounds like my first wife. Second wife is so much better with lessons learned from first.


It takes two to tango.

Nobody mentioned this so I'll do the honors: instead of looking at saving your wife, look at saving yourself, starting with 'what part me, made this at all possible?'

Folks who get taken advantage of almost universally have low self esteem - don't worry about trying to help every leech that's sucking the blood off of you - try moving out of the swamp.

The swamp is low self esteem, the leeches are people who also have low self esteem and engage in self destructive behaviour, dragging others down with them.


From the little "Sloth" wrote, it sounds like it's possible she might have undiagnosed ADHD.

As someone with ADHD myself, I instantly recognized the inability to get myself to start working on something until the last minute (even if I really, really want to do it) and the piles clothes (despite my propensity for cleanliness). Another hallmark of ADHD that many don't know about is bursts of almost manic productivity for random tasks or when under extreme pressure.

If she does have ADHD, Polly's answer is both unhelpful and somewhat dangerous.


I think that's a little extreme and reminds me of the problematic trend of giving psychiatric medication to anyone who asks for it. I mean, yes, there's a chance they 'actually have ADHD', but there's also a much higher chance they are one of the tremendous number of people who have trouble getting themselves to do things that aren't urgent. I'm on that list too. So are lots of people. Sloth sounds so incredibly normal to me.


Everyone procrastinates sometimes, the difference with ADHD is the frequency and severity. So if this person procrastinates every day of her life, and it consistently impacts her functioning and relationships, it becomes out of the norm.

ADHD is actually decently prevalent, but often missed in girls who are not disruptive in class. Often they can get by with a strong support structure (parents and partners) but struggle with the independence of adulthood, which OP described. The risks of untreated ADHD can be far more destructive than many people realize (car crashes, depression, financial insecurity) so it's at least worth evaluating for in cases like this.


I'm not sure "actually have ADHD" is a thing. (Edit: Emphasis on "actually", not on "ADHD". ADHD is a thing. In between "really do have it" and "really don't have it", though, is a huge grey area, and that's what I'm getting at.)

I mean, there are certainly people (maybe even most people) who function better on stimulants. And there are certainly people who don't function well when not on stimulants. But it's all a set of sliding scales, there's no clear line with "has ADHD" on one side and "just lazy" on the other.


The science is not on your side for this view. I suggest you read up to get a more informed view, Dr. Russell Barkley is a great resource, has videos all over youtube.

In the meantime, here's a quote from "International Consensus Statement on ADHD" (Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, Vol. 5, No. 2, June 2002)

> We cannot overemphasize the point that, as a matter of science, the notion that ADHD does not exist is simply wrong. All of the major medical as- sociations and government health agencies recognize ADHD as a genuine disorder because the scientific evidence indicating it is so overwhelming.


I'm not saying ADHD doesn't exist or that it's not a genuine disorder. I'm saying that there's a huge no-mans-land between "you're fine" and "woah yeah you clearly have ADHD and we should fix this."


Indeed there is, and the way psychiatry approaches it in terms of diagnosis isn't really good, either. There is a long but very insightful article on this topic that was recently featured on HN, by Scott Alexander, who's a practicing psychiatrist:

http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/12/28/adderall-risks-much-mor...

Key quote for this topic:

> But “ability to concentrate” is a normally distributed trait, like IQ. We draw a line at some point on the far left of the bell curve and tell the people on the far side that they’ve “got” “the disease” of “ADHD”. This isn’t just me saying this. It’s the neurostructural literature, the the genetics literature, a bunch of other studies, and the the Consensus Conference On ADHD. This doesn’t mean ADHD is “just laziness” or “isn’t biological” – of course it’s biological! Height is biological! But that doesn’t mean the world is divided into two natural categories of “healthy people” and “people who have Height Deficiency Syndrome“. Attention is the same way. Some people really do have poor concentration, they suffer a lot from it, and it’s not their fault. They just don’t form a discrete population.

(Emphasis mine - pointing out the sentence which, in original article, is basically one big collection of links to references backing it up.)


I didn't care for that article much, though there's a lot of good information in there. Why don't I care for it? Because it looks at ADHD only in terms of the capability for concentration. There are more symptoms and co-morbid pathologies associated with ADHD, and the ability to concentrate is only one of them.

The biggest one that bugs me is the inability to automatically associate actions with their outcomes if the two are separated by more than a few minutes or hours. Associating a huge spending spree with the inability to eat in the future is nearly impossible, both in planning forward and looking back. Medication doesn't directly help with this, it requires explicit thinking through of the potential outcomes (which is in turn hampered by the primary inattentivity component of ADHD).

Procrastination is, oddly enough, borne out of this, and not inattentivity. Until the consequence is imminent, the value of doing an action is so close to 0 to not matter.

The other pathology which is also little discussed is hyper focus. A seeming benefit of having ADHD, until you realize there is little conscious control over what that focus latches onto. Again, medication doesn't help much here either, other than potentially limiting the topics you can hyperfocus on.

I guess I just ask that people keep in mind that there's more to ADHD than having trouble concentrating on a particular task.


Is there a good way at all to tackle the issues you mention? I ask because, well, I kind of recognize myself in this description.


Seeing a psychiatrist and a counselor.

Honestly, a mental health professional is the only one who can really provide the tools which fit your needs. There's a lot of coping mechanisms which can to be employed, from making extensive use of reminders, alarms, and schedules, to setting up routines, and sometimes just to acknowledge that your brain doesn't quite work right so you don't feel bad about having to work around it.

A psychiatrist is also the one who can prescribe medication. Those meds can help with the concentration issues - can help make it possible to even invoke the behavioral modifications - but medication alone doesn't solve the problems faced by someone with ADHD. I recommend a video [0] by Jessica at "How to ADHD" to see why medication can matter. Hell, I recommend that channel to anyone curious about ADHD - her story of coming to her current point in life is a great example of how medication alone is not enough.

Feeling like a constant failure has its own costs, which is why I also mention the counselor. The right one is going to be your non-judgemental sounding board for the myriad of frustrations in life. They are also cheaper than a psychiatrist, see fewer people overall, and can help take the tools provided by a psychiatrist and personalize them even further. You can even start with a counselor and find a psychiatrist they recommend from there.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD9qK8-sMGQ


As someone who has struggled (very, very hard---high test scores, terrible grades, the whole bit) with this, I have recently taken the following approach:

1. The battleground is not a single choice or moment, but all of them. 2. There is a tendency to conflate results with character. If I have not done laundry and am wearing dirty clothes, am I a) a slovenly person, or b) a clean person who has not done laundry recently? The realization that I had no deep, abiding character flaws to address, that I could shortcut the entire "problem" of "fundamental laziness" by achieving the administrivia of life, was/is extremely encouraging. 3. The concept of "time capital" has been a good hook on which to congratulate myself, giving dopamine rewards. Basically: washed dishes are a form of wealth just as much as is money in the bank.

4. Reminding myself that no spectactular effort is reuired, that rather consistent and low-intensity effort is the key, has been helpful. I've always been good at high-intensity tasks---sports, outdoors, crunch time---and much worse at low-intensity ones. On the one hand it is something of a "life sentence" to realize that there are fewer opportunities to goof around, but it is ameliorated somewhat by realizing that the sentence is light labor, not hard stuff.

I would love to talk more about this---my life has had significant difficulties because of "laziness" and seems to be turning around at the moment---but some of those elementary tasks call right now.

Edit: Later. One of the big obstacles, I think is the ethereal nature of the problem. How does one "do" "not-laziness?" What is the momentary choice one can make that will beat the thing once and for all? And what possible paychological reward can there be for staving the spectre off for one more day, knowing that it will simply return tomorrow?

The 80-iq change of perspective, imo, is the mental action of asking oneself: "What can I do in this moment that will advance my goals?" (as opposed to: what can I do now that would match up with my mental image of what a "disciplined person" would do?) This gives you something concrete you can do now, and frames things as to offer a carrot rather than a stick.

One notable thing about this approach is that it often results in less work, as you realize that such-and-such task, while "virtuous," will not actually help you advance your station in life. This can actually be somewhat terrifying, as you worry that this is actually some trick you are playing to get out of work. I guess the sum-up is: don't fall into the trap of morally judging yourself as "industrious" or "lazy." The virtues to cultivate are judgment and efficacy, exercised consistently, not "industriousness."


For me, I will often find the smallest actions I can do that will advance a larger task and the momentum is enough to push me.


I would argue that there is a discrete population with the 'disease' of ADHD, in the same way that doorways are a discrete difficulty for people who are very tall. One must either move into a house with very tall doorways, or learn to stoop. In any case, you'll probably often bang your head. This analogises to ADHD because failure to meet social and societal expectations often has real (and occasionally very painful) consequences.

'Attention' is normally distributed, but the environments that smoothly manage different degrees of attention are not.


That's a good point. A trait might be normally distributed, but (trait × some environment factor) may have a bimodal distribution (or multimodal, or something else entirely). Haven't considered it, thanks!


> 'Attention' is normally distributed, but the environments that smoothly manage different degrees of attention are not.

Does that mean we should be prescribing amphetamine to those who don't function well in the available environments?


That is the current basis for prescribing them:

> A. A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development [...]

> B. Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present prior to age 12 years.

> C. Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms are present in two or more settings (e.g., at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).

> D. There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, academic, or occupational functioning.

(DSM V: https://images.pearsonclinical.com/images/assets/basc-3/basc...)

In one form or another, person X environment has been central to the definition of mental health for most of modern psychology, going back at least as far as Freud(maybe)'s "to love and to work".

Or, to put it another way, does that mean we should be prescribing glasses to those who don't see well in the available environments?


Perhaps "making available" is better than "prescribing"?


This isn't a problem specific to ADHD or psychiatry. Many conditions are similarly defined by an arbitrary cutoff of symptom severity, or where a given quantity falls in terms of percentile or standard deviation in some reference population. I think the underlying problem is the orthodoxy of medical billing/insurance that says every treatment has to be associated with a distinct condition indicated by a particular diagnostic code.


Do you think that in fifty, maybe one-hundred, years people will look back at our present day understand of psychiatry and shake their heads.


I don't know how we'll view psychology, but I believe we'll look back at a number of psychological illnesses and realize that they're a result of our environmental factors much more so than they are naturally-occurring diseases. ADHD is a prime example. I believe modern life is highly over-stimulating us and a sizable subset of our society has trouble coping. Was ADHD a problem before the advent of TV, cell phones, the internet and our 24/7, immediately-available society? It's possible that people used to just go undiagnosed, but I believe it just wasn't as much of a problem as it is today.

Concentration is a skill that can be practiced. I've struggled with it myself and have found that meditation is far more effective than medication in dealing with it. Moreover, when I do retreats or backpacking trips where I'm cut off from the digital world, all my concentration issues disappear. It's made me believe that modern psychiatry is myopiclly focused on identifying and treating symptoms and largely ignores the avoidable causes of those symptoms.


> It's made me believe that modern psychiatry is myopiclly focused on identifying and treating symptoms and largely ignores the avoidable causes of those symptoms.

I disagree with that, even though I agree a lot of mental issues are heavily environmental. The reason psychiatry tries to work around them is that the environment of modern civilization is what we have, it's not going to change (easily), and in the meantime, people need to live somehow. Backpacking retreats are a cool hack if you can afford it regularly, but most people can't - they get maybe one longer stretch of free time a year.

The environment we live in is wholly unlike the environment we're adapted to. I'm not sure if we can or want to get meaningfully closer to the old days to alleviate our mental pains - for all our adaptations, the ancestral environment sucked hard compared to today, and modern civilization fixed at least as much as it broke.


Maybe. But it seems to me that the problems in psychiatry (and many other disciplines) have less to do with understanding, and more to do with incentives within the system. Nonsense reigns between populist regulators, greedy companies and individuals just trying to cover their asses while they go through their day.


Kind of a given. Can you think of something from the 1960s (let alone 1910s) that we look back on and think "wow, yeah, they had that figured out"? Even if it was mostly understood, the difference between "mostly understood" and actually understood is huge.


It is. Sure there is a spectrum, like autism is a spectrum, but if you're insinuating that ADHD isn't real you're wrong. The medical field has a pretty good consensus about this one.


I'm not. I'm saying there's no clear cutoff, not that it's not a thing.


That's just normal, not ADHD (which is way too overdiagnosed at this point and would fit 90% of people I meet).

People are lazy, but they also do not want to completely ruin their life, so they will wait until they realize they cant wait anymore, doing the minimum amount at the last minute to meet the goal.


What do you think ADHD is? It's defined by its diagnostic criteria, and those are very vague. There's certainly no consensus that ADHD is anything other than a term to describe the lowest performers on the metrics which Adderall improves. ADHD is definitely not some kind of genetic defect of the prefrontal cortex or anything of that sort.


Being lazy is not an attention deficit or hyperactivity. Most people can focus just fine, as they do when the deadline approaches. The situation described in the parent post is an issue of motivation and discipline, not attention.

To be more clear as to the diagnosis: there is a definite difference between people who don't want to pay attention to certain tasks (the vast majority) and those who cant (the minority that do have legitimate ADHD).


You're all wrong wrt. the scientific consensus :). The current consensus is that the ability to concentrate for longer periods on all the bullshit our modern lives are throwing at us is a normally distributed trait in the population, and ADHD is an arbitrary cutoff on that distribution. See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16090523 for details.


I'm not sure where I was off - having the ability to concentrate is different than using that ability, and many people are really in the latter group because of a lack of proper discipline and priorities but end up getting diagnosed all too easily as the former.


You're making a moral judgement here, which is both unproductive and hinges on a convenient separation between "ability to concentrate" and "proper discipline and priorities" as if they were orthogonal.

A premise for Adhd is that, for some reason, developement of the latter is delayed causing an apparent lack of the former. The inpairment is in executive control itself, which is why your argument actually is in favour of diagnosis.


I don't think I believe in the distinction. "Lack of discipline" is a good descriptive synonym of not being able to focus on unpleasant tasks, yes, but as a way of pointing out a perceived flaw of character, it doesn't feel very useful. After all, a person that "lacks proper discipline" isn't usually able to fix it themselves. You can't "just get" disciplined.

Also having the capacity to concentrate but refraining from using it is an active choice; people doing that won't be complaining that they can't focus.


What do you think ADHD is? You say it's "definitely not some kind of genetic defect of the prefrontal cortex or anything of that sort," but there's been growing evidence of exactly that for a long time now:

> New high-resolution, three-dimensional maps of the brains of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) indicate significant and specific anatomical differences within areas of the brain thought to control attentional and inhibitory control systems, compared with brain scans of children without ADHD... The reductions in size of prefrontal regions observed by Sowell and her colleagues are consistent with other reports of reduced frontal lobe volumes in children with ADHD. The more advanced imaging methods and analysis used in the current study, however, suggest that those reductions are localized to more inferior aspects of the prefrontal regions than was previously realized.[1]

> In instances where heredity does not seem to be a factor, difficulties during pregnancy, prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco, premature delivery, significantly low birth weight, excessively high body lead levels, and postnatal injury to the prefrontal regions of the brain have all been found to contribute to the risk for ADHD to varying degrees.[2]

> Recently, neuroimaging has led to several important advances in the understanding of the neurobiology underlying the clinical picture of ADHD, and demonstrates a clear brain basis to the disorder in regions involved in attention, and executive and inhibitory control. Furthermore, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has provided evidence that intracortical inhibition, as indexed by the immature ipsilateral motor cortex, normalises with psychostimulant treatment. There is an exciting confluence between emerging studies in basic neurobiology and the genetic, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological analyses of ADHD.[3]

[1] https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/pn.39.1.0...

[2] http://www.chadd.org/understanding-adhd/about-adhd/the-scien...

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3016271/


> ADHD is definitely not some kind of genetic defect of the prefrontal cortex or anything of that sort.

Not in the sense that it's definitively tied to a specific pathway disrupted by this or that SNP, but it appears to be heritable in much the same way that height is heritable.


I didn't see your comment when I posted mine, but that was my take as well (another ADHD person here). I hope she doesn't though, because if so she will be terribly disappointed in herself when she loses enthusiasm and is back to square one 2 weeks later. She's already beating herself over what she perceives as a flaw of laziness (despite being educated, employed and mostly functional).

At a point the bigger problem with adult ADHD is how much you end up beating yourself up. It's a good thing to try to keep yourself honest and accountable for your actions as an adult, but when your brain just doesn't cooperate you need to learn to forgive yourself and depend on external systems where possible. I dont think this advice will help much with that.


> I instantly recognized the inability to get myself to start working on something until the last minute (even if I really, really want to do it) and the piles clothes (despite my propensity for cleanliness). Another hallmark of ADHD that many don't know about is bursts of almost manic productivity for random tasks or when under extreme pressure.

This also describes a lot of people's normal behavior. I don't have ADHD and do everything you describe and my wife does too.


Huh. As someone with diagnosed ADHD and who has (in the past) taken appropriate medication, I still thought the advice rang true.

How you conceptualize your identity is a huge factor in addressing behavior pattern ambivalence. For me it somehow dovetails perfectly with a neurochemistry explanation because there's no bright line separating this stuff.


I want to unilaterally echo this.

As a kid I coped with my inability to complete school assignments on time by not identifying with success in school. This reinforced my existing faults.

Learning to crush that coping mechanism out of existence was one of the best things that ever happened to me.


Yeah. Recommend the book “driven to distraction” to people wanting to learn more


Just in case it's not clear, "Sloth" and the author of the column are the same person.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is interesting for this type of thing - mindfulness meditation too. Both are helpful at gaining clarity around overgeneralizations we make about ourselves. In meditation it’s very common to reach a point of realization that ‘what we are’ is not equal to the labels we attach to ourselves.

Both cause a kind of short-circuiting of the “automatic thoughts” we have in response to emotional triggers. In cognitive behavioral therapy, something like procrastination is addressed by listing all of the thoughts you have in response to the thing you’re avoiding, identifying irrationalities, and forming rational responses. It can be very effective at easing anger, fear, sadness, and lack of motivation.

With mindfulness, over time it’s possible to begin decoupling your true self from all of the labels. This is also known as “ego death”, and can be somewhat painful and uncomfortable - the ego tends to fight back when it feels you letting go of it. In deep meditation it can be almost frightening to experience the ego disappear; we go through most of our lives thinking we are the labels we’ve associated with ourselves. To let go of the labels can feel like letting go of yourself. Blissful meditation is a state of just being; no labels.

I recommend checking out the book “Feeling Good” if you want to know more about CBT, and there are tons of resources on mindfulness, but Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind is great (as well as most of Alan Watts’ lectures you can find on YouTube).


CBT is good, but actually I would not recommend CBT for laziness. It can help with other things for sure - such as self disturbances, idealizations, and acceptance. It may even be considered a good foundation - But, it does not challenge the fundamental drivers of your life that induce laziness. At least it did not for me.

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) was created, IIRC, from seeing people go through CBT but still suffer from emotions & avoidance. While it overlaps with CBT in some ways, it identifies things like the way language shapes our thinking, and proposes we lead by our values instead of by our emotions. Be present in the moment, accept your feelings but don't justify your behavior by them, and do what matters.

I only figured I'd mention, because I recently learned about ACT after being an advocate for CBT, and coming to see where they work and where they don't.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acceptance_and_commitment_ther...


Maybe she is not lazy at all. Maybe she just doesn't want to work on things that don't motivate or interest her. It is my ultimate goal to never have to work on things that don't interest me if only I can figure out a way to automate all of that ;)

The fact that she has succeeded in getting A's with waiting until the last minute and not putting in much effort, indicates that she is very smart. I have noticed that really smart people seem to lack motivation and get bored very easily. The two closest people to me are like this. The thing is though, when they find something that does interest them, there is no stopping them. They turn into the hardest working people around.


Agreed. Lazy is lacking the desire to achieve what one considers worth achieving. If tasks like cleaning and laundry are accomplishments worth less within one's mental value system than, say, the feeling of spending time enjoying an excellent TV show then choice is clear.

The key to turning around my perceived lazyness, personally, is about trying to control the value of what I spend my time on.


Thanks for this comment, I really really agree with this sentiment and you put it really nicely in words.


I've had this problem. One facet of it was the fixed vs growth mindset (as described by Dweck) due to being told often I was smart as a child.


When I was failing classes in college, I had a conversation with a dean who suggested that I subconsciously didn't want to be there, and that I was committing academic self-sabotage as a result. This struck me as an extravagant, bizarre theory. (Cynically, I also wonder if she was trying to convince me to voluntarily leave the college so that I wouldn't ding their graduation rate.)

I tend to be suspicious of this kind of move, where what seems like a character flaw is explained away as something more benign. In the article in question, the author suggests that the woman writing in is not really lazy, but has been holding back out of fear that she might disappoint herself. But why can't she just be lazy? I don't doubt that there are people who have the kind of subtle psychology that the author suggests. But I wonder if we're too eager to accept such explanations because they are more comforting than more straightforward, harsher ones.


What does it mean to be "lazy"? Why are some people lazy, and others not? Why are people lazy with regards to certain things and not others?

Ignoring all of these questions and simply considering laziness to be a fundamentally characteristic is highly unsatisfying and, dare I say, lazy.

Maybe the authors explanation is wrong, but she offers a potential explanation. Your proposal is simply that 'she is lazy because she is lazy' which offers no explanatory power.


>What does it mean to be "lazy"?

A few months ago my little brother was taking an introductory CS class. I warned him not to procrastinate his assignments, because you can't hurry programming. Nine women can't make a baby in one month, etc.

I think "laziness" is similar: it's an emergent phenomenon to be debugged, not a single "thing" to be attacked with more-of something.


Rosted


I suppose she first asked you about the underperformance and was not satisfied with the answer. It wouldn’t be a bizarre theory if she saw sufficient intelligence along with a lack of personal investment, in fact it would be a quite reasonable guess.


> extravagant, bizarre theory

Absolutely not. Self-sabotage is psychology 101.

> why can't she just be lazy

Because laziness, like demonic possession and telepathy has not been identified by any medical science.

> we're too eager to accept such explanations because they are more comforting than more straightforward, harsher ones

Or maybe one explanation is backed by decades of research while the idea of "laziness" is backed by nothing more than popular culture and some religions.


Sorry, but I have totally no clue what you are talking about.

Laziness is preserving energy, which seems pretty vital to survival for me. Have you ever seen a "lazy" lion just laying there, doing nothing most of the day? The reason why he's not running around all day doing active stuff is because of survival, energy preservation. He will put his energy where it is most important, food and sex. He's even so lazy that he lets the ladies hunt for him.

So I don't understand in what kind of world you are living where laziness is not a real thing.


So playing video games all night to procrastinate some homework and then stressing about the procrastination is just preservation of energy?

Did you use an animal example because every human example sounds ridiculous alongside your premise?


There are plenty of human examples. Too lazy to clean the foor: Roomba. Too lazy to walk: bicycle. Too lazy to bike: car. Too lazy to walk up stairs: elevator. Too lazy to chop wood: central heating. Too lazy to cook: microwaved meals. Too lazy to calculate: calculators. Too lazy to paint: photography. Too lazy to go to shop: online ordering. Too lazy to get out of your seat and change the channel: Remote controls.

But sometimes instincts can work against us, that's for sure. Look at fear or anger, and sure, laziness.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laziness

"Laziness (also called indolence) is disinclination to activity or exertion despite having the ability to act or exert oneself. It is often used as a pejorative; terms for a person seen to be lazy include couch potato, slacker, and bludger."

To clarify: I'm talking about "laziness" as a pejorative - e.g. something to be ashamed of.

Your example is about good prioritization and saving precious energy and there's nothing bad about it especially when food is scarce.


Laziness is a thing (at least we describe something with the word) but for a lot of people in that situation the laziness is not a good strategy for preserving energy. They will procrastinate to a point where the total amount of work is much more than just doing something immediately.

For example instead of doing the dishes immediately they will wait until they pile up with dried food stuck to them making the total effort much bigger.


In my opinion, laziness is not a character flaw, it's rather a fundamental characteristic of any living being. Therefore saying that you're lazy is tautological, obviously true therefore not worth pointing out, and not a reasoning for a perceived difference between you and others, because they're all lazy in their heart, too.


So why were you failing classes in college?


Didn't want it badly enough.


Interesting. Personally, I believe the opposite - that the very concept of "character flaw" should be expunged from our dictionaries, as it tends to be useless. It works only as a way of assigning blame - "you do everything last minute because you're lazy". "You suck and I don't."

Identifying character flaws doesn't help a person fix them - which is the only thing that should matter. Because it's all about some factor making a person unable to do things that are in their best interest, often also causing huge emotional distress when said person attempts to behave in a "more correct" (by their own standards) way.

C.f. http://lesswrong.com/lw/2as/diseased_thinking_dissolving_que..., which is an interesting article on the way we frame diseases and character flaws.


I agree. There are lots of psychological things at work more plausible than not wanting to succeed. (Short attention span, getting sucked into online dopamine rushes, etc)


Maybe the word 'lazy' is itself a lazy way to describe the behaviors arising from biological factors beyond our control? Maybe medication is in order.


I wish this advice mentioned the importance of ruling out issues like ADHD first, especially the inattentive type which is often underdiagnosed in women. I really relate to OPs description, and if she does have an exectutive functioning disorder that makes task prioritization inadequate and non-stimulating activities unrewarding to a massive extent, it wont be simply a matter of "overcoming fear" to start directing herself in a way that is more satisfying. If anything, it's a recipe for depression and frustration to try to act on advice like this if you have untreated ADHD.


Warning - rant.

I wish HN would ban BS psychology articles. There are real, scientific, actionable steps to understanding perceived motivational deficit and this article doesn't get close to them. It retreads stigmatizing labels, regurgitates useless advice, and provokes high confidence low value anecdotes.

1. Motivation is a chemical state.

You can induce motivation generically through dopamine reuptake inhibitors. Why do you think Adderall makes you clean your room? It's not a sudden hatred for dust, it's that your baseline motivation to accomplish any task is enhanced and you're in a task rich environment with a messy room. Many other interesting chemical pathways and interventions exist to directly change the frequency and nature of task initiation performance and completion.

2. Environment strongly impacts internal chemical state.

Take an "addicted" rat and put her into a rich environment and the apparently highly motivating cocaine reward looses its attraction. Take a minimally athletic human and put a bear behind them and they will run.

In neither of the above does a person need to re-evaluate their life and identity, utter crap.

My point here is that HN has an unusual respect for technically interesting and accurate news. It's not all gold, but it seems to favor factual pieces over largely emotional and unproductive arguments. Pop-psychology and feel good generic advice blogs are firmly in that second category. Their value has not advanced since the 50s and we should start seeing them as the kind of harmful, anti-scientific, community deviding memes they are.

End rant.


Neurotransmitter reductionism is not a useful framework for thinking about motivation. By your definition, every human behavior is a chemical state. That's not a helpful distinction.

> You can induce motivation generically through dopamine reuptake inhibitors.

This is dangerous advice, implied or otherwise. You cannot use dopaminergic drugs to modulate motivation in the long-term due to rapid tolerance to the motivational effects of stimulants. Yes, an acute dose of Adderall will provide a burst of energy, but it won't magically motivate you to channel that energy into building a new startup instead of intensely focusing on a video game for the next 6 hours.

Stimulants are not a long-term solution to motivation problems for the same reasons that opioids are not a solution to depression. Motivation, happiness, and contentment are all very complex phenomena that cannot be reduced to singular chemicals in the brain. It's true that you can temporarily induce feelings with certain drugs, such as a burst of euphoria from a dose of opioids, but the brain rapidly adjusts to those chemical modulators.

Opioids have their place in chronic pain treatment, of course, just as Adderall has its place in chronic ADHD treatment. But we must be clear that the mood and motivation boosting effects of these drugs are a temporary side effect, not a sustainable feature.

Motivation is a much more complex phenomenon that is deeply intertwined with human psychology. Dismissing those complexities as simple chemical states that are well-understand from rodent studies is missing the point.


How about banning BS psychology HN comments, too?

It sounds like you're basically talking about ego depletion, which has come under fire in the past few years, with what little evidence there was for it coming into doubt:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_depletion


Irrespective of ego depletion hypothesis, dopamine is still one of the primary modulators of motivation, risk, decision, and impulse. Absolute levels of dopamine, ratios of various subtypes (D1 vs D2 vs ...), and differential activation, in the NA, VTA, and substantia nigra affect everything from the ADHD kid wiggling in his seat, to the gambling addict.

Unfortunately, things like dopaminergic drugs are a blunt instrument, and it's not as simple as "add adderall, get productivity".

The role of dopamine in risk taking https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4038955/

Dopaminergic Modulation of Risk-Based Decision Making https://www.nature.com/articles/npp2008121

Procrastination and Dopamine Receptor Density https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intrinsic-motivation-an...


I respect the spirit of your response but no. Here are some interesting studies.

One of many candidate drug evaluations - https://academic.oup.com/ijnp/article/17/12/2045/2910067

Dosage dependant effects and tolerance - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/2530095/

Environment protecting against addiction - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22157144/

Edit - Couldn't find a good source for the bear thing. Apologies!


Reductionist arguments based on narrowly-scoped rodent studies are not appropriate in the context of long-term human motivation.

"Motivation is a chemical state" is a tautology in the context of psychology. Every human behavior and emotion derives from the chemical state of the brain. If someone is chronically unsatisfied with their life, would you reduce their concerns to "Happiness is a chemical state"? Stating as much does not add value to the discussion, nor is it actionable.

Likewise, in the context of human motivation it's not relevant to discuss rodent lever-pushing behavior following acute administration of large doses of high-potency DAT inhibitors. If someone is unhappy, would you provide links to studies showing that rodent display increased liking behaviors after administration of a potent opioid?

Stimulants like Adderall do induce generic motivation in the short-term, but that's not anyone is discussing here. Implying that stimulants are a source of motivation is dangerous advice. The motivational effects are largely temporary, and quickly give way to tolerance. Note that the attention-improving effects mostly remain in this case.

Drug abusers who seek motivation-boosting effects from stimulants either give up after tolerance sets in, or they settle into patterns of dose escalation in a futile attempt to outrun tolerance.

Dopaminergic stimulant abusers often have extremely high motivation during their binges, but it does not translate to anything useful after marathon obsessive cleaning sessions or internet binges. That's because motivation, in the context of what we're discussing here, is far more complex than just modulating your brain's dopaminergic systems with chemicals. Motivation is a much broader topic that involves discipline, goal-oriented behavior, prioritization, self-reflection, and many other complex phenomena that can't be reduced into a singular brain chemical like dopamine.


His response is sound neuroscience.


How about banning BS-BS psychology HN comments, too?

It sounds like you don't believe ADHD is a real disease, which has come under fire in the past few years due to skyrocketing rates of diagnosis, with pop psychologists believing that it's a scam by the pharmaceutical industry.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention_deficit_hyperactivit...


Jesus christ, I never said I don't believe in ADHD. Don't put words like that in my mouth.


You attack pop-psychology for being unscientific, but cognitive behavioral therapy basically consists of training yourself to think that way and its effectiveness is backed up by many studies of many disorders.


Stealing from my favorite retired blogger: "I can make you sad forever just by whispering a few words into your ear."

The brain may be "just chemicals" but it's an incredibly complex system of them, to the point where high level abstractions, like "psychology" can be useful.

To expand on your model, I would argue that things described in this article, like your fundamental assumptions about yourself and the world are "part of your environment" and therefore part of something which you seem to agree can have an affect on your behavior.


I like that quote. It reminds me of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yL9UJVtgPZY


Reference for that quote? Having trouble finding it.


Can't remember the article, but I'm paraphrasing http://thelastpsychiatrist.com


I hear you but any suggestions on what can we do to increase our motivation short of Adderall and bears? Is it a diet thing or.. genetic lottery?


There are non-chemical ways of treating ADHD (which is what Adderall is generally prescribed for. I am not aware of any disease for which bears are a generally accepted treatment, however), so I suspect that non-chemical techniques to combat ADHD may also work for those who's attention issues don't rise to the level of having been professionally diagnosed.

Diet is a big one. No (extra) sugar - definitely no soda, cut back on the dessert, no fruit - it's just dessert vegetables). No caffeine - a large highly caffeinated Philz coffee is the legal equivalent of a small amount of meth. No alcohol either.

Get enough sleep every night.

Get enough physical exercise to take the edge off.

No background TV noise. Dim the lights.

Get out in nature, which is generally less stimulating - fewer brightly colored billboards, cars, amplified music, etc.

Google has a large list for those that don't want to resort to Adderall.


And what is the basis for all this?


Damn, you lost me at no caffeine.


Imagine an angry bear following you around! :-)


Agree. The simple machine analogy got really irritating, when became repetitive. Also had to skip through that boring squirrel moon example - indulgent by their own admission.

The newly wed lady, just wrote a few paragraphs about her. And Polly went on a long rambling trip making lot of assumptions (e.g. her over-achieving family). Psychiatrists need to ask more next level questions. Here looks like she just wanted to write a long one, perhaps coinciding with her long walk on a treadmill.

To be truthful, I did enjoy some pieces, specifically the 'igniting the dynamite' part as she ends her piece.

But If I were the 'sloth', I would be super confused now. Oh My God. I thought I was just lazy and procrastinating type, didn't know I was messed up this bad.

Reading this made me realize the futility of asking for advise from strangers, who would end up stereotyping you, into their known contexts. Better to improve life by reading suitable books. Or if need advise may be ask trusted friends - who don't assume context as they know you. Or psychiatry sessions may be better.


This was an article that I read and pleasantly winced as the author called out not only my weak choices, but my reasoning for them.

I understand this article isn't for everyone, or maybe even most people, but it's for sure the thing I needed to read now.


As someone who used to be much like the asker and is now a little more like the answerer, I cannot recommend this answer enough! It is so insightful and well-put.

Treat it as breadcrumbs from someone farther along on the journey of growth and self-discovery.


Indeed, the part about overachieving relatives hit home also. Mine have big houses, lots of cars, and a big screen in every room. I'm not interested in any of that but would like to meet them a bit closer in their direction, i.e. motivation.


I'm not sure how this got here, but wow, Heather Havrilesky is still around. She wrote for Suck in the early days of the web.

http://www.suck.com/fish/contributors/havrilesky/


Oh, man, I didn't even read the byline, and didn't guess that the Polly in Dear Polly is Polly Esther. Damn I miss her Suck column.


I have a theory that the reason I am so lazy is because being a programmer teaches me to find the fastest short cut way to do things.

Actually the less code I use to get a task done the better the code is and I get a dopamine hit.

Also, if I write a great script that saves me hours on a boring manual task, I get another dopamine hit.

As a 10x coder I wonder if all these dopamine hits (20+ years) have short circuited my brain and made me want to do everything with the least amount of effort as possible.

Or, maybe I'm just lazy ;)


I tried to read this but I couldnt, thats how lazy I am.


But you did manage to write this comment! Someone else could have been way too lazy for that, too.


In theory, if there are loads of comments, they should repeat good points and argue the bad points. So you learn most of what you need to know. No?


I read it, technically, but didn't actually absorb it. I'm sure I will forget all about this by tomorrow. Doesn't really matter.


It seems a little ridiculous that the author of the response would know that the "Sloth" isn't actually lazy but really afraid. Especially when the author also tells the "Sloth" to ignore what other people have said about them.

Maybe I'm missing the bigger picture, but how is the author not just another one of the squirrels she describes?


It does read a bit like what you would hear a "psychic" write in response to a short question, such a long response seems an unreasonably confident response without any more back and forth between the two.

I'm actually a bit surprised so many people here are quickly falling into conclusions about what was and wasn't said when it doesn't seem like it has been explored enough to have anything conclusive determined from it..

But then it's also just an essay meant to speak to certain people and not for everyone in a popular magazine, so eh.


My immediate impression was that both texts are written by the same person. But then again, the "Sloth" section rings way too true for it to be something just set up for analyzing in the latter part.


I used to be lazy but then I started using Pomodoro, Fasting, Keto, Going to the Gym, Test Driving Development and microdosing with psilocybin. And I deleted Facebook and quit using Google in favor of Duck Duck Bing.

Now I'm just crazy but no one can accuse me of laziness.


Weirdly, a management book - a sense of urgency by John P. Kotter - was also one of the best book to get things done in my personal life as well.

A quick summary: It’s kind of easy, if you don’t feel a true sense of emergency, you’ll natuaraly not do it.


> You’re choosing a lifestyle of avoidance and low expectations.

What's wrong with that?

Some people have laid their heart open to the benign indifference of the universe and are just like: "what's the point?"


There is nothing wrong with that. But in this case there is, because it doesn't make her happy.


You can choose then to try to become happy with it, or to change it. The parents point may have been that there are options.


'I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.'

-- Kurt Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord (1878-1943), Commander-in-Chief of the Reichswehr


"We will encourage you to develop the three great virtues of a programmer: laziness, impatience, and hubris." -- Larry Wall, Programming Perl

On OP, maybe I just don't get advice columns. Here's two paragraphs, now tell me how to live my life. How is that supposed to be helpful to the wide set of human behavior?


"I drink wine...and know things."


Am I right when I say that's Tyrion Lannister? :)


Pretty sure it's GRR Martin!


This may be relevant: "‘I Thought I Was Lazy’: The Invisible Day-To-Day Struggle For Autistic Women" https://theestablishment.co/i-thought-i-was-lazy-the-invisib...


Could disorganized thought and executive issues in ones 20/30ies be foretelling of some form of dementia in 50/60ies, like frontotemporal dementia?


Being lazy is natural and it is what pushes humanity forward. We don't want to do things, so we try to work on it less in the future - automating things, improving efficiency etc.

Being "lazy" about some things is good for you. Do not focus much on stuff which is not very important for you personally.


Hmm, I don't know about that, I see at least three different character types:

1) those who want to avoid labour, the lazy, some of whom are driven to invention to reduce their labour in order to have more leisure;

2) those who are happy to work in the current system, the content, they get on and do what's needed;

3) those who want to reduce their direct labour in the current system in order to "labour" in other ways, the driven, they want to automate daily living so they can work on other things;

There are subgroups within these for example "the lazy" has a group who will accept a lower quality of life in order to reduce labour, and a group who will prefer to use other people's labour to reduce their own, etc., etc..


Did you read the article? The premise of her question is that she thinks she is lazy AND she is not satisfied with that. Clearly, being "lazy" is not good if your laziness makes you unhappy.


What if the laziness is not a problem, but feeling unhappy because of this laziness? Why you should be unhappy? Billions of people are lazy and they love it.

There are lot of people preaching that being "efficient" all your life is what you should aim for and, weirdly, everyone accepts this as unquestionable truth.


> Both the cynic and the underachiever are afraid of sticking their necks out and becoming who they deeply, passionately want to become, for fear of looking stupid or failing.

I have also experienced this for an equal but opposite reason. Not a fear of failure but a fear of success, either because it feels undeserved or because of the responsibility that might come with it.

To quote that thing that Mandela didn't say:

> Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

> We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

> Actually, who are you not to be?


The good kind of lazy, is actually often just being very efficient.


Oblomov by Goncharev..


Antipathy, depression, mild burnout, career dissatisfaction, and cannabis.


Motivational essays are this are great for some people. Others, on the other hand, are persuaded to avoid seeking help for medical (mental health, hormonal, etc) problems that are wrecking their lives. Overmedication is a problem, yes, but this particular field is catastrophically underdiagnosed because its problems have come to be seen as moral failings and the fault of the sufferer. If you are so "lazy" that you have trouble with day-to-day life, you do not need to "man up" or "reject your self-image". You need to talk to a physician. Such problems are well within their purview. Modern psychiatry has infinitely better cognitive tricks than the moralizing platitudes in motivational essays. If you're really lucky, your physician will guess two-thirds of your symptoms before you describe them, diagnose you with a particular neurochemical deficiency, and prescribe you a medication that, in the space of a week, does more to help you with your problems than you'd managed in your entire life to date.

TL;DR: You aren't qualified to condemn every "lazy" person on the planet, so quit it with the victim-blaming. Some people need this kind of advice but you aren't the person that should be giving it. Let the professionals do it, because they can, first, do no harm.


Did you read the article? Or are you adressing a comment I missed?

The article is a letter to an advice columnist wherein a person describes herself as lazy, and the columnist literally says: "Doing the bare minimum at the last minute isn’t lazy. It’s simply a choice, devoid of moral weight. It’s a strategy that’s mostly worked for you, up until this point."

So I'm finding it hard to understand:

> You aren't qualified to condemn every "lazy" person on the planet.

Who are you addressing?


> Did you read the article?

I believe not, or given the length of the thing and current attention span trends, GP skimmed over it (!= genuinely read), because the following is a direct quote from TFA:

> Get a therapist

Also,

> You aren't qualified to condemn every "lazy" person on the planet, so quit it with the victim-blaming.

The essence of the column is precisely the opposite. The columnist directly says that the person should not blame herself like she does and that she shouldn't call herself lazy.


How lazy of them.


> Modern psychiatry has infinitely better cognitive tricks than the moralizing platitudes in motivational essays. If you're really lucky, your physician will guess two-thirds of your symptoms before you describe them, diagnose you with a particular neurochemical deficiency, and prescribe you a medication that, in the space of a week, does more to help you with your problems than you'd managed in your entire life to date.

this is highly contentious


Well, meds work for some people some times, and not others. And they tend to have severe side effects. That's why people have different opinions.

I believe that medications can be extremely helpful, but aren't always, and it's tragic we don't understand why. We desperately need objective, quantitative means of measuring what the problem is and what meds do. It takes a rather long time before meds have an effect, so it seems obvious to me that the common saying that they "correct chemical imbalances" can't be correct - otherwise meds would be take immediate effect. People speculate that it takes time for neurons to grow, but we really don't know specifically what's going on with either a mental condition or a treatment.

My dream is for care for mental illness to be improved to resemble diabetes, where you can check a metric like blood sugar, quickly correct it if it is too high or low, and check long term health with a metric analogous to A1C.

Edit: It may be unclear to some whether I am disagreeing with the statement in the parent about contentiousness.

If you accept that different people have different experiences, then it no longer makes sense to "contend" which is the true reality. The different experiences are all real.


You're discounting the value of moral thinking. You can reduce everything to a medical issue, because all human behavior is indeed biologically caused, but you are failing to consider that blame and fault and other moral concepts are exactly the kind of thing the mind is responsive to. Why are you so hostile to those, but so eager to pump people full of drugs, designed and dispensed on the basis of our very poor understanding of the the brain[1].

[1] Which is not to say that there's no place for psychiatric medication, but they should not be the first course of action.


Psych meds have significant drawbacks, so they usually aren't the first course of action. I mean, a doctor may prescribe something on the first visit, but if the patient tried unsuccessfully for a decade to will themselves to change, it wasn't the first course of action. I think your tendentious language ("pump people full of drugs") is painting a caricature of psychiatrists that's unwarranted.


Because if you do need that drug or have condition, shaming you instead so that other people are scared and less lazy is unethical.

Because blaming and shaming people for their mental conditions makes treatment harder.

Because if we are talking about people who tried to change and did not succeeded multiple times, adding more shame solves literally nothing.


> Modern psychiatry has infinitely better cognitive tricks than the moralizing platitudes in motivational essays.

Please name two such tricks.


Amphetamines, get enough exercise, get enough sleep, SSRIs if you’re depressed


The tricks sometimes work, for some people, but they are definitely not the silver bullet. SSRI effectiveness in treating depression, for one, is not that great.


Have you ever wondered why in our society when people stop taking their medications a significant portion of the population will go mad?

The crux of the problem here is trying to conform to some ideal of what a good person is and using drugs to get there. Then you will be happy and all is good in life. Until something else comes along and back to square one again.


> Let the professionals do it, because they can, first, do no harm.

:O=


To be followed later in life by, "I know I am lazy"..


I wonder whether the author considered what s/he/it compares self against. A manic programmer can go for two days without sleep before collapse. Its extremely unhealthy and socially isolating and to Try to become like that is literally nuts. Ask yourself what all those who archive your dream performance don't have before going for it




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