This is the most fundamental post of I Grow Younger and it’s recommended to be the first to read as there will be references to it all over the place. I have to summarize life in one post, no pressure 🙂
Our consciousness and reality
Life is much easier to understand and live if we have two approaches to two fundamentally different concepts:
A changing self.
Let’s call this one The Game of Self, your way to the happy being you would like to be one day.
What’s in The Game of Self? Simply everything in your head, Consciousness.
A changing reality.
Let’s call this one The Game of Life, you create the environment you would like to live in one day. What’s in The Game of Life? Simply everything not in your head, Reality.
This way every time we encounter a challenge we can ask, is this a Game of Self challenge or a Game of Life one? Is the problem in my head or based in reality? And if the answer is “a mix”, we know to dive deeper until every element takes only Game of Self or Game of Life skills to fix.
“The mix” is a paralyzing no-go and the main reason people get stuck in life. You’ve heard of the golden rule not to mix facts and feelings in conflicts? That’s the same thing. Facts are exclusively Game of Life and feelings are exclusively Game of Self.
Now let’s learn more about Reality and then more about our consciousness, the weird stuff in our heads.
Reality – the world including other people, their actions, the systems they create, and how these systems function.
While a single human is not the best at working out reality, millions of living (and dead!) people in the world are cooperating at figuring it out. They use a tedious method of checking every concept they can think of (a hypothesis) for logically matching up both internally (does it self-contradict?) and with every previously confirmed hypothesis (called a theory or theorem) in every possible way and all of this is called The Scientific Method. It uses not just logic, but at every chance, a lot of very precise and tested instruments to measure everything imaginable, and every result is compared to the expectations of the theory multiple times in every variation they can think of. There is a lot of every-s because this is what it takes to get to the truth. It takes correct methodology and full coverage of everything.
These millions of people are a breed of trolls who like nothing more than proving each other wrong. Dumb concepts and their authors are almost always debunked soon after being published. Every paper is vigorously checked and challenged if it suggests something fundamentally new. The trolls are called scientists and have the mission of finding out how the world works. Once we have this we can measure and even predict Reality to a degree (for most stuff we need that is). The principle is that while most ideas are wrong, the best ones survive all the tests.
The bigger and bolder the idea, the more it’s challenged. You’ve heard of Einstein not because his ideas were bold and revolutionary (though they certainly were) but because tens of thousands of other geniuses threw everything at his theories and every experiment and every calculation just confirmed them. If just one person had proven his theories wrong Einstein would have been a nobody. This is the beauty of The Scientific Method. No one is too big to fail and only a concept most likely true can survive the onslaught of the fellow trolls, who all want the fame and personal satisfaction of disproving something widely believed.
All the incentives in this system are aligned with finding the truth, which is what brings career advancement, funding and fame. This is why science has a very low level of corruption compared to other fields. Even if you don’t completely trust the abilities of scientists to find the truth, their good intentions are clear, unlike say those of many politicians, a field where we have fucked up the incentive alignment by mixing in lobbying and money.
While mistakes happen and the whole picture is incomplete in many complex areas, science and the resulting technology has been the main driver of human progress throughout history. It’s the best tool in your quest for Reality as we have nothing better that is proven using The Scientific Method and denying this method would be denying common sense itself.
The best part of it is most of this huge knowledge is absolutely public for the benefit of society which means knowledge is massively growing when new concepts are being suggested, tested, and either disproved or added (for now) to this pile of things scientists deem true and challenge everyone who thinks otherwise to show their evidence.
No matter how good we think we are in predicting, reality always manages to surprise us.
But the predictions that actually do work are very important. The predictions of bridges, tunnels and skyscrapers not collapsing due to being built using everything we know thanks to The Scientific Method. The ones that help us understand the human brain and body so we can cure and prevent disease. We take all of this for granted but in doing so we forget what got us here in the first place. This is a problem for the future progress of mankind as we still need and will always need science in a changing world.
The important skills for navigating the complexity of Reality are:
- Having a broad understanding of science;
- Understanding how The Scientific Method works and applying it when analyzing data;
- Understanding how errors happen and misconceptions come to be, both by ignorance and malice;
- Understanding how people and their brains work individually and in groups and their incentives;
- Developing a framework for trusting individuals, groups, and ideas;
- Testing for yourself whenever possible;
- Finding reliable patterns in all of this;
And for success in The Game of Life you need:
- To remove inertia from being a driving force of your life;
- To learn how to evaluate, attract and possibly share resources;
The main resources are: Freedom, People, Health, and Assets/Money. Of course, People are much more than a resource and give life a lot of its meaning. But they are also a resource in a way because they can be found and lost.
What’s in your head? A mess of images, feelings, and thoughts moving forward in time. Scientists call it consciousness but this word is too complicated and obscure. Let’s call it The Picture.
The Picture (in your head) – your everchanging, inaccurate perception of reality mixed with your thoughts and feelings. A constant dance of prediction and observation, both external and internal.
Everyone else is just the same mess, don’t worry 🙂
There are a few common directions you can point your consciousness to:
- The Game of Self – Self-understanding, learning, creating, meditating, etc.
- The Game of Life – Most everyday activities like meeting people, moving, working, eating eg. surviving
- The Underworld – When primal urges take over. Chocolate, one-night stands, and scrolling Facebook. OK in moderation or better without them? Not my judgement to make.
- Probabland – When primal fears take over. We’ll talk about this dreaded place in a minute but first, a brief.
Our genes want to survive and get passed on. Humans terribly fear a loss of connection with other people because in the not-so-distant evolutionary past, life was tough and you were totally dependent on a tribe for survival. Our genes evolved to try to stay in the group and blend in at all costs. This is why it takes so much effort to be a non-conformist. It sucks to care about what others think so much, I know. But it’s built into our genes and we need to deal with it.
Before describing Probabland, an I.GY Rule of thumb: Humans suck at drawing a picture of a picture.
Probabland is the place with other people’s thoughts, which we, unfortunately, give way too many fucks about.
People’s feelings, thoughts, and motivations are changing, fluid, and impossible for us to know for sure.
It’s not the best area for The Scientific Method which really likes to measure stuff accurately one thing at a time. Let’s call this uncertain space hidden behind reality Probabland because everything there is just probably true and may not be true soon after as people and their thoughts change following the randomness of their environment. The science of these probabilities is called psychology. While it can’t tell if you are 73% happy at the moment, it can sure tell you the best practices for being happier.
Thinking about what others think about you is painting a picture of a picture. It’s the hell of Probabland and a place to avoid. The skill to do so will be discussed in depth in I.GY
Thinking about what others would think about your potential future actions is painting a picture of a picture of a picture. I don’t need to explain the epic worthlessness of this but we’re all naturally prone to it. I want to help you ditch it down the drain.
Time note: The Picture strongly prioritizes the current moment. Only important stuff passes this bias and is a memory (past), expectation (near future), or dream (far future).
Fun fact 1: Thinking about the past is drawing a picture of a picture. If you have self-knowledge (know/feel how you draw pictures) it can get closer to what reality actually was over time by letting the old picture stay in peace and look at it in perspective rather than actively analyzing (redrawing) it. Otherwise, your picture of the picture usually shifts away from reality.
Fun fact 2: Any analysis of yourself is painting a picture of a picture. You suck at this.
Fun fact 3: Analyzing any person’s thoughts by their past actions is analyzing a picture of a picture of a picture. Boy is this hard… and useless. If you want to know how someone feels/felt or their motivations, don’t ponder, rather:
- If you care about the person, ask nicely. You may be surprised.
- If you don’t care, it’s probably not worth your thoughts either.
Fun fact 4: Expecting something is drawing a picture of something you’ve never seen and hoping to nail it between millions of possible futures. When you don’t, relax. It’s how stuff is supposed to be. Even better, ditch your expectations, especially about people and Probabland.
Not so fun fact 5: If you manage to fulfill your expectations often there is a risk of being narrow-minded and passing on the wonderful random side turns of life for the sake of expectation fulfilling. Beware.
So after concluding Probabland sucks and you don’t want to spend your time in The Underworld, how to focus and progress in The Game of Self?
Actually, no huge changes are needed.
- You don’t need to read cliched books or pay fake gurus for self-help sessions.
- You don’t even need to focus on personal growth. No pressure…
- Don’t set specific goals, it goes on 24/7. Enjoy it, waiting sucks.
- Don’t try to measure as most important things can’t be measured…
There is no problem focusing on The Game of Life like you mostly do…
…The Game of Self is everywhere within every experience, anytime.
Just let it happen. Let change be the new normal.
Be a Hunter. React like a Hunter to challenges.
Every time things don’t turn out well in The Game of Life…
…it’s your special time to rise and shine in The Game of Self…
…use the The Game of Life fails to shake you up to a good change
Bonus advice – Aim high in The Game of Life and as you’ll be able to consider many results a failure, Game of Life changes are more likely. Just need to know how to handle failure which is natural for a Hunter. Anything to kill inertia 🙂
Have you seen this quote by G. Michael Hopf?
Hard times create strong men,
Strong men create good times,
Good times create weak men,
Weak men create hard times
Well, it’s mostly bullshit 🙂
(Hard times historically created untrustful men who tended to kill each other. So if there was strength, it was not scalable enough to create good times unless an exceptional leader united everyone like Genghis Khan. But these exceptions are few and far between).
But if I reframe it on an individual level it makes way more sense:
Good times gradually create Inertia
Inertia eventually brings the Game of Life to a crash
A crash strengthens the Game of Self and lets it change
A strong Game of Self leads to a stronger Game of Life
A strong Game of Life gradually creates Good times
(We’ll call this the hard cycle. It’s what usually happens to most people)
But there is a better way with no need for crash and burn phases for the cycle to work.
Just dedicate your efforts in The Game of Life to serving others.
Resources you win can be shared any way you like, there are plenty of people in need.
This conscious decision will make you feel better in every possible way, forever.
There is plenty of evidence sharing brings joy and long-term happiness.
And this diminishes fears and inertia, improving The Game of Self.
The better cycle is:
Strong Game of life -> Plenty of resources -> Sharing -> Happiness -> Strong Game of Self -> Strong Game of life
So, what is life made of again?
A strive for internal growth (The Game of Self)
Subjective by nature (you build your own truth in real-time)
Goal: Personal growth (Love, Values, Intuition, Knowledge, Habits)
Tools: Self-knowledge, Copy-Paste, Concentration of strength, Chaos
Problems: Fear, Inertia, The Underworld and Probabland sinks of time and energy
A strive for resources (The Game of Life)
Objective by nature (understanding the world is critical)
Goal: Resources (Freedom, People, Health, Assets)
Tools: Science, Structure, Copy-Paste, Chaos, Creativity
Problems: Fear, Inertia, The Underworld and Probabland sinks of time and energy
At I Grow Younger we believe it’s better to focus on the good in The Game of Self. Then destructive thoughts and feelings will run out of space and resources in your head and fade away (valid for most people most of the time, may not be the right strategy in case of serious trauma).
But The Game of Life demands that we always keep in touch with reality.
So you have to realize these 2 productive places happen to be balanced by 2 unproductive places to be:
We already mentioned Probabland, where thoughts and expectations are a mix of the worst of both worlds:
Your own fears and insecurities + The least defined and therefore hardest to analyze part of reality – other people’s thoughts and actions.
But as Probabland is a tiring and unhappy (although tempting) place to be, there is also an escape to a darkish but happy place for when you don’t feel like progressing in the games. When you want to hack into happiness immediately you go to…
All tempting places your primal instincts want you to escape to. Usually unhealthy for you unless situationally when you need to “reset” from or heal recent damage.
The Underworld comes in 3 variations:
Useless Underworld – Everything that neither makes you happy long term nor is useful or noble.
Watching the news on TV or scrolling Facebook. Of course, nothing helping you in The Game of Self or The Game of Life counts here. Reading a good book or watching a good movie is not in the Underworld at all but watching all of Friends for the 5th time alone likely is. Are TV news or scrolling Facebook helping? No and no.
A golden rule of thumb: If you want to recharge by truly wasting time, do it in nature, with physical movement (sports), or hang around with your favorite people. Even better, combine at will (eg. run in nature with a loved one) If you regularly waste time alone at home sitting in a chair or bed, you just crossed the line into unhealthy actions.
Escape Underworld – Replacing your reality with another.
Playing a complicated PC game or reading fantasy books all day. Harmless in moderation. Very addictive short-term and (naturally) a time sink but can be mentally rewarding (I got rid of mild depression in high school after becoming good at a PC game). I prefer not to talk about actual drugs here because I’m not a medical professional but I guess they would fall under the same category, just being much more harmful.
Delusion Underworld – Land of the beautiful that is unlikely to be true.
- Everything not making much sense that science hasn’t confirmed and can’t disprove (eg. Aliens have been on earth)
- Everything science has disproved but you don’t care to explore the debunking (eg. Mother Teresa was cool)
- Everything political we can be manipulated to believe in (eg. Communism for a North Korean)
When you feel better by blurring the lines between human-made fiction and reality. Questionable spiritual practices and random enjoyable to consume misinformation live here, as well as almost all conspiracy theories.
Situationally useful to reset/heal from damage but may be dangerous as unlike LOTR or World of Warcraft you don’t recognize this is not the real world and your feelings may tell you that it is. We’ll talk more about this concept and its limited uses in the Religion post. Very addictive in the long term as you gradually end up in social and online filter bubbles, supporting your false beliefs.
A Political side note: The power of the Delusion Underworld in society can hugely grow in times bad or perceived as bad (Hi, pre-Brexit UK!) and a leader, who both creates and feeds on the delusions, is a national to worldwide danger. This is what led to the election of Hitler (democratically elected!) and Donald Trump, who I’m sure will love to be sharing this sentence with Hitler 🙂 Europe (Russia and Belarus excluded as they are stuck with a dictator for 20+ years and the flow of information is limited) is the continent where people are most protected because of better education and living people who remember the scars of fascism and communism, which are purely Delusion Underworld ideologies. While there are a few successful populists like Viktor Orban and single fuckups like Brexit and the war in Ukraine (where the authoritarianism of Russia spilled over its borders to cause great harm) I cannot imagine any Trump scale mass delusion accross the whole of Europe.
Key point! Everyone for self-help in the Delusion Underworld thinks they are in the right place to improve in The Game of Self. And while it may work short-term (after all you really draw the picture you think you’re drawing), the disconnection from reality means failing in The Game of Life – a sacrifice worth making only if your Game of Self has crashed so hard that it needs emergency help. And this trick is useful only short-term (if your filter bubble lets you make the reverse change to reality at all).
Observation: It’s typical for people stuck unhappily in Probabland to escape to the Delusion Underworld as it’s a welcoming place where you feel loved/understood and meet other believers some of whom may be wonderful people. Remember this is a filter bubble for the mind, like escaping from war to a safe prison. It’s a big trade-off and the problem is you won’t realize it is amongst the notable emotional improvements. Truth is not a priority for your emotions and instincts and while it may sound harsh, science has long found there is no defense mechanism in your brain or body against believing in any amount of bullshit for the rest of your life! This is why I stress the limited short-term-only usefulness of this place.
The Underworlds are a complex problem I’ll mostly leave to professional psychologists, focusing instead on the good stuff – our progress in The Game of Self and The Game of Life. Progress there will naturally decrease time spent in The Underworlds and the dreaded Probabland, therefore working for any people who haven’t already taken a dive too deep in their muddy waters.
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