Thoughts on 'Less often discussed EA emotional patterns'

I love this Forum post. It captures a significant portion of my reflections on EA x mental health in the past 6 months.

I love this Forum post. It captures a significant portion of my reflections on EA x mental health in the past 6 months.

Choice quotes

  • “But sometimes, doing altruistic things means doing something you don’t feel like doing. If working on your mental health seems like a daunting task you would rather avoid because spending your time working on EA things feels more urgent, other’s needs seem more important than your own, sacrificing yourself for others feels better than spending any effort on yourself – then spending significant effort to get better could actually be the best action for you right now.”
  • “I sometimes notice myself telling me that I am just too stupid and passive to ever get an impactful job in an EA hub, because it is somehow easier to think that instead of admitting that I just really don’t want to move to an EA hub (or anywhere from where I currently live). This is probably because I somehow think it is better to be stupid than selfish, or maybe it is because some part of me believes that I cannot fix stupidity, but I should be able to become more altruistic”
  • “In a way, the fact that I donate regularly is a justification to keep on living, because each month I’m alive, I keep producing positive value.”
  • “I think EA is very compelling for people who have trouble believing their lives have intrinsic worth. You cannot prove the intrinsic worth of anything (it is an axiom), but EA can give you a sense of estimating your instrumental worth, like how many lives you have saved by donating. […] Ironically, having your impact define your self-worth can actually reduce your impact in multiple ways”
  • “Life is uncertain and making good decisions is difficult. Nobody, not even the EA movement, has a verified, all-encompassing model of the world. This can be a hard thing to admit especially for people who first became attracted to EA because of the “reason and evidence” part. This was certainly really tempting to me: the world seemed confusing and difficult, and all possible actions to make things right seemed to have downsides; and then, suddenly, a movement that tells me that there are estimates and calculations on what you should do, so if you want to know what to do, you can just look at the numbers and follow the result.”
  • “the belief “I’m too stupid to work on AI risk” might be less crushing than “I would probably be able to work on AI risk, but I just don’t want relocate even if I get a job in the field, but also I think I should not mind relocating if it is necessary to work on AI risk because AI risk is super important, and if in 30 years everyone I love dies it’s going to be my fault”. Here, the perceived stupidness is protecting her from feeling ashamed or guilty for having preferences that are not optimized for saving the world.”
  • “Often, working on your mental health is locally a lot harder than sticking to the patterns you have learned. That’s why most people are only motivated to relearn their patterns only when they actually feel really awful.”

(personal update: experimenting both with mainstream self-esteem interventions & more mindfulness-inspired abandoning-the-self stuff to work on the entanglement of personal worth w/ impact)

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