Feelings of Uneasiness, Now and Then

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10 months ago

Note: This is not a research article. It's not backed by science. Rather, it's more opinionated and backed by personal experience.

Let's start.

Have you sometimes, working halfway through, and suddenly you feel uneasy, but you don't know what? The uneasiness grow, your heart pumping faster, you start moving unnervingly, unable to find what danger lurks that causes you to tremble. It seems like a ship losing its anchor, and losing its direction: unable to hold to a calm situation (anchoring), unable to find a meaning that causes our uneasiness.

Recently, one read about System 1 and System 2 in Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. In short, System 1 is the subconscious part of our brain (本能 ???/潜意识) which things doesn't need effort and attention, while System 2 is the "human brain" where we need effort and attention to act upon. System 1 is active, System 2 is usually lazy.

Here, suppose that you have something that you need to solve, a problem. However, solving it is unnerving, so you call upon your system 1 to suppress the problem. This way, as long as I don't think about it, it's not my problem. The problem is always there, but ignorance means you don't have to face the depressing problem at all. What says ignorance is the best way to deal with anxiety, at least in the short run.

Sometimes, your System 2 is slightly active than usual. It brings back up the problem. However, "slightly active" means real "slight", such that you only feel the unnerving and depressing feeling, but it doesn't bring you insight of what happens (the problem is never realized). With system 2 going back to sleep, you'll never discover what causes it to happen. Perhaps, when you start calling system 2 to ask what's the problem, it already forgot what it had done before sleep. Just like many people nowadays can't recall what they did yesterday (without at least 30 seconds of deep recalling), yeah?

Though, not everything is suppressible, especially problems that are amass among your peers. For example, choosing university, or perhaps finding work. Let's use choosing university as an example. To go from high school to university, we need to search a vast database of what university we want to go to, decide this, decide that, is it a good location (风水宝地?), or perhaps luck has gone from that place? What courses it offers? Are you eligble to apply? All these means researching on the internet. But not everyone likes to do research; it's utterly boring. It's not like scientific research where you focus on one topic: this, you're jumping from one uni to another, and your brain has to "switch". As usual, unless you're either 1) Can do multi-tasking without taking headache painkillers for an extended period of time, or 2) Can play first-person-shooter at 60 fps or even 120 fps without going to the sink and vomit after a few minutes, these kind of switches aren't for our evolved-to-be-single-tasking brain. And with laziness, we will evade.

Then, some people start asking you about what university you choose. Or perhaps, someone on stage starts telling a "motivational speech" about what to choose. This triggers system 2 to be "slightly more than slightly" active. It triggers a deeper unnerving, more unnerving than the sudden surge, and it lasts longer. You still feel unnerving, you now know the meaning, therefore your system 1 has a difficult time to suppress it back. There's 2 way you could do for suppression: 1) (Permanently) solve the problem, simply choose a uni and send in already, that you 99% sure you could get in; or accept that offer already and you can stop thinking about it until enrollment comes. 2) Try as hard as possible to suppress it back. We'll talk about the latter.

Let's create an analogy. Imagine a dictatorial country that's called Rome. Then, imagine a supportive country called Persia. And imagine Rome have rebels. Rebels have less unit of soldiers than Rome, only 1000 compared to a million, for example. With Rebel themselves, fighting Rome is futile, and they quickly get suppressed. However, with Persia's help, supply of weapon, armor, supplies, and even Persian army entering Rome's territory to help the rebels, the Rebel worth a fight. Perhaps the war can win, or may be it can lose, we don't know. Halfway, Persian pull all its support from the Rebel. No more Persian army, though already-given supplies are left there for Rebel to use. On their own, the Rebel continues to fight, and get suppressed quick. However, supplies aren't depleted. After waiting for the wind to pass (direct translated from 等风声过去), the rebel rise again and fight, and the cycle repeats until all weapons and supplies depleted. Rome wins again.

Now compare. Rome is your system 1, the Rebels are your system 2, and Persia is the motivational speech/friend asking you the question. Rebel problem is "rebellion", while our problem is "choosing a university". System 2 is much less active than system 1, active only for a few seconds (unless called upon to do complex math or other effortful stuffs) compared to "always-on" system 1. System 2 isn't active enough to overpower system 1, and system 1 quickly suppressed thoughts brought up by system 2. However, with help from motivational speech/friend's question, system 2 will keeps activating as long as the speech/conversation lasts, allowing system 2 to fight back system 1. At the end of the speech/conversation, the outer element (support) dies out, though it plants some "activeness" to your system 2 that will keep coming out in the next few days, until system 2 gets back lazy and stop mentioning the problem. System 1 wins again!

And this article, is the explanation to calm your heart, my reader. Shall you discover your problem and solve it entirely, so you never have to think about it again.

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