The Examined Life: Psychic Anaesthetic

There is a particular pernicious form of procrastination to which I am occasionally vulnerable, especially when I’m feeling anxious; I call it psychic anaesthetic. I channel surf. I play video games I’ve already mastered. I reread books. I read blogs.

These activities all have in common that they occupy my brain without stimulating it, which distinguishes them from regular procrastination, or constructive procrastination. Playing a new game would be too mentally taxing for this application; so would taking a book off the to-read stack. I learn nothing by playing Civilization II through 1000 BC for the umpteenth time, but it keeps me too busy to obsess about whatever may be troubling me (usually, these days, a task on my list that I don’t feel up to tackling).

This can create a vicious circle for me; psychic anaesthetic is toxic to gumption, and I often use psychic anaesthetic to escape the anxiety of not having the gumption to do something. I’ve lost entire days that way, doing something useful for a little while until I hit a bump, then falling into some anaesthetic activity for a bit until the fretting subsides.

Originally published on LiveJournal