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Shlomi Fish (918)

Shlomi Fish
  shlomif@iglu.org.il
http://www.shlomifish.org/
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I'm a hacker of Perl, C, Shell, and occasionally other languages. Perl is my favourite language by far. I'm a member of the Israeli Perl Mongers, and contribute to and advocate open-source technologies. Technorati Profile [technorati.com]

Journal of Shlomi Fish (918)

Sunday June 29, 2008
03:05 PM

Dealing with Approval Addiction (and Implied Stress Periods)

[ #36812 ]

Well, despite the fact that I hardly publicised my last essay about the "Closed Books", it has been chromatic'd. Rumours are that all the bloggers whose blog posts/essays were deprecated on chromatic's blog are now rich, famous and the object of the affection of many attractive members of the appropriate sex. Memo to self: prepare a limited edition T-shirt: "My blog post was chromatic'd. I pwn you as a blogger."

Seriously now, while the publicity was probably good for me, I was indeed a bit overwhelmed with what chromatic said, and felt down. It's not because I believed I was wrong, but because I respected chromatic, because he's a good programmer, a good author, a good editor (with whom I collaborated on several articles on O'Reilly-Net), an interesting blogger, and a good guy. (And yes - these are all compliments). I'm not sure he's really a friend of mine, but I certainly respect him.

Now Paul Graham says in "What you'll wish you'd known" (footnote 4) that:

The second biggest regret was caring so much about unimportant things. And especially about what other people thought of them.

I think what they really mean, in the latter case, is caring what random people thought of them. Adults care just as much what other people think, but they get to be more selective about the other people.

I have about thirty friends whose opinions I care about, and the opinion of the rest of the world barely affects me. The problem in high school is that your peers are chosen for you by accidents of age and geography, rather than by you based on respect for their judgement.

Now in my case, I may be somewhat immature because I tend to sometimes care about what many people think of me, rather than just my close friends (offline or online). Now being down (or "depressed") because someone disapproves of you, is perfectly natural and normal. However, since I have Bipolar disorder, it threw me into the so-called "hypomania" (= "below-mania"), which is not healthy, and disrupts my functionality.

Hypomanias are a variation of "Clinical Depressions" or "Clinical anxieties". Dealing with the latter is described in the highly recommended book "Feeling Good", which I believe is a necessary read even for non-depressive people, in order to understand how people think, and as a preventitive measure.

I don't accuse chromatic of making me hypomanic. I've received my share of past criticism in the past, and will receive again. I also was often criticised for insulting people myself, due to the fact I tend to be tactless. How you deal with criticism is ultimately the responsibility of the receiving end, as even for me, most criticism will not affect me.

In any case, Feeling Good mentions four general "addictions" that can make one clinically depressed (or Hypomanic):

  1. Approval Addiction.
  2. Productivity Addiction - you care about your work, how productive you are, how much you achieve, etc. (Much more common among men.)
  3. Love addiction - you want to be loved a lot. More common among women.
  4. Perfectionism - you want to be perfect in everything you do.

Now based on reading the descriptions in the book, I believe I have been having Approval Addiction and Productivity Addiction, and neither of the other two.

I used to get into clinicial depressions and anxieties (due to approval, etc.) which are even worse to deal with than hypomanias are. And during Manias, which I also had, but must avoid at all costs from now on, I lose most control of myself.

I started writing an essay titled "Dealing with Hypomanias". It is not professional Psychological advice, as I am not a qualified therapist, but it is given as a way to dispense my advice from the Point-of-View of a Bipolar person, who's learned a little about it. It's still very rough on the edges, as it started from a plain-text email, but any constructive comments would be welcome.

While I may be a bit immature due to my approval addiction, I'm still mature enough to learn from my mistakes. At one time, a prominent member of the Linux-IL mailing list said there that one should not take the advice I've given in the "End of Info-Tech Slavery" (an essay I still mostly stand by, but am about to update with a sequel/correction), and rather take the advice in my links. I was offended from it. Then I understood he was over-generalising and not criticising any of the points I raised in my essay, or explaining why he disliked them, and realised that he was very intelligent, but nevertheless what people call an "idiot". So when he said he doesn't think my Random Tweakers idea for a startup have commercial value (again without properly explaining why or without asking me how I intend to make money), I didn't take what he said to heart.

So now I think chromatic will "suffer" a similar fate in his criticisms against me. No, chromatic is certainly not an idiot, at least not in most regards. But now I know better than to take what he says to heart. I'll listen to what he says and read it at my free time, and often find merit in what he says, but he's still someone I know better than to be affected by him.

I'm not disabling comments here, because I have a policy against it, due to the fact that I believe a blog post without comments is anti-social and defeats the point. But please be gentle, civil, rational and logical. I'm still a bit hypomanic now, though it's getting better, and don't need any more grief. (However, I don't guarantee I'll read what you said immediately, or reply to it.)

I feel this was probably the most off-topic use.perl.org journal post I ever posted, but I've seen much more off-topic blog posts on use.perl.org, and it is relevant to open-source software, as I'm certainly not the only FOSS geek who is either Bipolar or much less Unipolar/Depressive.

And in case you wanted to suggest that: yes, I am taking medication - it doesn't absolutely prevent the hypomanias, but it may help (not sure about that). And I am seeing a Therapist, who gave me a lot of good advice. I should do the so-called "Cognitive Exercises" more-often, but I'm usually carried away with chatting or working on code or text to do them, but they do help a lot.

Here's hoping we can deal with our frustrations more easily, because people are not perfect and the world is not perfect, but they are still pretty darned good.

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  • I don't consider what I wrote "deprecating". I agree with three of four main points -- but I still find your examples for the fourth point unconvincing.

    I read and commented because I thought your essay was likely worth reading, and because you asked for comments. I certainly don't mean any offense, so please accept my apologies. (I kind of wish you'd focused on my argument instead of on me, but you get to choose how you respond, and that's fine.)

    • Hi chromatic!

      I did reply to what you wrote about my article on the use.perl.org journal as comments to the journal. I did not mean to offend you in this entry, or to continue the discussion in the response you wrote to my homepage essay on my journal, just to make a related and inspired note about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It was not a classic non-sequitor, it was a "this reminds me".

      I may have misused the word "deprecating" in this context. What I meant was more like "criticising" or "de-constru

  • The fields of human endeavour with the strongest critism also tend to be the ones with big impacts on society. Science, Economics and the Arts for example.

    As far as I'm concerned, about 80% of the ideas I come up with on any given day are going to be utterly terrible.

    But by subjecting them to criticism, you get to weed out the ideas that are bad, and modify to the ideas that are good-but-flawed and refine them into great ideas.

    It's that process of surviving and compensating for criticism that breeds the bes

    • I agree. Moreover, ideas that seemed good at the time, sometimes seem bad to me after a while.

      I suppose most criticism, even negative one, probably has little bad effect on me, and does not make me clinically depressed. But I still put too much weight to what I believe people think of me. Criticism, even valid, should still not make me or anyone else depressed or hypomanic.

  • Seeking approval from the intartubes is no way to go through life, son. ;-)

    If you ask for comments from random strangers be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

    The hard part is what you quoted/wrote, finding opinions you value. The best is finding a critic you don't agree with but provides valuable insight is just awesome.

    • Seeking approval from the intartubes is no way to go through life, son. ;-)

      I guess you're right, but like it or not, the Internet is not "virtual" but just electronic and 1-D/2-D. It's less "real" than real-life (and of less ability to influence me) but still an active part of my life.

      Seeking too much approval from anyone, whether online or IRL, is bad.

      If you ask for comments from random strangers be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

      The hard part is what you quoted/wrote, finding opinions you value. The best is finding a critic you don't agree with but provides valuable insight is just awesome.

      Right, a wise man once commented that "A wiseman can learn from a fool, much more than a fool can ever learn from a wiseman". Often, completely wrong criticism, where the critic has missed the point, hides a lot of useful insig