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Duration:03:54
Uploaded:2018-05-04
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I feel like this video could have easily been adapted into a medium-length non-fiction book. As soon as I start talking about identity, and story, and how we determine who we are, I basically can keep going forever. So I hope this wasn't too much, but also didn't leave so much out that it feels empty and vacuous and useless or, worse, dangerously simplistic.

Particularly simplified is the idea that "caring what other people think about you" prevents you from being "really bad." I don't actually know if that's true. But I think that caring what other people think about you is, like, maybe the only thing that gives society and culture enough cohesion to operate productively.

Endscreen Links:

Previous Vlogbrothers Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYFdu7Xo5Uc&t=4s

Does Stretching Before Exercise Help? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gPsr-RHPdQ

Calicotheres are Cool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmeCaAwEtUI


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Good Morning John.

It's a pretty well known phenomenon that negative events affect us more than positive ones. This kind of sucks, obviously.

Why can't I, like, sit in bed and just, like, over and over again all night long I just can't stop thinking about that time a girl said I was cute. But maybe it's helpful to, like, think about why this is. First though, it's helpful for me to know that it's normal that everybody does it-almost.

And that there's nothing wrong with me for feeling this way. Which is nice. Now it's tempting to go back to some kind of evolutionary answer.

Like why would it be good for early humans to weight negative experiences more heavily. And yeah, this does make some sense. Like if I go and I attack a moose, and I win, then that's, like, great.

I got some moose meat. But eventually you got to go get more moose meat. But it only takes one time for the moose to kill you for you to be dead forever.

And that extends to more than just physical threats. For a prehistoric human, getting ostracized from your social group, from your tribe like, not fitting in could be a kind of death sentence. Trying to survive without the support of a tribe would probably be a short and brutal existence.

Which is maybe why we spend so much time worrying what other people think about us. I'm not saying it's bad that we care about what other people think about us for the most part on average - though I think that there are other consequences to it - it's probably good to care what other people think about you because it prevents you from being really bad. So we do care a lot about those things and while, like, bullying and ostracism is not the kind of thing that's gonna lead to you like, starving in a field somewhere, they can lead to significant and serious negative heath outcomes.

So, there's probably an evolutionary reason why we should be more worried about negative things than happy about positive ones. But I feel like that's a little bit of a cheat. I think it's gonna take like another step away from, like, the biological, fundamental causes, and understand king of like a little bit of the mechanism of it.

And I've been thinking about these things lately in terms of identity a lot. We work really hard to create out identities. It's a little bit maybe what makes us sentient.

Like having a robust story of self. What have we done in our lives? How do we understand the world?

What are our roles? What are we good at? And when we get information that confirms one or any of those things that's not a threat to our identity.

We don't have to shift our story of self. And that's nice. But it's not something we have to like, think about it at all.

But a new piece of information that challenges any of those things, like that maybe you're not as good of a soccer player or piano player or human being as you thought you were, that takes work, mental work to either incorporate into our identity or find someway to ignore or discredit. I think that our brains are built to create a story ourselves to create our identity. And negative feedback I think is more useful in that process, it hits us harder and it sticks with us longer.

We've got to figure out a way to force that new data into our old identity and start telling like, maybe a little bit more nuanced story of self, a little less simple, and maybe a little less, like, shiny and pretty. A story in which we aren't everything we thought we were and it's pretty normal for a threat to that story to be like, interpreted as a threat to our self. Because I think that the story we tell ourselves, it is us.

Like, and if you mess with that it's scary and you have to deal with it. And how we respond to those threats to those negative inputs with aggression or defense or fear or avoidance or acceptance. I think that ends up informing a huge part of who we end up being and how we end up interacting with the world.

So I've been thinking about that thing, a lot. John, I'll see you on Tuesday. 

(singing)  This is the end screen song. There's things that you can click on. Possibly maybe not, if you're on certain devices. Links in the description.