Solutions that produce the problem they intended to solve

I’m entering week four of my time-boxing experiment.

It’s funny because part of me seems to be aware of the nature of my current struggle: I’ve dubbed it my denial of reality. I want to do so many things, yet there are only 168 hours in the week.

One of the things I’ve liked about time-boxing is that it makes it real what will get done that week (and what is not going to get done that week). At the same time, I feel anxious when I see important things that aren’t going to get done.

This feeling of anxiety is uncomfortable.

So to address this feeling, I push myself to schedule those critical things.

However, this has two side effects.

First, my schedule becomes full with back-to-back events. In other words, I have to be super strict with sticking to the scheduled time and starting the next thing on time. It also means I only get to rest/recharge when I plan it. Otherwise, I end up eating into my sleeping time.

Second, when I’m able to schedule all the important things, I see room for me to take on more things. I’m interested in personal growth. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s easiest to interpret “do better” as “do more.” (And that can be a dangerous thought to default to.)

Well, these side effects tend to leave me feeling anxious about things. This feeling is the exact thing I was trying to avoid in the first place.

So the drive for instant gratification (i.e. avoiding the feeling of anxiety) led me to ignore the bigger picture–that the solution I was choosing would produce more of the same.

I’ve performed this exact pattern before in my life.

Since childhood, I’ve had a fear of people disliking me for a myriad of reasons (probably related to worthiness). So to avoid feeling disconnected, I often tried to be invisible. (After all, if people can’t see you, they’ll have no reason to reject you.)

But looking at this from an external perspective, it’s clear that being invisible inevitably leads to disconnection. People can’t connect with you if they don’t see you.

So in these ways, the solutions I came up with for my problems became double-edged swords.

I scheduled everything to avoid feeling anxious, but this made me uneasy about other things.

I avoided being seen to prevent disconnection, but this prevented me from connecting with others.

Seeing these patterns makes me curious about how often I do these things without realizing it.

I’m also curious if there’s a better term for this pattern than “double-edged sword” and how common this phenomenon is.

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