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8 Ways We're Hardwired to Turn Minor Stress into Catastrophe

#4. Transmitting It

Another ancient behavior is transmitting danger signals to the rest of the pack. That made sense when every single problem was the evolutionary equivalent of the guy with the knife hand in Enter the Dragon. But telling everyone you meet how worried you are about your sports psychology midterm is not adding to their survival chances. In fact, endless wittering about every stray thought that worries your brain is actively damaging their survival instinct by making them wish they were dead.

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"No, that's fascinating. I'm just gonna bang nails through my legs for a bit, but please, keep talking."

When someone spends half an hour complaining to you about a problem instead of fixing it, he's demonstrating that he doesn't think his life is very important, and flat-out telling you that he thinks yours is even less important.

#3. Trillian Choices

The Trillian choice is when you make a binary decision and stress about it no matter which you choose. It's named for Trillian of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, who is split in two in Mostly Harmless, one for each option of a binary decision earlier in her life, and both regret it. Meaning it wasn't the decision that destroyed her, but part of her own personality that was just waiting for the chance.

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"But if you wear 3D glasses, we look like one person again."

Luckily there's a simple procedure to defuse this self-winding psychological self-destruct. When you find yourself second guessing a decision after you've made it, check your garage for a DeLorean. Get in and activate the flux capacitor. If you can't do either of those things, stop thinking about the past and get on with fixing your future decisions.

#2. Pre-Emptively Giving Up

The first urge when you have too much to do is to remove commitments and activities until there's nothing left to worry about. But you should avoid life strategies whose ideal state is "coma."

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Apart from/especially tequila, obviously.

The lesser version of this avoidance strategy is firing off fast requests for extra information, or external confirmation, or anything else that lets us generate an excuse instead of the result. Because it's "somebody else's turn" to get things done.

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"Also I have a note from my mom asking that I be excused from meetings today."

#1. Hiding

Our ancient mammal response to stress is skittering into the bole of a tree and trying to calm our miniature hearts down to only a thousand beats per minute. We're bigger, and we've made all the forests smaller, but our electric jungle has far more hiding places. Twitter and Facebook take hiding in plain sight to global extremes. You can be sitting at a desk covered with work and not see one speck of it for years. Facebook alone can keep whole herds of offices peacefully grazing on each others' emissions while their worries crouch by the "sign out" button, waiting to spring the second they disconnect.

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"OMG, the office is on fire! Totes gonna write an email complaining about all this smoke. Later."

Of course, we can't take advice from small furry ancestors because evolutionary psychology is bullshit. Anyone trying to explain people in terms of simpler, stupider, earlier non-people is trying to convince themselves they can win by reducing everyone else on the planet to a lower difficulty level. It's mostly used by wannabe alpha assholes who don't realize that they're just pissing off the women they meet instead of pissing on them like their cave-dwelling ancestors. I'm using animalogies here to reveal how ridiculous the behavior is, not to recommend it.

None of which stops us from using Netflix as another escape hatch. TV has always been a window into another world, but now it's an outright door. Of the TARDIS. You can find a new favorite show and spend literal days there while your real world decays and your machines go "Crash, we didn't need a whole Matrix, new seasons of Doctor Who were more than enough."

The result? The fun advice? The traditional searing insight at the end of the article? You already know it -- close this article and finish whatever you were meant to be doing. Then come back when you're finished and read 20 more.


Luke also explains The Importance of Not Being Good Enough, tumbles, and responds to every single tweet.

Read about real reasons to be upset, like RoboCop wishing he still had genitals, or Dead Rising's Descent into Popularity.

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