How 'self-control' might make you unhappier (and other things) cover image

How 'self-control' might make you unhappier (and other things)

Dorian Minors • May 25, 2015

This is an archived article from our predecessor website, The Dirt Psychology. The idea there was to take psychological scholarship and turn it into wisdom. The Armchair Collective tries to go a little further than just psychology. As such, these articles live here in archive form, until they're updated.

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Are your sexual fantasies normal?

Probably. Research seems to indicate that there is a high rate or normativity when it comes to what we imagine, including the fact that almost everyone reports fantasising; we usually have them about more than one person; and that men and women are into fairly different things. There's also research that at least a quarter of us (men and women) are into 'rape' fantasy and watching our partners do it with others. Basically, filthy is the norm. The interesting trend is that our fantasies tend to follow our self esteem. The more insecure we feel, the more independent our fantasies. I suppose the real difference between us then, isn't what plays out in our minds, but the things we actually do.

Are you good at your job? You might want to stop.

New research indicates that the more 'self-control' we have, the more we're expected to be able to accomplish by our peers. People who have high self-control tend to be better at life. They have better health, more money and better relationships. But they don't necessarily find life easier, although their strategies might be more effective, tasks are still just as mentally impactful as for our more incompetent fellows. This is a problem, because the higher our self-control, the more burden gets passed on to us. Not only that, but people tend to put up with it too, at the expense of their own goals and ambitions. So take stock of what you're doing and measure it up. Maybe it's time to take a break?

It's not in your head, drinking does make you better at pool.

Alcohol is banned in archery competitions. Not because of the obvious health and safety concerns I'd have when mixing alcohol and weaponry. Quite the opposite. A blood alcohol level of .02 actually improves performance. It improves performance in a lot of things actually, although at .03 we see a drastic decrease. Why? Not sure. .02 might be just enough to make you concerned about your performance and thus try harder, but not quite enough to impair your skills. Or, since alcohol is a depressant, it might be the slight relaxation of your body. It may just be that it ups your levels of confidence. One more theory is that of encoding specificity, or state-dependent memory. Essentially, you do better at things when the environment matches that in which you learned that thing. Learn pool at the bar, slightly buzzed, and you'll possibly do better that way. Whatever the reason, now you know. You might very well be better at pool when you've had a couple. Although, realistically, .02 is a little under a couple.

You're losing your memory.

We talk a lot at The Dirt Psychology about how your brain loves to create shortcuts. It's got a lot of work to do and so it makes things easier by taking the easy road. But it can be problematic and Dr Eric Haseltine suggests that your brain actively selects and deletes memories it (not you) thinks aren't important. Basically, anything 'normal' goes in the bin. Which means that you've forgotten most of your entire life. Want to change that? Well, assign important to your memory ASAP. Your brain starts forgetting as soon as things happen. If you actively pay attention to what's going on, your brain will have no choice but to keep it.

Want more friends? Get a pet.

Research shows that over half of people with a pet have met an important person in their life directly because of their new companion. Almost half reported receiving social support (i.e. significant social intervention) through someone they met because of their pet. It makes sense. What better way to meet someone than out and about with your dog. It's also good news. As pseudo-social support (like non-close Facebook friends) increases, we've seen a decline in the amount of more legitimate forms of social support. Not that Facebook isn't a good place to find friends, but that not many people are actually achieving that. Turning scholarship into wisdom without the usual noise and clutter, we dig up the dirt on psychological theories you can use. Become an armchair psychologist at The Dirt Psychology.

Turning scholarship into wisdom we can use at The Armchair Collective.

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Dorian Minors

I mostly do brain science. Sometimes I train honeybees. I promise they're related. I made this site because there's no reason why scholars should be the only ones to own knowledge. My special interests are interpersonal relationships, the science of community, spirituality and the brain, and the neural basis of complex behaviour. I hope this stuff is as interesting to you as it is to me. You can find out more about me here.