An engineering problem

In class four years ago, I heard the story of how Shigeo Shingo (supposed creator of the SMED approach) was able to overcome the limitations implied by Harris’ Economic Order Quantity. The idea he applied was simple, but at the same time, it blew my mind the way the story was told.

You don’t always have to accept your limitations as they are implied (or even defined) by math or science. Sometimes you have the ability to change your limitations, and via that change you can replace your old limitations with new limitations that you’ve consciously defined.

As I read over my summary, I feel like it’s both ridiculously obvious and yet profound at the same time; on a logical level, it boils down to almost nothing.

For most of my life, I’ve been unaware of the concept of emotion. Needless to say, I didn’t understand what my own emotional, social, and other well-being needs were, or that they were important at all. Then, three years ago, I became aware of the world of emotion. I learned that these needs exist, and that emotions have to be acknowledged and processed in some way in order for them to not build up until they become overwhelming. But in part, I overcompensated for my history of emotional repression. I respected some emotions too much, gave them too much free rein, and even glorified them while continuing to deny other emotions that were more uncomfortable but equally important. I must change that, and I believe that I can. What I’m trying to do could well be the hardest thing I will ever do in my life, or it could be my ultimate ruin.

I have all these external psychological needs that are all but tangible and that I struggle to meet. I’ve tried for a long time to change the circumstances and manipulate the external factors in order to meet these demands. But it doesn’t work in the long-term, and the practical costs are exorbitant. It’s never enough. This is an engineering problem, and the solution is to effect a change in my internal workings such that the available external resources are rendered sufficient for my new internal needs.

Congratulate me on accepting my new job?

I won’t mince my words: my brain is messed up, from the higher levels of abstraction down to the chemical level. Coming from a background of lifelong emotional suppression and addiction, I have long suspected it and yet I’m still surprised by the details of this conclusion. There’s an adage that we have to be particularly mindful about what new vice replaces the old one we’re trying to overcome. After reading about how to process emotions, I’ve confirmed one of my least favorite hypotheses about my life:

It’s not enough for me to make smart decisions; I must work hard to embody the things I believe in.

When I was introduced to the world of emotions three years ago, I learned to find out what makes me feel good. But my sources didn’t really discuss balance and the bigger picture, so I’ve now realized that I’ve been unknowingly regulating my emotions in an unhealthy manner on a daily basis for years. It seems I typically either over-regulate my negative emotions or try to manipulate myself into feeling positive emotions and then under-regulate those positive emotions. This is my addiction, and it’s very very bad for discipline, willpower, motivation, or any of the things that drive us to work towards our goals.

In light of this information, I must accept my new full-time role as supervisor of my mind and body. There is no other way. I must find out what makes me feel uncomfortable. I must learn to accept that discomfort and operate towards my goals regardless of it. I must switch off the music to my ears. I must be willing to abandon everything I think I know, once again, and purge aspects of my behavior that I may have mistaken for my personality. I’m scared. I’m terrified. But I must be brave. I know this is what needs to be done.

If this is what I am right now, it’s not like I have anything worth losing in the first place; there is no tragedy in this.