The study was simple. The psychologists told a group of adults,
“We would like you to act in a normal way, doing all the things you have to do, but not doing anything that is ‘play’ or ‘non-instrumental.’”
Make the bed, do the dishes, call the plumber, buy the class treats.
Always be productive. Do not do things for pleasure. Do not do things that are not productive.
They had to stop the study on the second day because to continue would be unethical. The participants were getting sick. Emotionally and mentally sick.
They were sluggish. They had headaches. They couldn't concentrate. They were chronically tired and simultaneously too agitated to sleep.
I know you can relate.
But I also know that you tend to blame yourself, "What's wrong with me? Why can't I finish what I start? Why am I so tired, it's not like I did anything all day?"
So on top of the sickening effects of depriving yourself of pleasure and ease, you add on heavy slabs of shame. And then you attempt to counter the shame by being more productive, less 'lazy', and the spiral of pressure, fatigue, and inadequacy spins on.
I have lots more to say about why this happens and what we can do about it, but for today I just want you to really take in the results of this study.
Within 48 hours the subjects were too distressed and dysfunctional for the study to continue.
If you're struggling with being exhausted by the compulsive need to be productive, it's not a moral failing on your part.
It is not.
It is a function of not having permission to do the minimum necessary.
It is a function of not having permission to prioritize your pleasure.
You must stop blaming yourself before you will be willing to start doing less and having more fun within that less-ness.
It is not your fault.
You were not born to be a service machine.
We were born to be a human with A bodY and Feelings and desires and needs.
When you finish reading this, what is one thing you can do just because your warm, soft heart likes it?