Thorsten Zöller

Pretended Intentionality


I have recently become aware of an interesting – and somewhat concerning – behavior of mine in relation to my phone: In those spare moments when I am waiting for something, for instance, and the inevitable compulsion to check my phone arises, I often do manage to resist that urge. But after that first little victory over myself, something interesting happens: My mind, unable to accept that it is denied the diversion it so much craves, is trying to come up with suggestions for things that would be worth doing with my phone while waiting:[1]

What was it again that makes Ridge A such a special place? Now would be a good time to head over to Wikipedia and check it out – after all, there is not much else you can do right now anyway!

Which city in the world has the longest subway system, actually? Well, why not figure it out quickly?

Let's check to find out whether the new OpenBSD release is already available.

My mind knows that I am trying to control myself in order not to compusively check my phone for no obvious reason whatsoever. And therefore, recognizing that just letting things run will not suffice this time, it becomes creative: Knowing that I am trying hard to act intentionally instead of compulsively and reflexive, it makes me believe that I do in fact act intentionally by rationalizing using my phone.

And thus my mind gets hold of me. It's the monkey mind at work. But just like a real monkey, it is not just jumping around like crazy; it is also very clever and inventive.

What is so perfidious about it is that my mind is tricking me into the very behavior I am trying to avoid by convincing me that I am in fact avoiding it. Yet, this is all just another, albeit clever, strategy of my mind to run away from the slightest sign of boredom and instead indulge in distractions; that everlasting endeavor of the mind of not having to cope with the truly important things in life – or, at the least, of not having to sit alone in a quiet empty room.

The good thing is: Once you become aware of something you want to change, it becomes possible to actually change it.

  1. I am mostly using the terms me and my mind here to refer to the conscious and subconscious parts of myself, respectively.