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"The main mechanism here seems to be that guilt not only blocks the relaxation, it also creates negative associations around the productive things - the productivity becomes that nasty uncomfortable reason why you don't get to do fun things, and you flinch away from even thinking about the productive tasks, since thinking about them makes you feel more guilty about not already doing them. Which in turn blocks you from developing a natural motivation to do them."

I'll add that this an example of a pretty common description of the ruminations that people experience when suffering from depression. As someone who has just come out of a fairly severe depression*, I can say that purposefully cultivating this type of thinking can be dangerous in a way beyond just developing guilt, which would be bad enough in of itself.

When you're trying to bail out of depression, you learn a lot about different schools of therapy to deal with it. One is cognitive therapy, which involves learning how to quickly identify "automatic thoughts," or instantaneous, destructive, and often irrational thoughts that further drive the ruminative cycle preventing you from thinking clearly. A common automatic thought described by people suffering from different types of depression includes "guilt for feeling guilt," or guilty for feeling guilty about not doing something that you feel like you should be doing. In other words, nearly exactly what was described in this "mindhack." Once this cycle of thinking develops, I cannot begin to describe how difficult it is to break, except to say that it took me nearly half a decade (obviously a bit of an oversimplification - this is just one of many symptoms to try to break).

Point being, I would strongly recommend against trying this mindhack. It may have worked for the OP, but it can also be a catalyst towards something more severe than "a willpower-draining death spiral."

  • For context, just to know I'm not throwing the word "depression" around lightly, my illness lasted approximately 5 years, had to see 4 therapists, several psychiatrists and try a couple of antidepressents. Tried several different schools of therapy from cognitive therapy to psychodynamic. Finally a combination the right antidepressent, cognitive therapy, meditating and a lot of exercise helped me break out of it. Not to mention significantly changing my life course.