Flavor: Unintentioned immersion.

1. What’s going on mathematically?

Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about some idea or problem, call it X.

2. What is the emotional and logistical context?

It usually happens over the course of a relatively sleepless night. Sometimes because I drank too much coffee. Otherwise, there’s usually a strong emotional hook to it – I feel like I just can’t let go of the idea, even if I make an effort to distract myself.

3. What thoughts are there?

The thoughts are usually very repetitive. It feels like I’m retracing the same pathways over and over, digging deeper tracks, that may become ruts that I can’t get out of. It’s somewhat obsessive. If it happens during the day, it’s like having a song stuck in my head. But I only know snippets of lyrics, so I end up repeating those and not really fleshing out the song at all. I might try to connect the idea to others, to make some progress or get a new perspective, but this never really succeeds.

4. What quality of awareness?

It’s a very shallow awareness, constantly shifting from the periphery to the fore and back to the periphery. It’s like when you repeat one word or phrase over and over, until it stops meaning anything and disintegrates into a silly clump of letters and sounds. I guess it always has a acoustic, rhythmic quality.

5. What emotions?

If it happens during the day, there’s always a strong emotional component, that may be responsible for bringing it back over and over, but without much depth. Maybe X is a problem I’ve been trying to solve for a long time and think I’m close. Maybe I’m frustrated with X, which I’ve invested a lot of time and energy in, and I’m worried it’ll all have been a waste of time. Maybe X is an exciting new idea or breakthrough, that I’m super excited about.

6. What does it resolve to, after how much time?

Maybe I force a distraction, to take my mind off of it. Maybe I can’t handle it any more, so I sit down with pen and paper and books to try to make progress or get some movement out of the same tracks of thought. Maybe I eventually fall asleep.

7. How frequent is this flavor?

1-2 times a month.

8. What are good/bad ways to change or follow it up?

Bad: sometimes I stick with the immersion, thinking it’ll bring some new insight. But really, it’s such a shallow state of mind that I’ve never gotten anything useful out of it. Good: force some interruption or distraction, and come back to X after a break.

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