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Aversion Factoring

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Sometimes we are psychologically averse to doing things that are actually good for us to do.

There are many activities we might engage in and enjoy but for an aversion that prevents us from engaging in that activity.

The key insight behind aversion factoring is that no activity simply is aversive, at its core. There’s no fundamental quantity called “running” that “just sucks,” for instance—running is a complex system of experiences, and summing or averaging across all of them causes us to lose valuable detail. By factoring "running" into component experiences, we can evaluate each experience separately, and we may find that we’re more or less okay with all of them, and that the ones that are the most negative can be addressed individually.

For example, we might factor "running" into the following components:

The purpose of the Aversion Factoring technique is to give you the tools you’ll need to identify and overcome aversions.

Discussion of when the solution is appropriate.

Of course, not every aversion should be overcome—it would probably be counterproductive to lose your aversion to being hit by cars, for example. In the set of [dancing, singing, public speaking, interacting with strangers, asking for help, doing taxes, getting into fights, tinkering with your car, going to parties, trading stocks, feeling comfortable naked, cleaning up your apartment, learning martial arts, calling old friends, firing guns, writing code, & going on more dates], there are probably some things you’re averse to and would benefit from doing more of, but there are also probably some things you’re averse to and have no real need to do, or actively and correctly avoid.

Both [a policy of immediately trusting your aversions] and [a policy of immediately dismissing or disregarding your aversions] are dumb. Aversions are a trigger to look closer. The goal is to have the affordance to overcome aversions, so that when you recognize one in yourself, it’s up to you whether or not to do something about it (as opposed to being outside of your control).

The Aversion Factoring algorithm

1. Choose an activity

2. Check your motivation

3. Factor the aversion out into parts

4. Draw a causal graph

5. Implement possible solutions


Factor aversive activities into component experiences in order to see if there are ways to actually engage in activities that would be good for you.