My mood at any given time seems to be correlated very tightly to something relating to my output; but naively this would predict that as my capacities increase over time, that I’d get happier, and this mostly doesn’t seem to be the case. A different model I’ve been wondering about is if my mood might be based on the diff from the three-month moving average of my skill/capacity. So when I manage to learn more or get more done than I’m used to managing, I feel awesome; when I seem do be doing or learning less, I feel bad about myself, and hopeless. And of course then that causes me to get even less done, which makes me feel worse… and at some point I hit some kind of rock bottom where some other mechanism is causing me to make a bare minimum amount of progress regardless of how bad I feel. And after a while, that starts to feel normal, and I stop expecting any better from myself… at which point I start having more energy, and manage to do a bit better than I have. Which then causes me to feel actually quite good about myself (since the three-month average has gotten pretty low at this point), which lets me get more done, and so on from there.
This seems to do a pretty good job of predicting the cycling of my low-mood episodes, but doesn’t explain what causes them in the first place. Random fluctuation could explain it, but large situational disruptions to my productivity are relatively unusual, and my mood seems to be less robust than that frequency would predict. So instead of a diff from my three-month average, let’s say that my mood “thermostat” is expecting a linear extrapolation of that three-month dataset, which means that when things have been improving for a while I expect them to keep improving in a linear fashion. And maybe linear growth just can’t be consistently sustained (at least on my current mindware tech, blah blah growth mindset blah blah), and so even minor disruptions can knock me below that day’s mental setpoint for “you’re doing OK at life, you get to feel good today.” And sometimes a counter-fluctuation manages to bring me back up above the setpoint before the positive feedback loop really takes hold, but sometimes not.
The obvious theory for what causes this, if it is basically accurate, is that the guy inside my head who controls my mood thinks his job is to let me know whether I’m doing an OK job, and he’s got some model for how to predict what “an OK job” is on any given day/week. And that his current model is this “linear extrapolation from a 3 month moving average” thingie. However! It’s clear that he’s already sometimes prepared to make exceptions. When my brother-in-law died, even though I wasn’t all that productive in the months afterwards relative to the months leading up to it, I basically didn’t feel bad about myself at all. (I was sad a lot, and angry sometimes, and somewhat less objectively productive as mentioned, so arguably I was something that could be called “depressed,” but there’s something different I want to point at which I clearly wasn’t. In general, I think I often use the word “depressed” to mean something that might be entirely different than what it means clinically; anyone know if this is true, and if so, whether the clinical world has a word for the thing I want?)
Bottom line: it’d be awesome if I was able to have some dialogues with this guy about what sorts of things are sensible “exceptions” to the expectation of linear growth. Or maybe about the linear growth expectation in general, if it’s not actually sustainable. In particular it seems very plausible there’s something like seasonal fluctuations in energy level that I’m not accounting for and am therefore massively accentuating. Or, maybe this guy is actually fundamentally wrong about what mood is for, and I can convince him of that, instead.