GHDR Report 0404: Powered by Prosocial Motivation

Posted Thursday, April 4, 2024 by Sri. Tagged GHDR
I've fallen back into mechanical keyboards, for the first time playing with hotswap versions that have so many kinds of switches! Picking the right switches is the metaphor I'm going for with this month's reportLooking for the Right PiecesLooking for the Right Pieces (full size image)

In Our Last Episode...

The March Report described a manifesto that I needed to write to attract people to the idea of "The Colony". I also wanted to create infrastructure to help people find each other, such as a webring. As a bonus, I would work on the PDF automation software.

(As you might guess, none of that happened)

March was a month of severe depression that got so bad I called my gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) specialist, who had suggested trying Fluoxetine as a way to lift my mood. Fluoxetine is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), a class of medication that improves the availability of the neurotransmitter hormone Serotonin. In pharmacology it's often prescribed as a treatment for depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety. As all of these symptoms fit me, it seemed like an interesting thing to try though I didn't think my depression was due to an imbalance of biochemistry, but rather an imbalance of social interaction that gives me purpose.

After three weeks with no clear benefit, the dose was increased from 10mg to 20mg and I started to feel increased levels of anxious thoughts as well as suicidal ideation. At my gender therapy appointment, I mentioned that I had increased thoughts related to death and feelings that I didn't need to be alive, and I was concerned enough to increase the frequency of visits temporarily as well as take down the 611 suicide hotline number. While I didn't think I desired to kill myself, I was aware that I didn't really know how close I was to the edge...just one really bad day might set me off. My sleep was highly disrupted, and when I was able to lie down I felt anxiety arise in my dreams as I recalled every terrible social mistake I had made from the time I was 5 to 45.

A Surprise Revelation

It was about two weeks into this that I thought I should check whether Fluoxetine had any side effects, and contated my GAHT doctor to mention what I was going through. The office called me back to set up an immediate telehealth and we worked through the issues over a long session where she asked me more questions about how I was feeling. As someone who deals with a lot of transgender individuals, she was familiar with the depression that often accompanies rejection and fear of not fitting-in to society. She noted that I seemed to be articulate about what I was feeling and trying to plan/analyze my way out of it, and suggested that perhaps I wasn't letting myself feel the emotions. This took me by complete surprise...wasn't I really open to my feelings and had developed ways of expressing them?

I paused in thought, then told the doctor something like, "Ok, let me try just talking about how I feel without the need to represent myself accurately to a medical professional. I feel sad and unseen, alone, without people to talk to."

That was a pivotal moment, but the real surprise was my concern about just how long the session was going. The doctor had to tell someone that she was still in a call, and I started to worry that I was taking time away from another patient, feeling increasingly concerned. I started to try to let the doctor know that we had a plan of action to taper off Fluoxetine because it clearly wasn't helping, and apologized for taking up more time than I felt I was allocated, and that I was feeling very bad about this. She stopped for a second, and then told me that she was good on time and that if she had to go, she would honestly tell me; while I was special like all her patients, I wasn't that special. That made me laugh, and then I started to weep as the pressure inside released. "Oh dear, I think we opened a wound" she said.

The telehealth call ended after talking through that a bit, and the overall takeaway I had was that I really wasn't letting myself feel the emotion because I was using logic and rationality to manage it. I had thought I was open to emotion, but I was treating it as a "canary in a coal mine" kind of trigger...if I felt something, then I would analyze it and try to come up with a mitigation after puzzling things through. This had worked fine for decades, until it was no longer enough.

I have used emotion to drive logical decisions, but this is not the same as feeling them.

- epiphany

With that insight, I realized something else.

I am motivated by feeling connections, not by results. This is my primary energy mode.

- realization

All this time I've been using emotion to understand what I desired, but I didn't pursue emotion itself. Instead, I used it as an instrument to systematically devise experiments and plans that seemed feasible if I just executed them step-by-step. This was always really hard to initiate without extraordinary effort or a sense of immediacy provided by others. I have tried to learn to optimize and reframe problems in dozens of ways, but none of them are reliable sources of activation energy.

Changing Things Up

There is a lengthy series of ChatGPT4 conversations that lead me to the insight that my dominant form of energy comes from prosocial motivation. You can find the first series at 0401-00-src and the second at 0403-00-src. You may find it interesting how I asked it questions about myself in the third person, particularly toward the end of the second series.

The Sri engine runs on emotion, and therefore emotion is the priority. Getting deeper into it, I am primarily driven by what is called prosocial motivation. I have a strong desire to see people working together with me contributing to a buzzing happy state of creative synthesis, sharing knowledge and experience and filled with celebratory enthusiasm as we pursue collective excellence together. I'm motivated by seeing how my work contributes to this collective spirit, and not really anything else. For example, I'm not particularly interested in any skill I can imagine how I can use it to help someone else have a good experience. My entire way of looking at design, engineering, and process is inherently human focused, which is why I never understood the recent trends of design thinking and human-centered design...isn't this just regular thinking and design? It didn't occur to me until TODAY that being human-centered in one's thinking and work was not just what everyone did.

Anyway, the recent interations of Groundhog Day Resolutions has centered around the idea of establishing a Colony or Outpost where a community can exist that provides the people energy that I need. However, because I'm entirely prosocially motivated, doing this by myself lack the very energy that I am trying to generate so I can do stuff. It's quite the pickle, and I've spent many years trying to trick myself into sustaining my efforts. The novelty of new approaches are enough to keep me going for a while, but it's not sustainable. Instead of trying new processes and mental frameworks, I want to change the goal itself:

Find the people and start talking about dreams we're working on.

- new strategic goal

Now, I'm skipping a whole lot of things that I could prepare or design first, but remember that I am prosocially motivated; if I don't have another person to prosocial with creatively, then I don't have the right energy to even initiate something. This is what I can do now, and I trust that my other skills will arise when they are needed. This is a variation of the Never Work Alone mantra I set last year, but until now I was at a loss about how to approach it.

Here's an initial draft of what I want to convey:

I envision a group of prosocially-motivated creative friends that want to build a safe creative aspirational space where the culture is friendly and collaborative because everyone is interested in what others are doing. People who enjoy listening to people's stories and sharing their own are a good match for what I'd like, as are people who genuinely prefer to work and chat with other people together.

A second aspect of this group is the emphasis on spreading the stories and fun with the outside world. The ideals of group can be a "seed" that is easily shared with other groups in the spirit of unconferences such as Barcamp back in the mid 2000s. The active cultivation of news exchange with other groups, as is the creation of supporting websites and print publications, is an ongoing activity of the group.

Mobilizing the People

Being someone who is prosocially motivated, the people I talk to should also have a strong prosocial drive. Practically speaking, I need to find people who also want to build a community like The Colony together with me, because they also think it's a good idea.

I have several fragments of the description of what this community looks like and how it would be operationally managed, but if I think about producing those materials without having already locked-in some prosocial community building buddies I will just keep spining my wheels. My first step, then, will be to message friends to see if they have time to talk to me about creating a hub for the kind of creative entrepreneurial play that I think is possible at as small a scale as possible. What I'm looking for is genuine interest and the ability to commit to building together because this is a priority project for the both of us.

This Month's Experiment

My thought: throw out planning and execution entirely as the strategic goal for 2024. Instead, pursuing the emotion itself is more direct as it is the energy that I need to initiate actions.

That said, I still have the desire to make cool and excellent things that bring joy and solve problems in new and unexpected ways. This celebrates both my desire for feeling strong emotion and connecting my work to how other humans live. That's the end goal. I suspect that the skills I acquire and end product is not that important in comparison to creating the situation where PEOPLE are CONNECTING and THRIVING through their creative joyful interactions with the universe.

Connect and see where the conversation goes. Let prosocial opportunities emerge.

- new directive

While I don't have any specific materials prepared, here's a list of prompts that I'll use to initiate connection. The criteria for good connections might be something like:

  1. Like listening to other people's stories
  2. Possess a desire to share their own stories
  3. Naturally enjoy looking for synergies that are mutually beneficial and fun
  4. Are capable of adding their expertise to our soup cauldron of capabilities
  5. Want to meet frequently and regularly to see what other people have been up to because they like seeing where it's going to go
  6. Are looking for a supportive environment where it feels safe for them to share what they're doing, and liking the idea of working in a place where we can see what's going on in real time and/or face to face
  7. Are excited also about creating novel and interesting things
  8. Are capable and willing to contribute to the group effort of building the infrastructure online and in personal gathering together, so no one is every working alone.

So my goal this month is to have as many conversations with people as possible, which I believe will drive my productivity. I want to build this new thing with other people, and I think I just have to jump into it and trust that I can keep my balance. I don't know what I'll say yet, but once I have a person to connect to that will snap into place. There is no stronger motivation I have than to connect meaningfully to other people, so that is what I want to harness. I have a ridiculous amount of project management and organizational development theory, web design and print production skills, writing skills, and broad interest in communications design / visual semiotics / information theory. I just need the spark from another person's genuine interest to get the fire going.


This year's single goal is Building The Colony!

Made a simple "functional area" diagram using Whimsical to help gather my thoughts.

I converted the Whimsical doc from yesterday to Affinity Designer.

Created new subsite at /the-colony/

Wrote stream-of-consciousness "vision statement" for later cleanup

Convert stream-of-consciousness into a "phrase cloud" for further deconstruction

Artifacts of The Colony: Pebbles, Seeds, and Rings

Created a "refined phrase cloud" grouped into five categories, based on boot 05's work.

Extracted "foundational" statements from yesterday, but they didn't leave a strong impression. Punt "why" to tomorrow's post.

Created a "Selfishly Sri" printable assessment to gauge outside interest.

Reducing scope from Colony to Outpost.

Desired results are distilled down to two main ideas, which will cover the next couple of months.

A slow start to the year, as I focused on paying work for most of the month. Set four directives to achieve this mont

The set of analysis notes that I authored with ChatGPT4 to refine my understanding of "prosocial motivation"

New goal is to start connecting with future chatty collaborators, as my brain runs on "prosocial motivation" and meaningful human connections.

Delving further into my "predominantly prosocially-motivated" profile, and how to turn this into action given the dilemma of "needing the energy from a group to start a task" being at odds with "needing to start a group so I have energy".

Jun 6


Jul 7


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Dec 12