Cursed problems

i'm afraid that getting yourself in and out of bed in a timely manner might be a life-complete problem, ie. to solve this problem you have to fix your entire life such that you don't feel the urge to postpone existing because existing is great

— @owohundro, Oct 1, 2020


Some problems are cursed.

  1. They have many causes.
  2. Until you solve several causes at once, you don't see progress.
  3. Some causes are exacerbated by the problem they help create.
  4. The more you hate having the problem, the harder it is to get rid of it. You literally have to stop wanting something in order to get it.


Here are some examples:

  • Getting laid is a cursed problem.
    • You might not be getting laid because—you have acne, there's nothing interesting going on in your life, you are bad at sex. Any single of those is not enough, but all together they are enough. And all of these are exacerbated by not getting laid:
      • You have acne because you are stressed out about not having sex.
      • You don't have anything interesting going on in your life because you spend all the time thinking about sex (instead of engaging in hobbies, doing things for yourself, etc).
      • You are bad at sex because you don't get enough practice.
      • In its turn, even the practice you do get doesn't help you, because you are insecure about sex and you either don't ask for feedback or take it very poorly. This is a small cursed problem in its own.
      • Also, the more you want to have sex, the more stressed you're going to be and the more desperate you are going to look—and the harder it will be for you to get sex.
  • Feeling ungrateful is a cursed problem.
    • You might feel ungrateful because you feel like you have to be grateful, and feeling things against your will sucks. You might also feel ungrateful because people don't do anything good for you, or if they do they don't tell you.
      • You keep feeling like "I have to be grateful" because you know that being grateful is a good thing, and you're afraid that if you don't feel guilty about it, you will never feel grateful. Your mind rebels and doesn't let you notice the small things you could be grateful about, because those feelings are drowned out by resentment.
      • People might not be doing anything good for you because they know you won't be grateful for it.
      • People don't want to point out the good things they do, because you will cringe or bite their heads off. (Because you feel resentment at having to feel grateful—see above.)
  • Going to sleep early is a cursed problem.
    • You are not going to sleep early—you are sleepy and tired—you are not productive—you work till night to finish your tasks—you are not going to sleep early.
    • You are not going to sleep early—you wake up later than your roommates—you don't get to have breakfast with them together before they go to work—you feel lonely—you spend the night away scrolling through Twitter—you are not going to sleep early.
    • Etc, etc.
    • And then there are also independent causes, eg. to learn to go to sleep early you need to learn to stop feeling guilty about work and learn to say "no" to people, and you need to learn how to cook so that you don't have to go out hunting for food, and many more things.

What to do

If you've been struggling with a problem for a year or more, the chances are it's a cursed problem. It won't go away on its own. It might keep going on forever.

To make it not go on forever, you need to do three things:

  1. Recognize that the problem is cursed and you will need patience.
  2. Keep chipping away at all of the sub-causes even if you don't see progress.
  3. Not feel bad about having the problem.

There might be many ways to solve these. My favorite way to solve the first two is The best self-improvement trick so far: a giant board. It will teach you to recognize how many problems in your life are cursed problems. It will make it easier for you to focus on the sub-causes, because it will provide a visceral demonstration that even things that don't seem solvable can eventually be solved.

The third item is very hard to solve. Deciding not to feel bad about not having something you really really want feels like betraying yourself. Even after you realize that it applies to many things (especially things like "finding a partner"), you will still not know why exactly it applies. You just have to keep whispering "it's fucked up but it happens to be this way" while walking alone through a cold cold night.