Psychic or psychological entropy is a state of mind first written about by Carl Jung and later developed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in his concept of Flow. When psychic entropy prevails, anxiety, depression, and boredom predominate. Our attention is fragmented, and we allow negative thought tapes to loop in our minds. Psychic entropy is a state that leaves us hampered in our ability to deal with complex external tasks or useful inner contemplation. We all know what this feels like — that all too familiar state of being frazzled, fragmented and unraveled, paralyzed by inertia and self-conflict, our mind busily gnawing on worried thoughts like chew toys.
So what can we do about that?
One answer is: If in doubt, focus out. Use such times to do easy mechanical tasks like laundry and dishes that we can accomplish even when our attention is fragmented.
Psychic entropy is more likely to occur in solitude, so if a positive social interaction is available, it may help switch you out of it. Focus on external consideration- on others’ needs rather than your own, as psychic entropy occurs in a state of internal consideration.
Entertaining, not-too-dense audiobooks and podcasts can be a way to fill the chaotic inner space with better-quality content.
Alternatively, you could go all the way in the other direction and sit down in solitude, perhaps with a journal open, and carefully observe, or even record, all the fragmenting thoughts as they loop through your mind and see what subpersonalities they come from and what issues they’re presenting.
If the state of psychic entropy comes from a general deficit of meaning in your life, then see what you can do to increase meaningfulness.
Consider Csikszentmihalyi’s “5 C’s” of a Complex Personality as summarized in a now-defunct blog:
“The Complex Personality knows how to integrate a variety of experiences into its overall experience, making the dullest moments interesting. Being in Flow leads to Complexity for when you experience Flow, you want to experience more of it and construct your world to pull you irresistibly towards experiences within the Flow. Focus on these to craft your world:
1) Clarity – Know what you want to do in your life every day. Have clarity of goals, listen to feedback, and adjust yourself to the feedback you receive from the world.
2) Center – You are in Balance. Your goal is to focus, to know how to avoid distractions, to become at one with what you’re doing, with all of your attention under your control.
3) Choice – Knowing there are a variety of possibilities around you, that you’re not determined by outside events but have choice and can move within it. Whatever you do, you do “at Choice”.
4) Commitment- Care for what you’re doing at all times. Remain conscious of what you care about. Commit to it.
5) Challenge – Keep upping your challenges as you master a certain level. Always make life more challenging.”
See the section on “Dealing with Afflictive Thoughts and Feelings” in A Guide to the Perplexed Interdimensional Traveler which will, among other things, present a technique that will shut down negative tape loops.
A Guide to the Perplexed Interdimensional Traveler for a more thorough discussion.
Finally, here’s a technique from the guide that will stop annoying mental tape loops cold and dead in their well worn tracks:
Breaking Inner Tape Loops with Numbers Exercises
Use this method especially when you find that your mind is “looping” — playing the same negative storyline tapes again and again — “he said she said” etc. When you focus your mind on the numbers exercises you will stop the looping. True, numbers exercises may not be very entertaining, but I’ll take nonentertainment over looping storylines that create the suffering of afflictive emotion and thereby degrade bodily health as well.
The first numbers exercise, which demands focused attention, is to count up by 2s from 1, and down by 2s from 100 in an alternating sequence:
88, 86, etc.
This gets a little tricky when the two streams of numbers cross, but you’ll find that you get into a rhythm with it and it gets a lot easier with practice. Your mind will want to default back to storylines, daydreams or other distractions, and if it succeeds, it will break the numbers exercise at which point you just pick it up again, from the beginning if necessary.
The second numbers exercise is much easier and can be done partly on autopilot which presents a great temptation for your attention to wander and for you to lose track of the numbers. It’s designed that way to train you to maintain focus, to have power over the default mechanism that wants to switch you back to storylines, daydreams, etc. It also trains you to divide attention as you can easily do this exercise while doing laundry, driving, manual chores, etc. This time you count up by twos in an ascending/descending sequence that keeps growing like a ladder that you climb up and down adding a new rung with each ascent. The top number is always repeated and is 2 higher than the last top number. It looks like this:
1 3 3 1
1 3 5 5 31
1 3 5 7 7 5 3 1
1 3 5 7 9 9 7 5 3 1
1 3 5 7 9 11 11 9 7 5 3 1
One more part of this easy sequence is that whenever you hit the number 11, coming up or down the ladder, do some sort of bodily movement — snapping your fingers, blinking an eye, etc. You’re doing well with this exercise if you can make it into the 70s without losing the number stream by defaulting into tape loops, daydreams, etc. Like push-ups and sit-ups, numbers exercises may not always be fun, but they are an effective and direct way to become stronger.”