Sometimes we wish we didn’t want something that we do want, or wish we did want something that we don’t want. Alicorn gives a few examples here.
As described in the previous post, our minds are not entirely under our control. Our bodies sometimes use extreme forms of persuasion to get us to desire things that we (our conscious/rational mind) otherwise wouldn’t be interested in, or to dislike things that we think would be useful.
For example, someone who is overweight might want to eat, but metawant to not eat. Their body sends them signals that they are hungry, causing a first order want. But the person might know that they’ve consumed enough calories already, and therefore they metawant to not eat.
Similarly, our body might try to persuade us to not doing something that we think we should. For example, I might hate running, because when I run I get sweaty, winded and sore (my body’s way of persuading me to stop and not do it again). But…I metawant to run because I know it’s good for me.
Metawanting is not necessarily a problem, but it does imply that there are things about yourself that you’d like to change. If you find yourself metawanting often, I’d imagine that that could lead to unhappiness.
Some Metawanting Solutions
Acceptance: If a first order want isn’t particularly harmful, the best option might be to just accept who you are. For example, suppose someone dislikes spending time with children, but they metawant to have kids (perhaps because they keep getting told how fulfilling it is to have kids). If they learn to accept that having kids probably isn’t what’s best for them, the metawant will go away.
Avoidance: If both your want of something and your metawant not to do it are very strong, avoidance might be the best option. For example, if you want to stay faithful to your spouse, but have strong desires to have sex with other people, your best bet might be to avoid situations where you are alone with the opposite sex or have opportunities to cheat.
Loop hole: Find a way to get the biological reward without exactly giving your body what it wants. For example, in the year 1900, a teenage girl might have wanted to have sex, but not get pregnant. She knew the consequences of pregnancy might include a major loss in social status and possibly even getting drowned in a lake by her boyfriend. Thus, she wanted to have sex and metawanted to abstain. Birth control is a contemporary loop hole.
Mind hacking: Learn to use your body’s reward system to your advantage. The metawant is the motivation to hack your mind to change what you want. For example, if you metawant to clean your desk, but don’t want to clean your desk, you can use the mind hacking technique described in this PJ Eby video.
Substitution: If you metawant something because you think it would be useful, try to find something else that would be almost as useful that you don’t dislike as much. For example, the person who metawants to run might be better off finding a form of exercise that they don’t mind as much.
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