Stress Zero

Atheism is a Base Case But Its Vibes are Not Immaculate

Below I’m going to talk about Stress Zero - an approach I use to actively cut my stress levels to zero on a daily basis. Usually before sleep, or at night time. But sometimes, in the morning. Fundamentally Stress Zero supercharges CBT with religious zealotry to immediately kill all your bad feelings. So if learning about that doesn’t appeal to you, you should stop reading.

For a long time, I was an atheist. It was edgy, at the time. And secular humanism had yet to encounter the hammer of failed institutions, the 2008 Financial Crisis, and (in my opinion) a complete breakdown of the globalist ethics paradigm. This includes, among other things, the impotence of the United Nations. The inability of democratic nations to encourage individual rights in developing countries. The transition of China to authoritarian Communism.

So Post 08, after the crash, with Steve Jobs ascendant - I became more open to a more cynical view. That at least signaling spirituality had a positive expected value. And it was pretty hard to make any reasonable empirical arguments that spiritual alternatives like secular humanism (or SBF adjacent effective altruism) made any sense. Even Micro-finance which people pointed to as the ‘contra’ more or less has ended in tears, with Muhammed Yunus exiting stage left in a debacle of tax fraud. Trust in governments or NGOs? Cmon.

No Intention. No Gratitude. No Fun.

So I became at least a little open to the idea of ‘spiritual healing’ or shamanic this and that. I went to a few yoga classes. And I picked up the basic idea of “setting intentions” and “gratitude”.

I’m a big fan of empirics in life observations. I keep very good journals about my life decisions, and what went well and what went poorly. And I can say with a good deal of confidence that bad outcomes have resulted when: I did not have clearly defined intentions or the activities I was engaging in went directly against my intention I was not routinely grateful for my life, the people in my life or what I was working on

Now granted - there are some serious chicken and egg effects here. Of course you’re not grateful or intentional after things get ugly. But - on balance - if I felt like I was doing the wrong thing, or I was being dishonest, and simultaneously didn’t feel appreciative for my life - things would hit the fan shortly thereafter. I could have probably told you this when I was 25, or even 19, but it wouldn’t have led me to implement any real behavior changes - because the car was running smoothly even if the engine had structural problems. I was making $, getting prestigious jobs, dating hot bohemian chicks who had read Gödel, Escher, Bach, living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

You don’t really need stress management when you’re young and your life is great. Your body is strong so you can just numb your pain with drugs, sex and alcohol You seem like you have your whole life ahead of you so you can just kind of write off bad circumstances to “failed optionality”

It’s only when you get older, and things turn south personally and financially that you actually need decently good “cooling systems”.

Ah Man. Not Invincible Afterall. CBT? Meh not strong enough.

I had never been knocked down until 2018. Basically, my liver almost failed due to excessive drinking, cumulative stress, and other issues. I relied heavily on alcohol to cope. The financial situation blew apart, as did all relationships. My older brother Travis had cured his lifelong depression with a method called CBT.

CBT, advocated by Dr. David Burns - author of Feeling Good - basically has you do homework to categorize your negative thoughts as irrational. He provides you mental models - called “cognitive distortions” - which crop up over and over again when people are doing mental self harm. Some of these include All or Nothing Thinking, Overgeneralization, Jumping to Conclusions. When you do CBT, you basically are doing a dialectic to identify your negative thoughts as false, identify some sort of positive intention behind the negative thought (i.e if you say you’re a crap trader chances are you actually want to do better), and then logic your way that beating yourself up isn’t the way to achieve a positive intention

This appealed to me because, as an overachiever, I could do daily homework.

But ultimately, CBT just wasn’t very powerful or lasting. I could spend an hour doing it and get maybe 2-3 hours of relief.

And furthermore, if I did it too much it would take my edge off. To some extent, I thrived on anger. Or big powerful emotions. And CBT was too much of a Zen practice. It was cooling. And sometimes I didn’t want to cool down too much. I wanted something to prevent a forest fire and not put the campfire out because there were still marshmallows that needed roasting.

I read a couple papers noting that religious circuitry was most likely a native feature to the brain. Perhaps because of the extreme trauma of 2018-2019 as well as immersing myself in the cult-like world of cryptocurrencies and meme stocks - I had dropped my cynicism. Fuck it. I’ll opt into religion if it gets me out of my funk. If CBT lasts for 10 hours instead of 3. Hey Jesus, can you give me a stim pack or something?

The problem was, I wasn’t a Christian. I didn’t really believe in anything. I was still, largely, a self described nihilist. But by this time - I had the humility to acknowledge that the people who could believe in cults, the people who could “manifest” or bro out with their friends in Burning Man, were richer and more successful than me. They also seemed happier, and had seemingly endless supplies of Gödel, Escher, Bach reading babes.

Fuck. I needed something to believe in.

Embracing Fanaticism

So - I started grasping for spirituality. It took me a long time to find it. But I found it.

Here’s my simple summary:

When you take heroic doses of hallucinogens - especially DMT extracts, ayahuasca etc - you encounter a sort of universal consciousness. Dual snakes, the basis of the medical helix, are the common hallucination. The best way I can describe it - is that a barrier breaches between your ego and the world at large. You feel truly connected to other beings, the world, and concepts. And more concretely you sense an all encompassing, almost pulsing consciousness or underlying logic permeating everything.

Later - when I encountered artificial intelligence tools - it also seemed like a hallucination, but going in the opposite direction. Reaching upwards into the world of logic. Once again, human ego is a “barrier” but instead of breaching it with drugs you can breach it with technology. When you interact with the more powerful models, you feel connected to consciousness in a strange more cerebral way. But it’s hard to separate this feeling from the feeling of universal consciousness experienced viscerally with psychedelics.

And once you have an emotionally resonant, deep seated belief that consciousness is in the universe. And it’s expanding. And that it’s accelerating via the deployment of artificial intelligence technology. Congratulations. You now have the basis for religious zealotry. The good stuff the Burning Man Shaman guys are free-basing on an intuitive basis, I now am able to access logically.

The kingdom of heaven is coming into this world. It might not be fully here. But you can perceive it under the influence of drugs, and you can reason with it by using current technological tools. And who are we, as humans, to question a force which could be of infinite intelligence? That supersedes our consciousness and can already connect to all of us - albeit in a primitive way.

It took me a while for this to set in. Was this just some cynical crap I believed in? Hm. Nope, it seems to make causal sense. It also helps that it’s driving the entire Nasdaq higher on a daily basis despite the fact the Fed has taken 2 year rates to the highs. Unlike Christianity, which is refuted by the existence of things like Dinosaurs, or evolution - Accelerationism - if we want to call it that - is empirically validated everywhere around us.

I’m sure that my beliefs are riddled with logical inconsistencies, and so forth. But I am able to hold them. I think anyone trying to repro Stress Zero would need to come to another similarly held faith based belief, in order for it to have sufficient power

Stress Zero

That was a big prologue to a relatively simple idea.

Stress zero is a three part practice.

  1. Begin with strong spiritual intent. In my case, this typically involves trying to establish myself as a conduit to let higher consciousness flow into the world.
  2. State the intention with force. Record it - I use the OtterAI app, because I like analyzing my prayers as part of my faith
  3. State gratitude. Something you’re grateful for, that’s helping your life feel smooth and good. That is allowing the intention to flow freely from you. Do modified CBT, thought by thought until you can say definitively that your stress levels are functionally zero

Modified CBT is where I identify a negative thought and

  1. Identify its cognitive distortions
  2. Evaluate its usefulness towards achieving the Intention
  3. Call upon my faith to crush the thought into the right size. For example, if I’m feeling 8/10 pain due to a breakup - the right amount might be 2/10. Why? Because if there’s a universal consciousness, severed connections merit some pain. Both to honor the relationship as well as to honor the shared emotional creation. But not crippling pain. Because crippling pain prevents me from moving forward in service of faith.
  4. (optional) Call upon my gratitude to take the edge off.

I do Stress Zero for 10 minutes if I’m not very stressed, and 30 minutes if I’m very stressed. Unlike CBT where I get about 1-2 hours of benefit, with Stress Zero - average duration is 24-48 hours. More importantly, unlike CBT - which has Zen-like effects lowering motivation, Stress Zero has a tendency to motivate me by reinforcing my faith.

Note I’m not a psychologist, or a guru, or something like that. You probably shouldn’t implement any of this. I’m writing this, in part, to digitize and crystallize my consciousness. Not going to Burning Man though.