Friday, 7 January 2011

Low Marshmallow Tolerance

I was reminded today of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. To summarise, small children were given the choice between a single marshmallow now or, if they waited by themselves in a room with the marshmallows for fifteen minutes without eating one, they could have two. 

A third of the children could 'defer gratification' long enough to get a second marshmallow. Follow up studies showed that the children who did resist at 4 years old later performed better in school and achieved more as adults. 

I find this interesting because up until about two years ago I was unable to metaphorically and literally resist the marshmallow. If there was chocolate or sweets in the house, I would eat them. Equally, if I had the option of buying myself a present now, and saving the money and buying something better later, I would always buy now. That also only changed about two years ago. 

One way to 'explain' a habit like that is to claim that you collect things. This is what I did. 
Deer collection
I had a yarn collection, a knitting book collection, a vintage haberdashery book collection, a collection of all the books written by various mystery authors, a bead collection, a button collection, a fabric collection, a collection of necklaces, a pen collection, a collection of notebooks, a bag collection, a ribbon collection and probably others that I've forgotten about. 
framing hammer collection 2007
Adding to any of these collections didn't count as mindless acquisition of small and largely unnecessary objects - it was adding to my collections. And often I felt like if I didn't buy them and collect them they'd be lost forever. That made it not only fun to buy, but also my responsibility to do so.

I don't know what it was that happened to help me realise that, actually, I wasn't responsible for keeping these things archived, and that they were holding me back. It's not something that happened overnight and it's something I still remind myself of as I continue to declutter and weed my collections in readiness for moving. But I'm gradually getting there.
It's been a funny week. Pooch stayed in the spare room for a few nights partly so we had a chance to talk and maybe even get some of that magical 'closure'. It was good for both of us and while it confirms that our marriage is over, it leaves us both freer to move on. 

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