All you who obsess about your inability to retain precious knowledge – research shows that fixations severely impact your ability to remember and utilize, as they say in Legalese, that which you are trying to learn.
The research is very specific – it focuses on eating disorders. If you ever had an eating disorder, you know that food features prominently in your thoughts. It’s the enemy to destroy, burn or shun. What caused you to fixate on food doesn’t matter anymore in the advanced stages. You’ve become a warrior, and food is your preferred target. You go through the rest of your life like a zombie, performing all other motions mechanically and without engagement. In response, food doesn’t nourish you anymore.
There is no question that these disorders take their heavy physiological and psychological toll. Memory, which is a mysterious faculty itself, comes to be undermined as well. I will ignore the physiological factors and focus on the cognitive underpinnings of this phenomenon.
Look at this painting:
It is a skull, but to see it as such, you have to start looking at it from weird angles. And when you finally see the skull, the rest of the painting appears blurred. And because this skull puzzled you and made you spend some considerable time transforming it into something intelligible, every time you look at the painting, you kinda forget that there are other objects in it. And the next time you see that painting, you go straight for the hypnotizing skull. Hypnotizing it is, because it’s hard to remember the angle from which you saw it properly. And at one point you don’t even care to see it properly, you just stare at this elongated blob at the bottom of the picture.
The analogy with eating disorders is a loose and fast one, but it works. Food is like that skull – at first, you just wanted to figure out how to eat it so that you stay thin, or healthy, or whatever it is that launched you on that path. (Yes, I think obsession with eating healthy can also evolve into an eating disorder.) And then food absorbed you. It crammed everything else aside. It rules over you. It is now an elongated, zombifying blob.
OK, I pushed it a little, because I want to make a point – if you obssess about stuff, it ends up possessing you. Ditto about Latin and Greek paradigms – don’t allow them to turn into an elongated blob. There are simple and efficient ways to master them and move on to the real fun.