Feeling the Pain of Not Understanding | Am I Alone?

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In summary: Weird huh?In summary, the author discusses how he gets suicidal depressed when he's not solving great problems in science. He says that the only thing that hurts is when he has to do a long algebraic derivation in astrophysics class. He also recommends focusing on math and avoiding physics when possible because it can be difficult to progress.
  • #1
DiracPool
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Am I the only one that gets suicidally depressed when he isn't solving the great problems of science? Actually, I can stave off suicide if I feel that I am actually learning something. I don't have to actually solve any great riddle. I'm too lazy to look it up, but Feynman talked about this, there's a youtube video on it. He said that there's a great pain, when you don't understand something. It hurts you, bad. I think that's what drives me, though.

Does anybody else feel this burden to understand things? Something that actually hurts? Or is this all a game to y'all?
 
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  • #2
DiracPool said:
Am I the only one that gets suicidally depressed when he isn't solving the great problems of science? Actually, I can stave off suicide if I feel that I am actually learning something. I don't have to actually solve any great riddle. I'm too lazy to look it up, but Feynman talked about this, there's a youtube video on it. He said that there's a great pain, when you don't understand something. It hurts you, bad. I think that's what drives me, though.

Does anybody else feel this burden to understand things? Something that actually hurts? Or is this all a game to y'all?

Having the desire to understand and know more things about Science is normal, but getting suicidal depressed when you're not doing it it's not... Good that you found an "escape" from that depression, but having suicide thoughts or a so deep depression isn't good, you should seek help for your own good...
 
  • #3
but having suicide thoughts or a so deep depression isn't good, you should seek help for your own good...

Ok, perhaps I was being a little overdramatic for effect. But the pain is real. If I hit a dry spot where progress slows, it really is painful. I mean I'm not going to kill myself but I do get depressed. I'm single, though, I guess if you had kids and commitments your priorities may be different
 
  • #4
The only thing that hurt me in my quest for knowledge was that two hour long algebraic derivation in astrophysics class today.
 
  • #5
The only thing that hurt me in my quest for knowledge was that two hour long algebraic derivation in astrophysics class today.

Yeah, it really pays to spend the time looking for a mentor or Prof who teaches in the way you learn. I really think that is the key. I have a famous saying (that only I appreciate) but here it is. Spend 50% of your time researching what to study and the other 50% studying it. You may be even better advised to spen 90% researching what to study...
 
  • #6
HeLiXe said:
The only thing that hurt me in my quest for knowledge was that two hour long algebraic derivation in astrophysics class today.
Switch to math and focus on set theory. Beautiful proofs galore courtesy of Cantor! Say goodbye to that pesky algebra! (I'm serious do it xD)
 
  • #7
DiracPool said:
Yeah, it really pays to spend the time looking for a mentor or Prof who teaches in the way you learn.

I have to agree with you here. The prof is really good, she explains things really well--like special relativity. I was still unclear about a few concepts and her explanation really cleared things up. I don't know what happened today...I was like, if this is what astrophysics is about--I think maybe I should just stick solely with chemistry. When I got home I looked over the notes again and I still can't understand why we were on it for 2 hours.
 
  • #8
Switch to math.

You know, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I think you're right. Math has really never let me down. Physics has, with all this quantum weirdness, but math never really let's you down. For some reason there always seems to be more math to learn whereas you can get stuck with physics and not know how to progress.
 
  • #9
WannabeNewton said:
Switch to math and focus on set theory. Beautiful proofs galore courtesy of Cantor! Say goodbye to that pesky algebra! (I'm serious do it xD)

Ha look at you trying to entice me with your esoteric set symbols :biggrin: I should be taking number theory soon, I think maybe set theory is taught there...I must look again. Proofs are actually pleasing and I can totally enjoy getting lost in the logic but taught derivations are like a form of torture...they're much better as exercises.
 
  • #10
DiracPool said:
Physics has, with all this quantum weirdness

:smile: omg this is classic. I remember reading "It's the probability that waves" and I pictured the probability waving in the most sadistic manner because it probably knows what's really happening on the other side lol
 
  • #11
It is a game. And the more you practice at it the better you become.

Failures in abundance...
 
  • #12
It is a game. And the more you practice at it the better you become.

Really, you're not troubled by things you don't understand?
 
  • #13
DiracPool said:
Really, you're not troubled by things you don't understand?

There are a lot of stuff I don't understand (not necessarily restricted to math and physics), if it bugs me then I ask someone, and if I don't find someone then I look in the literature.

And if no one understands then at least I am in a good company. :-)
 
  • #14
DiracPool said:
Ok, perhaps I was being a little overdramatic for effect. But the pain is real. If I hit a dry spot where progress slows, it really is painful. I mean I'm not going to kill myself but I do get depressed. I'm single, though, I guess if you had kids and commitments your priorities may be different

Oh I see. You have to see if you still like what you're doing even if you pass through that pain. Personally I don't feel that, if I hit a dry spot I may feel a bit discontented but I wouldn't call it painful.

And about changing to Math, I have my personal experience in that, maybe it can help you... I went to a Mathematics minor (while in Physics bachelor) this year, because I was kind of tired of Physics. I assigned in Algebra I and introduction to set theory.
I thought I'd like abstract algebra but I didn't. That categorization of everything and it being so abstract makes me feel I'm going nowhere. The only "fun" part is to do mathematical proofs, which I learned and practiced a lot because of algebra, but for me it's still not a good enough reason to change from Physics to Mathematics.
Set theory I really liked, because it's the most fundamental thing about Mathematics and finally I came to understand many things I always wanted to. But still, the motivation for me to learn Mathematics is always to understand Physics, and it doesn't make sense to me to understand Mathematics if I won't apply it anywhere else. Mathematicians have a different motivation than I do, because they take pleasure just learning Mathematics for the sake of it, while I take pleasure in learning Mathematics to apply it to other fields.
 
  • #15
I don't feel that, if I hit a dry spot I may feel a bit discontented but I wouldn't call it painful.

I don't share your concession. Pink Floyd said, "life is a short warm moment, death is a long cold rest." From my folk calculations, roughly a quarter million people die around the world every day, mostly from natural causes. None of them really know where they are going or if they are going anywhere. You can fool yourself, but I'm going to go out swinging at least with the feeling that I gave it a good try.
 
  • #16
You can fool yourself, but I'm going to go out swinging at least with the feeling that I gave it a good try.

I'm glad I'm in general discussion or this thread would have been bumped, somewhere. And I don't want to re-direct the discussion but this really is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. And that 800 pound gorilla is that you could die tomorrow (or today) from any myriad circumstance and then what? What did you do? Create a blog? Have a couple kids? Run a successful freelance plumbing company who's business sagged with the economic slowdown?

Maybe you were a teacher, schooled the kids in maths and science. But now it's over, something happened. Your short warm moment is over. Did it matter what you did here? What is the operational qualification for "mattering?" I know I'm waxing existentialist, but anyone of us could go at any second and these things are important. Even if we want to pretend that they aren't
 
  • #17
DiracPool said:
I'm glad I'm in general discussion or this thread would have been bumped, somewhere. And I don't want to re-direct the discussion but this really is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. And that 800 pound gorilla is that you could die tomorrow (or today) from any myriad circumstance and then what? What did you do? Create a blog? Have a couple kids? Run a successful freelance plumbing company who's business sagged with the economic slowdown?

Maybe you were a teacher, schooled the kids in maths and science. But now it's over, something happened. Your short warm moment is over. Did it matter what you did here? What is the operational qualification for "mattering?" I know I'm waxing existentialist, but anyone of us could go at any second and these things are important. Even if we want to pretend that they aren't

Don't think too much, just go with the flow... ;-)
 
  • #18
Science should not be your life, just like bagging grocieries shouldn't be a bagger's life.
 
  • #19
Science should not be your life, just like bagging grocieries shouldn't be a bagger's life.

I think I'd probably do better thinking less and bagging more groceries.
 
  • #20
DiracPool said:
I'm glad I'm in general discussion or this thread would have been bumped, somewhere. And I don't want to re-direct the discussion but this really is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. And that 800 pound gorilla is that you could die tomorrow (or today) from any myriad circumstance and then what? What did you do? Create a blog? Have a couple kids? Run a successful freelance plumbing company who's business sagged with the economic slowdown?

Maybe you were a teacher, schooled the kids in maths and science. But now it's over, something happened. Your short warm moment is over. Did it matter what you did here? What is the operational qualification for "mattering?" I know I'm waxing existentialist, but anyone of us could go at any second and these things are important. Even if we want to pretend that they aren't

Then what would make your life matter in your view? If nothing would do, it's better to take the best out of it and enjoy it. If being a great scientist for example would make your life matter, I ask why is that? You helped human knowledge advance but what does that matter if most people's lives don't matter anyway? Why does helping people matter if their lives don't matter?
Anyhow, if you keep doing something you don't enjoy you'll give up eventually or look at it in another way.
 
  • #21
Then what would make your life matter in your view? If nothing would do, it's better to take the best out of it and enjoy it. If being a great scientist for example would make your life matter, I ask why is that? You helped human knowledge advance but what does that matter if most people's lives don't matter anyway? Why does helping people matter if their lives don't matter?
Anyhow, if you keep doing something you don't enjoy you'll give up eventually or look at it in another way.

Yes, I think you got it. We're stuck in a non-linear chaotic mess. I don't know what the answer is, but I don't want anyone to say I didn't at least acknowledge the reality and state it somewhere. Which I'm doing here. Your comment on this thread means something. Means at least I touched someone who read my cry. I don't know if there's much more you can do...
 
  • #22
Anyhow, if you keep doing something you don't enjoy you'll give up eventually or look at it in another way.

Don't you think most people work at job's they hate, as Jennifer Aniston said in "Office space." I don't know, because I've always took the easy way out. I'm too smart for my own good, and now at 45 , I've got nothing.
 
  • #23
Dirac I think you should seek professional help. Clearly you have issues making you unhappy that you would benefit from resolving.
 
  • #24
Dirac I think you should seek professional help. Clearly you have issues making you unhappy that you would benefit from resolving.

OK, maybe I'm overdramatizing a bit, but what is it really we are searching for? I'm searching for something. Science seems to work for for me, you know how I put myself to sleep? I think about the "entourage" around the electron and how I'm going to come up with the TOE. Works every night. I imagine electrons going around the nucleus and how that works. The details are proprietary, though :) I get halfway into my model and then I fall asleep. I recommend it as a good sleep aid.
 
  • #25
DiracPool said:
Am I the only one that gets suicidally depressed when he isn't solving the great problems of science?
That is a seriously shallow view of the value of your own life. You definitely need to diversify your sense of self-worth.

Start by volunteering, there are plenty of great opportunities around you, Habitat for Humanity, homeless shelters, etc. Or if you like animals more than people there are always animal rescue facilities, or parks. Or if you are religiously inclined start by volunteering there. (Just don't work with kids until you are healthy on your own)
 
  • #26
Why does helping people matter if their lives don't matter?

I never said people's lives don't matter, I'm just trying to figure out what does matter. Do I need psychological help? Yes I do, but don't we all? I thought back in the 90's that we as a society were going to need a lot more shrinks because of the coming technology explosion. Well. it's happening, but the economy sucks and nobody's got the mulah to pay for a shrink. However, the technology is still progressing and we still need counseling. The reality is the world is not typically kind to original thinkers, it favor's the status quo. That's why I like PF, I hope I'm not putting anybody off here, though.
 
  • #27
Start by volunteering

I think you're right Dale, I just wish I had the courage. I just seem to be terrified of everything. I don't know why.
 
  • #28
DiracPool said:
I just wish I had the courage. I just seem to be terrified of everything.
Why would you be afraid of volunteering? It isn't as though you could be incapable of volunteeering. If you went to some local outreach program and were a quadripelegic with bad vision problems they would still find something constructive for you to do, and even if you knocked over a pile of stuff last time they would still be honestly glad to see you the next time. You are talking about some seriously kind people, not just surface-kind, but deep-to-the-core-of-their-being kind.
 
  • #29
I was talking with a retired engineer a while back.

He said something interesting - "It's not the bridges and roads i built that make me feel good, but the young folks i mentored along the way. "

I don't know what you're good at, Dirac, but cultivate it and help others who are struggling to learn it.

I remember haviing similar anxieties in my youth.
Best therapy is small accomplishments. Success in life is just a series of them.

good luck, sir.

old jim
 
  • #30
DiracPool said:
I think you're right Dale, I just wish I had the courage. I just seem to be terrified of everything. I don't know why.
Dirac, please learn to use the quote function correctly, it should look like this where I quoted you with your name and a link to the post.

Also, I agree with Ryan, you need professional help, we cannot help you here.
 

Related to Feeling the Pain of Not Understanding | Am I Alone?

1. What causes the feeling of pain when we don't understand something?

The feeling of pain when we don't understand something is caused by our brain's response to a perceived threat or danger. When we encounter something that we don't understand, our brain interprets it as a potential threat to our survival, triggering the release of stress hormones and causing us to experience physical and emotional discomfort.

2. Is the feeling of not understanding something a common experience?

Yes, the feeling of not understanding something is a common experience that everyone goes through. It is a natural part of the learning process and is necessary for growth and development.

3. How can I cope with the pain of not understanding?

One way to cope with the pain of not understanding is to practice self-compassion and remind yourself that it is okay to not know everything. Take a break when you feel overwhelmed and come back to the problem with a fresh perspective. Seek help from others, whether it be a teacher, mentor, or friend, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

4. Can feeling the pain of not understanding be beneficial?

Yes, feeling the pain of not understanding can be beneficial as it can motivate us to seek out knowledge and find solutions to our problems. It also allows us to learn from our mistakes and improve our understanding in the future.

5. How can I overcome the fear of not understanding?

To overcome the fear of not understanding, it is important to change your mindset and view challenges as opportunities for growth. Practice patience and persistence, and celebrate small victories along the way. It may also be helpful to remind yourself that everyone struggles with understanding at some point and that it is a natural part of the learning process.

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