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The three quarter point is a thing

I wrote a post about the feeling of frustration and pointlessness I experience in retreats and personal development courses, which surfaces around the 3/4 point of the whole thing.

I was feeling that about 10 days ago. I wrote about it, hesitated to post it, posted it, and deleted it after a week. It just felt too self-indulgent and belly button-gazing.

Turns out, the third quarter is actually a thing.

The phenomenon was first described in early 1980s studies that set out to determine how long humans could survive in space. They found that radiation or zero-gravity were arguably less of a problem than interpersonal conflict caused by isolation. “Typically, mood and morale reach their [lowest point] somewhere between the one-half and two-thirds mark of the mission,” one review found.

and also:

In 2000, a study found that those stationed at Antarctic research stations reported significant increases in interpersonal tension during the third phase of their expedition, due to both loneliness and cliquiness. Other researchers found a decrease in mood occurring around the mid-point and third-phase of the stay in Antarctica. Crucially, they found that this third stage depends on the relativepassage of time — in a six-month mission it could happen at around the four-month mark, while in a one-year posting it might appear at the eight-month point. What’s important is what proportion of the mission has elapsed, and how much is still to go.

(I’m nerdily happy that my experiences are corroborated by research and I’m not just seeing an individual pattern because I’m looking for it.)

Two other things in the article related to conversations I’ve been having lately, so I’m posting them here for ease of reference:

  • “Following experiences in isolated environments, men are more likely to use social support as a coping strategy compared to before they went in, while women have an increased trust in their own abilities. That is, men become less insular and women become more confident.
  • People who have been through a period of isolation have better personal relationships.(“A lot of people expect spirituality to increase,” Dr Norris added. “All our data to date indicates it does not — at least not in Western societies. Instead, people have better personal relationships.”)

Photo by Rishabh Pammi on Unsplash

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