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Raymond Koopmanschap
Tomáš Turlík
Vanessa Ratke

TLDR: In this retreat, we will practice three popular methods: Focusing, Downward Arrow (a Cognitive Behavior Therapy technique), and Internal Double Crux to resolve the internal conflicts that are holding you back from pursuing your EA goals. We will do this in pairs to allow for direct feedback to improve those skills and make it less likely to fool yourself. Fill out this Google Form to register for the retreat.

Aim of the Retreat

Do you feel constrained in your ability to pursue your Effective Altruism goals effectively because anxiety is holding you back, you're struggling with procrastination, have recurring negative thoughts or other unhelpful behavior, and standard therapy or meditation doesn't seem to give you much progress?

These feelings, thoughts, or behaviors that are holding you back come from internal conflict. For example, you may wish you could apply for that job but also feel scared and don't like doing it. You can't both want to do and not want it simultaneously, so there is a conflict somewhere. 

Often, both perspectives, in this case, of wanting to apply for a job and feeling scared, have something useful to offer. Uncovering the true motivations behind these feelings and bringing this to our attention is important for resolving the internal conflict and integrating it into a coherent set of behaviors with which we are fully on board.

This retreat will give you the time and space to go much deeper than usual in investigating what is driving these internal conflicts. This can be a difficult process to master, so practicing it deliberately with a facilitator and other like-minded people who can give you direct feedback can make the learning of these skills much more effective. 

Retreat content and methods we use

On this day, we focus on three popular methods to resolve these internal conflicts: Focusing, a Cognitive Behavior Therapy technique called the Downward arrow, and Internal Double Crux. Those techniques complement each other well and help us investigate our feelings, behavior, and beliefs from different angles and perspectives. 

The first technique we will practice is Focusing (audiobook); this method helps you bring more clarity to something you're aware of on some level but isn't entirely clear what it is. For example, tensing up when someone specifically walks into a room, but you do not exactly know why you are tensing up. The second technique is a specific Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) method and a variant of the Downward arrow technique explained in this podcast (start at 1:48:06) to investigate whether your unconscious beliefs make sense. The third technique is Internal Double Crux, which investigates contradictory beliefs as contradictory beliefs can't both be true (by definition).

All these methods will be practiced in pairs. While most of these methods can be done alone, my experience is that they can be considerably more effective with another person as the listener. The methods seem relatively simple, but many pitfalls can prevent them from working effectively. I will explain them and help you make sense of the method during your practice time, as direct feedback while practicing the method is one of the core ways to learn a skill. 

Towards the evening, we will do a breathwork session, which can be a powerful experience for many people to process the emotions we worked on during the rest of the day. This is optional and totally fine if you don't feel comfortable with it.

At the end of the day, we will do a sharing round and make an action plan for how you can best integrate these practices into your daily life to continue getting benefits out of them.

How do I participate?

  1. Fill out this Google Form to register for the retreat.
  2. You can optionally book an intro call (see Google form for instructions). During this call, we can address any uncertainties, confusion, or questions you might have or point you to resources to help you get the most out of the retreat.

Is this retreat suitable for me?

This retreat is suitable for you

  • If you want to make progress on mental health issues that have been bugging you for a while, and you are unsatisfied with the things you have tried so far.
  • You want to go deeper than usual on some tricky mental health issues in a safe space with people who can support you.
  • If you are curious about learning more about the tools that can help make sense of your emotions and want a dedicated time and space to practice them.
  • If you want accountability to work on stuff bugging you but procrastinate on it.
  • If you have no experience with emotional processing or are already experienced, people at any stage of their mental health journey are welcome to join.

This retreat might not be suitable if you have severe depression, severe anxiety disorder, or any other heavy mental health issue. In that case, this retreat might be too overwhelming, and seeking professional support might be more helpful.

Note that there will be a lot of sharing. I will create a safe and non-judgemental space where all sharing will be respected and optional, you don't have to share more than you want to but you might still feel uncomfortable.

If that's the case, or if you have any other uncertainties or doubts you'd like to discuss, don't hesitate to book a call with me or reach out on Meetup or in any other way.

Logistics and other essential things

  • The event will take place in the EA Office in Amsterdam, arriving at 10:00, and the program starts at 10:30 and ends around 21:00. Open socializing until 22:00. The address is HNK Houthavens 20-200 building, Van Diemenstraat 92, Amsterdam
  • I will provide a safe container and the structure & guidance of the retreat. Bring anything you need yourself, including food, drinking bottles, meditation pillows, and yoga mats. We can use the yoga studio in addition to the office space; there are a few yoga mats. There is also a small kitchen, fridge with limited space, and microwave, but no cooking possibility, and the cafeteria is closed on the weekend. There are a few cafes and restaurants nearby, and ordering food is possible
  • Joining or leaving later or earlier during the breaks is possible, but the idea is that you join for the whole day. In case you do join or leave earlier/later, let me know
  • If something gets too much, you can always opt out of an exercise and take some quiet time yourself
  • The retreat might bring up some personal things. You do not have to share anything you don't want to share. If you decide to share something, the default policy will be not to share it further in a way that might identify the person who said it.
  • You are welcome to bring along anyone you would like, but they need to fill in the Google Form as well so I know who is coming.
  • Open socializing until 22:00 after the event is over
  • I will ask for a donation at the end via a QR code so other people don't know how much you donate. How much you donate is completely up to you, considering your current financial status, how much value it has brought to you, and how much you want to support me in organizing future events.

About Me

This is an independently organized event (not an official EA Netherlands event) by me, Raymond Koopmanschap. I have been engaged in effective altruism for more than 5 years now. I have run several mental health-related workshops at the EA Summer camp and the LessWrong Community weekend, managed a four-day event for CFAR alums, and organized a day retreat like this in Amsterdam, which was well-received and excited me to organize another retreat. 

Note that we will not dive into EA-specific content. The target audience is people who are already trying or want to bring EA into practice but experience psychological barriers to doing so.

Further reading and preparation for the retreat

The retreat is self-contained, and all necessary material to practice the techniques will be explained during the retreat. Nevertheless, some good sources can already give you a solid introduction and additional perspectives to help you absorb the content covered on the retreat more quickly.


Team-CBT Downward arrow technique

Internal Double Crux

Belief updating

  • I especially like this post about how belief updating might work in the brain. It can be a really useful context for the retreat: https://www.lesswrong.com/s/ZbmRyDN8TCpBTZSip/p/i9xyZBS3qzA8nFXNQ. If that post piqued your interest, I recommend checking out more of the blog posts in the multi-agent models of the mind series.




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