≡ Menu

How To Have Tourette’s Part 20 – The Science of Happiness

At the time of this writing, it’s been over 30 hours since I’ve had a tic. 30 hours. I’m counting the time I spend asleep now, because soon it’s going to be easier to count days than hours.

30 hours. And not only is it 30 hours without tics, it’s thirty hours without the urges to have tics. What the eggheads call “The psychogenic itch” has not bothered me for over a day now. No more than it has bothered you.

Will it come back? It might, but how fascinating to sit here and think that maybe it won’t. Maybe this is at an end. And if this is the end of one era, a new one must begin.

Or maybe it will just come back. It’s impossible to say.

Better questions = better answers

How have you done it? What are you doing?

I’m getting these questions a lot, and that’s just fine. The answers I have are not very satisfying to most people, however, because they seem so simple. Also, because they’re not the right questions. Not quite.

The quality of our results, outcomes, and answers, reflects the quality of our questions.  Better questions =  better answers and room for new hypotheses.

In case you’ve forgotten the scientific method

If your education was anything like mine, you once sat in a classroom watching a plastic bird drinking out of a cup. The bird was probably wearing a jaunty hat. The bird was probably full of liquid. Your task was to figure out why you thought the bird kept drinking the water.

Here’s a breakdown of the Scientific Method

1. Ask or define a question

2. Observe

3. Form a hypothesis

4. Experiment and collect data

5. Analyze data

6. Interpret data and use it to draw a new hypothesis

7. Publish results

8. Retest

I no longer draw conclusions

I no longer say that this caused that. I am not interested in asking whether a bright room “causes” me to have more tics than a dim room. Perhaps causation can be proven, but I don’t believe that we’ll ever know the whole story about this or anything else. I just don’t think it’s possible to know with 100% certainty that something caused something else.

Whether you agree with that or not, please ponder this: how do things change when you think in terms of associations and not causes?

Do things change when you ask “What is this associated with?” rather than “What caused this?” I believe they do. When I began to ask “What am I associating this tic with?” and worked from there,  my results improved and never stopped.

Very simple. So simple that it can be ignored and overlooked. So simple that people are already telling me that I’m wrong. Then they try to give me explanations which usually constitute nine polysyllabic words in a sentence of 12.

I spent too long drawing conclusions that weren’t borne out with time. What did this mean for my progress?

Over 20 years of big fat nothing, that’s what. And a smashed-up, snaggle-toothed smile.


If you draw a conclusion and say “well, that’s that,” what happens when you decide (or something forces you to acknowledge) that your entire premise was wrong ? You have to start over. Starting over is not the end of the world, but unlearning is much harder than learning is.

When a conclusion is no longer valid, we must unlearn before making progress again. But when associations don’t bear out, no time is lost. When an association seems to be right or wrong, the next step is to retest and add associations.

It’s just a change of direction, not a return to square one. Not a change of beliefs. Not a violent and emotional break with a cherished ideology. Just changing direction slightly.

That’s a definition of adaptability that makes a lot of sense to me: the ability to change directions.


You might be thinking, “Well, I’m not a scientist, so this has nothing to do with me” And to that, I would say three things that I mean with all my heart:

1. If you care about progress/results/outcomes, you are a scientist

If you have a goal that you are moving towards, then you are taking steps towards it. If you care enough to take those steps, then you are a scientist, because at some level you are running experiments, figuring out if things work, and checking to see if you’re making progress.

2. If you are not getting better, you are getting worse

There is no such thing as breaking even, because the body is always learning. There are no holding patterns or plateaus while we get ourselves together for the next big effort. There is only better and worse.

I’m not the same person I was yesterday. I’m not even the same person I was when I started writing that post. There’s only one point when we quit adapting, and that’s when we’re underground in a box. Even then, movement continues.

3. I can barely add fractions and I still consider myself a scientist

I could crush you in a spelling bee, but you could wave an arithmetic flashcard at me and give me an aneurysm. You are a scientist if you’re trying to better yourself.

“But you haven’t proven anything”

I heard that recently. My response was:

“And?” Then I ate an entire box of Peeps, I was so pleased with myself.

Why should we listen to anything but our results? Our bodies? What feels right? Who cares what the research says? What do one-size-fits-all theories have to do with any of us if they don’t give us the results we want?

Count me out.

I haven’t concluded that research is worthless. It can be invaluable! Only that someone else’s research is definitely not the starting point when I’m the one experiencing something. I want to be the one who decides what the starting premise is, since I’m the one who is most affected by it.

Run your own experiments and you will make yourself happier. And if there is a science to happiness, it is the science of better.


If you liked this post, please Subscribe To The RSS feed.

And if you’re really awesome, subscribe to the newsletter.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Annemieke April 21, 2010, 3:04 am

    This post was unbelievably good, the best I read in times!

    I so agree with it. And most of all with this:

    “Only that someone else’s research is definitely not the starting point when I’m the one experiencing something.”

    I really think this is such a very important observation. When I read that, my heart missed a beat and I almost forgot to breath!

    As important as objective research and prove are, personal experience has to play a central role.

    Asking better questions, unlearning, there is really to much to think about in this post.

    And I am so glad to hear about your progress. But also that you do not get hung up on that.

    Thank you for sharing your thought provoking insights!

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 9:19 am

      Thanks Anne, I appreciate it. I made to just over 30 hours, so now it’s time to set the clock back. But each time, when the urges return, they’re lessened. Hopefully it will last. If it doesn’t, I’ll figure out how to do it. No doubt.

  • Andrew Frenette April 21, 2010, 6:53 am

    Great post, Josh. And congratulations on 30 hours of ticlessness. Keep on.

  • Eric | Eden Journal April 21, 2010, 7:10 am

    Ha! “You haven’t proven anything.” That’s laughable. You prove things every day, but you prove them to yourself, and then you share with us. I feel fortunate to be included in your daily dose of sharing.

    I’m so utterly happy for you and your 30 hours of peaceful bliss. Very soon it will be 30 days, and then 30 years. (I skipped 30 months since after 30 days, there’s no reason to count months, it will surely be years after that.)

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 9:20 am

      Whatever happens, it’s nice to finally have a reason to learn how to count.

  • Todd April 21, 2010, 7:11 am

    First, that’s awesome, Josh. I pray that it continues.

    Second, I agree with @Annemieke-this is one of the best posts that I have read here.

    “But you haven’t proven anything” – How many versions of the light bulb did Edison go through before he finally hit on that one that was right? Up to that point, he hadn’t proven anything… or did he?

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 9:21 am

      I don’t care if I EVER prove anything to the point where it’s “The Answer.” What I care about is feeling better. That’s all any of us need to worry about. We owe it to ourselves to feel better because it makes us better, not to validate other people’s theories.

  • Joy Tanksley April 21, 2010, 7:20 am

    “Why should we listen to anything but our results? Our bodies? What feels right? Who cares what the research says? What do one-size-fits-all theories have to do with any of us if they don’t give us the results we want?”

    A-FREAKIN’-MEN. And again I say, AMEN.

  • ami April 21, 2010, 7:54 am

    So glad to hear of your progress! Every day is another lesson, whatever the outcome. But your point about each of us making our own observations and coming to our own conclusions is on target. Maybe asking others ‘tell me how you did it’ is just a way to defer the scary task of actually trying something ourselves. No more analysis paralysis!

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 9:23 am

      Freedom is a scary thing to many, many people. It’s easier to be led, and there are times when we should be lead. Not everyone is fit to lead at all times. I just to make sure I know why I follow the people I do, and that I can think independently of them.

  • Heather April 21, 2010, 7:57 am



    Now. . . . in a much calmer tone. . .. who was this loser who said to you that you haven’t proven anything before you went and celebrated with that box o’ Peeps? Because to that person, I send a double-barrelled “bird”. Haven’t proven anything! BLEEP you!

    “Starting over is not the end of the world, but unlearning is much harder than learning is.” True, that! I am forwarding this post to some people who could use a brighter day today, man! Thanks, Josh, for the update, and furthermore, GO YOU!

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 9:23 am

      There are plenty of them, Heather, but nothing that can’t be defused with Peeps.

  • Jenny April 21, 2010, 9:10 am

    Awesome to hear/read!

  • Sean Schniederjan April 21, 2010, 9:35 am

    Excellent stuff, so much to say on this subject of how we come to know.

    Another way of putting cause vs. association is a dichotomy my favorite philosopher and theologian uses and its something we are always digging at: determination vs. conditioning.

    A cause locks us in, determines, is necessary to the effect, while association gives us some room to breath: it is a part of our conditioning that can be modified.

    There is a place for cause in our knowing, a very important one since it is rooted in things, but that is another thread for another time…or perhaps not because it would bore most people!

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 4:32 pm

      Thanks Sean. I’d love to pick up that thread somewhere else.

    • Annemieke April 22, 2010, 4:48 am

      I think this is fascinating:

      “A cause locks us in, determines, is necessary to the effect, while association gives us some room to breath: it is a part of our conditioning that can be modified”.

      I would also love to pick up that thread somewhere. It certainly would not bore me!

  • Frankie Faires April 21, 2010, 9:58 am

    The two directions of adaptability are:
    The ability to change direction
    The ability to maintain direction

    I change direction because I have to.
    I look forward to maintaining direction because I can.

    The maintenance of direction is one Adam’s superpowers.
    Your 30 hours + is a perfect example of the ability to maintain direction.

    The quality of one’s answers is a function of the quality of one’s questions which is a function of the quality of one’s beliefs. Your beliefs are a testament to your ability to change directions.

    The only metric that matters is adaptability.
    You are showing it in both directions.
    Not a compliment, simply an observation.
    Isn’t that a step in the scientific method?

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 4:33 pm

      Thanks Frankie, I’ll take that as a compliment just to annoy you.

  • Srinivas Rao April 21, 2010, 10:00 am


    First off congrats on no tics. That’s pretty amazing. Really interesting stuff in this post. I went through a somewhat similar experience with IBS. Causation is almost something of our own creation. But association is something we have a bit more control over. I was telling my friend the other night at a bar, when you meet a new person and they want to seem to talk about negative things, get them the shift the subject because they’ll associate you with the negative subconsciously. Someone else’s research can really bias you towards a conclusion. If if it’s any consolation, I can barely add 😉 and I”m Indian, we’re supposed to be good at Math.

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 4:33 pm

      We should start a support group for smart people who refuse to learn math.

  • Boris Bachmann April 21, 2010, 10:20 am

    Well done. Great post.

    Some of what you’ve written reminds of the “symptom or cause” line of questioning that basically gets people nowhere as they feel that only root causes are worth treating, forgetting that symptoms cause pain and suffering and death.

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 4:34 pm

      Thanks Boris. The site of distress can be so far away from the cause of the distress that it never even presents as a possibility.

  • Justin Matthews April 21, 2010, 10:21 am

    I have to agree with the others, this was an awesome post. And congratulations on the 30 hours, that must be very inspiring for you to know you have beaten the tourette’s monster into submission for 30 hours.

    Don’t know what else I could possibly add, you are very inspiring Josh. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Larissa April 21, 2010, 10:45 am


    . . any more planninng going on for the event?

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 12:47 pm

      On hold. Things have come up. We’ll talk more soon.

  • Bill Jones April 21, 2010, 11:19 am

    Very cool Josh. Maximum Agreement here.
    Heck most of the doctors and patients that I know could care less about “how” they “get better” as long as they do!

    Keep traveling this path until it becomes well travelled.

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 4:35 pm

      Will do. It’s a fun to path to walk on, because it will never end.

  • Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire April 21, 2010, 11:54 am

    I’m just proud that you ate a box of peeps as an F-you response… perfect.

    I think that the importance of self-healing is so critical that we are just touching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of that.

    Lately, I’ve been studying a lot about the power of intention and how we manifest our own reality based upon what we think about most of the time.

    I think that people would be a LOT less miserable (and have more time to eat peeps) if they focused their energy on getting better instead of worrying about why they feel so crappy.

    You are totally inspiring me to start another totally different kind of blog… I hate you… in a good way.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 12:47 pm

      “I hate you” might be the most fascinating compliment I’ve ever received.

  • Logan Christopher April 21, 2010, 12:10 pm

    Its no longer surprising to read your posts about not having tics anymore Josh. But that doesn’t make it any less amazing.

    Great to meet you this weekend. Looking forward to next time.

  • Yosh April 21, 2010, 12:41 pm

    I find it interesting how many powerful consciousness shifting techniques tend to be extremely simplistic; to the point where if you tell people about them they look at you like, “is this a practical joke?”

    Yep. Joke’s on them in the long run unfortunately…

  • Anders Ronnau April 21, 2010, 12:43 pm

    Josh, you are such a star! What you are doing is so important. I am sure that other people have cured themselves of Tourettes before, and you are doing it live with an audience.

    Thanks for sharing, it is incredibly inspiring, because what you are doing just proves this one point once again:
    The mind is absolutely spectacular and flexible when we allow it to be.

    Do you still acknowledge the Tourette diagnosis or have you freed yourself from it entirely?

    I hope that you are enjoying your next calm period whether it be 3 hours or forever.


    • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2010, 12:46 pm

      Anders, things are still incredibly difficult for me about 50% of the time. I’ve still got Tourette’s, no doubt. That may never change, but it will reach the point where it is merely an observation and a good story, not an invasive presence.

  • Alexa Ispas | Creating Legacy April 21, 2010, 5:40 pm

    Hi Josh, wow – 30 hours is really impressive! Nobody can know your body better than you, so you are the most qualified person to assess progress and develop the next steps – so whether you ‘prove’ anything or not doesn’t matter from the point of view of getting better. Also, science mistakenly often focuses on statistics derived from a large number of inviduals. But if you can show me one person who can get rid of Tourettes then it means it can be done by more people – that’s proof enough, even if initially it’s just one person. Great blog post, and looking forward to see how your programme develops further.

  • Dan O'Connor April 21, 2010, 7:25 pm

    Hello Josh,

    First let me say I read your blog everyday. Maybe I should comment more but most of the time I feel that what I have to say is more about me and does not really add to the discussion and a series of “Atta Boy Josh” Doesn’t seem to fit either.

    My lack of comments is in no way a reflection of the value I place on what I get from you everyday.

    So at 5:30am this morning I got my WSL fix while I ate breakfast before making the familiar drive from Dallas to Tulsa.

    Once you cross the Red River the hills and forests of southern Oklahoma are a fine place for reflection.

    I realized that I did not understand your post.

    I did not understand it in the same way I did not understand when Uchida Sensei said “Feel the connection between the tip of your blade and your opponent. When that connection breaks-strike- for you have already won” or when Master Nakagawa said “Quench the blade when you can taste the correct temperature”.

    Josh you have walked a path very few of us can know in a way I am sure nobody has walked it before. There is much we can take from your experience and your willingness to share it so openly. We thank you for that. But there is much more we can never know and is yours alone.

    Here’s to 30 hours becoming 30 years and beyond.

  • Joseph Hummel April 21, 2010, 8:29 pm

    Hey airplane buddy. Very great post – introspective look into your mind, lets me see a world I might not ever experience otherwise – thank you for that.

    “unlearning is much harder than learning is.” someone once told me that at some point you must brainwash yourself in reverse until you start to believe in a new better reality. Get yourself out of the box you think you are in etc etc.

    Oh and I’m def looking into kettlebells.

  • Asatar Bair April 23, 2010, 4:16 pm

    All real spirituality is the science of inner experience.

    • Frankie Faires April 23, 2010, 4:25 pm


      I really like that.
      Is that your insight or are you quoting someone?