I'm trying to learn about collective effects in high energy electron beams. This involves the interaction of the beam with itself, mediated by its surroundings. One decomposes the distribution into modes, and tries to find the growth rates of these modes- positive growth implies an instability.
I've studied the Fokker-Planck equation and various physical origins for damping and diffusion, but this has a different flavor from the collective effects involving wake-fields and impedances.
So I have all these papers and a somewhat specified goal that I don't know enough to understand. I skim the papers and other books and try to get a feel for the language and direction. Then I feel useless for awhile- like I haven't learned anything, and like I don't know any physics, and like there are all these very tall walls to scale that I never will. And meanwhile, all the other things that I'm supposed to be doing fade out and also seem impossible.
It just colors everything. Its like how the book I'm reading can set the flavour for the rest of my life.
Next day: hmm, not so bad, I guess this stuff seems a little bit easier than I thought. But jeez... what a messy process.