Psychological projection is a limited concept

Psychological projection is a well-known defense mechanism used by humans to:

defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities… by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

The concept has some value as an analytical guideline but can also be highly misleading by pointing analyses in wrong directions.

One wrong direction is confirmation bias where an assessment of projection can lead to cherry picking and/or ignoring counter-evidence.

Another wrong direction can arise due to the false consensus effect, which “tends to lead to the perception of a consensus that does not exist.

From a FIML point of view, psychological projection is a macro and meso level analysis which fundamentally ignores the importance of micro information. (See Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding.)

From a FIML point of view, a great deal of human psychology can only be understood by analyzing micro-level interactions in real-time.

This is so because only a FIML-type of analysis can access the actual micro-data that go into the formations of actual interpretations. In contrast, meso and macro level analyses arrive “fully loaded” with the biases endemic to those levels of communication and understanding.

Like the psychological concept personality, the concept of psychological projection has general descriptive value in some situations.

These concepts become counterproductive and limiting, however, when they are accepted off-the-shelf as important insights into specific situations or the behaviors of particular people.

I am very confident that micro data generally will not support most ready-made meso and macro analyses of human psychology or behavior.

How the brain processes new information

A new paper provides fascinating insight into how our brains amass information and organize and assess it in real-time.

The paper—Cliques of Neurons Bound into Cavities Provide a Missing Link between Structure and Function—proposes that “the brain processes stimuli by forming increasingly complex functional cliques and cavities.”

The full intro to the paper:

The lack of a formal link between neural network structure and its emergent function has hampered our understanding of how the brain processes information. We have now come closer to describing such a link by taking the direction of synaptic transmission into account, constructing graphs of a network that reflect the direction of information flow, and analyzing these directed graphs using algebraic topology. Applying this approach to a local network of neurons in the neocortex revealed a remarkably intricate and previously unseen topology of synaptic connectivity. The synaptic network contains an abundance of cliques of neurons bound into cavities that guide the emergence of correlated activity. In response to stimuli, correlated activity binds synaptically connected neurons into functional cliques and cavities that evolve in a stereotypical sequence toward peak complexity. We propose that the brain processes stimuli by forming increasingly complex functional cliques and cavities.

The cliques of neurons that grow and connect in real-time make up the transient “architecture” of awareness as it changes and responds to stimuli.

You can observe a process that seems to fit this description by simply turning your head and looking around. As your eye settles on something to consider in more detail, neuronic cliques will grow in your brain based on that stimulus.

Depending on the significance to you of what you are looking at, further associations drawn from memory and emotion will aggregate around it.

Interestingly, the concept of transient neuronal cliques that grow into larger structures fits very well with the Buddha’s Five Skandhas explanation of the path between perception and consciousness.

This paper also seems to explain why FIML practice works. FIML interrupts the (re)formation of habitual neuronal cliques in real-time, thus preventing the (re)association of established mental states with new perceptions.

By consciously interfering with habitual neuronal cliques, FIML eliminates the false and unwanted psychological structures that give rise to them.

FIML works because large psychological brain structures rely on reconsolidation through the continual processing of “new” information that falsely reconfirms them.

As such, human psychology to a large extent is an ongoing self-fulfilling prophesy.

Here is an article about the paper: Brain Architecture: Scientists Discover 11 Dimensional Structures That Could Help Us Understand How the Brain Works.

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality are important factors in all forms of human communication.

They underlie and often dominate all individual psychology, all interpersonal communication, and all social arrangements, including economics, politics, science, media, societal norms, and so on.

We can see these three factors—error, ignorance, and disproportionality—in the recent revelation that the opioid addiction catastrophe was based on a single misconstrued sentence.

That single sentence was interpreted erroneously due to ignorance of its true context and then blown out of proportion.

Many thousands have lost their lives due to those mistakes.

Yes, science did eventually notice and will eventually correct this error, and that is good, but medical science also messed up prescriptions for dietary salt and fat based on even worse information.

For many years, and probably even still today, an obese person could go to a doctor’s office for a sore knee and be prescribed addictive opioids while also being advised to eat less fat and salt while increasing carbohydrate intake.

If even science can do this, how much more can it occur in politics, economics, and social norms?

When error, ignorance, or disproportionality happen outside of us, there is usually little we can do. Usually it is best to be stoical or Buddhist about it.

When error, ignorance, and disproportionality happen within interpersonal relations, there is much we can and should do. FIML can completely fix these problems when they arise between two people.

As mentioned, science eventually fixes its own problems. That is a foundational reason for the success of science and why humans admire it.

FIML is a kind of scientific inquiry into interpersonal psychology and functionality.

When people do not do science, they become even worse victims of error, ignorance, and disproportionality. When they don’t do FIML, the same bad things happen interpersonally and within individual psychology.

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality are often exploited for financial or emotional gain. If you know anything that someone else does not know, you will probably be able to exploit that knowledge to your advantage and their disadvantage.

And if you don’t do that (thank you for your goodness), you can be certain that many of the people around you will.

That is the world we live in. You have to be philosophical to accept that and to change that.

Thought alone tells us that removing error, ignorance, and disproportionality when we can is a good thing to do. Thought alone also tells us that in many cases we will pay a price for doing that as our good will will often be misinterpreted or used against us.

I see much of this as what the First Noble Truth is all about. A lotus grows out of mud much as our minds grow out of and beyond these kinds of delusions.

The power of a single sign

Signs are units of thought.

A single sign is central to the ongoing opioid addiction catastrophe in the USA.

The single sign is a 40-year-old misquoted sentence taken out of context from a letter written to the New England Journal of Medicine by a graduate student.

Here is the sentence:

We conclude that despite widespread use of narcotic drugs in hospitals, the development of addiction is rare in medical patients with no history of addiction. [emphasis added] (Source)

What was taken out of context is the letter was about patients who were being treated for pain while in hospitals.

On Wednesday, the journal published an editor’s note about the 1980 letter and an analysis from Canadian researchers of how often it has been cited — more than 600 times, often inaccurately. Most used it as evidence that addiction was rare, and most did not say it only concerned hospitalized patients, not outpatient or chronic pain situations such as bad backs and severe arthritis that opioids came to be used for. [emphasis added] (How a 1980 letter fueled the opioid epidemic)

The deep significance of this misinterpreted sentence shows the incredible power of signs and how even a single sign can influence an entire society for decades, even centuries.

That this massive mistake occurred within the medical community, which is science-based, shows that blind consensus can overrule reason even among the brightest and best trained among us.

Add similar mistaken consensuses within the medical community concerning dietary fats and salt and we have even more evidence of the human tendency to believe in and act on nonsense.

I mention this because it is interesting and also because it shows how irrational or non-rational we humans can be. All of us are susceptible to making mistakes of this type.

While most of us cannot do much about large-scale mistakes in medicine or politics, most of us can do a great deal about our own individual psychological mistakes that harm our ability to function. We can do this by practicing FIML.

Basic FIML practice corrects small mistakes (misinterpretations) in real-time. FIML focuses on how our minds are actually functioning in real-time.

If the entire medical community can make such a huge mistake based on so  little evidence it should be obvious that as individuals we are just as susceptible to error.

Consensus works only when it works. When it doesn’t it can be very dangerous.

I believe the lion’s share of “delusion” in Buddhism is stuff like the above—individuals or groups getting something terribly wrong and then acting on it with little or no self-reflection.

Philosophical psychology

Are your thought patterns valid? Are your premises true? Is your mind sound?

Buddhism further asks are your mental states wholesome? Are they conducive to enlightenment, wisdom, freedom from delusion?

There are many things we can do while alone to clean up our thought processes. And there are some things we can only do with the help of another person.

Only another person can tell us if our premises, thoughts, and conclusions (however tentative) about them are true, valid, and sound.

Buddhism has a concept of a “spiritual friend,” a “good friend,” a noble friend,” or an “admirable friend.” All of these terms are translations of the Pali Kalyāṇa-mittatā, which is well-explained at that link. (Chinese 善知識.)

From the link above and from many years of working with Buddhist literature and people, my sense is that a Buddhist “good friend” is someone who is to be admired and emulated. They are similar to what we mean today by mentors or “good role models.”

I deeply respect the concept of a Buddhist good friend, but find it lacks what I consider the preeminent virtue of philosophical psychology—real-time honesty based on a teachable technique.

Indeed, I cannot find anything anywhere in world philosophy, religion, or literature that provides a teachable technique for attaining real-time honesty with another person.

I also do not quite understand how this could be.

For many centuries human beings have thought about life but no one has come up with a technique like FIML?

How can that be?

I do not see a technique like FIML anywhere in the history of human philosophy nor anywhere in modern psychology.

The importance of a “good friend” who does FIML with you cannot be overemphasized because it is only through such a friend that you can discover where your premises about them are right or wrong, where your thoughts about them are valid or not, and through those discoveries where your mind itself is arranged soundly or not.

Short-term memory is key to psychological understanding

Short-term memory is where the rubber of human psychology meets the road.

It is the active part of human psychology as it functions in real-time.

New research indicates that the thalamus, which relays almost all sensory information, is central to the operation of short-term memory. Without the thalamus, short-term memory does not occur.

See Maintenance of persistent activity in a frontal thalamocortical loop and New research: short-term memory depends on the thalamus for background.

Short-term memory is a changeable “program” that deals with and responds to the world quickly. It is the main determinant of how “you” are in the moment.

Short-term memory maintains persistent activity (in the brain/body) by relaying its components through the thalamus in response to real-time conditions.

If we discover a mistake in our short-term memory, it is typically very easy to change. For example, if you realize you forgot to set your clocks ahead, your short-term memory will quickly adjust. You might feel a little dumb for a moment, but usually it is no big deal.

This example shows how our short-term memory is connected to long-term memories, to planning, expectation, and our general sense of the world around us and what we are doing in it.

FIML is an effective form of psychotherapy largely because it focuses on the short-term memory.

By targeting short-term memory loads, FIML helps partners discover how their psychologies are actually functioning in real-time during real-world situations.

Correcting mistakes in short-term memory immediately changes how we function.

Changing the same mistake several times very often removes it entirely from the long-term memory, from the overall functioning of the individual.

New research: short-term memory depends on the thalamus

Karel Svoboda, lead author of the study, says:

It’s like a game of ping-pong. One excites the other, and the other then excites the first, and so on and so forth. This back and forth maintains these activity patterns that correspond to the memory.

“It was unexpected that these short-term memories are maintained in a thalamocortical loop. “This tells us that these memories are widely distributed across the brain.” (Storing a Memory Involves Distant Parts of the Brain)

The study is here: Maintenance of persistent activity in a frontal thalamocortical loop.

Ninety-eight percent of all sensory input is relayed by the thalamus.