Personality disorders and signaling

In my opinion, “personality disorders” are more easily understood as signaling problems.

All types of personality disorder involve dysfunctional signaling with other people. Signals are both sent and received in ways that result in suffering.

As currently defined, personality disorders “develop early, are inflexible, and are associated with significant distress or disability.”

Thus, if there are no significant brain injuries or other biological problems, all personality disorders (PD) develop through experience.

This means that during childhood the PD sufferer has received many bad signals resulting in their failing to form a coherent well-functioning internal signaling system.

The way to fix this is work with the signals. And the best way to do this is FIML practice. A professional psychotherapist cannot possibly provide this level of treatment.

This brings me to a second point: is there anyone who would not benefit from improving their signaling?

Why do we view psychotherapy as treatment designed merely to make us look and feel “average”? Why don’t we instead work to optimize our psychologies every day?

The Buddha said we are all crazy. We are. We all need to work on our signaling—our personality disorders—all the time.

The distinctions between one PD and another and those who have PDs and those who don’t are vague. This is because all PD problems (absent significant biological deficits, which may include intelligence) are idiosyncratic varieties of signaling malfunctions.

If signaling is the core problem, it should follow that all acquired PD will be classifiable as some kind of signaling malfunction. And that is precisely what we see.

Narcissism is a too simple signaling system. Borderline is an unstable signaling system. Compulsive, passive aggressive, histrionic, avoidant, and so on all are variations of a poorly formed internal signaling system.

The way to study this is through interpersonal semiotics; that is interpersonal semiotic analysis of real-time, real-world communicative signs and symbols.

All people need to do this to optimize their psychologies (their internal signaling systems). Why would anyone not want to do this? Maybe not wanting to do this is the surest sign of PD there is.

The hardest part about doing FIML is finding a willing and able partner. To me, this shows how pervasive bad signaling is. Most people will do almost anything but examine their own signaling with the help of another person.

Psychology as fundamentally signals

I propose that we largely discard all other paradigms for human psychology and replace them with one based on signals. Humans are semiotic entities who signal constantly internally and externally. No need for personality or self.

Signals are objective, measurable, quantifiable, and analyzable. And they are at the heart of everything we call “psychology.”

The most basic psychological paradigm still current today is personality. This concept should be greatly demoted, relegated to broad-brushing some genetic tendencies or matters involving personas.

Signals cover all psychological territory without exception, including everything we can now say based on personality. Bodies signal, brains signal, organs of perception receive signals, thoughts are signals, language is signals, biology signals, as does everything in physics.

No matter how you look at psychology, you will find signals. Using signals to describe psychology is almost always clearer, more succinct, and more precise.

Another basic paradigm for describing/explaining psychology is matter; psychology comes from the brain and the brain is matter. But then you get mind-matter problems, problems with top-down behaviors, loss of spirituality as an actual probability, and many problems with scale or behavior. Besides all matter signals!

So much simpler to describe how biological signals lead to thought and behavior. Or how top-down psychological signals affect biology.

Instead of “personality disorders” being vaguely defined and understood as ghostlike ephemera that seem to inhabit sufferers, we can define them as signal malfunctions that have arisen due to previous signal malfunctions, either biological, experiential, or semiotic.

A signal-based paradigm of human psychology would view individual psychology as a complex of signals, a semiology unique to each individual.

Narcissism has been discussed in this way. A signal-based analysis of other disorders can similarly make our understanding clearer and more efficient.

Borderline personality disorder, for example, can be viewed as a poorly integrated internal signaling system, a poorly functioning individual semiology. Due to the centrality of signals to all aspects of human psychology, we can expect borderline people to search frantically among others for the cohesion they lack in themselves.

If we understand psychology as a complex of signals, it becomes easier to categorize problems and discover treatments. It also becomes obvious that we can and should optimize this system even in healthy individuals by clearing up confused signals while removing bad ones.

Narcissism redefined (yet again)

A new study on narcissism, which selfishly lies behind a paywall, claims to have answered “three key, inter-related problems that have plagued narcissism scholarship for more than a century.”

These three problems are described in the abstract (which is publicly available) as:

…(a) What are the key features of narcissism? (b) How are they organized and related to each other? and (c) Why are they organized that way, that is, what accounts for their relationships? (The Narcissism Spectrum Model: A Synthetic View of Narcissistic Personality)

The study seems to have been well-summarized in 3 Core Facets of Narcissism, from Malignant to Adaptive:

This new way of understanding the narcissistic personality places self-centeredness front and center, providing a useful way to characterize narcissism’s two underlying dimensions. When you’re dealing with the most narcissistic of all individuals, the grandiosity you see isn’t masking any deep-seated insecurity. The narcissistically vulnerable, who becomes enraged when deprived of status and attention, conversely, is driven by feelings of insecurity, and insecurity alone.

My problem with the study is it is based on ephemeral “personality” traits rather than signals, which are much easier to quantify, analyze, and observe.

A semiotic or signal-based interpretation of narcissism allows us to base analysis on its most prominent feature—simplicity.

The simplest definition of narcissism is “narrow or reduced interpretation(s) of psychological signs.”

This is a functional definition that provides insight into a wide range of human psychological reactions. (Narcissism, a semiotic interpretation)

This definition explains why a wide range of humans display narcissistic traits, including small children, old people, alcoholics, those with brain injuries, dementia, and in many ways all of us to some degree at one time or another.

Narcissism forms and persists because it is a simple semiology that works. Drunks use it, angry people use it, advertising uses it, cultures all use it, even religions use it.

If we understand that narcissism is characterized by a “narrow or reduced interpretation(s) of psychological signs,” we can expect to find relief from it by widening and augmenting the sufferer’s use of psychological signs.

As for the three problems described in the study, these can be answered in this way:

Q: What are the key features of narcissism?

A: Simple semiology, me first

Q: How are they organized and related to each other?

A: Zero-sum, one-way street, malice, impression management

Q: Why are they organized that way, that is, what accounts for their relationships?

A: The narcissistic system (me first) works better than any other the person knows of. It is organized to be efficient and easy to use. See Zero-sum, one-way street, malice, impression management for more on this.


Speech comprehension and context

A new study on speech comprehension shows that humans respond to the “contextual semantic content of each word in a relatively time-locked fashion.”

These findings demonstrate that, when successfully comprehending natural speech, the human brain responds to the contextual semantic content of each word in a relatively time-locked fashion. (Source)

This process is roughly illustrated here:

While I do not doubt these findings for simple speech in simple contexts, I do wonder what the results would be for speech in psychologically complex contexts, whether that speech is simple or not.

I wonder this because I am certain that in almost all psychologically complex contexts (those rich with subjectivity, emotion, idiosyncratic memory or association, etc.) the “contextual semantic content of each word” will necessarily be different, often very different for each speaker.

Psychologically rich interpersonal speech is almost always fraught with contextual differences that can be very large. Sometimes participants know these differences exist and sometimes they don’t. It is very common for speakers to make major mistakes in this area, the most important area of speech for human psychological well-being.

It seems possible that EEG with increased sensitivity might one day be able to detect “context diversion” between speakers, but even if complex emotional information is also included, people will still have to talk about what is diverging from what.

My comments are not meant to detract from the very interesting findings posted above. I make them because these findings illustrate how inherently problematic real-time mutual comprehension of the “contextual semantic content” of all spoken words actually is.

FIML practice is the only way I know of today to find profound real-time mutual comprehension of complex interpersonal speech.

Real-time, real-world analysis of interpersonal communication

A tool that can reliably augment real-time, real-world interpersonal communication will profoundly change our understanding of human psychology for the better.

Such a tool will provide us with data that makes intent, content, and psychological aspect manifest in real-time.

An AI-assisted EEG device could be an advance toward realizing that goal. Dan Nemrodov, of the University of Toronto, has succeeded in “digitally reconstruct[ing] images seen by test subjects based on electroencephalography (EEG) data.”

“When we see something, our brain creates a mental percept, which is essentially a mental impression of that thing. We were able to capture this percept using EEG to get a direct illustration of what’s happening in the brain during this process,” says Nemrodov. (Do you see what I see? Researchers harness brain waves to reconstruct images of what we perceive)

From this, you can see that a percept is a “thing” in the mind, an electro-checmical “structure” with imagery, thought, and emotion. Based on what is known about the physical, brains (like all matter) are fields or fields intersecting; superimposed fields with remarkable stability and complexity.

If we consider the brain as some sort of field array and its particles as excited points on it, we can see how “mind” could be retained in the field array even though its brain particles have become unexcited through changed attention or death.

Are humans biased in favor of punishment?

A new study indicates that we humans seem to get more reward from punishing wrongdoers compared to compensating victims.

…By combining a novel decision-making paradigm with functional neuroimaging, we identified specific brain networks that are involved with both the perception of, and response to, social injustice, with reward-related regions preferentially involved in punishment compared to compensation. (Source)

Whether we favor punishment over compensation or not, it’s obvious that we humans like punishment and do it often.

My guess is this accounts for a big part of interpersonal strife. Rather than look for a solution to interpersonal problems, a common default mode is to blame and punish instead. We even blame and punish ourselves.

This is why it is so important to know how to identify problems as they arise and how to deal with them as soon as possible.

Since we are probably born with a tendency to favor punishment, this must be taken into consideration whenever we make social and interpersonal decisions.

Lisa Feldman Barrett, “How Emotions Are Made”

One sentence I liked a lot in this vid is: “The experiences you cultivate today become the predictions your brain uses tomorrow.”

FIML practice cultivates in real-time the experience of changing your real-time interpretation, emotion, perspective, or understanding. Once you have done this many times with a partner, you will find that you will also be able do it with unwanted mental states when alone.

Basic FIML practice can be compared to musical scales or basic sports skills. Once these have been mastered, more complex skills become available. For this reason, FIML is a uniquely effective form of interpersonal psychotherapy.