An example of how serious anxiety can be

The following video illustrates how serious anxiety can be, causing more problems than what prompted it.

Fast forward to where the woman gets out of her car.

Due to holding public office, she was forced to apologize. She is also being publicly ridiculed for her anxiety attack which is being interpreted as fake and/or outrageous.

I am reasonably sure the woman, Ulster County Legislator Jennifer Schwartz Berky, is not faking.

If that is so, her behavior illustrates:

  • how serious anxiety can be
  • how little can cause it
  • how easily it can be misinterpreted
  • how it causes more harm than good

Recently, I have been reading about anxiety and narcissism, particularly the significant harm narcissistic parents cause their children.

During her lamentations, Berky claims PTSD, which can result from a childhood spent with narcissistic parents. The other common bad outcomes are depression, anxiety or both together.

If I had not been doing so much thinking about these conditions, I probably would have laughed at Berky and moved on. Instead, I feel sorry for her.

I got my first traffic ticket when I had been an adult for many years. I did not act like Berky, but I did feel upset and thought about the incident for days after. All Berky did was have a more severe version of that same reaction, which most us have experienced at one time or another.

Too often in America we find a bully and then bully them through media. Rather than laugh at Berky, I think we should thank her for providing an excellent example of how serious anxiety can be.

Identity as simplification of sentience

Most identities are fundamentally category headings that simplify and organize consciousness.

In Buddhist terms, identity is empty.

Being empty does not mean identity does not arouse strong instincts.

Strong instincts arising based on identity are the poison fruits of delusion.

In this world where so many strive to have fierce identities, you have to be careful.

Though you do not need an identity yourself, you do have to be mindful of what others may do with their identities.

Identity politics is an inevitable result of many people striving to take on the same identity. Like identity itself, identity politics simplifies consciousness and arouses strong feeling.

Many people who have strong identities—be they individual or group oriented—conceal motives based on their identities, which they may also conceal in whole or in part.

This is the very nature of delusion and a major basis for understanding the First Noble Truth, the truth of suffering.

Psychology is warped by too much reliance on patterns and types rather than how people actually function

You will never figure yourself out by answering questionnaires or trying to match yourself with a psychological metric or type.

Beyond that, you will absolutely never optimize your psychology and life using those methods.

The right way to grasp and optimize your psychology is to understand how it functions in real-time real-life situations.

To do this you have to take control of your own life and use a technique like FIML that allows you to observe yourself in real-time real-life situations.

I honestly do not think there is any other way.

Poor precision in communication distorts motives

And distorted motives warp human interactions, which in turn degrade individual psychology.

There is no way around it—the ways almost all people communicate are much cruder than their brains are capable of.

And that is the cause of most of what we now call (non-biological) “mental health” problems.

Here is an example: I want to say something very complex to my primary care doctor. I can give her the gist in a minute or two but I do not want to have that go on my medical record.

So I ask her if I can start a discussion that she will promise to keep off my record.

She says, “I’ll think about it.”

A week later I get a letter from her nurse saying she is not willing to do what I asked.

No reason why was given. Do rules prevent her from doing that? I have heard of doctors allowing patients to keep some concerns off the record, but who knows what the reality is? Do you?

If I insist, will that go on my record? Did what I asked in the first place go on my record? My doctor is trapped within or is voluntarily following some guideline that is most decidedly not in my best interests.

This same sort of thing can happen interpersonally. If I raise a topic that is psychologically important to me with even a close friend, I have to wonder will they understand? Will they allow me to expand the subject over a few weeks or months or longer? Will my initial statements change our friendship?

The basic problem is how do you discuss complex psychological subjects with others?

One of my friends works in alternative health care. She knows what I want to bring up with my doctor and admits that even in her professional setting where patients have an hour to open up, there is not enough time.

Back to my primary care doctor. I saw her again a year later and she asked if I remembered her. I said, “Of course I remember you.” She said no more and neither of us raised the off-the-record topic. An intern was with her.

I wonder what she thinks of me. Did she interpret my slightly nervous behavior when I first asked as a “sign” of something? Does she think I am volatile or bipolar or just nuts? (I am not.)

I am 100% sure that she cannot possibly know what I wanted to bring up with her. In this case, I have all of the information and I want to give it to her but she cannot or will not allow that unless my initial fumblings toward a complex subject are made public.

Even a  close friend could find themselves in a similar position. And I wonder if I have done that myself to someone. Most people most of the time are not able to scale those walls that divide us.

On either side of the wall is a complex person capable of complex understanding, but one or both persons cannot scale the wall. My doctor is smart enough to have become an MD and yet I cannot tell her about a complex medical condition that is of great importance to me.

I know that I do not want to open the subject and risk a shallow public label (a common hindrance to many potential communications). I honestly do not know what my doctor is thinking. Maybe I will try again the next time I see her.

Buddhism and ethical signalling

Buddhism is very much a system of ethics. Buddhist practice is founded on the Five Precepts of refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and the irresponsible use of alcohol.

In most Buddhist traditions, these precepts are often taught as if they were fundamental to the workings of the universe. But how can morality be fundamental to the workings of the universe? Why does morality even matter to human beings?

If we think of a human being as a signalling system, we may be able to show that ethical thoughts and behavior are of fundamental importance to the system itself.

Human signalling systems signal internally, within themselves, and externally, toward other people. Our most important signalling system is the one we share with that person who is most important to us, our mate or best friend. Let’s confine our discussion to this sort of primary signalling system.

If I lie to my partner or cheat her, I may gain something outside of our shared signaling system, but that signalling system will suffer. And when that shared system suffers, my own internal signalling system will also suffer because it will contain errors. It will no longer be in its optimal state. Similarly, if she lies to me or cheats me, our mutual signalling system will become less than optimal as will both of our individual, or internal, signalling systems.

My own signalling system cannot grow or become optimal without my partner treating me with the best ethical behavior she can muster. And the same is true for her with respect to me. And we both know this.

We would be good to each other anyway, but it is helpful to see that our being good to each other has a very practical foundation—it assures us optimal performance of our mutual and internal signalling systems.

FIML practice is designed to provide partners with a clear and reasonably objective means to communicate honestly with each other. FIML practice will gradually optimize communication between partners by making it much clearer and more honest. In doing this, it will also optimize the operations of their mutual and individual signalling systems.

To my knowledge, there is nothing like FIML in any Buddhist tradition. But if I try to read FIML into the tradition, I may be able to find something similar in the way monks traveled together in pairs for much of the year. I don’t know what instructions the Buddha may have given them or how they spoke to each other, but it may be that they did a practice with each other similar to FIML practice.

In any case, if we view human being as a signalling system, we may be able to claim that clear signalling—that is, ethical signalling—is fundamental to the optimization of that system.

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First posted 02/03/13, revised 09/25/17

Conscious of what?

A primary question about consciousness is “conscious of what?”

What if your consciousness is based on an error?

If you become conscious of the error, you will most likely correct it and thus change your consciousness.

Metacognition is a word that is sometimes used in place of “consciousness.”

Metacognition implies awareness of how our consciousness is functioning.

Buddhist mindfulness can be defined as “active metacognition.” This implies awareness of what is in our consciousness, what the elements of its functioning are in the moment.

Buddhist practice assume that if while being mindful we perceive error in our consciousness, we will correct the error.

Metacognition requires “self-awareness” or “awareness of the functioning of consciousness.” It seems that most people do this better than most animals in most situations.

Metacognition or mindfulness requires training or practice. But training and practice can also be wrong, based on wrong views.

Many forms of selfhood are based on wrong views.

Right mindfulness is used to perceive these mistakes and correct them.

For example, a person can be trained to have an identity. They can practice having this identity and learn the emotions that go along with it.

With wrong training and practice an identity can become explosive, violent, crazy.

This is a major part of what is meant by delusion in Buddhism, having a wrong view about your identity.

Notice, that a person can have a very wrong identity and be fully conscious of it and the world around them without realizing their identity is wrong.

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Related subjects:

Re-representing consciousness: dissociations between experience and meta-consciousness

Consciousness Goes Deeper Than You Think

There Is an ‘Unconscious,’ but It May Well Be Conscious

Transcendental experiences during meditation practice