Psychiatry still has big problems and so does our model of the human mind

This interview with Robert Whitaker— Psychiatry Now Admits It’s Been Wrong in Big Ways – But Can It Change?—is well worth reading. Whitaker has been an influential critic of psychiatry’s misuse of antipsychotic drugs as well as its models for diagnosis and treatment.

In addition to all of the problems Whitaker describes in the linked article—failed diagnostics, failed theories, failed “disease models,” failed treatments, making matters worse for the mentally ill, and drugging children and minors without their consent—I would further submit that our generally accepted model of the human mind itself is as deeply flawed.

Rather than starting with the idea that humans have or develop personalities that do or don’t adapt well to some ambiguous social standard, we would do better to start with the idea that humans are fundamentally interactive beings, beings that communicate.

If our interactions are good, we will be well enough. If our communications with even one other person are deeply satisfying and as truthful as we are able, we will be even better than well enough.

People go crazy because their relations to no one are satisfying. In a very real sense, poor communication and shallow interaction condemn most humans to a sort of solitary confinement, where the inner network of semiotic reality cannot interface satisfactorily with the network of any other person’s semiotic reality.

For individuals who are fortunate enough to have a suitable partner, FIML practice will likely fix this problem while also fixing most emotional dissatisfaction. It accomplishes this by providing a means for people to fully engage their inner semiotic networks with each other.

The dead end of the traditional mental health model of a “personality-being-well-adapted-to-a-group-or-culture” is, sadly, best illustrated by the profession of psychiatry itself. I believe Whitaker is right in saying that

… it is going to be so hard for psychiatry to reform. Diagnosis and the prescribing of drugs constitute the main function of psychiatrists today in our society. From a guild perspective, the profession needs to maintain the public’s belief in the value of that function. So I don’t believe it will be possible for psychiatry to change unless it identifies a new function that would be marketable, so to speak. Psychiatry needs to identify a change that would be consistent with its interests as a guild.

If even psychiatry as a group needs to “identify a change… consistent with its interests as a guild,” it is clear that groups cannot be taken as a standard for wellness.

If even a group of doctors of the mind cannot get it right, how can any other group be expected to?

And if groups cannot, neither can cultures. And if none of that is right, neither is the notion of a “personality” that “adapts” to those vague standards.

This is an important point: groups can be and are just as crazy as individuals. In fact, many groups are crazier than individuals. The idea that people have “personalities” that must “adapt” in a way that is “satisfying” to an extremely dubious group standard is bankrupt and cannot be fixed. Of course individuals can adapt to laws and clearly stated mores and taboos, but adaptations based on such emotionally unsatisfying generalities will never produce wellness.

The individual can only be well when the individual can communicate their authentic semiotic reality with another, and in turn, receive similar communication from that other.

Semiotics is the right word to use here because its definition includes communicative signs and the meanings of those signs as they are variously interpreted by the individuals using them. Furthermore, the term semiotics implies, or necessarily extends to, networks of communicative signs and their inevitably differing individual interpretations.


First posted March 6, 2014 ~ ABN

Inventing your own communication system

If you know a system well and change parts of it to make it more efficient, that system will work better.

Evolution works this way “mindlessly” in the sense that we assume today that there is no plan behind evolutionary change. If something works better it tends to replace that which it works better than.

Another “mindless” example is AI systems that invent their own languages:

An artificial intelligence system being developed at Facebook has created its own language. It developed a system of code words to make communication more efficient. The researchers shut the system down as it prompted concerns we could lose control of AI. (Researchers shut down AI that invented its own language)

The linked article mentions other AI system that have similarly invented their own communication systems. These systems work but humans are not able to understand them.

All of this shows that communication systems have their own logic and that they can be made more efficient by pursuing that logic.

This is what FIML does through the use of a few new rules for speaking and listening.

FIML emphasizes and provides techniques for:

  • analysis of real-time communication
  • much greater accuracy in real-time communication
  • much greater mutual understanding, efficiency, and satisfaction

By improving your communication system(s) and removing error from it, FIML greatly enhances psychological well-being.

FIML works with the communication system(s) you already have. FIML does not tell you what to think.

If we can have illusions about our bodies, how much more can we about other people?

A recent study, The Marble Hand Illusion, demonstrates that by simple manipulation of perceptual input, people can be induced to change their perceptions of their own bodies.

The authors state that:

“This novel bodily illusion, the ‘Marble-Hand Illusion’, demonstrates that the perceived material of our body, surely the most stable attribute of our bodily self, can be quickly updated through multisensory integration.”

The full abstract says:

Our body is made of flesh and bones. We know it, and in our daily lives all the senses constantly provide converging information about this simple, factual truth. But is this always the case? Here we report a surprising bodily illusion demonstrating that humans rapidly update their assumptions about the material qualities of their body, based on their recent multisensory perceptual experience. To induce a misperception of the material properties of the hand, we repeatedly gently hit participants’ hand with a small hammer, while progressively replacing the natural sound of the hammer against the skin with the sound of a hammer hitting a piece of marble. After five minutes, the hand started feeling stiffer, heavier, harder, less sensitive, unnatural, and showed enhanced Galvanic skin response (GSR) to threatening stimuli. Notably, such a change in skin conductivity positively correlated with changes in perceived hand stiffness. Conversely, when hammer hits and impact sounds were temporally uncorrelated, participants did not spontaneously report any changes in the perceived properties of the hand, nor did they show any modulation in GSR. In two further experiments, we ruled out that mere audio-tactile synchrony is the causal factor triggering the illusion, further demonstrating the key role of material information conveyed by impact sounds in modulating the perceived material properties of the hand. This novel bodily illusion, the ‘Marble-Hand Illusion’, demonstrates that the perceived material of our body, surely the most stable attribute of our bodily self, can be quickly updated through multisensory integration.

If people can change physical perception of their hand in five minutes, our sense of the world around us must be as susceptible.

Our sense of our bodies in the world depends on the world around us. Our sense of our minds in the world depends on the people around us. We speak to ourselves with the same language we use with others.

If our core interpretations of self and other are wrong, we will make downstream mistakes and bring suffering to ourselves and others.

If those same interpretations are right, we will make downstream improvements.

The world answers us through science, reason, and imagination. Other people answer us on their own volition. We can get immediate truthful responses from them if they are willing.

Other people are the only entities in the world that can communicate in detail with us about their interpretations at a level commensurate with our own minds.

Since our interpretations include them, we can best improve those interpretations with the help of them.

Campus PC: It’s the Dumb Students


Good essay worth reading.

FIML partners, note that the core problem is failure to understand the speaker’s real intent. This can be due to not being smart, but is also commonly due to habit. Our subcultures teach us to listen in the ways we do. Not to detract from the essay, but my guess is that the author will himself be a “dumb” interpersonal listener by FIML standards. ABN

Listeners are different from speakers

A listener’s state of mind is different from a speaker’s.

It is more dreamy, often more visual, and has a wider range of associations in play.

For this reason, listeners often react more to their own minds than to what the speaker meant.

An example of this occurred recently.

While my partner was speaking, she referred to someone as a “douche bag.” She meant to distinguish that person from someone else with the same name (who is not a douche bag).

As she said “douche bag,” a strong image rose in my mind of the person in question being pushed into a region of darkness.

In response to that image, I protested “he is not a douche bag”; not so much to recover his honor or reputation as to keep him from being pushed further into the darkness.

She changed her wording and the conversation went on. I completely forgot the incident and the image that had arisen in my mind.

The next morning my partner brought the subject up again and explained in FIML detail why she had used “douche bag.” The memory came back to me.

It’s a good example of how a speaker’s mind differs from a listener’s.

An example of explosive arm’s length (non)communication

The following video provides a good example of arm’s length communication happening in a public forum.

This is a type of formal communication in that it follows some basic forms and deviation from them is rarely allowed. Private communication, in contrast, is intimate communication between close friends where deeper levels of subjectivity are allowed, even desired.

No need to watch too much of this vid because it quickly becomes a ridiculous shouting match:

Do I even need to point out that no one even bothers to define racism? It’s a strong semiotic that once hurled tends to prevent further thought.

My point today is not Trump and the judge, but rather how Trump and the judge is a good example of something that can also happen in private settings.

When nebulous words, ideas, values, or beliefs become strong symbols in private conversations like the word racist in the video, confusion, bad feelings, alienation, or apathy will be the result.

In arm’s length communication, the instinctual human lurks behind signs and symbols much like a wild animal in the forest.

In formal settings, this is typically not a huge problem because everything is predefined. In the video, the exchange is largely a performance designed to excite the viewer.

In private settings between close friends, however, arm’s length communication is a recipe for disaster.

This is so, because even if there are no bad motives, there will be bad interpretations. And these bad interpretations will snowball and eventually lead to problems.

Since almost all of us have been raised in environments that only allow arm’s length communication and see it as the norm, almost all of us carry very heavy psychological baggage.

Few of us know how to overcome the very serious limitations of the communication norms we have learned.

The people in the video are being ridiculous, but almost all of us are just as ridiculous in our own kitchens.

If you want to do better, practice FIML.