ISTB – “I Said This Before”

My partner and I made up this acronym because we like to revisit subjects often, a valuable practice.

When subjects are revisited, misunderstandings can be exposed and corrected, changes in opinion can be voiced, new evidence or insights introduced.

Saying “ISTB” cuts off the horrible default response: “You already told me that…” or the feeling that such a response could be appropriate.

ISTB signals that either new information is forthcoming or the speaker wants to ensure that something—possibly something very subtle—has been understood in the way intended.

It might also simply signal that the speaker feels like saying what will follow for no other reason than that.

We say ISTB by just voicing those four letters out loud.

Group values and perverse individual needs for them: an example from NXIVM

The testimony below of Lauren Salzman can be interpreted in many ways.

One that stands out for me is how even a very wealthy person may need very weird external forces to provide meaning and direction.

This seems to be a core aspect of delusion in the Buddhist sense of the term.

You provide your own self-incriminating “collateral” material to join and stay in a group that then requires you to accept humiliation and punishment and even self-administer it while also continuing to provide yet more self-incriminating material.

The snake biting it’s tale is the traditional metaphor for this very graphic example of an ego entirely lost in self-delusion. The kicker is these initially “voluntary” behaviors were supposed to lead to some sort of “enlightenment” or “growth.”

I have no doubt that many very powerful groups use a formula similar to this to control their members and further their goals. If you think about it, there must be a lot of groups like this in the world because there is no better way to fashion a power- and/or crime-oriented organization.

This is the kind of senseless cycle Buddhist practice is designed to get us out of. Whether you manufacture your own delusive “values” or take on those of a perverse group, it’s much the same.

From Salzman’s testimony:

It wasn’t specifically about what would happen much beyond it was you were just in there until they let you out but what I — you know, you would just be in there surrendering, it could be, you know, ten minutes, it could be an hour, it could be days, like you didn’t know how long it would be and that was the whole point of surrender but what I imagined was like being in there and having to go to the bathroom or something and then having to go through like that type of a humiliation which I think was the point of surrender, being willing to go through things that were vulnerable or humiliating or being willing to go through whatever as an experience of complete surrender and so that’s what I imagined and, you know, obviously not the kind of thing you’re hoping to experience. I wasn’t. I wasn’t hoping to experience that. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. And the fact that it was being linked with growth, like the most committed people to growth, so it became like if I didn’t want to do it, then I was one of those people that wasn’t committed to growth and that was a very hard thing to get my mind around and I didn’t believe that you couldn’t be most committed to growth unless you were willing to do BDSM things.

For more of her testimony and an article about it see: Relentless Collateral, Staging Fake Crimes, Standing Barefoot in Snow, Locked in Dungeons, Being Kicked on Ground, Paddled — Welcome to the Insane World of Lauren Salzman.


Pastor Wang Yi sentenced for ‘inciting subversion’

Wang Yi, a founding pastor of China’s Early Rain Covenant Church, has been sentenced to nine years in jail by a Chinese court for inciting subversion of state power and other crimes.

Wang was detained in December 2018 along with other senior figures in the prominent unsanctioned church during overnight raids across various districts of Chengdu, the southwestern city where the church was founded. (link)

Pastor Wang Yi from the sermon The Gospel and Church-State Relations on May 27, 2018 at Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China.

Is psychology a self-imposed myth?

Language, and psychology are profoundly entangled. This causes fundamental problems with meaning and communication.

How do we know ourselves?

How do I know you and how do you know me?

How do we communicate with ourselves?

Do we impose meaning on ourselves from outside? Or do we create our own?

Is my psychology a self-imposed myth?

I can import psychological meaning from outside myself, from others, from books. But still, I must own what I import.

Psychological understanding is a mix of owned imports and owned own ideas, a sort of self-imposed myth.

It’s a myth because how can you or anyone analyze the psychology of a single person? How can you analyze and thus know your own psychology?

You cannot do that using psychological terms.

These problems or questions lie not only at the heart of psychology and language but also philosophy.

No abstract outline or explanation or description can let you know yourself. No static network of ideas or words can do that.

Only a method can. A way of talking that expressly addresses what can be known and nothing else.

No one has figured this method out before me (so far as I know) because:

  1.  people have always looked for an external network of ideas and words, rather than the thing itself; the real-time, real-world long moment of working memory, the self in action
  2. people have not looked there because it goes against a psycho-linguistic instinct to not interrupt or question an interlocutor abruptly (enough) about what they just said or did

The method is FIML and it is described here.

This method solves a core problem of language use and meaning; how to use language appropriately and well. At the same time it solves a core problem in psychology; how to understand it clearly.

This method takes time, but will bear abundant fruit. It does that because it strikes right at the heart of crucial problems in language, psychology, and philosophy.

It takes time because people are made up of many parts stitched-together. Many small parts (small enough to fit into working memory) must be identified and analyzed.

This takes time. And that can’t be helped. There is no quicker way to do it.

After many parts (linguistic, semiotic, psychological, memory, sensation, emotion, etc) have been analyzed, a much clearer idea will emerge about what your psychology is, how you use (and should use) language, what philosophy (especially of language and psychology) is.

Imaginary communication

Normal socially-defined communication—business, school, professional, etc.—operates within known limits and terminologies. Skill is largely defined as understanding how to use the system without exceeding its limits, how to play the game.

Many other forms of communication do not work within known limits or clear contexts and thus must be largely imagined. That is, I have to imagine what you mean and you have to imagine what I mean.

In many cases of this type I will imagine that you are normal to the extent that I am able to imagine what normal is. And I will imagine that you imagine me to be normal. As I imagine you I will probably assume that your sense of what is normal is more or less the same as mine. This is probably what the central part of the bell curve of imagined communication looks like. People in this group are capable of imagining and cleaving to normal communication standards. If you reciprocate, we will probably get along fine.

If my imagination is better than normal, I will be able to imagine more than the normal person or given to imagining more. If this is the case, I will tend to want to find a way to communicate more than the norm to you. If you reciprocate, we might do well communicating. If you don’t, I might appear eccentric to you or distracted.

If my imagination is worse than normal, I will have trouble imagining or understanding normal communication. I won’t have a good sense of the cartoons we are required to make of each other and will probably appear awkward or scatterbrained to most people. If you reciprocate, we might do well communicating and find comfort in each other.

Normal communication, even when imagined, is based on something like cartoons. I see myself as a cartoon acting in relation to the cartoon I imagine for you. If my cartoon fits you well enough that you like it and if your cartoon of me fits well enough that I like it, we have a good chance of becoming friends.

A great deal of normal imagined communication is cartoon-like, and being normal, will take the bulk of its cartoons from mass media—movies, TV, radio, and, to a lesser extent today, books and other art forms.

People still read and learn from books and art, but normal communication has come to rely heavily on the powerful cartoons of mass media.

The big problem with our systems of imagined communication is they are highly idiosyncratic, messy, and ambiguous. We have to spend a lot of time fixing problems and explaining what we really mean.

It’s good to have idiosyncratic communication, but we have to find ways to understand each other on those terms.


first posted May 25, 2014

Complex trauma as distinct from anxiety & depression

If you think about it, there are a great many people worldwide who have lived through years, even decades, of horrible treatment.

And often that horrible treatment led to maladaptive skills that led to more horrible treatment from people who know how to exploit weaknesses like that.

The following quote puts it very well. Be sure to read the whole piece linked below. Emphasis mine.

For those who have experienced trauma, anxiety comes from an automatic physiological response to what has actually, already happened. The brain and body have already lived through “worst case scenario” situations, know what it feels like and are hell-bent on never going back there again. The fight/flight/ freeze response goes into overdrive. It’s like living with a fire alarm that goes off at random intervals 24 hours a day. It is extremely difficult for the rational brain to be convinced “that won’t happen,” because it already knows that it has happened, and it was horrific.

Link: We Can’t Keep Treating Anxiety From Complex Trauma the Same Way We Treat Generalized Anxiety

People who have experienced complex trauma can be difficult to deal with because they very legitimately do not fucking trust anyone.

The linked article laments that few therapists are trained in complex trauma, which is true.

I would add that very few people know that many societies in the world, including the USA, contain malicious groups that work complex trauma to super exploit and/or destroy people.

These groups either start with a person who has been abused or start the abuse themselves. It is a form of persecution.

It can be done by states to repress whole subgroups (“counter-revolutionaries,” for example). Or by clandestine groups to gain power.

Free energy principle & interpersonal psychology

To be very brief, Karl Friston’s “free energy principle” says that the brain is an “inference machine” or “prediction machine” that uses Bayesian probability reasoning and is motivated to act by an inference seeming not true or “surprising” to it.

More can be found here and here.

The free energy principle is a straightforward way to explain what FIML practice does, how it does it, and why it works differently than any other form of psychotherapy and in many significant ways why it works better.

A psychological “complex,” “neurosis,” “personality disorder,” or “persistent thought,” call it what you will, affects human behavior by being or having become a nexus of thoughts, ideas, perceptions, feelings, interconnected neurons and chemistry.

The same is true for any personality trait or skill, including very positive ones.

In Friston’s free energy terms, the psychological elements described above are surrounded by Markov blankets.

That means they are isolated or protected systems with their own variables. These protected systems (protected by Markov blankets) are hard to change because they have their own sets of rules and habitual inputs and outputs.

And that makes them stubborn candidates for most forms of psychotherapy, especially psychotherapy that requires a therapist. One reason for this is time & expense. A second reason is it is difficult for the patient to change without therapeutically experiencing for themself the complex or trait in real-world situations.

The key here is therapeutic experience in the real-world of the unwanted trait or complex that requires change.

The third reason most psychotherapies are ineffective is very subtle incisiveness in real-time is needed to penetrate psychological Markov blankets.

What FIML does is penetrate the Markov blanket enshrouding a complex with a series of small pricks. Each prick in the blanket is small, but each prick also allows some of the valence (gas) inside the blanket to escape.

FIML slowly punctures the Markov blanket with many small pricks, eventually causing it to collapse.

Once it has collapsed, the energies that were trapped inside it can be used for other things. In this way FIML optimizes even non-neurotic psychology by removing pockets of inefficiency held within psychological Markov blankets.

By using only small pricks to penetrate Markov blankets, FIML allows people to gradually and painlessly see what needs to be changed, why, and how to do it. Since FIML works in real-time real-world situations, even very small insights can bring about large changes.

Sexy NSA Commercial With Sasha Grey

I first posted this on July 13, 2013. Rings just as true today. ABN

The NSA database shows once again that it is technology that moves the world more than ideology. I doubt there is anything anyone can do to stop this database or others like it, here or abroad.

We can maybe hope that those who have access to databases of this type are completely honest and that they function within perfect systems that have no corruption, but historically that is highly improbable.

Big databases like the NSA’s (and we know there are more of them) create a form of international competition akin to the arms race. If we don’t get ahead of others, they will get ahead of us.

In the near-term, our best hope is probably for even more technology in the form of accurate lie-detectors that can be used to keep all of us honest, including those with access to the database. I do believe that the database has rendered our traditional form of government obsolete and that there is no turning back.

In the long-term, the database will surely look passe, even puny. Isn’t it likely to be a precursor to the even larger database that will house our electronic/digital “selves” once we have achieved a non-biological stage of evolution (if we haven’t already)? Will we need or even want privacy then?

For today, a conundrum in the database arms race is that the NSA has in one way made us “safer” by staying ahead of other countries (I guess), but it has also made us less safe because no database like that can be made perfectly inviolable.

The database should make it clear to even more people that we fundamentally have no idea how our government works or who controls it to what purpose. Rather than look behind the scenes for who has the “real” skinny, as we naively did twenty years ago, now we must wonder if anything known to the public has any bearing at all on what is really going on.

Working memory is the fulcrum of psychology

It is the hinge between inner speech and outer speech. Psychology doesn’t happen without working memory.

Yet working memory is elusive. You hear something and speak to it but did your interlocutor mean that or even say it at all?

Let’s define outer speech as speech spoken to another person. Inner speech spoken aloud is still inner speech.

Inner speech informs outer speech and often becomes it. Same thing goes for outer speech. It can be taken in and reshape inner speech in very deep ways.

During the dynamic of two people talking to each other, our working memories are tasked with listening and responding as best we can. TBH, we usually don’t do that very well.

Many mistakes happen during active speech exchanges. I don’t think I need to prove that.

If what is being exchanged has psychological import, to that degree mistakes can be serious or not.

What is weird to me is our entire sense of who we are is built on the insecure fulcrum of our working memories as we speak and listen.

This happened between your mother and father and between them and you and everyone else you have ever spoken with. It’s all very messy, uncertain, filled with potentially extremely grave errors.

This is part of the deep foundation of our psychologies but it is not often mentioned or taken into account nearly enough.

We go for theories about ourselves because they are established outer speech that we can take in and adapt to. To me, that is weak. A very weak way to understand yourself.

Inner speech as subversive marker of psychology. True speech passes quickly

Inner speech—what we say to ourselves when alone—provides a reasonably good outline of our conscious psychology, an outline of how we understand ourselves.

Inner speech may also include semi-conscious information and subject matter.

When engaged in personal art and poetry inner speech frequently draws on unconscious material, though it is difficult to know where to draw lines between that and psychology. Art is all but defined by its capacity to evoke many interpretations.

Inner speech wanders and can become subversive, even if beautiful, by confirming misunderstanding.

When we are consciously mindful of our inner speech and deliberately pay extra attention to it (a valuable practice), our speaking will change because whenever we strive or focus on anything our relationship to it changes.

When speech pays attention to itself, it brings recursion, one of its core features, to bear on itself. In doing that it raises self-awareness to higher macro-levels or causes self-awareness to view itself from different perspectives.

Consciousness seems to require consciousness of something; in this case it is consciousness of consciousness, a very simple thing actually.

Does water know it’s wet? I don’t know. Does consciousness know it is conscious? Of course it does. We must admit here, though, that what we are conscious of is often wrong.

Being wrong is a big problem with inner speech. I might be talking rather passionately to myself about something that never happened the way I have come to see it. We all know this, though it’s hard to know what to do about it.

That’s probably a big piece of what the Buddha meant by delusion, or even wrong speech. Mumbling away in my own head about something I am completely wrong about!

Oh well.

With an honest partner at least I can get an honest answer about whatever they are thinking right now and compare that to whatever I thought I saw in them. And from that I can tell whether what I thought I saw in them was right or wrong.

That is very good information, some of the best. Let a few seconds pass and their memory will already be eroding, their information not-so-slowly consumed by inner speech.

Friends will typically provide all the inner speech you want, but we would be back at square one if we took that in place much better information from as close as possible to the actual moment that just occurred.

If you think about it, you will probably agree that we can really only gain an objective insight into our psychology in the moment with an honest partner. And in those instances, we will mostly only gain insights into small bits of it.

Fortunately, with time and an accumulation of many small bits of information like that, we will see much better outlines of our psychologies than either our own inner speech can provide us or that can be provided by any theory that comes from outside.

Time pressure encourages socially acceptable speech

An interesting study shows that:

Prosociality increases when decisions are made under time pressure.

and that:

These results of socially desirable behavior under time pressure do not reflect people’s deep-down good selves but, rather, their desire to present themselves favorably to other people. (Rushing to Appear Virtuous: Time Pressure Increases Socially Desirable Responding)

Lead author, John Protzko says of the results:

“The method of ‘answer quickly and without thinking’, a long staple in psychological research, may be doing many things, but one thing it does is make people lie to you and tell you what they think you want to hear. This may mean we have to revisit the interpretation of a lot of research findings that use the ‘answer quickly’ technique. (Under Time Pressure, People Tell Us What We Want to Hear)

The cutoff for “time pressure” was 11 seconds; that is, a yes or no answer was required within 11 seconds to be considered pressured.

Most conversational speech comes well within 11 seconds after a person has been addressed. While being addressed is not the same as being questioned, it does usually imply a response is needed fully as much as a direct question.

If this extrapolation is true, the experiment may also show one important reason people fairly often say what they don’t really mean and/or would rephrase on further reflection.

Beyond that, it may also show why many people are uncomfortable in group settings or with speaking at all. Pressure—time or otherwise—forces us into a shallow “agreeable” mode that regurgitates whatever we think others want to hear or that seems most socially acceptable to us.

I know I have done that many times. And when I buck that tendency, I know I sometimes hit it out of the park and sometimes cause myself embarrassment.

Either way, no matter the result, quick speech is fraught with danger, even among close friends. And this is probably a major reason we legitimately cling to personas, egos, or roles as means to standardize our responses across a wide variety of conditions.

From a Buddhist point o view, a great deal of delusion starts right there.

Public language has problems similar to private language

Private language—what we say to ourselves, how we cogitate while alone—is greatly dependent on public language, that which is readily understood by many.

In fact, private language is so dependent on public language, it can be argued that a private language completely divorced from public language cannot exist.

It is obvious that anyone wanting to influence or control large numbers of people will address them in public language.

It is less obvious, that those same people frequently will also seek to change the public language itself.

Sometimes this language changing is a good thing as that is how civilizations adapt and grow. It is probably best, or usually best, when civilizational changes arise organically from the whole society or from important parts of society that are behaving honestly.

Sometimes, however, the changing of public language is done dishonestly by small numbers of people who have seized positions of power, sometimes precisely for that purpose.

They change public language to further their positions, ideas, or programs; to seize control of public topics; to seize or secure power over the public.

It is not as easy to parse this as it may seem. Who is restricting honest organic input into public language? Or when is organic input into public language itself but a ruse to falsely commandeer that language?

After Lenin and Stalin seized control of the public languages of the Soviet Union, we can see a clear-cut example of bad actors creating a basis for indoctrination. Before they seized power, we can see an example of a dishonest “organic” group seeking to commandeer control of public language.

And how do we see that today, through the lens of “history”?

Firstly, whose history? The same problem with public language arises.

Secondly, maybe we can never know. Maybe only societal laws or rules of governance can help us determine what’s right or best. But then the same problem arises.

Whose laws, whose rules?

In this sense both public and private languages have enormous problems basing themselves on anything.