The value of introversion, and probably reclusion

Do reclusive and monastic religious practices foster wisdom about the human condition?

A new study indicates that they may.

Insights into social psychological phenomena have been thought of as solely attainable through empirical research. Our findings, however, indicate that some lay individuals can reliably judge established social psychological phenomena without any experience in social psychology. These results raise the striking possibility that certain individuals can predict the accuracy of unexplored social psychological phenomena better than others. (Social Psychological Skill and Its Correlates)

In an article about this study, its authors say that introverted people tend to be better at observing others because they are good at introspection and have fewer motivational biases. Here’s that article: Yale Study: Sad, Lonely Introverts Are Natural Born Social Psychologists.

Psychology as “signs of something else”

When we see a human behavior as a “sign of something else” we begin magnifying it.

When we live in a culture where people normally do this, we tend to think it is right to do this even to ourselves.

People often feel relieved when their “signs of something else” have been analyzed—either professionally or by self-administered questionnaires—to reveal what that “something else” is.

Once analyzed and categorized, the “something else” itself becomes a sign, or a meta-sign, a diagnosis that explains behavior while directing us to a cure based on whatever that “something else” is.

The DSM reads like a Ptolemaic system of circles and spheres. In it signs are identified, quantified, and classified to indicate what they stand for, what their “something else” is.

Professionals are needed to do this work of course, and though the manual rests on “scientific” tests and other measurements, it changes every few years and very few people are getting better because of it. Moreover there is very little consensus among thoughtful people, including psychologists, about what the classifications of “mental illness” or “personality disorder” actually mean.

This is a sure sign that something is wrong.

I submit that what is wrong is our systems of classification of mental disorder do not describe the actual disorders because these descriptions exist on a different level from the disorders themselves.

It is widely observed than many disorders as currently classified blend into each other, share attributes, are co-morbid. It is also widely known that when disorders are extreme, sufferers can exhibit symptoms of all of them.

This indicates that the human mind is a complex system that becomes disordered by over-emphasizing or under-emphasizing parts of its system.

And this may be why drugs, psychedelics, shock therapy, or shamanic rituals sometimes help. Because they reset the entire system.

If you don’t want to use drugs, can’t get psychedelics, don’t want to undergo shock therapy or shamanic ritual, I suggest you try FIML practice. If you have a good partner, are fairly intelligent, and want to truly optimize your psychology (not just terminate your ambiguous disorder), FIML will probably do this for you. In fact, even if you can get psychedelics, FIML is better.

A disorder is unique to its system and though we can speak of some generalities that may apply to it, these generalities exist at a different level from the disorder itself and cannot provide a cure.

To cure a disorder the disorder must be experienced as it is happening by the sufferer. If too much of the disorder is revealed at once or the sufferer is simply confronted with its classification, more harm than good may result. If small bits of the disorder are revealed over a longish period of time, however, the sufferer will much more easily be able to correct the disorder.

In my view, all people everywhere are deeply disordered and thus all people everywhere would benefit from FIML practice. People who may not benefit from FIML include, among others, those who cannot self-observe, who are severely alcoholic, whose disorder prohibits self-analysis (narcissism, for example) and, sadly, those who cannot find an honest partner.

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.

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.


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.

Why narcissism works

Narcissism works because its victims don’t see it.

Victims don’t see it because they are children being raised by narcissistic parent(s) or very commonly adults who were raised by narcissists. There is even a term for the latter: ACoN, Adult Children of Narcissists.

Other kinds of people also fall for narcissists, but having been raised by narcissistic parent(s) is probably the most common.

Narcissists often appear normal to others due to narcissism being a fairly common disorder and also due to the narcissist’s deep-seated need to appear normal to others. They are experts at “impression management.” That’s a big part of what narcissism is.

For many ACoNs, narcissistic traits look perfectly normal because that is what they experienced at home. Narcissistic smiles, glares, malice, selfishness, ostracism, false concern, abuse, and more all seem normal because they were imprinted on the primary instincts of the child to need and trust their parents and siblings.

In truth, entire culture can be narcissistic, abusive, hierarchical. To break these habits in interpersonal relationships, you have to do FIML practice or something very similar.