Anxiety and default brain states

Our brains/minds have default states (plural) that we tend toward for a variety of reasons—pleasure, boredom, habit, even a systems checkup.

Default states are generally based on instincts like hunger, sex, fear, love, anger, disgust, humor, aesthetic joy, etc.

Humans tend to dress default states up. Instead of just eating something when hungry, most of us take time to prepare something good or pay someone to do that for us.

Everybody knows what we do with sex. Love, anger, hate, humor, disgust, fear, curiosity, thoughtfulness and so on are not very different in the many ways we dress them up.

Anxiety can be usefully understood as one of the default states of the brain/mind/body.

Anxiety is based on fear. We need this state in its basic form. If we are attacked by a wild dog, we need to be able to dump adrenaline and cortisol into our system quickly.

In many cases, though, anxiety takes on a life of its own and arises even when we are not in real danger. I think this indicates a default state that we can become habituated to in much the same way that we can become habituated to overeating, drunkenness, hate, anger, or unreasonable trust, love, or desire. Additionally, some bouts of anxiety can be understood as the system simply running a checkup.

People watch horror films because we like feeling afraid. It focuses the mind. We take risks because risks make us feel alive. Like horror films or danger sports, risk-taking focuses the mind.

Anxiety also focuses the mind. I think we like this aspect of it in many cases. It stimulates the brain and body, providing a level of clarity that feels very good, especially if we are hanging from a rock 500 ft above the ground.

Sometimes when we feel anxiety we can go out and do something, go running, ride a motorcycle, go surfing. When we do something that requires high levels of mental focus, we use our anxious state for what nature “intended.”

For myself, I notice that thinking about anxiety helps me put it in its proper place. I also notice that something unexpected—a health scare or good news—can immediately change my mental priorities, greatly demoting anxieties that had seemed so real just moments before.

Anxiety and desire

There are many similarities between anxiety and desire.

  • Anxiety is the strong word for something we do not want. Desire is a general word for something we do want.
  • Anxiety is based on fear, desire on pleasure.
  • Both are forward-leaning mental and emotional states involving planning, imagination, and expectation.
  • In their basic states, neither is a problem until it becomes excessive.
  • Most of the time most people know when a desire is excessive.
  • It is harder to know when anxieties are excessive, probably because they are fear-based and we instinctively use more resources to avoid danger.
  • If a desire is excessive, we can often reduce it by doing the Contemplation on Uncleanness, by contemplating what’s bad about it.
  • Anxieties can be reduced by contemplating how many of them have been wrong in the past and how little good it does to feel anxious.
  • A main job of the conscious mind is to scan the world for danger. All animals do this.
  • As semiotic, social animals, humans experience many fears in the semiotic and/or social realms.
  • We cannot avoid scanning for danger because real dangers do exist.
  • Anxieties occur when the perception of danger is disproportionate.
  • If possible, it is best not to use drugs to control anxiety.
  • Anxiety stimulates the brain and nervous system and within reasonable ranges is probably good for both. Anti-anxiety drugs dull us, though occasional usage in some situations is probably a good idea.
  • Anxiety can be rewarding when it is relieved. It feels wonderful when it goes away.
  • The far side of anxiety—when you see the oven was not on—feels good and may be a major reason many people subconsciously indulge in anxiety. Its resolution fulfills the desire to not feel that way.
  • Anxiety focuses the mind. When one anxiety is removed, another often appears.
  • As an instinct (that consciously scans for danger), anxiety when excessive can be understood as being an indulgence or “fetshization” of an instinct.
  • In this, it is somewhat similar to over indulgence in other instincts—gluttony, drunkenness, sex addiction, greed, laziness, and so on.
  • We probably fetishize instincts because it is a fairly easy thing for us to do. As semiotic animals, that is how we play, that’s what we know how to do.
  • Definitely best to avoid identifying with anything but especially fetishized instincts.
  • In Buddhist terms, identifying your transient sentience with anything is the basis of forming a self.
  • A good deal of anxiety involves fears pertaining to the self, to its stories, identity, instincts, memories, desires, and so on.
  • It is good to pay close attention to whatever is making you feel anxious and also to mildly stimulate anxious feelings when you are not anxious. This helps you see what anxiety is and how it functions in you, how it becomes excessive and why.
  • It is also good to discuss this topic with a friend because this helps us become more objective about it.
  • When we can expand the semiotic context of anything, we change it.

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.

Something most white people don’t understand

From a recent email:

Like the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, Vietnamese consider their compatriots as not just belonging to the same race, but family, and in the most literal sense, too, for they call other Vietnamese, “đồng bào” [“same womb”], which is derived from the Chinese, 同胞. This notion is obviously more myth than science, for the Vietnamese nation has absorbed plenty of foreign blood through the millennia, via the usual channels of conquest and immigration. Without the bonding concept of đồng bào, however, Vietnam would have disappeared eons ago.

Vietnamese citizenship, then, is much more than a legality, but established through the age-old recognition that people who appear similar and, even more importantly, speak the same language naturally belong together. Often, they must also fight together to resist being swallowed up or destroyed by another race. Race consciousness is at the heart of racial survival. (Source)

Bad communication leads to ulterior motives and pointless suffering

I believe most people in the world are all but forced to resort to ulterior motives when dealing with others or being dealt with by them.

Furthermore, I believe most people are in this position so often they don’t just resort to hidden motivations, they expect them, are habituated to them, rely on them, and even enjoy them even though they cause immense suffering.

This situation arises due to fundamentally bad communication and the mistrust and uncertainty that devolve from it.

If communication is fundamentally bad (ambiguous, misleading, can’t be cleared up), there is no one you can trust but yourself. No one else you can rely on.

You are all but forced to conceal what your really think, feel, or want because you probably won’t be understood if you try to explain yourself honestly. Worse, you  may get played.

Your interlocutor may genuinely misunderstand and cause you harm by that or they may feign interest and honesty when they are just gathering dirt to use against you.

Can anyone deny this happens very often? And that normal people have no recourse but to play that game?

An ulterior motive is one that is concealed. A motive that is different from what is being communicated. We all know what that means and how destructive it can be.

Ulterior motives arise because we do not use our communication systems (mainly speech and listening) at all well. Instead of communicating honestly, we try to “read” the other person while at the same time calculating to what extent or how they are “reading” us.

This is a disgusting situation for people to have put themselves in.

This problem can be fixed with one other person, so you can have at least one friend who does not do this to you and to whom you do not do it either. That makes two people who can escape the deadening, anti-life maze of ulterior motivation madness.

The way to do it is through FIML. I do not believe there is any other way.

If many people do FIML, eventually many of us will see the problems of bad communication clearly. Many of us will realize that virtually all people are trapped in a system that all but forces them to lie to others while suffocating themselves.

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Edit 10/07/17: Here is a pop culture analysis of how to tell if someone is lying: 9 WAYS TO SPOT A LIAR. Scroll down to the list and notice how crude and dubious these tells are, but this is what many people work with. It’s all we have. With a good partner, FIML can lead you to levels of truth far higher and deeper than this. In this world, we really have to develop FIML relationships to fully explore our own psychology and human psychology in general. Without FIML, you are permanently locked out of your own depths by being trapped in ordinary communication which is accurately characterized by the shallowness of the linked article.

Polarization is good

Kevin MacDonald

…The result is a level of political polarization not seen in this country probably since the Civil War. But the polarization is what had to happen for any possible movement in the direction of the Alt Right. The absolute worst thing would have been a Hillary-vs.-Jeb-type election where America keeps sleep-walking to Armageddon. The mobilization of the left has made clear the fault lines. This is about removing the traditional culture of America, and it is about removing Whites from the center of the American story. It is about replacement — first the monuments, then the people.

Solid majorities of Americans oppose removing the statues, and at least a plurality oppose the NFL protests — the percentages would sure be much higher if only Whites were polled. This means the traditional American majority is moving down the road toward being explicitly aware of what the game is. Reasonable White people watching this unfold cannot possibly believe that the glorious multicultural future will be anything but a disaster for White America. The hatred for White America that has been so obvious to Alt Right activists is inevitably seeping through to “just plain White folks.” The hatred will only intensify when Whites have less power. And when the 2018 and 2020 elections happen, there will be tremendous pressure on candidates to take stands on these issues. (Source)

Basic signaling and some things it explains

Basic signaling can be described or explained as follows:

  • A signal is information sent from one place and received at another.
  • A signal can be big or small.
  • A signal can be true or false.*

These are the most basic features of all signals. More complex signals contain these three basic features and also exhibit other features, such as:

  • having complexity or context
  • being conscious or not
  • being consciously designed to have an effect

From the three features of basic signaling, we can say a lot about human signaling.

The first feature of basic signaling simply defines what a signal is. I can signal to myself or I can signal to you. A simple example is I check my hair in the mirror (signal to self) and then present myself to you (signal to you). Insofar as my hair signal to you has a conscious element of how my hair looks or doesn’t look (sloppy, messy), the hair signal I sent to myself via the mirror is now being sent to you via my imagination.

This hair signal can also illustrate the second feature of basic signaling—how big or small the signal is. My hair signal may be important to me while I am looking in the mirror (big signal) or not very important (small signal). In like manner, my hair signal may be big or small in your mind.

This hair signal can also illustrate the third feature of basic signaling—its truth or falsity. If I have dyed my hair, in some sense I am sending a false signal. If I have not dyed my hair but you think I have, then you are receiving a false signal.

One could also say that dyed hair is not a truly “false” signal because it is common for people to dye their hair. Similar arguments can be made for combing or cutting hair or anything we do with our hair. The truth or falsity of many human signals is open to interpretation in this manner.

Normally, we use the three basic features of complex signals described in the second bullet list above to decide which interpretation to use. Changing the context and complexity upon which our interpretation is based will tend to change our interpretation of the signal.

Notice how many signals achieve their effects primarily by being big. Big signs, bright lights, loud music, heavy make-up, loud sexual signals, perfume, odor, big muscles, fake boobs, expensive cars, big houses and yachts, etc. all work in part by being big signals. Bigness or smallness is point two in the list above.

Bigness alone can explain why people lie, slant, or falsely accuse. As long as a signal is big, some people will be attracted to it and come under its spell. If someone accuses you falsely of something and spreads their accusation around, you may be faced with a big problem. If the lie is big enough and artful enough, you now are forced to defend yourself. If you do not even know what is being said about you, you can’t even do that.

Another version of the effectiveness of a big false accusation is one made to your face. As soon as it is uttered, the scene and context will shift dramatically. You are normally required to immediately defend yourself, derailing whatever rational exchange of ideas preceded the accusation.

We can see how this works in interpersonal communication and we can also see how it works on a larger scale. When nations go to war, they invariably lie about each other. Politicians lie, cultures lie, groups lie, religions lie, sports fans lie, and so on.

Lies or false accusation work because they send big signals that require a defense and, since they are lies, can be hard to defend against.

To me, this is a depressing side of human communication. Lies and false accusations very often win against the truth.

Simply stated, false accusations are aggressive lies, but we also know them in milder form as spin, slanting the facts, one-sidedness, tailoring the message, and so on.

Note: I got the idea of the importance of false accusations from a book I am reading on alcoholism: Vessels of Rage, Engines of Power: The Secret History of Alcoholism.

The author of this book, James Graham, makes the claim repeatedly that alcoholics very often engage in false accusations. In discussing this book with my partner, we came to conclude that Graham is right about this—false accusations do seem to be common among the alcoholics we both know.

Since I like to break things down into basic principles, my partner and I came up with the principles outlined above.

A false accusation sends a big signal into a social group while at the same time protecting the alcoholic from criticism. It allows them to say, “You see it is not me or my drinking that is the problem here, she is the one who is crazy!” Or, “Can you believe what he did to me?” Of course, he didn’t do anything but to a drunk, the accusation feels good and often works with others because it is big.

On a larger scale, false accusations in public today often take form as PC dictates. That’s “racist,” “sexist,” “micro-aggressive,” “privileged,” “homophobic,” etc. Just knowing that we might be accused of one of these attitudes has been enough to keep most people from saying anything that could even be tangentially interpreted in that way.

Note two: FIML practice entirely removes false accusations and any basis for them between partners. No FIML partner should ever say, “You did too mean that!” Or “I know why you did that!”

Partners who have established a habit of frequently checking their interpretations of each other should experience very few occasions to feel that their interpretation of something their partner signaled is better than their partner’s interpretation.

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*A false signal that is not conscious might be a non-poisonous snake or insect that has evolved to look like a poisonous one.

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First posted 01/10/16, slightly revised 09/28/17