Narcissism, a semiotic interpretation

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.

A broad example of psychological narcissism using the above definition is alcoholism which reduces sign interpretation due both to inebriation and toxicity.

Notice this definition does not presuppose anything psychological about the alcoholic. Alcoholism reduces sign interpretation due to the chemical properties of ethanol.

Alcoholism damages and simplifies the brain’s capacity to entertain multiple interpretations of signs. This is the core reason why so many alcoholics display narcissistic behaviors.

Somewhat similarly, small children can be functionally “narcissistic” because their brains are not developed. Like an alcoholic on the other side of life, a small child simply does not have the brain complexity to entertain multiple interpretations.

Narcissism is a simple and very basic operating system. This is why it is a normal option for both undeveloped and alcoholic brains.

The cure for narcissism is help the narcissist see multiple interpretations.

I believe that most if not all psychological analyses of individuals should be applicable to groups of people and vice versa.

Thus, a group with a reduced interpretation of signs will probably be a narcissistic group.

Groups that insist on a single interpretation of the past or the present are examples of this.


Error, ignorance, and disproportionality

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality are important factors in all forms of human communication.

They underlie and often dominate all individual psychology, all interpersonal communication, and all social arrangements, including economics, politics, science, media, societal norms, and so on.

We can see these three factors—error, ignorance, and disproportionality—in the recent revelation that the opioid addiction catastrophe was based on a single misconstrued sentence.

That single sentence was interpreted erroneously due to ignorance of its true context and then blown out of proportion.

Many thousands have lost their lives due to those mistakes.

Yes, science did eventually notice and will eventually correct this error, and that is good, but medical science also messed up prescriptions for dietary salt and fat based on even worse information.

For many years, and probably even still today, an obese person could go to a doctor’s office for a sore knee and be prescribed addictive opioids while also being advised to eat less fat and salt while increasing carbohydrate intake.

If even science can do this, how much more can it occur in politics, economics, and social norms?

When error, ignorance, or disproportionality happen outside of us, there is usually little we can do. Usually it is best to be stoical or Buddhist about it.

When error, ignorance, and disproportionality happen within interpersonal relations, there is much we can and should do. FIML can completely fix these problems when they arise between two people.

As mentioned, science eventually fixes its own problems. That is a foundational reason for the success of science and why humans admire it.

FIML is a kind of scientific inquiry into interpersonal psychology and functionality.

When people do not do science, they become even worse victims of error, ignorance, and disproportionality. When they don’t do FIML, the same bad things happen interpersonally and within individual psychology.

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality are often exploited for financial or emotional gain. If you know anything that someone else does not know, you will probably be able to exploit that knowledge to your advantage and their disadvantage.

And if you don’t do that (thank you for your goodness), you can be certain that many of the people around you will.

That is the world we live in. You have to be philosophical to accept that and to change that.

Thought alone tells us that removing error, ignorance, and disproportionality when we can is a good thing to do. Thought alone also tells us that in many cases we will pay a price for doing that as our good will will often be misinterpreted or used against us.

I see much of this as what the First Noble Truth is all about. A lotus grows out of mud much as our minds grow out of and beyond these kinds of delusions.

Philosophical psychology

Are your thought patterns valid? Are your premises true? Is your mind sound?

Buddhism further asks are your mental states wholesome? Are they conducive to enlightenment, wisdom, freedom from delusion?

There are many things we can do while alone to clean up our thought processes. And there are some things we can only do with the help of another person.

Only another person can tell us if our premises, thoughts, and conclusions (however tentative) about them are true, valid, and sound.

Buddhism has a concept of a “spiritual friend,” a “good friend,” a noble friend,” or an “admirable friend.” All of these terms are translations of the Pali Kalyāṇa-mittatā, which is well-explained at that link. (Chinese 善知識.)

From the link above and from many years of working with Buddhist literature and people, my sense is that a Buddhist “good friend” is someone who is to be admired and emulated. They are similar to what we mean today by mentors or “good role models.”

I deeply respect the concept of a Buddhist good friend, but find it lacks what I consider the preeminent virtue of philosophical psychology—real-time honesty based on a teachable technique.

Indeed, I cannot find anything anywhere in world philosophy, religion, or literature that provides a teachable technique for attaining real-time honesty with another person.

I also do not quite understand how this could be.

For many centuries human beings have thought about life but no one has come up with a technique like FIML?

How can that be?

I do not see a technique like FIML anywhere in the history of human philosophy nor anywhere in modern psychology.

The importance of a “good friend” who does FIML with you cannot be overemphasized because it is only through such a friend that you can discover where your premises about them are right or wrong, where your thoughts about them are valid or not, and through those discoveries where your mind itself is arranged soundly or not.

Short-term memory is key to psychological understanding

Short-term memory is where the rubber of human psychology meets the road.

It is the active part of human psychology as it functions in real-time.

New research indicates that the thalamus, which relays almost all sensory information, is central to the operation of short-term memory. Without the thalamus, short-term memory does not occur.

See Maintenance of persistent activity in a frontal thalamocortical loop and New research: short-term memory depends on the thalamus for background.

Short-term memory is a changeable “program” that deals with and responds to the world quickly. It is the main determinant of how “you” are in the moment.

Short-term memory maintains persistent activity (in the brain/body) by relaying its components through the thalamus in response to real-time conditions.

If we discover a mistake in our short-term memory, it is typically very easy to change. For example, if you realize you forgot to set your clocks ahead, your short-term memory will quickly adjust. You might feel a little dumb for a moment, but usually it is no big deal.

This example shows how our short-term memory is connected to long-term memories, to planning, expectation, and our general sense of the world around us and what we are doing in it.

FIML is an effective form of psychotherapy largely because it focuses on the short-term memory.

By targeting short-term memory loads, FIML helps partners discover how their psychologies are actually functioning in real-time during real-world situations.

Correcting mistakes in short-term memory immediately changes how we function.

Changing the same mistake several times very often removes it entirely from the long-term memory, from the overall functioning of the individual.

Psilocybin as effective psychotherapy

We should be looking for ways to effectively use drugs people already like and seek out on their own rather than ban them.

There is good evidence that psychedelics like psilocybin can do good things for people. A recent study confirms this.

Lead author of the study, Kelan Thomas, says:

This therapy has also demonstrated large effect sizes for improving symptoms on validated psychiatric rating scales, which suggests psilocybin-assisted therapy may be significantly better than the current treatment options only demonstrating small to moderate effect sizes. The other important distinction is that participants experienced dramatic improvements and higher remission rates after only a few psilocybin-assisted therapy sessions, which also appeared to persist for a much longer duration than current treatment options.” (Clinical review: Psilocybin therapy could be significantly better than current psychiatric treatments)

The study is here: Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy: A Review of a Novel Treatment for Psychiatric Disorders.

Psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD change awareness for several hours by changing brain connections. This brief change is the “high” many people enjoy.

This change provides dramatic evidence, or a dramatic example, to the brain of how it can be. Positive new connections can be formed while negative old connections can be extirpated.

At lower doses, psychedelics seem to make people both feel and act more creatively and positively.

LSD and psychotherapy

When LSD was first introduced in the United States in 1949, it was well received by the scientific community. Within less than a decade the drug had risen to a position of high standing among psychiatrists. LSD therapy was by no means a fad or a fly-by-night venture. More than one thousand clinical papers were written on the subject, discussing some forty thousand patients. Favorable results were reported when LSD was used to treat severely resistant psychiatric conditions, such as frigidity and other sexual aberrations. A dramatic decrease in autistic symptoms was observed in severely withdrawn children following the administration of LSD. The drug was also found to ease the physical and psychological distress of terminal cancer patients, helping them come to terms with the anguish and mystery of death. And chronic alcoholics continued to benefit from psychedelic treatment. One enthusiastic researcher went so far as to suggest that with LSD it might be possible to clean out skid row in Los Angeles.
“The rate of recovery or significant improvement was often higher with LSD therapy than with traditional methods. Furthermore, its risks were slim compared to the dangers of other commonly used and officially sanctioned procedures such as electroshock, lobotomy, and the so-called anti-psychotic drugs. Dr. Sidney Cohen, the man who turned on Henry and Clare Booth Luce, attested to the virtues of LSD after conducting an in-depth survey of US and Canadian psychiatrists who had used it as a therapeutic tool. Forty-four doctors replied to Cohen’s questionnaire, providing data on five thousand patients who had taken a total of more than twenty-five thousand doses of either LSD or mescaline. The most frequent complaint voiced by psychedelic therapists was ‘unmanageability.’ Only eight instances of “psychotic reaction lasting more than forty-eight hours” were reported in the twenty-five thousand cases surveyed. Not a single case of addiction was indicated, nor any deaths from toxic effects. On the basis of these finding Cohen maintained that ‘with the proper precautions psychedelics are safe when given to a selected healthy group.’
“By the early 1960s it appeared that LSD was destined to find a niche on the pharmacologist’s shelf. But then the fickle winds of medical policy began to shift. Spokesmen for the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Food and Drug Administration started to denounce the drug, and psychedelic therapy quickly fell into public and professional disrepute. Granted, a certain amount of intransigence arises whenever a new form of treatment threatens to steal the thunder from more conventional methods, but this alone cannot account for the sudden reversal of a promising trend that was ten years in the making.
“One reason the medical establishment had such a difficult time coping with the psychedelic evidence was that LSD could not be evaluated like other drugs. LSD was not a medication in the usual sense; it wasn’t guaranteed to relieve a specific symptom such as a cold or a headache. In this respect psychedelics were out of kilter with the basic assumptions of Western medicine. The FDA’s relationship with this class of chemicals became even more problematic in light of claims that LSD could help the healthy. Most doctors automatically dismissed the notion that drugs might benefit someone who was not obviously ailing.
“In 1962 Congress enacted regulations that required the safety and efficacy of a new drug to be proven with respect to the condition for which it was to be marketed commercially. LSD, according to the FDA, did not satisfy these criteria…”
by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain
Copyright 1985
pages 89-90

Consciousness is that which chooses

Anything that can choose is conscious to that extent, to the extent that it can choose.

In this respect, “that which chooses” has cognition of its options and also tends to make anti-entropic choices, choices that go against the entropy of itself. (If it did not do this or stopped doing this, it would not survive long. Its anti-entropic choices take energy from the environment, of course.)

Choosing and going against entropy does not mean always doing this correctly or in the best way.

It can be argued that matter also chooses or participates in some overarching principle of choice or selection. Matter’s very common cause-and-effect relations with itself must be based on something besides matter itself.

Consciousness, thus, can be defined as that which:

  • chooses
  • has cognition of options
  • is primarily anti-entropic for itself

We can also say that this same consciousness as just defined:

  • chooses though not always well
  • has cognition though often mistaken
  • is anti-entropic in ways that can be counter-productive

Matter itself conforms to principles—the laws of physics—though these do not appear to apply or apply well to chaos, radiation, quantum fluctuations, black holes. Nor to themselves in the sense that they do not reveal where they come from.

This suggests that matter itself persists under unknowable conditions much as we do.

What we do not know does not just include metaphysics but also anything we can imagine. At some point, we just won’t know anymore.

Socially, we rarely know the motives of others. Psychologically, we often cannot be rational about our own motives. And even if we are being rational we often base our decisions on bad data or incomplete or unknowable data. We often do not understand or even know what our own motives are.

When there are many factors, we become confused. Our minds feel chaotic. We become anxious, indecisive, emotional. This is a form of consciousness trying to make choices, struggling to choose, to select.