Psychology is a self-generating, auto-catalytic system

Human psychology is self-generated in the sense that it takes ideas and energy from other people and then interprets and builds on that.

Our cognitive systems self-generate with what we learn from life and other humans—language, ideas, philosophies, behaviors, emotions, almost everything.

Auto-catalytic systems are systems that are able to catalyze their own production. You learn something, combine it with something else and then auto-catalyze that combination into something new, something that is unique to you.

The problem with being a self-generating, auto-catalytic system is you need a way to unify your system. It has to make sense to you, has to have meaning. Part of it is copy-paste from other people and part of it is DIY. It’s hard to do.

Human games make it easier. Games are things we do with our psychological systems. Many games unify our systems for a short period of time. Sports, cooking, reading, TV, etc. provide “meaning” or systemic focus long enough for most of us to experience a sense of contentment or purpose. Religions, careers, philosophies, etc. are meta-unifying games that provide unification or meaning at meta levels and for longer periods of time.

A big problem here is as self-generating systems we make mistakes, and many of them compound.

Self-generating auto-catalytic systems are complex and difficult to manage. They can induce terrible misery if they fail to bring unity and meaning to themselves.

Interpersonal pragmatics in real-time

Interpersonal pragmatics are absolutely fundamental to human psychology.

Understanding interpersonal pragmatics in real-time is the holy grail of human psychology because there is nothing else that reveals as well how human psychology actually functions.

Pragmatics “is a subfield of linguistics and semiotics that studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning.” It is the study of why we say what we say when we say it and how that is understood by others and vice-versa.

Real-time interpersonal pragmatics are highly idiosyncratic. This means that psychological generalizations can be and often are seriously misleading when applied to real-time interpersonal pragmatics. And this means that you will never figure out your own psychology or anyone else’s if you do not have a method for understanding real-time interpersonal pragmatics.

One day AI will help us with this task and when that day comes, our understanding of human psychology will change completely. After that day, people in future will have a very hard time understanding how and why we are so limited today in our comprehension of human psychology. They will see that, yes, we functioned, but Lord what a mess we make of it!

The way to understand interpersonal pragmatics in real-time today is FIML and I do not believe there is any other way. At least I have not found one after over ten years of searching.

The following comments are for readers who already practice FIML and/or those who are contemplating doing it or just getting started:

  • It is very important to fully grasp the difference between knowing that real-time communication details are extremely revealing of something else (how your mind functions) and becoming lost in the emotions of those details.
  • It is very good to be passionate about wanting to understand the minutiae of real-time communication but very bad to get embroiled in the emotions of those small, originating exchanges.
  • FIML works with small bits of data because only these can be reliable isolated and viewed analytically.
  • To lose perspective and become emotionally embroiled in these bits of data because they are being focused on (for FIML reasons) is to waste time and create unnecessary problems. Don’t do it. Be smarter than that.

General analyses of signaling systems illuminate fundamentals of psychology

Individual psychology is a locus or node within a larger social system.

More precisely, individual psychologies are particular signaling systems within larger social signaling systems.

It is valuable to see this because general analyses of signaling systems—even those having nothing to do with human psychology—can shed light on human signaling systems, including both individual psychology and many aspects of sociology.

When human psychology is viewed as a signaling system, we can readily see that narcissism is bound to occur because narcissism is fundamentally a simplistic signal system.  See Narcissism redefined (yet again) for more.

When human sociology is viewed as a signaling system, we can similarly see that parasitism is bound to occur because the exploitation of one system by another is a fairly simple matter.  See Social parasitism in ants and humans for more.

In like manner, we can see that social hierarchies importantly have evolved because they are simple and decently efficient signal (communication) systems.

We can also see why hierarchical system often are overthrown and why they often do not arise in systems where they are not needed.  For example, no hierarchy is needed for a transportation system if everyone agrees to the rules.  Nor is one especially needed for a language system once the basics have been established.  A parasitic group might impose a hierarchy on a language system, but that’s a different animal.

When individual psychology is viewed as a signaling system, we can see that a great deal of what we consider “disordered” or “ill” within that system is fundamentally a problem of the signal system itself and not the “personality” we have mistakenly abstracted out of that system.

Indeed, most of what we think of as personality is nothing more than an individual signal system attempting to conform to its understanding of the larger social system within which it exists.  When science is applied to “personality” erroneously conceived, we arrive at the many psychometric tautologies on personality traits we now have.  Psychometrics have limited value for describing societies, but are frequently misleading, even damaging, when applied to individuals.  In this, they resemble BMI data which originally was used as a marker for the health of whole populations, not individuals, and which can be misleading when applied to individuals.

In contrast, when we view individuals as signaling systems rather than personalities, we can immediately see that these systems can and should be optimized for better communication.  Indeed, this is the real job of psychology—optimizing individual signaling systems! Not just treating disorders!

Status and hierarchy are as fundamental to human life as murder

All three are middling instincts that are easily controlled or not even thought about by most people.

I mention this because several social-psychologists I like and respect have come down hard on the fundamental importance of the human instinct for status and advancement within human hierarchies.

I discussed this topic in January regarding Jordan Peterson. Yesterday, I noticed the video below where Peterson seems to be conflating status, hierarchy, and self-improvement. To me, it sounds like he is backing away from his views on the fundamental importance of status within a human hierarchy. This is good because the only evidence anyone can offer for that claim will be based on psychometric tautologies or, more vaguely, cultural inertia.

BTW, I like Peterson and wish him the best. His is a valuable and necessary voice. I hope he keeps talking and eventually becomes prime minister of Canada.


Games as semiotic focus

Define a game as “a set of rules that focuses and directs thought, feeling, intention.”

Most human games are overwhelmingly involved with human semiotics. Human feeling, thought, and intention overwhelmingly operate within and are defined by human semiotics.

Humans are semiotic animals who live within semiologies as much or more than their natural environments. Few of us can even comprehend our natural environments save through a semiotic system.

A semiology is a signal system, a system of signals. Humans need and want their signal systems to be organized; from this arises culture and psychology.

From this arises the many games of human semiotic organization. Humans crave meaning—a synonym for semiotic organization and focus—and thus play games (as defined above) with their intentions, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, instincts, perceptions, desires, and so on. Without meaning, focus, purposive semiotic organization, life is dismal and many humans destroy themselves and others for this alone.

Human semiotic organization can be beneficially reorganized in two basic ways:

  • Through general thought, which mainly changes how we focus and what we focus on. This region of organization includes all culture and science, including mainstream psychology and its treatments.
  • Through analysis of the most basic elements of semiotic organization, individual semiotics and semiologies. To do this at the individual level, two individuals are needed because you cannot successfully analyze your own semiotics by yourself. This is so because a great number of human semiotics are fundamental to both psychology and communication. They do not exist independently.

The goal of reorganizing individual semiologies is to optimize them. As individual semiologies optimize, individual psychologies inevitably optimize apace. Much is possible at this level that is not possible at the general level of psychological theory.

Reorganization at this level is done through individual semiotics, the actual signals of individual communication and psychology alike. To play this game—the game of semio-psychological reorganization and optimization—you have to have rules. Here they are.

Me on the outside vs me on the inside

This image was used on a social anxiety site to illustrate what it says. My take on it is virtually everyone in the world is like this if you expand social anxiety to mean inner confusion.

Under current worldwide social norms, inner confusion reigns because there is no way for individuals to communicate with profound authenticity, no way to connect on authentic levels. The closest most people can get is shared ideals, shared vows, shared beliefs, all mere pale shadows of true authenticity.

Those who lack profound authentic communication must needs necessarily also lack authentic self-knowledge. You cannot know thyself all alone. You must be able to communicate it, communicate with it, interact with it to know it. And you must be able to do this with a knowing other who is doing the same with you. This is so because our psychologies are based on interpersonal communication. There is no other way.

FIML practice can correct virtually all interpersonal communication problems between two people. FIML optimizes interpersonal communication and by so doing optimizes self-knowledge as well.

On Jordan Peterson

He is a psychometric robot fashioned out of statistical analyses of human psychology; a machine credibly demonstrating what his data show to be the rightmost side of the bell curve.

Given his and our assumptions there is little else he can do. He is a persona made of repeatable ideas, the fruits of scientific labor. It’s a new kind of drama, analytical drama.

He demonstrates what many think about being human. Many don’t know what else to think.

Another famous psychologist does something similar, though his interpretation of the data rests more on compassion and understanding. Watch Allen J. Frances in the video at that link. You can hardly imagine a more kindly and intelligent speaker. Handsome, engaging, caring and alert, Frances displays the best human qualities expected of him. I see contradictions in his persona during the Q&A at the end because he models speaking to individuals in front of a large group.

When I first moved to California a friend took me to several in-home demonstrations given by people who were selling products or courses of study designed to make life better. Invariably, those people had shimmering good looks and charisma that was vibrant for the 90 minutes or so we saw them.

All of us are pressured by ever-changing bell curves.

I like all of the people described above. I hope Jordan become prime minister of Canada and/or keeps talking!