Sadistic narcissists enjoy being mean

I learned something from the post quoted below: mainly that some/many narcissists take immediate pleasure in signals received, the more intense the better. I had been understanding narcissism, even malignant narcissism, as a deep state with many causes and manifestations. Somehow I had left out the obvious—that narcissists can derive immediate pleasure from observing pain or humiliation in others.

I arrived at my wrong understanding by having been the family scapegoat which caused me to react slowly to everything and think of many reasons for why things were as they were and are as they are. This is not a bad way to think but clearly misses a major aspect of narcissistic behavior: they simply enjoy being mean. Many of them are sadistic narcissists.

The basic point here can be generalized to scales of signal intensity or depth. For example, the signal(s) of a painting can be received as its brushstrokes or as the full image and everything in-between. I had been seeing narcissism as a full image and missed the importance of the individual brushstrokes that make it up. I suspect something like this is why many abused people find it hard to ditch their abusers: it feels mean to them to do that and they do not want to be mean; and because they do not want to be mean they also do not see that trait clearly in others. Hence also why serial abuse happens to so many. Here is the post:

As far back as I can remember .. pretty much my first memory in fact, I’ve been obsessed with themes of pain and vulnerability. Those were and still are the things that make me happiest, particularly if it’s shit like kids being tortured/ill/vomiting/dissected/whatever the fuck else on a daily basis since I was 5/6.

Regarding how I treat people, my sense of humor is mostly the type where I poke fun at others, force people to become uncomfortable or terrified with shock content, or make them outraged by prompting reactions like that on purpose by showing them vicious crimes or similar acts that happen. I’m also obsessed with punishing people who I deem were “out of line” and derive a lot of pleasure from their Pain when I feel justice has been served, to the point where I bit or otherwise abused children (when I was younger) or even enjoyed snuff films in a sexual way because I felt they deserved it. It’s weird. I was like an out of control prison guard.

My happiest fantasies are ones where I use people or hurt or make them uncomfortable, or at the very least, they feel nothing or plain reluctance while I enjoy myself. It’s like something inside my brain refuses to let me reach normal levels of happiness when someone else is happy with me.

I don’t feel bad about it because I don’t feel shame at all ever, but the weird thing is why? Is this a narcissism thing? Why would I be somehow uncomfortable with others being happy? It makes no sense… happiness isn’t a finite thing, so why will my brain refuse to share it? It’s ultimately led to me having a more sadistic type personality.

Thoughts ? Connections to narcissism?

Is anyone here also inflicted with a sadistic leaning personality?

I am grateful to the author of this post. I watched my mom gain insight and overcome narcissism so it can be right to believe in people like this on deep levels.

the fundamental underlying problem of problems is the chaos of interpersonal ambiguity

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race, racism, identity politics, the majority of psychological diagnoses and personality types, all culture, all religions, all sects, all regionalism, nationalism, styles, gangs, gender identities, fads, etc.; all of it grows out of the boiling cauldron of ineluctable interpersonal ambiguity
cast your eyes across the world and its histories, no matter how big or small, no matter which corner of the globe; all of it grows or has grown out of the boiling cauldron of ineluctable interpersonal ambiguity

individual humans, with rare exception, need the external signs and symbols of “culture” (semiologies) to provide the unifying markers and coordinates that (appear) to save them from the fear and angst and madness of being naked in the boiling cauldron of ineluctable interpersonal ambiguity
that’s just how it is. period. no exceptions


the only other option different from all of the above, the only option that will actually save you from the boiling cauldron is FIML practice. did you expect more signs and symbols at this point? more abstract ideas? political solutions? new identities? not gonna happen because none of that works
FIML is a dynamic method that must be used to bear fruit. if you are smart you probably can figure out how to do it from reading enough posts on this website


it does bother me that there is no other way out, no other real hope. yet I am also heartened to know that FIML is not very hard to do once you understand it. if enough people do it, more will follow because the results are extremely good. and from that the fundamental problem of problems will gradually clear up and go away

a note to Buddhists: FIML is perfectly compatible with all Buddhist teachings. you could think of FIML as an addon that catalyzes traditional methods and makes them work faster. FIML sharpens mindfulness and provides profound insight into the deep meaning of non-attachment, no-self, and karma

“This thing they say about me – and it could be not that – but the paranoia lingers…”

The crux of all identity and social problems is right there: “it could be not that, but the paranoia lingers.” This statement lives at the individual level and is something we all face all the time with no exceptions.

The discussion in the video below lives at the general level, filled with abstractions that cannot solve the complex individual problem of constant insecurity caused by constant interpersonal ambiguity. Not knowing what people really mean or think or are intending to do; why they want to be with you or not.

Brittany says it is fundamentally a “trust problem,” which it is but you cannot fully trust what you do not know. And the paranoia always lingers. Political abstractions cannot fix this problem.

Readers who practice FIML will understand that a major cause of all social and psychological problems is individual uncertainty in the face of constant interpersonal ambiguity. This problem can be fixed between a couple of individuals but that’s all, at least for now.

When it is not fixed within a society—and no society has ever fixed it—individual passions rule: violence, psychopathy, dark personality disorders, greed, ignorance, pride, suspicion.

UPDATE: Bret offers some intellectual kumbaya but none of that will deeply change anything. I am not trying to be mean, just stating the truth. The same assessment applies just as well to Jordan Peterson and the entire “intellectual dark web.” It also applies to BLM, Antifa, wokism, identity politics, and much more. The fundamental issue is stated very clearly by Brittany: “…the paranoia lingers.” She also says that this is “annoying.” Yes, it is. In fact, that paranoia is much worse than annoying. It is driving all of us crazy. See this for more: the fundamental underlying problem of problems is the chaos of interpersonal ambiguity.

The limits of general semiotic analyses as applied to human psychology

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Much of the work done in human semiotics involves analyses of semiotic codes.

Semiotics and semiotic codes are often treated like language or languages for which a grammar can be found.

One obvious problem with this sort of approach is semiotics indicates a set that is much broader than language. Stated another way, language is a subset of semiotics.

Human semiotics also include music, imagery, gesture, facial expression, emotion, and anything else that can communicate either within one mind or between two or more minds.

It is very helpful to analyze semiotic codes and it is very helpful to try to figure out how cultures, groups, and individuals use them. We can compare the semiotics of heroism in Chinese culture to that of French culture. Or the semiotics of gift-giving in American culture to that of Mexican culture. We can analyze movies, literature, science, and even engineering based on semiotic codes we have abstracted out of them.

We can do something similar for human psychology.

Analyses of this type are, in my view, general in that they involve schema or paradigms or grammars that say general things about how semiotic systems work or how individuals (or semiotic signs themselves) fit into those systems.

This is all good and general analyses of this sort can be indispensable aids to understanding.

General semiotic analyses are limited, however, in their application to human psychology because such analyses cannot effectively grasp the semiotic codes of the individual. Indeed general analyses are liable to conceal individual codes and interpretations more than usefully reveal them.

This is so because all individuals are always complex repositories of many general semiotic codes as well as many individual ones. And these codes are always changing, responding, being conditioned by new circumstances and many kinds of feedback.

Individuals as repositories of many codes, both external and internal, are complex and always changing and there is no general analysis that will ever fully capture that complexity.

For somewhat similar reasons, no individual acting alone can possibly perform a self-analysis that captures the full complexity of the many and always-changing semiotic codes that exist within them.

Self-analysis is far too subject to selection bias, memory, and even delusion to be considered accurate or objective. The individual is also far too complex for the individual to grasp alone. How can an individual possibly stand outside itself and see itself as it is? Where would the extra brain-space come from?

How can a system of complex semiotic codes use yet another code to successfully analyze itself?

Clearly, no individual human semiotic system can ever fully know itself.

To recap, 1) there is no general semiotic analysis that will ever capture the complexity of individual psychology, and 2) no individual acting alone can ever capture the complexity of the semiotic codes that exist within them.

Concerning point two, we could just as well say that no individual acting alone can ever capture the complexity of their own psychology.

We are thus prevented from finding a complex analysis of human psychology through a general analysis of semiotics and also through an individual’s self-analysis when acting alone.

This suggests, however, that two individuals acting together might be able to glimpse, if not grasp, how their complex semiotic codes are actually functioning when they interact with each other. If two individuals working together can honestly observe and discuss moments of dynamic real-time semiotic interaction between them, they should be able to begin to understand how their immensely complex and always-changing psycho-semiotic codes are actually functioning.

An approach of this type ought to work better for psychological understanding of the individuals involved than any mix of general semiotic analyses applied to them. Indeed, prefabricated, general semiotic analyses will tend to conceal the actual functioning of the idiosyncratic semiotics and semiotic codes used by those individuals.

The FIML method does not apply a general semiotic analysis to human psychology. Rather it uses a method or technique to allow two individuals working together to see and understand how their semiotics and semiotic codes are actually functioning.

first posted APRIL 16, 2015

Deception (or truth elision) in communication

To communicate, we often must ignore the truth or falsity of a statement, our own or someone else’s.

I believe it is an instinct to do this; that it is part of our instinct to communicate at all. Communication requires cooperation, an agreement to be agreeable enough to get the message through.

We might call ignoring truth or falsity in communication “truth elision” or “psychological elision.” Elision means to omit something. Psychological elision would mean omitting or not mentioning psychological truths.

We do a lot of truth elision to save time. In professional or group settings it is hard to communicate any other way because there is not enough time to be perfectly truthful and most people will not care. They just want to socialize and/or get the job done, not search for truth.

Most communication is like that. Most messages are not even superficially analyzed. Semiotics glide through our minds without any thought to their deep origins or interpretations. Truth and falsity are frequently elided.

Like all instincts, our instinct to cooperate by ignoring the truth or falsity of many statements can be misused to consciously deceive.

Indeed, we frequently deceive even ourselves by accepting our own statements as true when analysis would show they are not. One way we succeed in doing this to ourselves is by simply avoiding the analysis—analysis elision.

This is where a simple instinct starts to go bad. A basic need to cooperate on the signs and symbols of communication gets twisted into tricking people, deceiving them, even deceiving ourselves.

The way to see this most clearly and to stop doing it with at least one other person is FIML practice. One of my main goals for this website is to show how and why communication goes bad and how and why it harms us. At the same time, I present a practical way to fix the problem described—FIML.

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first posted DECEMBER 5, 2018

Thought provoking video

I do not totally agree with this video and at times it sounds like a boomer rant against young people, but he makes some good points. It’s worth viewing or I would not post it. In my view, the problems he addresses largely originate with boomer greed and mutual self-approval, which define the culture of that cohort: selfish, self-indulgent, intellectually lazy and often wrong. It is boomers who have bequeathed to the young the main causes of their problems: lefty shit education, shit news media, shit Big Tech censorship, shit demographics, shit politics, timid ideas and ideological indoctrination rather than robust training in how and why to think. All around us, the world of both young and old is a shrunken, angry, stupid version of itself because wherever we turn thought is banned, circumscribed, punished. Even on this small blog I have to be careful about what I say or some asshole, young or old, will cancel me. It’s not young people who conducted and allowed a fraudulent election to pass or who corrupted the FBI and DOJ or who ruined MSM, our schools, our nation. That fault lies much more with boomers, I am sorry to say.

Don’t be intimidated by the left; learn to answer back

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A deep basis of thought is imagined or rehearsed speech. If we cannot imagine a good response to a verbal attack, we will tend to be intimidated by it and shrink from of it even as we sense it is false. We might even concede to demands based on intimidation alone because with no answer, we are unable to think clearly about what is happening. We surrender without a fight.

A strong example of this might be a leftist accuses you of racism and on that basis demands a concession from you. How do you respond? If you deny you are racist, a person like that will claim your denial is proof of racism.

Since racial identity is completely normal, even appearing in babies who cleave toward people who look like their parents, every human being has some level of racial awareness. You can drill that out of people, or turn it around, but the root instinct is always going to be there. Even the left admits this.

Continue reading “Don’t be intimidated by the left; learn to answer back”

The role of the “truth teller” in a narcissistic family

I was unfamiliar with the idea of the scapegoat also being a “truth teller” in a narcissistic family. The truth teller might also be called a witness; it’s the child that knows something is not right and thus threatens the vulnerable narcissist. Many if not most traditional cultures have very large narcissistic components. Their moral strictures, religions, duties, values, manners, etc. almost all contain elements of narcissism. So there is an important historical dimension to this diagnosis.

Aspects of Buddhism as it is traditionally practiced even today can also be seen as being narcissistic or fostering narcissism. Same for all the Abrahamic religions, Confucianism, Aztec beliefs and so on across the globe. Just as consciousness is fundamental to our human reality so are the many ways of interpreting it, almost all of which historically have tended toward narcissistic systems.

Truth tellers typically are most likely to escape the web of the narcissistic family even though their role in it was to be the most despised, the scapegoat. Sometimes I see the Buddha as a truth teller who freed himself from his father’s make-believe world despite the power and luxury it offered. He was more a golden child I suppose than a scapegoat. In this vein, Jesus can be seen as an outcast black sheep who was tortured and grossly humiliated. Both embody the hardship of earning freedom from delusion.

Do we have an inner child or an inner dog?

Inner child is a widely recognized term that implies the presence in adults of unresolved problems or underdeveloped traits rooted in childhood.

Inner child further implies that full development of the adult requires “reparenting” or “retraining” the inner child as a way of resolving juvenile problems and advancing to full adulthood.

My FIML partner has been studying dog training and last night told me how much she thought effective dog training resembled FIML practice.

In a nutshell, FIML practice trains your inner dog, not your inner child.

For example, to stop bad behavior in a dog—say, barking at cars going by—its human trainer has to know how to intervene as quickly and as calmly as possible the moment that behavior arises. Quick intervention ensures that the dog knows what the trainer wants them to do. If you wait too long (as little as a few seconds), the dog won’t know what you want them to do. They will have forgotten the precise source of their behavior and thus any corrections they try to make will not address the root problem, which is they have interpreted a signal in the world (cars going by) as something they must react to.

When the trainer is calm and friendly as well as quick to intervene, they will prevent the dog from reacting to their (the trainer’s) excessive emotion, be it anger, panic, or an unskilled flustered state of mind.

The same sort of thing happens in FIML practice. When one FIML partner queries the other, the first thing they are doing is stopping their (own) inner dog before it starts behaving badly. They are intervening as soon as they feel their inner dog stir and start to rise from the floor (but before it starts barking).

The second thing they are doing is calmly asking their FIML partner a question about a very specific and precisely identified moment. They are gathering good data on that moment from their partner and will compare it to what their inner dog thought it saw or heard.

A FIML partner is in essence asking, should I be reacting right now as my inner dog is telling me or has my inner dog misinterpreted a signal coming from you?

The dog for much of its life has barked at cars going by, while the person for much of their life has reacted with sadness or anger to their interpretation of certain signs or signals (semiotics) coming from other people.

When you query your FIML partner about a sign that you have been reacting to for much of your life and discover that the sign you received was not the sign they sent, you will be like the dog who comes to understand that there is no reason to bark at cars going by, no reason to rise from the floor at all.

People are semiotic animals more than dogs, so we react very strongly to social semiotics. But we are just like dogs in that most of our reactions to semiotics can be changed without much effort as long as we arrest those reactions quickly and replace them with a more reasonable response.

My partner remarked last night especially on how easily a great deal of bad dog behavior can be corrected if the intervention of the trainer is quick and the dog is shown a more appropriate response. Oftentimes, just a few good interventions will correct the bad behavior.

What are some classic mistakes bad dog trainers make? They try to comfort or calm the barking dog by holding it and telling it everything is OK. That is, they treat it like a child. But all that actually does is reward the dog for the behavior they want to stop.

So if you reward yourself (your inner child) by indulging in childish feelings of abandonment when you misinterpret or over-interpret a sign of rejection, you are actually rewarding yourself for being wrong, for having an erroneous (or neurotic) interpretation of communicative signs.

It is better to treat your rapid and unthinking “limbic” responsivity like a dog than like a child. And rather than reparent your inner child, it is better to use good dog training techniques to retrain the actual semiotic responses that are the real roots of unwanted behaviors.

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first posted May 3, 2014

James Lindsay on pseudo-reality & totalitarianism

If you can understand what Lindsay is saying you will be able to understand what FIML practice is an why it is that way. What it does and roughly how it works.

Lindsay is basically describing the meso and macro levels of FIML practice. Basic FIML is the micro level of what he is saying. Core FIML practice informs and clarifies the meso and macro levels Lindsay refers to. (See Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding for more on this.)

At the level of the individual, Lindsay's term paralogic is analogous to idiolect mixed with idiosyncratic psychology. These are general concepts that apply to individuals. Lindsay's paramorality is analogous to idiosyncratic semiotics and idiosyncratic perception and the reasoning that arises therefrom.

(Malignant) narcissism is the individual level of totalitarianism; it and all other non-biological "personality disorders" spring from incommunicable idiosyncratic sensibilities in one way or another. FIML fixes the incommunicable part of that, thereby also fixing the disorder.

FIML is difficult because most people are deeply rooted in meso and macro "realities" at the expense of very legitimate and very real idiosyncratic sensibilities. The idiosyncratic individual is bound to or trapped within unsatisfying meso and macro "realities" (or worse, a Lindsayan pseudo-reality) because no one has shown them a better way and that causes suffering.

A lot of the "intellectual dark web" hovers at meso and macro levels around the individual, micro core that they do not know how to access.

Jordan Peterson does a lot of that. James Lindsay states it very clearly for meso and macro levels of totalitarianism.

Science discovers we don’t know how to end conversations well

…When participants guessed at when their partner had wanted to stop talking, they were off by about 64 percent of the total conversation length.

That people fail so completely in judging when a conversation partner wishes to wrap things up “is an astounding and important finding,” says Thalia Wheatley, a social psychologist at Dartmouth College.

People Literally Don’t Know When to Shut Up—or Keep Talking, Science Confirms

I don’t mind saying that for FIML partners, this sort of thing is child’s play. Not only that, the self-reported accounts of when people wanted to end a conversation, are weak data points similar to self-reported food consumption.

In FIML, conversations rarely “end.” Like all topics, they remain open because conversations are themselves important topics of conversation. FIML partners are rarely stuck with wondering if they said too much or didn’t say enough or understood correctly or missed making a significant point because they can easily revisit any conversation and clear up any and all lingering thoughts about anything.

FIML proves to partners that the real meat of their interactions is the interactions themselves at whatever level is important to them; be that micro, meso, or macro levels.

Besides myself, few if any psychologists have studied live, dynamic interactive interpersonal material because like all people psychologists themselves have been trapped at an abstract level of understanding human psychology.

Most past research about conversations has been conducted by linguists or sociologists. Psychologists who have studied conversations, on the other hand, have mostly used the research as a means of addressing other things, such as how people use words to persuade. A few studies have explored what phrases individuals say at the ends of conversations, but the focus has not been on when people choose to say them. “Psychology is just now waking up to the fact that this is a really interesting and fundamental social behavior,” Mastroianni says.

Lemme tell you guys, there is way more material in this area than when or how to stop talking. In fact, there is so much material, in many ways doing studies on isolated aspects of how people talk actually obscures the subject. This can happen because studies are conducted at a level of abstraction that is different from and much more simplistic than the real-world, real-time reality of dynamic interactions themselves.

We see this kind of mistake again and again in psychology: grand theories of the mind, taxonomies of personality disorders, cognitive reframing, and so forth. Experts peering at human psychology from above or through the abstract lens of scientific studies; when actual human psychology itself can best—and really only—be accessed by individual persons themselves working with a willing and similarly self-aware partner during real-world situations.

I am very much in favor of studies like the one above because they do provide general markers that most people can learn from. That said, the people who really must own the subject of psychology are people themselves. You do not need to wait for more studies to do FIML. You can start today and be well on your way in a few weeks. Plus it’s free and you don’t need a therapist.

Here’s an idea for Mastroianni or any other academic in a position to conduct psychological studies. Study FIML. Contact me for help or figure out how to do FIML on your own. Then teach it to, say, 20 couples and assess their progress over a year or more. Use whatever you like as a control group.

Years ago, I remember getting into lucid dreaming and lucid sleep well before these practices were widely known. I thought it was marvelous to be able to become lucid during sleep. I still do think that and also I am delighted that at some point lucidity became so common teenagers were doing it. I hope something similar will happen with FIML.

The basic FIML technique will become much easier when more people do it and understand how fundamental it is to good speaking and actualizing human potential. Once you understand what FIML is, you will see that you can’t really have a really good relationship with your SO without it.

As for ending conversations: from a FIML point of view it’s a little messy and rarely clearly determinable because all real exchanges are happening live and we almost never know exactly where we are, where we are going, or when our talk is over. From a FIML point of view, this is subject matter for active speech. Easy to handle and fun to play with a few times. There are thousands of reason one may want to end a conversation or take it up again. Or start a new one. A large benefit of FIML is far fewer afterthoughts and almost no feeling of being “stuck in some endless conversation that [you do] not want with no way to politely extricate [yourself].”

Notice how being “polite” is used in that phrase. Consider how much profound psychology lies just beneath that word.

Modern psychology is almost entirely the theory and treatment of the “self of the gaps”

The “self of the gaps” is the self that fills in the many gaps of understanding that occur during interpersonal communication.

These gaps can be small or large, but they are always there and there are many of them. Almost all people everywhere build their personalities on their need to fill these gaps.

They have been with you since you became conscious, You were raised on them. You can will yourself through them. Or theorize yourself over them. You can be confused by them or you can use them to confuse and control others. Malignant egos and narcissists thrive on gaps of understanding. Kinder people can be and often are devastated by them.

No one is free of them. Gaps arise frequently and can perdure for decades, whole lifetimes.

Communication gaps are filled with assumptions, illusions, wishful thinking, paranoia, emotionality, habit. When people visit a psychologist, a root cause is always going to be many painful gaps that have been internalized, reified, filled with wrong assumptions, make-believe.

The only way to correct a “self of the gaps” is FIML practice. Only FIML focuses precisely on real-time, real-world communication gaps and fixes them several orders of magnitude better than what they were.

I am in the weird position of knowing something really wonderful while also lacking a large enough public voice to share it widely. I do my best with this blog and hope more than a few people have learned and benefit from FIML, but it would be good if more would understand.

FIML or something similar has never been discovered before because it comes very close to violating a fundamental language instinct; the instinct to recoil at being questioned personally and quickly. Almost all people feel threatened, insulted, attacked when questioned quickly, especially if the question involves something we just said. More precisely: especially if the question involves “personal” contents of the working memory, out of which we just spoke. Doesn’t have to be anything bad in the working memory; it’s just that that information is close to home and almost never shared for itself.

FIML “comes close to violating” this instinct but it most assuredly does not actually do that. Instead, it assuages our tendency to fear being questioned. FIML is never a gotcha question. It is always a question that arises out of an explicit previously made agreement. Any FIML question can be truthfully answered, “I would rather not say.”

By doing FIML, malignant old gaps are gradually filled with truthful data while new gaps are much less likely to form or grow. FIML can be difficult to understand because it entails an entirely new way of looking at human psychology. By focusing on small segments of conversation (psychological morphemes) FIML enables partners to see and understand how their minds are actually working in real time.

This replaces the need to rely on external theories of psychology by just examining what is actually there.

PS: My SO and FIML partner came up with the term “self of the gaps” this morning.

An overview of the philosophy of Frank Ramsey

…Ramsey’s idea was that a given belief is to be understood in terms of its causes and effects, the ways in which it’s formed and the role it plays in behaviour, in conjunction with other beliefs, desires and mental states. This idea, now called functionalism in the philosophy of mind, is considered by many the most promising way to make sense of mental representation.

The Ramsey Effect

A philosophy of psychology must contend with similar problems as a philosophy of mind, and vice versa.

So how to understand any given belief pertaining to any psychological matter having to do with self or other? All psychological belief is based on this.

In addition to what is stated in the quotation above, psychological “belief” (or, better, analysis) must contend with real-world, real-time events as they happen. Understanding must be based on real-world, real-time events. That is precisely what FIML does or what FIML allows us to do. That is what FIML is for.

FIML can be understood as a philosophical process or method of thinking that is constant, continuous, and never stops. FIML situates the mind’s understanding of itself and other in an ongoing psycho-philosophical inquiry that is stabilized by being an agreed upon method that partners can use and refer to whenever they want.

In this, FIML reflects, embraces, and participates in the conscious development or evolution of thought, mind, spirit, belief, awareness. FIML is actively in the world while also providing a psychologically stable place from which to observe the world, self, and other.

UPDATE: In many respects for humans, there is nothing more basic or important than consciousness. Since FIML consciously works with consciousness as it shifts and adapts to another consciousness in real-time, it is arguably the most basic and objective thing there is.

Language cannot be divorced from communication with other. Theories of language and mind must account for this. Since communication with other is an activity (that always affects each), a philosophy of mind/belief/language must be based on an active method of ongoing communication analysis.

Just as you cannot learn to swim without getting into the water, you cannot have a philosophy of mind that does not actively analyze and influence communication in real-time.

A fundamental feature of spoken language that is too often ignored

A fundamental feature—a primitive—of all spoken communication is a back-and-forth exchange that details all reasonable particulars of a topic and what both speakers think about them.

Let’s call this feature of spoken communication “primitive conversational induction” or, more simply, “primitive back-and-forth.”

It is primitive because it is a fundamental feature of all spoken communication; it is a primary feature.

It is a kind of spoken mutual reasoning between partners about a topic while also sharing all avenues of reasoning with each other, including emotional, aesthetic, and other nonrational sensibilities.

This primitive feature cannot be ignored without bad consequences for both parties. It cannot be reduced, shortened, or avoided without bad psychological consequences.

In hierarchical relationships, the situational hierarch can decree that the matter is settled to their satisfaction and discussion is over. But that will not avoid bad consequences except in some cases where either or both parties are so bad at negotiating primitive back-and-forths, less confusion and suffering will result if they agree to stop talking.

An example of a primitive back-and-forth happened this morning.

An old chest-of-drawers from one room had been moved into a hallway to accommodate a new and much better chest-of-drawers. The discussion was about what to do with the old chest-of-drawers in the hallway.

If I had been asked to estimate my partner’s ideas about the chest-of-drawers before we had our primitive back-and-forth, I probably would have been very close to 100% correct. The same is true of her estimating my positions before we ever discussed the matter.

That does not mean, however, that we could have skipped the primitive back-and-forth because the only way we could both be sure of all positions is to speak about them openly in a sort of logical tree that includes both practical and nonrational considerations.

In fact, even if we had advanced technology that allowed us to see each other’s emotional states, we would still have had to have had the primitive back-and-forth. Such advanced tech might have helped us in some ways and it might have hindered us in others, but it could not have replaced the primitive back-and-forth because only that can exhaust the logical tree to the full satisfaction and full understanding of both partners.

You can find the need for primitive back-and-forths very often. They are very common. In ordinary life, we cannot always go into them, but with important friends we can and should go into them as often as possible. It costs a bit of energy to do that but pays both parties back with much better mutual understanding and much less unsettled second-guessing or after-thinking.

In macro, we can see the dangers of avoided primitive back-and-forths. American politics is riven with them. Our so-called “divided society” is divided because we avoid so many primitive back-and-forths. Facts are hidden, slow-walked, falsified, etc. just to win a battle as the nation loses the war.

This is actually understandable and to be expected. Primitive back-and-forths are somewhat difficult to do and, so far, we do not have a good term for them or an explicit common understanding of what they are and why we need to do them.

Rather than running from or trying to avoid the next primitive back-and-forth that arises in your life, get into it and do it well; do it fully to the satisfaction of both of you. If needed, explain to your partner what is happening and why you want to do something different about it and what it is you want to do.

Once the concept is grasped, it is not all that hard to do a successful primitive back-and-forth. I can all but guarantee its benefits will become clear to both partners after just a few tries.

The best way to proceed is share this concept and do it on something concrete, practical, and relatively minor like the chest-of-drawers described above. At some point, move carefully into more difficult subjects centered on deep subjective psychology.

UPDATE 2/15/21: As for the chest-of-drawers: I wanted them to stay in the hall for added storage and also had a minor emotional attachment to them because I had had them for so long. They are very cheap and poorly built but still look OK. My partner wanted to throw them out. We went back-and-forth on the matter for a good ten minutes and agreed to get something better and smaller for the hall. We left open whether to use the drawers for tools in the basement or discard them.

The advantage of going into this fully is we both traced each branch of the logical decision-tree wherever we wanted, which was actually quite interesting. We both made sure we understood each other well. Moreover, we gained more practice in fully going through a practical back-and-forth. The more we do this with simple, concrete things, the better we will be with complex or psychologically more significant things.

I am sure we all have done many primitive back-and-forths. I am also sure that most people much of the time try to avoid lengthy ones because they can be irritating or seem more involved than warranted. I think it is a mistake to routinely do this because primitive back-and-forths build and strengthen primitive conversational trust between partners.

If primitive conversational trust is not flourishing in a relationship, the relationship will weaken. Weakened trust will only grow weaker if it continues to be ignored. Weakened (or never having been strengthened) primitive conversational trust makes important discussions much harder to do. Like anything else, good speaking & listening habits have to be practiced often. They are best strengthened on simple, concrete matters that are conspicuously clear to both partners like the chest-of-drawers.

I think the objective mechanics of why primitive back-and-forths can be difficult is they make demands on the working memory.

Status as a fetish

Fetish can be defined as “a part standing for the whole” or “one thing being made bigger than it is by having become a psychological fixation.”

A good example of what I mean is pornography. Insofar as a mere image can stand for or replace instinctual sexual objectives, it is a fetish.

A sign (pornographic image) is as strong or stronger than the animal instinct. Or a sign can direct or redirect the animal instinct. That is a fetish.

Secondary sex characteristics do the same thing. You could call them nature’s fetishes but that would be stretching the concept. Human utilizations of makeup, clothing, and grooming could be said to stand “halfway” between the basic sexual instinct and the fetishized porno image.

Let’s apply that reasoning to status.

Two social psychologist I respect—Jordan Peterson and Kevin MacDonald—have both claimed many times that status is a fundamental human instinct and that it drives human behavior in many ways.

In posts on this site, I have disagreed with these ideas several times. I just don’t see it that way. Here are two of those posts: Status and hierarchy are as fundamental to human life as murder and Jordan Peterson on the gender pay gap, campus protests and the patriarchy.

In the second link just above, I said:

…I do not believe that social status is any more fundamental to human nature than murder is. Humans also possess reason and spiritual inclinations both of which can guide us away from status competition if we decide to do that and/or our conditions allow.

I still think that but over the past day or two a new understanding of the importance of status and human hierarchy has dawned on me. In essence, I think I have come to see that status really is a huge deal for many people; a much bigger deal than I had ever realized.

My explanation for that is people like me (and there are many of us) during childhood and adolescence see the “status game” as a choice. And we decide not to play it.

My SO made that choice. When we talked about this subject this morning, she said people like us are more open to art (in a broad sense) and less concerned with social hierarchies. I think that’s true. One good friend years ago used to call me a “now person,” meaning I am always living in the here and now and not doing a lot of planning for the future. I think she also meant or implied that I am not doing any thinking about my social status or the human hierarchies that surround me.

A Buddhist nun who is a close friend has often described mundane human behaviors as being motivated by jealousy. I have often disagreed with her, believing that her emphasis on jealousy was influenced too much by her culture (Chinese) or by the innocence of her monastic lifestyle.

Today, I think she was influenced by the status-conscious world she had grown up in and as a young adult renounced for Buddhism. But I also think she was able to see something I have been almost completely blind to. For me status has always been a very small cloud on the edge of the sky, not a major thunderstorm in human motivation. For her it is, or was, a storm in the human mind.

Status is a fetish. And fetishization does explain a lot about it. But if lots of people have that fetish or have that strong understanding of status, that’s how it is. As a social construct the status fetish can be even bigger and more imposing than the basic instinct it rests upon.

I hope this post helps people who see status as important understand people like me and my SO, and vice versa.

From a Buddhist point of view, I think it is important to fully understand the entire status spectrum—from instinct to fetishized sign—and to understand where you are on that spectrum and where the people you deal with are on that spectrum.

My guess is that most people reading this blog do not think of status as being very important. People like us need to appreciate that status is probably largely what motivates good people like Jordan Peterson as well as bad people like Bernie Madoff.

Might also be good if status-conscious people would understand that people like us are not all slackers or losers, nor are we seething with envy over your status. We mostly do not even see the game you are playing.

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first posted SEPTEMBER 10, 2019