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.

Psychology as fundamentally signals

I propose that we largely discard all other paradigms for human psychology and replace them with one based on signals. Humans are semiotic entities who signal constantly internally and externally. No need for personality or self.

Signals are objective, measurable, quantifiable, and analyzable. And they are at the heart of everything we call “psychology.”

The most basic psychological paradigm still current today is personality. This concept should be greatly demoted, relegated to broad-brushing some genetic tendencies or matters involving personas.

Signals cover all psychological territory without exception, including everything we can now say based on personality. Bodies signal, brains signal, organs of perception receive signals, thoughts are signals, language is signals, biology signals, as does everything in physics.

No matter how you look at psychology, you will find signals. Using signals to describe psychology is almost always clearer, more succinct, and more precise.

Another basic paradigm for describing/explaining psychology is matter; psychology comes from the brain and the brain is matter. But then you get mind-matter problems, problems with top-down behaviors, loss of spirituality as an actual probability, and many problems with scale or behavior. Besides all matter signals!

So much simpler to describe how biological signals lead to thought and behavior. Or how top-down psychological signals affect biology.

Instead of “personality disorders” being vaguely defined and understood as ghostlike ephemera that seem to inhabit sufferers, we can define them as signal malfunctions that have arisen due to previous signal malfunctions, either biological, experiential, or semiotic.

A signal-based paradigm of human psychology would view individual psychology as a complex of signals, a semiology unique to each individual.

Narcissism has been discussed in this way. A signal-based analysis of other disorders can similarly make our understanding clearer and more efficient.

Borderline personality disorder, for example, can be viewed as a poorly integrated internal signaling system, a poorly functioning individual semiology. Due to the centrality of signals to all aspects of human psychology, we can expect borderline people to search frantically among others for the cohesion they lack in themselves.

If we understand psychology as a complex of signals, it becomes easier to categorize problems and discover treatments. It also becomes obvious that we can and should optimize this system even in healthy individuals by clearing up confused signals while removing bad ones.

Alcoholics Who Use Cannabis Are Less Likely To Suffer Liver Disease

“Interestingly, alcoholics who heavily used cannabis enjoyed an even lower chance of suffering alcoholic liver diseases than non-dependent cannabis users and patients who did not use pot. For example, while all alcoholic cannabis users were less likely to get cirrhosis than non-cannabis users with a history of alcohol abuse, dependent cannabis users were 82 percent less likely to develop the condition than non-dependent users.” (Source)

The Persistent and Exceptional Intensity of American Religion: A Response to Recent Research

Abstract: Recent research argues that the United States is secularizing, that this religious change is consistent with the secularization thesis, and that American religion is not exceptional. But we show that rather than religion fading into irrelevance as the secularization thesis would suggest, intense religion—strong affiliation, very frequent practice, literalism, and evangelicalism—is persistent and, in fact, only moderate religion is on the decline in the United States. We also show that in comparable countries, intense religion is on the decline or already at very low levels. Therefore, the intensity of American religion is actually becoming more exceptional over time. We conclude that intense religion in the United States is persistent and exceptional in ways that do not fit the secularization thesis.

Consciousness as reality itself

In Buddhism the idea that consciousness is reality and reality is conscious is called “mind only” or Yogachara.

David Ray Griffin, a process theologian, has come to similar conclusions—that reality is fundamentally conscious.

As has Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at UC Irvine.

Hoffman came at this subject from a mathematical angle, but arrived at a similar conclusion to Yogachara Buddhism. Hoffman says:

As a conscious realist, I am postulating conscious experiences as ontological primitives, the most basic ingredients of the world. I’m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. (The Case Against Reality)

I tend to reach similar conclusions when I think about everything in terms of signals.

The advantage of thinking in terms of signals is we get a good picture of “reality” without needing to say what is real beyond the signal itself.

This kind of thinking is helpful for metaphysics but it is also extremely practical when it comes to human psychology.

Rather than posit personality types and what goes wrong or right with them, we analyze how people send and receive signals instead.

In thinking along these lines, I have come to the conclusion that most psychology as most people understand it uses “arms-length” language, the language of meso and macro signals rather than the much more precise language of the micro signals that actually comprise our shared “realities.”

The difference can be illustrated in this way: Rather than explain your most recent signal (sent or received) in terms of personality, explain it by accessing the micro-signals of short-term memory to find its true antecedents.

If you do this again and again by using a game such as FIML, you will probably come to conclusions similar to the above—that there is no deeper substance to psychological reality than your consciousness of it.

Disgust and sex

Disgust is a primary emotion.

The others are anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise. There is some controversy about how to group these basic emotions, but generally, expressions associated with primary emotions are recognizable across all cultures and are experienced by all functional human beings.

A new study has found that stress, which is probably interpretable as disgust in this case, was experienced by all of the (heterosexual) men being studied when viewing male-on-male kissing.

From the study’s abstract:

The results of the current study suggest that all individuals, not just highly sexually prejudiced individuals, may experience a physiological response indicative of stress when witnessing a male same-sex couple kissing.

The study is here: What do two men kissing and a bucket of maggots have in common? Heterosexual men’s indistinguishable salivary a-amylase responses to photos of two men kissing and disgusting images.

Co-author of the study, Karen L. Blair, says:

It is difficult to specifically state what this means. It could mean that participants found the images of male same-sex couples kissing to be equally disgusting as the disgusting images. It could mean that they had an anxiety response to the male couples kissing and a disgust response to the disgusting images, but that physiologically, we could not tell the difference between these two emotions. (Straight men’s physiological stress response to seeing two men kissing is the same as seeing maggots)

Make of this data what you like.

Just two months ago another study found that disgust plays a significant role in how people respond to people from other cultures or who look different.

An article about that can be found here: Multiculturalism fails due to “behavioral immune system”.

In my view, it is hard to argue with primary emotions. Our neocortexes may want us to be perfectly tolerant and judiciously blind to all human differences, but maybe that’s not actually possible?

Edit 07/22/17: “Yuck, you disgust me!” Affective bias against interracial couples

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.