American semiotic circus

American semiotics are delightfully absurd today from a semiotician’s point of view.

Step back and appreciate the humor of the whole picture: Moralist are trapped in mono-dimensional positions.

Our post-PC culture still strictly does not permit nuance.

Even though our airwaves are filled with mega-babes dressed—or half-dressed—to the nines, you are not allowed to look down if you happen to have the good fortune of working with them.

No, I am not laughing at the victims. I am laughing at the absurdity of a culture that cannot untangle the many inevitable ramifications of human sexuality.

This is truly theater of the absurd, a semiotic circus that evokes sadness as well as laughter. The joke’s on us, after all!

A murky accusation that reaches across forty years of cultural change to discredit a politician on the eve of an election brings out establishment moralists who simply must weigh in. But then, almost on cue, the photo of a now-former-moralist senator groping a former playmate through her flak-jacket effectively parries the charge!

If Hillary or Demi Moore does it, it’s OK. And that is how it should be, to be honest.

My sense is deep down we are witnessing a massive cultural change taking place in part due to (and despite) the semiotic shallowness of PC and post-PC public life in America.

My partner this morning said with real feeling, “Don’t people realize these sex stories are [evolutionarily] a million years old and our continuing to discuss them like middle- schoolers is actually hiding much worse stuff beneath them?”

I bet most don’t.

My hope is that these semiotic weapons (the accusations) are the start of a real battle against The Swamp alluded to by my partner. All cultures need deep change from time to time. Usually that change is violent. I hope this one will continue to be (mostly) nonviolent and absurd, a mixture of sadness and humor, profundity and nonsense.

Friendship, reality, psychological health

Psychological health depends on at least one good friendship which is itself based on shared reality.

This shared “reality” is the reality of how the two (or more) good friends actually function. How their speaking, listening, thinking, and feeling actually function and interact in real-time.

They have to know this about each other and even more importantly, they have to want to know this.

If you have or have had that, you will be or become psychologically healthy. If you have never had that, you will not be psychologically healthy.

This “shared reality” is not static and can never be static. It is always changing, adapting. It must be dealt with honestly.

“Aristotle describes three general types of friendship, that of utility, that of pleasure, and that of good or virtue.” (Aristotle on Friendship)

The perfect form of friendship is that between the good, and those who resemble each other in virtue. For these friends wish each alike the other’s good in respect of their goodness, and they are good in themselves; but it is those who wish the good of their friends for their friends’ sake who are friends in the fullest sense, since they love each other for themselves and not accidentally. (same link as above)

If during your formative years, your parents, teachers, and friends did not wish for your goodness for your sake and you have not since formed a good or virtuous friendship, you will not be psychologically healthy. This does not mean you are doomed, it just means you are not psychologically healthy.

To achieve good health, you have to have a “good or virtuous” friend and you have to be that back to them. There is no other way.

If you have an Aristotelian friend of pleasure, you can upgrade this relationship to a good or virtuous one by doing FIML practice. FIML is essential in today’s world because semiotic interactions are so complex, far more complex than in Aristotle’s day.

Good or virtuous friends need FIML to maintain their shared reality.

On rereading, the above sounds harsh to me. But when I consider the world as it is, it also sounds true, realistic. Earth can be a very bad place but it can also be very good.

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.

Psychiatry still has big problems and so does our model of the human mind

This interview with Robert Whitaker— Psychiatry Now Admits It’s Been Wrong in Big Ways – But Can It Change?—is well worth reading. Whitaker has been an influential critic of psychiatry’s misuse of antipsychotic drugs as well as its models for diagnosis and treatment.

In addition to all of the problems Whitaker describes in the linked article—failed diagnostics, failed theories, failed “disease models,” failed treatments, making matters worse for the mentally ill, and drugging children and minors without their consent—I would further submit that our generally accepted model of the human mind itself is as deeply flawed.

Rather than starting with the idea that humans have or develop personalities that do or don’t adapt well to some ambiguous social standard, we would do better to start with the idea that humans are fundamentally interactive beings, beings that communicate.

If our interactions are good, we will be well enough. If our communications with even one other person are deeply satisfying and as truthful as we are able, we will be even better than well enough.

People go crazy because their relations to no one are satisfying. In a very real sense, poor communication and shallow interaction condemn most humans to a sort of solitary confinement, where the inner network of semiotic reality cannot interface satisfactorily with the network of any other person’s semiotic reality.

For individuals who are fortunate enough to have a suitable partner, FIML practice will likely fix this problem while also fixing most emotional dissatisfaction. It accomplishes this by providing a means for people to fully engage their inner semiotic networks with each other.

The dead end of the traditional mental health model of a “personality-being-well-adapted-to-a-group-or-culture” is, sadly, best illustrated by the profession of psychiatry itself. I believe Whitaker is right in saying that

… it is going to be so hard for psychiatry to reform. Diagnosis and the prescribing of drugs constitute the main function of psychiatrists today in our society. From a guild perspective, the profession needs to maintain the public’s belief in the value of that function. So I don’t believe it will be possible for psychiatry to change unless it identifies a new function that would be marketable, so to speak. Psychiatry needs to identify a change that would be consistent with its interests as a guild.

If even psychiatry as a group needs to “identify a change… consistent with its interests as a guild,” it is clear that groups cannot be taken as a standard for wellness.

If even a group of doctors of the mind cannot get it right, how can any other group be expected to?

And if groups cannot, neither can cultures. And if none of that is right, neither is the notion of a “personality” that “adapts” to those vague standards.

This is an important point: groups can be and are just as crazy as individuals. In fact, many groups are crazier than individuals. The idea that people have “personalities” that must “adapt” in a way that is “satisfying” to an extremely dubious group standard is bankrupt and cannot be fixed. Of course individuals can adapt to laws and clearly stated mores and taboos, but adaptations based on such emotionally unsatisfying generalities will never produce wellness.

The individual can only be well when the individual can communicate their authentic semiotic reality with another, and in turn, receive similar communication from that other.

Semiotics is the right word to use here because its definition includes communicative signs and the meanings of those signs as they are variously interpreted by the individuals using them. Furthermore, the term semiotics implies, or necessarily extends to, networks of communicative signs and their inevitably differing individual interpretations.

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First posted March 6, 2014 ~ ABN

FIML and sociotics

The term idiotics means “the idiosyncratic agglomeration of the semiotics of a single individual.”

An individual’s idiotics indicates the agglomeration of public and private semiotics that comprise the unique signaling system of their mind; this signaling system is what we normally call a person’s mind.

Each individual brain has an idiotics that is unique to it. The signaling system that employs and organizes this unique idiotics works internally within the individual and externally as a system that signals to other people.

Problems in signaling—both internal and external problems—occur when the signaling systems of two (or more) people are not in good accord. That is, when two (or more) people misunderstand the signals they are sending to each other or the signals being sent to them. Obviously, mistakes in signaling can and frequently do compound, or snowball, leading to very large errors.

To control for error, human beings have probably evolved master semiotics that provide general ways for people to comprehend (pretty badly or well-enough, depending on your perspective) the signaling of other people.

Let’s call these general semiotic categories that allow for crude comprehension between people sociotics.

Sociotics is a compound of the words sociology and semiotics. It means the “public semiotics,” or socially agreed upon and accepted semiotics, of just about any group you can think of.

Most sociotics is emotional. A good deal of it is very emotional. The beliefs of a religion, the stories of an ethnic group, the values of a community can be extremely emotional.

In this respect, a great deal of sociotics binds very deeply with human emotion to form an intoxicating blend of meaning and feeling.

Most people do not see any choice but to adopt a sociotics. Without one, they feel lost, empty, undefined. Even the sociotics of science can be very emotional, to say nothing of the sociotics of political, gender, or ethnic identities.

FIML partners will surely find that their idiotics have strong sociotic components. Rather than accept their inherited and often mindless and emotional sociotics, partners would do well to analyze them and transfer their emotional allegiance away from them and toward rational bonding with each other based on FIML principles.

FIML has much greater power to organize the sociotics and idiotics of FIML partners than does any other traditional communication system. This is so because FIML practice provides a means for partners to understand each other without resorting to thoughtless extrinsic sociotic categories for mutual definition. FIML practice helps partners form wholesome bonds with each other without becoming entangled in the emotional and irrational sociotics of large groups.

Another way to say this is FIML is a sort of “operating system” for the mind/brain, while sociotics are broadly shared public references that are fairly static and not too complex.

Ideally, good scientific practice is also an operating system rather than a static sociotic. The scientific method deeply informs FIML practice, but since FIML is an interpersonal operating system, it cannot be the same as science. FIML can be investigated by the scientific method and it can be confirmed or falsified by the scientific method, but this is not strictly (in the sense of formal science) the job of FIML partners. FIML partners, however, if they are doing FIML correctly, are engaged in a practice that is fundamentally rational and objective and that removes mistakes from partners’ signaling systems, including sociotic mistakes.

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First posted April 24, 2013 ~ ABN

A good example of fake news

Follow-up 7/25: Wasserman-Schultz IT Aide Arrested While Attempting To Flee Country, Charged With Bank Fraud

Just a day after reports emerged that the FBI had seized a number of “smashed hard drives” and other computer equipment from the residence Imran Awan, the IT aide of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, we learn that Awan has been captured at the Dulles airport while attempted to flee the country. According to Fox News, Awan has been charged with bank fraud.

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Buddhism, as do most ethical systems, recognizes that “false speech” also includes not saying something that is true when you should say it.

If you are a news organization that means not reporting an important story.

Here is an example of an important story that has studiously not been reported by American mainstream news: EXCLUSIVE: FBI Seized Smashed Hard Drives From Wasserman Schultz IT Aide’s Home.

Not reporting on that story, and especially not reporting on it ever, is a glaring example of fake news.

It constitutes a deliberately conjured negative hallucination wherein the public does not see something that is visible and of great importance to the nation’s well-being.