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A major recasting of the medical basis for cognitive psychoses
[Nanook is talking with Georoge.]
Basis of Personality Disorders
“Let me describe one more very interesting situation that I believe describes what psychiatrists call PERSONALITY DISORDERS.
In some cases, especially in early childhood, Grim plays back a memory that is extreme, but not extreme enough to launch Hulk into a psychotic hallucination, or fight or flight response. But, this memory may then start a multi-stage process with Hulk.
Seeing the traumatic mental video that Grim is playing, Hulk responds with strong emotional “feelings’, but does not initiate a fight or flight response. Grim observes the commands that Hulk issues. These in turn trigger Grim to generate other strong related memories, but some of these require contradicting needs to be satisfied. The end result of a few rounds of this interchange is that Hulk gets confused, goes into panic. He shuts down the transmission of those memories to Thinker brain. This process is what Freud called REPRESSION. When this happens, Grim also goes into panic because it can no longer communicate to Thinker. Now pay close attention. To resolve the impasse, Grim frantically INVENTS fantasies from pieces of tapes that it has until a fantasy is found that makes the confusion settle down. That new fantasy tape becomes the person’s new reality. So when the original trigger occurs again, the person visualizes the fantasy tape, not the original reality tape.”
"Hmmm . . . But this is a good thing, right?"
"Good for the person’s peace of mind, maybe. But it is still based on fantasy. And because it is fantasy and not reality, eventually when it is triggered in social situations, it causes social problems. In fact, these social problems are so prevalent in society, that psychiatry has a whole category to classify them. As I said, they are called CHARACTER or PERSONALITY DISORDERS. These are disorders like Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or Paranoid Personality Disorder or Obsessive-compulsive Personality Disorder.
Unfortunately, even the existence of these disorders is disputed by the behaviorists. So they have not been well studied and are not yet very well understood.”
Mental Tapes - organization of memory
"OK. I get it. But you keep using the word tapes? By this I’m sure you just mean mental tapes, right? People don’t actually have tape recorders in their heads."
"I wouldn’t be so quick to make that assumption. Figuring out how memory works is of course a major unsolved human challenge. A lot of people have thought about it for a very long time. As technology get’s better, we learn more about the details. But we still don’t know the fundamental process. I think a smart guy like you could actually figure it out from what we already know. In any case, there are a few important facts that we do know.
One is that people can remember things. If we look at the full range of human capability, including that of savants, we find that the memory process is pretty extensive. Some people have visual photographic recall with extreme detail. Others can do it with sound. Others with smell. If we analyze what people can do, we can get a pretty good idea of how much data can be stored. That tells us a lot about what forms brain functions can take.
A second thing is that people can only rapidly remember just a few UNRELATED items at a time. For example, it seems most people can only remember about 7 digits.
A third thing, however, is that when the perceptions are somehow RELATED, then people can remember huge numbers of things. This is strongly strengthened by repetition. An example is the alphabet. I bet you can rattle off all the letters in the alphabet in quick succession.”
"Sure. Piece of cake. And I always hear that stupid alphabet song in my head along with them."
"Exactly. BUT! And this will, I’m sure, come as a big surprise to you, go ahead and say the alphabet to your self right now and try NOT to hear the alphabet song! Go ahead.”
"Yeah. That was funny. It took a few tries to get the song to go away."
"But when it did go away, did you also lose the cadence of the letters?”
"Funny. No. I can’t seem to get the letters to come along smoothly. They want to stay in groups."
"Exactly. Now, let’s try an even more astonishing test. Pick a letter at random.”
"Fine. Now start from J and say the alphabet.”
"Yeah. So. No sweat."
"Right. NOW, again, start from J, but this time go BACKWARDS.”
"Huh? Wow! I can’t even do it."
"Exactly. For most people, the only way they can go backwards is to jump back quite a few letters and then go forward until they identify the letter just before J. Now they’ve developed a new short term tape of those two letters backwards. They have to repeat the process to get 3 letters, then 4 etc. Eventually they run into the 7 item limit and the process breaks down.”
"So, what’s your point about this."
"My point is that the brain is somehow wired to store single directional experience patterns. If you listen to music, you might remember quite a bit of the music and words if you try to rethink it in the forward direction, which is the time sequence that you experienced it in. If you try to go backward, however, you will do very poorly. And since we are now learning, based on DNA methods, that human cells have an amazing capability to spool out proteins with molecules sequentially ordered, and loop them into rings, we have an amazing parallel to tape machines.”
"So, you’re saying, just thinking of memory like random computer memory is probably too limiting."
"Exactly. And even with all the neurons in the brain, there aren’t enough to account for all the memory details we can store.”
"So, you’re saying, somehow, the perceptions are captured as taped sequences in DNA or proteins?"
"Exactly. But, even then, there would not be enough ability to store all that we can store. So, I think we don’t actually store the raw stimulus. Somehow, Grim analyzes the perceptions and filters them based on already learned patterns, and stores time based sequences of symbolic memories.”
"So, if I close my eyes and think of my mother, Grim runs a tape that has a recording of her face?"
"No. It’s much more complicated. You’ve seen your mother’s face ten thousand times. You’ve seen it from the front, side, top, bottom. Which image would it send?”
"Ah! I get it. And doing it now, I can say the image isn’t that clear. It’s nothing like a photo. First off, it’s in black and white. Second, it’s like a ghost. To focus on a specific thing, I have to think about that - like her eyes. And when I do that - man - they just went black. I can’t even remember what color her eyes are. I surely can’t see them in color."
Stored memory is only symbolic patterns, not actual stimulus
"OK. That’s just you. Other people are going to handle the details of images differently. But, in every case I’ve probed, the stored information is way more limited than people expect. In essence, what is being stored is a SYMBOLIC PATTERN of some sort.”
Values as key to therapy
"Alright. So we’re living in an insane asylum. How are we going to fix all these people?"
"Values? So are we supposed to just tell everyone to go get ‘family values’ or something? That’s what the politicians keep saying."
"And, of course, every politician has his own list of what those family values are supposed to be. NO. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about teaching everyone to be able to understand values based on logic and reality. Let me read something to you about this from a paper by Nathanial Brandon - Psychotherapy And The Objectivist Ethics:
“Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generating action…. Value presupposes a standard, a purpose and necessity of action in the face of an alternative. It is only the concept of Life that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.
The key to motivation lies in the realm of values. … it is a man’s notion of what is for him or against him … that determines the goals he will pursue and the emotions he will experience.
The majority of men hold values that are part rational, and part irrational… and they spend their lives in anxiously precarious fluctuation… they pay the price of their unresolved contradictions in frustration.”
The paradox … of psychology is that VALUES IS THE ONE ISSUE SPECIFICALLY BANNED FROM ITS DOMAIN. The majority of psychologists … have accepted the premise that the realm of science and the realm of ethics are mutually inimical, that morality is a matter of faith, not of reason, that moral values are inviolately subjective…”
Values banned from psychotherapy
Beliefs can’t be kept internal
"I see your point. Of course that’s not going to happen."
“Exactly! Of course, this doesn’t happen. Why? Because of a big LIE: because of Single Sentence Logic and denial. People say they respect each other’s beliefs. But even though they say that, most people don’t even have a clue what other people’s beliefs are. Eventually, they find out the hard way. They find out when those OTHER people ACT ON THEIR BELIEFS and what they do conflicts with something someone else believes.”
"OK. I can see that. And given the wide range of beliefs, it seems conflict is inevitable."
“Exactly! And why do people act on their beliefs? Because of the big LIE, the huge false belief that BELIEFS, whether religious or otherwise, CAN BE KEPT TO ONESELF. This is one of the biggest LIES in philosophy. It is one of the biggest LIES in the U.S. Constitution and one of the biggest lies people tell themselves.
We WANT to believe that society should allow its members the right to THINK whatever they want without persecution. We justify this by saying, ‘people can THINK anything they want AS LONG AS THEY DON’T ACT ON IT.”
"OK. I see that. In fact, I think the constitution even goes one step farther than that. That is, the first amendment, which guarantees individuals the freedom of speech."
Sam Harris on beliefs
“Very good. A perfect example of what I’m trying to say. In Single Sentence Logic fashion, people just accept these statements: think anything we want; freedom of speech. The flaw in this is equating THINKING with BELIEVING, and both of those with action. THINKING, in this context, is an exploratory mental process. It is assumed that the process is sort of academic. Beliefs, on the other hand, are much stronger. They almost always lead to actions. Let me read you a paragraph about this from Sam Harris, let’s see . . . page 12:
- “A BELIEF is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person's life. Are you a scientist? A liberal? A racist? These are merely species of belief in action. Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings. If you doubt this, consider how your experience would suddenly change if you came to believe one of the following propositions:
- 1. You have only two weeks to live.
- 2. You've just won a lottery prize of one hundred million dollars.
- 3. Aliens have implanted a receiver in your skull and are manipulating your thoughts.
- These are mere words until you believe them. Once believed, they become part of the very apparatus of your mind, determining your desires, fears, expectations, and subsequent behavior."
- 1. You have only two weeks to live.
"OK. Good examples. It’s one thing to think about what a person might do if they were told they only had two weeks to live; it’s a very different story to believe that situation actually applies to you."
“Exactly! That’s my point. It’s about conviction to action. Your example of the first amendment is perfect. The founding fathers wanted to allow THINKING even more rights than just being in a person’s head. But this is not as easy as we think. That’s why there are so many problems with the first amendment. I’m sure you’ve heard discussions about yelling fire in a theater or swearing on radio or TV. As soon as thinking becomes action, there are problems.”
"Hmmm . . ."