self-deception; wanting vs knowing; system 1 vs system 2…

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(Partial) Solutions

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fast, two-way communication between system 1 and system 2; alternative to calibration and subjective probabilities?

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Using natural frequencies in lots of different ways may become as big a thing for me as Coherence Therapy. I’m always looking for stuff that nails what my brain is already doing, so that I can learn to deliberately, consciously work with actual, immediate levers within consciousness, to be able to do things I couldn’t possibly have done before. This hints at ways to get fast, two-way communication between System 1 and System 2.

Cosmides, Leda, and John Tooby. “Are humans good intuitive statisticians after all? Rethinking some conclusions from the literature on judgment under uncertainty.” cognition 58, no. 1 (1996): 1-73.

Brase, Gary L., Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby. “Individuation, counting, and statistical inference: The role of frequency and whole-object representations in judgment under uncertainty.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 127, no. 1 (1998): 3.

Hoffrage, Ulrich, Gerd Gigerenzer, Stefan Krauss, and Laura Martignon. “Representation facilitates reasoning: What natural frequencies are and what they are not.” Cognition 84, no. 3 (2002): 343-352.

Obrecht, Natalie A., Britta Anderson, Jay Schulkin, and Gretchen B. Chapman. “Retrospective Frequency Formats Promote Consistent Experience‐Based Bayesian Judgments.” Applied Cognitive Psychology 26, no. 3 (2012): 436-440.

(This last one gives me pause, regarding predictions under this regime. Comments and citations appreciated.)

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“psi” phenomena and quantum mechanics

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A series of experiments and a critique on the interpretation of those experiments:

Radin, Dean, Leena Michel, Karla Galdamez, Paul Wendland, Robert Rickenbach, and Arnaud Delorme. “Consciousness and the double-slit interference pattern: Six experiments.” Physics Essays 25, no. 2 (2012): 157-171.

de Bianchi. “Quantum measurements are physical processes. Comment on ‘Consciousness and the double-slit interference pattern: Six experiments,’ By Dean Radin et al. [Physics Essays 25, 2 (2012)]” Physics Essays 26, no. 1 (2013)

Mmm, Physics Essays. Good times.

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behaviorally provocative language

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Beliefs and language are used to both represent reality and change reality. Or, language has covert, behavioral, and interpersonal functions. I find it interesting that the Quran, the Bible, or Nietzsche can be used for both peaceful and violent purposes, and, in each case, the people involved still call themselves Muslims, Christians, etc.

So, I think “beliefs” are sort of a red herring, in that an individual can profess particular beliefs but not behave in a way that holding such beliefs would imply. Or, it’s not the words that matter but how those words function in a particular context (a la “relational frame theory”).

Therefore, I think religion is a problem only insofar that some ideologies are more “poisonous” than others, or more behaviorally provocative in antisocial ways. (It’s easier to turn people into killers if their ideology contains words like “kill the infidels,” even though a tiny, tiny number of the millions who subscribe to such an ideology are killers.)

Because so many people deeply, deeply cherish the stimulus functions of their religious language/beliefs, indeed for many people it is their sole source of comfort and sense of profound meaning, I personally think trying to stamp out religion is cruel, violent, counterproductive, and foolish.

Yet, what to do, instead? I think pop atheism, pop skepticism, and public non-religious discourse don’t function the same way for religious people as they do for non-religious people. Or, religious people sense that non-religious discourse “feels different” (or is culturally or morally impoverished) or that it won’t get them money, sex, status, love, joy, and meaning in the contexts and communities in which they live.

I am trying to figure out how to show people that they can live enjoyable, successful, connected, deeply meaningful lives, using relatively accurate language and beliefs that don’t contain behaviorally provocative language like “kill the infidels” hidden somewhere on page 323, or whatever. Until we can offer something as powerful and healing as “Jesus’s love” (literally, seriously), I don’t think we really have a good argument for people to drop religious beliefs and practices (and “kill the infidels” will come along for the ride, in perpetuity).

On the non-religious side of the fence, I feel utterly free and joyous and fascinated (and sometimes uncertain, existentially barren, small, scared, horrified, in pain, etc.), and, overall, I really like it over here. And my “faith” is that humanity has available paths that will hugely reduce suffering and greatly increase joy and beauty (and other paths that will destroy us all).

But, man, how to get from everyone from here to there? I think a lot of people are doing it wrong, and that telling well-meaning, loving, cognitively dissonant, extremely politically savvy, often extremely smart, homophobic religious people that Jesus doesn’t love them and that religion is worse than Hitler is probably not that best strategy.

We like our maps of the territory, contradictions and all (vastly fewer there might be), because of what they do for us. And religious people like their maps of the territory, contradictions and all, because of what they do for them.

I think we can create better maps that honor (and evoke) scientific, humanist, and spiritual values, all *simultaneously*. And, if we can disseminate language that genuinely evokes and stabilizes love, awe, joy, camaraderie, tolerance, community, profundity, cooperation, transcendence, scientific compatibility, and altruism in healthy ways that are difficult to pervert… Well, I think religion *wants* to grow up. It just doesn’t know how. But it’s clearly trying. (And I think terrorism is a socioeconomic problem, anyway, not a religious one.)

[adapted from an email]

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Suffering is when you deploy your pre-learned objects and they don’t isomorphically cover what hurts. If your “map” is language, concepts, and ideas (and therefore what you can easily attend to and select out out of the background), and the “territory” is your pain, then your degree of suffering in any moment is precisely the mismatch between the two.

Another way to look at it is that suffering is when you don’t have words for your pain.

Yet another way to look at is is suffering is when your attentional system isn’t (yet) flexible, nimble, creative enough, and fast enough to bring all your pain into the foreground at once, and isn’t able to keep up with it as it evolves over time. (Meditation of course helps you get better at this.)

You can also have “resistance” to bringing your pain into the foreground, because you rightly or wrongly belief that naming your fear/pain will destroy you. This contributes to suffering, too. (See Coherence Therapy.)

It can be really hard to name your pain. Sometimes it’s so, so far outside of the way you normally think about self and world that it all just keeps slipping out of your attentional grasp. (See Focusing and Coherence Therapy.)

Anyway, the pain can still be excruciating. You desperately want it to stop. It’s tearing you apart. But at least you’re not suffering. Fuck yeah. Worth it.

There’s no escape from pain except for changing your beliefs (maps; cognitive memory, emotional memory) or reality (territory; health, life situation, relationships…).

Also, sometimes you should just distract yourself and watch TV or surf Reddit or something.

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enlightenment-ish experiences and some recent stuff

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“That’s not it, but…” Cf. “Happiness not dependent on conditions” Cf. Ha.

Early 2000s, 1-4 years in

Late at night, back unsupported, sleepy and lightly drifting in and out. Coming out of unconsciousness, for a few moments, the separation between “I” and “me” was gone. Thoughts and feelings were streaming outward instead of appearing before me to be witnessed. While this was happening, there was a steadily rising feeling of elation, and then those brief moments were over.

Mid 2000’s, 4-5 years in

Back in grad school, the first time around, I meditated for an hour straight, for somewhere between one hundred and three hundred days in a row. (I lost my records for what I actually did. Also, I’m not sure if I’d recommend anybody do this, unless it felt right.) Anyway, something was different by the time I was done. It was like I’d stoked a glowing ember deep inside me. It wasn’t that much meditation, relatively speaking, but it felt like my will had been permanently strengthened. There was something irrepressible, something deep in my gut that wasn’t there before. Every time I start to sink, it feels like a light grows brighter inside me, evening me out, drawing a line that I can never fall below. And it’s a strength that I can draw upon, a ferocity, a hunger, a passion, a defiance, a consistency, a depth of feeling. It has never gone away.

2010s, over a decade in

Worked with the Jhanas for a few weeks, and got up into the (soft) probably second Jhana (haven’t looked at the descriptions for a while) a few times. Got bored with it.

2010s, over a decade in

I adopted a perspective of no referents anywhere. Everything was just surface sensation. For a time, with intense concentration, I was able to watch my mind in the act of assembling concepts as I thought them. I watched how my mind and the progression of my thoughts were shaped by the habitual concepts that were triggered by the concepts and experiences that came before.

2010’s, over a decade in

I was cycling through various ways to arrange my conception of world, desperately trying to find a way to align my sense of self and world with something that made sense, that worked, that I could be safe and comfortable in. Every time I thought I’d gotten something, my mind would pick it apart as I watched until it wasn’t useful or usable, anymore. None of the worldviews I had perfectly mapped the territory. Finally, frankly despairing, I abruptly threw it all away. I had never been able to take that leap before, and never again. I didn’t realize anything was different for a moment, nor was I expecting anything. But something was different. I could think just fine, but my mind was incredibly quiet. The external world was the default, crystal clear, not my internal life. Everywhere I looked, reality slapped me in the face. That night, I was even more desperate, scared, and miserable than before.

2010’s, over a decade in

Every once in a while, with carefully stabilized attention, I catch a vivid, gestalt glimpse of the entirety of my sense of self, everything that is me, the hopes, fears, longings, struggling, from just outside, all at once. Far from the usual self-criticism, self-flagellation, there is only compassion in this intimate glimpse of the entirety of a person’s (my) present, conscious state.

2010’s, over a decade in

With carefully stabilized attention, I search with my “inner peripheral vision.” I tenuously, manage to find and place my attention on my sense of “I.” I hold my peripheral attention on that “I sensation” for long seconds. I exhaust it, deplete it. Finally, I relax. And that sense of “I” is gone. I feel hollow, like a shell. Self-referential cognition goes into a void, or “grounds out.” Any thought that has “me” involved hits that void and doesn’t continue on. It’s very scary. “Oh, shit,” what’s left thinks. “Now I’ve done it,” it says on autopilot. The part of me on autopilot figures that it’ll probably fade. And it does, after ten minutes. I decide not to try that ever again.

Past five years to now-ish

Work continues with Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing and Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy, Jay Earley’s explication of Richard Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems Therapy, Bruce Ecker and Laurel Hulley’s Depth Oriented Brief Therapy or Coherence Therapy. Profound and apparently permanent changes continue to occur with respect to feelings, beliefs, and behavior with regard to self and world. Lots of stuff is better, so much better, easier, less painful, possible when before it was impossible, for me. I suspect that meditation makes all this stuff work better. Often, I engage in these practices partially nonverbally, by mental action and feel, yet methodically and precisely. I don’t feel limited by words or “solid concepts,” I can work with innumerable, interpenetrating, amorphous, “meaning.” If most people have access to, say, three dimensions of mental space, I feel like I have access to more, like I can more in more directions. And I feel like I can shake free of concepts and approaches more easily and make large jumps within my inner space.


I feel like reflection and meta-monitoring is more likely to occur moment-to-moment in my life. It seems easier to record and take things in and adjust what I’m doing before, during, and after I do it, regardless of how ambiguous or ill-defined that “thing” I’m doing is. It also seems easier to “go with the flow” and let intuitive action take over, at least in some circumstances.


Emotions sometimes rage through me (connected to occurrences and life situations), unbearably strong, yet not: waves upon waves, ebbing and receding, fear, doubt, uncertainty, disappointment, frustration, desperation, sick horror regarding my own life and the state of the world. None of it cuts to the bone. I can let it happen, I can experience it fully. I know it will pass. It’s like I rest in deep water while the storm rages above. I can experience it fully, I can be it and not be it at the same time. I can act decisively and viciously while keeping perspective on how much current situation X matters and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of my life. There is space and spaciousness within which to rage, without losing perspective or spiraling out of control. Stronger and stronger emotion is safe. And sometimes there is a soft warmth, a luxurious vacation feeling, a sense of appreciation and gratitude, and I can relax into it, bask in it, and experience it fully.


I listen to myself when my self has something to communicate, and I make sure my self feels heard: “Yes, you’ve got it, message received.”

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