Saturday, October 25, 2014

You crazy

For real. You are. We all are. It's a human thing.

I don't mean in the "involuntarily committed"/"diagnosable with mental illness" sense, of course. Not only is that a binary classification where the territory is not, but it sneaks in connotations about the problem being all about "bad genes" and/or "chemical imbalances". Not to say that genes/chemicals are irrelevant, but that's not the lens which is all that helpful when you're stuck with your genes and drugs are such crude tools.

When I say "you're crazy", I mean in the sense that your mind is anything but coherent. It's a mess of modules that frequently fail to cooperate and work as a whole - and it's often somewhat "deliberate" in a localized "zoomed in" sense. This works out to be fairly in line with the colloquial use of "crazy" - whether it's the homeless lady screaming at the snack food cashier about gasoline in the public drinking fountain (who I ran into while organizing my thoughts for this post), or just your nominally-functional friend who has crazy political beliefs.

But the statement that you're crazy isn't going to both pass the initial fact checking and connect meaningfully with experience. For example, think about someone you know that is crazy - again, in the "that doesn't make any sense/they're normally smarter than that" sense. How do they think of themselves? It's often not "I'm crazy!". And when it is, it sounds more like professed beliefs than an emotional level alief - and the people that do take it seriously are often depression/anxiety cases rather than someone that takes it as something to actually fix. Even if being crazy is real to them, then the possibility of solution isn't.

There are exceptions of course, but the general tendency is this: When you're crazy, it hurts to acknowledge that, so you become blind to it rather than spending time there. Even if you're kinda aware, you don't fully act on it, and don't really realize emotionally how big a deal this is. The "I'm crazy" thought has an implicit "...but it doesn't really count and/or I can't actually be responsible for fixing it". So people don't realize it and take appropriate steps. This selective blindess has really interesting implications.


Imagine a world where no one is sane - there are only different levels of crazy. You see people crazier than you and say "Damn! You crazy!" and then smugly follow it up with "I'm sure glad I'm not crazy!". When you look at people at a similar sanity level as you, you can see their crazies that they can't see - so long as they don't apply to you. Entire political parties can be blind to their insanities that the other side mocks them for. Everyone thinks they're the sanest guy around. However, the interesting thing is that when people share crazies, no one can see them. It's just a whole society functioning in a crazy way and no one noticing "wait, you crazy!" because that'd mean "crap, I'm crazy too!" - and we obviously can't believe that! You might end up with the entire planet believing in invisible flying spaghetti monstors for long periods of time.

Even the people that are much less crazy than you often look crazy - er, incomprehensible at least - they deviate so far from the norm in ways that you can't understand, because understanding requires you to use your mind in the noncrazy way. So we'll throw them in with the crazies because anyone acting incomprehensible must be so crazy that you can't even imagine what that's like - because the alternative of "maybe I am crazy!?" is literally unthinkable. But you do see people crazier than you discouraging emotionally healthy responses in favor of responses you'd find on maury.

Starting to feel familiar yet?


So given that this is the world we live in... now what? A ton of questions sprout from there, but we just talked about a particularly interesting one: we don't automatically recognize when we even see abnormally sane - even if it smacks us in the face. Abnormally sane is hard to come by anyway.

What would it even look like???

Well, I can't paint a perfect picture, but I can throw out a lot of things that you won't see.

Remember the difference between what motivated cognition and curious cognition feels like?

First off, you obviously don't do "addictions". You either smoke or you don't smoke. If, for some reason, you do smoke, you'll be able to calmly describe why exactly you do it - and feel no aversion to people prying and trying to make you get defensive about it. If you decide to stop cold turkey, you just stop. Not just "Yeah, it sucks, but I've decided to stop", but like "Sucks? No, I don't want to smoke.". When you read a new study that changes your belief on the health of certain food items, you change your tastes accordingly. Unhealthy foods are no longer appealing and things like liver just draw you in - until the point where you notice that you've had enough vitamin A. And you sure don't have that ex that you can't talk about without getting upset and mindkilled.

Remember that all these crazy things that people say "happen to them" are things that look suspiciously like they're doing on purpose. You can stop migraines by reasoning about them being unnecessary. Or insomnia, physical pain, being unable to be hypnotized - you name it. I've actually done it. If it's mediated by your brain, it's influencable by well applied rational thought - you just have to be able to grok the system well enough to see what the missing information is, and that's one hell of a skill.

But let's go further than "able to whole heartedly follow through with goals without hint of self sabotage". Without persistent incoherences, you don't suffer. It's not that you're never sad. It's not that you never feel pain. It's just that you develop something like generalized asymbolia. You just take the information into account and do what you need to do about it - there's no internal stress. You don't do loss aversion or push motivation - as those are just temporary jury rigged solutions for when you can't organize into a pull. You don't avoid topics because they're painful - you seek them out. You don't do things "because I like it" - you'll have tracked back the reason to like it. Liking things is in the mind, and is the way your brain says "this thing is good, do more". You don't lament the interest lottery you'll have made sure to like doing things you should be doing - to be interested in things you should be learning.

And this applies to things for which most people would shout "citation needed!" if I were to assert that they're controllable. For example, when you get cut and need to stop bleeding, you can just constrict the blood vessels in your hand and stop the bleeding on your own - as if it's just a trivial action like raising your right hand (my girlfriend and I were both shocked at how well that worked, and the doctor was concerned about how cold the cut hand was). When you want to get rid of a wart, you just focus on directing your immune system to take care of it.

Becoming non-crazy takes a hell of a lot of mental organizing, but it's also damn near a super power.

It's bullshit for "therapy" to have the stigma associated with it - as if there are people who aren't broken too optimized for therapy. Even if we're highly functional, we're still "crazy" in the "therapy/changework/etc would be very beneficial" sort of way. Think about how your life might look if you were marginally saner - or much saner. And think about how you want to get there.

1 comment:

  1. Stopping the bleeding that way should only be used as a temporary measure, however. :P It still needs to clot properly and -increased- bloodflow improves healing rates. As for the rest, sounds about right.