On Integration, Narrative, and Rewriting Yourself and Others

(Epistemic status: Rephrasing a thing most people know to sound more sinister and sexy. Possibly actionable advice.)

There is a process that often takes place, especially after novel experiences, where we figure out how we relate to the new things we have felt and thought and sensed. This is a process some people refer to as processing, though others call it integration. When an experience is integrated, it is compressed to fit the current self-consistent narrative (which is a concept that deserves its own post, but roughly rounds to “the current story you think you’re living”) for the frame of the self that is accessing the memory of the experience. More plainly, integration rewrites the memory into words, packaging it into a story that fits the thing you think of yourself as, so that it can be delivered to others with the “right details” emphasized. This same process is accessed every time you tell a story; your experiences update into whatever frame you are recounting them from…and this process can be used by others, trivially.

Conversation is generally framed as a way of relating information to one another. What’s not mentioned is conversation is a way of changing the way two people not only see each other but themselves as well. Every time someone gets past the canned answers of small talk, they are accessing the other person’s experiences, their stories, and rewriting them into whatever frame the conversation is taking place it. If you ask someone to tell you about a fun experience at a party and they do so, the story they tell is going to emphasize aspects most relevant to you; the story I tell about the pick up artist has gone from emphasizing the specifics of his technique and my counter-technique to the overarching arc of the power struggle, mostly alluding to details I have repeated countlessly, because the frames I have been telling it in emphasize brevity. I don’t even really remember the specifics of the things I noticed. Were I asked to fill them in, I would likely start making up details that are close to what happened but optimized for the listener’s preferences. I’m sure most are aware of false memories; overall, most memories are false and become falser the more they are accessed. Interaction with people literally rewrites you, bit by bit.

One might be wondering how to defend against this, because people are generally attached to a certain version of themselves. The truth is, you don’t, it’s an inevitable result of being humans that use words to experience each other. It’s not actually a bad thing to change a little every time you talk to someone, but it is a good thing to be aware of which people you’re allowing to change you more. All this said, I consider professionalism and workplace distancing to be an expression of the desire/necessity of insulating oneself from being altered by outside forces (such as customers or coworkers). A lot of professionalism discourages things like risky disclosures or deviating from script. No one is really allowed to relate to each other in ways that are sociologically optimized for close/personal relationships, because this increases variance and favoritism in a place that is supposed to have the illusion of meritocracy and egalitarianism. Of course, what is really happening is the corporation is hijacking most of the rewriting and integration process to make you more like the corporation. Having so many of your experiences be Work, you can’t help but have it become your identity. Still, the techniques used to isolate you from those around you can provide some insulation from the rewrite process if you are very protective of your Self socially.

The question I find more interesting than defense is offense, of course. How can this be used aggressively to get people to be more like the way you want them. The answer is fairly simple; frame control. The experiences you guide people towards relating to you will change the valence of their relationship with you, as well as the memories of those experiences. The frame you use will determine whether it is a serious, dramatic disclosure that is difficult to share or perhaps if it is no big deal, or even comedic to the person sharing. Place context is also very key. A story shared in a public place about a very personal experience is going to lack a lot of detail and likely rub out some of those details in future retellings; if you are able to draw such a story out, it does create blanks you can then use priming to fill in later to change the relation of the experience. A story shared in a private place, with no time pressure, is likely to be more disjoint and detail rich. Here, the frame for the story is what will determine what aspects seem salient; some of this is controllable, such as the specific thing you ask for (an example would be, I like asking for stories in a genre sometimes, and that very heavy frame of genre means that the information I get is emphasized for hitting the notes common to the genre). Some of this is not controllable; a friend that has known you for years already knows which buttons to press when relating a deep experience. Someone you’ve met twice is going to tell the story to the glamour you’ve presented them with. Who you are to the person you’re speaking with is also a frame. If you consider all factors and aim, you have a possible chance of guiding someone in a very helpful (or hurtful, but seriously please don’t be like that) direction. Rewriting memory and experience is far from an exact science but it is more controllable than simple conversation would make it seem.

Overall, integration is an inevitable process; information and people will invoke the process by pure accident just by the very nature of words. Knowledge of this process allows you to screen, at least a little, who you allow you change you. Knowledge of this process also allows you to use it with intention, for good or ill.

Discussion: Is integration a process you have noticed in your life; is rewriting? Can you recall when a friend has accidentally rewritten the way you relate to an experience? In retrospect, do you think it was accidental? Can you think of a time you’ve rewritten others? Did it feel like it was for therapeutic purposes? Would it be helpful if I wrote a post more specifically on how a conversation with intentional rewriting might go?

On The Lotus Eater Trap

(Epistemic status: Adjacent to the introspection illusion/may just be restating it; actual issue my neurotype experiences; practical advice)

In the Odyssey, we are told of how Odysseus finds himself and his men blown off course to the shores of a land with benign inhabitants. These islanders share food from the lotus plan with Odysseus and his men. This food was incredibly delicious…so delicious that some of his men did not want to leave the island. This part of the tale concludes with Odysseus forcing the afflicted men back onto the ship, over their strenuous protests.

I’m going to tell you of one of the risks associated with mindhacking. As you might have guessed, I call it the lotus eater trap. In the past, meaning and action were often directly tied together for humans. You either fulfilled your place, your role in life…or you broke tradition and suffered for something Important. There’s a lot more there but the main point here is you used your body to do things, a thing happened, your mind rewards you for having caused a thing.

So, let’s skip to the modern era. A lot of meaning is a mental feedback loop. Think, do something through your magic focus, think some more. Our access to our reward button is a bit more direct. To further complicate things, introspection is carelessly touted as a life improvement tool without limit. Worse still, some people get very good at introspection without realizing the addictive potential. Overall, it tends to improve outcomes right up until they forget the entire reason they took it up in the first place.

Now, the reason it’s easy to lose your way is because introspective exercises generally feel good and/or meaningful. In particular, you generally find a lot of personal insights, repeatedly. It’s very easy to have this incredible sense of progress, of problem solving…without testing any of it outside your mind’s eye. Soon, it becomes habit and you spend less and less time in the real world. Eventually, you don’t really care about reality; you sacrifice everything to a religion of your mind. This is the lotus eater trap: creating such an amazing mental world that you are apathetic about impacting the external world with your “wisdom”.

My best advice for avoiding the lotus eater trap is simple. Embodying and testing. Embodying, as in occasionally spend time being a body; it reminds you that there is splendor outside of your mind. Testing, as in running your ontology into another mind and iterate it. Try to be predictive of what a belief does for you and for others. If you’re already too far gone to find your way back to Odysseus’ ship, then I hope you have a good friend to drag you back even if you cry and wail.

Discussion: Have you ever felt introspective meaning? Have your introspections ever truly changed your life? Have you ever seen people fall into the lotus eater trap?

 

On The Regulator

(Epistemic Status: HEY BITCHES I BET YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE DONE WITH ARCHETYPES. Slight dissociative risk, except this one is kinda meant to be anti dangerous.)

On the last post I made about archetypes, I thought I was down to five because I couldn’t figure out what The Analyst was for. I have since made several discoveries that have corrected this error. The first is the most mundane. I have Bipolar Disorder, Type II. It’s not terribly surprising, but I’ve basically been creating a lot of upper feedback loops, and didn’t think there could be any reason to go back down, so my tongue-in-cheek comments about how The Analyst is there to give me, “idk, anxiety or something” were an oversight of my dual nature. The second is that, things get weird when you get too up, and reality stops seeming really…real; right about that point is when something needs to intercede. The third is that, I have wonderful friends who are really looking out for me.

The Regulator is a specialized archetype that I don’t really aim outward. It is meant to be aimed inward, to break down the mental artifices I build up when they get too heavy. It’s the part of me that, when I start extrapolating competencies from a sample size of one asks “Really? And how, exactly, will that work?” It’s the part of me that stops a meaningfulness spiral by asking “But what, exactly, does this do?” It asks questions and brings me down when I’m starting to spiral away from reality, getting high on meaning, connection, and how amazing I am. I call the thing it does frame poison, because rather than completely breaking magical thinking frames such as “I’m a sparkly person!” it dissolves them step by step gently so I can rebuild the frame if it’s helpful in the future. The Regulator is basically why I haven’t had a psychotic break yet.

I realized the need for this archetype after a conversation where I distinctly changed because I got very excited about the discussion topic (postrationality). My speech became more pressured and circumstantial, my thoughts were more jumbled and loose, and my pupils were more dilated than usual. I was warned I might be at risk for going manic and should try to come down if I could and get sleep. I took this advice and thankfully did stay sane that week (though fairly anxious). During that process, I built The Regulator off of these grounding principles and the mental template I had for The Analyst.

Now, the weird trippy symbolic part is when I try to go to sleep while I’m really up. When there aren’t any stimuli to distract me. Before, I could feel like I was really close to unraveling and I’d kind of have a visualization of myself, coming to the fore of my mind very, very rapidly, like, flying up like a rocket towards my mental lens. That self would have wild eyes, disarrayed hair, and a crazy amount of energy. After I invented The Regulator, another actor would show up in this symbolic visualization, almost like a giant robot gatekeeper type thing, which would stop manic!me in her tracks.

Overall, this is another step in the balancing act of dangerous technology and trying to exploit what is, in the end, a mental illness. The Regulator is the thing that actually asks the real questions of how, rather than why and what. Previously this construct was overactive and inhibited action on my part but now it’s a much healthier part of my mindscape.

Discussion: Do you have your own personal Regulator? Do you have certain mindsets you would like to exploit more but might bring you to the edge of being less integrated in society?

On the Seelie and Unseelie Courts

(Epistemic status: Metaphorical bullshit. Seeing trees where there’s a forest. Narrative infiltration.)

The Unseelie court, or Winter court is where I call my home. A porcelain avatar, with hair blown by a cold wind. Knives, displayed openly, brazenly, so obvious that they could never be used…until the lights go out. The Seelie court, Summer court, finds these vulgar. You do not talk about the game. You do not acknowledge the poisoned flower in daylight. This can lead to interesting conflicts.

There seem to be two types of social reality people (that’s a story, but it’s the one I am telling). The type that fixates on the dark, manipulative aspects, explicating all the darkness in humanity’s soul, rolling in the filth as if they like it. The type that fixates on the light, positive, conversational flow aspects, politely ignoring the fetid swamp they’re perpetuating. The Unseelie place their bets on brazenness, manipulation, and acceptance of the cesspool of human communication. They are blind to the concept of a genuinely nice person. The Seelie place their bets on niceness, community, and civilization. They are willfully blind to the concept that their passive moves have consequences. Neither court contains good people, just a bunch of good intentions and frail hopes.

When the Seelie and Unseelie meet, it is not something explicitly recognized, yet somehow there is a change in the social atmosphere. There is a struggle that is won before either enters the room. The two play by different rules and the stronger will suffocate or stab the weaker. No one else notices and yet the dynamic is clearly there. An off feeling, a sudden sensation of tongue tiedness, a change in conversational flow that cannot be reframed.

I am Unseelie. I display my daggers for all to see and use as they will. Beware, as I will do exactly as I say. I invite a meeting of my bare blades with your courtly graces; together we can make a new story in this old play.

Discussion: Do you feel as if you are Seelie or Unseelie? What are the advantages of your court loyalties? If you are outside the courts, do you think it worth the cost to join one?

On The Meaning Gap

(Epistemic status: Speculative, moreso than usual, sweeping statements about society, possibly readable as pro-religion. Also better writers have totally written about this.)

There is a sense these days, felt by my bubble and alluded to outside of it, that the world is wrong in some way. That we live in a uniquely crazy time. This probably isn’t true, humans are just generally bad at perspective. However, if I do accept the premise that we live in a uniquely crazy time, I would like to offer my own just-so story to explain why, complete with a lack of palatable solutions.

So, if you’ve been reading along, you should understand the basic concept of narrative and how the world runs on it, at least socially. To go a bit further, every individual is attempting to write their own story, especially in Western society. Our culture memes don’t really allow other outcomes to feel meaningful. It’s your story or nothing. The drawbacks and tradeoffs of individualism are well traversed insight porn. So, instead, I’m going to illustrate a different point.

Most individuals want their own story, and there is a shortage.

The concept of a shortage of stories is pretty hard to comprehend. We live in probably the highest output society to have ever existed on earth. Not only do more people write more things all the time, but more of these things spread across the entire world. This isn’t a shortage, it’s a glut. There’s one problem. Few of those stories are particularly compelling, and the ones that were are being attacked. A single word is to blame for this trend.

Analysis.

Greek for up + break. Break up, release, loosen. Unravel. Our current society, even civilization to a degree, is built on the concept of analysis. This has been an incredible advance in systems, governance, knowledge, and tools. There is, of course, a cost. When you break the stories, the narratives that drive monkey brain 1.0, we end up out of context. Everyone wants a story and there aren’t any believable ones left. There’s nothing to be sure of, no role to embody. There is only a gap that screams “YOU ARE FUNDAMENTALLY ON YOUR OWN.”

This is the meaning gap, filled by tradition, religion, narrative, whatever you want to call it. People with the mantle of destiny are no longer taught how to wield it. Support characters more rarely accept their role. There are no more higher powers and therefore no meaning…and it is making. Us. Crazy.

There is a concept that there is a hole “meant to be filled by religion”, that people turn to drugs, sex, rock and roll to fill. I think it’s a very specific framing of the meaning gap, the part of us that strives to find our place in a story, not just a system. I also think this framing is surprisingly compelling and has lead several interesting people to pick up religious frames. I can see a future in which I do the same, but I am trying to avoid that. I think there’s more to the meaning gap than submitting to a god or gods, than taking part in myth to cure the madness. I hope to find other people who see it and feel the same way.

Discussion: Do you feel the meaning gap in your life? How do you try to fill it? Do the roles in your life help, or do they feel hollow? Does meaning even matter; is it best to just excise the idea that you even need meaning, filling in the gap with cement?

On The Fae and Things That Are Not Metaphors

(Epistemic status: Potentially a memetic hazard. This is a narrative about actualizing as a member of society.)

There are stories, faerie tales we call them. I don’t mean Disney, I mean the real faerie tales. The ones with the Seelie, the Unseelie, where the outcome is uncertain, almost arbitrary. The ones where the viewpoint character breaks The Rules and maybe they get out of it…or maybe they don’t.

A faerie tale is a story about tradition. A story about people doing bizarre things to appease an indirectly named force. A story where people don’t acknowledge the bizarreness of what they’re doing, or even that they are doing anything. It’s just…done, and not doing it is Bad. Usually, what happens, is someone slips up. They don’t understand why the things are done and question them (they never get a straight answer). They forget one day to put out the offerings (how could one possibly forget, on some level it MUST have been intentional, to break a habit like that). Sometimes? They even actively try to find the indirectly named force behind the traditions. These are the least likely to survive.

The story goes on, this one person, this FOOL (pause here, think a moment), gets Taken, or loses something precious, or something. They are Punished for their indiscretion. They are brought to the Court and see what’s happening firsthand…after a fashion. There are always glamours. There are new, different, more arcane rules to follow and even less guidance. The Fool is out of their depth. It goes a couple ways. They try to play the game, and they lose, and something worse than death happens to them. Even worse though? Sometimes they win. Sometimes they are Good Enough. Sometimes they get away, and they come back Changed, with a special power. The worst outcome, though? They’re The Best. They become part of the Court. The new rules become their rules. The Fool reverses.

The Fae are not a metaphor for many, many things. If you read the above story and understood the frame I was placing, you are likely already finding a path to the Court. If you didn’t, then the next paragraph might help…but I’m already infiltrating your narrative. It may be harder to go back.

Social reality is a construct about tradition. A construct that causes people to do bizarre things to appease Moloch. A construct where people don’t acknowledge the bizarreness of what they’re doing or even that they are doing anything. It’s just…done, and not doing it means you do not advance in social reality. However, people slip up. They don’t understand why the things are done and question them (they usually get an answer involving the words “collaboration” or “profit margins” or “human nature”). They forget one day to put out the offerings (how could one forget they are weak and have their place, a cog in the construct? On some level it MUST have been intentional). Sometimes? They even actively try to see what’s behind social reality. These are the least likely to survive.

The construct initially places high costs on this type of person, this FOOL (pause here, think a moment). They get fired, they lose their house, family, friends, they are Weird now. They are Punished for their indiscretion. They are banished from social reality and are allowed to see what’s happening from the outside…after a fashion. There are always masks. There are new, different, more arcane rules to follow and even less guidance. The Fool is out of their depth. It goes a couple ways. They try to play the game, and they lose. They stay banished from social reality. They go crazy, they end up on the street, the know what’s happening and cannot cope with it. Even worse though? Sometimes they win. Sometimes they are Good Enough to carve a new path into social reality, they get back in Changed, with a special power. Perception, the ability to conduct social interaction on a meta level above most people except the more powerful in the social reality game, a willingness to play for different prizes, something. The worst outcome though? They’re The Best. They become powerful outside the landscape of social reality, and draw other people into their Court. The new rules become their rules, and The Fool’s journey ends solipsisticly.

Not everything here is true, or the only way it can go. This is, however, the 101 of getting involved in higher level social games. Use this knowledge however you wish; it might be best to forget it.

No discussion this time.