Friday, November 22, 2019

Case Study How To: Stoicism.

Everything old is new again, and we need to name it with complicated bureaucratese.
In UtEB’s model, emotional learning forms the foundation of much of our behavior.
Richard is having a genuine problem. Not an intolerable one, but why not fix it if you can fix it?
He had been consistently successful and admired at work, but still suffered from serious self-doubt and low confidence at his job. On occasions such as daily technical meetings, when he considered saying something, he experienced thoughts including “Who am I to think I know what’s right?”, “This could be wrong” and “Watch out - don’t go out on a limb”. These prevented him from expressing any opinions.
(Also read the therapist transcript.)

Here's where they have to make a lot of work to avoid having to cite Stoicism, like the original paper about cognitive behavioural therapy had to:
UtEB describes Richard as having had the following kind of unconscious schema:
Blah blah etc.

The actual problem is that the thought is illogical. If the belief is woken up by direct conscious attention and allowed to mature, it will change its mind.

Do folk actually hate you? This is an empirical question. The correct thing to do is try it and see what happens. Richard should, contrary to his normal habits, assert an opinion. See, empirically, if anyone reacts negatively.

Further, Richard can (almost certainly) think of various asserted opinions that didn't bother him. Others can assert opinions without being immediately hated. Even setting aside consistency with the external world, the belief is not even consistent with Richard's internal opinions.

Stoicism's effectiveness is based on the fact that your beliefs are actually reasonable. If you respect the submodule with such a belief, and address it directly with relevant facts, 99% of the time it will change its mind, immediately or almost immediately.

Caveats. It can be difficult not to self-sabotage sometimes. The urge for psychological affirmation is strong. Also, asserting opinions during meetings can genuinely be a bad idea. Perhaps Richard is using the correct strategy for the wrong reason. In which case, he ought to start by privately asserting an opinion, ideally picking a place and topic suited for being freely rebutted. He could also float an opinion in the form of a deferential question. "How do you know that X isn't true?" Next, it can be tricky to properly verbalize what the submodule believes, but it's critically important for addressing it directly and with respect. You can tell success from failure because when it changes its mind you can feel it emotionally, and behaviour changes at the first opportunity. Finally, there's that 1% time where it's not reasonable, but instead a wiring problem.

It doesn't help that the truth is prosaic. Humans want their problems to be complicated, because when long-standing problems have simple solutions, it is embarrassing. Worse than the problem itself, amirite? Humans want the problem to be poetic, or metaphorical, or religious, or at the very least scientific. They want it to be meaningful, not because they did a dumb. In practice this ends up being a LastPsych style defence against change. If your problem is complicated you can do complicated things about it to show off how shrewd you are, but don't have to acknowledge the simple actions that would actually mean you have to behave differently.

Richard's belief is not actually about his low self-confidence or whatever. It's about being able to condemn his father for his deviant behaviour. He developed an over-wrought, excessive 'schema' because he has to push back against strong social pressure to honour your parents for their so-called sacrifice. If instead it's okay to condemn deviant behaviour regardless of who engages in it (even Jesus) then he wouldn't have to overcompensate. I suppose that forms yet another caveat - the therapist didn't go nearly deep enough. Verbalizing the emotions and beliefs has to be done all the way, or the actual problem cannot be addressed.

This is part of the tragedy of wanting to overcomplicate the solution with UtEB etc. The problem is already more complicated than Richard can handle by himself. There's no need to make it worse.
The formation of memory traces involves consolidation, when the memory is first laid out in the brain; deconsolidation, when an established memory is “opened” and becomes available for changes; and reconsolidation, when a deconsolidated memory (along with possible changes) is stored and becomes frozen again.
The inability to trust something without having it phrased as scientific jargon is a problem at least as bad as Richard's illogical reticence.


Anonymous said...


How come you haven't tweeted in awhile? Have you fully moved on to Gab?

Alrenous said...

Made a joke that was too edgy and got locked out.

Alrenous said...

On the plus side it was a suitably low-cost way to learn first hand how important the right to face one's accuser is.
Was I reported by some witch-hunting rando? Or was it someone who doesn't deserve to die in a fire? Did I piss somebody off?
On the other hand I do know for sure it was a putrid coward.