Category Archives: Psychology

Pete Walker's Model of CPTSD

Been reading Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. Realized that in that book's ontology, interacting with other live humans is enough to put me in a (low-grade, very high-functioning) flashback. Woke up this morning* and spent a few minutes reminding myself that I'm not gonna get yelled at for being late to a thing, it's OK, I'm safe...

Not knowing about the kind of deep work things like meditation enable is one of the two big things the book gets wrong. It also buys into the frame that trauma is mainly a problem deviants have, even as it points out a lot of things that imply our "normal" is trauma, e.g. it points out that (a) emotional neglect is enough to cause CPTSD, (b) successful treatment of CPTSD leads to above-"normal" emotional intelligence.

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The Trauma Coup

After the storming of the Capitol, the President of the United States has been banned from Twitter (the main way he communicates with the general public) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put out a video in which she says in the first few minutes that she doesn't know what she's allowed to talk about, that she doesn't know how much of what happened to her she can share because of "security reasons," that she's traumatized, and that she needs to be in the care of mental health professionals. And for the first time ever, the US military announced their opinion about who the next president will be.

These events point in a related direction: the silencing of elected politicians. While they are probably not centrally planned, they seem synchronized, like a lot of people in different places are responding to related cues in similar ways. Trump getting kicked off Twitter, and the harder to pin down forces acting on AOC, come from a shared sense among many people that the thing to do with clear evidence of authorities' failure is to cover it up.

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Towards optimal play as Villager in a mixed game

On Twitter, Freyja wrote:

Things capitalism is trash at:

  • Valuing preferences of anything other than adults who earn money (i.e. future people, non-humans)
  • Pricing non-standardisable goods (i.e. information)
  • Playing nicely with non-quantifiable values + objectives (i.e. love, ritual)

Things capitalism is good at:

  • Incentivising the production of novel goods and services
  • Coordinating large groups of people to produce complex bundles of goods
  • The obvious: making value fungible

Anyone know of work on -

a) integrating the former into existing economic systems, or
b) developing new systems to provide those things while including capitalism's existing benefits?

This intersected well enough with my current interests and those of the people I've been discoursing with most closely that I figured I'd try my hand at a quick explanation of what we're doing, which I've lightly edited into blog post form below. This is only a loose sketch, I think it does reasonably precisely outline the argument, but many readers may find that there are substantial inferential leaps. Questions in the comments are strongly encouraged.

Any serious attempt at (b) will first have to unwind the disinformation that claims that the thing we have now is capitalism, or remotely efficient.

The short version of the project: learning to talk honestly within a small group about how power works, both systemically and as it applies to us, without trying to hold onto information asymmetries. (There's pervasive temptation to withhold political information as part of a zero-sum privilege game, like Plato's philosopher-kings.) Continue reading

What strange and ancient things might we find beneath the ice?

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?

Nature is not good, only proto-good.
-Paolo Soleri

Epistemic status: literally a dream

I awaken.

I am in the desert, alone.

I see the ribcage of a long-since-dead animal. I see a long row of such bones, twisted in a way that reminds me of - but is definitely not - the double helix.

I know what this means.

Evolution, on the margin, always eats free energy, to make more energy-eaters. It is a race with no upper bound, and there will be no victory. Instead, the cosmic commons will be exhausted by resource-claimers with no plan to do anything with the resources. Not that there will be anything left when the race is over.

If I do not take the next step in the dance of life, my line ends. I am just a corpse along the way.

If I do take the next step in the dance of life, then I do no better than life.

And if not now ...

Then I look again. Instead of bones I see a railroad. For longitudinal bones, metal tracks laid by the hand of industrial humanity, stretching in a straight line towards infinity. For ribs, the crossties that allow the uneven ground to support those even rails.

I know what this means.

The economic logic of global capitalism. Another race towards infinity, leaving nothing. Quarterly returns. Goodhart's law. Accountability and automation replacing judgment wherever they can, culminating in a Disneyland with no children. The symbol of this, the train, no natural place for the line of tracks to end, stations but no terminals, stretching on forever.

I look again. I see a road.

I awaken.  Continue reading

Nightmare of the Perfectly Principled

My actual literal nightmares about civilizational collapse somehow manage to be insanely optimistic about human nature.

I dreamt that in response to the news of the Trumps’ probable successful intimidation or bribery of their New York prosecutors, the US devolved into a lawless hellscape, since the last shreds of pretense of “we’re punishing you because it’s what the law says” were gone. In my dream, I successively wished I’d transferred more of my assets to paper, then money, then gold, then firearms, as I realized how far things had gone.

If I’d been thinking sanely, the thing I should have wished I’d accumulated is the only real source of safety in a state of war: a bigger, better gang. But fundamentally, I should have known better than to imagine that things would collapse quickly.

What was I getting wrong? I was tacitly assuming that the majority of people were perfectly principled. Continue reading

Sabbath hard and go home

Growing up Jewish, I thought that the traditional rules around the Sabbath were silly. Then I forgot to bring a spare battery on a camping trip. Now I think that something like the traditional Jewish Sabbath is an important cultural adaptation to preserve leisure, that would otherwise be destroyed in an urbanized, technological civilization. Continue reading