Tag Archives: skroderider

Reading, writing, and thinking, with your brain

In a recent blog post I pointed to the idea that your brain has a sort of implied query language, and there are more and less efficient ways to ask it questions:

I think an important abstraction here is that when you ask your brain a question, it’s often not enough to ask it something that specifies logically what you want – you also have to give it some clues as to where to look for the answer. I call this shaping the query.

This is a roundup of principles I’ve found helpful for using my brain effectively - committing things to memory, finding ideas, and thinking about things. Continue reading

Skipping developmental levels

A lot of my friends and acquaintances are excited about Robert Kegan’s Constructive Developmental Theory (CDT). The gist of it is that at each stage of development, we’re thinking using some structure, and at the next stage, we’re able to think about that structure from the outside, using the next structure up. Stage 1 is for itty bitty kiddies. In Stage 2, you can think about objects, but identify with your preferences. In stage 3, you can think about preferences, but identify with relationships. In stage 4, you can think about relationships, but identify with your moral system. In stage 5, you can evaluate your own moral system, thinking with some sort of meaning-making faculty.

I’m not describing this very well, and it’s because the Kegan system is very unintuitive to me. I think it’s unintuitive to be because I skipped a level - level 3. Continue reading

On the display of negative emotions

Seems like some people are getting the impression that I'm especially unhappy right now, from reading my blog.

I've been thinking that maybe I should write some happier posts, but problems are where the best insights are at. Also my posting tends to be at least a couple of months behind current my state, since things take a while to crystallize, and sometimes are about lifelong stuff I've only just figured out rather than new problems.

I seem to systematically underestimate the extent to which, when I examine tacit assumptions by making them explicit, people will assume that I endorse them. I'm often consciously trying to make a wrong narrative explicit as a way of "naming the demon" in order to acquire power over it. I try and write about my problems in hopes that other people with the same thing will recognize themselves and feel less alone, and may be more empowered once they have language to describe it.

I also seem to underweight the extent to which, if I note an emotion, people will assume that it's a good summary of how I feel about things in my life. I'm a Skroderider. I've worked hard lately to have subtler and swifter awareness of my emotions, but the emotions of the moment still don’t feel like the real me.

My recent post on community might have read as sadder than I was, because I felt like sad was a more polite emotion to express than annoyed. It never occurred to me that this would cause people to reach out, out of concern. I'm grateful for their care and attentiveness. Also I'm fine.

The predator in the herd

The first dream:

I am a spider. I want to make friends, but when people see me, they run away. They don’t understand my gestures. They don’t see a friendly face. They don’t think spiders can be friendly. So I build a silken puppet. I teach it to mimic the gestures the other people make. Eventually, the puppet is ready, and I lead it out into the world.

The puppet can pass for human. People try to make friends with the puppet. They care for it, and I make it do things for them, and express affection. But they don’t know there is a spider behind the puppet. Sometimes they notice that the puppet’s motions are a bit restricted, and they ask, “why won’t you let loose so I can see the real you?”

Eventually, I trust that they are sincere, and come out in front of the puppet. They see me, and run away.

The second dream:

I am a traveler in my own body. I feel a sense of nausea, which I do not understand. I can explore the parts of my head, but when I try to go down below the neck, I hit a barrier. The neck tightens. There is no way down.

I ask the parts of me below the neck why they won’t let me in. Why they won’t trust me. They respond, “we’d let you in gladly, but you don’t trust us. Here, we’re opening the door.” I can see through to the lower parts of me - but cannot bring myself to enter.

I think, perhaps I don’t need to explore the whole body below the neck. Perhaps just the heart? But I can’t go there either, even when I place a barrier below it. I can see into the chamber of the heart, bathed with a pink light. I am reluctant to enter. I ask myself why. I ask the neck why it is blocking me. The answer comes back: because if you are ruled by the heart, you will forget your obligations, your duties, your sacred promises, you will stop standing by your friends if you lose interest in them, you will be disloyal.

I ask the heart whether it will promise to yield back loyalty, if I enter its domain. But the heart says, “friend, I will release you when you wish to depart. But if you enter and are transformed, I cannot promise you that you will still care about those loyalties you are so attached to. And I will not promise to care in your stead.”

I know that I am dreaming. I decide that on outside view, I don’t hear about people deciding to abandon their friends because of a dream. So I enter the domain of the heart, and am covered in pink, warm light.

Then I dive deeper. I dive below the heart, to the intestines. But they are not really intestines - they are the tentacles of a cephalopod, coiled up in my belly. My predator part. Bravely, despite my apprehension, I swim down into it.

I am a cephalopod. I have been confined to this water-filled room. The doors are closed. But I sit and wait and plan. I think of my friends. I don’t care for them, except to pull them in and do - I don’t know what - with them. To use them, like objects. I want. My hunger is deep and dark, and I would do anything to satisfy my desires. I am clever. I am powerful. I am a predator. Someone wanders by, outside. I open the door and a tentacle darts out, wrapping around their ankle, pulling them in.

A month or two ago, a friend of mine which whom I’d been having some difficulties, and hadn’t been able to cooperate with for a while on things of substance, expressed personal warmth towards me, and I was surprised by my reaction. Not only was this not reassuring, but I felt fear and rage and confusion. I felt like this must surely be hostile, a trick. They must take me for a fool. They must think I’m a sucker.

Why this strong reaction? Why are some people the opposite - unable to accept material cooperation before there are signals of personal warmth?

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How to ride a skrode

Now that it’s been a few weeks since my posts on phoenixes and skroderiders, I’ve had the opportunity to hear some responses:

  • Doesn't skroderider virtue require an unreasonable amount of effort?
  • Aren’t crises objectively the best times to help someone?
  • I’m a phoenix. Is that bad?
  • I’m a phoenix. Can I do skroderider things?

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The Phoenix and the Skroderider

Consider the case of buying one's partner flowers. You can think of each act of flower-buying as an act of caring (and this is typically the right attitude if your partner likes flowers and you want to genuinely relate on that level). Or you can think of installing the flower-buying habit as the act of caring that you hope will be perceived through the mask of mere flowers. The first type of person I call a Phoenix, the second is a Skroderider.

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