March 2nd, 2010

green leaves

Future psychological theories

matociquala says:
I am writing a book set a thousand years in the future. Do I actually believe that our modern-day theory of mind and mental illness will hold any water then?

Do I have characters blithely going on about sociopathy anyway? Anyway, 900 words. Going to bed now, because I can't keep my eyes open.

The only hint of a real (as distinct mere satire [1] ) future theory of psychology I've ever seen was in a Delany novel (almost certainly Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand [2] )-- a character's apparent stupidity was explained by his belief that he shouldn't try to take in more information than he could output. I asked Delany, and he said that this wasn't part of a larger theory, but it seems to imply a rich cybernetic system of how minds could work or go wrong.

[1] In John Barnes Timeline Wars series, there's a character from an utterly nasty culture who describes himself as having some sort of excessive compassion disorder. It's described in a very familiar sort of jargon.

[2] I don't think a sequel is possible, though I may take another crack at reading the fragment. Aside from Delany seeming to have lost interest in the project, Stars</> predicted the net, but only as a sort of encyclopedia look-up. I don't see how it could be retrofitted into a plausible future where everyone can add to the web. I'd still like to know what cultural fugue is.
green leaves

A memetic auto-immune disorder?

What's so weird to me about depressive self-hatred is that here you have a person who doesn't have energy to do useful and/or pleasant things [1], but there's both a lot of energy going into thinking about how awful they are and a lack of the "ouch that hurts don't do it!" reflex.

About the ouch! reflex: It took a lot of therapy to get to the point where I can fairly reliably realize that there's a me getting hurt instead of just identifying with the attacking voice.

As for guilt and depression, does anyone have information about how depression plays out in non-Christian cultures?

One other angle on culture: I think there's pressure in America to be busy, happy, and social all the time. This could add to depression, both by defining people who are don't fit the ideal as depressed, and by setting up people who are a little depressed to think they're deeply defective, which knocks them down farther.

I have a notion that people have a "that action sounds good or bad to me" slider in their minds. It's probably physiological. If the slider is stuck on the sounds bad side, you get the inert sort of depression. If it's stuck on the sounds good side, you get hypomania or mania.

Heading off into tentative hypothesis land, there might be two sliders, one for action, and the other for thought. If just the thought part is activated on the sounds bad side, then a lot in your head automatically seems bad to you, though you might be able to take reliable action. If the sounds good is too active, then you might get racing thoughts, hyperfocus, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Anyway, it's conceivable to me that depression is an overamplification of the necessary ability to choose not to do things.

[1] There are other sorts of depression. Some people have a strong sense of duty and do the useful stuff, but are miserable and possibly suicidal (see Good Mood by Julian Simon), some people can do the low effort pleasant things but not the useful things, and I think obsessing about how awful other people are rather than how awful you are is something like the depressive pattern, but probably less self-destructive, especially in the short run.