Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In the Long Run, You're Not Fooling Anyone

If I tried to deceive you, it would not merely be a matter of me trying to outsmart you. It would also be a matter of me trying to outsmart empirical evidence and the laws of nature themselves. In the long run, that isn't sustainable. Reality is absolute, which means that empirical facts are absolute. I can outsmart people in the short run, but I cannot outsmart reality in the long run.

A lie can persist for thousands of years. Since that is beyond my lifetime, it seems that a lie can persist indefinitely. But thousands of years is not the same as eternity. Even though you cannot observe everything for an eternal amount of time, it is still to logical to conclude that the long-term result for a deception is for it to be exposed eventually. Here is why I say that.

Suppose that you have a website. First I leave a post on your website as myself. My post shows my IP number, and you can see from my IP number that I'm in Hawaii. Now suppose that I create a sock puppet account and post while posing as someone in Croatia. And suppose that you see that the IP number is exactly the same -- it's the same Hawaii IP number. And you know that Stuart Hayashi is not sharing his ISP account with some Croatian. By noticing the evidence, you have busted me.

Every human action has consequences. This includes consequences that are byproducts of the action -- meaning that these consequences can be anticipated but that having these consequences occur was not the main end sought by the action. For example, if I walk through snow and leave footprints behind, leaving those footprints was not my main goal, and yet my action nevertheless caused the footprints to appear. These byproduct consequences surely leave behind evidence. My footprints in the snow are evidence of my having walked through the snow. Insofar as I am truthful with you, there is evidence to support that I have been truthful. Likewise, insofar as I am deceptive with you, there is evidence to support the conclusion that I have been deceptive. Consistent observation of the facts themselves, and consistency in understanding the context, will ultimately support true claims and undermine false claims. Therefore, insofar as people observe empirical evidence, the facts will always give true claims the advantage over deceptive ones.

When I tell you the truth, I am not trying to outsmart you; I have the facts to support me. Likewise, if I lie to you, I am not merely trying to outsmart you; I am trying to outsmart empirical evidence. And as reality is absolute, empirical evidence cannot be outsmarted.

Yes, it is true that if someone consistently practices deception, he can learn from past mistakes and learn to be more thorough in covering his tracks. If you have caught me using a socket puppet account, based on IP evidence, then maybe next time I might try to switching to a different IP number before I post on your page using a fake account. But no matter how thorough a con man may attempt to be in covering up every trace of his deception, it is not plausible to expect that he can cover up every trace at the noumenal level; reality is too complex for that. Therefore, no matter how sophisticated the deception, there will always be evidence of what really went down.

A deception might take thousands of years to undo. Someone might die before his lies catch up with him. But insofar as anyone observes the evidence and follows up on it, the deception is vulnerable in the short run and doomed in the long run. And insofar as a charlatan is able to get away with his deceptions, this is not so much on account of the charlatan being the cleverest man in the world, but more so on account of the people around him either (a) failing to observe evidence or (b) having observed the evidence of deception, failing to call the charlatan on it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Right and Wrong Ways to Achieve a Sense of 'Control'

I have developed a simple theory on the cause of most dysfunctional human behavior. Perhaps it is too simple. But this is it:

Everyone wants to exercise some level of control in their lives, and there's nothing bad about that. All choice is an exercise of control. Dysfunctional human behavior results when people lack an adequate sense of control and they therefore resort to unhealthy methods of regaining a feeling of control: a manner damaging to self or others. I think all forms of tyranny result from someone feeling that he does not have enough control (even if he's a nation's dictator, he feels inadequate about control) and therefore trying to control others through the threat of violence.

In response to this, many people say, "Stop trying to control stuff! Just be satisfied with how you don't have control."

That is an entirely losing proposition. If someone feels that he doesn't have enough control over his life, you won't persuade him against the dysfunction by telling him that it's good to cede control.

I think this is a better approach: acknowledge that the desire for control is actually very healthy; the real problem is the manner in which one is trying to maintain or obtain control. The search for control in a dysfunctional manner has damaging results and, in the long run, the person who wants to have control will up end with less of it. Therefore, it is best to show that person how there are much healthier, more humane, more peaceable methods of finding control in one's life.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

If You Notice Someone Obsessed With Self-Disfigurement, Gently Speak Up About It (Here's How)

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental condition in which someone feels alienated and disturbed by his or her own natural physical features -- so much so that this person holds a debilitating hostility toward his or her own body.  The person feels that his or her natural form is "disfigured," and, ironically, it is in the process of trying to "correct" the believed disfigurement that the person can actually end up disfiguring him- or herself.

Anorexics have a form of BDD. They suffer from the delusion that they are grotesquely obese and must "correct" that imperfection by starving themselves.  Another example of people with BDD are certain extremely rich Hollywood people who are so insecure about their appearance that they keep getting cosmetic surgery, and they end getting so much "corrective" plastic surgery that they stop looking human. 

Of course, in the long run, the issue isn't ultimately about one's looks; that's a red herring.  What is actually going on is that the person with BDD, no matter how much he or she boasts of professional success or being a big-shot real-estate investor, feels as if he or she doesn't have a sufficient amount of control in life.  The person with BDD tries to regain a sense of control by imposing control over matters that are quite petty and even self-harming.  When an anorexic starves herself, that's horrible, but she feels that she is solving the problem because the practice of self-starvation includes "control" and "discipline."  The same principle is at work when someone routinely gets a knife and cuts her wrists.  Another way one can try to impose control is to dress exactly the same every day and to try to cover up the "natural deformity" by trying to look like a pallid corpse.

I know from personal experience in the Hawaii Pacific University that to care deeply about someone who has BDD is very painful and traumatic.  And if just knowing and caring about someone who has that condition is traumatic, you can imagine how much worse it is for the person who actually has that condition.

If you notice a friend very conspicuously shoving self-disfiguring gestures in your face -- dressing the same every day and uploading photos onto LinkedIn where one is photoshopped to look like a corpse -- please don't write this off as a harmless quirk or eccentricity.  It can mask something far deeper and worse.  If you notice someone engaging in repeated self-disfiguring gestures and pretend not to notice, that continued pretense actually tacitly reinforces the self-harming gestures.   If you know someone who repeatedly makes self-disfiguring gestures, there is a compassionate way to address it that is not harshly disapproving or bossy. 

I recommend that you say to this person:
"I value you; you bring a lot of value to my life.  And I cannot help but notice certain things -- certain gestures [i.e., the cuts on the wrists; the insistence on wearing the exact same clothes to class almost every day, the photos on LinkedIn where one is photoshopped to look corpse-like].  And when I see them, I can't help but notice that you have a lot going on in your life.  If you don't want to talk about it, you don't have to.  But I want you to know that if you ever do want to talk about it, I am here for you."
Addressing the person that way is good because it lets that person know that he or she is not fooling anybody; of course the self-disfiguring gestures are noticed.  Simultaneously, the approach is not bossy or harshly disapproving (what most people judgmentally call "judgmental").  It is gentle and lets the person know that you raise the issue precisely because you care and accept that person.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Self-Acceptance and Having a Firm Sense of Identity

From my friend Esha, I learned about this quotation:

"Face it, kid:  unless you can be yourself, you won't stay with anyone for long."
--Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath had personal experiences with inner pain.  The idea here is true: being able to accept and trust others, to be loyal to them in the long run, is largely incumbent upon first being able to accept oneself, to have a firm sense of one's own identity -- a coherent, integrated narrative identity. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

March 1 Is Self-Harm Awareness Day

Remember that March 1 is Self-Harm Awareness Day.

You don't have to face this alone.  Receiving the help that you need, you can triumph over these obstacles and truly embrace life.  :'-)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Alexi-- Alexi-- Alexithymia? -- Such a Mouthful! -- in BPD?

The Journal of Personality Disorders published a study suggesting that persons with BPD can often experience a condition known as alexithymia.  It refers one having extreme difficulty understanding emotional responses -- those of oneself and those of others.  The study suggests that those with BPD have a harder time understanding their own emotions -- particularly when it comes to difficult negative emotions like fear of relationship commitment -- than they do those of others.
As an article in Psychology Today put it,

The findings showed that people with BPD (compared to healthy controls) were less able to identify feelings, but it was the feelings within themselves that gave them the most challenge. Their difficulty was in putting themselves into the situations, especially when the feelings depicted were negative. Unlike people with antisocial personality disorder, individuals with BPD can feel compassion toward others and even empathy. It’s their own inability to tolerate (and therefore think about) negative emotions that seems particularly disturbed.

This has given me a lot to think about. I have read that many persons with BPD pride themselves on being able to "read" people well, but that, in controlled experiments, they often mistake neutral expressions for disapproval. I think that to have a consistently ability to interpret emotions from other people's body language accurately, one has to understand one's own emotions first.