Goals and strategies: cooperation vs. competition

One of the key notions I developed during my psychosis was the thought that good was stronger than evil. Whenever I had heard this slanted dualism before, I had thought it simply wishful thinking. People wanted good to be stronger, so their stories confirmed such. God was more powerful than the Devil, but that’s just how the coin fell. Their power and position was arbitrary. An ontological reason was given for God’s supremacy: he was first. But no reason was given that the Devil couldn’t have happened to have been first.

But in psychosis, it came to me. Fairly simply. Here goes.

The Fundamental – that which exists exists because there are factors that enable its existence – proceeds to the concept of persistence which proceeds to natural selection. Those organisms, things, that outcompete their neighbors are the ones that endure. This sets up both strategy – a way of competing – and goals – a why of competing. Individuals will strive for the betterment of themselves and their blood to the detriment of others. However, very quickly on, individuals will find their strategy coming up short. I call this the antisocial disposition. An individual can outcompete another individual fairly easily, but two individuals cooperating in the short term will outcompete an antisocial individual.

These cooperators have better persistence than the antisocial individuals, but their goals are the same. They only appear to care about the benefit of their partners, they are fauxsocial. When there is no more advantage to helping their neighbor, they will turn and cheat for their own benefit. The notion of persistence selects for this. If they want to persist, cooperation is only of utility til the final move of the game. At this point it makes sense to shift strategies.

However, this is in turn undermined by the truly prosocial, those cooperating for the benefit of all. There is an efficiency loss in switching to competition on the final move, and so persistence actually favors those who avoid these losses by remaining cooperative until the end. They don’t endure, but their goals are not for self-endurance, but instead the endurance of the group, so their goals are more fulfilled than any others. With the fauxsocial, they only win when they win. With the prosocial, they win if anyone wins. Good triumphs, and evil is overcome. These categories are outlined in the table below.

Strategy/Goals Self Others
Cooperation Fauxsocial Prosocial
Competition Antisocial

This I believe is the source of group selected, prosocial specializations like homos and schizophrenics. They have abandoned the goals of themselves and adopted the goals of the group, so when the group succeeds, they succeed.

Romanticizing psychosis: the darkness and the light

I know I romanticize psychosis. 90%, or more, of my episodes were dark, confused, unpleasant experiences. But those bright 10% so greatly outweigh the negative, I neglect to mention them or think much about what they meant.

The natural history of my psychoses was such: I would wake up, sobrish and in pain from previous adventures, and then would use my crystal meth and heroin. If I had slept a lot, dark psychosis wouldn’t onset for half a day at least, probably longer. In this time, I would exhibit profound, aberrant concentration, but generally it’d be easy to break focus if I wanted to or if circumstances changed. This I didn’t feel was psychotic. There wasn’t this disorganization that I think characterized dark psychosis.

The onset of dark psychosis could be hastened by pain and discomfort. The rain, cold, heat, uncooperative materials, dirt, emotions: they could all upset the balance and tip me into psychosis. Once there, I’d usually be trapped unless someone intervened. Most of the time, if any human voice interrupted me, I could break the psychosis long enough to pull myself away from the discomfort and move back into lucidity.

These dark psychoses never really gave me something valuable. Occasionally, I would develop elaborate, cogent fantasies that were fun, but faded when the psychosis broke. I don’t think I developed any of my interesting theories during this state. The theories only ever came in the pre-psychotic high state or during the bright psychoses. When I start trying to go psychotic again, I have to maintain this distance from discomfort to ensure my best productivity.

Psychiatry and cessationism: was and isn’t

One of the central tenets of science is that rules are universal. Doesn’t matter where, doesn’t matter when, the laws that once governed, govern yet. What was true in the time of Moses was true in the time of Christ and is still and will always be true. This contrasts with the major Biblical view of cessationism: that how things worked in the past stopped at some point. Prophets and miracles belong in the past. The rules are different now.

I think this cessationism has leaked into modern psychiatry. Psychiatry, purportedly as universal as any type of science, is ostensibly the best-equipped field to deal with Gods, miracles, and visions. When people see or hear things that no one else does today, the psychiatrist is given primacy of access. Yet they remain conspicuously silent on the origins of historical psychosis. A lot of this is done under the guise of avoiding biographical medicine – the notion that unless the doctor sees the patient, they can’t make diagnoses or judgments (which is further couched in the economic practice of billing). But the bigger reason is that science, as political as any other endeavor, likes to avoid fights it might lose.

Psychiatry only picks fights with the vulnerable. Saints and prophets are generally given impunity. Seen in this way, religious cessationism may be avoiding the same losing fights as modern psychiatry. In a continuationist framework, including modern psychotics and schizophrenics with the saints and prophets of the past may reveal their own weaknesses. Only by fairly leveling the past and future can we hope to understand the world.

Schizophrenic success: normative benchmarks and bribes

I was inclined to Google “successful schizophrenics” today. The first hit is a myth-busting list, historically overinclusive as hell, designed to fulfill that age-old trope that the only value people derive is from doing something valuable. The second hit is another myth-buster: that deviants may be penitent, and thus resume some of their value.

It’s an article by a university professor that proclaims that with enough medication and medicalization, she can subsume her illness and be normal. Not even normal, normative. She can accept the societal bribes of eschewing deviance and become a success! She can rid herself of all that illness and be a productive member of society. And she can serve as a lantern, to guide those wayward schizophrenic deviants back into the fold.

I’m probably speaking out of turn. I’m not schizophrenic. I don’t know what it means to function with negative symptoms and how to integrate myself into a fulfilling life. But I don’t like this notion that psychosis has to be treated into normality in order to be valid..


Anger: spirit and suffering

Last weekend my methadone was screwed up. I’m on a low dose now, so it didn’t affect me too badly, but it was a glaring error on the part of nearly all of my medical practitioners.

The bigger problem I was faced with was whether or not to get upset. I’m quite cowardly now that my life is so comfortable: I fear the distress that anger brings. That, combined with the emotional lability of dopesickness, made me make the call not to get angry. It’s fairly easy to do. I sing a few songs, generate excuses for the wrongdoers, slide my mind into happier places, and it’s gone. Once you soften the immediate bite of emotional salience, it’s pretty easy to stay out of anger.

But nothing improves this way, except for me. Without anger, justice is rarely served. Compliance and complacency are two of the easiest roads to comfort, but comfort is the enemy of change. When you’re comfortable, it is so easy to just stay there, and let insult and injuries mount.

I was far more spirited last year. Property managers and security guards, just ever so slightly up the social ladder from me, would constantly try to power and bully their ways through interactions with me. And I would resist. In the short term, in regards to my comfort, this was always far costlier than beneficial to me. I had such little attachment to o what they wanted, I could easily do the comfortable thing and avoid the conflict. But this didn’t serve me, and it didn’t serve them, and it didn’t serve justice.

Instead I would fight, insist on being heard, and more often than not, I would win. Not the little conflict of power, they were far too attached to that and fearful of their masters, but in the grander scheme. I would be vindicated, proven right, acknowledged as right by them, seen as an agented human myself, not simply a frustration to their goals. The world was righted by my anger.

I denied the world this opportunity this weekend. I could have called the pharmacists on their turn-key reasoning, or my doctor on her carelessness, but for the sake of comfort I didn’t. I’m not ashamed of this – dopesickness is too precarious of a state to mess with – but neither am I proud. No one should ever be proud of maintaining their comfort. Comfort is the enemy of change, and until the world is just, change is exactly what we need.

Saints, shamans, and psychosis: evolution of schizophrenia

It’s taken me a lot longer to write than to say, probably because I have misgivings about how grandiose it sounds, but I think I’m a saint. Or rather, I’ve touched that sacred source from which they spring: psychosis.

Schizophrenia is typically seen as maladaptive from an evolutionary perspective. Psychosis, breaking from regular reality, isn’t helpful for an individual struggling to eat and reproduce. You miss the mark a lot of the time, your delusion conclusions are wrong in that they don’t correspond to what is real. So why is it around?

As I alluded to in my post on group selection, I think schizophrenia represents a population level adaptation to living in groups. Schizophrenics may not reproduce or bring in a lot of food, but they help with a cohesion and purpose that supports the group as a whole.

This may be overinterpretation on my part, but I think every prophet and shaman had contact with psychosis. Jacob and his ladder to heaven, vision quests and Dreamtime, Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones, Moses and the burning bush. I don’t believe in the supernatural, so all these visions must stem from an internal source. Normal people typically do not have these hallucinations, and these hallucinations have rallied people and waged war and built nations. Where would Christianity, or any religion, be without these visions and ghostly interpretations? They would have been conquered by other groups that had better stories to rally behind and justify their place on top.

I had had a decade of stale and stagnant thought before my psychosis. Interpretation but no originality. But after a few months of psychosis, I feel permanently changed, wiser, more creative. It’s stuck with me after almost a year, and still drives most of my actions. I hope to become psychotic again, better prepared this time, so I can be fully engaged with the wisdom that it brings.



Tasha: hoarding, hyperlogicality, and argument

Tasha is my best friend. I know her real age and the name she was given before Tasha. I think I’m the only one she has given these pieces of information to. Others have taken them by force: nurses and hotel watchmen. But I’m the only one she has given them to. It’s an honor, and one I don’t seek to disparage here.

But I will talk about something she wouldn’t like. I’ll force the term “hoarder” onto her. I was a hoarder; I may be again some day. She hates the term. It makes her sound crazy, I think. But I understand that hoarding is anything but crazy.

Obsessive compulsive people are trapped in a hyperlogical mindset. They’ve lost the forest for the trees. They get stuck on the details. They are quintessential bad retards because while their behaviour may be crazy, their thinking is far from it.

I remember when I was on neurosurgery, I was doing a day on deep-brain stimulation clinic. This is where they assess patients to see if implanting an electronic buzzer into their brain tissue will help with a number of conditions. I specifically remember a young orthodox Jew, brought in by his parents, because he was so obsessive compulsive he couldn’t function. I can’t remember his specific problems, but I do remember his interactions with the surgeon.

The surgeon, a very action-oriented guy, went crazy trying to discuss the procedure with the young man. He couldn’t say a word without the young man fixating on an “irrelevant” part of it and beating the issue to death.

I had the same interaction with the high-level manager brought in to deal with me and my bad retard behaviour. His mistake was thinking that because my behaviour was crazy, I was crazy. That I didn’t have logic on my side. He accused me of stealing a monitor I was using to test out my computer. When I said “borrow” he said he didn’t want to mince words, but he insisted on using the word “stole.” When I raised that they discovered the monitor during a fire alarm test, not a room inspection, he said it didn’t matter. When I said the branches on my roof were suspended from the light, not the fire alarm, and that they didn’t interfere with the alarm’s operation, he said it didn’t matter. The problem was that I had crazily put branches on the roof, not their interference. He wanted me to yield to his power, and his “mental health”, but he assumed that that meant argument was on his side.

Now Tasha is in the same mess. They tell her she has too much stuff, but they can’t tell her how much is too much. They can’t tell her which of her objects is trash and which is treasure, because these are normative categories, and they can’t define the criteria they are using. All they can say is that her behaviour is crazy, and it has to change.

Tasha denies this as a hurdle, but the biggest obstacle I had to clearing my hoard was an inability to prioritize my objects. They had all come from the trash, so that wasn’t a useful distinction, and I could use them all, so that couldn’t distinguish either. I got stuck in these prioritization logic traps: this pair of pants fit better, but this pair of pants was cleaner. Which one was superior to the other depended on the circumstance. The traps compounded when raised to the level of ensembles: this piece was individually better, but it had no outfit that it worked in. How can I get rid of something that was too crappy to keep but too good to throw away.

My understanding manifested in a paradox (as so much of my psychotic reasoning did): hoarding is not about having too much stuff, it’s about having too little. If I had had one pair of good pants, I could have kept those and thrown out the ten pairs of bad ones that I had. But I didn’t have one good pair. I had to keep collecting bad stuff in order to find the good stuff that would denecessitate the bad stuff.

Tasha is stuck in a similar valuation problem. Each article of clothing she has has value as a piece of clothes. But it has a cost as a space-occupying piece of stuff. She’s comparing apples and oranges. It’s a ratio of sunbeams to unicorns. Until she can translate the costs and benefits of each thing into a common currency, she can’t compare them.

I’m worried she doesn’t have the time or capability to figure it out. My building is really haphazard when doling out discipline. They can’t find the balance between the light touch and the heavy hand – my case was escalated to upper management before I had even received written notice or lower management. Tasha has received dozens of “final” notices, and someday, maybe soon, one of them will be terminally final and no warning will be given. But until then, her hyperlogicality will fend them off.