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I agree rhat "asserting what someone is doing" can also be considered frame control or manipulation. But I think it's much less often so, or much less dark artsy, because it's referencing observable behavior rather than unverifiable/unfalsifiable elements.

Meanwhile the guru might be supplementing this with non-frame-control techniques. When they argue with you, they imply (maybe in a kind but firm voice, maybe with an undertone of social threat) that you're kinda stupid for disagreeing for them


This exact implication isn't frame control, but the common thing I've seen gurus do that is more subtle is assert why you disagree with them in a way that reinforces their frame. 

"Kinda stupid" is overly crude, and might be spotted and feel off even among those who believe in them, but implying you just don't "get" what they're saying because you're unenlightened or not ready for it is very effective at quieting dissent and maintaining their control.

In general this is why I dislike any attempts to assert with confidence what someone thinks or feels, as well as why. I may be one of the only therapists who hates psychoanalysis, but I maintain that it's almost always a bad thing to to anyone who isn't inviting it, and sometimes even then.

I don't think it's particularly stupid to think this might work; it is in fact how most of our ancestors oriented to relationships. We just have higher standards, these days... for good and for ill.

Great post, will add it to my Relationships Orientations guide.

I will note that society somewhat seems to depend on people prioritizing Building relationships over Entertaining ones, and this is certainly how things worked in the old days such that most of our parents and ancestors did not have the luxury to choose the most entertaining partners. Our standards as a whole have raised when it comes to relationships, in part due to unrealistic fictional representations, but our selective processes for finding partners have not increased proportionally. 

It is still (probably) better in most cases to try and find the most happiness you can with a Building relationship if you do want a family, than trying to build a life with someone who primarily fulfills the Entertainment criteria, so long as you and your partner can at least reach stable "contentment." But people who do so should be very prepared for it to be genuinely hard to maintain a positive relationship with someone over decades without that "spark," hence the frequency of infidelity and divorce.

Life is just not optimized to give most people ~everything they want in a partner, which can suck to realize, but is (plausibly) important not to fool ourselves about, particularly for monogamous people.

Great post, thank you for writing it. Helps to have something to link people to when trying to explain this, and also the list of examples are great.

(And also Music in Human Evolution gave me a great "click" sensation, as soon as I read the list of facts in the beginning)

Ah, thanks for saying that. It does feel worth noting that I am a huge proponent of Heroic Responsibility, so let me see if I can try in bullet point form at least, for now...

1) People have much more capacity for agency than society tends to instill in them.

2) The largest problems in the world are such that some people pretty much have to take it upon themselves to dedicate large chunks of their life to solving them, or else no one will.

3) This in fact describes most of the widely admired people in history: those who saw a major problem in the world, decided to make it their life mission to solve it, and often sacrificed much to do so.

4) For these reasons and more, I would never tell someone not to take Heroic Responsibility for things they care about. It would be hypocritical of me to do so. But...

4a) I do caution people against taking Heroic Responsibility for things they feel pressured to value, as you note in this post, and

4b) I do caution people to remember that most heroes historically do not in fact have happy endings.

5) Furthermore and separately, for every hero who visibly took a major problem in the world upon their shoulders and was recognized for doing so, many more are invisible to us because they never managed to accomplish anything.

6) Heroic Responsibility is not just a lens, it also provides power. It is a frame for motivating action, heightening agency, and expanding solution-space.

7) Like most powers, it comes with a cost to those who try to wield it unprepared. Someone who has not internalized and accepted "failure" as a part of life, as an intrinsic part of the process for learning and growth, is more likely to let the power of Heroic Responsibility break them in pursuit of their cherished values.

...I think that's it for now, though I can say more and expand on each of these. Thoughts so far?

This all seems broadly correct, to me.

But I think it's worth noting that there's an additional piece of the puzzle that I believe this one is largely codependent on: namely, that burnout often comes from a mismatch between responsibility and power.

This can be seen in not just high-stress jobs like medicine or crisis work, but also regular "office jobs" and interpersonal relationships. The more someone feels responsible for an outcome, whether internally or due to external pressure/expectations, the more power to actually affect change they will need to not feel that their efforts are pointless.

EAs tend to be the sort of people who, in addition to taking large scale problems seriously, internalize the idea of Heroic Responsibility. This can work out well if they manage to find some form of work that helps them feel like they are making meaningful change, but if they do not, it can make the large, difficult, and often heartbreaking challenges the world faces all the more difficult to engage with. And for many, narratives of personal inadequacy start to creep in, unless they have proper CBT training, robust self-care norms, or a clear sense of boundaries and distinctions between what is in their power and what isn't.

Most people in society tend to do work that progresses causes and institutions with not-perfectly-aligned values to their own. The two main ways I've seen this not cause burnout is either 1) when they don't really pay attention to the issues at all, or 2) when they feel like they're still making a meaningful difference to progress their values in some way, shape or form. Lacking that, the mismatch of values will indeed tend to erode many aspects of their mental and emotional wellbeing until they grow numb to the value dissonance or burnout. 

First things that come to mind are dance party/club for jealousy, political rally for nationalism.

Thanks for writing all this, found it very interesting and (expectantly) useful! 

One thing that interests me is how to apply it to more abstract concepts; I'm not particularly interested in things found in the state of nature, like bugs and trees and such, but I am fascinated by people, emotions, thoughts, etc. So I find myself thinking things like "What can I do to increase my contact with 'Jealousy' or 'nationalism' etc" and coming up with ways to either find circumstances where people feel those things and observe them, or find ways to induce those feelings in myself for more careful study... but neither feels quite satisfying to what I actually want to better understand. 

Curious to know if you have any thoughts on this, or ideas for what might help better orient my frame of how to explore those things more directly in this way.

These concepts are great. It's really neat noticing how well you're teaching this in such a straightforward way, because it's easy to imagining how someone else could try teaching it in a straightforward way and say it in a much more clumsy or ineffectual method. Like, the importance of noting that patient observation can/must include being able to return to something your attention has bounced off of rather than keeping your attention on it consistently moment to moment feels really hard to overstate!

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