Sorted by New

Wiki Contributions


Here on Less Wrong there are a significant number of mathematically inclined software engineers who know some probability theory, meaning they've read/worked through at least one of Jaynes and Pearl but may not have gone to graduate school. How could someone with this background contribute to making causal inference more accessible to researchers? Any tools that are particularly under-developed or missing?

It's only been about 6 months since I started consciously focusing my attention on the subtle effects of abandonment trauma. Although I've done a fair amount of reading and reflecting on the topic I'm not at the point yet where I can confidently give guidance to others. Maybe in the next 3-4 months I'll write up a post for the discussion section here on LW.

What's frustrating is that signs of compulsive, codependent and narcissistic behavior are everywhere, with clear connections to methods of coping developed in childhood, but the number of people who pay attention to these connections is still small enough that discussion is sparse and the sort of research findings you'd like to look up remain unavailable. The most convincing research result I've been able to find is this paper on parental verbal abuse and white matter, where it was found that parental verbal abuse significantly reduces fractional anisotropy in the brain's white matter.

Complex PTSD: From Surviving To Thriving by Pete Walker focuses on the understanding that wounds from active abuse make up the outer layers of a psychological structure, the core of which is an experience of abandonment caused by passive neglect. He writes about self-image, food issues, codependency, fear of intimacy and generally about the long but freeing process of recovering.

As with physical abuse, effective work on the wounds of verbal and emotional abuse can sometimes open the door to de-minimizing the awful impact of emotional neglect. I sometimes feel the most for my clients who were “only” neglected, because without the hard core evidence – the remembering and de-minimizing of the impact of abuse – they find it extremely difficult to connect their non-existent self-esteem, their frequent flashbacks, and their recurring reenactments of impoverished relationships, to their childhood emotional abandonment. I repeatedly regret that I did not know what I know now about this kind of neglect when I wrote my book and over-focused on the role of abuse in childhood trauma.

The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller focuses more on the excuses and cultural ideology behind poor parenting. She grew up in an abusive household in 1920s-'30s Germany.

Contempt is the weapon of the weak and a defense against one's own despised and unwanted feelings. And the fountainhead of all contempt, all discrimination, is the more or less conscious, uncontrolled, and secret exercise of power over the child by the adult, which is tolerated by society (except in the case of murder or serious bodily harm). What adults do to their child's spirit is entirely their own affair. For a child is regarded as the parents' property, in the same way that the citizens of a totalitarian state are the property of its government. Until we become sensitized to the child's suffering, this wielding of power by adults will continue to be a normal aspect of the human condition, for no one takes seriously what is regarded as trivial, since the victims are "only children." But in twenty years' time these children will be adults who will pay it all back to their own children. They may then fight vigorously against cruelty "in the world" -- and yet they will carry within themselves an experience of cruelty to which they have no access and which remains hidden behind their idealized picture of a happy childhood.

Healing The Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw is about toxic shame and the variety of ways it takes root in our minds. Feedback loops between addictive behavior and self-hatred, subtle indoctrination about sexuality being "dirty", religious messages about sin, and even being compelled to eat when you're not hungry:

Generally speaking, most of our vital spontaneous instinctual life gets shamed. Children are shamed for being too rambunctious, for wanting things and for laughing too loud. Much dysfunctional shame occurs at the dinner table. Children are forced to eat when they are not hungry. Sometimes children are forced to eat what they do not find appetizing. Being exiled at the dinner table until the plate is cleaned is not unusual in modern family life. The public humiliation of sitting at the dinner table all alone, often with siblings jeering, is a painful kind of exposure.

I recognize this in myself and it's been difficult to understand, much less get under control. The single biggest insight I've had about this flinching-away behavior (at least the way it arises in my own mind) is that it's most often a dissociative coping mechanism. Something intuitively clicked into place when I read Pete Walker's description of the "freeze type". From The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD:

Many freeze types unconsciously believe that people and danger are synonymous, and that safety lies in solitude. Outside of fantasy, many give up entirely on the possibility of love. The freeze response, also known as the camouflage response, often triggers the individual into hiding, isolating and eschewing human contact as much as possible. This type can be so frozen in retreat mode that it seems as if their starter button is stuck in the "off" position. It is usually the most profoundly abandoned child - "the lost child" - who is forced to "choose" and habituate to the freeze response (the most primitive of the 4Fs). Unable to successfully employ fight, flight or fawn responses, the freeze type's defenses develop around classical dissociation, which allows him to disconnect from experiencing his abandonment pain, and protects him from risky social interactions - any of which might trigger feelings of being reabandoned. Freeze types often present as ADD; they seek refuge and comfort in prolonged bouts of sleep, daydreaming, wishing and right brain-dominant activities like TV, computer and video games. They master the art of changing the internal channel whenever inner experience becomes uncomfortable. When they are especially traumatized or triggered, they may exhibit a schizoid-like detachment from ordinary reality.

Of course like with any other psychological condition there's a wide spectrum: some people had wonderful childhoods full of safe attachment and always had somebody to model healthy processing of emotions for them, some people were utterly abandoned as children, and many more had something between those extremes. The key understanding I've gained from Pete Walker's writing is that simply being left alone with upsetting inner experience too often as a child can lead to development of "freeze type" defenses, even in the absence of any overtly abusive treatment.

I suspect that using a combination of TV shows, games and web browsing as emotional analgesics (at various levels of awareness) is very common now in wealthy countries. This is one of the reasons I would like to see more discussion of emotional issues on Less Wrong.

I plan on transcribing all those video answers soon (within the next few days).

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

I think this adaptation is much more precise than the original.

Apathy on the individual level translates into insanity at the mass level.

-- Douglas Hofstadter

I recall seeing another poster say that they were from the University of Washington.

Maybe that was me? Even better if it wasn't!

I would definitely be interested in a meetup. As for a low-preparation (but still likely to be useful) discussion topic: day-to-day productivity / fighting akrasia.

I don't think any language or culture currently has a turn of phrase which is actually adequate for events like this - for expressing exactly what was lost.

I've also lost a grandparent, and an uncle. Wasn't extremely close to either of them, but I understand that sickening feeling which goes along with knowing that someone played a role in your development as a person, and that you'll never be able to talk to them again. And I can't be the only person among those who occasionally hang out in the #lesswrong IRC channel to have such an experience. Pop in and talk to us if you feel the need.

And if you feel like it, maybe (re-)read Chapter 45 of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

And Death is not something I will ever embrace. It is only a childish thing, that the human species has not yet outgrown. And someday... We'll get over it... And people won't have to say goodbye any more...

On the problem of distinguishing between Turing machines of the kinds you mentioned, does Jürgen Schmidhuber's idea of a speed prior help at all? Searching for "speed prior" here on Less Wrong didn't really turn up any previous discussion.

Load More