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Social Insight: Status Exchange: When an Insult Is a Compliment, When a Compliment Is an Insult

As I said, having high status = people feel the same way they would feel if they owed you something in real life/you were giving them things in real life.

I don't think this is quite right. In my experience, the sensation that someone is higher status than me induces a desperate desire to be validated by them, abstractly. It's not the same as 'gratitude' or anything like that; it's the desire to associate with them in order to acquire a specific pleasurable sensation -- one of group membership, acceptance, and worth.

Bi-weekly Rational Feed

Just want to echo: thanks for doing this. This is awesome.

How I [Kaj] found & fixed the root problem behind my depression and anxiety after 20+ years

Your post got me thinking about some stuff I've been dealing with, and I think helped me make some progress on it almost instantly. I don't think the mechanisms are quite the same, but thinking about your experience induced me to have useful realizations about myself. I'll share in case it's useful to someone else:

It sounds like your self-concept issue was rooted in "having a negative model of yourself deeply ingrained", which induced neuroses in your thoughts/behaviors that attempted to compensate for it / search around for ways to convince yourself it wasn't true. And that the 'fix', sorta, was revisiting where that model came from and studying it and realizing that it wasn't fair or accurate and that the memories in which it was rooted could be reinterpreted or argued against.

I thought about this for a while, and couldn't quite fit my own issues into the model. So instead I zoomed out a bit and tried this approach: it seems like the sensation of shame, especially when no one else is around, must be rooted in something else, and when I feel shame I ought to look closer and figure out why, as it's a huge >>LOOK RIGHT HERE<< to a destructive loop of thoughts (destructive because, well, if I'm feeling shame about the same thing for years on end, and yet it's not changing, clearly it's not helping me in any way to feel that way -- so I ought, for my health, to either fix it or stop feeling it).

[Aside: in my experience, the hallmark thought pattern of depression is loops: spirals of thoughts that are negative and cause anxiety / self-loathing, but don't provide a fix and have no mechanism for 'going away', so they just continue to spiral, negatively affecting mood and self-esteem etc, and probably causing destructive behaviors that give you more to feel anxious / hateful about. And I've observed that it's very hard to go through rational calculations with regard to yourself in private, for me at least, and so talking to people (therapists, friends, strangers, whatever) and being forced to vocalize and answer questions about your thought spirals can cause you to see logical ways to 'step out of them' that never seem clear when you're just thinking by yourself. Or whatever -- I could probably write about how this works for hours.]

So I looked closer at where my shame from, and found that it wasn't that I had a negative self-concept on its own (something like "I am X", where X is negative), but rather that it was that I was constantly seeing in my world reminders of someone I felt like I should have been, in a sense. I felt like I had been an extremely smart, high-potential kid growing up, but at some point, video game addiction + sleep deprivation + irresponsibility + depression had diverted me off that path, and ever since I have been constantly reminded of that fact and feel shame for not being that person. So I guess I had (have) a self-concept of 'being a failed version of who I could have been', or 'having never reached my potential'.

For some concrete examples:

  1. When I saw my reflection in things, I would criticize myself for seeming not-normal, goofy, or not.. like.. masculine enough? for a mid-20s male. not that I wanted to be, like, buff, but I want to be a person who wouldn't strike others as goofy looking, but I always see my bad posture from computer use and my haircut that I'm never happy with, and get stuck in loops looking at myself in the mirror and trying to figure out what I need to work on to fix it (work out this or that muscle, do yoga, figure out how to maintain a beard, whatever).
  2. A lot of times when I read really brilliant essays, on LW or other blogs or etc, about subjects I'm into, especially by autodidact/polymath types, I'd feel really bad because I felt like I could have been one of those people, but had failed to materialize. So I'd be reminded that I need to study more math, and write more, and read more books, and all these others things, in order to get there.

These are thoughts I have been having dozens of times a day.

The second big realization: that motivation borne out of shame is almost completely useless. Seeing your flaws and wanting to change them causes negative emotions in the moment, but it doesn't really lead to action, ever. A person who feels bad about being lanky doesn't often go to the gym, because that's not coming from a positive place and the whole action is closely coupled to negativity and self-loathing. And a person feeling bad for not being a clever polymath doesn't.. become one.. from negativity; that takes years of obsession and other behaviors that you can't curate through self-loathing.

(Well, it's possible that shame can induce motivation for immediate fixes, but I'm sure it doesn't cause long-term changes. I suspect that requires a desire to change that comes from a positive, empowered mindset.)

I'm not entirely sure what the 'permanent' fix for this is -- it doesn't seem to be as simple as redefining my self-concept to not want to be these people. But realizing this was going on in this way seemed like a huge eye-opening realization and almost immediately changed how I was looking at my neurotic behaviors / shames, and I think it's going to lead to progress. The next step, for now, I think, is focusing on mindfulness in an effort to become more able to control and ignore these neurotic shame feelings, now that I've convinced myself that I understand where they're coming from, and that they're unfair and irrational.


  1. feelings of shame / neurotic spirals = places to look closely at in your psyche. They're probably directly related to self-concept issues.
  2. it's possible for negativity to come, rather than directly from your self-concept, from your concept of who you 'should have' or 'could have been'.
  3. shame-induced motivation is essentially useless. For me, at least. I've been trying to channel it into lifestyle changes for years to essentially 0 results.
Infinite Summations: A Rationality Litmus Test

Yeah, that's the exact same conclusion I'm pushing here. That and "you should feel equipped to come to this conclusion even if you're not an expert." I know.. several people, and have seen more online (including in this comment section) who seem okay with "yeah, it's negative one twelfth, isn't that crazy?" and I think that's really not ok.

My friend who's in a physics grad program promised me that it does eventually show up in QFT, and apparently also in nonlinear dynamics. Good enough for me, for now.

A question about the rules

The assumed opinions I'm talking about are not the substance of your argument; they're things like "I think that most of these reactions are not only stupid, but they also show that American liberals inhabit a parallel universe", and what is implied in the use of phrases like 'completely hysterical', 'ridiculous', 'nonsensical', 'proposterous', 'deranged', 'which any moron could have done', 'basically a religion', 'disconnected from reality', 'save the pillar of their faith', etc. You're clearly not interested in discussion of your condemnation of liberals, and certainly not rational discussion. You take it as an obvious fact that they are all stupid, deranged morons.

So when you write "I’m also under no delusion that my post is going to have any effect on most of those who weren’t already convinced", I think you are confused. People who don't already agree with you won't be convinced because you obviously disdain them and are writing with obviously massive bias against them. Not because their opinions are "basically a religion, which no amount of evidence can possibly undermine."

I think your post would be much stronger if you just removed all your liberal-bashing entirely, quoted an example of someone saying hate crimes had gone up since trump's election, and then did the research. I'm totally opposed to polemics because I think they have no good results. Especially the kind that is entirely pandering to one side and giving the finger to the other. (I also think you're wildly incorrect about your understanding of liberals, as revealed by some of your weird stereotypes, but this is not the place to try to convince you otherwise.) But I guess if that's the way people write in a certain community and you're writing for that community, you may as well join in. I prefer to categorically avoid communities that communicate like that - I've never found anything like rational discussion in one.

I also think such obvious bias makes your writing weaker even for people on your side. It's hard to take writing seriously that is clearly motivated by such an agenda and is clearly trying to get you to rally with it in your contempt for a common enemy.

A question about the rules

It's true that politics is generally discouraged around here. But, also -- I'm the person who commented negatively on your post, and I want to point out that it wasn't going to be well-received, even if politics was okay here. You wrote in a style that assumed a lot of opinions are held by your readers, without justification, and that tends to alienate anyone who disagrees with you. Moreover, you write about those opinions as if they are not just true but obviously true, which tends to additionally infuriate anyone who disagrees with you. So I think your post's style was a specific example of the kind of 'mind-killing' that should be avoided.

I appreciate exhaustive research of any kind, and the body of your post was good for that. But the style of the frame around it made it clear that you had extremely low opinions of a large group of people and wanted to show it, and.. well, I personally don't think you should write that way ever, but especially not for this forum.

With an opening like

The idea that liberal elites are disconnected from reality has been a major theme of post-election reflections. Nowhere is this more obvious than in academia, where Trump’s victory resulted in completely hysterical reactions.

It's clear that this is written for people who already believe these things. The rest, unsurprisingly, confirms that. I thought LW tried to avoid politics? And, especially, pointless politically-motivated negativity. "liberal-bashing" isn't very interesting, and I don't think there's a point in linking it on this site. Unfortunately downvoting is still disabled here.

I would like to remind people of some basic facts, which hopefully will bring them back to reality, although it probably won’t.

Either the author is writing for people who agree with them, in which case, petty jabs are just signaling, or they're trying to convince people to agree with them, in which case petty jabs make them less convincing, not more.

Also, the author should probably give a source for the claim that there was unleashed a wave of hate crimes. I personally haven't heard that said anywhere, in real life or online. "almost everyone on Facebook was apparently convinced that buckets of mostly unverified anecdotes" is useless. Sure, it's okay to write about a phenomenon one personally observes but can't put numbers on -- but when the argument is "look how stupid these people are for a thing they did", it's important that everyone agrees they actually did it. Otherwise we can just invent actions for groups we don't like and then start taking shots at them.

Open thread, Jan. 30 - Feb. 05, 2017

It doesn't count in the discussions of coloring graphs, such as in the four color map theorem, and that's the kind of math this is most similar to. So you really need to specify.

Open thread, Jan. 30 - Feb. 05, 2017

Are you just wondering what 'pushing' means in this context? Or speculating about the existence of anti-gravity?

I'm pretty sure that this is just interpreting as region of low density as 'pushing' because it 'pulls less' than a region of average density would.

This is similar to how electron 'holes' in a metal's atomic lattice can be treated as positive particles.

new study finds performance enhancing drugs for chess

Don't you think there's some value of doing a more controlled study of it?

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