Summary of Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman

I would recommend autistic-leaning people first read What You Can Change And What You Can’t. However, if you only want to read one of the two, read this one. Both are very informative but this one is also useful.


Summary of Learned Optimism:

-There’s an epidemic of depression due to the West’s out of control individualism and concomitant breakdown of community, institutions, and religion. Major depression is ten times as common than it was a century ago (often beginning at age five instead of thirty-five) and twenty times more common among women (3% to 60%). Seligman doesn’t explicitly draw this connection but these are similar to the differences between West Germany and East Germany under Communism:

Fifty percent of West Berliners sat or stood upright, but only 4 percent (!) of East Berliners. Eighty percent of West Berlin workmen had their bodies in an open posture—turned toward others—but only 7 percent (!) of the East Berliners did.

-Excepting the bipolar subtype, which can be treated with drugs, all depression is caused by hardship and learned helplessness in varying degrees of severity.

-Learned helplessness is 100% curable, provided it is just learned and not ACTUAL helplessness (in which case ACTUAL skills are also needed, e.g. assertiveness training).

STEVE MAIER and I had now found out how to produce learned helplessness. But, having caused it, could we cure it? We took a group of dogs that had been taught to be helpless, and we dragged those poor, reluctant animals back and forth across the shuttlebox, over the barrier and back again, until they began to move under their own steam and came to see that their own actions worked. Once they did, the cure was one hundred percent reliable and permanent. We worked on prevention and discovered a phenomenon we called “immunization”: Learning beforehand that responding matters actually prevents learned helplessness. We even found that dogs taught this mastery as puppies were immunized to learned helplessness all their lives. The implications of that, for human beings, were thrilling.

…So the fit between the model and the real-life phenomenon was exceedingly close. Inescapable noise, unsolvable problems, and inescapable shock produced eight of the nine symptoms which contribute to the diagnosis of major depression. The closeness of this fit inspired researchers to test the theory still another way. A number of drugs can break up depression in people; the researchers gave all of them to the helpless animals. Again the results were dramatic: Each of the antidepressant drugs (and electroconvulsive therapy as well) cured learned helplessness in animals. They probably did so by raising the amount of crucial neurotransmitters available in the brain. The researchers also found that drugs that do not break up depression in people, like caffeine, Valium, and amphetamines, do not break up learned helplessness either. The fit, then, seemed almost perfect. In its symptoms, learned helplessness produced in the laboratory seemed almost identical to depression. When we now looked at the upsurge of depression, we could view it as an epidemic of learned helplessness. We knew the cause of learned helplessness, and now we could see it as the cause of depression: the belief that your actions will be futile. This belief was engendered by defeat and failure as well as by uncontrollable situations. Depression could be caused by defeat, failure, and loss and the consequent belief that any actions taken will be futile. I think this belief is at the heart of our national epidemic of depression.

-Resilience, or lack thereof, is produced by a positive feedback loop between setbacks and explanatory style. Therefore a positive explanatory style (tendency to interpret hardships as temporary, externally caused, and highly specific) will create a virtuous cycle of rebounding from failures. A negative explanatory style (tendency to interpret hardship as permanent, personal, and pervasive) will create a vicious cycle of rumination and self-alienation.

-Explanatory style can be measured through fairly simple textual analysis and used to predict everything worthwhile with stunning reliability: presidential elections, sports performance, employee retention, survival of cancer, etc. In some domains it outperforms IQ!

-There are two main ways to stop a negative explanatory style, distraction and disputation. Disputation works better in the long run but distraction has some uses (e.g. explosive ordnance disposal).

-Two ways of training disputation are to keep an ABCDE journal (Adversity, Belief, Consequences, Disputation, Energization) or to have a trusted friend play “negative Nelly” and practice debunking their catastrophizing inferences. Get defensive like in a political debate and use contrary evidence from memory, suggest a range of alternative interpretations, and deny overgeneralized implications.

The fundamental guideline for not deploying optimism is to ask what the cost of failure is in the particular situation. If the cost of failure is high, optimism is the wrong strategy. The pilot in the cockpit deciding whether to de-ice the plane one more time, the partygoer deciding whether to drive home after drinking, the frustrated spouse deciding whether to start an affair that, should it come to light, would break up the marriage should not use optimism. Here the costs of failure are, respectively, death, an auto accident, and a divorce. Using techniques that minimize those costs is inappropriate. On the other hand, if the cost of failure is low, use optimism. The sales agent deciding whether to make one more call loses only his time if he fails. The shy person deciding whether to attempt to open a conversation risks only rejection. The teenager contemplating learning a new sport risks only frustration. The disgruntled executive, passed over for promotion, risks only some refusals if he quietly puts out feelers for a new position. All should use optimism.

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Apocalypse Now, part 2 of 3

Part 1.

The American characters of Apocalypse Now are Captain Willard’s subpersonalities as he reacts to the psychotic experience of Vietnam. The most interesting of these, barring Colonel Kurtz himself, is Colonel Kilgore. Kilgore is a monster (even moreso than Kurtz) who represents the ideal of military form without function. The highest form of parody is a character that represents your opponent’s ideals so well that they feel drawn to identify with it despite the criticisms it illustrates. For example, I often hear conservative military guys say they love the first 20 minutes of Fullmetal Jacket but they hate the rest. In this way, Colonel Kilgore is the most cutting criticism of the modern military I’ve ever seen in a movie. He’s a picture of the perfect American soldier: masterful, fearless, and excelling in every virtue except that of accomplishing anything effective or useful.

This represents the first stage of Willard’s experience with army life, recognizing the clash between his indoctrination in gung-ho military culture and the conspicuous disinterest in actually winning the war. Indeed, Kilgore is only interested in riding the wave for the thrill and glory of it (hence the surfing metaphor), conquering territory at random and then conceding it back to the enemy, all sound and fury and blood and death and destruction.

“Someday this war’s gonna end.” That would be just fine with the boys on the boat. They weren’t looking for anything more than a way home. Trouble is, I’ve been back there, and I knew that it just didn’t exist anymore. If that’s how Kilgore fought the war, I began to wonder what they really had against Kurtz. It wasn’t just insanity and murder. There was enough of that to go around for everyone.

-Captain Willard

This will later contrast with Colonel Kurtz, a man of pure functional effectiveness without interest in form: “I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream. That’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor, and surviving.”

The remaining characters are more easily summarized:

Clean: Willard’s youthful naivete
Chief: Willard’s military discipline
Chef: Willard’s civil decency
Lance: Willard’s childish innocence/conscience

As he gets deeper and deeper into the jungle, his youthful naivete dies in their first firefight, then his military dogmatism is killed in their encounter with pure, primitive savagery (though it tries to kill him first), and finally his civility is killed by Kurtz in the movie’s best scene.

I’ll explain why this is the best scene in part 3.

Other than Kilgore, Willard’s four companions and Kurtz, the only particular character worth mentioning is the grenadier who represents the moment Willard realizes there is no one running the war except the jungle itself, Conrad’s “heart of darkness”.

The jungle is the pure, unleashed libido as described by Jung, which accepts no guidance except from the monstrous Shadow.

This had not been brought about by a speculative, completely sophisticated philosophy, but by an elementary need in the mass of people vegetating in spiritual darkness. The profoundest necessities had evidently driven them towards that, since humanity did not thrive in a state of dissoluteness. 34 The meaning of those cults I speak of Christianity and Mithracism is clear; it is a moral restraint of animal impulses. 35 The dynamic appearance of both religions betrays something of that enormous feeling of redemption which animated the first disciples and which we today scarcely know how to appreciate, for these old truths are empty to us. Most certainly we should still understand it, had our customs even a breath of ancient brutality, for we can hardly realize in this day the whirlwinds of the unchained libido which roared through the ancient Rome of the Caesars. The civilized man of the present day seems very far removed from that.

Carl Jung
Psychology of the Unconscious

As such, the only soldiers who can accomplish anything are those who become experts in listening to their own animal instincts, which unanimously call for blood and horror for its own sake, and by unleashing their own savagery gain an otherworldly precognition about the forces guiding their friends and enemies in wartime.

I’ll make a final note of the Playboy Playmates show, which represents Willard’s realization of what the war is, in general. It’s conceived as merely a rowdy party, meant to “let off a little steam” for a bunch of half-crazed young men contending with extreme emotions that, back in the civilization they were yanked from, they never truly had to control before. It turns into a complete shitshow as their unleashed ids become too strong to manage, and they storm the stage in a fit of libido.

The departure of the helicopter is a nice metaphor for the generals, elites, and other chickenhawk cheerleaders defecting from the shitshow they unleashed at the first sign of real trouble.

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Compulsive explaining as self-soothing

Recently someone I know made a sizable donation to Nick Fuentes. That person was then castigated by his social group as “wasting money” even though these people are red-pilled, Alt-Right, etc. They would have praised him for spending that same money on a gaming graphics card or something similarly self-indulgent, despite their vocal support of Nick Fuentes, prosocial behavior in general, and condemnation of low-trust behavior. This post is an attempt to explain, somewhat ironically, the attitude which actively opposes attempts to act productively in accordance with shared beliefs as stupid and treasonous, regardless of intent or effect, as if action itself were problematic, a priori.

Malevolent leaders and elites will tend, either consciously or unconsciously, to set up double binds for their dependents because they are disturbed by happiness in the people they lead and hate. They will therefore always find a reason to punish their followers, regardless of the results their followers get or the methods they use. Typically their malevolence stems from a narcissistic disregard for low-status people coupled with the necessity to think hard and deeply about the needs of their dependents in order to maintain the institution which affords their elevated status. The demand for cognitive work to consider the needs of others (e.g. the logistics of feeding peasants) while desiring not to do this work feels like slavery, an unreasonable imposition. On the other hand, giving up status to relieve this burden is inconceivable.

Some of the dependents will then fall into learned helplessness. If they discover schemata for understanding their pain (e.g. Culture of Critique), this will give them comfort in the same way that religion gives a sense of meaning that comforts. This comfort will have an addictive quality. The behavior associated with this comfort, such as reading anti-Semitic material, can therefore become compulsive. The failure to engage with these double bind problems realistically, even given schemata for navigating them correctly, comes from this compulsive “explaining as self-soothing” behavior.

Examples:
Autistic people and socializing
MGToWs and modern women
Rightists and political pragmatism

In many cases where the behavior of explaining-as-self-soothing becomes a shared identity group with its own culture and vocabulary, particularly the latter two examples here, the strongly identifying self-soothers will attack anyone who engages with the malevolent double-bind (intending to navigate the meta-game to achieve a win condition) as traitors to the identity group. This is because successfully solving the double-bind problem threatens the addictive compulsion by invalidating its reason for existing.

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Books for fathers indoctrinating their children in morals and virtues

Disclaimer: While I think the following advice is sensible, it’s written in the absence of parenting experience.

A dad’s responsibilities to his children, in order of importance, are:

1. Prevent catastrophic outcomes of all sorts, ranked by severity and probability
2. Demonstrate a healthy model for how a man ought to act toward his wife
3. Demonstrate a more general model of masculine virtues
4. Indoctrinate the children with morals and virtues (this includes explicitly prescribing the indoctrination your wife is giving them, and verifying she’s done so by talking to them)

Edit: A big one I forgot is choosing your children’s peer group so they’ll make friends from a pre-selected pool of kids, so you don’t have to constantly select out bad apples.

I can argue for the ordering of these if need be. This post provides reference material for the latter.

Morality has three forms, again in order of importance:

1. God’s approval
2. One’s approval of oneself
3. The approval of other people

Virtue, in the original sense, means high general ability to get what you want (virtus means “strength”), and corresponds to having many of the things that the best people have. A more modern definition would be living in accordance with your ideal self-concept, or “the best conceivable future version of your current self”. The most important virtues that can be trained (i.e. not IQ) are:

1. Attitude
2. Judgment
3. Cognitive empathy (particularly self-knowledge)
4. Etiquette (i.e. the study of situationally appropriate behavior)
5. Conscientiousness
6. Rigor

Here are the top books I’d pick to read to your children to accomplish as much in these categories as possible in the least amount of time:

1. The Bible (focusing on age and temperament-appropriate sections)
2. The Chronicles of Narnia
3. Lord of the Rings
4. Pilgrim’s Progress (not the sequel, which is poor)
5. Maximum Achievement
6. The Champion’s Mind (I’ve heard that Mindset by Carol Dweck is also good for this but I haven’t read it)
7. How to Win Friends and Influence People

If you’re looking for more, here are the categories I’d recommend drawing from:

Fairly tales, particularly dark fantasy (e.g. Grimm’s, Lovecraft)
Books of proverbs (these are very good for training judgment)
Books boiled down for GUToW
Pre-Boasian anthropology, especially emphasizing methods of analytical people-watching
Other pop-sci books on how attitude/motivation/etc. actually work (e.g. Drive, The Dopamine Handbook)

If there’s interest I may put together book lists for each type of morality and virtue, but I expect this is already quite a lot to ask.

For spergy children in particular, I’d recommend getting Tony Attwood’s books on the subject after reading my intro to Asperger’s post and the links in it. Also a good bit of advice I once saw is to find books about your location for tourists that explain the local etiquette, customs, and history.

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Charisma is inductive mindfulness

Thought for today: charisma is induced meditation. I.e. Causing the audience to enter a more meaningful state of mind by focusing their attention in ways that they could do for themselves through meditation, but without requiring that expenditure of willpower. You could read books on mindfulness and just induce those ideas, etc. to be charismatic. The metric for charisma is the feeling of importance. If your audience feels they are important, you are important, the idea being discussed is important, the product on the table is important, etc…and most importantly THIS PRESENT MOMENT is important, then you are being charismatic. This is the creation of a reality distortion field because by creating this feeling you are temporarily magnifying their attention on some preexisting value.

It should go without saying, but won’t, that different people may have different responses to the same phrase, visualization, etc., so projection may fail. However, I suspect that 95% of people respond to 95% of the same basic triggers the same way, so projection of basic meditative techniques will succeed about 90% of the time. For example, walking someone through the exercise of imagining themselves lying in a canoe in a placid lake will produce relaxation for almost anyone. On the other hand, playing God of War (again, a sort of meditation) will have a different effect on boys than girls. For a less theoretical treatment of charisma, see The Charisma Myth.

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Comparison of Asperger’s to adult children of alcoholics

Snippets & Ruminations In The New Anthropology #2
How I got Lost In Space At The Age of Four Years Old

[…]

From the first time I saw [Lost in Space] as a toddler, it exerted an eerie grip on me that precluded everything else. I was so rapt watching the show it was difficult for my parents to even speak to me when it was on. I still had a dummy in my mouth and took it out frequently to point to the screen when it was on during some part of the show that resonated so strongly in me I had to highlight it. My fascination was with the Robinsons. Not Dr. Smith. Even at this young age I felt Dr. Smith was like the people I saw around me in real life. He was nefarious. He had a forked tongue. It was impossible for him to say anything without actually working on another angle at the same time. The man was so crooked he must have had to screw on his pants in the morning. Dr. Smith I recognized as being similar to the adults I knew in the world around me. The Robinsons were something else altogether to me.

Something in the curves of their faces and their builds and their self-expression triggered a powerful response in me. This is how proper people talked. This is the way proper people communicated. This is how real men and women should comport themselves if they were healthy and normal. Everything about the Robinsons struck a chord in me. I saw them clearly as being of my own kind. Dr. Smith was part of The Others. Even at four years old, I saw this as clearly as you see the sun rise in the morning. When adults were speaking to me and attempting to charm me I could see several different ambiguous emotions in their faces at the same time just as Dr. Smith’s face looked when he talked.

I began to tell my mother that the Robinsons were “my real family” and that Penny and Will were my real “brother and sister.” I began to speak to Penny and Will as my imaginary friends. I told my mother that the Robinsons were going to come get me in the Jupiter-2 and take me back to their home planet so I “could be with my own real family,” a frequent delusion seen with “Asperger’s Syndrome” about being separated from one’s “real race.” My mother and father tried hard to laugh at my strange notions and obsession with this television show, certain it must be some kind of stage that is normal for a child to go through. It isn’t. It is distinctly bizarre and outlandish. These kinds of feelings of alienation as a child that young is a truly odd expression of development.

My parents never knew what kind of sadness came over me as I got older and began to understand more of the mechanics of my situation. The Robinsons were never coming to get me in the Jupiter-2. I was never going back to be with my own kind. I was to be left here, forever, amongst the Dr. Smiths. The Others had taken me from my people and I would never, ever be returning to my true home. I knew, even before I started school, that all of these people were Dr. Smiths. Their ways and the ways of my people, the Robinsons, were as far apart and incompatible as a bird in the air and a fish in the water. The Others were going to raise me as one of their own and they would make me compete against a society of Dr. Smiths. There was something about this that even at a very young age I knew was wrong.

Compare:

2019-09-04 17_26_53-Adult Children of Alcoholics_ Expanded Edition - Janet G. Woititz - Google Books2019-09-04 17_27_03-Adult Children of Alcoholics_ Expanded Edition - Janet G. Woititz - Google Books2019-09-04 17_27_21-Adult Children of Alcoholics_ Expanded Edition - Janet G. Woititz - Google Books2019-09-04 17_41_20-Adult Children of Alcoholics_ Expanded Edition - Janet G. Woititz - Google Books

The similarities are likely due to a shared perception of chaos in the social environment. In the same way that neurotypicals commonly describe aspies as robot-like, aspies commonly describe neurotypicals as druggie-like. I’ve found that I can actually empathize with people a great deal more if I pretend they’re on crack.

This desire for a simple, saccharine family life is, incidentally, why autistic people like My Little Pony.

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Definition of Boomerism

Boomerism: “A conceited refusal to accommodate one’s worldview to new information.” (“Accommodate” is used in the Piagetian sense here.)

E.g. A Boomer’s worldview is stuck in 1969. Vox’s worldview and writing have not changed since January 2017.

A person without accommodating faculties relies entirely on counterfactual reasoning for assimilation, i.e. “how does this prove my existing models of the world?”. (Fox prefers: “In which way does this [piece of evidence] show that I’m right?”) Just as all incorrectness is subversive and all deception is protectively insulating, all conceits are ego-protecting in origin and function. The strength of the conceit is proportional to ego investment in the self-serving narrative, and I have a hunch that loss aversion also plays a multiplying role. So if a person has X ego investment in their financial situation and a conceit has allowed them to make Y dollars, only a loss of 3*X*Y dollars will cause them to question it.

I found a description of a bias in investing that explains this in a bit more detail. These screenshots are taken from here.

2019-08-28 14_43_21-The Psychology of Money-9dbc86.pdf

2019-08-28 14_44_53-The Psychology of Money-9dbc86.pdf

2019-08-28 14_45_03-The Psychology of Money-9dbc86.pdf

Just imagine this bias inflated out of all proportion because the upside of growing up in the biggest economic boom in history means that the factor Y in the formula 3*X*Y is huge.

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