Posts filed under ‘self-knowledge’

Sustained Incoherence

From the wikipedia entry for David Bohm

In Bohm’s view:

…the general tacit assumption in thought is that it’s just telling you the way things are and that it’s not doing anything – that ‘you’ are inside there, deciding what to do with the info. But you don’t decide what to do with the info. Thought runs you. Thought, however, gives false info that you are running it, that you are the one who controls thought. Whereas actually thought is the one which controls each one of us. Thought is creating divisions out of itself and then saying that they are there naturally. This is another major feature of thought: Thought doesn’t know it is doing something and then it struggles against what it is doing. It doesn’t want to know that it is doing it. And thought struggles against the results, trying to avoid those unpleasant results while keeping on with that way of thinking. That is what I call “sustained incoherence”.

March 2, 2011 at 12:44 am Leave a comment

All good things must come to an end. This too.

I started this experiment about a month ago. I was going to do a test a day for 24 days, using it as an excuse to think about the issue the test was exploring. I did the tests, but not the thinking, really. Nor did I answer the questions I set myself. So, if you take the Tom Lehrer line that “life is like a sewer; what you get out of it depends on what you put into it”, then I’ve Only Myself To Blame.

If I were doing this over, I

a) would chose a book of tests NOT selected by someone at a university so proud of its Military Industrial Complex ties. (But then, good luck finding an academic who is not at somewhere intimately attached to the War Machine.)

and I would also have
b) had a table showing expected scores and actual scores
c) followed my initial template questions more closely – using an actual template made in word with appropriate tags and then dropped in
d) done more than one a day, once I realised it was gonna be crap.

How’s that for a hotwash?

January 29, 2011 at 7:24 am Leave a comment

Test 24: The Joyless Division

Holy shit. This isn’t like me. Usually once I get 23/24ths through something I can polish it off, even if it involves holding my nose, stabbing myself in the eye… but not this time.

The last test, the “Peak Experiences Scale” is so boring, so repetitive and so full of spiritualist woo-woo that I gave up at question 22 of… seventy. You’re supposed to answer true or false to a whole series of statements like “I have had an experience that made me extremely happy, and at least temporarily, gave me a glimpse of the purpose that lies behind the events of this world.

Frack. That. For. A. Game. Of. Soldiers.

And according to Janda “Eugene Mathes and his colleagues at Western Illinois University constructed the Peak Experiences Scale to test elements of Abraham Maslow’s theory of personality.” Which is a pity, because I think Maslow is pretty cool – certainly his distinction between health and illness reveals a man who knew which way was up…

Apparently those who have peak experiences are more likely to be ‘self-actualisers’ and “are described as more intelligent, assertive, tender-minded, imaginative, self-sufficient and assertive.”

Did you see that? Whoever proofed this book needs a spanking!

“They are also less authoritarian and dogmatic, and they experience fewer of the barriers we have discussed in this book. Perhaps most interestingly, peakers were less concerned with material possessions and status, and they were more likely to find life meaningful.” This may or may not correlate with “flow”, the concept developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

January 29, 2011 at 7:10 am Leave a comment

Test 23: What’s new, pussycat?

Private Eye has a column called “the Neophiliacs”, where they collate examples of ridiculously hyped “x is the new y” from press releases and adverts. Love of newness for its own sake, is one of the things we’ve been trained into, so as to keep the great consumerist clutter machine running at full pelt. I never saw the point of that – you win the ratrace, you’re still a rat. And I am risk-averse/choice editing, ever since I realised that the creation of false and trivial choices was a way that mental energy is siphoned off, diverted.

Here endeth today’s predictable rant. Anyhow, I thought I’d be exposed as a stick-in-the-mud on this scale, which is 38 items which you score from 5 = strongly agree to 1 = strongly disagree. A little reverse scoring and … I come out well over 85th percentile, and this was despite rejecting statement 13 “I would like to be one of the first passengers to go to the moon” on the basis of the ginormous carbon emissions.

There were also an alarming number of questions about whether sexual equality and changes in sexual mores had gone Too Far.


Janda’s essay is interesting though. Apparently the guys who came up with the test were looking at “category width” (the degree of inclusiveness people use when they place things or concepts into categories.) And this rings VERY true of me – “people who scored high on the Neophilia Scale preferred to concentrate on the “big picture” in life. When collecting information or making judgments, high scorers were likely to make “errors of inclusion.” They would rather have too much information than not enough.” Low scorers, on the other hand, prefer specific details rather than the big picture and are more likely to make “errors of exclusion.”

I am a big picture guy. Or so I like to pretend to myself. Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so, eh?

January 29, 2011 at 7:06 am Leave a comment

Test 22: You’re dead a long time, and I feel fine

This test, the “Sense of Symbolic Immortality Scale” is a 26 item test with a 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree scale. A little reverse scoring and you end up with a score. I was roughly in the 70th percentile, which is OK, considering the baseline is a bunch of nutjobs who believe in a Bearded Sky God who is personally interested in their wretched little lives, and who will plonk them on a cloud to play the harp for the rest of time. Sheesh.

There’s, inevitably, some spiritualist woo-woo in here – if you disagree with the statement “I feel that in spite of my inevitable death, I will always be an integral part of the world” you get marked down.

Ditto, if you “have the feeling that human nature is doomed to destruction” you also lose points….

And bizarrely (another cock-up?) you lose points for affirming that “my love life brings me joy.” Interesting logic there, if that’s what it is…

Anyway, look, Sisyphus has to be imagined happy. It would be fun to do an existentialist version of this test, but I simply can’t be bothered. Bad faith, I know.

January 29, 2011 at 7:02 am Leave a comment

Test 21: You know that Voight-Kampf test of yours? Did you ever take that test yourself? Deckard?

When I expressed surprise to my wife and mother that I hadn’t scored quite so stratospherically high on the empathy test as I’d expected, they laughed in my face and muttered something about inaccurate tests and self-delusion. Which wasn’t very empathic of them.

This is a 33 item test where you score from 1 = very strong disagreement to 9 = very strong agreement. You do some reverse scoring and get a raw total, though Janda alludes to sub-scales such as “Susceptibility to Emotional Contagion”, “Appreciation of the Feelings of Unfamiliar and Distant Others” and “Tendency to be moved by other’s positive emotional experiences.”

Janda reckons “if you received a high score on this test, the odds are good that you are one of those people who make an important contribution to a civilized, humane society.” Well, that’s definitely me! First sensible thing the guy has said…. [irony].

Anyhow Janda is alert to the dangers of empathic people becoming burntout doormats.
“This same sensitivity makes [people in the helping professions] prone to early burnout. If you did receive a score above the 85th percentile, it might be wise to give some thought to the emotional consequences of the career you select.”

“If you’re looking for sympathy, you’ll find it in the dictionary, between shit and syphilis. If you’re looking for empathy, you’ll find it in the dictionary, between ejaculate and enemas.”

See also:
Brilliant article and useful discussion on “Sociopaths among us
Mirror Neurons

January 29, 2011 at 6:58 am 1 comment

Test 20: I will survive!

This is possibly the simplest, and most simple-minded, of the tests in the book. There are 20 questions, which you answer on a scale of 0 = this did not happen to me through to 4 = I experienced a great deal of this. There is no reverse scoring – you simply add up your total and voila.
I thought I’d do “well”, but it turns out I am slap bang in the middle (50th percentile). Perhaps if the test hadn’t assumed that I believe in a Bearded Sky God (Q12 “My faith in God increased” and Q16 “My confidence in God increased” – to which I obviously answered zero), I might have officially been a thriver. My low score on this test sent me into a tail-spin of despair and I didn’t come out of my bedroom for four days…

I really worry about the construct validity and the reliability of tests like these.
But maybe it “works” fine for its initial population, Latinas with Chronic Illness.

January 29, 2011 at 6:46 am Leave a comment

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