DoubleThinking Insecurities

“What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.
-Eugene Gendlin

In meditation there are two perspectives on your immediate goal of, say, thinking about your breath. If you’re feeling really focused, try and see how long you can maintain a continuous stream of awareness. Count the exhales. I doubt you can truly make it to 20.

The other perspective, which is useful for the scatter brained, is to keep track of the duration of your distractions (15 seconds? 5 minutes?). I think changing your goal to this ‘negated focus’ helps to reduce the duration of distractions. Like an implementation intention that can only be defined by negation: the Not-Breath. Being precise and highly concrete is a necessity for implementation intentions, which is impossible here, outside of its definition of Not Breath. But I think this is compensated for by its immediacy, and its very tight feedback loops.

I think this second perspective on immediate goals in meditation is interesting because it highlights the process of realizing you are distracted. That process might be something like: “FUCK, I’m distracted again. I can’t do anything right. Why am I subjugating myself to this high frequency of failure?” And if you’re afraid of this failure, then its possible that your mind will jump from the feeling of subjugation to a feeling a boredom: “I feel like I’m just sitting with my eyes closed. This meditation thing is pointless. Ima go get some dopamine.”

This switch from subjugation to boredom is a kind of emotional substitution bias: replacing something that’s threatening with something that provides you with a rationale for escape.

I think this substitution bias, which slips past the consciousness, is an additional interpretation of George Orwell’s DoubleThink. The intended idea of DoubleThink is that you deliberately forget something, and then forget that you have forgotten. The rationale being that some truths steal from your happiness. And so maybe tying some convoluted mental knot and coloring it bright green with dark green polkadots will make it go away, and as a result everything will be coated in a subliminal groping for happiness.

For example, the first stage of Grief is denial (no, not the river in Egypt). The implications of denial is two contradictory beliefs. And your subconscious hacks down clear-minded juxtapositions that lead to these contradictions, in favor of affirming narratives.

For example, someone may follow the dark side of epistemology (i.e. deciding which cognitive biases should govern you, in hopes of being happier than Bayesians). [1] For example, this person could believe that they benefit from the belief that people are nicer than they actually are. This child-like optimism is then subjugated to constant assault by circumstance and The System and hundreds and hundreds of assholes. This might be a little extreme, but enduring differences between your expectations and reality can instill a deep grief. Some call this grief growing up. I think a more positive lens is: reifying social ideals.

The persistence of faulty expectations is DoubleThink because there is an explicit contradiction of beliefs. What I think is more interesting is that the subconscious mind may pick up on this difference faster than your conscious mind, which itself is a form of DoubleThink.

George Orwell was only referring to a kind of conscious-based DoubleThink. But a more subconsciously involved kind of DoubleThink may also be interesting. Recall our meditation example of thinking about the breath, getting distracted, and then realizing you’re distracted. I think this process of realizing you are distracted relates to any process where you become self-aware. Such as initiating a lucid dream. Or grabbing a slippery ephemeral thought.

And I would think that this ‘self-awareness reflex’ would get stronger the more you do it. It may also get stronger if you made a process out of it, which could sound something like: “OH, I’m distracted. I wonder how I got here? What was the emotional undercurrent of my originating thought? How did this undercurrent contort my body into position Z?” Flowing through these concentric circles (mindset ( thoughts ( emotions ( body ( breath ( ) ) ) ) ) ) many times per day may make it easier to wake up, generally speaking, by becoming aware of influential ubiquitous banalities. But regardless of a sitting practice, I think understanding the idea of a ‘self-awareness reflex’, and the process around it, can help to grab the more slippery pieces of the subconscious. Most notably: ephemeral aversions, or insecurities that are mostly subconscious.

Insecurities make for an interesting example because one could think that they are the most slippery of thoughts. But how does this relate to DoubleThink? Recall again from our meditation example in the beginning. You had a negative reaction to being distracted, and then substituted that feeling for one that helps you escape further negative feelings (i.e. subjugation -> boredom -> prowling for dopamine hits). This isn’t an insecurity, but I think the default process of handling them is similar.

People structure evidence in the world to support their narrative. Sometimes it looks silly. Sometimes its sad knowing that we can’t escape it. But sometimes we can, and when we get a chance that contradicts instead of affirms, then how we react determines whether something is an outward-facing insecurity or not. That is, I would like to define an outward-facing insecurity as the quality of an insufficient Bayesian.

Alternatively, there are also inward-facing insecurities. But for this, I think the false beliefs (which are chosen because you think they will make you happy) are only a symptom of the insecurity. For example, talking truthfully about shame alleviates it to a large degree, but it doesn’t necessarily go away. Emotions linger, and sometimes an insecurity is an insecurity because it has unwanted consequences. In general, externally communicating something changes the system. I think weighing the predicted trade-offs of the consequences can lead to justifying dishonesty. In short, DoubleThink here explicitly exists between differing beliefs between people (ex: not communicating the shame). But it also exists in a softer way to the degree we are shaped by our social environment: the beliefs of those around us can cause an inconsistency to become less internally apparent.

The other form of DoubleThinking insecurities comes not from inter-personal communication, but from imperfect communication between layers of consciousness. Ephemeral aversions are pieces that may briefly touch the conscious mind, but slip too quickly to grasp (temporal). Peripheral aversions are pieces just outside of explicit awareness (spatial).  Consciously collecting more of these pieces by either a self awareness reflex on a slippery thought (temporal), or by semantically resonating with a gut feeling (spatial), should be a high goal in meditation: eventual consistency in your mind. Fundamentalist meditators try to do this by just not being conceptual, thus having nothing in need of consistency. But that makes for a very small mind, and we should all want to be larger than mountains.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
-Walt Whitman

I think this perspective on DoubleThinking Insecurities presents a possibility for its authentic existence (i.e. non-contradictory on a higher/localized cognitive level). It is possible because our minds are layered, and are without fully-connected access to all its pieces. Insecurities are a good example of this because its relationship with our conscious mind and social context is a fickle bitch.

The nature of DoubleThink’s existence is not far from the below cognitive illusion, which is created by two contradictory visual representations: look only at the top, and its consistent. Look only at the bottom, and its consistent. Take it all in, and you get one fucked up system that doesn’t make any sense. #AllTooHuman


[1] You can’t know the consequences of being biased, until you have already de-biased yourself.  And then it is too late for self-deception. The other alternative is to choose blindly to remain biased, without any clear idea of the consequences.  This is not second-order rationality (i.e. choosing when to be rational)[1.a].  It is willful stupidity.

[1.a] There is no second-order rationality.  There is only a blind leap into what may or may not be a flaming lava pit.  Once you know, it will be too late for blindness.


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