Friday, November 16, 2012

Asymmetrical Empathy

"I can do it, why can't you?", says the villain to the prey.


Our brains require a definition to perceive the presence of something... or the absence of it.
Without a definition, that “something” becomes irrelevant to the brain.

An intrinsic value is one that can’t be judged by just looking at a person. It is the type of quality that a person applies internally as part of his or her self image through actions and results. The process of interpreting actions and results into an intrinsic value differs from person to person because they each carry a unique lens. People willfully choose the intrinsic qualities that build their sense of self as a normal function of ego.

Our bag of definitions for the perception of an intrinsic value comes mainly from those chosen to define the self. We tend to use ourselves as a template when judging the presence or absence of a certain human quality in another. We judge potential friends, family members, and colleagues through this lens of symmetry. A dedicated athlete may judge a career-oriented person based on health-related habits. An English major may judge a CEO based on spelling and punctuation, and an engine programmer may judge a gameplay programmer based on their understanding of SPU assembly.

We do this instinctively without effort because our minds are hard-wired to understand symmetry. It is much easier for us to judge whether something is present or absent in another by checking for a one-to-one match with things present in the self. Symmetrical evaluation results in the following trend:
  1. COMFORT: Worthy intrinsic value present in both
  2. JUDGEMENT: Worthy intrinsic value present in the self, but missing in the other
  3. NEUTRAL: Worthy intrinsic value missing in the self, but present in the other
  4. NEUTRAL: Worthy intrinsic value missing in both
As far as this trend goes, #3 indicates potential wasted data. We typically require five positive interactions for every negative interaction. Neutral interactions are ambiguous. For most people, the evaluation of this 5-to-1 ratio operates with a blind spot that can result in up to 50% data loss.

Symmetry is not enough. There are properties in others that are invisible to the self. Inversely, there are properties in the self that are invisible to others. Compassion for others who are not like the self requires...
  • SELF AWARENESS: Embracing the parts of you that can’t be compared to others
  • TRUST: Believing that intrinsic qualities you have not become aware of do exist, and that others might have this quality that you currently do not have the means to perceive
  • IMAGINATION: In order to defeat your villain, you must think like your villain. You must match your brainwave patterns to those of your villain's brain. Only then will you be able to find the bomb and save the city, but beware... you might fall in love with your villain or become a new villain in the process
We define ourselves and others through silhouettes; the challenge is to build definitions without using the self as a boundary.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance

The cold truth is that nothing has meaning. It all ends the same way, eventually. But people need to believe that there is meaning in something other than sheer survival. Meaning comes from what we're willing to believe. If the meaning is not found in sports, children, politics, television, music, religion, art, or the latest fashion trend, then the void gets filled with more eccentric endeavors such as drugs, hatred, Bollywood, or the local chapter of some society, somewhere.

To have a policy about things, a philosophy on your actions, is to give meaning to yourself as if you really mattered in this world. By existing with a personal compass, we seek to change the world and make it smell like us in order to affirm our existence.

We define ourselves through the suffering that we choose to own, whether it be our jobs, our sweat, smoking, the chase, the escape, or the fight... we all fight. It gives us meaning to fight. If we don't fight or choose not to fight, then we eventually end up fighting ourselves. We create a policy for the fight as a rationale to justify the things we do or don't do. In this way, reality evolves in our own image.

And this is where I'm currently struggling. Reality is shifting faster than I can keep up with. I was once the boy in love with love who loved nothing more than the fight. I do not feel like that boy anymore. I no longer have that religion... that old testament flair. The fierce dogmas I had subscribed to have dissipated and the fight now feels... optional. There is a fear growing inside me that my prioritization of peace has put me in a mental space of accepting mediocrity. But average is safe. Normal is dependable. Not sticking out like a sore thumb means nobody is looking at me, anymore.

My identity has not found a new silhouette since my recent bout with Cognitive Dissonance, but it is shifting into something I do not yet understand. I don't know who I am when I am not that guy trying to change the world through blades of agency. Hopefully, equilibrium will set in so that the shifting can stop and the discrete Heisenbergian packets of my persona might once again resonate into an identifiable frequency and wavelength.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Relationship Symmetry

Relationship Symmetry:
  1. When you know each other's names
  2. When communications are equal in both directions.
  3. When messages are customized for the recipient's personality and situation
There was a time when I was Mr. Social Networking. I can only imagine that my Klout score must have been... "winning". I even went so far as to write this in response to all of the entitled ineffectual complaints I would hear from people who had contempt for the Twitter and Facebook culture.

My years of living on the social networks and maintaining virtual friendships have taken a toll on my ability to know the difference between a friend and a mutual rolodex entry. The result is the disturbing normalcy of asymmetrical interactions.

I have only recently become disturbed by the normalcy of this asymmetry.

One day, I woke up and realized that I am no longer "that guy who knows everybody".
I am no longer associated with a company or organization that warrants networking, nor can I help anybody get a job or speaking opportunity or move an audience in their direction. After my voluntary exit from my last fairly high profile employer, I have nothing to offer those in my networks other than a simple friendship.

Currently, I am at the bottom of my social networking value, and it is here that I am beginning to see the difference between being a connector node and being a person you are willing to carpool to the grocery store with.

The Bystander Effect is my enemy.

My new paradigm is a belief that...
Zero Communication is better than Weak (Broadcasted) Communication.
Focused (One-on-One) Communication is best of all.
  • No more talking or emailing people in "group mode" as opposed to "eye contact mode"
  • No more living my life as if the cameras are rolling on the social networks
  • Intentional focus on introspective verbs rather than outward-facing expressions of opinion and affiliation
I have spent a lot of energy outsourcing my identity to others. What others thought of me started out as a comfort that eventually became a debilitating expectation to keep me going. It is time for me to re-calibrate who I think I am when nobody is watching. And from there, I can repair not just my own self-image, but also my ability to regenerate and maintain the friendships I have neglected due to "automated maintenance through a virtual facade".

No more Bystander Effect.
This is where the REAL begins.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Seven MindKillers

From an early age, most of us are conditioned to take great pleasure in the fulfillment of Trust.
Over time, that trust gets blocked by Fear.

It is said that your mind has seven points (Chakras) that can be attacked by fear for maximum damage:
  1. The first point deals with Survival. When you no longer trust the security of your own survival, you will be consumed with Anxiety about the things that can go wrong. Trust in the things that you can change. Accept what you can't change. Know the difference between the two.
  2. Pleasure is blocked by Guilt. Distrust of pleasure comes from fear of judgement. Know the actual consequence of that judgement to disarm it and be at peace with the choices you make.
  3. Willpower is blocked by Shame. Shame is judgement on the self. Fear of failure looks like cynicism and self-deprecation from the outside. Shame results in mental paralysis. Accept your past failures; they've made you stronger. Know that each success must be preceeded by multiple failures as a normal part of the process.
  4. Love is blocked by Grief. The loss of love is inevitable. To allow this fear to consume you is to remain alone. The love that you feel in the present will always be worth more than the grief that you may feel in the future. You always have a choice to love at any one time. The present matters more than the past or future, for it is the only thing that you have direct control over right here and now.
  5. Expression is blocked by Lies. Your true self will not manifest as long as you fear your own identity. Accept that you are you, and do not be afraid to let others know you as you know yourself. The maintenance of Honesty consumes zero energy.
  6. Insight is blocked by Illusions. By giving fear a tangible form, we can disarm its power over our senses and see it for what it really is: A problem that is solveable.
  7. The final point deals with Expansion; it is blocked by Attachment. Suffering can be perceived as meaning, but you are not your suffering. Your identity is malleable as you see fit. For every new form you adopt, an old form must be discarded. Embrace your past, but do not cling to it. It has served its purpose. No regrets.
Now... The badass version of your future self is calling you.
TRUST that person.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Catharsis: Less is More

Sometimes, when things are bad, I talk too much.
Because I want people to know what I am thinking.
Because they MUST know what I am thinking.
Because I got hurt, or I'm afraid.
And I need to blame, or share, or validate, or search for hope in some fashion.
... as if the gods were listening.

"Where are your Gods, now?", said the stranger to the kid in the ruined bastion.

"They are busy... doing important things in other places. But they'll hear me eventually, and then things will get better."

"The gods are listening.
They have heard you, but they can't do anything, kid.
... because their "hands are tied", either by another god or a fear of conflict.
... or because they don't have the time to deal with your problems.
... or because everything sounds like wizards fighting, and they don't want to make the wrong choice.

You can't fix this because authority is the missing element, and you have none of that.
And so the suffering will continue, the gods and you and me all agree that the situation is bad."

The kid thought long and hard about the stranger's words. He had been doing a lot of talking, lately.

Words work when the gods have the attention, understanding, and empowerment to change things... but in godless country, words are just an indulgent reminder of how truly powerless we are over things that are unwilling or unable to change for the better.

There comes a point where people just get tired of hearing about your open wound.

And so, the talking ended.
The silent protagonist knew what had to be done.