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MindMatters: Dr. George Simon: The Character Disturbance Epidemic and What We Can Do About It

george simon
In 1996 Dr. George K. Simon wrote and self-published In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, almost single-handedly changing the 'self-help' landscape in the U.S. The book remains a best-seller. With decades of clinical research under his wing, Dr. Simon saw that a very large percentage of psychological and emotional issues people suffered from were due to the effects of the extremely manipulative individuals in their lives. Learning to recognize the signs and behaviors of such people would have to become a part of the process of not only protecting oneself from such persons, but also healing from their deleterious effects. Building on these insights, Simon went on to write Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of Our Age, further explaining the gamut of what character-disturbed behavior looks like, both in others and in oneself.

This week on MindMatters we interview Dr. Simon about his work and the frameworks that have helped thousands to understand their relationships, as well as provided assistance for those wishing to look into the mirror of their own weaknesses, narcissism and failures of character - reminding us that while it's valuable to see the egregious behavior of others, it is also crucial to be able to recognize and correct our own failings.

Dr. Simon's website: drgeorgesimon.com


Running Time: 01:29:00

Download: MP3 — 81.5 MB


Bad Guys

The failed strategy of lockdown sceptics: We appealed to reason, not emotion

london lockdown protest
© Getty Images / Peter Summers
FILE PHOTO: Police officers move crowds in Soho on November 4, 2020 in London, England. Non-essential businesses, including pubs and restaurants, will be forced to close from Thursday, Nov 5, following a new national lockdown in England.
It must surely now be evident to all of us 'sceptics' that we have failed. Despite our efforts, the message simply has not got through. While there is clearly a sizeable minority of the population who feel as we do, it really is only a minority. This has been brought home to me very strongly while away visiting family over Christmas. While most of my relatives and old friends have been happy to meet up, they are simply uninterested in getting to the bottom of what has happened over the past year. If the virus comes up in conversation at all, it is only in reference to overcrowded hospitals, discussed with sad shakes of the head and much tut-tutting.

We have to face facts: most people simply accept the mainstream narrative, and with the prospect of the magic spell of a vaccine in the offing, there is little incentive for them to change their minds. The thinking of the great majority of our fellow citizens can be summarised as: a few more months of this and then it will be spring, things will be back to normal, and we can forget about all of this.

Why is it that so few of our fellow citizens seem willing to even listen to arguments which we find so convincing? There are undoubtedly lots of reasons, but I think it is at least in part due simply to a failure of strategy on the part of sceptics. That is, we have made arguments that are either factual or which appeal to our love of liberty. Neither of them has had much traction amongst the populace at all.

First, the problem of making the factual case. I am an academic, somebody who discusses ideas and encourages students to investigate and debate facts for a living. So this has been a very bitter pill for me to swallow indeed, but the reality is that most people are just not actually interested in finding out the truth for themselves. They are much more interested in conforming with what they perceive to be what one could call the 'moral truth' - the prevailing moral norm. The prevailing moral norm of 2020 is: lockdowns are the ethically right thing to do because they keep vulnerable safe from dying. To argue against that moral norm is, by definition, both immoral and abnormal. This is the most salient factor in governing behaviour in our society right now.


Comment: In precise terms, they have created a paramorality - one that looks moral but in fact is not, because it has no basis in reality.


Brain

Level 3 Thinking: A unified theory of self-improvement

mountain view peace meditation
I spent the last month revisiting my notes from 200-some books. As I moved through topics spanning health, entrepreneurship, philosophy, learning, and everything else I've been interested in, I couldn't help noticing some trends, some categories of thought the books could be organized into.

When I started reading more energetically, I focused on practical, how-to style self-improvement books. The Power of Habit. I Will Teach You To Be Rich. The $100 Startup. Popular books that promised to teach me a "hack."

Eventually, I grew bored of books that could be condensed to a blog post and pursued higher level books. Peak. Seeking Wisdom. The Monk and the Riddle. Books that provided a broader understanding, a richer context for their ideas.

Comment: Further reading: and listening:


Wolf

Study finds 4 psychopathic personality traits linked to racial prejudice, right-wing authoritarianism

corporate psychopaths
A new study published in the latest edition of Personality and Individual Differences highlights the relationship between psychopathic tendencies, pathological personality traits and prejudicial views. Research suggests people with "calloused, deceitful, and manipulative interpersonal styles" are more prone to align with the beliefs of right-wing authoritarianism, according to PsyPost.

Sandeep Roy, a doctoral candidate with a major-applied focus on clinical psychology at the University of North Texas, explained the correlation between the two.

"My interest in the relationship between pathological personality traits, such as those captured by psychopathy, and prejudicial tendencies originated from my experiences working with offenders in the Arizona correctional system prior to graduate school," said Roy.

Comment: The four traits identified above fit into the 'dark triad' of psychopathy

'Far right' as a political category is not to be confused with 'conservative' values:


Info

General anesthesia and normal sleep affect brain in an amazingly similar way as consciousness fades

Brain Studies
© University of Turku
What happens in the brain when our conscious awareness of the surrounding world and of ourselves fades during general anesthesia and normal sleep? This fundamental question was studied with novel experimental designs and functional brain imaging by Finnish scientists. They succeeded in separating the specific changes related to consciousness from the more widespread overall effects, commonly misinterpreted as the neural correlates of consciousness. The effects of anesthesia and sleep on brain activity turned out to be surprisingly similar. These novel findings point to a common central core brain network that is fundamental for human consciousness.

Explaining the biological basis of human consciousness is one of the greatest challenges of science. While the loss and return of consciousness, as regulated by drugs or physiological sleep, have been employed as model systems in the study of human consciousness, previous research results have been confounded by many experimental simplifications.

- One major challenge has been to design a set-up, where brain data in different states differ only in respect to consciousness. Our study overcomes many previous confounders, and for the first time, reveals the neural mechanisms underlying connected consciousness, says Harry Scheinin, Docent of Pharmacology, Anesthesiologist, and the Principal Investigator of the study from the University of Turku, Finland.

Hammer

The 'F Scale': Theodore W. Adorno's 'authoritarian personality' revisited

Theodore W. Adorno
Revisiting Theodore W. Adorno's work on the 'authoritarian personality' and the 'F Scale' reveals that in 2020, it is actually liberals, progressives and the so called 'Left' that manifest 8 out of the 9 most problematic, antidemocratic and authoritarian attitudes.

The theory of an authoritarian personality was introduced in the 1930s in an attempt to explain the mass appeal of fascism and right-wing ideologies. It came to life in the wake of a sharp rise in the popularity of fascist movements in many European societies in the inter-war period.

At the time, many European ideologists and intellectuals were deeply inspired by Marx and Freud. Marxism predicted that the great depression would translate into a vast shift in working class conciousness, materialising into a global socialist revolution. Of course, this didn't happen. The economic crisis resulted instead in mass support for nationalist and fascist movements that were often deeply anti-Semitic.

The rationale behind the above deviation from the Marxist prophecy borrowed some Freudian theoretical mechanisms. 'People are authoritarians' was the given 'explanation': under certain threatening conditions 'authoritarian characters' are emotionally and cognitively vulnerable to the appeal of fascist and nationalist ideologies.

During the 1930s a score of Jewish Germanic intellectuals mainly (but not at all) associated with the Frankfurt School (e.g., Wilhelm Reich) were committed to point at the psychological and socio-economic conditions responsible for the making of the Authoritarian personality.

Family

Have we got it all wrong? Depression as a survival strategy

sad, depression, loneliness

Depression is a courageous biological strategy to help us survive
For generations, we have seen depression as an illness, an unnecessary deviation from normal functioning. It's an idea that makes sense because depression causes suffering and even death. But what if we've got it all wrong? What if depression is not an aberration at all, but an important part of our biological defense system?

More and more researchers across specialties are questioning our current definitions of depression. Biological anthropologists have argued that depression is an adaptive response to adversity and not a mental disorder. In October, the British Psychological Society published a new report on depression, stating that "depression is best thought of as an experience, or set of experiences, rather than as a disease." And neuroscientists are focusing on the role of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in depression. According to the Polyvagal Theory of the ANS, depression is part of a biological defense strategy meant to help us survive.

Comment:


Red Flag

Psychopathy and the Origins of Totalitarianism

blurry people crowd

Comment: It looks like James Lindsay, coauthor of Cynical Theories (with Helen Pluckrose), has read Andrew Lobaczewski's Political Ponerology. By our estimate, he's one of the first prominent academics to do so, and to write anything substantial about it (though without citing it, unfortunately). Given his background tackling Critical Theory, he's the right guy for the job, and his treatment below is well worth reading. We have added a few comments correlating some of his ideas with the terminology in Lobaczewski's work.


Many of the greatest horrors of the history of humanity owe their occurrence solely to the establishment and social enforcement of a false reality. With gratitude to the Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper and his important 1970 essay "Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power" for the term and idea, we can refer to these alternative realities as ideological pseudo-realities.

Pseudo-realities, being false and unreal, will always generate tragedy and evil on a scale that is at least proportional to the reach of their grip on power — which is their chief interest — whether social, cultural, economic, political, or (particularly) a combination of several or all of these. So important to the development and tragedies of societies are these pseudo-realities when they arise and take root that it is worth outlining their basic properties and structure so that they can be identified and properly resisted before they result in sociopolitical calamities — up to and including war, genocide, and even civilizational collapse, all of which can take many millions of lives and can ruin many millions more in the vain pursuit of a fiction whose believers are, or are made, sufficiently intolerant.

The Nature of Pseudo-realities

Pseudo-realities are, simply put, false constructions of reality. It is hopefully obvious that among the features of pseudo-realities is that they must present a plausible but deliberately wrong understanding of reality. They are cult "realities" in the sense that they are the way that members of cults experience and interpret the world — both social and material — around them. We should immediately recognize that these deliberately incorrect interpretations of reality serve two related functions. First, they are meant to mold the world to accommodate small proportions of people who suffer pathological limitations on their abilities to cope with reality as it is. Second, they are designed to replace all other analyses and motivations with power, which these essentially or functionally psychopathic individuals will contort and deform to their permanent advantage so long as their pseudo-real regime can last.

Comment: For more on this topic, see:


Blue Planet

The 16 facial expressions most common to emotional situations worldwide

Alan Cowen

(Click to enlarge) Facial expressions of emotion transcend geography and culture worldwide, new study shows. Credit:
Whether at a birthday party in Brazil, a funeral in Kenya or protests in Hong Kong, humans all use variations of the same facial expressions in similar social contexts, such as smiles, frowns, grimaces and scowls, a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, shows.

The findings, published today, Dec. 16, in the journal Nature, confirm the universality of human emotional expression across geographic and cultural boundaries at a time when nativism and populism are on the rise around the world.

"This study reveals how remarkably similar people are in different corners of the world in how we express emotion in the face of the most meaningful contexts of our lives," said study co-lead author Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychology professor.

Comment: Despite the closing remarks, it has probably got nothing to do with Darwinism: And check out SOTT radio's:


Arrow Up

Researchers could induce illusions on demand

Hallucinations
© Jane Khomi / Getty Images
Studying hallucinations is tricky business, and it can be distressing for people with conditions such as schizophrenia or dementia who have them.

Cognitive neuroscientists say they can get around this by inducing hallucinations on demand in people from the general population.

Hallucinations "can be induced in almost anyone at any time", they write in an opinion piece published in the journal Philosophical Transactions B.

Because hallucinations are a private experience that can't be independently verified, researchers usually rely on asking patients to introspect and subjectively describe their experience.

This can be biased and problematic, explains Sebastian Rogers from Australia's University of NSW: someone with dementia, for instance, may have trouble accurately reporting the episode.

They also tend to be complex and unpredictable. Visual hallucinations, for example, can include a range of different elements such as humans, faces, animals, landscapes, shapes, colours and movement.

And it can be hard to tell when someone will start or stop hallucinating, making it very difficult to study in the lab.