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moridinamael comments on "Flinching away from truth” is often about *protecting* the epistemology - Less Wrong

68 Post author: AnnaSalamon 20 December 2016 06:39PM

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Comment author: moridinamael 20 December 2016 03:14:11PM 12 points [-]

A common bucket error for me: Idea X is a potentially very important research idea that is, as far as I know, original to me. It would really suck to discover that this wasn't original to me. Thus, I don't want to find out if this is already in the literature.

This is a change from how I used to think about flinches: I used to be moralistic, and to feel disapproval when I noticed a flinch, and to assume the flinch had no positive purpose. I therefore used to try to just grit my teeth and think about the painful thing, without first "factoring" the "purposes" of the flinch, as I do now.

This is key. Any habit that involves "gritting your teeth" is not durable.

Also, Focusing should easily be part of the LW "required reading".

Comment author: ksvanhorn 16 January 2017 03:43:00PM 0 points [-]

I'm reading Gendlin's book Focusing and struggling with it -- it's hard for me to understand why you and Anna think so highly of this book. It's hard to get past all the mystic woo about knowledge "in the body"; Gendlin seems to think that anything not in the conscious mind is somehow stored/processed out there in the muscles and bones. Even taking that as metaphorical -- which Gendlin clearly does not -- I find his description of the process very unclear.

Comment author: moridinamael 16 January 2017 04:29:46PM 6 points [-]

Let me attempt to explain it in my own words.

You have a thought, and then you have some kind of emotional reaction to it, and that emotionally reaction should be felt in your body. Indeed, it is hard to have an emotion that doesn't have a physical component.

Say you think that you should call your mom, but then you feel a heaviness or a sinking in your gut, or a tightness in your neck or throat or jaw. These physical sensations are one of the main ways your subconscious tries to communicate with you. Let's further say that you don't know why you feel this way, and you can't say why you don't want to call your mom. You just find that you know you should call your mom but some part of you is giving you a really bad feeling about it. If you don't make an effort to untangle this mess, you'll probably just not call your mom, meaning whatever subconscious process originated those bad feelings in the first place will continue sitting under the surface and probably recapitulate the same reaction in similar situations.

If you gingerly try to "fit" the feeling with some words, as Gendlin says, the mind will either give you no feedback or it will give you a "yes, that's right" in the form of a further physical shift. This physical shift can be interpreted as the subconscious module acknowledging that its signal has been heard and ceasing to broadcast it.

I really don't think Gendlin is saying that the origin of your emotions about calling your mom is stored in your muscles. I think he's saying that when you have certain thoughts or parts of yourself that you have squashed out of consciousness with consistent suppression, these parts make themselves known through physical sensations, so it feels like it's in your body. And the best way to figure out what those feelings are is to be very attentive to your body, because that's the channel through which you're able to tentatively communicate with that part of yourself.

OR, it may not be that you did anything to suppress the thoughts, it may just be that the mind is structured in such a way that certain parts of the mind have no vocabulary with which to just inject a simple verbal thought into awareness. There's no reason a priori to assume that all parts of the mind have equal access to the phenological loop.

Maybe Gendlin's stuff is easier to swallow if you happen to already have this view of the conscious mind as the tip of the iceberg, with most of your beliefs and habits and thoughts being dominated by the vast but unreflective subconscious. If you get into meditation in any serious way, you can really consistently see that these unarticulated mental constructs are always lurking there, dominating behavior, pushing and pulling. To me, it's not woo at all, it's very concrete and actionable, but I understand that Gendlin's way of wording things may serve as a barrier to entry.

Comment author: pjeby 23 March 2017 03:02:14PM *  2 points [-]

Gendlin seems to think that anything not in the conscious mind is somehow stored/processed out there in the muscles and bones

That's an uncharitable reading of a metaphorical version of the Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Which in turn is just a statement of something fairly obvious: there are physiological indicators of mental and emotional function. That's not the same thing as saying that these things are actually stored in the body, just that one can use physiological state as clues to find out what's going on in your head, or to identify that "something is bothering me", and then try to puzzle out what that is.

An example: suppose I have something I want to say in an article or post. You could describe this "wanting to say something" as my felt sense of what it is I want to say. It is preverbal, because I haven't said it yet. It won't be words until I write it down or say it in my head.

Words, however, aren't always precise, and one's first attempt at stating a thing -- even in one's head -- are often "not quite right". On hearing or reading something back, i get the felt sense that what I've said is not quite right, and that it needs something else. I then attempt new phrasings, until I get the -- wait for it -- felt sense that this is correct.

Gendlin's term "felt sense" is a way to describe this knowing-without-knowing aspect of consciousness. That we can know something nonverbally, that requires teasing out, trial and error that reflects back and forth between the verbal and the nonverbal in order to fully comprehend and express.

So, the essential idea of Gendlin's focusing is that if a person in psychotherapy is not doing the above process -- that is, attempting to express felt, but as yet unformed and disorganized concepts and feelings -- they will not achieve change or even true insight, because it is not the act of self-expression but the act of seaching for the meanings to be expressed that brings about such change. If they are simply verbalizing without ever looking for the words, then they are wasting their time having a social chat, rather than actually reflecting on their experience.

Meanwhile, those bits of felt sense we're not even trying to explore, represent untapped opportunity for improving our quality of life.

[Edited to add: I'm not 100% in agreement with the Somatic Marker Hypothesis, personally: I think the idea of somatic markers being fed back to the brain as a feedback mechanism is one possible way of doing things, but I doubt that all reinforcement involving emotions work that way. Evolution kludges lots of things, but it doesn't necessarily kludge them consistently. :) That being said, somatic markers are an awesome tool for conscious reflection and feedback, whether they are an input to the brain's core decisionmaking process, or "merely" an output of it.]

Comment author: ChristianKl 25 March 2017 06:31:31PM 0 points [-]

That's an uncharitable reading of a metaphorical version of the Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Which in turn is just a statement of something fairly obvious: there are physiological indicators of mental and emotional function. That's not the same thing as saying that these things are actually stored in the body, just that one can use physiological state as clues to find out what's going on in your head, or to identify that "something is bothering me", and then try to puzzle out what that is.

I'm not sure that Gendlin doesn't believe in something stronger. There's bodywork literature that suggests that you won't solve a deep problem like a depression without changes on the myofascial level.

Comment author: ChristianKl 25 March 2017 03:58:58PM 0 points [-]

Gendlin seems to think that anything not in the conscious mind is somehow stored/processed out there in the muscles and bones.

There a subjective experience that suggests that feelings are located inside the body. Even when the information is actually stored in the motor cortex it's practically useful for certain interventions to use a mental model that locates the feelings inside the body.

A month ago I had a tense neck. Even when the neck relaxed a bit, after a night of sleep it was again completely tense. After the problem went on for a week I used Gendlin's Focusing on the tense neck. I found a feeling of confusion that was associated with the tense neck. I processed the feeling. I felt the shift. My neck got more relaxed and it didn't get tense again.

It's reasonable to say that the feeling of confusion wasn't located in my neck but somewhere in my brain and neural pattern in my brain resulted in my brain sending signals to my neck to tense up. At the same time the mental model of Focusing that includes to connecting to the feeling in the neck helped me to resolve my problem.