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comment by romeostevensit · 2019-01-23T05:37:20.493Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a hypothesis for increasing transferability of insights. Their transferability being by default quite low. Lower than they feel like they should be from the inside. I think what generally happens is something like this: a person has an insight, this generates a bunch of emotional energy, sometimes this gets channeled into the urge to share/write about the insight, this is most of what we hear about. But the writing is from the perspective of the insight, which tends to be dissimilar from the material that *triggered* the insight. I noticed this in myself after developing a very detailed note taking system. This allowed me to go back and trace the trajectory of past insights. It is much harder and less motivating (currently) to share stuff from the pre-insight perspective. Harder because of insight amnesia, the tendency to forget what your past thinking patterns were like, and also because most don't have detailed enough notes. Less motivating because pre-insight material just seems, well, wrong now. Why write about wrong things when you could write about *glorious new correct thing*?

Replies from: Kaj_Sotala
comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2019-01-23T13:55:56.851Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
But the writing is from the perspective of the insight, which tends to be dissimilar from the material that *triggered* the insight.

Related: the Burrito Tutorial Fallacy.

While working on an article for the Monad.Reader, I’ve had the opportunity to think about how people learn and gain intuition for abstraction, and the implications for pedagogy. The heart of the matter is that people begin with the concrete, and move to the abstract. Humans are very good at pattern recognition, so this is a natural progression. By examining concrete objects in detail, one begins to notice similarities and patterns, until one comes to understand on a more abstract, intuitive level. This is why it’s such good pedagogical practice to demonstrate examples of concepts you are trying to teach. It’s particularly important to note that this process doesn’t change even when one is presented with the abstraction up front! For example, when presented with a mathematical definition for the first time, most people (me included) don’t “get it” immediately: it is only after examining some specific instances of the definition, and working through the implications of the definition in detail, that one begins to appreciate the definition and gain an understanding of what it “really says.”
Unfortunately, there is a whole cottage industry of monad tutorials that get this wrong. To see what I mean, imagine the following scenario: Joe Haskeller is trying to learn about monads. After struggling to understand them for a week, looking at examples, writing code, reading things other people have written, he finally has an “aha!” moment: everything is suddenly clear, and Joe Understands Monads! What has really happened, of course, is that Joe’s brain has fit all the details together into a higher-level abstraction, a metaphor which Joe can use to get an intuitive grasp of monads; let us suppose that Joe’s metaphor is that Monads are Like Burritos. Here is where Joe badly misinterprets his own thought process: “Of course!” Joe thinks. “It’s all so simple now. The key to understanding monads is that they are Like Burritos. If only I had thought of this before!” The problem, of course, is that if Joe HAD thought of this before, it wouldn’t have helped: the week of struggling through details was a necessary and integral part of forming Joe’s Burrito intuition, not a sad consequence of his failure to hit upon the idea sooner.
But now Joe goes and writes a monad tutorial called “Monads are Burritos,” under the well-intentioned but mistaken assumption that if other people read his magical insight, learning about monads will be a snap for them. “Monads are easy,” Joe writes. “Think of them as burritos.” Joe hides all the actual details about types and such because those are scary, and people will learn better if they can avoid all that difficult and confusing stuff. Of course, exactly the opposite is true, and all Joe has done is make it harder for people to learn about monads, because now they have to spend a week thinking that monads are burritos and getting utterly confused, and then a week trying to forget about the burrito analogy, before they can actually get down to the business of learning about monads. (Of course, certainly not all monad tutorials are like this, and I don’t even have any particular ones in mind, just a general impression left over from reading many of them, but if the shoe fits…)
What I term the “monad tutorial fallacy,” then, consists in failing to recognize the critical role that struggling through fundamental details plays in the building of intuition.
comment by ChristianKl · 2019-01-21T08:15:59.693Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The last person that I remember writing something along the lines of You don’t have to experience negative emotion, on LessWrong didn't turn out well. Be careful if you hack around to deeply without knowing what you are doing. Emotions have their role in providing meaning.

That said, depression is not necessary and I do encourage everybody to do what's necessary to overcome.

Replies from: Lanrian, Aiyen, Natália Mendonça
comment by Lukas Finnveden (Lanrian) · 2019-01-21T08:48:09.519Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The last person that I remember writing something along the lines of You don’t have to experience negative emotion, on LessWrong didn't turn out well.

I'm not sure what this means.

Either you're saying that the LW community disapproved of this person. In this case, see the frontpage guidelines: try to present arguments for your own view instead of stating opinions of others.

Or you're saying that this person hacked around with they're own emotions until they lost meaning. In this case, I am very curious about what they did!

(Or you're saying something completely different.)

Replies from: mr-hire, ChristianKl
comment by Matt Goldenberg (mr-hire) · 2019-01-21T15:54:44.867Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's a few documented cases in the community of a lose of negative emotion leading to a general malaise and lack of motivation (Here's Kaj Sotala talking about how he lost motivation after getting rid of many of his negative emotions

Here's an example of the reverse case, in which someone claimed to have a method to remove negative emotions and feel bliss, but was not motivated to use it:

I suspect Christian may have been talking about the second example, as the author in the second post committed suicide.

Replies from: Kaj_Sotala, wunan
comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2019-01-22T19:25:21.229Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Here's Kaj Sotala talking about how he lost motivation after getting rid of many of his negative emotions

Note however that I'm pretty sure that the long-term impact will be increased motivation rather than reduced (am gradually getting more done and having more motivation again). Also, I wouldn't really say that what I did was getting rid of negative emotions, just getting rid of one dysfunctional source of them.

Replies from: mr-hire, romeostevensit, ChristianKl
comment by Matt Goldenberg (mr-hire) · 2019-01-23T14:00:06.290Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think what's interesting in what happened to you after doing the self-concept work is that the source of negative emotions was also a strong motivational factor for you in finding meaning - This is something that I think ChristianKI was in a roundabout way trying point at.

I also think that what's interesting about what you've done since then is that you've been able to build up positive alternatives for the negative motivational strategy. I've had similar experiences when doing my own mindhacks. I think a frequent pattern is something like a "trough of no motivation" when removing a large strategy that resulted in negative emotions internally, in which all of the things that strategy was regulating go out of wack for a bit (frequently motivation) until you work to find new strategies that don't result in negative emotions.

To me, this gives credence to ChristianKI's view that you should be careful with brain hacks that are removing negative emotions or sources of them, as this trough could be potentially disastrous. However, it also gives credence to Natalia's view that coming up with strategies that have few or no negative emotions could actually be quite powerful, providing that you avoid potentially disastrous consequences of exposing yourself to the trough over and over (or making the trough quite sticky by removing multiple strategies/negative emotions in quick succession).

comment by romeostevensit · 2019-01-23T05:48:03.707Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

+1 eliminating certain negative emotions seems to temporarily get rid of any motivation structures that were using those negative emotions as a building block. Things I really value seem to rebuild themselves on better foundations.

comment by ChristianKl · 2019-01-23T09:12:22.664Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From what I know about what you shared about your journey I also wouldn't put yourself in the category of people who hack directly manipulatively on the emotion-layer.

I addition Focusing, Core, Transform Yourself, Internal Family System and Double Crux are all already system that were developed by people who know what they are doing and that went through a lot of practical testing.

If you work on your identity you don't get into the problem that you changed your emotions and don't really know who you are anymore.

comment by wunan · 2019-01-21T17:50:05.514Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I remember reading SquirrelInHell's posts earlier and I'm really sorry to hear that. Is there any more public information regarding the circumstances of the suicide? Couldn't find anything with google.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2019-01-21T18:33:49.744Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As far as I know there's no public information. There's some nonpublic information ; )

comment by ChristianKl · 2019-01-21T18:51:03.152Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As mr-hire said, I'm referring to SquirrelInHell who committed suicide.

I hosted them as a couchsurfer for a few days, so I have a model that goes beyond what's in the linked post of mr-hire.

I don't know the exact details but there was a sense of I should speak with SquirrelInHell, to help them to sort through things that I had when I read that post [LW · GW]and I unfortunately didn't.

I wish I would have given a clear answer back then in private. I wish I could give a public one now, but in the absence of that, I prefer to have spoken up instead of stayed silent. In case anybody encounters related problem where they need somebody to talk them through, I'm happy to Skype.

comment by Aiyen · 2019-01-21T15:14:46.487Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Emotions have their role in providing meaning."

Even if true, is meaning actually valuable? I would far rather be happy than meaningful, and a universe of truth, beauty, love and joy seems much more worthwhile than a universe of meaning.

Caveat-I feel much the same disconnect in hearing about meaning that Galton's non-imagers appeared to feel about mental imaging, so there's a pretty good chance I simply don't have the mental circuitry needed to appreciate or care about meaning. You might be genuinely pursuing something very important to you in seeking meaning. On the other hand, even if that's true, it's worth noting that there are some people who don't need it.

comment by Natália Coelho Mendonça (Natália Mendonça) · 2019-01-21T11:54:26.437Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I’m fairly certain that in the vast majority of the time, negative emotions are ego-dystonic.

They’re not something actively sought out out of a desire for meaning, they’re something essentially inflicted upon the sufferer by parts of their mind that they can’t control.

I think acceptance of negative emotion is often driven from being in that position, a position of helplessness, often driven out of a desire to maintain a good self-image, and avoid entering the negativity loop — and not from a position of having control over whether it happens or not, and seeking it because it brings meaning.

Replies from: mr-hire
comment by Matt Goldenberg (mr-hire) · 2019-01-21T16:01:56.364Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I’m fairly certain that in the vast majority of the time, negative emotions are ego-dystonic.

Working with modalities like Coherence therapy, internal double crux, and Internal Family Systems, I've developed the almost reverse hypothesis.

In most cases, it seems like "negative" patterns and emotions come from a subconscious plan - If I experience these negative emotions in these ways, I can (eventually) get my needs meet.

Coherence therapy calls this the "pro-symptom position".

Examples of pro-symptom positions might include:

"If I stop being miserable, then I won't be able to relate to my mother, and she won't love me. So I choose to continue to be miserable."

"“If I go on without Dad and decide to get somewhere on my own, then I’m responsible for my own life. That feels really scary, so I’m holding back.”

"If I stop feeling anxiety around other people, then I might not be as careful about what I say, and then they might hurt me. So I choose to continue to feel anxiety."

comment by SMR · 2019-01-20T19:35:05.124Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thought provoking, thanks for posting

comment by shminux · 2019-01-20T19:36:06.288Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Glad this med is working well for you. Are you still on Wellbutrin? If so, what do you think might happen if you stopped taking it, do you expect to be able to retain some of your insights if your brain chemistry reverts back to its pre-medicated state?

Replies from: Natália Mendonça
comment by Natália Coelho Mendonça (Natália Mendonça) · 2019-01-20T23:49:08.450Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I get bodily fatigue when I don't take it for over five days, I haven't ventured farther than that. No particular reason to.

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2019-01-21T06:17:21.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I asked because odds are that your insights only work for a brain with a certain neurochemistry. I have seen this in those with bipolar. Many have all these amazing insights when (hypo)manic, but none of them have any effect when depressed.

Replies from: Natália Mendonça
comment by Natália Coelho Mendonça (Natália Mendonça) · 2019-01-21T07:05:26.999Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, it would be interesting to investigate how that would work. I think the insights would serve to set a lower bound to mood, the same as what religion does for many people.

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2019-01-25T16:28:52.172Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

People like Schopenhauer and Benatar are just being realistic. Reality includes futility and horror on enormous scales. Perhaps the remaking of Earth by superhuman AI offers an imminent chance that even this can change, but it's just a chance.

comment by Donald Hobson (donald-hobson) · 2019-01-22T21:09:26.718Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I consider emotions to be data, not goals. From this point of view, deliberately maximizing happiness for its own sake is a lost purpose. Its like writing extra numbers on your bank balance. If however your happiness was reliably too low, adjusting it upwards with drugs would be sensible. Whats the best level of happiness, the one that produces optimal behavior.

I also find my emotions to be quite weak. And I can set them consciously change them. Just thinking "be happy", or "be sad" and feeling happy or sad. It actually feels similar to imagining a mental image, sound or smell.

comment by Pattern · 2019-01-22T00:31:04.019Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Acceptance is useful when you cannot change a problem. Acceptance is useful when you cannot change a problem. Both those sentences can be true at the same time.

Is there supposed to be a difference between the two sentences other than emphasis?