From the book “Sophistication”

Self Help books

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was published in 1936. It is still one of the better-selling books in the world. Carnegie was somewhat sophisticated about human psychology.  He had read the work of Sigmund Freud, who died in 1939. Freud’s ideas about how the mind operates consciously and unconsciously are called psychoanalysis or depth psychology.

I read Carnegie’s book long ago, but I am pretty sure it suggests that influence over others can be promoted by using their names a lot, being friendly, and dressing nicely. Wearing a hat may have also been suggested. These recommendations were not psychoanalytic depth psychology.  But they were plausible enough and people bought the book.

Since How to Win Friends, thousands or millions of books have been written that help readers become more popular, happy, rich, thin, spiritual, and so on.  These are called self-help books. Self Help books are ‘how to’ books or instruction manuals. They promise to increase readers’ success in achieving social goals like popularity and wealth.  This is somewhat different than manuals that help you fix a car, for example.  In self-help instruction manuals, you are the car.

This book may be of some practical help to readers. It is based very loosely on a formal neuroscience theory (Bernstein 2011, 2014, 2015). The theory, experiences I’ve had doing biology and psychology, plus some limited knowledge of Yiddish have contributed to what I say here.

The book describes four states of mind that we all experience.  When a state of mind becomes very habitual or chronic, it defines who you are.  It is your personality.  I call these mind states or personalities: shmo, schmuck, schadenfreudist, and sophisticate.

 A personality is made up of all of one’s strong habits of thinking and acting.  We have thousands or tens of thousands of habits that are in mutually controlling relationships.  If some of your habits persist long after childhood, such as being afraid of strangers, you probably have what is called a personality disorder.

In any case, our personal mental habits influence the nature of the decisions we make.  The primary function of the mind, which sits in the brain, is to make decisions.  Most generally we can only make three kinds of decisions in response to objects in the world and in our minds: avoid, approach, or freeze.

You can move your legs and approach another person on the street. Or, you can run the other way when you see them.  And freezing or ‘playing dead’, has some advantages. Physical approach involves moving your muscles. Mental approach involves moving your mind’s eye to attend to or avoid specific contents of mind (e.g. thoughts, feelings, intentions).  Moving the mind’s eye is neurologically very much like moving the muscles that control the eyeballs next to you nose.

Decisions controlling your organs are made mostly automatically, unconsciously in the brainstem. The neocortex, which sits on the top of brain, is where conscious awareness works to form intentions and control overt behavior and private thoughts.

Unlike other organs that have very few conscious inputs, the lungs are controlled 50% by nerves emanating from the neocortex. Breath control is so important in yoga inasmuch as the lungs represent equally unconsous and conscious processes—the borderline between psyche and soma. 

Deciding explicitly or unconsciously to avoid thinking about an upcoming colonoscopy is somewhat like avoiding looking at parts of the body associated with the feared procedure. That is, the derriere.  Conflicting thought and conflicting real things can cause confusion and nervousness.  Being nervous can degrade a person’s ability to think and make good decisions.

I am assuming here that a person in a mental state of sophistication can make better decisions than others. If sophisticates make better decisions than do shmos, schmucks, and schadenfreudists, they should be more successful at work and love than others.  This book offers some suggestions about to become more sophisticated.  These might lead somehow to you becoming more successful in life.  Or not.

Psychical Impotence

Many males have an inability to enjoy sex with one they love or difficulty loving another they have sex with. This Freud called ‘Psychical Impotence’. Usually, a person who the man can perform with sexually is debased, thought of a whore. Hence the syndrome gets its other name: The Madonna-Whore Complex. Freud felt that this occurs when a man has unresolved Oedipus conflicts. That is, tender feelings of love reminds him of his original love, the mother. Having sex with one’s mother, a Madonna figure, is of course, incest. Such a grave sin is imagined to be certainly followed by great punishment. Psychoanalysts call this fear “castration anxiety”. Such intense fear makes it impossible to get an erection, hence the label Psychical Impotence. It’s not impotence proper because the person can perform sex as long as it is not with a loved one.

Much pornography is geared to men with the Madonna-Whore Complex. Woman are debased to make them attractive to the psychically impotent male who fears love. The severity of the complex runs from mild to severe. Patients with a less severe form of the disorder report becoming turned off, even disgusted by sex without love. This is improves their prognosis. The alternative, love without sex may turn into a more complete relationship in which one can have satisfactory sex with a loved one. That is, they can become Psychically and Physically Potent.

I Hate the Internet

It is a cliche to start a conversation or an essay with the phrase, “I don’t know about you but…”. However, I am going to say it anyway. I don’t know about you but I really hate how life has been overtaken by the internet. I am too old to have grown up with this annoying thing. Early in my career, I was entirely up to date. ‘Time Sharing’ was big in 1975. At The University of Texas we would sit at a portal in the Psychology Department logged into the mainframe computer that resided about 300 yards away. It was the time when IBM cards were being phased out. One could write FORTRAN code right on your screen. This replaced the cards. There was no internet. One was securely communicating with the big mainframe.

When Personal Computers arrived, I bought one of the first IBM PCs. It cost $6000 and had a tiny memory the size of, well, I don’t even know the difference between megabytes, gigabytes, and those little bytesized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. But with a Hayes Modem I could still hook up with the big mainframe at the Columbia computer center. I was really current. But when Windows came on the scene I was totally flummoxed. Things that were supposed to be ‘intuitive’ in Windows never made sense to the FORTRAN crowd.

But things really went sour with the internet. As an aging academic, I can not keep track of the 700 passwords I have for every website that performs every function that used to be written on paper. This includes accounts for banking, credit cards, phone, taxes, utilities, music, you know what I mean. I don’t know about you, but even if I could remember or store the passwords somehow, I can’t seem to enter them correctly using the tiny “keyboard” on the tiny “phone”. It is ridiculous. It actually used to be fun to pay paper bills at the end of the month with paper checks, stuck in paper envelopes with a paper stamp.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Hate_the_Internet

https://williambernstein.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1401&action=edit

Counterphobia

Causing oneself pain by imagining or actually doing things likely to cause it is what psychiatrists label a ‘counterphobic response to anxiety’. Instead of fleeing the source of fear in the manner of a phobia, the counterphobic person actively seeks out the very situation that is feared. This involves striving to master excess anxiety through repeatedly coping with danger.

Dare-devil activities (e.g. race car driving) are often undertaken in a counterphobic spirit, as a denial of the fears attached to them, which may be only partially successful. Sex is a key area for counterphobic activity, sometimes powering hypersexuality in people who are actually afraid of the objects they believe they love. Traffic accidents have been linked to a counterphobic, manic attitude in the driver. The attraction of horror movies has been seen to lie in a counterphobic impulse.

A Counterphobic person inoculates him or herself from fear by imagining feared pain before it occurred— bracing one’s self.  “Praemonitus, Praemunitus” or “Forewarned is Forearmed”.  This can be a very effective way to combat fear .  A downside is one may feel invulnerable, able to control anything.  This can be very dangerous, increasing the odds of real pain and injury. For example, a child might stick an elbow into a hot toaster to see if it actually hurts.   This is, in part, a response to being told that doing something is dangerous or ‘not allowed’.

If one fears fear more than real danger, the danger can be underestimated or not considered fully. Actual dangers seem less real than are the needs of the defensive operation. Freud said that most people value thoughts more than external reality.  One controls what is controllable. If real risk can’t be controlled, the reaction to the reality of it all might be controllable. This is achieved, in counterphobia, by attempts to master fear by moving towards it.https://williambernstein.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Realisation-Concepts-Infinity-Cognition-Health-ebook/dp/B07D1877FJ