Friday, June 30, 2017

the babbling of chimps

Listening to Sapolsky often gets me thinking about how distracting the narratives we tell ourselves can be.  How often there's something biological going on, that we have no clue about.  So we explain our lives this way or that, without ever suspecting that it's all just a faerie tale we've dreamed up, to compensate for our ignorance.

Often incredibly enduring, as we start learning it young, guided by the faerie tales of our elders.  Trying to understand how they live, what matters.  Onto our social interactions with others, and what matters to them.  The peer groups we learn to identify with, or against.  Everything people around us teach, intentionally, and unintentionally.

As our worldview develops, assumptions form from its foundations.  Everything learned, then built upon those foundations, never to be questioned.  Meanwhile, we've actually got neurotransmitters and hormones pulling us this way and that, through the well-trodden pathways we've forged in our years of acting in the repetitive ways that worked for us at the time.  Driven by the lessons we've learned, how life works, what we're supposed to be striving for, what we might achieve, and what we learn that we can't.

I think back on my childhood, and I can see how I was essentially railroaded by circumstances into the ostensible adult that I am.  As a kid, learning that I wasn't like other kids, that I couldn't achieve positive results by socializing with them.  I came to identify with my sense of alienation, even take pride in it.  An effort to make the most of the situation, which I carried with me, the story of my life, who I am.

The benefits of social behaviors were not for me, as far as I could tell, and I think that turns out to include growing up, learning to function in society.  This seems to be part of the natural process of learning, adapting, and nor did I have any sort of guidance or resources to make up the difference.  I can understand what went wrong medically, socially, parentally, financially,  developmentally.  How this was calcified and deeply internalized over the years of just living with the reality of it.

I understand why that's so difficult to do anything about, but I need to figure out how to do something about it anyhow.  I think what it comes down to is independence.  That's why I go back to the issue of work, all the time, but it's not just a matter of money.  People seem to have a sort of social capital, too.  The more confident they can be, about functioning socially, the less they need much money.  Whether it's knowing that wherever you go, you'll be able to work something out with the local populace, or just having friends and family, community.

People run the whole gamut, but the more alone and socially incompetent a person is, the more material poverty is compounded.  Seems lots of people end up in much worse situations than I, for roughly similar reasons.  That is, to put it in very broad terms, failing to navigate American society well enough to achieve what we're told is almost trivially easy to achieve.  It's completely insane that I actually have more money saved than most Americans do (1) To be clear though, I am in the bottom ten percent or so.  Just good at not buying much of anything.

I seem to be what Chomsky refers to as the precariat.  Such an apt term, but this is made all the more precarious by social isolation and ineptitude.  What if this is not who I have to be?  Is that possible?  Sometimes for a flickering moment here or there, I think maybe there is an solution to be found, somehow.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

really late bloomer

I often think maybe I'm just developmentally stunted.  Not emotionally, or intellectually, but something that develops a little later.  I've never heard of it framed as a developmental issue, but that's what it feels like.  I fear that wandering alone in the wilderness might not be the right way to learn how humanity works.

I feel this constant angst, because I am not independent.  I could have the rug pulled out from under me at any moment, for whatever reason, and I have no faith in my ability to survive if that happens.  I think it would be a little crazy to have such faith, knowing myself a little better than that, and just how badly I'd likely handle the stress.

I find it very difficult to allow myself to be immersed in anything, lest I wake up to find myself in such a situation.  An obsessive hyper-vigilance, and a hesitance to even fight it, as I'm not entirely sure there isn't good reason for it.  Could be stress hormones misfiring, could be frighteningly rational, I don't know.  Better to keep obsessively worrying about it, just in case.

I could figure out how to build myself a shack, plant myself some crops, fish if it came to that, but of course, I'd have to buy land first.  Pay taxes.  I feel like I was never ready to be an adult, earn a living, be a part of civilization.  I don't know that I can get a job, or work if I had one.  I feel like getting out of bed every day is just about all the responsibility I trust myself to handle, and there are some days when even that feels like pushing it.  It's the zillion interactions involved in getting anything or anywhere.

I've managed to bounce around for twenty years in spite of this, grinding through as few such interactions as possible, but I've been shaken from just accepting it, by realizing how fragile this stability can be.  I'm not comfortable being dependent on the whims of my psychotic clown government, and this is the very same issue that prevents me from just leaving.  I need to learn to how to function as an adult human among humans.

Maybe taking growth hormone has something to do with why I'm feeling this need more.  Maybe it's interacting with cortisol in some way, and I'm not used to it.  Maybe coincidence.  It's like there's been this new chemical reaction going on inside my skull somewhere, that looks a lot like, "Wait, I have to worry about my own survival?!  Are you fucking kidding me?"

Whatever the case, it doesn't seem to be enough to overcome the fact that I never learned how to do this properly.  There's doesn't seem to be anything in particular to learn, though.  This is why it seems more developmental.  Like my brain was supposed to shift into a different gear, but it never did that.  I don't even know what starting to move in that direction is supposed to look like.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

new york chomsky

"We lived, [...] about a hundred miles from New York.  When I was 11 or 12, my parents would let me go to new york by myself, on the train, I'd stay with relatives, and hang around anarchist bookstores and Union Square."

Chomsky's words could be my own, here.  I stayed with Daniel there, behind the museum, many times.  I walked a lot, but I think maybe I was supposed to attempt speaking with people, in some manner.  Not the sort of ghost that I was, drifting in and out, unnoticed, engaging with nothing and no one.  Except the food, when I could scrape together enough courage and crumpled bills.  New York has some of the best food I've had anywhere, and sometimes it was even pretty cheap.

I couldn't really afford to do much but wander.  I did hang out at lots of book stores.  Once in a while, even bought one.  Sometimes went to see live music at this one tiny punk club I liked.  Mostly just did a whole lot of walking though.  Even at places and times, I really should have been more nervous than I was.

Doesn't seem exactly like the behaviour of someone overcome with anxiety.  An over active fear center would be more generalized, and that doesn't seem to be the case with me.. maybe that's why social anxiety doesn't necessarily feel like anxiety.  Maybe biochemically, it is something a little different.

I was fine, as long as I didn't have to interact with anyone - and yet that was possibly the whole point of all that wandering.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

yeah and also but then

Sometimes responding to a comment, I get a little carried away.  Sometimes I even catch myself, and decide, eh, doesn't matter.  Post it anyhow.  Other times, maybe it does matter, so I'll just cut and paste it somewhere, instead. When comments are too long, people don't even read them.

It's usually much better to say less.  It can even discourage replies, as people don't want to respond in kind, nor in contrast.  At times, I even do this in person.  Some tell me that I'm prone to rambling.  Odd characteristic for an introvert, right?  Maybe I've just given up on being social, because people kept telling me I was rambling.  Not much point when no one's listening.

Crazy thing is, strangers seem to like it.  Facebook just informed me the other day, that I've accrued over 84,000 upvotes.  This is not from my profile, as nobody I know ever likes anything I post - but posting comments on public articles, sometimes even at rather awkward length.

I don't know what's going on, but it can be a bit addictive.  Not just the conversation and positive feedback, but just the act of venting my thoughts.  I don't know if there's any good reason for it, or if there really needs to be.  Scattered, alternating between tweets, comments, and blogging - but even then, always careful not to make it too long.

It helps having a theme.

At the very least, I'd love to see Democrats make this central to their platform.  Not just repealing Citizens United, but acknowledging that the problem goes deeper than that, and offering some sort of plan to do something about it.

From what I can tell, so much that's wrong in the world comes back to greed, the wealthy trying to get wealthier in some way.  Using their wealth to get our legislators to help them do it - and we're the wealthiest country in the world.  

Arguably doing the most damage.  Not directly, but also indirectly, including all the different ways we interfere with other countries.  It's always about American "interests," largely being defined by our industry, finance, and business, through the favor they've curried with our politicians.  Often by helping them get elected.

I could probably just ramble randomly and at great length for no reason and to no one, but I think that might be somewhat less productive.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

На вкус и цвет товарищей нет

There is a pattern here.  I can see it.  Complex, but mostly rational, and yet, never predictable.  Not something I could have orchestrated.  I can only see how it comes together after the fact.  The elusive process of motivation.  At it's peak, what some are calling "flow," movement and focus, and probably not thinking about how or why.

Think about it or not though, there are underlying mechanics.  Reasons we feel the way we do, like something, feel inspired by something.  I started learning Russian, today.  I've been watching Oliver Stone's "Putin Interviews," and almost find myself liking Putin. I've been wanting to take another stab at learning a second language, but haven't decided on which.  It occurred to me to check if Duolingo offers Russian.  It does.

My Uncle Dan comes to mind.  I remember him writing me an email once, saying something to the effect that hearing from me remorqueurs aux cordes du coeur.   That was Daniel's corner of the family.  Dan, and his sister, my grandmother, Lil.  Always felt more of an affinity to that corner of the family, for whatever reason.  Their mother was very old, when I was very young, so I didn't know her.  Yetta Slobodinskaya.  She was agoraphobic, I've been told.  Went years without leaving the house.

Still, there's something else to it.  Gears clicking into place, connecting, moving.  I've been running, meditating, I've been taking better care of myself.  I've been taking vegan Omega-3 supplements.  Whatever the case, all these stars aligned and I found myself doing something that I've been meaning to do for a year or two now.  It would be really good if I could get a handle on this, because that's ridiculous.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

peer review

I do seem to be a bit of a weirdo.  That is, unusual in my interests, my way of thinking, my entire lifestyle.  My sense of alienation could simply be that I find it difficult to find any points upon which to relate to people.  How does this happen though?  People's interests are usually shaped by their social interactions, right?  

Why did I choose to instead form my identity from abstract bits and pieces of the broader observable world?  Everyone I knew had lousy taste.  In everything.

No, that's unnecessary.  People like what they like.  Who am I to judge.  My tastes do seem to be a bit obscure though.  At times, I go the other way, questioning the sanity of it.  That is, what the hell am I always doing by myself, way out in left field?  Maybe I'm the one who doesn't know what's going on?  Sometimes I wonder if I might just be malfunctioning in some way.

This doesn't seem to be working out well for me, but, is this the result of my anxiety, or is it the cause?  Being in a world that makes me feel like some kind of crazy person does make me anxious - isn't that entirely rational?  

I'm a little skeptical of the notion that I'd have different results anywhere else, but if there's a sane country out there somewhere that will take me, who knows.

I bet North Koreans think the whole world is insane, too.  I wonder if school lunches there are as bad as mine were.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

i don't love america

Ok.  Serious question.  Can I just fucking leave?  Maybe if I lived in a country where working wasn't quite so awful, I might even be able to handle giving it a shot.  Maybe I don't know what real poverty means, but I don't know, maybe it would be a huge improvement, even living in a dirt poor village where people actually cared about each other.
Unless there's a drought or something, I'd probably even eat better.

See, I was not aware that such places actually exist.  In America we're taught that everywhere else is worse.  Most go their whole lives believing that.  Sure, universal healthcare and education, but that's just, I don't know.  America is just lagging behind in a few areas, right?  I'm starting to think the problem might go a lot deeper.  I'm afraid Americans might just be ignorant self-centered assholes.  That's hardly even a controversial thing to say.

I should find somewhere else to go.  Like the rest of the world, just hoping it's not somewhere with leaders the US wants to overthrow or bomb.  As I type this, I'm in the middle of watching Michael Moore's "Where to Invade Next."  I'm afraid I might be too damaged, though.  I don't share Moore's optimism anymore.  I have to be pretty stoned to even consider it.

When America sends its people, they're not sending their best.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

ex post facto reduction

A sensible therapeutic approach might be to ask for examples.  What sort of ambitions do I imagine being successful?  At first, I panic as the self-doubt hits.  Am I making this up?  Just some nonsense rambling that I can't even substantiate?

I don't know why I do that to myself.  A second later, I remember that just yesterday, I had such thoughts.  A meme came through my feed about J.K. Rowling, and what a rough life she had.  Dysfunctional in numerous ways, before she started writing, when she was in her thirties.  Writing was one of the very first ambitions I had, often recurring because it makes sense on a number of levels.  

I'm not saying that I'd be the next J.K. Rowling, but I could probably write competently and creatively enough to make some money at it.  I start thinking of specifics, the sort of writing I'd want to do.  How I could skillfully weave politics and philosophy into it.  Fantasy or sci-fi, with some emotional depth to it.  Maybe I'd even be exceptional at it.

When I say I, that is, the I that I would be, if I were not the I that I am.  If only I could just tweak my brain a little.. because yeah, I know.  Come on, do it.  Of course you can do it.  At least just fucking TRY.

but no.  Apparently not.

What does it mean to expect to fail.. it means anticipating that there will be no reward.  It means ego or the default mode net,  or whatever we want to call it, trying to make sense of what's missing.  An ex post facto fabrication that explains it all in terms that make sense, on a more intuitive level.  We say "what's the point" or "I'm not good enough" to explain to ourselves why the machinery isn't doing what it's supposed to do.

It doesn't end there, however.  How we think and explain things to ourselves does make its way back into the depths of the machinery, and can exert influence on its workings, but how much, its hard to say, and it varies.  If we beat ourselves up over a mistake, even if it wasn't really our fault, we might be more careful next time, and despite all that, keep it from happening again.  Or, we might demoralize ourselves to the point of never trying again.

There are better and worse ways of going about that, but it varies from one individual to the next.  We exert influence, but can't measure its impact, except by experience.  We can learn that our efforts are either self-actualizing, or self-defeating, depending on which chemical reactions occur when we've done anything.  We can still get it all wrong, learn all the wrong lessons, but that's just the outcome of a whole other set of chemical reactions and experiences.

Amidst all these factors, we could theoretically know physiology well enough to understand what's optimal.  We can try to help everyone get there, as many already are, naturally.  Bones break because of all sorts of reasons, too.  Nutrient or hormone deficiencies, genetics, exercise.  If anything is clearly lacking, it's not rocket science to try to do something about that, so that our bones will be less likely to break.  If they do break, we take some basic steps to help it repair, so that we won't become permanently crippled.

The mind, like our bones, is just as physiological, but that's not to say there aren't all sorts of things involved in the health of either.  We just don't understand the mind quite as well, yet.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

mechanics of ambition

All ideological differences aside, I don't understand how the hell Democrats fucked up this badly.  Lining up behind Clinton, manipulating both primaries, and then losing.. worst strategic blunder I've ever seen in my life.

Even Republicans aren't this stupid.  They tried everything to stop Trump from winning the primary, because they knew, people hate him, and it would cripple the whole party.  People hated Clinton just as much, but lets prop her up against the worst candidate ever and roll the dice anyhow..

WTF #PiedPiper

I'm so glad those fuckers lost.  They deserved to lose ..but enough, that's what Facebook is for.  This is where I tangle things into more complicated knots.  Kyle here is concerned that Clinton might be considering another presidential run.  Thinking about whether that could be true, I tried imagining it from her perspective.  If she's anything like me -wait, scratch that.  She's not.

She's highly ambitious, highly motivated.  What was it Sapolsky said about how dopamine works?  It's all about the anticipation of the reward.  Probable, improbable, doesn't matter at all, so long as you think it's possible.  You keep thinking about that.  It becomes a self-reinforcing pattern, as ambition itself is the true source of the dopamine, not achieving what you think you're striving for.  Just trying is the real reward, as far as the neurochemistry is concerned.

What does that mean, from the perspective of the individual?  She might envision #TheResistance growing stronger and stronger, as Trump's failures accumulate.  The American people finally realizing that she was their salvation all along.  Or at least, coming to their senses, somewhat.  Certainly, there would be plenty of cheering from her supporters, as she rebounds from defeat to save America from Mein Trump!  People around her might put a stop to it this time, but if it were entirely up to her.. eh, she might be that sort of person.

Quite unlike myself.  Thinking about doing things just makes me anxious.  I envision success all the time, and how probable it would be, if it weren't for the fact that I'm not going to do any of it.  Sometimes I do little things, but that's not really the point.  It's like pushing a car without gas.  Yeah, it moves, but it doesn't get very far.

Except under particularly extreme circumstances, it's a lousy pattern that should be self-negating.  My life really wouldn't suck at all, if not for the fact that I make it suck.  The causality of it should fail immediately, in favor of something more effective at getting dopamine flowing.  Or what, some part of my brain just goes, nah, I'd rather feel like crap?  Just tell me which part.  I'll go get the screwdriver.

Life itself should be all the cognitive behavioral therapy a person needs, if their neurochemistry flows properly.  I think we can push ourselves to overcome, to some extent, and that's great and all.. but if such a pattern doesn't form on it's own, it probably needs more than just practice.  If you're not getting that dopamine out of it, you're still going to keep wondering what the fuck's the point, instead of thinking about whatever it is you want to do next.

Constantly at risk of slipping back into old patterns, because that's just the way the neurochemical math works out.  It's all I've got for now, but's not really a solution.


A lot of my familiarity with mental health issues began with my efforts at making sense of America's mental health systems.  Each state has been a little different, each therapist, each psychiatrist, but they did seem to share a variety of attributes.  Possibly systemic in nature, similarities in education practices, or the pharmaceutical industry's influence, who knows.  Conventional wisdom that had a few consistently gaping holes in it.

One of which being an aversion towards treating mental health and physical health as related, unless glaringly obvious.  Hypopituitarism was always brought up early, and yet, always left there, amidst my introduction, never to be considered relevant again.  Never was it suggested that I should get any neurological testing done, or anything of that nature.  We don't seem to be at the point scientifically, where that makes a whole lot of sense, so they don't even mention it.  Seems they don't like dealing with any of that, as if there's a solid dividing line between practices.  Psychiatrists never mention endocrinology, therapists never mention neurology, nobody ever mentions neuroendocinrology, etc.

Most of my digging in those areas being more recent, as it just wasn't the direction I'd been pointed.  Most of my life, my framing has been strictly psychiatric, psychoanalytic, or somewhere in between.  My criticism of the industry being leveled at those fields, not the research adding entirely new dimensions to the discourse.  Studies of treatments that are still in their infancy, a long ways from showing reliable efficacy, and being established as standard practice.  Instead, still largely ignored in favor of traditional methods of thoroughly well documented inadequacy.

At least in my experience.  It could be yet another example of the US being behind the curve.. I have no idea what it's like in other places.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

citation needed

I know that part of my problem is that I expect to fail.  It would be ignorant to assume that  this is irrational, and that I just need to think more positively, yet this is the direction many people go in.  The causes and complexities of what makes us who we are goes way over our heads.  I haven't exactly got it all figured out, either.

Found myself watching a new Robert Sapolsky talk, and then as often happens, taking interest in some of the related videos, and then looking up what he's going on about, or some question that comes to mind.

I thought this was interesting.

"Sapolsky on the Science of Pleasure"

I found myself digging around a little, and came up with this.

"Motivation Deficit in ADHD is Associated with Dysfunction of the Dopamine Reward Pathway"

So, what does it mean to expect to fail?  This is just a symptom, an outcome.  It doesn't say much about what's causing it.  It doesn't even shed light on what it means to fail.  What is that's expected?  What we accomplish isn't really at the heart of that, so much as what we think we've accomplished, and how we feel about it.  What sort of chemical reactions take place in the brain, that we might feel either accomplishment or failure.

This can be the result of experiences, learned behaviors, upbringing, culture, and ultimately, physiology.  The physiology trumps all of it, in that if the chemistry isn't there, nothing else will matter.  Physiology itself being the outcome of internal and external environmental factors, as well as genetics, and just random variation.

It's a difficult question to answer.  Impossible, even.  Maybe this, maybe that.  In reading all these studies that I have over the years, it hard to miss all the speculative language, the layer upon layer of hypothesis.  What does it mean that a dysfunction is "associated with" a given neurological process? Correlation, causation, what other factors might be involved, what can be done to remedy it, the remedies often being experiments of downright pitiful efficacy.. on so many levels, they're still sorting a lot of it out.

Yesterday, I was looking up the latest finding on why SSRIs don't work.  I found this article, where they discovered that if mice are incessantly tormented, they're less likely to recover from depression.  Therefore, they conclude, it's possible that medication doesn't work as well for depressed people who are too stressed out by environmental factors.  Fucking brilliant, right?

"Why don't antidepressants work"

They also claim that they do work for 50-70% of people, yet other studies would seem to contradict this, suggesting that they're barely more beneficial than placebos.

This is not the work of people who know what they're doing.  It frustrates the hell out of me, but this is not to disparage their efforts.  They're making incredible progress, and as should be apparent, I consider it important work.  I think it's admirable, but, they do have a long ways to go.

"Antidepressants No Better Than Placebo?"

Comparative efficacy and tolerability of antidepressants

That's how science goes.  If I wanted certainty, I'd look more towards religion.  The closest we're going to get to that is make-believe.