Category Archives: Metacognition

Respect Everything

Created February 23, 2024

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Open-mindedness is one of the most important principles of metacognition (continuously studying one’s own mind as if from the point of view of an outsider) according to Dr. Gerald Zaltman, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard, and metacognition at Harvard Business School. Without open-mindedness one tends to be locked into positions one has taken in the past, even though there might be new relevant evidence that could be considered.

If one is truly open-minded, then that person can also see the possible truth in positions 180 degrees away from their own. An atheist can see that it is possible that an intelligence created the universe. A progressive can see that there might be useful truth in some things that a conservative says.

How little we know, as Hoagy Carmichael’s and Johnny Mercer’s song tells us (from the 1944 Hemingway-based movie To Have and Have Not). Arthur C. Clarke put it another way, he said that of all the things that we can someday know, what we know now is an infinitesimally small percentage.

We have changed our scientific perspectives many times along the way, and we continue to change them. The wisest among us have this perspective and their epistemology naturally embraces open-mindedness. Although in most of his work a physicalist, the great Stephen Hawking in his final book quoted John Wheeler’s Participatory Principle which states that our consciousness helps create reality. This opens the door to overthrowing physicalism and establishing consciousness as the principal underlying reality.

These are great thoughts from great people. Open-minded to the very end, despite their decades of study and theorizing.

Compare that to the average person. The average person takes very strong stands based on, really, very little. They fall into a very deep rut as to what they believe and the beliefs they hate. Most of their assumptions are not something they themselves learned from their own life experiences, but heard about from others influential in their lives. This reflects an unconscious epistemology of Authority rather than Empiricism. The very selfsame unconscious epistemology that leads to Authoritarianism. Blind followership, in other words.

Without open-mindedness, a person drifts as if by animal instinct to be attracted to types of people, e.g. tough guys, or pretenders of that ilk. This is a survival instinct in many species (e.g. pecking order) and when human beings behave animalistically they are not rising to the occasion of having exclusive cognitive capabilities proprietary to our species.

The lack of open-mindedness impels us to be negatively motivated. We know what we are fighting against. We are less sure of what we are fighting for. This is most apparent in the current political climate. It would be most noble and most fun for governments to spend 100% of their time focusing on creative solutions. Instead, they appear to spend most of their time knocking down the ideas of others. Yet we must respect all of them if we are to be open-minded. Respect does not imply agreement or support. It simply reflects the recognition that we all deserve respect. Even those who do not respect us. Noblesse oblige.

Open-mindedness and respect go together. If one is open-minded, one tends to listen respectfully to the thoughts and feelings of others. If one is respectful, one tends to listen to others with an open mind, and to use metacognitive strength to hold at bay the screaming voices in one’s own mind reflexively denouncing what the other person is saying.

If all of reality is a single consciousness, the larger parent of that part of the consciousness we take to be our own, then respecting everything makes complete sense. We have been conditioned by centuries of majorities of thinkers we respected who could not see how ancient conceptions of God could be squared with the findings of science.

What came out of nowhere in the last half Century were new conceptions of God that fit neatly in with quantum physics and relativity. Just replace the word “God” with “the original consciousness field” and everything makes sense, the Participatory Principle, relativity, quantum entanglement, the Heisenberg effect, Bits Before Its, the jigsaw puzzle falls into place.

What Wheeler called the quantum foam could simply be the original consciousness field. The way Wheeler described the quantum foam, which pre-existed The Big Bang in his theory, was that virtual particles spontaneously arose from it and fell back into it. Sounds a lot like consciousness, with ideas and feelings arising from it and often disappearing back into it before we could grasp them.

Since we cannot prove that point right now, it comes down to being open-minded about it. For some of us who have noticed that our hunches, at least the dispassionate ones, often have great validity, we can decide to run our lives betting on cosmopsychism, as scientists are now calling it. When that struck me as more of a revelation than a hunch circa 1969 I called it The Theory of the Conscious Universe. I had a feeling that everything was conscious, it was an experience, more like a perception than an idea. I also dimly recalled that I had always had that perception as a child but it went away a long time before, slipping away quietly.

If we retain the realization that the world might be a very different sort of place than it appears, and take that possibility seriously, we naturally become more open-minded and respectful toward others, who may actually be ourselves at a different place in the game.

Whatever the truth might be, we can perhaps know it with certainty the next time we die.

In the meantime, if we can all agree that the world needs a bit of a makeover right now, which I think is a pretty pervasive take on things, we can exercise our will to take a stronger hand in the game by rising to a state of open-mindedness and respect for all things, as all things may be a part of our One Self.

This includes respect for our own current self. The popular term “self-esteem” is not quite as healthy as self-respect, because “esteem” implies a vain ego, and “respect” does not.

If we respect others, we shall find that it has increased our level of self-respect. It is a magnanimous position to take. We have taken unconditional responsibility to behave properly.

If we can apply respect in our daily lives, it will automatically tune down the hate. We have not found any other way to effectively turn off the hate so why not try respect?

Love to all,
Bill

We Can’t Afford Widespread Neurosis Anymore

Created November 17, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

It’s pretty obvious that the human race is somewhat out of control.

It could be that, in the past, it was even more out of control than it is now.

But if we look only at the time period since we learned how to make atom bombs, we are now at an “Out-Of-Controllness” level that is at an all-time high within the defined period.

Maybe we were more out of control during the Crusades, but we couldn’t do as much damage then.

Now as compared to prior to 1945, we have done vast destruction to the environment threatening our own survival, have caused innumerable species to go extinct ahead of us, and are still playing party politics and other warped games as if there are no consequences. That’s how much damage we continue to do every day, and we haven’t even started with the atom bomb toy yet.

Enough self-criticism. Now, what are we going to do about it?

The hub of the problem is the way we don’t use our minds.

We don’t use our minds as they were elegantly designed to be used, the way Socrates used his mind, the way Washington and Jefferson and Franklin and Lincoln used their minds… we have many good role models to choose from, as we come back from a race of neurotics.

What is a neurotic? WebMD tells us that “Neurotic means you’re afflicted by neurosis, a word that has been in use since the 1700s to describe mental, emotional, or physical reactions that are drastic and irrational. At its root, a neurotic behavior is an automatic, unconscious effort to manage deep anxiety.”

Acting irrationally is the core of being a neurotic. But don’t we all? Isn’t it irrational to get emotionally overwhelmed by certain situations? The point of the mind is that it has more than just reason as its powers. It has intuition, feelings, perceptions, conditioned motivations, “realized self” motivations, a subconscious, and more. We act based not only on reason but on all of these functions. And that’s the way it should be. However, we ourselves have very little insight into the way we function so it is all kind of a sloppy process. Until we start practicing what Aristotle called “the contemplative life” which modern science calls meta-cognition: the mind inspecting the mind. This is The Way out of neurosis.

The process needed for the entire human race is a cleansing of the spirit, a self-governed “mind wash” available to each individual. Right now, most people don’t even know that they need it. Most people who know they need it don’t want to admit it (they are the ones closest to leaping over the gap if they could transcend denial).

The estimable Norman Hecht sent me a very insightful New Yorker article which makes the point that Trump may be on his way out but that does not remove the appetites of the core that supported him. And what are those appetites? Fear-driven racism and extreme irrational behavior. And what class of behaviors do those fall in the range of?

Right. Those are neuroses. The class of mental/emotional/physical diseases medical science has been tracking since the 1700s.

Eastern psychology noticed those behaviors going back far earlier than writing, based on memes embedded in time-binding songs that can be tracked back to about 10,000 BC thanks to Herotodus, Plato, et al. We have known about these syndromes for a very long time and have never addressed the removal of the problem.

We talk about schemes to save the environment but not to save ourselves from mental emotional self-destructive behavior. Because that is the reason why neurosis is important to remove, because neurosis works against what the individual is motivated to achieve, which is why it is irrational.

If we continue to ignore the primary cause of all of our lethal threat vectors, and try to use outmoded and failed methods to reach reconciliation with China and the others with whom we are now engaging in reptilian combat rehearsal, we are in for a very bad future, as Fareed Zakaria points out in a recent article.

The international conversation as well as the domestic conversation both have to change if we are to show ourselves truly on the road to recovery from mass neurosis. This fictional conversation between the world leaders is closer to the direction we must go than is our present course.

Step one is to come to a clear understanding that there are other, better, ways to use our minds than the general method in use today. Neuroscience calls it the DEFAULT NETWORK. It is a random walk and results in random noise across the corpus callosum. From there we must go to the Observer state, the state of expert meta-cognition. Ram Dass and Daniel Goleman were generous in their comments on my methodology.

My approach is not the only way to free the mind. Psychotherapy, meditation, yoga, psychedelics under supervision with proper setting and mindset, innumerable approaches exist to move out of the default network, what my manual Mind Magic calls EOP (Emergency Oversimplification Procedure). And into a state of relative free will and autonomy, with full insight into your own conditioning which therefore neutralizes the effect of the conditioning.

Yep, you got it right, this is a rather unusual proposition: upgrade the mental/emotional competency of the entire world population. I totally agree, it’s over the top for me to suggest that such a thing is worth putting time into, when the amount of neurosis and its ingrained nature by this point appears insurmountable no matter how many of us want to change the world.

I just don’t like the alternative.

I say let’s give it a go, shall we?

Love to all,

Bill

 

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Choose Resilience Over Resentment

Created February 11, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey blog.

One reader of last week’s post thanked me and made a special request: write something about resentment and how to deal with it in oneself.

Last week’s post was about the things we do automatically all the time that do us absolutely no good. Things like hating. Resentment is another one of those things that we do that doesn’t help us and in fact hurts us.

The dictionary definition of resentment that I like the most is “Bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly”. Such as having been passed over for promotion, not having been appropriately recognized for one’s accomplishments, standing by red-faced while a sibling receives inordinate parental praise which would have been more applicable to oneself.

Some philosophers of psychology have asserted that resentment is a type. People who fall into this type tend to start early, and become wounded by their perception that they are not getting the love they deserve from one or both parents. Because this came about by a comparison between the ideal conditions and actual ones, the resentful type tends to become idealistic and perfectionistic, as if subconsciously assuming that this will “right the wrong”.

The actual effect of having an invisible script that we carry with us in life, without even realizing that we have such a script, is that it will tend to cause us to experience the negative outcomes which we expect. If we expect to be treated unfairly, we will tend to bring about that undesired outcome. This happens through micro-momentary unconscious signaling.

In other words, by giving in to the automatic ego-emotional reaction of showing resentment, and/or anticipatory resentment, which is automatic, one does not lead to being treated more fairly.

Which is more important – getting treated more fairly more often – or blowing off steam by expressing resentment – or causing oneself psychological harm by repressing resentment so that it operates under the radar. It would seem far better to repair real world situations. This is why we urge people to not operate on autopilot, but to exert conscious observation of what we are doing to ourselves, automatic or otherwise, and take control of our behaviors, moving the matter out of the subconscious and into the conscious. This involves metacognition and self-metaprogramming.

Here are some actions recommended when one senses resentment within oneself.

First, don’t let others see that you feel resentful. Subconsciously we all tend to see resentment as a characteristic of weakness, someone who is “a loser” at least in the situation. Far better to show confidence, awareness of one’s own value, no concern as to what others think of you – whether you are really that strong today or not. By acting like the you that you are aiming at being, you build that muscle until it becomes fully authentic.

Take care to continue to treat kindly the person who marginalized you, even if you have evidence that they are out to get you. That demonstrates your invulnerability, and you actually can cause behavior changes in others by this turning of the other cheek.

Second, take some time to contemplate how you might have set yourself up for being underestimated. Were there any signals you sent, overt or subtle, that could have contributed to becoming under-appreciated?

These strategies are aimed at shifting the basis for your inner life experience away from automatic defensive reactions, to enlightened self-management. This shift is a profound one which very few people ever even attempt. It is a shift very conducive to greater effectiveness and happiness, which is resilient to offending experiences, and leads to creativity and Flow state.

The neurological structures and functions within a human being are pro-survival and are there as default systems when we are not in a state of enlightened self-interest performing rationally and empirically. Unfortunately, during the information acceleration pandemic which has been going on throughout recorded history, we settle into living our entire lives in these robotical fight-flight states. Only a relative handful of us conquer our own autonomic ego reaction instincts. Those that do stand out for their accomplishments and their sagacity.

We can all be that way. There is a simple method to it. It is to stop assuming anything, reset to scratch, and observe carefully everything that goes on in and around you, suspending judgment. Use my book Mind Magic as it makes it even easier. But all you really need is you, observing everything without judging it, and ignoring your own kneejerk reactions. With practice, you will find that you don’t feel the sting as much as you used to when someone intentionally or unintentionally does something that you resent. It becomes irrelevant. So long as you can keep doing your work, achieving your goals, maintaining the desired lifestyle, you can let such events roll off your confident back.

Until you really feel that confidence, by all means project it externally, but most importantly, figure out why you have that lack of confidence in yourself. Have you been Peter-Principled into a job that is not your expertise? Do you want to learn how to do that role with greater confidence? There will be ways you can get the learning you need. Or would you rather be doing some other kind of work?

It’s possible that someone is gunning for you, actively wanting to get you to leave. It comes down to how much you love everything else about the job, and what you really want.

If the moment comes when you are formally invited to leave, focus on what you want to do next, the departure although involuntary might be a really good thing for you in the long run.

Always remember the good things you have done in that job, and keep doing things you’re proud of. Whether or not they are proud of you, you can still be proud of yourself. They are not the measure of you. You yourself are the most qualified to know how good or imperfect you are. Don’t be thrown off by people who are working off of guesswork.

Best to all,

Bill