Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Effect of Narcissism's Twisted Thinking on the Mind

Ideas don't just enter the mind and sit there, isolated. Information is an interesting word. It was a verb long before it acquired a noun form. "To inform" people meant to "in-form" their minds. To form, shape their minds with the ideas you fed them.

Information does that. That's because the brain is essentially a biological computer. It's tremendously more sophisticated than any human-made computers we yet have, because it can learn and because it isn't limited to making a random choice whenever no other criteria direct the choice to be made. But we already have software that can learn, too. And the science of artificial intelligence is well on the road to doing astonishing things in the development of artificial "mind." No, you aren't going to see R2D2 rolling around the corner anytime soon, but something like that day is indeed coming.

Yes, we are going to be able to do that with nothing but circuitry and wiring. Because the brain is essentially nothing but biological circuitry and wiring, with information stored (memory) in the connections. Those connections grow and ramify as information is added.

Hence the brain actually develops throughout life. At a fast rate during the "educable" mode of activity during our first 25 years or so, when we pretty much swallow whole anything we're told by an authority figure (such as a teacher), even if it means that we must throw out something we believed yesterday to accommodate this new idea. (Fortunately, mature minds aren't so quick to do that, though some people's minds never mature, remaining forever as educable/impressionable/suggestible as a youth's or child's.) The more we use a part of the brain, the more connections (gray matter) form within it. Hence the most used parts of the brain become the most developed and show more activity on brain scans.

For some things, several parts of the brain can be used. Which part of the brain a person habitually for uses for a particular thing has a big impact on how that learning or thinking runs.

In fact, this why the observed differences between a psychopath's brain and a normal person's are most likely the RESULT of the way psychopaths think, not the cause of it. We can't be sure of that yet, but if one must jump to conclusions, it's wiser to at least jump to the more likely one: you're less likely to be wrong.

Below the level of consciousness, the brain makes all the logical connections among the ideas we imbibe. I learned how this works while working on the Literary Machine and trying to explain it in the program's documentation. It's a freeform relational database designed to work the way the mind works.

You enter items of information into it. You assign keywords to each item, representing what that bit of information is about. Then you throw it into the Literary Machine. Six months later, you yank one of those keywords. BOOM - every bit of information related to that idea appears on your computer screen.

You're amazed at the connections you see! For example, here's an item of information containing a passage from scripture or a novel. There is an item of information about cancer cells. And over there is an item of information on personal ethics. And what's this? An email message you received from a co-worker! All connected by the essential concept behind the words in them.

The Literary Machine established the logical connections in the background, just as the brain does, without our being conscious of them.

Here is an example I made for the documentation.


It shows how these connections illuminate the similarity between cancer cells (cells that grow, reproduce, use nutrients, and produce wastes at a runaway rate, because the controls that moderate these processes have been lost) and other forms of immoderation/lack of measure/immodesty. Like greed. Extremism. Promiscuity. Extravagance. Profligacy.

Now you have something more than information: you have wisdom, because you now see and understand the universal concept underlying these truths.

Such is the power of words, the things we think with. And that's what the brain does with them in the background, whether we are conscious of the logical connections between the bits of information we feed it or not.

So, you can imagine the damage one incorrect bit of information can do!

It could be a false fact. Or it could be an illogical conclusion you drew about something. But it's there - bollixing up a vast network of connections = the LOGIC of the circuitry.

What happens when you do this to a computer? Crash.

That's because you've sent little streams of flowing electrons on a collision course with one another. Where they conflict - BOOM - all "thinking" (computing) stops.

The only way to accommodate conflicting information in the system is to compartmentalize it and shut down the compartment that contains information you don't want to know at the moment.

For example, my machine knows both Windows 98 and Windows XP. They each know many things that the other knows some other way. So, you don't DARE have them both awake at the same time.

The brain works the same way. The current is an electrochemical one that flows along pathways formed by the logical connections established between brain cells. When two streams collide, you "have some wires crossed."

When people are aware of holding conflicting beliefs, they too compartmentalize. One common example is what we see in the typical self-righteous hypocrite. What he believes on Sunday in church is compartmentalized to a part of the the mind deactivated the rest of the week. So, what he believes on Monday, while breaking all those rules at the office, can easily be totally contrary. In fact, what he does there may be so fearless of there really being an omniscient God that it gives him away as (a) not believing that there really is a God or (b) thinking God is a complete idiot who can't see through him.

But, as in the Literary Machine, we aren't aware of all the logical connections among the ideas we hold in our heads. So, we can't always prevent conflict by compartmentalizing. Hence incorrect information and illogic can really screw up our thinking in far-flung matters without our being aware of it. It can make us think and do the stupidest and most irrational things without a clue how stupid and anti-logical we are being.

This is what happens, for example, whenever people blame the victim.

Which is why we should be careful what we let in our heads and run a logic check on ideas before we accept them. And we should never, never, never deliberately believe a falsehood (= lie to ourself) or force thinking against the true course of logic.

We make enough innocent errors; we don't need to multiply them by willfully imbibing illogic and misinformation.

The spookiest example of the consequences that I know is what happens to a narcissist. He chooses to identify with his false image (a work of art) instead of his true self.

That lie introduces a mental virus into his brain that has far-reaching and terrible ramifications. In the background, his brain draws the logical conclusion that he IS his reflected image in the mirror of other people's reactions to him.

He is therefore like a bird raised in captivity. When Birdie hatches, the first thing he sees isn't Mother Bird. It's a human. So, Birdie "imprints" on the wrong thing in its environment, something Mother Nature (genetic evolution) never foresaw happening. The next thing you know, off Birdie goes tagging behind Human as it instinctively would tag behind Mother Bird. It learns its behavior from Human, paying no attention to the adult birds of its species. Why? Because it thinks it's a HUMAN!

I doubt Birdie knows he thinks he's a human, but he does nonetheless. Because that's the logical conclusion the circuitry of his brain was forced to draw when he identified with that human instead of with Mother Bird.

Consequences? Birdie will be lucky to learn to fly. Birdie will never learn to migrate. Birdie won't be interested in birds of the opposite sex. Birdie will never learn to find the food he needs. In short, Birdie won't be able to survive without human care for all his needs.

One incorrect bit of information in the brain causes all that trouble.

That's a narcissist: he thinks he's an image. Something he has has contact with only as reflected in mirrors.

Think what that does to his relationship with his SELF? It breaks that relationship. All mental activity that would normally be directed reflectively to the inner self is misdirected instead to some mirage out there. What happens when no mirror is around? Where is he then? Does he even exist then?

Logically, no. He forced his brain to draw that subliminal conclusion when he willfully believed a lie by identifying with the phony image he projects instead of with his flawed and despised true self inside. Now that irrational idea has crossed some wires in his brain, bollixing up his thinking in a multitude of far-reaching ways.

Hence the tragic and bizarre reports of narcissists that they feel empty and as though they do not exist when alone. Of course: no mirror, no image, no self. What did he expect when he chose to believe that lie?

Narcissists should stand as an ominous warning to all that we should never play games with our mind. It is our most precious possession, not a garbage dump. We cannot force it to believe falsehoods and to twist logic without damaging it so that it doesn't work right. As the old saying about computers goes, Garbage in, garbage out. It's the same with the mind: if you put garbage in, garbage is what will come out.


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7 Comments:

At 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the worst thing my parents did to me was their handling me through manipulation. I know it sounds weird but I always confused that with love because your parents love you, right? As a result, I've always been confused by manipulation particularly in one who should love me and professes to love me. My son is very manipulative and has always been so. It always confused me so much because for the kind of person that I am, it makes no sense to manipulate to get what you only have to ask for. I think the big mistake I made with him was playing into his manipulations and by doing so I unwittingly reinforced that type of thinking. It has really only been since I've been reading here that I've learned that some people manipulate for no other reason than they can. I think I was so trained to be an object for those authorities in my life that viewed me as an object that I have willingly been an object for my son's manipulations too.

Twisted information that causes an avalanche of pain that passes from generation to generation and at times, there seems to be no escape.
My heart screams when I see my son responding to his son the way my dad responded to me. Yet, it is so subtle that I don't think I'd have a chance convincing a social worker of the damage being done.

I worked so hard at being a mom and so hoped of undoing what had been done to me. In many ways, I think I went too far in the oposite direction and my over empathizing was great fodder for a child with a manipulative nature. Who knows, maybe my grandmother made the same kind of mistakes.

I don't know if I can watch the same train wreck happen again but I don't know what to do either. When you are abused by your own child there is really no place to go for somehow, it is always your fault.

Pam

 
At 7:51 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I wish I had even one idea to offer you that sounds like it has a snowball's chance in you-know-where of doing any good. Maybe someone else with similar experience will.

Just looking at it objectively, you do have some moral obligation to do anything you can to prevent another train wreck. You are about the only one who knows what's going on, which means that you are about the only one with any power to save your grandchild from such suffering. But you are right: what can you do?

I might offer that, coming from you, a warning to the social worker might carry some weight, because when a person's own parent gives such a warning, it is usually the last thing in the world they want to do. But I think you're right that the chances of getting through are slim.

Time, however, is the great opportunity maker. You are in a situation silimar to Hamlet's: you must do something but you can't do anything. Shakespeare shows that the solution is to keep your cool, no matter how upset you are, and bide your time. Hang around. Wait for opportunity to come knocking. Sooner or later it will. Then, don't hesistate - take action.

And don't forget your obligation to yourself: take care of yourself and your husband first. Just as if you were all drowning - save yourself first. You can't keep yourself up at night worrying about things you have no control over. And you have no obligation whatsoever to make yourself handy for ANY abuse.

 
At 9:27 PM, Anonymous gh said...

Pam -- just by being there as a witness for your grandson, you help protect him. By showing him proper love and acknowledging that you do not condone any unkindnesses done to him. You validate for him his worth and validate his feelings.

That's part of what has made this forum such a godsend for me -- listening to and sharing with people who confirm that what I am experiencing is rule, the hurt that is done to me is wrong, I am not imagining it or crazy. You know? For your little grandson, how much more important that must be! The world is so confusing as it is, and the message from dad is that the way dad treats him is normal and acceptable. You may never be able to prevent the abuse from happening, but at least you give your grandson the comfort of knowing that it is indeed abuse and that you love hime enough to do whatever little bit you can to support him.

 
At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks you guys. I am trying to hang in there and support my grandson and his mom in every way that I can. This is not a natural situation to be in. I keep hoping for some miraculous intervention and praying and hoping some more. The tragedy is truly that things could be so great if it weren't for all the bad drama over nothing, all the hurting for no reason. There really is nothing for him to feel deprived about and it seems like the better things are the more he works to destroy all of us. It is all such a waste of life.

The last time he really terrorized me (and I thought he was going to kill me that day), he was on probation for 1 1/2 years and that was four years ago. He still manages to keep enough of a hint of the possibility of things escalating to that point again that all of us are somewhat held emotionally hostage. We are all so weary of walking on egg shells.

He's talking about joining the Navy and I really hope that happens. It is his last chance to grow up.

Pam

 
At 7:33 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

These Ns never grow up.

Kathy, if you also look at the evidence that trauma effects brain chemistry over time - the twisted thinking and lack of accountability and non-stop lying of Ns can be looked at as PSYCHOLOGICAL INJURY and therefore - will change brain chemistry... making it impossible to treat.

Brilliant post.

 
At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog post makes me think of something I read in a novel by JB Priestly many years ago. One character told another, "Just because someone loves you, doesn't mean they want what's best for you."

 
At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the N there is no gray, only black and white. I didn't realize that was referring to gray matter in the brain. Makes sense!

 

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