Lack of sleep and too much small talk influenced me to exit a Saturday brunch party and sit on the sidewalk in San-Francisco, hiding away from the rain that has been drenching the city for a few days. Barley a minute passed before a homeless woman who looked around my age stood before me. She was holding a piece of cardboard in one hand and a fast-food soda drink in the other.
“Can I sit?” She asked
“Sure,” I said, making space for her to lay down her cardboard and sit down.
She looked at me intensely for a moment.
“You’re cute that’s why you’re defensive,” she said.
I looked back at her and smiled. “They always want things from the cute ones don’t they?”
“They only want money from me. I inherited 8 million dollars and they took it all from me…” She began falling into her barley cohesive psychotic loop.
I wished her well, excused myself and went back into the building
A Bayesian account of ‘hysteria’
Human’s are strange creatures, our brains do their best to model incoming sensory information and predict the future. Repeated patterns bind together and turn into priors, into expectations, into ‘meme’s trying to spread their recorded pattern and influence perception with their prediction. Sometimes these memes become too strong and force themselves onto any incoming signal. This can lead to depression, OCD, ‘hysteria’ and even psychosis. This past year I have been researching this subject with a very practical goal in mind. ‘How can we get opposing memes to get along with each other? How can we create a coalition in the brain that can overcome past traumatic events that lead to over active priors?” This very intense first weekend in SF has triggered many of these memes and some of them want to be released from this brain and out into the world.
On Friday I went to a unique superhero themed house party. It began with short science lectures. Then there talks about consent and responsible usage of substances as well as the organizers offering support and suggesting a ‘safe word’ to any who might need it. This was an amazing attempt to create a safe environment. The party was spread across a three story house with many surprises throughout: a sauna, a hidden tiny room under the stairs with images of eyes stuck on to the walls, some LED art, cuddle spaces and a VR experience, were some of the things I encountered.
Most people were conversing, cuddling, slowly migrating from one room to another to see what recharges they could find.
A messy combination of gene environment interaction shaped the brain that I belong to into something that doesn’t enjoy many of the default things most humans seem to enjoy. Socializing is boring and tedious, cuddling is too passive. This brain needs massive amounts of novelty and activity to keep these memes busy processing information, otherwise they begin to over process the same signal and the ‘meme’s begin to fight amongst themselves. “We know this,” they will scream with burning sensations beginning to take over.
What will recharge you?
That’s the first question I learnt to ask. Allow your brain to create a ‘positive’ prediction of something that enough memes can participate in.
For my brain one of the defaults is movement. A massive part of your brain is devoted to predict and create movement. As long as there is enough space to allow these memes to do what they do, move the body, feel the body, expand their learnt patterns, there is enough of a ‘positive’ coalition.
At this party for instance, almost no one was dancing so the whole dance floor was free for me to start rolling/ crawling/ dancing.
Then a strange thing happened, one person sat down and began watching me, and then another and another.
Another strange quirk of fate probably due to growing up in a religious environment that was perceived as a danger, mostly allows my brain to shut down the weak incoming social signals. There are very few ‘memes’ that model what others think of me and even fewer that care.
“Do I need something from them?”
“Can they hurt me in anyway?”
“Do they want to take away my autonomy and agency, enslave me to their needs and inforce their memes into me?”
My brain does not look for social approval, love, or attention from outside sources, only for physical safety and freedom. ‘Will they let me do what I want to do?’
Some sketches drawn at the party when I got bored.
If this safety is judged not to exist my brain will enter ‘self- preservation mode’. Many memes have been specialized for just this occasion, Retreat if possible. If not, ‘maintain’ high borders, expect nothing good from anyone, show no vulnerability, activate language center to provide loads of information to overstimulate opponents, maintain physical distance if needed. If this does not result in actual physical altercation which many of these memes actually enjoy. If there is just this constant stress of an unsafe environment this will quickly wake up what I have come to call ‘the opposition’, memes that early on in life came up with what might have been a brilliant survival tactic back then to help the brain lower anxiety. “Destruction“ as a means to maintain some level of structural integrity. “We want to destroy everything and die” they will scream.
Interestingly I’ve noticed that when deciding if this is a safe space or not my brain seems to model not only my safety but the safety of others. I don’t think this comes from altruistic reasons just practical ones. “If others don’t feel safe, they might know something that I don’t”.
If on the other hand the environment is judged as safe then the meme “Can we play together?” will appear. And this is what happened at the party. I began playing and improvising with the small crowd until another person joined the dance. He was not a professional dancer but we explored possibilities together and at least for part of the dance entered a shared state, a mutual growth function were we both wanted the same thing. Then my brain began picking up signals, was he trying to impress me? Was he trying to lead the dance to a more sexual place? This might have been my over sensitive priors but what came out was a little improvised “Macho” dancing, my body movement becoming extremely dominate and ‘male’ like. The crowd burst out laughing and clapping and that ended the dance.
I’ve wrote a more about safe space, expectation and improvisation in the post about burning man called “adventure mode”. The basic idea is to create an environment of plenty and that has to start with ‘radicle self-reliance’. It is this coalition’s opinion that only when you (mostly) do not need others for your happiness, only when there is a coalition that is able to look inwards and self-recharge can there begin to be a group coalition that looks out for each other without creating co-dependent situations.
The last few months I’ve been creating a gratitude wall. a little art piece or something I collected that reflect something I’m grateful for
The last few days I’ve been asking people here what recharges them? I was surprised that most answers were about outside goals: a lot of ‘making the world a better place’ in different forms. From my perspective that has to do with spreading your memes ‘outwards’ instead of developing them inwards and this is likely to lead to even bigger conflict and neediness from the outside world to accept your contribution.
So how about being egotistical for a second (or a lifetime), filling your cup before you fill others?
Here is a partial list of the recharges I have come up with throughout my lifetime that require no other human and are legal J (in no specific order):
Dancing, sketching, making strange art, looking at the mirror, hot showers, learning new things about the brain I belong to, Climbing, punching my punching bag, creating and participating in my own behavioral experiment (even if they don’t teach me anything), reading, writing, reading what I write. masturbating, eating novel (tasty) food, watching bad superhero tv shows and imagining my own scripts that would make them way better, staring and noisy patterns and allowing my brain to impose shapes and figures on them, eating chocolate, being topless, creating my gratitude wall, searching for more self-recharges 😉
“It wasn’t a “battle” it was just life”, A dying atheist wrote in her last message to her loved ones. The brain I belong to has managed to build a coalition strong enough to try to imprint this meme. Life might have many battles in it, both internal and external, much of my life has been spent fighting them. Now, it would seem, it’s time to start building coalitions. Both within my own brain and among others I wish to share my life with.