Littera Nova

I write things sometimes.

Re: On Mental Frameworks

Word count: 930 (~6 minutes), Last modified: Sun, 29 Dec 2019 01:05:05 GMT

Epistemic Effort: Drafted, slept on it, revised. Low citation count due to avoidance of concept contamination by reading others' experience.

The ever-insightful Cassandra published yesterday an introspection on the process that she uses to think, comparing and contrasting it with various others, and proposing an trade-off between stability and flexibility. That axis is very appealing to me consistent with our mental model. I consider my experience plural, consistent with Dissociative Identity Disorder. This reflection aims to do two things: explain our mental model, and compare it with Cassandra's intentional practice. One linguistic choice to note is that I use the term alter rather than agent to refer to the individual contrasting narratives that make up our system.

The decision-making experience that we have is as an ongoing conscious discussion by alters within the system, as well as alters that are known emulations of others considered influential to our behavior. This process maps well onto the dissociative framework in the original post, with modular units and a sense of self that is foggy at best. The first alter (Lin) that fronted this system is still present in a reduced role, and originally served in both an supervisory role and one that held a veto on system decisions. However, in the past two years, she has played less of a role, and I (Nova) have instead been primary fronting member of our system. This change led to a drastic shift in priorities as well as method for interacting with others: I developed out of the need for an impartial moderator in the case of system conflict, while she had a dynamic social model that allowed her to usefully be broadly involved with her community. Her withdrawal from the fronting role thrust me into a situation where I was forced to rely on other system alters for that kind of expertise. This experience of changing identity as a major facet of identity withdrew from the collective led to change in relationships with others, as well as a change in how my personal narrative interacted with alters (moving from a purely consulting role to a managing and relating one).

Overall, this structure has provided our thoughts with clarity of purpose through a consensus-building process, though with lower temporal consistency. It has allowed us to isolate harmful mental patterns as they developed, to be dissected for their useful parts and the rest discarded (e.g. isolating the pessimism/pragmatism of a depressed alter and allowing it to be used separately from the associated fatigue and sadness).

So, how does this compare to an intentionally dissociative median/plural like Cassandra? Some similarities between her experience and our own are the self-modification ability and the ability to make deeper predictions than any singular alter. The increased hypnotic susceptibility rings true as well, though we sadly have little personal experience with it. However, we noted differences with regards to inconsistency, preferences, and susceptibility to charisma.

I do not think that the inconsistency of a dissociative framework is inherent, especially as the consensus forming process is made more explicit. Being able to have a strong consensus where it is clear that points have been argued near to completion is in fact one of the strengths for us, as I often am acutely aware of the various biases of our alters, and am glad for the contrasting perspectives in producing a better decision (with better here used to mean that the decision leads to a more holistically pleasing outcome in the long term).

In terms of preference, this seems to be more of an issue of categorization than one intrinsic to the framework. We work off of a heuristic of alternating between first and last choices presented if there is not a quick consensus, then storing the result of a longer term consensus for later, for all but "important decisions" (which do have that lag time required). This could be likened to caching, or emulating a singlet thought pattern for these cases. After all, not every decision requires a full cost-benefit analysis before executing an option.

This may be a result of our original role being as the keeper of executive function, the one who was the constant reminder of events and keeper of commitments, but we simply have not had this experience. The idea that someone outside the system should have influence beyond fact-gathering without having been modeled effectively is an alien concept for me: they have not earned the right to introduce additional heuristic complication into an already baroque decision structure. It is certainly something to look out for, and the spaces that we walk in are certainly ones that encourage cult of personality (LGBTQ, Rationality, Politics). However, given a strong in-group preference and a structure for maintaining commitment, we have not found this an issue.

The commitment structure that we use for principle consistency is one which deserves further writing. It essentially fits the stability-flexibility axis, with a trade of the self-modification for some temporal consistency. What is done is to chunk updates into deliberate times, and to hold off on making changes to structure prior to those set times. That is not to say that additional information cannot be filtered through this process: just that to introduce or change a heuristic (e.g. those prejudiced against minority groups are not often useful to talk with) is something that must be a deliberate decision over a longer period of time, which protects against emotional fluctuations. Treating the past set of heuristics as immutable for a two-week period allows for some of the flexibility within a contained environment.