Feb 26, 2021Liked by Hazard P Spence

Increasingly convinced that the missing piece is language, which is what the computer is made of and which the monkey brain can't understand and occasionally hates. I think of the mind as an oil slick on an ocean: that slick is language. To extend the metaphor, anyone looking at this mostly sees the slick, since it grabs attention. If you engage with the slick, you immediately get covered in slick, not ocean water. But there's a lot going on underneath.

Many convincing modern approaches to therapy seem to be working with this dichotomy, even if they don't engage it directly. I'm thinking of Gensler and even "brain retraining" efforts like EMDR.

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Very interesting article.

You talk both about popular psychology as well as more scientific research.

For pop-psychology there are some aspects that you don't touch on:

(1) They exist in a specific cultural context.

(2) The measure for popularity is probably both "entertainment" as well as if people find them helpful.

From the reading list and that you read them as a teenager, I assume you were born sometime in the 90s. I'm probably ~10 years older and remember vividly reading Blink and later the books by Dan Ariely. All of them were in some way eye-opening. I found that they touched on things that were not spelled out very explicitly in education or popular culture much before that. I found these concepts very helpful to grasp my mind, thinking and behavior better. For that to be the case, the books neither need to be correct or paint a fully nuanced picture. Even if the model is wrong, it may be helpful for me to change my behavior or feel better.

I could imagine coming across these concepts earlier, and the concepts being more widely spread in popular culture, makes it more obvious where they fall flat and lack nuance. I think pop-psychology/self-help books can go through cycles. Initially they are helpful, introducing concepts that remove limiting beliefs. Later on, they may actually be creating limiting beliefs themselves, as common understanding changes. I see some things that were presented in popular culture during my childhood that way: They were probably well intended and helped people earlier, but were very counter-productive for me and I had to free myself from these concepts.

I love the more nuanced view you present here, including the critique of these concepts!

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