Monday, April 25, 2016

Clean language vs leading language

"Leading language" is almost a dirty word due to its connections with false memories and iatrogenic cases of Dissociative Identity Disorder. And indeed, people do really nasty things with leading language without ever realizing what they're doing. In response to that, the Clean Language people harp on the value of deliberately refraining from injecting one's own assumptions into things. They have a lot of very very good points. For example, if you hear "I feel strange" your automatic response should be "what kind of strange?". If instead, you say something like "do you have a headache?", then you're fucking up and giving people unnecessary headaches.

However, there is a very very good use for leading language too. It's an essential part of the effective use of language. "Leading language" basically means "any language that refers to one's own frame". In other words "language that assumes it matters what you think". If you're not a worthless fool, sometimes it does.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Digging up the ENTIRE anchor

There's actually a giant caveat in the whole "anchor collapse" thing. So big you could drive a ship through it.

It's really really easy to fail to get in touch with the entirety of the motivation behind one side - especially when it's a far mode thing.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

On Anchor Collapse and Actually Deciding

"Collapsing Anchors" is a neat concept. For the non-hypnotist readers, "anchoring" is basically just NLP's renaming of "classical conditioning". Pavlov "anchored" the anticipation of food to the stimulus of a ringing bell.

"Collapsing anchors", in short, is firing two different anchors at once so that they interact and stuff changes. It's usually talked about as a "mind hack" you can use to "get rid of" "negative emotions" and replace them with "positive" ones. As if you have a bucket of sadness and a bucket of happiness and you just pour them both into the bigger pot and the happiness "cancels out" the sadness until all the sadness is gone and left with happiness.

In real life, it's much more context dependent than that, and much more general as well. A more useful way to think of it is to take two mindsets that aren't sure how to coexist and introduce them to each other until they learn how to play nicely together. A confidence anchor doesn't "cancel out" a fear anchor, it's just giving you a chance to figure out how to be confident in that (formerly) scary situation. It's a chance to take whatever useful bits from one mindset and apply them to the other. This integration is necessarily an active ingredient in many protocols that focus on higher levels, and it should fold in naturally when the broader context dictates.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Putting embedded commands in context

The basic idea of "embedded commands", for those who haven't heard of them, is that you embed commands in ordinary language so that people will subconsciously pick up on the command and do what you tell them to without consciously being aware of it (and therefore "unable to resist"). For example, you might say "that's cool. I wouldn't expect you to make an exception for me" while subtly emphasizing the command "make an exception for me". And if it "works", they'll make an exception for you even though they wouldn't have if you simply told them "make an exception for me".

No, it's not nearly as powerful or mind-controlley as people looking into covert hypnosis hope, but yes, there's something to it. In fact, like always, it's something that fits naturally into how we use language.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

On pacing and credibly signalling empathy


If I had to pick one specific skill that I've learned on how to get past blocks to changing peoples minds, it'd be "pacing". It's normally part of the phrase "pacing and leading", but both the magic and the difficulty are all in the pacing.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Model of suffering

Or maybe not "suffering", per se. That's a weird word for me, especially as I get more used to being okay with higher and higher level problems. But there's this tension that isn't exactly pleasant, even if you're comfortable with having it. And the magnitude of that tension is what I'm interested in here - separately from how you choose to relate to it.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Confidence is overrated

Everyone seems to be pushing confidence. In the world of hypnosis and in life in general. It gets people so focused on projecting that they know what they're doing that they try to delude themselves into believing it. "fake it until you make it". That can actually be helpful in some cases, but in other cases it either doesn't work or worse. I've even seen it go as far as posting on the hypnosis forums about how amazing you are in misplaced hopes that it would give you the confidence to succeed - though I somewhat doubt the kid ever even tried. There's definitely something important there, but "confidence" misses the mark.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

You crazy

For real. You are. We all are. It's a human thing.

I don't mean in the "involuntarily committed"/"diagnosable with mental illness" sense, of course. Not only is that a binary classification where the territory is not, but it sneaks in connotations about the problem being all about "bad genes" and/or "chemical imbalances". Not to say that genes/chemicals are irrelevant, but that's not the lens which is all that helpful when you're stuck with your genes and drugs are such crude tools.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Solved on some level

When I'm working on some psychological problem, there's a sense of when it's "solved". I talk about "inner conflicts" a lot, but "completely devoid of inner conflicts" and even "completely devoid of inter conflicts with respect to this subject" is often too high a bar. The sense of "my work here is done" comes before that.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Understanding the need for control

There's a kind of person that hypnotists label as "analytical" who tend to be more difficult to hypnotize. "Analytical" people tend to see the alternative being a "ignore reason and listen to your feelings" kind of person. The thing is, this "analytical" thing is also a failure mode.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

When to bury your head in the sand

One of the things that used to irk me a lot (and still sometimes does) is when people metaphorically stick their head in the sand and avoid mere awareness of stuff that is important. I think it irks a lot of us "aspiring rationalists" - that ostriching thing is just about completely antithetical to the core tenets of rationality.
And yet, it feels so darn compelling to so many people. Every decision you disagree with, yours or others, is a Chesterton's fence. One of my huge heuristics lately is that you don't plow over Chesterton's fences when you don't understand their function well enough to pass the ideological turing test. Partly because it's hard to do, partly because it would actually be unwise to do. It really is important to empathize before giving advice.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thinking for yourself

Everyone says you should "think for yourself". It's become an applause light. Everyone knows you should "think for yourself". And yet everyone knows that the vast majority of people are sheeple that don't "think for themselves". Yeah, part of the explanation is the tired old "motivated cognition" thing - who really wants to admit "No one thinks for themselves and I don't either!"? But I think there's actually more to this one. I think people really don't get it.
There's a very particular look people get when they're about to make a profound realization. You can see the curiosity. You can see the attention focused inwards as the face goes blank. Not taking in or spitting out anything of interest. You can see the testing new and never before tested beliefs in the twitching facial expressions. You can mirror the look and get a feel for what they're going through. If you've spent some time giving people realizations, it's very recognizable. I like to call this "actually thinking", but people never understand when I do. People don't seem to have a name for it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Generalized qualia

Mary's room is a philosophical thought experiment intended to prove the existence of "non-physical" knowledge. That's a crock of shit, of course, but the solution is interesting.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On provoking the impossible

If you want a certain outcome with someone, the most straight forward approach is to just ask for it. Please pass the milk. Okay. But you don't always get it. Sometimes you'll hear "I can't just stop thinking about it!" or "I don't know how to subconsciously twitch my finger!". Hypnotists have all sorts of tricks here - I won't even start to go into all of them.
So say I told you, right now, subconsciously twitch your finger. If you're an experienced hypnotic subject, you can probably do it. The rest of you won't. Why not? Maybe you don't know how. But I can explain it and I can break it down into easier to follow steps, and then consciously focusing your mind on it will easily lead to the desired option. Not only that, but all the alternatives of "I don't know how" are no longer lit up. All of a sudden, it's not so impossible. This works, but its not the only option.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Breaking through

Anything you can do with hypnosis, you can do without hypnosis by talking through the changes as if they are just the natural extension of the everyday - nudging the envelope of the possible out, one bit at a time. But, it's quicker to just do the "impossible" and jump outside that envelope altogether - just cross the line into the "hypnosis" envelope, which tends to include more powers. Or better yet, jump past the "hypnosis" envelope. Without anticipations to guide them, they can't really reject suggestions.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

So we think we know everything?

If you look at the rescorla wagner model of classical conditioning, you see that there's this (lambda-Vtot) term in the deltaVx equation, where lambda is the strongest possible association for the unconditioned stimulus and Vtot is the sum of the association strengths for all conditioned stimulus. When the two terms are equal, the learning rate drops to zero. This keeps us from "learning" extraneous associations for a stimulus that has already been explained.
And from what I have seen with hypnosis, it looks like Vtot ~= lambda in general. In other words, I think we walk around thinking that we already know everything and that there is nothing left that needs to be explained, so there's nothing to learn. It fits with how people can just brush off unexpected events as "god dun it" or "it's just random" - and then go on with their day as if there's nothing strange happening. Hypnosis and mind hackery are all about creating a gap where you think you have something to learn - whether it's explaining the uncharted territory of "hypnosis" from a position of authority, or driving in a wedge with a pattern interrupt or confusion pattern.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why I'm not (actually) an evil hypnotist

Evil is cool. It can be a lot of fun to keep people on their toes - or even freak them out a bit. And it's okay even. If there's a lesson to be learned and they'll look back on it as good fun, then go ahead and try on the "evil hypnotist" costume. It's just that doing the evil hypnotist thing for real is almost always a bad idea.
I'm not going to waste time moralizing that "you shouldn't be evil because it's morally wrong", because that's completely unpersuasive. Either you agree or you don't care. Well, mostly. I could try to use dark arts to moralize you, but light arts tend to work better. That's kinda the point of this post.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Put people together

The naive model of how people work seems to be something like "People are just messes of conditioning that respond to outside pressures and innate drives". You see people getting chemically rewarded for smoking cigarettes, and say "no wonder people get addicted - how do people ever stop!?". You find out that hypnosis can covertly condition responses and try to come up with clever schemes to maximize your effect - perhaps by having a meta level suggestion that the object level suggestion is reinforced every time some common thing is encountered. I remember devising a few clever schemes myself. However, this frame is entirely wrong. It completely neglects the internal structure - that thing that washes all your clever schemes out over time. The right way to help a smoker is not to implant a suggestion that makes them vomit every time they smoke - and then a suggestion that that suggestion and this one are permanent. The right way to help a smoker - the right way to help anyone is to... well...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When truth isn't enough

True beliefs are pretty darn useful, so epistemic rationality contributes pretty strongly to instrumental rationality (i.e. the one that matters by definition).
Interestingly, as I've become more aware of what I want out of life and see more long term challenges, epistemic rationality has begun to seem less terminally important - yet still very instrumentally important. It's just that the purpose of epistemic rationality is much more gut level clear to me now - the reason to have a really good map is to get places, not just to hang up it up on your wall and admire for its accuracy.
Additionally, I've become much less hung up on "literal truth" (that is, truth as straightforwardly explicitly/denotationally interpreted) since I realized that that's not really how people work - so obsessing on that level is a bit silly. Once you really grok the idea that true beliefs are for navigation, then you can use all sorts of funky encodings - as long as you keep track of them. If you take a bunch of magic mushrooms and the world starts bending, it's not a simple map, but the information is still mostly there - and you don't run into problems until you forget to walk the same bendy that the sidewalk bends. Try to walk straight and you're in for trouble. And phrases like the "most amazing show ever!" are totally acceptable too - as long as you realize that it really means "I'm experiencing awe and very much enjoyed the show".
Putting these together can explain a lot of "irrationalities" people have where they say stuff that is just blatantly not true and don't seem to care when you point it out.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Oh no! An appeal to emotion!

So everyone knows that we're supposed to strive to be logical because.. well, it's the logical thing to do. Emotions lead us astray. We have to be constantly on guard against appeals to emotion - since they're evil and bad and manipulative and bad. Right?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

When to use hypnosis

I tend to come off as "a hypnosis guy" - and I focus on it a lot. Yet other times, I "just talk" to people and it looks like I almost shit talk "hypnosis". So what is hypnosis good for?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What do I mean by "hypnosis"?


"Hypnosis" doesn't really have an agreed upon definition - because it isn't a sharply defined cluster of things. The socio-cognitive guys have figured out that hypnosis is really just a grab bag of tricks that happen in "normal" situations. There is no "special state" and no voodoo magic - we just utilize the principles of influence that come up naturally in everyday interactions - even if we dress it up like stereotypical hypnosis to make it flashy and exploit the expectation that comes with it. We can do the same things stripped of the "formal hypnosis" clothing - which is what "conversational hypnosis" is - just hypnotic principles applied in a natural conversation setting. However, you can usually get results with things that don't even look anything like hypnosis.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Direct and authoritarian vs indirect and permissive


There's this dichotomy in hypnosis between being authoritarian and direct or being indirect and permissive. New hypnotists often want to know which is "better", and the answer is always "it depends". Happy with that answer? :p
Okay, enough with the "it depends" and "everyone is different" fluff. It's not a "red wine or white?" kind of preference. It's more of a scalpel or sword kind of thing. There really is a right choice - it just depends on the context and what you're trying to do. Behold! The criteria for choosing!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rah conversational hypnosis



When you go to a hypnotherapist or go up on stage with a 'tist, the context pretty freaking clearly says that you're in for some hypnosis. They'll probably even explicitly ask for your permission and then explicitly state when it's about to happen. They'll use words like "hypnosis","relax","sleep", and "deeper". And they'll do weird things like stick your hand to the chair. All the while, the meta level fact that you're "doing hypnosis" is very salient and it's a key player. That's overt hypnosis.
But there is another kind of hypnosis where you don't have to do any of that stuff and you can still stick their hand to the chair. You still use hypnotic techniques, but it all just looks and feels like a "regular", if a bit exceptional, conversation. That's conversational hypnosis.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Against covert hypnosis



I'm generally against covert hypnosis since it is usually unethical, risky, and not effective.
It's not always necessary to do formal "hypnosis" - conversational hypnosis is great. It's the "covert" part that I'm against. I'm against hiding things. I'm against there being anything to hide. I don't necessarily call attention to labeling the situation as "hypnosis" when I do conversational hypnosis, but that is because it's not helpful and there's nothing to interest them there - and not because there's important information that I'm hiding from them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Direct symbolic manipulation


Our words are handles. And the images that form in our head - every aspect of them - are handles. Handles that pull on strings that are attached to "concepts" - or whatever you want to call your nodes on your neural net. And the strings are as strong as the conditioning between the concepts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How real is it anyway?


So how "real" is hypnosis to the subject? There's a whole spectrum of what the experience can be like for the subject - from "I know what's going on, and I am deciding to lie in order to play along. And I'm aware of this and it doesn't even feel real to me" to just being 100.000% entirely genuine. It is easy to get small tweaks on reality to be 100% genuine. There's already noise there, and you're just shifting the estimate a tad. But what about for name amnesia? What about when they forget the whole experience? What about invisible parentheses? What exactly does it even mean to be "real" or "fake"?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Put the map down and drive


People model reality using maps, but the map is not the territory. Our perception is just a map, but it doesn't necessarily feel like one because it's a fairly direct representation of what's going on and we seldom doubt it. When I look to my left and see a piano, it's like it's just there. I know my seeing it is just the representation in my head, but that fact isn't very salient. When I say "that's a piano!", that is a level above - clearly my interpretation of what's going on. Who knows, maybe it's just an over-complicated table.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Attention without Awareness

So it turns out that attention is not the same thing as awareness 1, 2, 3, 4,. It seems really weird that you can pay attention to things that you're not aware of, but you can. Attention and awareness often overlap a lot, but they can also diverge wildly. 
Most occurrences of attention without awareness aren't too crazy. It actually happens all the time and again, we're not even aware of it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Just expectation? Hah!



It's funny how many people dismiss things as "just expectation" - as if expectation isn't freaking powerful. As if expectation isn't as good of a pain killer as intravenous opiods. Even as a witchdoctor voodoo ritual running purely off the expectation that the ritual will work, hypnosis is pretty damn cool. State the desired outcome, do the ritual, and obtain result! But there is a lot more going on there than "just expectation."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Suggestion fuel


A common criticism of stage hypnosis (by those who don't understand hypnosis) is that the subjects are motivated to respond to the suggestions by the fact that they are in a situation where they are socially expected to comply and socially excused from the embarrassment. The hypnosis is real and there is a lot more going on, but that is important. Whether you are using hypnosis for party tricks, therapy, or anything else - motivation matters. Accepting a suggestion requires cognitive effort, and if there is no reason to do it, the subject won't. If there are additional reasons for them to not respond, then you need to overcome those as well before you can move on. Suggestions need their fuel.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Against pretalks

Sometimes hypnotherapists talk about the pretalk as if it's necessary. It isn't. You can get excellent results with no pretalk whatsoever.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Take away interpersonal lessons


I've taken a very ground up approach in my study of cognition, and I can't say that I regret it. But I also can't recommend that type of approach to anyone that isn't going to take it quite so seriously.
Most of the value that I've gotten from my efforts has not come from the cool party tricks, like making someone forget their own name or sticking someone to the ground. It hasn't even come from the more serious uses of "hypnosis" or even organically occurring trance. Besides purely internal changes (which is the subject of a future post), most of the value has come from my day to day interactions with other people.
My understanding of cognition has given me the ability to get my point of view seen (and felt) in its entirety by others - instead of being prematurely rejected due to shitty thinking. And it has also helped me determine what my point of view should be.
Most of the value has come from having a better understanding of the structure of cognition and having strategies for navigating the space. Since these skills are mostly describable by higher level abstractions, it is not necessary to have the lower level understanding to reap a lot of the benefits. The lower level understanding does have a profound effect on how I see and use the higher level stuff, and it also lets me play some fun games using legit hypnosis, but it is possible to do a lot without it.
While I can't recommend that everyone dive into this as seriously as I did, I really do recommend that everyone get a handle on the high level summary, keep it in mind in future interactions, and start honing these skills. And while I cannot, in one blog post, tell you everything you need to know to instantly reap all of these benefits, I am going to give you a mental framework in which to build these skills. It's gonna take practice, but the good news is that you already interact with people, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to work on it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Acknowledgement


Acknowledgement is a pretty big thing that I haven't explicitly covered yet. Acknowledgement is a great way to satisfy objections and solve problems since a lot of the problems that people have boil down to attempts to suppress signals (i.e. lack of acknowledgement).
I've known about the role of acknowledgement for a while now, but I kinda got hit over the head with it recently. Since then, its been more salient, I've been using it more, and I've been seeing its uses everywhere.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hierarchical strategies

When Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov at chess, was it because it ran an algorithm that searched the decision tree and spit out good moves, or was it because it spit out the specific set of moves that worked well against Kasporov's moves? Okay, stupid question.
If you're trying to learn chess, you could try memorizing "canned" sets of moves, but due to the exponential tree growth, that will only get you so far. So you could try to learn the heuristics that pop out the specific sets of moves - maybe "take out the queen first" or something. But then you're limited to the strength of those heuristics. Maybe you could work at an even higher level of abstraction so you can generate your own heuristics and know better when to use which heuristic.
There's sorta a hierarchy of abstraction with concrete moves at the bottom and chess theory at the top - and you can improve your game at any level.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The hypnotic gaze


Part of the hypnosis mythology is that the power is in the "hypnotic gaze". I've even had people refuse to look me in the eye after learning that I was a hypnotist.

To think that there's some ontologically basic and unavoidable power in a "hypnotic gaze" is pretty laughable, but there's something to it - a lot to it, actually. Much more than I initially thought, coming from a text hypnosis origin and all that.

The "hypnotic gaze" infamy comes from noticing the power of nonverbal communication when holding strong eye contact and focusing all of your attention on the person.  By using eye contact, you can create a strong frame and draw the person in to that frame – as long as you know what you are doing, that is.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Well, it's more of an invitation, really

Okay, so last time I said it was all instructions. But there's an important albeit somewhat subtle distinction to be made between "instructions" and "invitations"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Its an instruction, you fool

Back in  quasi-bayesian placebos, placebo engineering, and the like, I talk about suggestions as if they're predictions. This isn't false, but I was missing a big part of it - I'll come back to this.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to deter without being a dick


Effectively deterring humans is a bit different than effectively deterring an idealized game theoretic agent.  If you're a skilled elephant jockey, you can remove a good amount of this discrepancy, but you need to know how it works so that you can correct for it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Alief > Belief

Perhaps you have heard of the mystery of the haunted rationalist – where the rationalist fears ghosts even though he believes that they don't exist.  Sometimes people have aliefs that cause them to act in ways inconsistent with their explicit beliefs

Monday, July 16, 2012

To confirm or not confirm?

Commitment and consistency is really really good shit, but it's not for everything. Getting confirmation is fantastic for things inside their Locus of Control and "Locus of Observation", but not so great for things on the outside.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Facets of rationality

So last time I talked about the fact that a large part of irrationality is caused by flinching away from unpleasant thoughts. This seems to cover the entirety of cases that make you want to throw up your arms and scream "You're being IRRATIONAL!!!"

However, if you define rationality as the skill of arriving at true beliefs, the skill of systematic winning, or as any other meta-intelligence like thing, then this isn't the whole story.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Irrationality as a byproduct of conditioning


So I've been thinking a bit more seriously about actively improving peoples rationality with my new skills.  Direct suggestions to not flinch away from problems, and not stop at mental stop signs have been quite effective when done in real time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Conversational Change

Sometimes I talk about hypnosis as if it's "cheating".  There are no actual rules against using trance, but there are a couple reasons to take a different approach.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Power tools of influence


With deep hypnosis and a bit of strategy, absolutely crazy things are easy - but we can't always get deep hypnosis. Sometimes people have their egos in the way, or are afraid of losing control, or whatever it is. And if you can't rewrite peoples memories, emotions, and sensory inputs at will, it becomes non trivial to create situations where they want what you want. But there are still things you can do. If they're not responding to you then find out what they do respond to and manipulate that.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hypnosis techniques for teaching rationality

One of the big reasons I got into this hypnosis thing was to help improve people that aren't "broken". As a fully general mind hacking tool set, it should be helpful in getting people to think better too, as long as we know how we should reason and decide and what we tend to do wrong. There are more applications than this, but here are a few important ones I haven't really covered yet.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Speaking with "the subconscious"


People often talk about the mind as if there are two people living inside - the conscious guy and the subconscious guy. And while you can make it functionally true if you want (or if you don't know what the fuck you're doing), there's nothing fundamental in the divide. It's just a bunch of shit that interacts more or less coherently, and we do better when it is more.