Monday, January 02, 2006

Personality "doubling"

Reinterpreting pieces of psychology with "hurricane memetics".

So, I'm reading a book on cults by Margaret Thaler Singer called "Cults in our Midst". It's a decent read. I haven't read anything new in it, save for a few minor reinterpretations, but I'm not even halfway through yet. I'm certainly not its target audience, but it's enjoyable.

Anyhow, one of the things she kinds of tosses of in this chapter is "personality doubling". In layman's terms, which are pretty much the terms she uses, personality doubling is creating a new personality which acts in specific situations without destroying the old personality, so that person can go back to the old situations and act like he or she always did.

We're not talking about hypnotic triggers, though. If exposed to a sudden shift between environments, they will not simply "zombie over" into the other personality. Nor will they lose control or forget what they have done.

So what does it mean, exactly? Well, that's what she dances around. She's writing for the ex-cult members and cult-member's families, so she talks about how it means that if someone is pulled out of the cult environment, they will become a normal person again.

Really, it's hurricane memetics.

Hurricane memetics are when a person is exposed to a given set of situations, invests him/herself in one of them, and is therefore more likely to re-expose themselves and re-invest. A few repetitions later, they can be utterly dedicated to a particular existance.

Most real-life situations don't cause hurricanes on their own. Instead, they contribute to hurricanes. For example, someone who loves iPod and Starbucks is likely to be part of the "trendy professional" hurricane, not the "Starbucks" or "iPod" hurricane.

Some real-life situations are very easy to grow addicted to. Drugs of all varieties, from the legal to the illegal, rapidly whip themselves into hurricane cultures. These are not cults, because Starbucks, Apple, cocaine, or whatever are not the only element in the hurricane. They are simply one of the elements and do not have total control.

What kind of hurricane you whip yourself into depends largely on what situations you find interesting and expose yourself to. If you are a dedicated Harley rider, your "stereotype" is well-known, and even if you don't adhere to it, you probably respect most of its components a great deal. Otherwise, you'd be riding a BMW, which has a very different culture and radically better hardware.

Your respect for the common elements of the "Harley hurricane" means you participate in it, at least to some extent. Riding, rough comraderie, maintenance, bars, testosterone, and probably leather. These things are not all Harley, nor do they usually contribute directly to Harley's well-being. But they are part of the Harley Culture, and they are likely things you will find yourself doing and enjoying if you are a long-time Harley addict.

Similarly, because you are the kind of person who is in the Harley hurricane, you're unlikely to be a Quaker. The elements of those two hurricanes spin in opposite directions. They conflict. You can't be a Quaker and ride a Harley.

The thing is, the way hurricanes and elements of hurricanes interact is messy. If they're part of the same culture, they were shaped by the same things, and therefore they "spin the same way". They get along. They contribute to one hurricane. When you're organically growing a culture, simply spinning your culture in the same direction as your client's culture allows you to become acceptable to them. Part of the hurricane.

This is what new-age pseudo-religions do, pretending to be "scientific" so that they don't get pounded. Cow-birds.

However, when two hurricanes or hurricane elements that do not "spin the same way" encounter each other, the result is usually that one wins and the other loses. For example, a Quaker who decides he likes riding around the country on a Harley is unlikely to remain a Quaker, because the thought is patently silly. Similarly, a Harley rider who becomes a Quaker isn't going to be able to stay a Harley rider because of the Quaker's restrictions.

Now, people can have multiple hurricanes. You might be a mild-mannered stock broker who drinks Starbucks and carries an Ipod during the day, and at night you're a Harley Rider. Sure, there's two hurricanes there.

Two "personalities".

When you go from the environment suitable for one hurricane to the environment suitable for the other, you simply dive into the appropriate hurricane. However, until you dive, you are still in the grips of your old hurricane, and that hurricane may not let you dive into the appropriate hurricane.

This is what cults do. They build a hurricane. They entice you into the situations they provide, then re-entice you and re-entice you until you're spending all your time in their culture.

Their culture inhibits hurricane switching. It specifically states that all other hurricanes are bad. Therefore, even when a cult member emerges from his cult to go to work, they hesitate to dive into their old lifestyle. They'll still be working, but like someone who wears a leather jacket but does not ride a Harley, they aren't part of the hurricane.

The cults do this gradually, until their hurricane is strong enough to keep you inside regardless of what other elements of other hurricanes you might enounter. Everything you face, you face as part of the cult hurricane, not as part of the hurricane in which it was intended to be seen. You don't go into Starbucks to be trendy, you go into Starbucks to convince some of the trendy people to join your hurricane.

Eventually, they are usually tossed from the hurricane. Once extracted, they usually find they dramatically prefer their old hurricanes. This is not because hurricanes are inherently bad, but because they were exploited while in the cult's hurricane. Most people don't like to be exploited.

The thing is, everyone's in a hurricane. Whether it's the Harley hurricane, the Trendy Professional hurricane, or a bizarre cult of a 35,000 year-old godling, it's still the same basic methods.

The only difference is that cults make their hurricanes greedy. When a Harley rider walks into a bank, he'll usually act like a customer, rather than a Harley rider. Not so with cults.

This means cults are totally detached from normality. They don't have any point of calibration. Therefore, they get all out of wonk and can be convinced to do the most extreme, bizarre things.

Of course, it should be noted that normality is simply another hurricane...

Anyhow, I just thought that was interesting. :)


Patrick Dugan said...

I think its important to note about the "spins" of hurricanes, you have your right spinning, "cultural" hurricanes, like normality, and your left spinning, counter-cultural hurricanes, like drug use and Harley riding. I think people become more calibrated to one sort of hurricane spin over the other.

Persoanlly I'd indulge the frenzy of even the worst left spinning hurricane in order to escape the spin of normalcy.

Craig Perko said...

If you think that, you probably don't understand the depths to which extreme alternative lifestyles can sink. Not all do, for certain, but it isn't at all unheard of for cults to mutilate themselves and beat their own children to death.

Rich in Brooklyn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Craig Perko said...

The man who deleted his own comment was right. I did confuse Quakers with Amish. Comes from a deep disdain for all religion.

Still, having read up on it, the loud, brash, irritating Harley would not suit a Quaker too much more than an Amish person. :)

Harley Ghost Rider said...

I was gonna comment on the Quaker statements. I recently attended two Quaker meetings here in Miami, and the second one I took my Harley.

Nobody said anything to me about my bike, so I was wondering what was up with mentioning Quakers and Harleys in your post.


Tokyo "Bosozoku" Quaker said...

Well first, this was a very interesting read, thanks. The subject matter is something I will be wrestling with for awhile. In any case, I was intrigued by your usage of Quakers vs. Harley riders, and how the two hurricanes rotate in opposite directions and essentially would cancel each other out. I realize that you had made the VERY common mistake of mixing us (Quakers) with (The) Amish. Yes, I am a Quaker, and YES, I do ride Harleys. In fact, I will postulate that it is exactly the tenets of modern Quakerism that allow me to experience both hurricanes. The whole “god is in everything, so as long as you aren’t harming anyone…” I can see how most people would confuse us (sort of) and I can even agree with your disdain for religions. No ONE religion has all the answers, but Quakerism may be one of the most open minded of modern religion. My point is that, though we do cherish our silence, since god is out there, everywhere, there is no better way to "get in touch" with god (and a few bugs)then storming down a back country road decked out in leather, with the wind in your face. You might even say that God loves a HOG! BMW’s are pretty nice rides too ;) ( no Boxes for me, thank you)
Anyway, just wanted to say that your ideas on personality distinction are pretty intriguing things