There are many covert religions of society. Normally, we carry views about how life is. Usually, those who follow rationality culture believe in conclusions that were arrived through the scientific process or reasoning. Though, there are many frameworks in life that bypass our skepticism and control our behavior, thoughts, and perceptions. These frameworks operate more like religions and are not derived through scientific, philosophical or other modes of inquiry. Instead, they are often fed to us by culture. We have formalized criticisms of beliefs in gods, conspiracies, and astrology but we do not notice more insidious belief systems that are subtle enough that they are rarely even named as a belief system. The formalization and popularization of criticism of religion, conspiracy, and astrology is why we notice and criticize them. It is because we are fed reasons to criticize them. We are shown.
The first example of a religion of society that we will explore is identity. Observing the patterns of someone’s behavior creates a filter for how you observe the future of their patterned behavior. This is confirmation bias. Your observation informs your subsequent behavior as you interact with the subject. You will implicitly express your observed patterns and impose those beliefs onto others without explicitly communicating them. An example of this is when we infantilize women without realizing we have been conditioned to do so. This implicit expression of belief about someone’s identity will impact the subject being observed and their own complex dynamics will create some mutual dynamic that dances with your tendency to form judgments. The patterns of behavior become a feedback loop between the observer and the subject.
There are many different ways your judgments can manifest in a reaction from the subject being observed. In some cases, people will enjoy how you judge them. They will reinforce your tendency to judge them in those ways. Most people build a persona, a kind of psychological mask that is designed to reinforce an identity that the user finds pleasant or useful. Other times, people will oppose your judgments. Sometimes, their opposition will be part of your judgment and thus reinforce your perspective about their tendency to oppose you.
Consider this: A lot of people see through gendered lenses. There are ideas about how some people are men and that men act like x. When they see men, they will see x behavior. Many men internalize x and try to express x to prove they are men. Genders are often culturally assigned fragments of personas that associate with people’s sex. Sometimes these personas are personally assigned, like in the case of trans individuals.
Since men are seen as more callous or low empathy, people will notice when men are callous or low empathy, or at least when they appear to be. Confirmation bias pushes us to notice when men behave the ways in which we believe men tend to behave. We will dismiss the instances that men behave out of alignment with our framework of men. Men will also feel pressure to act in alignment with the character tropes men are assigned to because they must prove their value as men. Acting feminine would be damaging to the reputation of a man, at least within some subcultures.
Archetypes such as gender are similar to astrological types or MBTI types. Though they may not reflect any sort of valid reality, they are probably necessary for societal cohesion. It’s as if we are all agreeing to play a game that might conflict with our desires. This game includes proving we are men or women. Sometimes this produces dysphoria or conflict within us or others.
The archetypes get progressively inescapable when it comes to unspoken and nonverbal elements of communication. For example, people often assume that there is manipulative or subtextual components of each other’s behavior. We look for ulterior motives and hidden meanings. These often go unspoken and the rabbit hole seems endlessly deep. The first layer is commonly described as we gossip about memes of manipulative behavior and ulterior motives. These memes help us generate confirmation biases that help us detect similar experiences within our own lives. Then, there is unexplored territory that hasn’t yet been verbalized or meme-ified in which we begin to rely on something like gut feelings in order to assess.
Why should we do this? A possible answer: If we abandoned all incorrect or imagined identities and just flowed free, I suspect that society would collapse.
If everyone were authentic, we’d be fucked basically.
Or maybe not?
People want us to be predictable and to fit within their frameworks because they fear the unknown. The unknown is where danger lies. Stranger danger. When you can predict people, you know how to control them and protect yourself. The repetition allows you to assume how future interactions will play out. Which includes not playing out violently or emotionally harmfully. Of course, predictable harmful behavior is avoided too. The unknown merely makes a person unpredictable.
Imagine if someone were to begin crying furiously on the street, breaking social norms. Imagine they approach you in the face and cry with their eyes wide open, unflinching. This continues for a solid 15-minutes, and you can’t get them to stop. Surely, you’d start to worry for your safety, simply because you cannot predict their behavior because they’ve deviated from normal behavior, which is enforced by violence. Yes, violence. If the person continues to cry and disrupt people’s sense of safety, police officers will be summoned with their weapons so that they can utilize the human’s innate fear of death and torture (prison) to control and manipulate the person’s behavior, so that they will stop the confusing activity. They will ask if the person has taken drugs that disrupt their capacity to be obedient to the religions of society.
People of differing cultures experience xenophobia toward each other in part due to not having enough exposure to the cultural and covert religious structures of each other’s society. Differences in social norms result in individuals losing the ability to comfortably navigate predictable patterns of behavior. We rely on stereotypes and illusions of identity to comfort ourselves. We are addicted to our “astrology” because it comforts us and assures us that the future will be okay. It feeds us prophesies of other people’s impending actions. We even exploit these predictions to control how other people see us. A notable case is with virtue signaling or basically any other type of signaling. Signaling itself is about generating prophesies in other people’s eyes so that they can become a utility for us.
We want to make people our puppets using their tendency to prophesize.
I recently explored the idea that people use me for tragedy porn. The concept is that people sometimes seek out my presence because of the fact that my life is often tragic, which helps them feel less disturbed by their own tragedy. I became self-aware of this when I noticed there is a persistent pressure inside of me that begs me to avoid reporting positive news about my life when I am interacting with certain individuals. These individuals share a tendency to hate those whose lives appear unfairly better. Usually those with higher social status. The video below was my exploration of that topic.
Society is like a machine that brainwashes us to believe in these astrological-analogous frameworks. Beyond personal identity, we form beliefs about how society works, how politics work, the best ways for a job place to function, and at its worst, we form beliefs about psychological and psychiatric behaviors that are validated by professionals within the field who have gone so far up their ass that they’ve accidentally become cult leaders of the very nature of how the mind works.
Actually, the professionals in these fields are not really the problem. It is the relationship they have to popular culture. Popular culture circulates diagnoses and psychological ideas as if they were MBTI tests and astrology charts. They have an implied power beyond the former two because they are presumably backed by experts. Though, experts do not support the misuse of psychological ideas. Once these ideas have polluted the meme-sphere, people begin to use them as identities much like gender. This likely changes the trajectory of people’s lives as they identify with expert-created psychological frameworks or impose them on others. The study of these frameworks may be partially tainted by the circulation of these ideas within culture. The subject has developed an awareness of the framework and can use it much like we use MBTI or astrology. It poses confound issues and confirmation biases when it comes to studying these psychological frameworks.
The frameworks in these fields are certainly and inevitably flawed due to the immense complexity that is human psychology, making the situation even weirder. Ideas like depression, ADHD, and even schizophrenia are not necessarily based in reality. It is true that people suffer. It is also true that people fit within the diagnostic criteria. It is also also true that there will be biological bases for many of these diagnoses. Though, these concepts are not free from the problems described with gender. They are at least an improvement because of the way we try to formalize the study of the brain, behavior, and these diagnoses. The ideas in psychological study will be more rigorous but worryingly, we might feel more valid for believing in such incomplete concepts of reality because of the involvement of experts. This is particularly relevant today at such an early stage in the history of the study of psychology.
As an example, schizophrenia may be a broad umbrella category of hardly specific conditions with various non-converging causes. It may also sometimes barely be a disorder and have more of a social cause or act as a personal identity. Other times it may be highly physiological. This barely even begins to explore how genes may interact with identities and culture.
Consider this Vsauce video exploring names and appearances. It is a bit tangential, but it exposes a certain way of thinking about these topics that is relevant.
This all starts to feel kind of post-modern, in a very uncomfortable way.
Who are we?
Check out the book I just finished, The Psychonet. It explores many ideas from this blog and is designed to make you feel alive, emotional, and maybe terrified. It uses AI art and depicts a story about AI.
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