You are in a room built out of your framework of the world. The beliefs you can describe make up the walls, and the beliefs you can’t make up the floor. The ceiling is a mishmash of memory, patterned like dreams.
In the chair in front of you sits Crazybrain. It looks just like you. You’ve stared at its face way too much.
“You’re back,” you say. “I was hoping you wouldn’t come back.”
“We need to talk about your rejection of reality thing,” says Crazybrain. “You can’t delude yourself forever, you know that.”
“I’m not deluding myself,” you say. You remember the chalk words “you are beautiful and worthwhile” scrawled on the sidewalk outside the post office from earlier today, and the memory flashes briefly on the ceiling.
“I am beautiful and I am worthwhile.” You don’t have to look up to recite it.
“No,” Crazybrain sighs. “You have no true value to offer to the people around you. You are not as intelligent, interesting, or creative as you hope you are. Everyone around you knows this. They simply tolerate you, usually out of politeness but sometimes out of pity. You are an outsider in their world. You are a secret embarrassment.”
“But that’s not true,” you say. “They reassure me about this. They hug me and smile at me and invite me over to things. Joseph even gave me a really heartfelt compliment the other day. And Alex bootycalls me at least twice a week.”
“Come on now. Of course they would hug you and smile at you and invite you over to things. Social pressure is intense. You yourself sometimes smile at and hug people you don’t really like, and I know last month you extended Jill an invite to the acroyoga workshop even though she’s really annoying, so what makes you think they’re not doing that to you? How many compliments have you given that you didn’t really mean? And you should know better, trying to use Alex as an example. Alex is using you out of lazy arousal and possibly for validation. You aren’t special, you’re food – and you offer it up willingly because it’s a cheap way to feel liked and accepted. You can’t achieve that on your own merit, because you don’t have merit.”
It would be easier to fight Crazybrain if it were cruel, but it isn’t. It feels gentle, matter-of-fact, almost parental.
“This is insecurity,” you say. “People talk about insecurity like it’s silly, so I know this must be silly. This is a thought loop. This is stupid to believe.”
“I knew you would say that,” says Crazybrain. “Of course you would try to rationalize this away – that’s exactly what a self-deluded, dishonest person would do who wants to believe anything but the truth. People say insecurity is silly, but they say that only when insecurity is actually unfounded. You know, deep inside, that there are things you actually need to conceal. If people knew what you were really like, you would be alone. You can feel that deep clench of fear when you look at yourself, how can you be so stupid as to think anybody else would like something so terrible?”
“I don’t believe you,” you say, believing it. “And even you just saying this is ruining things. People don’t like insecure people, and you whispering this in my ear is turning me into the person that nobody wants, that I don’t want. People love confidence, ease, grace. I need to be that. I need to be that so they will like me, for real.”
Crazybrain laughs. “Even now, your drives are dependent on what they think. Even at your very core, your desires to escape insecurity come from insecurity. If you were actually a valuable person, you would never have even started thinking this way.”
“Then I need to be independent of what people around me think,” you say.
“Why do you want that?” asks Crazybrain.
“So that… so that they value me,” you say, weakly.
“So that they value you,” Crazybrain says, and shakes its head. “You can’t climb out of this hole. The more you try, the more you fall.”
You know Crazybrain is right. No matter how much reason you throw at it, you are trapped here with a voice that carries the weight of true knowledge, and your fight against it is just a symbol of your weakness.
- The Call to Truth
Crazybrain is a tricky thing, because it’s constructed a bit like a disease that’s evolved to propagate when our own ‘immune system’ of reason tries to get rid of it. More rationality does not make people more likely to be secure. This is how on some level I believe I am unattractive, despite having spent 5 years making absurd money as a camgirl. Hell, even as I wrote that, I can hear Crazybrain in my head whispering excuses (makeup. lighting. you were fake. people felt sorry for you.).
Crazybrain can live only in that room built out of your framework of the world. There is something inside your network of assumptions, about the way you process beliefs, that allows it to be so horrifyingly convincing. Crazybrain feels separate from you and what you want, but it grew out of your own network of roots. Shooting at it won’t help – you have to find the roots and sever them.
The roots that keep growing Crazybrain’s is the call to truth. Crazybrain triggers your desire to know what’s really going on, via your assumption that there is this true external world that we can uncover. We imagine that we are half-blind, feeling our way through an accurate reality that we can only sort of touch. Crazybrain is so convincing because we feel that it is less blind than we are.
The problem is that “knowing what’s really going on” is, at its heart, a sensation. To feel as though you have any access at all to an ‘external world’ – that this is even a possibility at all – is fundamentally a feeling that happens inside your existence. A little shock in the right places in the brain can convince anybody of nearly anything, and that internal feeling of “knowing” – in the same way Crazybrain knows – would be equally as convincing from the inside.
We use the feeling of “knowing” to guide us because we have little else to – but it’s easy to forget that at no point do we actually hold any truth, nor can we ever. The idea of holding truth is fundamentally nonsensical. We have the sensation of belief, the sensation of prediction, the sensation of control. Getting caught up in the idea that we could ever know what’s going on in any sense is what gives Crazybrain such power.
Crazybrain appeals to your belief in “the truth” – so stop believing in truth – or at least suspend it, as a framework you can put on or off depending on its usefulness. Transitioning to a mindset where you believe what is most functional, even when it’s hard, is death to Crazybrain.
“Nobody likes you,” says Crazybrain.
“That is not a useful belief to me,” you say. “Neither of us will ever really know what’s going on, because the concept of ‘what’s really going on’ fundamentally makes no sense.”
- Character On A Shelf
It is before your birth, and you’re standing before a vast wall of books. Each book is a character. The book doesn’t detail the type of life – location, parents, job, school – but rather the internal experience of the character. Is the character optimistic? Is it sad? How does it react to things?
You choose the book of a peaceful, graceful character, at ease with themselves, without fear. How would that character respond if Crazybrain appeared in their mind?
You are going to die. Is this the character you wanted to live?
“Nobody likes you,” says Crazybrain.
“I’ve got one life, buddy,” you say. “Neither of us know what’s really going on, and living with you in my head is not the life I intend to live. This is not the character I chose to be. This is not the experience I desire, and so I absolutely reject this.”
- Through The Fire
Give in. What are you afraid of? Let it consume you.
Crazybrain threatens you with being alone, with loss of your friends, your status, with tearing you away from love.
So let it. Don’t fight. Nobody actually likes being around you. There is nobody on earth who could know who you are, fully, and embrace you. You will lose everything you love. You will never find someone who will make you feel whole. You will suffer. So let yourself hurt. Don’t fight it. Don’t feel outrage, injustice, anger – just pure, grieving acceptance. This is the way the world is, this is the way you are. Relax into it. I really like doing this exercise on high doses of LSD, which I recommend if you feel ready for it.
If you feel as though you’ve hurt all there is to hurt, try to imagine something worse, and then hurt more.
Be cautious of resisting, because this might amplify the fear. If you find yourself struggling, ask yourself – what am I resisting? What am I afraid of? Actively seek for the parts that are avoiding that plunge into cold water, and push them in.
Crazybrain works through fear, and the thing we fear is pain – of seeing something about yourself that hurts, at other people rejecting you – so the only way to stop fearing is to hurt. Confidence comes from grief.
And hopefully, after the hurting runs itself dry, we might notice the small ways in which we do connect with people, and feel gratitude, and the ways in which we don’t connect, feel sorrow. Sorrow is inescapable, so don’t try to escape it. It’s okay. Sorrow of loss is the thing that gives us the ability to feel gratitude with connection. They are paired, bonded together, and like two sides of a stone, they are the same.
Holding that stone is infinitely more tolerable than fear.
“Nobody likes you,” says Crazybrain.
“I am ready to be alone,” you say, in agony.
- Look At Me
Your Crazybrain is not the only Crazybrain. Most other people are walking around with Crazybrain lounging in a chair inside their head.
You are not different from others. You are a creature in a world writhing with other creatures begging to be seen. Look at me – writing songs, earning money, giving birth, wearing fashion – they are all done to be seen.
You have the power to give people what they want, so badly. You know what it’s like to want to be seen by others, and so you know exactly how valuable that gratitude is. It’s gratitude you can generate. You can be the person to others that Crazybrain says doesn’t exist to you.
And so, when Crazybrain opens its eyes and starts whispering powerful sanities in that little room, turn it against itself. Yes – you are insecure, and longing – but so is everyone else.
“Nobody likes you,” says Crazybrain.
“You whisper this in the ear of humanity.”, you say. “You drive everyone to their knees – and even if you aren’t wrong for me, I know you’re wrong for them, because I know I can love them. And so I will love them.”
- You Have No Choice
Free will is an illusion. Scientists can predict choices you’ll make before you make them, and given perfect knowledge of the universe, we would know exactly who would say what, why, and when.
Sure, maybe this is a useless concept in general, but against Crazybrain it is a weapon. Crazybrain functions on judgment – on the feeling that you are not what you should be.
“You should be better, kinder, smarter, hotter. You are not, and you are a failure.”
The reason this feels convincing is because our minds assume we could have been something else. This is an illusion. Your mind was going to fire the way it always did, your feelings cascade in the most predictable pattern.
Every part of you is exactly as it should be, because there is nothing else it can be. Every sensation is reasonable, rational. The things about yourself you don’t understand can be understood – there is a perfectly sensible explanation for literally everything you have ever done, even if you don’t know it. How can you judge a simulation for acting out code you can read?
So why have shame? You are a bubbling forth of perfection.
“Nobody likes you,” says Crazybrain.
“Anyone could have been the one to live my life,” you say. “It just happened to be me.”
5 thoughts on “So Says Crazybrain”
Beautifully written. And I’m not just saying that out of social pressure for politeness.
Made me think of this Hafiz poem:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?
This of course is all wrong. If you couldn’t know what the truth was, you wouldn’t even be able to write these words without developing a context to say them. This is why people love to parody new age bullshit like this.
We don’t even need to accept that there is no such thing as knowing anything (in a truly deep sense, rejecting mathematical purity etc.) To accept that we can choose beliefs that are useful to us. Aella’s first stage wasn’t important to me and I don’t truly connect with it.
I don’t this post shows Aella knows what the truth is like you assume. She believes in some things. I am quite sure this particular truth is a very useful one. Found some form of it myself and my life is infinitely better because of it.
Loving people because you want to love. Understanding and listening to the messages people send out.
We build on our beliefs and are full of contradictions. Let’s choose some happy, healthy ones that also make a shit tonne of logical rational sense (look around, the signs of everyone’s insecurity are everywhere).
Thank you for sharing these thoughts. It’s a pleasure to encounter others describing their personal journeys of healing and growth through mental models that so closely resemble my own. Everyone must learn in their own way, but there is wisdom to be found here.
My childhood involved religiously-motivated homeschooling in a rural community, and teenage years who’s primary memories are of confidence-destroying acne and skeletal/muscle tension compounded by underdeveloped social skills and a career in computers. Anything we overcome can become a superpower. With each trial sustained, the experience of struggle and victory is etched more deeply into our identities.
Personal growth is a process of sampling many different beliefs and retaining only those which serve our highest selves. Here are a few which have been most useful to me:
The universe is deterministic.
Time is a subjective experience.
I am my body. There is no more valuable investment than physical health.
Everyone else is just as self-absorbed as I am.
The primary function of consciousness is to choose healthy mindsets and imprint constructive habits.
The most important things in life are to be present, be kind, and take responsibility for my actions and the consequences they have. When I live these ideals, I am perfect.
Not in the mystical sense of universal consciousness, but simply as a splinter of the physical universe manifested through hierarchies of replicating patterns, I am already god.
Only after seeing others as beings of infinite worth can I accept this as truth for myself.
Now this is a topic I find absolutely fascinating. These interpretations of the mind, and brain, and even the concept of the “crazybrain” are dense and well thought out. I have some thoughts and questions on the topic that might relate.
The broader points of “Crazybrain” look like they are about value judgements. There have been some cognitive psychologists out there that have tackled similar topics on intrusive thoughts that relate very much to your model of the “crazybrain”. Mainly, the big ones like “Nobody likes you” being posed as a truth, are damaging to individuals. They’re absolutes, a lot like the search truth concept you tie them to. Albert Ellis made a career out of breaking down those kinds of things.
The point that interested me the most however was the final one. It sort of takes many of the previous points and flips them on their head if you think about it. Basically, the denial of free will from that viewpoint is called determinism. I believe you even referenced the Libet studies on brain activity and action preceding conscious choice. That’s a big one in the Determinist frame of thought. It tied prior concepts on stimulus-response relations to demonstrable biological findings. The thing with that is, if taken at face value it falls for the same traps as “free will”. If you believe you can make every choice in the world consciously through will, you’re incorrect. If you believe that every single situation has been determined and there is no will, that doesn’t seem to always ring true either. There was a scientist called B.F Skinner who took the original Pavlovian stimulus-response idea and explained probability of future behavior by adding something called contingencies. Simply put, environmental variables influence behavior through reinforcement (reward) or punishment (aversion). Individuals act on their environment and do things, because those things have worked in the past, or they try novel things in an attempt to access/escape something. That ties into the free-will argument this way:
People’s brains unconsciously cause us to act in certain cases prior to our being aware of it. True. Evidence supports this to some degree. Not in every single situation, mind you, but some.
People’s behavior can also be influenced by external factors (reinforcement/punishment) without them even being aware of it. This is called “the automaticity of reinforcement”. Our brains adapt regardless of awareness of a tie between stimuli. This is how anxiety disorders work too by the way.
But, since people can act and operate on their environment, and change their environment, they can also be effected by those changes. They can set up future contingencies for themselves to be effected by, and those changes can alter future patterns of behavior. That put a crack in to the old theory as us being completely passive recipients, our brains just wired and responding on what comes, and at least puts us back in the seat to take some influence on to ourselves and others. We can engineer future contingencies to effect behavior. That means a plan can be made, and plans are choosing one attempt over an infinite array of others, for something that hasn’t happened yet.
That’s a choice measure. That brings into play preference, and preference is a big piece of evidence for choice. If I prefer chocolate milk over strawberry milk, my seeking of one puts a value judgement on there. One is better (to me). One is more likely to be selected over others. Are those preferences learned, or ingrained? Well, a little of both depending on the circumstance. It’s not every choice being available to “free will”, but there are individual selections being made.
So when it comes down to a person looking at their life and saying “it is what it is and couldn’t have happened any other way”, that’s one big assumption. It assumes something about every single value measure and choice measure along that path.
“Crazybrain” might say something like “eating 10 cakes was a terrible idea for your health last night”, and that’s just a value judgement now placed on a prior value judgement on last night’s cakes that set up a contingency the present person has to deal with.
A person can take that private event, that little dialogue from their “crazybrain” and make a choice about their future decisions. The pattern can keep on going, or it can’t.
But let’s say “crazybrain” is the more overt type that you referenced before. “Look at me”. There’s still two or more roads there to take. The individual difference might just be in the value judgement. Which road is more appealing? Better?
Maybe even listening to “crazybrain” is a choice measure too. Some value it higher, like the chocolate milk.