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Neglected Dimensions of Personality (Lecture for Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don)

Uploaded 10/25/2018, approx. 52 minute read

Esteemed colleagues, dear students, welcome to the second year of personality theory. And this year we will focus on various dimensions of personality and how personality is related to identity, personal identity, if at all.

As we said last year, those of you who are not too old to remember, last year we said that there is a confusion between personality and identity and that the two concepts are actually in flux.

What we are going to do this year is we are going to analyze various dimensions and aspects and we are going to do it using examples of mental health disorders and or behaviors and or mental health functions, such as memory.


But before we go into all this, we need to take a kind of time travel trip back in memory lane to the very beginning of psychology.

Psychology as a discipline is very old. We have writings by the ancient Greeks 2500 or 2600 years ago where they tried to analyze human psychology. Of course, they didn't use the word psychology, but it was psychology all the same.

Modern psychology, so-called scientific psychology, started in the middle of the 19th century and it started largely with two camps competing on the soul of psychology.

The first one was the descriptive camp. Let's call it the literary camp, the almost artistic camp.

And that would be, for example, William James in the United States.

This camp of psychologists, this group of psychologists, believe that psychology is a description of human nature, not very different to literature, only a lot more systematic and methodical. They believe that psychology is actually a form of taxonomy, of classification and categorization.

Don't forget that only 100 years before, Carl Linus classified and categorized all the living species, plants and animals. So classification was a big deal. Making lists of functions, mental functions, behaviors, how people interact with each other was the heyday.

So if you read William James' Masterpieces, a series of books he has written about psychology, you will see that it's actually a series of observations about humans in their natural habitat and about human nature.

But at the very same time, the continent far away, Europe, there was a group of German scientists, German of course, who tried to make psychology, to convert psychology, to transform it into an accurate, exact science.

So they set up laboratories replete with all kinds of beacons and laboratories that looked a lot like chemistry laboratories or physics laboratories. And laboratories, their laboratories had electrical equipment. It all looked very scientific.

And what they said is that we should transform psychology into a science of measurement. They tried to measure things. They tried to quantify.

So at the same time, we had two camps, the qualitative, literary, descriptive, observational psychology, on the one hand, and the experimental science-like, measurement-oriented psychology on the other, mainly in Germany.

The person who brought everything together, the two strands, was essentially Sigmund Freud. Sigmund Freud lived in Vienna. Vienna was under this fear of influence of Germany. He actually met many of the German psychologists. He collaborated with a few of them. He adopted a lot of their thinking.

And his initial writings, his first writings about hysteria and so on, are very scientific. By training, Sigmund Freud was not a psychologist. He was a neurologist.

So he was a medical doctor. And as a medical doctor, he was used to measuring things. He was used to testing things. He was used to experimentation.

But on the other hand, he was a well-read person, steeped in archaeology. He had a huge archaeological collection, a collection of archaeological artifacts. He read a lot of literature. He studied religion in depth.

So he brought together the two strands. He combined experimental observational psychology with literary artistic psychology.

And he wrote a few of the biggest masterpieces of human literature in the early 20th century in Vienna.

But Freud made one serious mistake. And this mistake is with us to this very day.

Freud observed only people with mental health problems.

Freud never worked with healthy people. He never went out to observe healthy people. He never interacted with healthy people.

Freud as a medical doctor and later as a psychologist in a way, the founder of psychoanalysis, Freud was used to and described and wrote only about mentally ill people.

But based on his experience with mentally problematic people, he generalized the theory of human psychology.

But the fact is, well, at least in some countries, majority of the population is healthy, normal. Majority of the population are not like the clients and patients of Sigmund Freud.

And taking the information that he got from his patients and declaring that this information applies to healthy and normal people is a methodological mistake.

You cannot generalize from a highly specific population into the general population. We know it today.

And yet, everyone who came after Freud, with the exception of the behaviorist, everyone who came after Freud, repeated exactly the same thing. They observed unusual, unconventional, pathological, extreme situations. They observed unusual, mentally ill, mentally problematic, mentally disordered people.

And then they took this information and they generalized it.

They said, well, this is how people think. This is how people emote. This is how people work. And this is how people interact with each other.

Right? Wrong. This is how people with mental health problems do all these things, not healthy and normal people.

So what can we say about so-called healthy and normal people?


First of all, as you remember from the previous year, normality or normalcy is an ideal. There is no such a person. There is no we never find, we will never come across a normal person or a healthy person. It's kind of an ideal.

We compare people to this ideal and then we grade them. We say, well, if you are 80% of this ideal, you're normal and healthy. If you are 30% of this ideal, then something's wrong with you.

So taking into account that normalcy, the concept of normalcy is an idealistic generalization that has no place in reality.

Taking this into account, still we can say that the concept of personality and the concept of normal personality and the fact that abnormal personality, all these three interconnected concepts crucially rely on a few dubious tenets, a few problematic assumptions and many things we ignore.

We ignore by choice and sometimes we ignore by cognitive bias because we are human beings and we tend to ignore such things even in day to day life and also in science and definitely in psychology, which is not exactly a science.


So what I want to do in this first lecture is to discuss five dimensions of personality and identity.

Most of these dimensions are acknowledged in the scholarly literature. However, they're acknowledged as a footnote. They are tackled up hazardously in passing as though they are not very important.

But actually I think they are absolutely critical and crucial.

And if we review all the so-called knowledge of psychology that we have, we may discover that most of it is either wrong or should be revised dramatically in view of these five dimensions.

So let us start.

The first dimension of course is in which culture, in which society, which type of society do we live?

Some societies are individualistic. Some societies are collectivist. Some societies are consensual. They aspire to consensus. Some societies are conflictive. They rely on conflict and adversary relations. Some societies are hierarchical. They are patriarchal. They are authority driven. Some societies are egalitarian.

So societies have their own so-called personality. Societies, cultures and civilizations have typical dimensions which characterize them.

And as individuals, we try to conform to these dimensions. We try in other words to fit in. We try to belong.

It is a very bad feeling when you are an outcast, when you're ostracized, when you're criticized, when you're excommunicated.

Society has very powerful tools at its disposal to manipulate us, to control us, to force us to behave in certain ways.

In extreme cases, society denies our freedom. It puts us in prison.

So society also has a monopoly on violence, a monopoly on aggression, a monopoly on power, that it uses in order to make us comply with its demands, explicit demands like law, and implicit demands like the nature of society.

So as I said, Japan, which is a collectivist society, has very little to do with the United States, which is an individual society. And the United States, which is a conflict oriented society, adversarial society, you see it in American courts, the United States has very little to do with China, which is a consensus driven society, a society where everyone tries to live in harmony and compromise.

Some societies are narcissistic, and other societies in different periods in history have been utterly psychopathic. For example, Nazi Germany.

We cannot separate the science of personality. We cannot create a theory of individual personality.

We ignoring the culture in society in which the individual lives.

When Freud wrote his masterpieces, which later gave birth to the movement of psychoanalysis and then psychoanalytic psychology, when Freud wrote these masterpieces, he did exactly this. He ignored his culture, his society, his environment, his ecosystem and his milieu. He ignored the fact that, for example, sexuality was heavily suppressed during the Victorian era. He ignored, to a large extent, other societies and cultures, except rarely in some of his writings like Totem and Taboo.

So Freud and later psychologists, actually I would say the vast majority of psychologists, pretend that individuals are atoms, that they live in isolation, that you can take an individual and analyze that individual's character, identity, personality, conduct, emotions, cognitions, thoughts and interpersonal relationships in isolation from his background, family, neighborhood, community, friends, ethos, society and culture.

The truth is you cannot.

And throughout this lecture, I will give you examples of mental health problems and how different cultures cope with them.

For example, consider Czar. Czar, C-Z-A-R, is the name given in Africa, big parts of Africa, for example, Ethiopia. Czar is the name given to what we in the West would call psychotic disorder. People with Czar in Africa, they see demons. They hear voices. They have hallucinations. Many of them become violent.

So Czar is what we would have called in Western civilization demon possession.

You see, to this very day, the Catholic Church recognizes the possibility of a possession by the devil, a possession by a demon. To this very day, there is a school at the Vatican which teaches priests how to exercise demons.

We also movies of demon possession and demon exorcism.

But what is demon possession? Demon possession is the name we used to give to psychotic disorder. It is simply a language element.

In religion, we call it demon possession. In psychology, we call it psychotic disorder. It's a language.

The phenomena are the same. The etiology to this very day, the reason people have psychotic disorders, the etiology is debatable to this very day. Religion would tell you that demon possession or psychotic disorder is a result of an invasion by a demon. Your body, your mind is invaded by a demon.

So psychology will tell you different stories that are equally implausible by the way. And psychiatry will tell you that psychotic disorder is a result of a biochemical imbalance in the brain.

But to this very day, there are no conclusive studies. And to this very day, there is a massive philosophical confusion in the ranks of psychiatry.

Because it is true that when you have a psychotic disorder, you have a biochemical disorder as well. It's true that when you are psychotic, when you hear voices, when you see visions, when you are instructed to kill your children, when you lose control, it's true that when all this happens, something goes on in your brain, different neurotransmitters, different biochemicals, different electrical activity, different flow of blood. It's all true. We see it in functional magnetic resonance imaging. So it's all true.

The only problem is what causes what? Does the psychosis cause these changes in the brain? Or do the changes in the brain cause the psychosis?

In other words, are we talking about a correlation between two events, one psychic and one physiological? Or are we talking about causation, the event in the brain caused the psychosis? Or the psychosis caused the events in the brain?

No one has answers to these questions.

Therefore, the psychiatric medicalised explanation of psychosis is as dubious and problematic as the religious explanation and as the psychological explanation.

Or to cut a long story short, we have no explanation.

But what I'm trying to tell you is that Tsar, for example, possession in Somalia, in Ethiopia, and in other African countries in Egypt, in Iran, demon possession is not considered a pathology at all. People are possessed by demons on a regular basis. It's part of life. Everyone is possessed by a demon at one stage or another, especially women, by the way, but also men.

On the very contrary, men with demon possession have access to privileged knowledge. Some of them are considered prophets. So here is a mental health pathology that is considered a part of normality, considered normal, even healthy, even privileged in many, many societies with billions of people.

So even the definition of pathology depends crucially on how we view normality and how we view normality depends crucially on our current phase in our culture and civilisation.

Because if you go back to Europe, 400 years, 300 years, demon possession would still be considered a part of normal life. Witches were persecuted and executed only 300 years ago in Europe and in North America. Culture and society then accepted certain mental health disorders as an inevitable part of human life.

Today we are living in the age of enlightenment, most of us at least. Today we don't believe in demons, we don't believe in devils, we don't believe in witches, except if we are married to one.

So today we would not use this language to describe this phenomena. We would use the language of psychology because psychology is enlightened, psychology is scientific.

You see, psychology is being taught in your university, witchcraft is not. To learn witchcraft you have to find Harry Potter. To learn psychology you just have to watch this video.

I am teaching psychology in a university and I am teaching it as a science because culture and civilization is telling us that it's okay, is telling us this is the correct language.

But is it? We don't know.


Consider for example the Taijin Kyofusho, I hope I said it half correctly, Taijin Kyofusho in Japan is the fear, the phobia of being repulsive to others. People who have Taijin Kyofusho believe that their body, they smell their body odor, parts of their body, their hands, their face are repulsive to other people. They are convinced that they disgust other people, that other people are disgusted when they smell them or look at them.

In the West we would classify this as a mental disturbance, as a mental problem. We would subject the person with such a phobia to talk therapy. We would give such a person medication, usually antidepressants. We would consider this Taijin Kyofusho, a body image disorder.

There is a whole class of mental health disorders and they're called body image disorders.

If I think I'm too fat, if I think I'm too thin, if I think I'm repulsive, if I think my smell is horrible, if I think that my emotions are exaggerated, if I think that I displease or embarrass or that I'm offensive just by existing, that would be a form of body image disorder.

And all of you heard of eating disorders. Why do we have eating disorders? Why do we have anorexia? Why do we have bulimia?

We have these disorders because we have a wrong image of our body.

For example, if I think I'm too fat, then I will develop anorexia. I will try not to eat. I will try to control my eating and thereby reduce my weight, even if I am thin to the point of medical danger.

But in Japan, Taijin Kyofusho, this body image disorder is considered commendable. A person with this disorder is considered sensitive to the needs of others, empathic, considerate and compassionate.

The Japanese encourage this. They teach their children and they teach each other that you should be very concerned about the way you look, about your body smell, body odor, about how you move, your motions and what you say and so on.

So they adopted a body image disorder as a tool to regulate social interactions to make life more pleasant for everyone involved.


Here is a situation where a culture, a society, a civilization, the Japanese culture, adopts what in the West is considered a mental health disorder, adopts it as a virtue, as something recommended, as something you should have if you are a good person. It's good in Japan. It's bad in the West.

In the West, you get treatment. In Japan, you get praise.

Consider for example, mal de ojo. Mal de ojo is the Spanish for evil eye.

Evil eye is the belief that other people can affect your child, your unborn child and your baby just by looking at that baby, by giving praise to the baby saying, oh how beautiful it is, wonderful baby, etc.

The evil eye is a curse, a maladdiction. It can make the baby sick. It can even kill the baby.

So women in many societies, some parts of Russia, in Spain, Latin America, some parts of Asia and big parts of Africa, men do not tell other people that they are pregnant. They hide their babies.

Once the baby is born, they hide the baby for a few months for other people not to give the baby the evil eye.

In Turkey, people sell their babies. They try to cheat the evil eye by selling the baby to another family and such babies receive the name Merkado or Merkada bought and sold in Spanish.

So there are many ways of coping with the evil eye.

But why am I mentioning the evil eye?

If you went to a western psychiatrist and you told the western psychiatrist, listen, I believe that my neighbor is putting an evil eye on my baby, the western psychiatrist will prescribe medication.

Because in western psychiatry, to believe that someone has the power to kill your baby just by looking at it is a delusion. It's a delusional disorder. It's a recognizable mental health diagnosis, mental health problem.

If you believe that someone can kill your baby by looking at it, something is wrong with you. You're mentally sick. You need treatment in the west.

But for well over a billion people all over the world, this is absolute reality. No one will consider you insane if you talk about the evil eye in, for example, Brazil or in parts of Africa, sub-Saharan Africa or in Spain. No one would think that you're crazy. Actually, people would think that you are crazy if you deny the existence of the evil eye.

So here's an example of a mental health disorder, delusional disorder, that is highly culture- bound, depends where you are and when you are.


And finally, let's consider something we all come across in our daily lives. Homosexuality.

Until 1973 and actually until 1980, homosexuality was defined as a mental health problem in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Edition 3. 1980, homosexuality was still listed as a mental health disorder. Homosexuals were considered sick people in need of treatment, in need sometimes of medication and in many cases in need of commitment to a mental asylum where they went through conversion therapy, a therapy which tried to convince homosexuals not to be attracted to the same sex but to be attracted to the opposite sex.

So we are not talking about the Middle Ages. We are not talking about 300 years ago. We are not talking about Japan. We are talking about the West. We are talking about the United States of America. We are talking about the leading document of mental health, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

And until 1980, a year after the AIDS epidemic started, homosexuality was considered a mental health problem. Until the year 2013, sadomasochism, sadomasochistic sex until 2013 was considered a mental health problem. It was removed from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual only in 2013.

Sadomasochistic sex is unusual sex. It is a rare form of sexual preference. Only about 1% practice sadomasochistic sex on a regular basis and fewer than 15% of the population experienced it at any stage.

Yet until 2013, that's only five years ago, it was considered a mental illness, a mental sickness which necessitated treatment. Today, five years later, society changed. Listen, what changed?

The sadomasochistic practice did not change. The people who practice sadomasochism did not change. The knowledge of the psychiatric profession, psychological profession did not change in five years.

What changed was the attitude of society, the attitude of culture towards sadomasochistic sex.

As our mores, as our values evolve, as our morality changes, as we become more tolerant, more accepting of unusual practices, as we realize that there is no such thing as normality, that there is a spectrum of disorders, we begin to understand that there is no such thing, for example, as sexual perversion. We begin to understand that two consenting adults, if they don't harm each other, can do anything they want and it would be utterly healthy.

We are transforming the concept of mental health. We understand that human sexuality, human behavior, human sexual orientation, human interpersonal relations, human thinking, human emotions, they are not isolated points or isolated events which we call normal. They are on a spectrum. And in this spectrum there is a place for everyone.

We used to think that there are only two sexes, male and female. Today we identify seven sexes, and in census questionnaires in the United States all seven are going to be listed two years from now.

So our thinking is evolving according to our culture and our society.

In other words, what I am saying is very worrying. What I am saying is very frightening and very problematic because what we consider to be clinical entities, what we consider to be psychological diagnosis, maybe we are wrong.

Maybe many of the things we today consider to be mentally ill or mentally sick or mentally unhealthy, maybe in a hundred years would be considered totally normal, totally healthy.

What about borderline personality disorder? What about narcissistic personality disorder? What about psychopathy? Are they mental illnesses or are they society's judgment of certain people? We don't know.

Experience shows that many things that used to be defined as mental illnesses are no longer defined as such.

The second dimension is reality. Wereality.

We tend to talk about personality, about character and about our personal identity as independent from reality.

It's like we exist in some vacuum. There is us and we observe reality. There is reality in us.

The first philosopher who suggested this dualism, the first philosopher who broke the world into observer and observed was Descartes, René Descartes in the 17th century. He is the founder and father of modern science and psychology is operating within the philosophy of modern science where we have someone observing reality and we have reality that is being observed.

This dichotomy, this break is also in psychology. We think that we exist. We feel that we exist.

If I ask Marion here who is shooting me, Marion do you exist? He would tell me of course I exist. And if I ask him, do you exist regardless of your environment? Do you exist here? Would you exist in Russia? Would you exist in the social islands? He would say of course I exist irrespective of my environment. I exist as a separate entity. There is me and there is reality.

And to some extent of course that is true.

But it is difficult for an observer to make a valid observation about other people.

For example, when I look at Marion, can I prove that Marion is real? Can I prove that Marion is not a figment of a dream I am having? Can I prove that Marion is human?

Well in his case it is easy.

But generally speaking, can I prove that he is human?

The problem is that I have no access to his mind. I have to trust what he is telling me. He is telling me that he is human. He is telling me that he exists. I have to rely on his statements. I have to believe him. I have to trust him. I don't have any objective, neutral so-called scientific way or instrument or tool or measurement or access to anything which would give me a measure of certainty of his existence and of what is happening inside his mind.

We all to a very large extent rely on each other's statements, on each other's affirmations and confirmations.

But if we cannot make sure how the other feels, if we cannot make sure what the other is thinking, if we have to rely only on the other's statements, then it is a solipsistic world. A world in which our interactions are based on fiction. Our interaction is based on a totally arbitrary agreement. I agree with Marion that we are both human. I agree with Marion that he has a mind. I agree with Marion that his mind is largely like mine, that we are human in this sense, that we belong to the same species. I agree with Marion that when he feels pain and I feel pain, it's the same thing. When he falls in love and I fall in love, it's the same thing.

And when he sees red and I see the color red, it's the same thing.

But wait a minute. All these agreements are totally arbitrary, totally unsubstantiated, totally unsubstantiable.

He has to trust me and I have to trust him. And so I want to mention a mental health disorder which challenges this.

It is the Qatari delusion. In the Qatari delusion, people who have the Qatari delusion believe that they are dead. They firmly believe that they are dead. They believe that they do not exist. Or they believe that they don't have certain organs. For example, they believe they don't have hands or they don't have legs. They believe that they have no blood. They believe that they are decomposing, putrefying.

And so people with Qatari disorder don't participate in the intersubjective agreement. They don't agree with us that they exist. They challenge our assumption, our presumption that they exist.

Of course, there's a lot of contradiction in Qatari because if you ask them, if you are dead, how do you know that you are dead? Who is it that knows that you are dead? For you to know that you are dead, you must exist.

On a philosophical grounds, the Qatari delusion is insane and it is indeed a form of insanity.

But it challenges our basic assumptions about intersubjectivity, our basic assumption about our ability to recognize each other as existing entities of the same type.

There is at least one mental health disorder where this is not true.

And when we meet, when we come across a psychotic person, person with psychotic disorder, he would see the world totally differently to us. He would see himself totally different. And his mind is absolutely not like ours.

So if there are human beings with Qatari syndrome, human beings with psychosis, if there are human beings who are so radically different to us that we have no common ground, we don't share the same mind. We don't have the same emotions. We don't have the same cognitions and we have basic disagreements about the world. In which sense are we human? In which sense are they human?

If there are groups of people who challenge the intersubjective agreement, maybe the intersubjective agreement is a piece of fiction. Maybe it's not valid.

And this leads to the question of reality. Is there an objective reality? Is personality, character and identity objective entities?

If I have an interaction with Marian and someone else has an interaction with Marian, will I be able to agree with that someone else about who Marian is?

Look, if I observe this camera and someone else observes this camera, both of us will agree fully about this camera. We will agree how high the camera is. We will agree about how it looks. We will agree on its size. We will agree on many, many issues. There will be no disagreement between two observers who observe the camera.

But if two observers observe a person, if two observers observe another human being, in most cases they will disagree. They will disagree about everything. They will disagree about the way he looks. They will disagree about his mind. They will disagree about his emotions, his cognitions, his behavior, whether he is pleasant, not pleasant, etc.

So I'm asking you, I'm asking you again, if two observers look at a human being and they cannot agree on anything literally, then what do we know about this human being?

If there is no agreement in observations, how can there be a science?

Imagine that people would look at the sun and no one would agree with anyone about the sun. Can then we say that we know anything about the sun?

Of course not. That's a problem in psychology. That's one of our problems in psychology.

When we observe a personality, when we look at a personality, we cannot agree.

This is why, for example, in criminal cases, some psychiatrists testify for the defense and some psychiatrists testify for the prosecution. Both groups of psychiatrists interviewed the same person. Both of them administered the same tests. Both of them had the same conversations. Both of them were trained with the same tradition of learning and scholarship. Yet, they cannot agree. Some of them work for the defense. Some of them work for the prosecution.

So what kind of science is this? And what is the meaning of identity and personality if we cannot agree? What is this identity and personality?

Indeed, I mentioned the cupgrass delusion where people say that they are dead, where they say they don't exist. And we have similarly extreme cases in psychology.

Consider the cupgrass delusion. In the cupgrass delusion, people claim that their loved ones, spouses, children, parents, have been replaced by aliens, have been replaced by other people. These other people look the same, talk the same, move the same, but they are not the same.

So someone with a cupgrass delusion would come to a psychologist or a psychiatrist and would say, listen, I woke up this morning and I looked at my wife and she is not my wife. She looks like my wife. She smells like my wife. She talks like my wife. She does everything like my wife. But I know for sure she is not my wife. She is another person impersonating and imitating my wife.

This is the cupgrass syndrome.

And now it challenges us because if a person has a fixed identity and if all observers could agree on that identity, cupgrass syndrome would have been impossible.

This dysfunction in the machinery of recognizing other people teaches us that the machinery itself is a bit arbitrary.


Let me explain.

This camera has a button, buttons. Whenever I push the button, I will get the same result in this camera and in every other identical camera.

I could have this camera here in Macedonia. I could have the same camera in Russia, same camera in Japan, same camera in India. If I go to any of these cameras and I push the same button, I will get the same result. There will never be a case that I will push the button and I will get a totally unexpected result. The camera may stop working. It may stop functioning. But as long as it is functioning, if I push the button, I will get only one result.

This is called the principle of monovalence.

But cupgrass syndrome teaches us that some cameras work differently. That if I push the button on that camera, it will not do the same thing as other cameras.

The minute we have one camera where the button produces a different result, we cannot have a general rule about all these cameras.

Do you know the famous story of the black cats? We have a sentence. All cats are black. And then we begin to look outside and we see one black cat and two black cats and three black cats and we sit for one year and we see 100,000 black cats. And then we sit for 10 years and we see 11 million black cats. All the cats we've ever seen are black.

Can we say that all cats are black? No, we cannot.

Because in the next year, there may be a white cat passing.

Now imagine that we have been sitting for a thousand years, 10,000 years, a million years and we have observed one trillion cats and all of them are black. And then one day a cat passes by and it is white. It's the only cat that's white. One trillion cats are black and this cat is the only one that's white.

Can we then continue to say that all cats are black? Of course not. We cannot.

The sentence is dead, invalid. The minute there's a single white cat, the sentence, all cats are black, is invalid.

It's the same with personality theory. We can make claims about personality. We can make claims about character. We can make claims about human identity.

And what is psychosis?

Psychosis is the same thing. We hear voices. We see visions. We have hallucinations. But all of these are externalized. It's part of the personality, part of the identity of the person. But the person feels that it's outside, not inside. It is a breakdown of the barrier between inside and outside.

But wait a minute. Didn't we start this conversation by saying that we feel that we are outside reality? We feel that there is we and there is reality. We are observing reality. There is reality separate from us and there is us.

But when we are psychotic, this distinction between in and out, between internal and external, between us and the world, this distinction disappears. When someone has psychosis, voices inside his head appear to be outside his head. Images in his mind appear to be outside his mind. Delusions that he has appear to be real.

The psychotic person confuses his inside with the outside. The boundaries break. The barriers melt. And he becomes one with the world. He externalizes his internal landscape.

And so if we have psychotics among us, how do we know that the distinction between internal and external is valid? How do we know that we exist separately from reality? How do we know that there is such a thing as reality? And how do we know that there is such a thing as our mind and that they are independent of each other?

We don't. The answer is we don't. We don't.

There are many psychotics.

It is estimated that 3% of humanity either have active psychosis, paranoia, schizophrenia and so on, or have had a psychotic episode.

Psychosis is a common state. Much more common than you know. It's as common as personality disorders.

So if there are so many people, by the way, for you to understand, 3% of the general population is 250 million people. If there are 250 million people who do not have a boundary, a border between their inner world and the outer world, if there are 250 million people like that, how do we know that this distinction between internal and external is correct, is real?

Maybe it is a delusion. Maybe it is a convention. Maybe it is something we invented. Maybe it is the way our brain is structured. Maybe our mind is an integral part of our environment and our environment is an integral part of our mind. Maybe we are much more involved and merged and fused with reality than we care to admit. Maybe, in other words, we are not separate. And if we are not separate from our environment, if we are like Indian philosophy suggests, if we are an integral part of our environment, if we are the universe and the universe is us, if all this is true, this kind of Eastern approach, then personality and identity are Western inventions.

Inventions, not reality, not true.

It seems that what happened is that in the 18th century when the Enlightenment started and before that in the 17th century with Descartes, we developed the concept of the individual. And the individual came together with the concepts of personality, character, identity, temperament. These are Western inventions.

This break, this schism between the world and we, between the world and our personality, between the world and who we are, this tear in the fabric of reality is a recent invention and it's a uniquely Western invention.

If you go to India, if you go to Tibet, if you go to Laos, if you go to China, philosophers and psychologists there do not talk in these terms, do not use this language. As far as they are concerned, there is total integration between the individual and the world and the universe, even the physical universe.

The distinctions made between individuals and society, individuals and civilization, individuals and physical reality, these distinctions are 300 years old and they are highly culture- bound, they are highly culture specific.

If we get rid of these distinctions, we can develop a totally new difference of psychology and I will come to it much later.


There is a mental health disorder called Anton Babinski.

Anton Babinski is a very interesting mental health disorder.

It's people who are blind, they can't see anything, they're utterly blind, but they insist that they are not blind.

These people insist that they can see perfectly well. Never mind how many times ophthalmologists and experts tell these people that they are blind, these people retort by saying I'm not blind, I've never been blind and I can see perfectly well.

Okay, we say, what do you see? And then what they do, they describe what they see and of course it's total confabulation, it's total invention.

So when you talk to a patient with Anton Babinski and the patient is blind and you ask the patient to describe what she sees because the patient in sees that she can see and you ask her what do you see?

She describes a reality that is not the same as our reality, but to her it's completely real.

For example, if you talk to a patient with Anton Babinski and you say, do you know that you're blind?

She will say, what? Of course I'm not blind, I can see as well as you do.

And you say, okay, so what do you see?

And she says, well, for example, I see a table here. There's a beautiful big table here.

You say, okay, can you walk to the table?

She will walk to the table and then she will circumvent the table. She will go around the table and continue.

For her, the table is real. We don't see any table, so we tend to say that there is no table.

But for that woman with Anton Babinski, the table is so real that she's afraid to bump into it, so she walks around it.

She has her own reality. We have our own reality. Which reality is more real? My reality or her reality?

We pathologize her. We say that she's mentally sick. But could she pathologize us? Could she pathologize me? Maybe she could say that I'm the sick one because I cannot see the table.

These are not trivial issues.

There is no agreement on the mind of other people. I don't have access to anyone's mind. I don't have access to any reality except the reality that I perceive.

I can negotiate with other people. I can agree with other people. I can compare with other people.

But the truth is that in the majority of cases, we will not agree on many, many, many things.

I mentioned Anton Babinski where people who are blind say that they see.

We have a similar situation where people who are asleep insist that they're awake.

The blind claim to see.

The people who are asleep when you wake them up insist that they're awake. They've always been awake. They were never asleep.

This is called pseudo insomnia.

So there are groups of people who disagree with us about reality. People with psychosis. People with pseudo insomnia. People with Anton Babinski. People with cupgrass.

They all disagree about reality.

Actually, if we put together all the people who have impaired reality tests.

In other words, if we put together all the people who see reality in a different way to us, they don't see reality like we see reality.

If we put all of them together, it's a shocking number. About 40% of all people, almost half the human population would disagree with the other half.

We are not talking about 1% who disagree with 99%. We are talking about one half who disagree with the other half.

Cognitive distortions, hallucinations, delusions and impaired reality tests characterize 40% of the population with a variety of mental health disorders.

Do we have agreement on what is reality? Do we have agreement on what it is to be human? Do we have agreement on what personality is and what identity is? Do we have agreement on emotions, on cognitions? Do we know what other people feel, think, how they see reality? And if we do, do we agree with them on reality?

The shocking answer is no, we don't. And if there is no agreement on reality, on what is personality and on what is to be a human being, how can we develop a science of human being, a science of humanity? How can we develop psychology if we disagree on these foundational issues? And we disagree on these foundational issues because there is no way to agree on them, because we have no access to anyone else's mind, and because we disagree on reality in fundamental ways.

So in day-to-day life, one of the counter arguments, when you talk to, for example, a psychologist, if a psychologist were to watch this lecture, the counter argument would be, yes, it's true. Many people disagree with many other people about what is reality and what is in reality, the content of reality, etc. That's true. It's also true that I have no access to anyone else's mind. So I don't know what they're thinking. I don't know what they're feeling. I don't know what they are seeing. I don't know what they're hearing.

I have to rely on their statements.

It's also true. It's also true that if someone says that he is in pain, it's not necessarily what I would describe as pain. If someone says he's in love, it's not the same as I would describe.

I mean, we don't have a way to make sure that pain is felt the same way by everyone, that love is felt the same way by everyone, and that the color red is seen the same way by everyone.

We don't have all this, psychologists would say.

You're absolutely right.

But in daily life, we manage.

The agreement that we do have is enough to survive. The agreement between us as human beings may not be total, may not be a hundred percent, maybe only 30%, but it is enough for us to survive. It has adaptive value. It's an adaptation. So it's enough.

The psychologist would say, why do we need to have a hundred percent agreement? If 30% is enough, if 50% is enough, is 80% is enough?

Well, because it's a problem, science can never be based on 30% truth or 80% truth or 70% truth.

Adaptations, survival adaptations are very, very important. They're critical, but a list of survival adaptations does not make a science.

And if we have fundamental disagreements on basic building blocks, like reality, personality, mind, then we are in serious trouble.

Consider, for example, dissociation. Dissociation is a state of forgetting when we forget things, when we disconnect from the world. Dissociation is very common in daily life. For example, when we drive, we do it automatically. We dissociate. Our mind is somewhere else. Our body is driving, but our mind is someone else, somewhere else.

When we watch a very good movie, we are in the movie. We forget our environment. That's a form of dissociation. When we forget some unpleasant facts, that's dissociation. When we suppress or repress a traumatic event, that's a form of dissociation.

Dissociation is extremely common in daily life, and all of us have hundreds of cases of dissociation every single day.

But if you stop to think about dissociation, you realize that dissociative states are a massive challenge to the very possibility of constructing a science of psychology.

Because in a dissociative state, we no longer have access to reality, and actually we no longer have a sense of identity and personality. Because identity and personality rely crucially on a continuity of memory.

If you were to lose all your memories tomorrow, you would not have an identity. People with amnesia don't have an identity. People with Cossackoff syndrome, alcohol, that destroyed the brain, and as a result, destroyed all the memories. Don't have identity. Without memory, there is no identity. And without continuity of memory, without a narrative that connects all the memories, there is no sense of identity. And without a sense of identity, there is no personality.

So, dissociation challenges the very basic concepts of psychology, because when you dissociate, you have no memory. And when you have no memory, you have no identity. And when you have no identity, you have no personality.

But wait a minute. We all dissociate all the time. Typically, we dissociate hundreds of times a day.

Marianne right now is surfing his smartphone, and he doesn't know it. But he is dissociating from this boring lecture.

It's dissociation. It's no problem. If I could, I would do the same.

But he is in a state of dissociation.

If we stop right now and I ask him, Marianne, what was I saying? He will not be able to say he has no memory of these minutes, or he has a different memory of these minutes to my memory.

In this sense, there was a break, a discontinuity in his identity and in my identity. We would not agree on reality, because we both dissociated in a way.

And of course, when Marianne is driving, he dissociates, because driving is automatic. And if I were to stop him in the middle and ask him, what were you doing? He would have difficulty to tell me, because he was not there.

Shockingly, between 10 and 20% of the time, we dissociate. We are not there.

In other words, our memory is absolutely not continuous. It's a myth. It's a myth. It's a story. It's utter nonsense to say that we have continuous memory of our lives, that we know who we are at any given second, that we are always there, that we are always present, that we are always with full attention.

Attention span problems, attention span disfunctions, are huge, not only in mental health problems like ADHD, but in daily life.

Actually, Freud wrote a book a hundred years ago, more than a hundred years ago. It's titled The Psychopathology of Daily Life.


The next lecture will be about memory, but I would just like to say that actually when we study memory, the only conclusion possible is that we do not exist and that we do not have identity and that we do not have personality.

Why do we feel that we exist?

If science teaches us and proves to us that we don't exist, if science teaches us and proves to us that we have no continuity and therefore have no memory, therefore have no identity, why do we feel that we have an identity?

Because we lie to ourselves. Our identity is a confabulation. It's an invention. It's a story we are telling ourselves.

And why do we do that? Why do we need that?

We need that in order to survive. If we did not have a sense of identity, which is utterly false, we do not have identity. If we did not have a sense of personality, which is utterly false, there's no such thing as personality. If we did not have a sense of continuity, which is utter nonsense, we are all the time discontinuous. If we did not have a sense of memory, which is also rubbish because most of our memories are disrupted and disconnected and disjointed, if we did not have these delusions, we would not have been able to survive because we would not have been able to function efficiently in our environment.

These have nothing to do with psychology. They have to do with biology.

Our biology, the structure of our brain, created this enormous delusion, this elaborate movie, this counterfactual piece of fiction that we exist as a unitary item, as a unitary unit with continuous memory.

Our brain created it in order to survive. Psychology made the mistake of believing the lies and the delusions that our brain is generating.

And this is the foundational crucial error in the entire edifice of psychology, the assumption of the individual.

Because we assume that we exist as individuals, we also assume that other people exist. There is no other if there is no me. If I am a separate entity, then all other entities are not me.

We divide the world into me and not me. The not me is the other.


Now the other, when we say the other in terms of human beings, we are talking about carbon based human beings that look like us and claim to have a mind like us.

It's a theory of mind.

What Alan Turing, the mathematician, suggested is that as computers evolve and as artificial intelligence becomes more powerful, we will apply a theory of mind to computers as well.

In other words, we will begin to feel that other not me entities are not only carbon based, but they can be silicon based.

We will begin to interact with our computers as we interact with other people.

If Turing is right, and Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates and many others, if these people are right, and there will come a moment not too far away, Ray Kurzweil thinks that in 10 years, if there will be a moment where we will not be able to tell the difference in terms of our reactions between computer and human being, if there will be a moment in the future where I will react to another human being the exact same way that I react to a computer, then what would be the difference between that computer and a human being?

Turing devised a test. It is known as the Turing test.

Turing said that if a computer will pass the test, if a computer will convince other people that it is not a computer, that it is a human being, that computer will actually be human.

He said if there is a computer that looks like a human, talks like a human and convinces you that it is human, then it is human.

So the other does not have to be limited to other human beings.

But then we come across a very crucial question.

Imagine that we are in the year 2045. Imagine. And in the year 2045, there are humans, carbon-based humans, the type we have now. And there are silicon-based humans or titanium-based humans, humans that are made of metal or metals.

But they are human in the sense that they talk like humans. We feel the same when we talk to them. We feel that they are human. We fall in love with them. They write poetry. We talk to them. We go out with them to the pub. They are humans. Only they are not made of carbon. They are made of silicon or titanium.

And according to Turing, if we feel with them like we do with other humans, if they convinced us that they are human, then they are human.

And now here's the question. When I see another human being today, not in 2045, but today, when I see another human being, I assume that he has the same mind like me. I assume that he has the same emotions, same cognitions, same pain, same love, same everything. When I see another human being, I assume that we are the same, largely speaking, in principle.

In 2045, I will see someone who looks like a human being, talks like a human being, etc. I can fall in love with her. And then she will tell me, oh, I forgot to mention, darling, I'm made of titanium.

How would I know that she has the same mind like me? Can you think of any test which will convince me that she, the person I fell in love with, the entity I fell in love with, but she is made of silicon? Can you think of a test which will convince me that she has the same mind like me?

The answer is there's no such test. And in principle, there cannot be such a test.

Today, if I meet a woman and I fall in love with her, and I ask her, what are you made of? She will say, well, I'm made of carbon, carbon molecules. I say, well, okay, if you're made of carbon and I'm made of carbon, I can also assume that we have the same mind. Tomorrow, she will be made of titanium. And she says, I'm made of titanium.

Automatically, I will assume that she does not have the same mind.

Why?

If I ask a woman today, do you have the same mind like me? Do you feel love and hate and rage and fear and pain and the color red? Do you sense all these things exactly like me? She will say yes and I will believe her.

But if in 2045 I meet a woman, she's made of silicon, the only thing I can do is ask her, do you have the same mind like me? And she will say yes, I love and I hate and I rage and I feel pain exactly like you. Will I believe her? It's very unlikely that I will believe her.

But why? Why will I not believe her? Is it only because she's made of silicon? What in her composition changes my ability to believe?

And so empathy is the only way for us to relate to other people.

We put ourselves in other people's shoes. And when we put ourselves in other people's shoes, when we empathize with them, we tend to assume automatically and possibly wrongly that they are like us.

And that is a mistake, of course, that we make with psychopaths and narcissists.

Psychopaths and narcissists are made of carbon. They look like us. They talk like us. And so we assume that they are like us.

But of course, psychopaths and narcissists are not like us.

Actually, psychopaths have very little to do. The mind of the psychopath has very little to do with the mind of the normal person.

In this sense, the psychopath is an alien or form of artificial intelligence.

But we make the mistake of thinking because of empathy. We make the mistake of thinking that he is like us.

So Western division of the world between observer and observed, individual and reality is very problematic because it created the concept of the other.

The minute we divided the world into me and not me, we are forced to make assumptions about other people because otherwise we cannot survive.

These assumptions are based on total arbitrary fictitious agreements, narratives and stories. They are not safe assumptions. They do not say anything about reality that is valid or rigorous.

And when we come across psychopaths, we find it out the hard way because psychopaths take advantage of this hidden assumption that we are all the same.

Psychopaths know that they are not the same, but they cheat you. They deceive you into thinking that they are the same. They take advantage of your need to assume that everyone is like you.

And then, of course, they take your money or they kill you or they do something horrible.

So the assumption of the other is not only dangerous but it's counterfactual. There is no way we can know anything for sure about the other. Never mind if that other is made of carbon or of titanium.


Finally, I want to talk about the medicalization of psychology.

In its desperate attempt to become a science, psychology is trying to become a branch of medicine via psychiatry and not via psychiatry.

Psychologists are conducting experiments. They are writing papers with a lot of mathematics. They are using statistics and they try to medicalize conditions.

Some conditions used to be considered mental health conditions. But today we know that they are diseases, diseases of the body. They have nothing to do with mental health.

For example, schizophrenia, paranoia, or psychotic disorder. We used to think of schizophrenic people. We used to think of paranoid as people with mental health problems. Today we know that the problem is biochemical. It's a problem of neurotransmitters in the brain.

So it's no longer considered a mental health issue but a disease like cancer or tuberculosis. Depression is going that way.

We are beginning to think that depression, especially bipolar disorders, mood disorders, we are beginning to think that these disorders are actually not mental health disorders but bodily disorders, exactly like cancer or tuberculosis.

So gradually big parts of psychology are being transformed into medicine.

And what is left, like personality disorders and so on, learning disorders, disorders of affect, what is left is also in the process of being medicalized.

There is a problem with medicalization.

First of all, as I mentioned before, we don't know what causes what. Correlation is not causation. The two events happened at the same time.

One mental health problem and one brain activity. We know there's a connection but we don't know what is the nature of the connection and what preceded what.

Second thing is that psychological tests are not scientific tests. Every scientific test can be repeated again and again and again and give the same result.

We cannot repeat psychological tests, not even with the same person because the person changes. As the person thinks, as the person feels with cognitions and emotions, the person changes.

We can never test the same person twice, let alone different people.

So psychological tests are not repeatable and they rely to a large extent on self-reporting.

We ask the person, tell us the truth about yourself.

But many classes of people cannot tell the truth. There are pathological liars, like narcissists, psychopaths, borderlines. And many classes of people are not self-aware.

Many people are not self-aware. And self-reporting is very dubious in suspicious way of gathering scientific information.

So the medicalization of psychology is another problem when we come to personality.

Personality is so ill-defined and it relies on such shaky foundations, as I have demonstrated, that it cannot be medicalized. Personality and identity cannot be medicalized.

They are not a single thing. They have multiple dimensions. We don't know how they are embedded in the brain.

And because we have discovered severe discontinuities in memory, we are not sure that we can map identity and personality into memory functions in different parts of the brain, like the hippocampus.

So we have a break between our knowledge of the brain and our knowledge, or what we think is our knowledge, in psychology.

In psychology, we are still using language like personality or character or temperament that cannot be mapped onto the brain in principle.

Either we change the language of psychology so that it conforms fully to brain activity and phenomena in the brain, or we agree and decide that knowing the brain does not add to our knowledge of psychology, that there is kind of dualism.

There is a human soul or human psyche, and there is the brain, and they are two separate things.

Today, there is a debate. Is psychology a branch of neurology? Is psychology merely a language that we use to describe events in the brain? Or is there such a thing as psychology which is totally separate from the science of the brain?

Even if we know everything there is to know in the brain, we will still don't know everything there is to know about personality. There is something extra.

And as you well know, in the 17th and 17th century, there was this belief that the human being is divided into brain hardware and software, which is the mind. The mind is independent from the brain. It interacts with the brain. It maybe even resides in the brain, but it is not the brain. The brain is not the mind. The mind is not the brain.

So if this is the case, what is the personality?

If the mind is not the brain, is the personality not the brain? If the mind is the brain, why do we need personality?

It's enough to specify brain activities. It is where there is a break between psychology and brain science. And this break is at its most extreme manifestation in the study of memory, which is the subject of our next lecture.


I wish to thank the survivors for listening, and I will now take questions.

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