Tag Archives: Addiction

Message Boards and Comment Sections Part II

In my last post “Message Boards and Comment Sections” I talked about how debates in these particular forums almost always turn into a battle of egos rather than an honest and authentic discussion of ideas. True to form a debate followed in the comment section where this very dynamic played itself out. Ostensibly the debate concerned whether there are any free societies and whether the freedom of citizens is a good and proper goal to which a government to aspire. But as the process played out I found myself in the anxious situation where I felt the need to respond to every comment (or risk tacitly conceding a point) and then dreading seeing the the little red circle pop up indicating that a new comment had been made.

Although to a certain (not insignificant) extent there was an interesting and legitimate exchange of ideas there was also an underlying current of egoism which over time increased in importance. Eventually, the ideas of the discussion became the weapons used to fight a battle of egos. I certainly am not accusing my worthy opponents of being entirely responsible for this. I, by no means am innocent of this process. (In fact, I wrote a book about my prior experiences and lessons learned in this world.) Perhaps because of these experiences I am simply more aware of of the dynamic. I suppose I also have to accept the possibility that I am the only one who is really experiencing this dynamic and that I am projecting my experience on to the other people. But, I say that more as a disclaimer because I truly believe this is what is playing out despite any potential denials or protestations I might receive in the near future.

More and more I find this decent into egoism to be a drain on my energy. There is certainly a part of me (my ego) that has a strong desire to jump back into the game and in the short run this game can be very exhilarating. But like all addictions, the short term benefit gradually becomes overwhelmed by the long term detriments.

At this point I am weary of writing another post on a political topic because I (sort of) dread the debate that ensues in the comment section. I dread the feeling of having to respond or risk a humiliation however small. This is not to say that I will never reengage with the game. Like all addicts I suppose that I will relapse and come back to the well eventually. And honestly, I do feel lately I have been gaining an education and questioning some liberal beliefs I have held that frankly could use some questioning.

I even have a topic in mind that I have been mulling over. These topics tend to sit in the back of my mind for a while gaining mass and organization. At a certain point they achieve a critical mass and then push themselves forward out onto the page. This is the way it always happens. The cycle will repeat.

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Message Boards and Comment Sections

I have been involved in many conversations on message boards and in blog comment sections over the years. Very few of these conversations have been respectful and compassionate although this sometimes occurs. More often these conversations start as a difference of opinion about a specific issue but then morph into a battle of egos. Neither side will admit this of course. They always couch their position as if it is motivated chiefly by a search for the truth. This proclaimed motivation, however, is almost always betrayed by the snarky, sarcastic quality the comments take on and by ad hominem attacks made against the person espousing the opposing position.

I should know better than to get sucked into these debates. They always end up the same way, sour my mood and muddle my thought process. But this is the nature of an ego based exchange. As I said, ad hominem attacks (as opposed to an honest discussion of the issues) is a good indicator that the conversation has turned in this direction. Another indicator is when the debate replays itself in my mind when I am not actually engaged in the debate. This is the ego preparing itself for the next round. And the goal is not really to show the opposing side the errors of his ways. The goal is always to humiliate the other side. This is why it always gets personal.

I have my theories as to why a person chooses to make a debate personal. Choose is actually the wrong word because this decision is made on a very primitive and neuro-chemical level. That is, reward chemicals are released when a person senses that he has humiliated his opponent through text. Over time his brain rewires itself in response to this reward. Through this rewiring he becomes addicted to the reward and then acts on it through compulsion.(1) This is why a troll does what he does. But the question remains why these chemicals are released in response to this scenario in the first place. It seems highly likely that this neural pattern is based on prior experiences of being humiliated (probably by primary care takers at an early and formative age). This creates the mechanism that rewards humiliating other people.(2) But often within the throws of an exchange it feels like a struggle for the truth is at stake. It is forgotten (or never known in the first place) that the real motivation is to humiliate the other even though this motive remains alive and well on a subliminal level.

Another aspect to this dynamic is a failure (or refusal) to appreciate the other person’s position. Once things get personal this obstinance only calcifies. For example, Zippy talks about the positivists wearing blinders in the following passage:

For sane people, a real counterexample calls for revision of the theory or metaphysics which its existence contradicts. For positivists, a real counterexample is something to be dismissed unless it can be incorporated into positive theory.

However, he fails to see the beam in his own eye in this respect when it comes to his obsessive anti-liberal stance. He is so wedded to his own belief that liberalism is the cause of all evil in the world that he dismisses out of hand all counterexamples (usually with an  ad hominem attack thrown in for good measure). Moreover, within the echo chambers of the comment sections of the Orthosphere and his own blog his absurd points of view are largely confirmed. The best example I can give as to this is his argument that the USA and North Korea are equally free societies. (See the comment section to this post). I can only attribute his ability to believe this to the fact that he has a loyal band of people who readily agree with him and reinforce this belief. Unfortunately, such is the post truth / alternative fact world in which we now find ourselves living.

In closing, I write this post mainly to put a bookend to this series of posts I started writing a while back. It started when a self proclaimed white supremacist and Orthosphere commenter by the name Thordaddy start spamming my blog with literally hundreds of comments. Something I said clearly irked him and he made it his mission to read all my posts and comment copiously on them. I sort of enjoyed this for a while because it gave me a wealth of material on which to write. But as I mentioned before this type of exchange eventually becomes emotionally and spiritually draining. Later I started engaging the more sane contributors on the Orthosphere in an honest attempt to understand their point of view. This worked for a while. My original position was merely to document my thought process as I followed their arguments and evaluated the natural counter arguments that arose in response. But eventually that position devolved into the present position where I find myself engaging in silly debates about whether a person can coherently say he would rather live in a free society such as the USA over an un-free society like North Korea. The answer is obvious to me and it is equally obvious that any further debate would only serve to feed each other’s ego. It is Lent after all and I would rather follow the advice of St. Paul and set my mind on things above rather than earthly things. (Col 3:2)


(1) See The Cure for Alcoholism, Roy Eskapa, PhD, (2008)

(2) See Healing the Shame that Binds You, John Bradshaw (2005)

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Denying a Troll His Fix

img_0826One of the hallmarks of a troll is that he (it’s always a he) becomes extremely uncomfortable when the person he intends to annoy does not respond to him. Again, I claim some authority here because I was once a troll. Actually, I was accused of being a troll but at the time I did not consider myself as such. I saw myself as a simple member of a Star Trek message board community who decided to give a certain bully named Admiralbill a taste of his own medicine. But for some reason the other members of the board seemed to side with him. That was how I came to be labeled as a troll and as I came to find out once a person has been labeled a troll it is very difficult for him to shed that label. But I digress.

As I said, trolls do not like to be ignored. I can remember times I issued a zinger against Admiralbill and sat waiting for his response. I remember the rush of adrenaline anticipating him flying off the hammer as he had done so many times before. I lived for that feeling. There were, however, a few times when he did not respond which resulted in the reverse effect. I would compulsively refresh the screen over and over. I became irritable and agitated. Eventually an anger would well inside of me. Obviously, this emotional reaction resulted because Admiralbill’s non response triggered something inside of me. An old, unconscious pattern played itself out in a new form.

Unconsciousness is another hallmark of a troll. That is, the troll is typically unconscious of his own motivations. He wants to describe his actions as a crusade for truth or righteousness or some such. When I fought with Admirallbill I saw myself as standing up for those other members of the message board who could no defend themselves for example. But what any troll is really doing when he attacks his victim is replaying a drama that had once been played upon him. More basically, what he is doing is getting off on and becoming addicted to the endorphins that get release every time he engages in his trolling behavior.

In a sense, when the object of a troll’s desires refuses to respond to him it is like parent stealing the stash of heroine from his or her addicted son. Once that juvenile mind who is anticipating a high discovers that he will not get his fix he becomes angry and lashes out. This is the first phase of the withdrawal process.

It is tough medicine indeed for the object of the troll to deny the troll the fix he needs. On one level this is a satisfying way to fight back against the troll because there is satisfaction in knowing that the troll is justly experiencing pain as punishment for his previous actions. On another level this experience is what the troll needs. He needs to learn that his actions are evil and carry consequences. On the highest level, the troll may gain insight into himself. Through the process of being denied his fix he may come to realize the dynamic at play. He may come to recognize the old pattern that he had been unconsciously playing out over and over again. He just might become aware of his true motivations. It is probably only through this awareness that the troll will ever be able to reform himself.

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Things I Learned Dealing With a Troll

picThe key aspect of trolling is a lack of impulse control. The true troll cannot help responding to a post or comment he (or she but I suspect most likely he) interprets as insulting or morally incorrect according to his troll sensibilities. This lack of impulse control indicates that the troll is addicted to his behavior. That is, the reward neural pathways in his brain have developed through previous trolling behavior to the extent where it is very difficult for him to resist the urge. From this perspective, trolling is a legitimate mental disorder.

In addition to this lack of impulse control is an ignorance of his true motivations. He wants to believe that he is “opposing evil” but in reality he is truly motivated to get that endorphin rush his brain releases when he judges other people. It is this endorphin rush that creates the addictive behavior. Along with this chemical reinforcement, psychologically, by judging other people he makes himself feel better about himself by placing his self image hierarchically above the object of his judgment.

It seems self-evident that this need to improve his self image proceeds from the reality that his self image is unacceptably low. In other words he suffers from a lack of self esteem that he needs to rectify along with, most likely, a great deal of shame. Paradoxically this personality type is often associated with an over inflated ego to compensate.

Given this nexus of shame and ego it is not surprising that this personality type typically falls prey to ideologies he can use to inflate his ego and deflate his shame at the expense of others. The ego delights in comparing the self to others. As such, hierarchical ideologies can be particularly appealing to this mind type. Racial ideologies seem to be an obvious choice to make as an obvious and extremely basic point of comparison.

In the real world, the shame based egoist loves wearing a uniform displaying his rank. The Nazis and Ku Klux Klan come to mind as blatant examples.  Behind the safety of this shield he can feel free to judge others. By contrast, in the virtual world of the internet, the anonymity of message boards and comment sections of blogs serves a similar protective purpose. His rank in this instance, must be displayed through bullying and belligerence against those whom he judges.

I bring all this up for three reasons. The first reason is that I understand the mindset. I used to troll a message board because I felt I had been wronged by some of its members. At the time I felt very much like I was fighting the good fight but I now see that my true motivation was that I wanted to make those I felt wronged me feel the shame they made me feel. The second reason is that I have recently had the insightful experience of being trolled by a person who has been for the last year or so trolling my blog. His comments are legion. Feel free to look at other posts to see what I mean. The experience of being trolled has now given me the perspective of seeing this behavior from both sides. I truly feel like I have come to a more rounded understanding of what trolling is really about. At its heart it is a mental disorder and is not a pleasant place to exist. The troll mindset is obsessed. He is constantly thinking of new arguments to make and the next chance he can seize to shame his enemy (with the same shame he, himself is tortured with). It is an anxiety-ridden, dark and evil place to exist. I do not wish this on anyone, not even the troll in my comment section. This leads me to my third reason why I bring all this up. That reason being it is my intention to cease my communication with him on my blog going forward.

I wish to cease communication with him on my blog because it is an evil and negative business. It is evil because it is based in shame on both sides. Both of us are trying to shame the other both for the shame each of us has already inflicted upon the other and because of all the previous shame that has been inflicted upon us that the present shame calls forth. Accordingly, to continue with this behavior is to feed its energy and to make it grow. That is not what I want to do and so I will not do so anymore on this blog.

Accordingly, any comment he makes on this blog going forward will be deleted. There is a part of me that gets a charge out of trading barbs with him. But this charge is the endorphin rush of trolling that I described. Giving into this charge and acting on it repeatedly forges those neural pathways that give rise to addiction. I can pretend that I engage him because it amuses me but this only makes me like him and I do not want to be like him. The only difference is that I am aware of the dynamic at work and he apparently is not. That is why it is my moral responsibility to be the one to end this interaction on my blog.

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A Conversation with Writer’s Block Part III

I burned Cate's book today in the woods as a symbolic conclusion to this project.

 

WS : Your underlying premise so far has been that writer’s block is caused by a subconscious, psychological process designed to protect me from experiencing uncomfortable feelings.

WB : Yes, that is essentially what I am in a nutshell.

WS : So how do I break through?

WB : The first method is to muster the awareness and courage to break through the writer’s block which means you have to allow yourself to experience that uncomfortable feeling that you are unwilling to experience.

WS : That sounds simple enough to do from a theoretical perspective.

WB : It is simple but unfortunately it is also impossible. At the very least it is extremely difficult to do.

WS : Why is it impossible?

WB : Because you cannot change the fact that you are unwilling to experience something simply by declaring that you are willing to experience it. The truth of the matter remains that you are unwilling to experience it and making a declaration of your willingness to experience what you are unwilling to experience is simply a misstatement of reality.

WS : How does a writer get through you then?

WB : In order to bypass the mechanism that I personify a writer must distract me or sneak by me in some manner.

WS : How does a writer do that?

WB : What I am about to tell you will probably only apply to you on the level of the specific because everyone has different fears. However, it may work to shed light on the process of writer’s block in general and in that regard may help someone other than you who happens to be reading this.

WS : Lay it on me.

WB : A method you are employing right now is to write in dialog. For some reason this allows you the freedom to generate ideas in a way that writing prose does not much of the time.

WS : Why is that?

WB : I think it works because you are in a sense stepping out of your head which is where the fear resides and stepping into the head of another entity that does not have that particular fear.

WS : Yes but the head I am stepping into is created from my head so really I’m not stepping out of my head.

WB : True, but you cannot deny the results. It is a slight of hand, but it works so why question it?

WS : Are there any other methods?

WB : Sure. Recently you have been generating a great deal of material for your blog by debating a certain individual who is let’s say easily antagonized. This seems to be another way in which you can bypass me. Do you know why that is?

WS : Well, by entering into a dialog with him it is in a sense like entering into a dialog with you. We bounce ideas off of each other and together we come up with something that neither one of us would have come up with on our own.

WB : Yes, that’s part of it. The other part of it is that you sort of “get off” on fucking with the poor guy. You get a charge out of it and that charge is perhaps more enticing that the fear is scary. Does that make sense?

WS : It does although I am not proud to admit it.

WB : Part of you is not proud to admit it. Part of you thoroughly enjoys it. We’re entering into territory that you have covered extensively on this blog. It is the addictive nature of trolling that is caused by a personality that was shaped by shame.

WS : Yes. A shame based personality enjoys making other people feel ashamed. This is the primary reason why people pass judgment on others and why they cloak their judgment in morality. They judge other people because they get off on it. It feels good to put other people below them hierarchically. But they cloak this desire for relative supremacy in morality and objectivity in order to mask this true desire.

WB : Right. We don’t need to go too deep into this. It is good to acknowledge that is what is going on here and to recognize what a powerful motivating force this is. It is so powerful, for example, that you can harness it to bypass your fears.

WS : But there is an evil negativity associated with it.

WB : Yes. It is dishonest in that it claims to be doing something good and right when it is actually serving a base desire. It is also evil in the sense that it achieves its goal of benefiting you by hurting someone else.

WS : Yes, and the more I use it the more I feel pulled to the dark side and become dominated by it.

WB : It is an addiction in other words.

WS : Yes, it starts out serving me or perhaps more accurately it starts out with the appearance of serving me but eventually displays it’s true nature and becomes my master.

WB : So although it can be a powerful force it is probably better to leave it alone.

WS : It is difficult to do that. I find that it comes and goes in waves. I will indulge in the behavior. At first it is fun and exhilarating but after a period of time it begins to disgust me. At that point I cut myself off. At first being free of it feels liberating and peaceful but after a period of time it becomes stale and boring. And so I think maybe I can do it just a little bit. And so I do and the cycle repeats itself. I know that if I were to strive for a more perfect me I would divorce myself from this cycle entirely. But again it is difficult.

WB : It is but if perfection were easy we would all be perfect.

WS : Assuming we all want to be perfect…

WB : Good point.

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The Mentality Behind Baiting and Trolling

BOANIn my last post entitled “How to Increase Traffic to Your Blog” I wrote that one method to increase traffic is to “Bait a White Supremacist.” I wrote this in part because the biggest spike in traffic I ever received throughout the history of my blog was when I was interacting on a regular basis with a person who calls himself “Thordaddy” and self-identifies as a white supremacist. But honestly, I wrote this in large part to bait Thordaddy into responding to my blog. In a very ego gratifying series of events he did in fact respond and now we are engaged in the same type of dialog we were before that did so much to increase the amount of viewers of this blog a few months back. See the comment section to my previous post.

I suppose I must admit this baiting occurred in a moment of weakness on my part. There is a still a strong part of me that likes to engage with shame based people like Thordaddy and get them angry because it amuses me to do so. I am certainly not proud of this and I make no excuses. This is the essence (I believe) of trolling, judgmental-ism, racism and all other addictive behavior. In a sense it serves two goals. The first is immediate gratification. It physically feels good. Perhaps this is the brain releasing endorphins as a reward for behavior which it believes to serve the survival instinct. The second goal is psychological. It makes the ego feel superior to the one it has shamed. Both these motivations are base motivations in that neither one serves the ultimate good. I firmly believe this despite how seductive they might seem at times.

The other point I would like to make about our most recent interaction is how easy it is for a shame based mindset to create a world around itself that feels very real. I see this in the way that he has redefined common words to suit his purposes but then reacts with incredulity when other people have no idea what he is talking about. I see this most recently in his pretentious, pseudo-logical ramblings that are designed (I assume) to sound authoritative but have no basis in logic. He will defend this world to the death because in a very real sense the death of that world he created means his own annihilation.

These are all shame based (i.e., ego based) characteristics. They are hyper-judgmental, paranoid, defensive and always carry with them an undercurrent of jealousy, rage and nastiness. How do I know this? Because I used to be this way and I recognize it in him. I suppose I still am this way to a little extent as is evidenced by the amusement I experienced when he so readily took the bait I set out for him.

Again, I am not proud of this but it is my goal on this blog to be honest so there it is.

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What Part of Me is Me?

FlowerWe start out thinking that all our actions and ideas are our own. Over time, however, this belief begins to erode under a mountain of evidence about which it becomes increasingly difficult to remain in a state of denial.

The best example I can give to illustrate this point is the remnants of shame a I feel on a daily basis. When I was young I thought this shame was a defective part of my personality. I had a low self esteem and this was essentially my fault because I felt that I am responsible for my thoughts and feelings. This belief is reinforced by the general attitudes of society and by the beliefs propagated by social institutions. This system seems to make sense on the surface but the more it is probed the less convincing it becomes. At a certain point in my life I came to realize that the reason I felt shame was because my parents felt that shame and I adopted on a very basic and unconscious level their energy. They in turn adopted this energy from their parents just as I have to some extent passed this energy down to my own children. But if this energy has been passed around from generation to generation I cannot very well say that this energy is me. The best I can say is that I am a vessel who is currently holding that energy. So then, if these feelings are not me (even though most of the time I feel like they are) what part of me is actually me?

Another connected example is addiction. When a person is addicted the addiction will think for the person who is addicted. The person believes or feels these thoughts to be his own but in reality it is the parasitic addiction generating these thoughts in order to feed itself. Like the energy of shame the pull of addiction is a foreign entity disguising itself to its host as the host himself. But despite the fact that at times the feeling that the addiction is the host can be very convincing, it is not the host.

I suppose it is reasonable to ask if there even is a me in the first place? In other words am “I” merely a vessel who thinks I am what other forces have poured into me? If true, then everyone else is also a vessel who thinks he or she is what other people (other vessels) poured into them. In other words most people in this world are walking around and interacting with each other under the illusion that they are something they are not.

But surely the vessel of self has some intrinsic qualities unto itself. For example, it has the ability to hold thoughts and feelings, it has the ability to think on its own to some extent, and it has the ability to believe certain things are true (whether or not they happen to be true). It then becomes a question of ratios. How much of me is composed of my intrinsic qualities and how much me is composed of these foreign elements which have been put into me? There is no way to measure this but it seems to me that the vast majority of what I consider to me is not really me.

One consequence of this realization is its twin realization that most of the crimes my shame accuses me of are not really my (i.e., my true self’s) fault. This is dangerous territory because it undermines our whole system of criminal justice and morality. Perhaps it is easier from a societal standpoint to continue on with the belief that all these alien, parasite thoughts are our own and our responsibility. The alternative seems highly susceptible to the malfeasance of bad actors.

The last thought on this subject I have is that meditation seems to be the means by which a person can get in touch with the real self. The simple technique of watching the thoughts swimming about in the mind and returning the mind to center when one realizes that he as identified with these thoughts brings about a separation from these thought. Whatever is left behind is the true self.

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