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The Concept of Internal Cohabitation
September 21, 2009 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Each person has one mind, right? Wrong, according to the Concept of Internal Cohabitation - we are all born with two autonomous, sentient minds. One of them can think rationally and relate to other people, and one of them is fundamentally negative in outlook, and opposed to relating. Both minds watch the world through our senses, but compete for control of the body. But if this is indeed the case, why is it not common knowledge? How could such a fundamental aspect of human nature go unnoticed for so long?

The answer is twofold. The second, non-relational mind hates to be recognised or seen. It frequently acts covertly, influencing the actions of the relational mind and leaving it thinking that it is the only mind making choices. When the non-relational mind does take complete control of the body, it may well wreak havoc, but the relational mind is left thinking that it was responsible. After such an incident, someone might well explain that they had 'lost control'.

The other part of the answer is that it hasn't gone unnoticed; the duality of humans has long been recognised, which is why it is such an enduring theme in art, literature and film. Jeykll and Hyde, the Incredible Hulk, Gollum and Smeagol, Anakin and Darth Vader, and Fight Club all fascinate us with their dualistic stories. Consider also many idioms of speech: "In two minds", "Out of one's mind", "singleminded determination". Do these stories and phrases all point to a deeper truth?

The Concept of Internal Cohabitation has been developing in psychotherapy circles for about 15 years. Terminology around the subject can get complicated, because our language usually assumes one mind per body. In psychotherapy papers on the subject, 'the patient' normally refers to the relational mind, and 'the co-habitee' or 'co-habiting other mind' refers to the non-relational mind. The psychotherapy material suggests that in 'normal' humans, the actions of the non-relational mind may be fairly subtle - the odd bit of irrational behaviour, minor addictions, the occasional act of self sabotage. In 'mentally ill' humans, the distinction and contract between the two minds is much greater - as in psychosis, paranoid schizophrenia, etc.

As the sitation of two minds in one body is considered to be permanent, there can be no question of 'removing' or 're-integrating' the non-relational mind. Instead, "treatment is conceived of as fostering the development in the patient of a genuine capability for making decisions in life which adequately take account of the needs of his own mind and that of his cohabiting other mind. This is complicated by the fact that the other mind never wants what he needs and hates anyone having his needs met including his own. This does not preclude having those needs met but it does mean that the process of working out how to do this requires a great deal of detailed knowledge of both minds."

Internal Cohabitation is referenced in many psychotherapy journal articles, but there are very few mentions of it on free-to-view internet pages. Here is a selection of links to papers, unfortunately none of them free:

Who is the mad voice inside? (Dr M Sinason, 1993)
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Vol 7 Part 3
(A longer version of the essay linked to at the top of this post)

Cohabitation and the negative therapeutic reaction (Richards, 1993)
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy Vol 7 Part 3 p 223-39

Clinical application of the concept of Internal Cohabitation (Jenkins, 1999)
British Journal of Psychotherapy Vol 16 Part 1 p27-42

How can you keep your hair on? (Sinason, M, 1999)
Publiched in Psychosis (Madness), edited by Paul Williams, Institute of Psychoanalysis, London

Art Therapy And The Concept Of Internal Cohabitation (Wright, 2004)
International Journal of Art Therapy, Volume 9, Issue 1

Living with an internal other: an extended review of psychoanalysis, identity and ideology (Tower, 2005)
Psychotherapy and Politics International, Volume 3 Issue 1

Narcoleptic States in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (Richards, 2007)
British Journal of Psychotherapy, Volume 11 Issue 4

Psychodynam ic Practice, Special issue, February 2007
Psychodynamic Practice Volume 13, Number 1 - a special issue containing 4 papers and an editorial on the subject of Internal Cohabitation.

Paranoia about the existence of an internal other - a serious clinical and social problem - A talk given by Dr Sinason at the Tavistock clinic in March 2007.
The talk is not online but this page has a summary of the talks that day.

The most complete free link available is Dr Sinason's essay Who is the Mad Voice Inside?, the main link at the top of this post.
"I think that the mad voice inside is someone who is conceived at the same time as the patient and shares the same sex as the patient since they share the same body. Living all of his life out of sight and out of the mind of others the cohabiting other mind becomes attached to his isolation and hates to be seen. He never has his own name and will hate any name that anyone gives him. The profound isolation and abandonment which is intrinsic to his experience gives rise to autoerotic preoccupation with bodily sensations and an extreme negativism in relation to the human interpersonal environment. The mind of the cohabiting other is impaired by his preference for relating to body experiences rather than the interpersonal world. This leads to difficulties in language development and emotional processing so that this internal other being has a very different childhood from the patient."
Now, assuming that the Concept of Internal Cohabitation is correct, then bear in mind that while you have been reading this, your co-habiting other mind may also have been reading it, and quite possibly misunderstanding large parts of it on your behalf. So if you are now feeling that this idea is 'crazy', or you are feeling angry or feel like dismissing the whole idea out of hand, it could be that you are experiencing interference from your cohabiting mind.
posted by memebake (74 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
while you have been reading this, your co-habiting other mind may also have been reading it.

Based on the premise presented, the "you" and "your" in this sentence do not make sense.
posted by rokusan at 8:40 AM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


So if you are now feeling that this idea is 'crazy', or you are feeling angry or feel like dismissing the whole idea out of hand, it could be that you are experiencing interference from your cohabiting mind.

Despite the apparently complete rejection of biology and neurology in this theory, I was willing to cut it some slack as being a metaphor or useful way of thinking about the mind. But come on. "If you doubt Jesus that's just Satan talking"? Really?
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on September 21, 2009 [19 favorites]


This sounds suspiciously similar to the left brain/right brain nonsense.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:42 AM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Toss in the lizard brain who is focused on more base instincts, and it's a proper crowd up in here.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:44 AM on September 21, 2009


Zowie, there's a lot to read here.

I recall some speculation about this theory and "Alien Hand Syndrome" -- given the seemingly purposeful and often violent actions taken by the, ah, estranged member. And the fact that it can arise after brain surgery or brain injury and, IIRC, particularly after damage to the corpus callosum. I don't know about the "other mind" reading this, though. Given what I've seen of split-brain research, the non-verbal part of your brain is not likely to be doing much reading at all.

Thanks for the linkfest. Will have to follow up later.

on preview: hey, PG, what about split brain research? You know, subject handles a common object with one hand and can't verbalize what it is; changes hands and suddenly can, etc. Nonsense? Or are you just talking about the pop psych "communicative" vs "rational" biological horoscope type stuff? In that case, I would completely agree.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:45 AM on September 21, 2009


This just sounds like a different way to describe the unconscious. This doesn't seem that far out to me. I've always kind of felt this way.
posted by amethysts at 8:47 AM on September 21, 2009


I refuse to be limited to only two identities, and I refuse the idea that all of my thoughts and actions can be sorted out into "relational" and "negative". Philosophy and ethics would be mastered in Kindergarten if it were this simple.
posted by idiopath at 8:49 AM on September 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Monsters from the Id!
posted by Artw at 8:49 AM on September 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


At the risk of being dismissive, isn't psychoanalysis pretty distinct from the discipline of clinical psychology and empirically tested techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy.

...and a little woo woo?
posted by leotrotsky at 8:50 AM on September 21, 2009


I refuse to be limited to only two identities

*rabbit howls*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:51 AM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Two minds? Left and right? Multiple-story brainage?

It may not be true, but it may seem that way – and closely enough for the whole idea to work out.

Only one way to find out ... Let's try this out in practice, shall we?

And indeed this idea is not new.
posted by krilli at 8:54 AM on September 21, 2009


The Concept of Internal Cohabitation has been developing in psychotherapy circles for about 15 years.

Um, actually, it's been going around alot longer than that -- perhaps the phrase "internal cohabitation" is 15 years old, but much what you're posting about is also essentially what Julian Jaynes described as "bicameralism" in his 1976 book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind".

The big difference in what you're linking to and Jaynes' approach is that "internal cohabitiation" seems to offer up motivations for each of those "selves" ... while Jaynes' view is that one of the "yous" is organized around speaking and the other "you" is organized around obeying. Jaynes' key theorem is that consciousness (as we experience it today) is an extremely modern (2000 year oldish) situation for people and something that still has to be "taught" to people, rather than something intrinsic in the way the brain is formed.
posted by bclark at 8:55 AM on September 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


At the risk of being dismissive, isn't psychoanalysis pretty distinct from the discipline of clinical psychology and empirically tested techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy.

...and a little woo woo?


You are too educated stupid too comprehend Mindcube!
posted by Artw at 8:59 AM on September 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


bclark: "consciousness (as we experience it today) is an extremely modern (2000 year oldish) situation"

Did Jesus invent consciousness then?
posted by idiopath at 9:00 AM on September 21, 2009


The biggest problem with this theory, well, aside from its tinfoilhatness, is the assumption that being negative or skeptical is by definition not rational.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:00 AM on September 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Serious question: who in the history of human thought has actually made the claim that identity was self consistent, unitary, total, and undivided? What proof did they have, and who took them seriously?
posted by idiopath at 9:02 AM on September 21, 2009


To quote from Elvis Costello: "My science fiction twin decided to become invisible. He has my eyes, my face, my voice, but he's only happy when I'm miserable."

I think this idea has merits, although I share some of the reservations about it being an oversimplification and possibly just more of the usual unsupportable theoretic wankery. It's certainly true that identity is nowhere near as unified or irreducible as we all conventionally assume. Most of our cultural assumptions and beliefs about the self are laughably simplistic and inconsistent with even the most limited empirical observation.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:02 AM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


This makes sense, and it's easy to see this kind of thing in the real world.

One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces.
posted by swift at 9:03 AM on September 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


At the risk of being dismissive, isn't psychoanalysis pretty distinct from the discipline of clinical psychology and empirically tested techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy.

...and a little woo woo?


I would say that regarding the entire body of psychoanalytical research as "a little woo woo" is dismissive, yes. There is only so much awareness our conscious mind is capable of at any given moment, and pretending that none of the rest of it matters once it's out of sight (if it ever manifests consciously at all) is pretty dismissive also, not to mention incredibly intellectually lazy and possibly dangerous.
posted by hermitosis at 9:04 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's fair to say this is not a consensus theory among cognitive psychologists. But if this stuff interests you, do definitely read Jaynes' book on bicameralism. It's a fascinating, remarkably self-consistent theory.

Fortunately in the last 30 years we've developed more specific mechanisms for testing hypotheses about the mind, which lets us do actual cognitive science instead of just making shit up.
posted by Nelson at 9:09 AM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wanted to remind of Jaynes as well. The problem with all these approaches is that it is hardly ever possible to draw a neat line between "one" / "two" / "many" in everything that concerns psychology of personality. Everybody knows the situation of conflict - one part of your Me telling you "yes", the other: "no". Then again there are situations where no such spilt occurs, or where the are more than two "subvoices". All these processes resemble more a constant disassembling/reassembling, than any clear split in two "chambers" of the mind, or "two minds cohabitating".
The mind/personality/soul/brain is much more complicated than this.
posted by megob at 9:09 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


essentially what Julian Jaynes described as "bicameralism" in his 1976 book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind".

And then Terrance McKenna came along and suggested that marijuana (and other drugs) helped the process along. Here's a fun report from our stellar Library of Parliament (for the Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs) that actually touches on this (go, Canadian Senate!). Ok, back to work.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:11 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The robot needs rest
posted by Hastur at 9:13 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Serious question: who in the history of human thought has actually made the claim that identity was self consistent, unitary, total, and undivided?

Well, Leibniz proposed Monadology in part to account for the unity and indivisibility of the soul, and I think soul and self were more or less understood to be identical in those days.

It's pretty much a hallmark of pre-modern Western thought that the soul or the self persists over time as an indestructible, irreducible unified whole. When people found themselves behaving in ways that weren't consistent with their self-image, they believed themselves to be under the influence of demonic forces or hexes.

Even today, ask your average person in the street if they think they're the same person they were the day before or even ten years ago and most will say they are. Will they admit to feeling internally conflicted at times if pressed? Probably, but I'd bet they'd still fail to see this fact as evidence of an underlying lack of unity in the self.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:14 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


idiopath: Heh, you aren't as far off as you think. Jaynes argued that the Old Testament never describes any introspection (a trait of modern consciousness) but sections of the New Testament do. Of course, he makes the same argument of difference between The Illiad and The Oddessy, so maybe Homer invented it.

Nelson: Totally agree on the self-consistency of Jaynes' approach, which is rather remarkable considering how multidisciplinary (from archeology to structural psychology) the work is.
posted by bclark at 9:16 AM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


All these processes resemble more a constant disassembling/reassembling, than any clear split in two "chambers" of the mind, or "two minds cohabitating".

In other words, exactly how the Buddha described the Self (or more accurately, the idea of 'No-Self') hundreds of years before the birth of Christianity.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:16 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is fascinating, but I sure as hell it doesn't end up being boiled down into a self-diagnosing phenomenon which lets Unique Snowflakes on the Internet justify why they can be complete dicks to people.

Sorry I called your mom those mean things, but my non-relational mind has control of the body today.
posted by Spatch at 9:29 AM on September 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


But if this stuff interests you, do definitely read Jaynes' book on bicameralism.

So that's not a book about Nebraska, then?
posted by rokusan at 9:36 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


So if you are now feeling that this idea is 'crazy', or you are feeling angry or feel like dismissing the whole idea out of hand, it could be that you are experiencing interference from your cohabiting mind.

I had the exact same reaction as DU. Any theory so shaky it needs to resort to this kind of rhetoric is almost certainly wrong.

But of course there's no point in even discussing the issue because our cohabiting minds are preventing us from thinking clearly...
posted by straight at 9:43 AM on September 21, 2009


"Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)"
—Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:45 AM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jedi mind tricks.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:48 AM on September 21, 2009


I don't know, I'm of two minds about this.
posted by Floydd at 9:57 AM on September 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


For another perspective on the matter, Confidence & Paranoia.
posted by scalefree at 10:00 AM on September 21, 2009


hermitosis: I would say that regarding the entire body of psychoanalytical research as "a little woo woo" is dismissive, yes. There is only so much awareness our conscious mind is capable of at any given moment, and pretending that none of the rest of it matters once it's out of sight (if it ever manifests consciously at all) is pretty dismissive also, not to mention incredibly intellectually lazy and possibly dangerous.

To pull out my inner BF Skinner just for this argument. It's one thing to propose that an inner oedipal complex helps us make sense of family relationships. It's another thing to actually produce empirical evidence that the oedipal complex is something other than an interpretation of human behavior. If you want to actually show that these complexes exist, you need to do more than wave your hand at the unknown. You need to actually operationalize them in terms of observable phenomena.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:17 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love this.
posted by Pot at 10:45 AM on September 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


I hate this.
posted by Kettle at 10:45 AM on September 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


That's lovely, IRFH.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:48 AM on September 21, 2009


KirkJobSluder, wasn't Skinner a radical behaviorists in that he espoused the idea that even thought is observable phenomena?

In other words, exactly how the Buddha described the Self (or more accurately, the idea of 'No-Self') hundreds of years before the birth of Christianity.

Funny I was thinking this isn't to far from what Freud said, which he lifted from Schopenhauer, who cribbed a bunch of stuff from Buddhism. If we're talking about duality of mind in a general sense than this isn't anything new.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:02 AM on September 21, 2009


Artw, what, were you just watching Forbidden Planet as this post came up, or did your inner cohabitant summon Robbie to mind instanter?
posted by mwhybark at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2009


P.o.B.: "Funny I was thinking this isn't to far from what Freud said, which he lifted from Schopenhauer, who cribbed a bunch of stuff from Buddhism. If we're talking about duality of mind in a general sense than this isn't anything new."

I am starting to suspect the Jews and post-Jewish religion and culture are actually the outliers here.
posted by idiopath at 11:12 AM on September 21, 2009


P.o.B.: Oh, I think radical behaviorism is theoretically wrong. However in terms of methodology I find it to be a necessary antidote to the literary excesses of psychoanalysis.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2009


It seemed unlikely that this could be as naive a reworking of Freud as it appeared on first glance, so I read the main link, "Who is the Mad Voice Inside?"

It turns out that, hey, this isn't simply a re-naming of conscious and unconscious, or even ego and id.

It's not really even a re-working of Julian Jaynes' bi-cameral mind, as in Jaynes' concept, the daemon-- that secondary mind-- wasn't really independent, but instead just reflected back existing but subconscious impulses and ideas through a medium separate from bodily craving: internal speech.

Instead, this concept literalizes the metaphor of the split self. So... not a split self. Not drives and values competing for primacy. Not a struggle of the heart and mind, or the past and present, ot the neocortex and the back brain, or the child and the adult.

Actually, in this concept, two little people are fighting inside one big body-- c.f., Stephen King.

Literalizing a metaphor can be a very useful tactical move-- within the therapeutic encounter. Taking it outside the therapeutic encounter-- bringing your work home with you, as it were-- and presenting a client's subjective experience as an objective and universal truth about every human, is basically saying, "Y'know, my client-- the one who's paying me money to help him get his head straight? Actually, he's not neurotic or delusional. We're the ones that are crazy-- and actually, he's Jesus."

The logical endpoint of this idea would consist of hacking through the corpus callosum with a scalpel, and then giving each hemisphere a separate therapeutic program. And different social security numbers. And bank accounts.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:18 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


KirkJobSluder: "think radical behaviorism is theoretically wrong"

Just so we are straight up about what we are dissing here (I am no behaviorist myself) - please do remember that classical behaviorists do not deny the existence of any internal world, that, of course would be absurd. They deny it's empirical measurability, and by extension, its relevance to any scientific endeavor.
posted by idiopath at 11:19 AM on September 21, 2009


At the risk of being dismissive, isn't psychoanalysis pretty distinct from the discipline of clinical psychology and empirically tested techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy.

No. Psychoanalysis is certainly taught in clinical psychology PhD programs, along with other theoretical approaches that are not necessarily empirically based.

There does seem to be an effort to test psychoanalysis empirically, and--take this with a grain of salt because I have no sort of citation or article available--it seems that the therapeutic alliance between patient and therapist is more important than the theoretical approach.
posted by kathrineg at 11:20 AM on September 21, 2009




Much I owe to the Land that grew --
More to the Life that fed --
But most to Allah Who gave me two
Separate sides to my head.

Much I reflect on the Good and the True
In the Faiths beneath the sun,
But most upon Allah Who gave me two
Sides to my head, not one.

Wesley's following, Calvin's flock,
White or yellow or bronze,
Shaman, Ju-ju or Angekok,
Minister, Mukamuk, Bonze --

Here is a health, my brothers, to you,
However your prayers are said,
And praised be Allah Who gave me two
Separate sides to my head!

I would go without shirt or shoe,
Friend, tobacco or bread,
Sooner than lose for a minute the two
Separate sides of my head!

-- Rudyard Kipling
posted by timeo danaos at 11:25 AM on September 21, 2009


My other self is pissed off because he can never remember his social security or bank account numbers.
posted by happyroach at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2009


I am starting to suspect the Jews and post-Jewish religion and culture are actually the outliers here.

I don't know, is it? I didn't think I needed to include the whole breadth of human thought to point out the ubiquity of an idea.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:47 AM on September 21, 2009


P.o.B.: I am not sure if we are misunderstanding one another, but my point was that the examples people are giving of a unified self are all Jewish, Christian, or post-Christian western European. And the examples from everywhere else seem to show models of self that are much more diverse or complex.
posted by idiopath at 11:51 AM on September 21, 2009


darth_tedious: yes, Who Is the Mad Voice Inside? explains it much better than my post can. People who found the post interesting should definitely read the main link. It explains how it sits in relation to other psychoanalytical theories.

DU and straight: I should point out that none of the papers actually lay out that particular circular argument, but it is implied by the fact that the co-habiting mind likes to stay out of sight. However, it isn't strictly a circular argument: only irrational, out-of-hand objections would be signs of interference by the co-habitee. Rational, mindful objections to the idea (of which there may well be many) would be considered valid from any perspective and so 'break out' of the circular argument.

Despite the radical nature of the idea, and the reservations I have about it, I have found it to be quite a useful tool for analysing my own behaviour in situations where I have conflicting impulses (e.g. If I've sincerely resolved to cut down on biscuits, why does it seem like a good idea to go to the biscuit jar right now?). Because Internal Cohabitation attributes actual person-hood to the other mind, it gives you a different framework for thinking about your behaviour. For example, wilful sabotage from the cohabiting other becomes a possible explanation to consider, rather than just 'giving in to instincts' (there are several examples of sabotage in 'Who Is The Mad Voice Inside?'). Its also quite a good framework for understanding the behaviour of drunk people.

Does the concept ring true for many people here? Has anyone else has insights or experiences that fit well with the concept of Internal Cohabitation?
posted by memebake at 11:54 AM on September 21, 2009


idiopath, that's what I meant by I don't know (about Judaism and I'm not much of scholar as far as philosophy is concerned). Also I thought there was the whole triumvirate thing the Neo-Platonists wanted to overcome in Judeo-Christian thought. That is, if we were talking about those ideas as allegorical about humans rather than divine manifestations, but maybe I'm over simplifying things here.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:11 PM on September 21, 2009


P.o.B.: "maybe I'm over simplifying things here"

These words are new to metafilter.
posted by idiopath at 12:14 PM on September 21, 2009


Old Lady, Biker, Gay Guy, Japanese Man: The 4 Voices Within.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:45 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait! Listen!

Can you hear it?

It's the sound of a million internet users diagnosing themselves with asperger's syndrome some kind of trendy mental illness!
posted by tehloki at 2:14 PM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


It frequently acts covertly, influencing the actions of the relational mind and leaving it thinking that it is the only mind making choices. When the non-relational mind does take complete control of the body, it may well wreak havoc, but the relational mind is left thinking that it was responsible. After such an incident, someone might well explain that they had 'lost control'.

How is this different from having a penis?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:32 PM on September 21, 2009


My name is Legion: for we are many.

*vanishes into the glowing red chasm that opened temporarily in the ground, leaving behind nothing but reverberating echoes of ominous laughter and sulfurous odor with a hint of oniony sweetness(1)*

(1) because I had lots of onion rings at Umami burger yesterday
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:28 PM on September 21, 2009


I've only skimmed the main link, but I'd disagree with most reductions offered in these comments and offer a different one: that the author is primarily guilty of personification, multiplying a problem that many others have solved in different ways.

For a short and improbable history of the reification of consciousness, the usual starting point would be the soul's conversation with itself (Plato), some detour into how the pathemata/sensations relate to phantasmata/imagery (Aristotle), a giant leap to Descartes, and then a good long wallow in the 18th C. (Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Kant, etc.). For a similarly troubling history of the unconscious, we'd probably skip the pathemata and run straight for the petites perceptions in Leibniz, make hay out of a footnote or two in Kant's Anthropology, hit the real targets in Carus and especially von Hartmann (who so popularized the idea that there were little booklets of silhouette cartoons making fun of it in 19th C. Germany), and then give too much credit to Freud & Co.

In the 20th C., no one worth reading takes any of that stuff as granted. We might start with difficult Continental philosophers pioneering in their own weird ways, dismissing the concept of consciousness as the vorhanden reification of Dasein's being-in-the-world (Heidegger), insisting that the phenomenology of perception is grounded in the body (Merleau-Ponty), or pointing out how there are no self-consistent subjects, i.e. human points of view, not always already shot through with dissemination and hinged on differance such that "I don't speak my language, my language speaks me" (Derrida). Alternatively, we could go the analytic / psychological way and test reaction times to see if it's even conceivable that conscious will is involved in everything we think it is (it isn't - The Illusion of Conscious Will), or point out what happens when emotions aren't accessible for decision-making (Damasio), or examine whether people actually deliberate and make decisions for the reasons they think (the entire psychology of judgment and decision-making), or whatever, eventually winding up somewhere in the vicinity of Dennett's heterophenomenology and/or the notion that the narrative voice we experience might well be a fiction the brain offers to itself after having already processed something, maybe as a way of impressing it into memory with better semantic hooks.

But where we ought not wind up, given any serious thought on the matter, is anywhere remotely resembling the main link in this post, which is basically the bad rhetoric of personification applied to obvious problems that have been addressed a zillion better ways.

I think.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:27 PM on September 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


This is no surprise. One half of my brain has got godawful taste in music and will not turn the damn repeat off.

"Sunshine, lollipops and
rainbows everywhere"

SHUT UUUUUUUP!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by IndigoJones at 5:13 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, because one part of your brain is GOOD, and the other side is EVIL dammit, and that's all there is to it.
posted by sneebler at 6:11 PM on September 21, 2009


Toss in the lizard brain who is focused on more base instincts, and it's a proper crowd up in here.

Recognize a few more such distinctions between agents in the mind, and you might find a whole Society of Mind.
posted by sfenders at 6:23 PM on September 21, 2009


How ever many individual brain cells are functioning at a given time, that's how many distinct selves there are at that point in time. Every brain cell is a fully-formed self in microcosm, winking in and out of consciousness as the brain's machinery grinds away.

There. I solved it. Now do I get a prize or a book deal or something?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:52 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does the concept ring true for many people here? Has anyone else has insights or experiences that fit well with the concept of Internal Cohabitation?

It does seem very similar to the (so called) Rational Recovery treatment of drug/alcohol abuse - there they specifically link it to the difference between the 'human' side and the 'beast' side, as represented by the neo-cortex and the brain stem respectively. Their solution is to learn to identify between the two 'voices' and then starve the beast out. No idea if it works or not.
posted by Sparx at 8:57 PM on September 21, 2009


I refuse to be limited to only two identities, and I refuse the idea that all of my thoughts and actions can be sorted out into "relational" and "negative". Philosophy and ethics would be mastered in Kindergarten if it were this simple.
DONNIE
I just don't get this. Everything can't be
lumped into two categories. That's too
simple.

MS. FARMER
The Lifeline is divided that way.

DONNIE
Well, life isn't that simple. So what if
Ling Ling kept the cash and returned the
wallet? That has nothing to do with either
fear or love.

MS. FARMER
(impatient)
Fear and love are the deepest of human
emotions.

DONNIE
Well, yeah... OK, but you're not listening
to me. There are other things that need
to be taken into account here. Like the
whole spectrum of human emotion. You're
just lumping everything into these two
categories... and, like, denying
everything else.
posted by vsync at 11:20 PM on September 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is very interesting, but I can't help being reminded of L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics (not something I subscribe to, by the way). I keep expecting to see the phrase 'reactive mind', which would serve as well as any other descriptor. I'm sure the Scientologists will claim his Ron-ness was 50 years ahead of the curve.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:57 AM on September 22, 2009


For some related theories more grounded in empirical work: First Person Plural by Yale psychologist Paul Bloom.
One can see a version of clashing multiple selves in the mental illness known as dissociative-identity disorder, which used to be called multiple-personality disorder. This is familiar to everyone from the dramatic scenes in movies in which an actor is one person, and then he or she contorts or coughs or shakes the head, and—boom!—another person comes into existence. (My own favorite is Edward Norton in Primal Fear, although—spoiler alert—he turns out in the end to be faking.)

...Considerable evidence, including recent brain-imaging studies, suggests that some people really do shift from one self to another, and that the selves have different memories and personalities. In one study, women who had been diagnosed with dissociative-identity disorder and claimed to be capable of shifting at will from one self to another listened to recordings while in a PET scanner. When the recordings told of a woman’s own traumatic experience, the parts of the brain corresponding to autobiographic memory became active—but only when she had shifted to the self who had endured that traumatic experience. If she was in another self, different parts of the brain became active and showed a pattern of neural activity corresponding to hearing about the experience of a stranger.

Many psychologists and philosophers have argued that the disorder should be understood as an extreme version of normal multiplicity. Take memory. One characteristic of dissociative-identity disorder is interpersonality amnesia—one self doesn’t have access to the memories of the other selves. But memory is notoriously situation-dependent even for normal people—remembering something is easiest while you are in the same state in which you originally experienced it. Students do better when they are tested in the room in which they learned the material; someone who learned something while he was angry is better at remembering that information when he is angry again; the experience of one’s drunken self is more accessible to the drunk self than to the sober self. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Personality also changes according to situation; even the most thuggish teenager is not the same around his buddies as he is when having tea with Grandma. Our normal situation dependence is most evident when it comes to bad behavior. In the 1920s, Yale psychologists tested more than 10,000 children, giving them a battery of aptitude tests and putting them in morally dicey situations, such as having an opportunity to cheat on a test. They found a striking lack of consistency. A child’s propensity to cheat at sports, for instance, had little to do with whether he or she would lie to a teacher.

More-recent experiments with adults find that subtle cues can have a surprising effect on our actions. Good smells, such as fresh bread, make people kinder and more likely to help a stranger; bad smells, like farts (the experimenters used fart spray from a novelty store), make people more judgmental. If you ask people to unscramble sentences, they tend to be more polite, minutes later, if the sentences contain positive words like honor rather than negative words like bluntly. These findings are in line with a set of classic experiments conducted by Stanley Milgram in the 1960s—too unethical to do now—showing that normal people could be induced to give electric shocks to a stranger if they were told to do so by someone they believed was an authoritative scientist. All of these studies support the view that each of us contains many selves—some violent, some submissive, some thoughtful—and that different selves can be brought to the fore by different situations.
posted by AceRock at 7:46 AM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Uh, the concept of any coherent entity called "mind" is just a construct. So, one, two, thirty-seven minds, whatever, "mind" is just a useful construct we employ to think about ourselves and more importantly, others.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:41 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, brilliant and fascinating post! Adding Frames of Mind by Howard Gardner, readable on Google Books and Inner Child into the mix.
posted by nickyskye at 10:08 AM on September 22, 2009


Just so we are straight up about what we are dissing here (I am no behaviorist myself) - please do remember that classical behaviorists do not deny the existence of any internal world, that, of course would be absurd. They deny it's empirical measurability, and by extension, its relevance to any scientific endeavor.
posted by idiopath at 2:19 PM on September 21 [+] [!]


Physics has pretty much set the rules of scientific respectability for a couple of hundred years now. From a physicist's point of view calling something "not measureable" goes way beyond simply calling it "not relevant to scientific endeavor." It is indeed the same as calling it nonexistent and unreal. In fact, according to the (admittedly hardcore) Carnap-Bridgman criterion, a proposed new entity must be supplied with two logically independent methods of measurement before it becomes eligible for promotion from the status of a mere intervening variable to that of hypothetical construct--that it, something that may be independently real in nature.

Leaving aside the, uh, disciplines that call themselves scientific but are not, the central thing any kind of science deals with is measurement. So for any kind of scientist to claim that the "internal" world of thought is inaccessible to measurement while also maintaining that of course it does exist is a self-contradiction on its face--exactly the same self-contradiction as claiming that God exists but that there is no way to demonstrate His existence.

Skinner cured the self-contradiction and recovered the internal world of though from unreality by discarding the distinction between inner (since Descartes, unobservable by definition) and outer (accessible to measurement.) There's just stuff we do, ranging from kicking the cat to enjoying a flood of memories brought on by the taste of petites madeleines and tea. Any item included in "stuff we do" may potentially be given an operational definition--that is to say a method of measurement. It's not necessary for an observer to directly experience another's thoughts and feelings. Nobody's ever directly experienced a neutrino, either. Anything real is going to have knock-on effects that make it observable. (For many covert or internal behaviors it may be very hard to find an operational definition that reliably tags it, but "very hard" is different from "logically impossible." If we claim there's some thought or feeling or other internal event that is so covert that it by definition can never have any observable knock-on effects or consequences for the rest of reality, then indeed that's very good grounds for denying that the postulated internal whatever-it-is exists.)

All this may seem like a truism now, but recall that it was Skinner's very lonely insight in the 1930s. Though I've always been struck by the similarity between Skinner's attitude to "unobservable" internal states and Wittgenstein's--"The mind is the most public organ there is."
posted by jfuller at 11:15 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


> recovered the internal world of though

My keyboard ate that t, honest.
posted by jfuller at 2:34 PM on September 22, 2009


jfuller: True, and where cognitive psychology and neuropsychology spin off from Skinner's radical behaviorism is with the observation that it's possible to figure out some of the functions within the black box by observing the resulting behavior.

There are hundreds of theories of mind that make for elegant folklore and literary devices. That doesn't mean they are accurate.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:44 PM on September 22, 2009


Folklore and literature are mind.
posted by hermitosis at 3:38 PM on September 22, 2009


hermitosis: Folklore and literature are mind.

Sure, that doesn't mean that dozens of cartoonists are correct in their theory that we have an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other shoulder constantly whispering in each ear. Or that gay and bisexual men are the way we are because we had distant father or were diddled by a priest. Most people with significant mental illness don't act like Batman villains either.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:51 PM on September 22, 2009


...I read this and just thought, 'Oh, of course.'

I've thought there were two of me since I was a small child.

I always attributed it to being a Gemini.
posted by larkspur at 3:53 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Folklore and literature are mind.

No, they're products of mind.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:04 AM on September 23, 2009


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