Being difficult implies problems with interactions with others. My idea is that difficult people get away with deploying memes for which others have no immunomemes ("bullying opportunities"). This article mentions seven factors that characterize a difficult person.
The Seven Traits
Are there any commonalities? Could there be certain aspects that could be susceptible to memetic analysis, which unite these traits? At least half, and perhaps all of the seven traits relate to ego-centric narcissism. An interesting one is how "risk-taking" is described as a tendency to become bored and forcing others to constantly off balance to try to keep things interesting. The aggressiveness and dominance derive from fear, fear of giving others access or control. Callousness, or lack of empathy, is also an unwillingness to give others control, even to the extent of "you are feeling badly or happy, but I won't let it move or effect me."
So we can almost think of the opposite of each of the traits, and of the possible immunomemeplexes which might defend against a state change on the part of the difficult person.
What Normal Folks Might Do
Here's a list of how a normal, non-difficult person might react, contrary to how a difficult person would act according to the seven difficult person traits (and their difficult person opposites).
1. Empathy (Callousness)
2. Humility (Grandiosity)
3. Patience / Coöperativeness (Aggressiveness)
4. Trust (Suspicion)
5. Coöperativeness (Manipulativeness)
6. Coöperativeness (Dominance)
7. Caution (Risk-taking)
One is made to think of the basic principles of improv comedy, that is, to "accept the offer" and not "block." We see here that memetic engagement (8), which also relates to memetic enlistment (1), is high for normal, affable people, and otherwise for difficult people.
Aggression is perhaps well defined by a willingness to resort (quickly) to violence. In a certain sense it's the vice that defends the other vices. When memes fail, violence becomes the option. This allows the difficult person to drag the system back to their own optimal state when other means fail.
On could point to the idea that violence is a kind of "last resort" (2) when one finds oneself without any (other) memes to deploy. So we see the difficult person as trying to block the efforts of others to transition the memeplex state away from states where the difficult person has the most power, or states which are "stable," i.e., less likely to transition away from states where the difficult person has "power."
Power and Memetic Enlistment
What is "power" in this context?
Again, we talked about the idea of memetic enlistment. This means a given agent has both a lot of choices, and also those places in turn transition to other states where the agent still has a lot of choices.
As I've said, my new theory, which I have yet to elaborate or experiment upon, is that immunomemetic deployment is driven by the anticipation of a decrease in enlistment. Agents "look down the pike," so to speak, and decide to deploy immunomemes in an attempt to divert memetic state transitions away from those which lead to decreased enlistment for themselves.
This is visible anywhere, even in scientific circles or legal debate or other such. Dictators and oligarchs can do things like supply the proletariat with memetic environments where proletarian agents have the impression that they have a lot of meaningful memetic activity at their disposal, but in fact they can do nothing to shift matters that the dictator actually cares about. And this is a way to achieve what Slavoj Zizek termed "dictatorship in democracy" (3).
I have been writing a bit on the idea, in terms of alliance theory, that a powerful agent (4) pushing a memeplex through more and more transitions which are favorable to that powerful agent, that is, which enhance the memetic enlistment of the powerful agent, is ultimately a degenerative process. This depends upon the yet-to-be-elaborated immunomemetic theory (6). An oligarchical agent deploying memes that serve to increase their own power (enlistment), and the expense of everyone else's enlistment, will, according to the theory I hope to put together, encounter growing resistance (7).
That the power of a central power degenerates as the central power (4) exercises more and more memes which push the system more strongly into the control of the central power, at the expense of the memetic enlistment of everybody else, which leads to resistance and rebellion. The benefits of an alliance are obvious for the protegee, or beneficiary, but it's unclear how the benefactor (5) benefits, memetically, from the relationship. Memetic enlistment may provide an answer. The mentor is constrained in her ability to exercise her power in terms of direct deployment of memes, leading to states that make her more and more powerful, to the exclusion of others and to the detriment of the memetic enlistment of others. This can only go so far. By enabling protegees to act as surrogates, the mentor controls the movement of the memetic system, but a larger number of agents have high levels of enlistment, despite this.
So we've introduced the concept of memetic enlistment and how oligarchical behavior leads to a degenerative process which may lead to deadlock and rebellion (1,2,6,7). I suggest that this process may be related to the behavior of difficult people.
Enlistment Consolidation and Difficult People
The traits of a difficult person would seem to fall into two categories: asserting one's own position, and deflecting attempts by others to assert their position. This is a comment about memetic states (9) and how the difficult person works to keep the memeplex in a state that gives them the most options, and deflects attempts by others to change to states where this enlistment decreases. Again, aggressiveness (trait three) is a special case of the deflection type, the resort to violence being the option when there are no memes available
It should be said that all agents attempt to do this in one form or another, i.e., protect and consolidate their own power.
The traits that serve as deflection include: 1. lack of empathy (callousness), 3. aggression, 4. suspicion (lack of trust),
Assertion traits include: 2. Grandiosity, 5. Manipulation, 6. Dominance, and 7. Risk-taking.
Why this categorization? I see the assertion traits as forcing others into a compelled state (9). For grandiosity, one is compelled to agree with the difficult person, to cosign their grandiose assertions, or make the much more difficult choice of opposing them, which may lead to counter-attacks in the form of aggression, suspicion, or even callousness (18). We could characterize these with deployment descriptors, with "Ego1" and "Ego2" being states where the difficult person feels most in control, and "assert!", "manipulate!", "dominate!", and "take-risk!" are memes that the difficult person could deploy, and everybody else is forced to react with "cosign!", "submit!" and "react!" (or become off-balance), for example. Agents are "dp" for difficult person and "np" for normal person.
fig. 1. Difficult Person Controls State Transitions with Compelled States
On the other hand, if anybody else (a normal person) tries to deploy a meme that is anything other than, say, submitting or going along with the difficult person, or which threatens to move the system in a direction where the difficult person has less enlistment, not more, the difficult person will deploy immunomemes to resist this. So the difficult person has memes like "ignore!" or "denigrate!" (callousness), "attack!" or "yell!" or "strike!" (aggressiveness) or "suspect!", while the normal people might deploy "cry!' with the goal of getting to a state of "Empathy" or "Kindness", or try to "suggest!" something or "question!" something or even "criticize!" to get to "Discussion". So here's what the normal person might be trying to do:
fig. 2. Normal attempts to effect a change in state
However, the difficult person deploys her arsenal of immunomemes to defeat the normal persons efforts to change states, or his expectation of a state change given his (11) memetic deployment. The effect is that the system is brought back to a state in which the difficult person is more comfortable, has better enlistment.
fig. 3. Difficult Person immunomemes defeat attempts to change state
To summarize, the difficult person deploys memes that bring about a compelled state that forces others to keep the memeplex in a state that favors the difficult person, i.e., has high enlistment for the difficult person. When confronted with memetic deployments by others that would not result in maintaining or increasing enlistment (10), difficult people deploy (unreasonable) immunomemes to prevent the intended state change and keep the system in a state that favors the difficult person.
How to Deal With a Difficult Person
The prospects are not good. The goals of the difficult person in interacting with others appear to be to keep the focus on themselves, to not allow others to direct the narrative, and to react harshly when others try to do so.
This behavior is like that of a dictator. In history, we see dictators who not only seek to control everything, but also to aggrandize their own public image. Examples include Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu (12), Korea's Kim Jung Un (13), and even Napoléon.
The goal of the dictator, and the difficult person, is to maintain their power, which really means a high degree of potential to act, and further, a higher degree of ability to act than all other persons. The memetic system they construct around themselves furthers that end. This means that there is no easy exit from their narcissistic submemeplex, and they have a reliable memeplex and immunomemeplex that drives the state of the system back into that submemeplex.
The standard answer when it comes to dismantling dysfunctonal memetic systems is to first inject reliable immunomemes that enable departure into more functional memetic states, and then to replace (14) the dysfunctional memes with functional ones, all the while curtailing the bad memes or those that lead to bad space. Injecting new memes and immunomemes may work, for example just up and leaving when dysfunctional behavior appears (15). There may not be much room to maneuver.
In sum, the prospects are not good. If one has the power to leave, to disengage, at will, that works as a solution to getting out of being tied up dysfunctional memetic states with the difficult person. This could have the effect of putting atrophying pressure on the dysfuctional memes of the difficult person. If you bail out, they get the message that their behavior is not working, in other words. If the difficult person has a high degree of control over the environment and engagement, then there may be little if any hope for improvement. Also, the injection of new, more functional memes may be difficult or impossible, since the difficult person's memetic strategy is based on preserving their own memeplex at the expense of healthy relationships with others.
Otherwise, as with all things where there is memetic destitution, violence bobs to the surface as one of the only effective options, which relates to my next section on dealing with misbehaving children, since throwing fits, yelling, fighting, and so forth are all a form of violence, symptomatic of an inability to engage with the hegemonic memeplex.
I want to write a series of essays, from theory to how-to about being the parent of small children. Many parents complain that their children are "difficult" or that their interactions with their children are "difficult." I think the foregoing discussion can inform this perception. First off, what's going on?
I'll leave aside the issue of children who have serious chronic health problems that require extra care, provoke emergency, unscheduled responses or disruptions, and make the long-term independence of the child limited or impossible. Memetic may have something to say about these sorts of situations, but they are not my object here.
I think it's safe to say that we're usually talking about behaviors and interactions being dysfunctional, or shall we say, "painful." This can be boiled down to behaviors on the part of the children, and also on the part of the parents, which could be recorded in some kind of "meme log." Who did what? What was the environment or circumstance or previous action (memetic deployment) that preceded the behavior in question? Such information could greatly inform a memetic engineering process to improve the family dynamic and get it moving in a positive direction that nurtures all concerned.
We set out to record the undesirable behaviors, which tells us what we want to atrophy, by replacing with something else (this may be the tricky bit) and not reenforcing them. For instance, instead of engaging the child when they are misbehaving (in the way they "want") but in some other way, or by disengaging, even leaving the room (if possible). A couple of examples may help.
Parenting Example 1.
A child asks for an ice cream in a whining, manipulative way. Parent supplies the ice cream, possibly with reprimand to speak properly or such, reenforces the bad behavior. Disengaging (or ignoring) can weaken the reward of the bad other behaviors, but engaging in an "unexpected" way (other than getting the ice cream) can inject new, functional memes.
child: (whining) "I want an ice cream"
parent: "Oh, hey, yeah, well, I want a million dollars."
Thus the parent responds, engaging with the child, but the child does not get to the state of "getting an ice cream" through the deployment of the whine! meme. Contrast the following deployment descriptors.
1.1. WantsIceCream.child.whine!(ice-cream)parent.provide!(ice-cream) => HasIceCream
1.1a. WantsIceCream.child.whine!(ice-cream)parent.reprimand!parent.provide!(ice-cream) => HasIceCream
1.2. WantsIceCream.child.whine!(ice-cream)parent.quip!("million bucks") => WantsIceCream
fig. 4. Child Whining for Ice Cream
So in 1.2., the child learns that the whine! meme does not get to the desired state. This atrophies the undesirable meme. In 1.1., the child gets what it wants, and even in 1.1a., it also gets what it wants. One important thing to remember is that the child's priorities may be very different to the parents. The child may actually want to get the "reprimand!" meme, especially if it feels it can't get the attention of the parents any other way. So 1.1a. may be "better" than 1.1. since there is more interaction with the parent, and not just the ice cream. It's possible that the ice cream may be incidental to contact with the parent, which is an important idea, and important warning to stay objective in the course of this analysis.
Parenting Example 2.
The parent has a rule that the child is only to watch television for an hour a day. The child, however, disobeys and exceeds the time limit, or watches for additional sessions after already having watched for an hour. The parent rebukes ("rebuke!") or yells ("yell!") at the child to turn off the TV. The child may then resist!, requiring multiple yellings. So we have the
2.1. Watching.child.stop! => TVOff
2.2. Watching.child.overtime!stop! => TVOff
2.3. Watching.child.overtime!parent.rebuke! => Watching
2.3a. Watching.child.overtime!parent.rebuke!child.stop! => TVOff
2.4. Watching.child.overtime!parent.rebuke!child.resist!parent.yell! => Watching
2.5. Watching.child.overtime!parent.rebuke!child.resist!parent.yell!child.stop! => TVOff
fig. 5. Dysfunctional TV Rules
Again, we see that the TV rules provide the child with a number of opportunities to force the parent to engage, very reliably and for the most part on the child's terms, which would not exist otherwise. All of them are dysfunctional and "difficult" for the parent (and perhaps also for the child). If the child has few other reliable ways to engage with the parent, this provides a trove of them. Protestations of "But the child is disobeying the rules! They should follow them and everything would be fine!" collapse under memetic analysis. As with the eponymous "difficult people," the child is obeying the rules, or the memetic system, it's just that the "rules" the parent has in mind don't include the whole picture. Hence, the value of memetic analysis.
What can one do with such a situation? It's probably a deeply flawed as a memetic system (16). A better way might be for the parent to reserve the right to tell the kids to shut off the TV at will, or to have the kids request when they want to watch TV (for certain shows, etc.).
For the kids, watching TV may become secondary to annoying the parents, literally.
Another critical look reveals that all of the memetic exchanges are negative in nature. One side breaking the rules, the other side reacting to this, both sides fighting. One thing the parent can do is simply not engage, not deploy the "parent.rebuke!" or "parent.yell!" memes. When one thinks about reengineering a memetic system, one thinks of adding memes and states. For instance, one might add a state called "Overtime" which then allows the parent to do something like disconnect the TV for a day or a week or such. In such a case, there would be ideally no interaction with the child. The child may, obviously complain or wheedle about the TV being shut off, and the parent can refuse this, or just ignore it, i.e., "refuse!" or "ignore!". In an even more extreme example, which makes it even easier on the parent, the TV might not be reconnected until or unless the child does some chores or is "good" for some period of time, in other words, the TV getting reconnected involves memetic deployment on the part of the child, and no interaction with the parent. Again, if the child tries to press the issue, the parent can "refuse!" or "ignore!" or even "penalize!" (add more chores or extend the TV disconnection). Another good meme might be "check-in!" when the child is expected to check in with the parent to say that the TV is off. This creates another positive interaction between the parent and child, one which is initiated by the child and not the parent.
2.1. Watching.child.stop! => TVOff
2.1a. Watching.child.stop! => Overtime
2.1b. Watching.child.stop!check-in! => TVOff
2.6. Watching.child.overtime!stop! => Overtime
2.6a. Watching.child.overtime!stop!check-in! => LateCheckin
2.6b. LateCheckin.parent.forgive! => TVOff
2.6c. LateCheckin.parent.punish! => Overtime
2.7. Overtime.parent.disconnect!([ "1 week", child.be-good!, child.chores! ]) => NoTV
2.8. NoTV.child.[ be-good!("1 week"), chores! ] => TVOff
fig. 6. Reengineered TV Responsibility System.
In situation 2.6a, we can thing of the parent having the option of forgiving the rule-breaking and letting it go, or punishing the rule-breaking, i.e., going into the Overtime state where punishment memes become available.
|fig. 7. State Diagram for TV watching system|
Pure and simple, there are just some good principles of memeteic engineering, and if these are applied, then things work out. In the above diagram the movement between states is driven by the children, not by the parents. The parents are no longer obliged to "crack the whip" or "ride herd" over the kids and their TV viewing. The parents don't have to tell the kids to get off the TV--the kids are obliged to come and check in with the parents. This failure to check in translates into no TV for a day or a week or whatever (17). Yelling at the kids or telling them what to do is no longer part of the process.
In sum, we've focused on the difficult interactions between parent and child, and we're reversed them or replaced them with memes which are no longer driven by the parent, i.e., the child has to take the initiative. All the parent has to do is disconnect telly if the rules are violated, and is not him or herself required to actually check up on the child, and is free to forgive egregiences at will (or if too lazy to bother to unplug the TV). The memes in the system have much better closure and marking (19).
In the end, it's important that the parent and child have plenty of other ways to interact outside of the whole TV thing. This is another principle, of course, of macromemetics, that is, that agents feel alienated if their enlistment, or the inventory of memes they have to deploy, is "too small."
Multiple Children and Alliance Theory
For parents of multiple children an important thing to work on is alliances between the children. See the Candy Conspiracy for an example of this. I'm still working on how to forge alliances among children (or other agents). This holds great promise for keeping children from fighting and competing for parental attention, both key nuisances in the parenting of multiple children.
Summary & Conclusions
The memetic engineering solution to difficult situations is to add new memes, atrophy the old, bad ones. The thing to remember is that according to the laws of macromemetics, adding a state involves adding new memes, and as often as not, adding memes involves adding new states (ore new ways from getting from one old state to another).
The good news is that parents with young children have enormous latitude in creating new memes and states and in restructuring how they and their children interact. Ultimately the kids want to interact with you, and are very receptive to new ways to do so. The role of the parent is to "make promises" to the children that the parent will interact with them, will respond in a specified way in response to the children giving the right input.
A cautionary word about residual memetic debt. If the nature of interactions is not clear, there can be some "wiggle room" where it's unclear whether the memetic exchange has been completed or not. This may be part of what the difficult person does, how he tricks his victims (those being anybody who is around him). He makes a "promise" which he is then able to renege on in a quasi-socially acceptable manner. Children like to try to pull this trick as well.
The "TV time" example is a case in point. If the child is told that he can only watch TV for an hour, and got started at five past seven, then in principle he can watch until five past eight. If he stops watching early, then does he get "credit" which can be saved for later? This is something that comes up in residual memetic debt analysis (19). Furthermore, if in practice he can watch until mommy comes up and tells him to stop, then there's more wiggle room, and if mommy has to keep hassling him until he gets off, then that's another source of residual memetic debt. Mom has to come and hassle me, and since she might turn up later than eight-o-five, then that really means that I can keep watching a bit more even if she's come and told me to get off.
By making the kids responsible for reporting that they've turned off the TV, the responsibility for ending the transaction is all to one side: the kids. The meme has good closure (and marking).
Unfortunately, things are not so rosy with the "difficult person," whom I would probably class as a pathological narcissist. While it could be argued that children have some things in common with narcissists, hence the overlap in the analysis.
I want to write a collection of essays on how macromemetic engineering may be applied to childrearing. One particular hope I have is making a cookbook on how to generate and inject functional memes that bring the children (and the parents) away from memetic destitution (alienation, or "memetic starvation").
I need to work out how to forge alliances, including among children. This would be a vital help to parents with multiple children. Just illuminating the benefits of a highly-allied group of siblings would be an excellent start, and maybe inform a memetic engineering cookbook.
模倣子 Defeating Defendianism - 3-narrative model, etc.
模倣子 drama around bralessness - 3-narrative model, etc.
(1) Memetic Enlistment refers to the degree of which a memetic agent feels they have a broad inventory of memetic deployment opportunities at their disposal. Enlistment can increase or decrease in the course of a series of memetic deployments, moving the system from one state to the next. I'm working on a body of theory linking changes (or anticipated changes) in enlistment as a motivation for resistance by agents to some memes, e.g., by deploying immunomemes. Somebody tries to change the subject to something others are not interested in, about which they have little to say, so they might resist such a change through any number of immunomemetic means (many of which can be fairly trite). The difficult person may resist even changes that support others' enlistment overall, or also push the system into states that support their own enlistment at the expense of the enlistment of others.
(2) Slavoj Zizek talks about violence being an inevitable consequence of a deadlock where one is unable to put into words what is needed to interact with the hegemonic ideology. I translate this into memetic lingo by saying that one is in a state of "memetic destitution" (or alienation) and has no memes to deploy at one's disposal. When one's memetic enlistment dwindles to the point of memetic destitution, violence is the only outlet, or perhaps emotional outbursts such as weeping, anger (which is akin to violence), or even the use of humor, or suicide (violence against oneself), but in the end, physical violence is the only thing guaranteed to resolve the deadlock, either by forcing the other side to take some action (typically violent), kill them, or get oneself killed one way or another.
(3) The Pervert's Guide to Ideology, Sophie Fiennes, starring Slavoj Zizek.
(4) Centralized power may take the form of a memetic nexus.
(5) The benefactor in an alliance relationship is also known as the mentor, or ally (though this one has a bidirectional quality, i.e., it could apply to either the protegee or the mentor equally).
(6) The new immunomemetic theory I hope to elaborate is that memetic enlistment is directly tied to immunomemetic deployment opportunities. Agents are motivated to deploy immunomemes to resist state transitions that result in a negative enlistment gradient for themselves.
(7) I believe this process of enlistment consolidation may ultimately produce a conservative situation, i.e., that it converges to a situation of high stability from an initial chaotic state. This probably presents an entire area of investigation and may relate to the Triple Narrative Model.
(8) "Memetic engagement" as of this moment is an informal term which I've not specifically defined. Here I'm trying to convey the idea of someone who readily deploys memes to others, perhaps widely across a number of agents, and who readily reacts to others' memes. In short, somebody who's "game for it."
(9) A state where the other agent has to immediately deploy a certain meme, which is determined by the compelled state.
(10) One can think of situations like being under police questioning or having to take a test as compelled states. There is only one right answer, and consequences for not making it within a timeframe set by somebody else.
(11) My pronoun choice is fairly arbitrary. Male/female pronouns are useful for economically writing an exchange between two people (as any romance writer could tell you).
(12) Among many anecdotes I've read, Ceaușescu's wife was said to be the inventor of the giant natural gas tanks that were on top of all the buses in Bucharest, even though they were purely for show, serving no function.
(13) Among may other accolades, North Korean propagandist assert that Kim shot a bullseye at age four or some such, among many other anecdotes that build up the personal mystique of the supreme leader, somehow justifying that role.
(14) Memetic replacement is the only way to get rid of bad memes, or memes that the memetic engineer doesn't want. Any meme functioning in a system has enlistment by agents who are reluctant to let it be deleted. If somebody resonates with a meme, then it is still there.
(15) Just up and leaving the environment, temporarily or more permanently, may have a lot of relevance for childrearing and other intimate relationships, since it's a meme that can be deployed "unilaterally" in effect.
(16) See the three laws of immunomemetics. A system of rules corresponds to an immunomemetic system.
(17) The time TV's off or even the type of penalty, like chores, or being good or whatever, could be by a random roll of the dice, flip of a coin, or drawn from a hat, to futher distance the parent from the actually rule enforcement and punishment process. Remove all hint that wheedling or whining can change things.
(18) An agent near the difficult person may try to put a stop to things on the basis that they are frightened or hurt or otherwise distressed, which one would normally consider reasonable, and be met with callousness and dismissal.
(19) The "marking" in the new system of the child required to come and report they're done with TV, as opposed to the parent having to go check and tell the child to switch off is much better, because the child reporting being done involves only one person and is a "point in time" event which can be agreed upon by both parties. The other way is more murky, unclear when it's actually done, incurs residual memetic debt. Also, with the well-marked reporting system, the parent could actually do something like say, "Oh, you finished early today. Here's a coupon for 15 minutes extra you can use later." This is impossible with the old system, which is in and of itself another indication of poor marking.