Re Ordered Priorities

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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Every so often there are those things that you pause, and inspect (sometimes “smell the roses” sometimes “why is the phone bill so high” ;-) and find out things you had not expected.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is known to anyone with an MBA (At least, I ran into it in a required class in the MBA program) and is known to a lot of folks outside of business. ( I think the “self esteem” emphasis in schools comes from it). It’s one of those “basic things” you look at, memorize, regurgitate on the tests, then maybe vaguely remember when some issue comes up 10 years later. Usually some ‘smart remark’ like “Well, he’s clearly not operating at the self actualization level!”

(As I’d learned LONG ago that questioning anything from the book in class did NOT help you with grades, I’d decided to just be, uncritically, a “memorize / regurgitate” machine for “class things”; reserving ‘inspection” and “critical thinking” for that the little bit of “me time” I had every day. So all “critical functions” are turned off when sitting in the students seat. Stupid, I know. But that is the path to success as a student…)

So in comments the issue of ‘ordering needs’ came up, and I “tossed off a remark” of the form “Oh, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, take a look.”

Then I “took a look”. It’s been a couple of decades since I did the “absorb spit up” for the class. Now I bothered to actually look at it. To ask it “What are you saying?” and “Are you saying more than intended? Are there ‘loose ends’ here of interest?”

I think there are.

In particular, I think it may explain a significant “Social Divide” in the world. The one the separates Skeptics from True Believers. Perhaps even the one that causes the Aspe response to be different from the NT response to various “social issues”.

The order is wrong.

In theory, you can only address the next “level up” after you have addressed the needs of the layer below it. You start at the very bottom with things like food, warmth, shelter. Only once those are met can you move to things like self esteem and creativity. Clearly this is what Maslow believes, and as it is widely accepted, it is what many others must believe too.

Yet it does not fit me nor many of the folks I know.

So let’s take just a moment to wander through this list and see if there is a different order that explains “folks like us” a bit more… I’ll start with the top, then swap to the bottom, then fill outward from the middle. (Yes, that’s how my style of analysis works. Ends in, middle out. We’ve already had “broad view” in the paragraphs above… and yes, I often like to “look at the problem backwards” so it’s going to be ‘from the top’ as it was built ‘from the bottom’ originally. Hey, it’s how the machine in my skull works, I’m just the messenger some times ;-)

The Top Tier: Self Actualization

On the very top level we have:

Problem Solving
Lack of Prejudice
Acceptance of Facts

Well, right off the bat I’m looking at “Acceptance of Facts” and thinking “The facts just are. -E.M.Smith”. That’s a foundational piece of who I am and how I think. When faced with a life threatening situation that OUGHT to put me down at the lowest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy, I’m thinking “Well, I’m screwed, but ‘The facts just are’; so what are you going to do now?”. Yes, I’ve been in such situations.

One is a story I tell ‘for fun’ about being stuck all night in a blizzard. It has it’s funny moments, but the reality is that I was in a car tha could not move in the middle of a blizzard that had shut down the freeway for 100 miles in each direction and where no rescue was going to happen. Fuel nearing the “not driving out if you use it to stay warm any longer” range. A few hours from potentially freezing to death if I didn’t “solve this problem” and “accept the facts”.

So now I’m looking at “problem solving” and thinking: “Wait a minute… I DID ‘problem solve’ when operating at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy. I was cold, hungry, expecting my potential demise…. and Solved The Problem. So for me, “Problem Solving” is clearly also a “basic function”…

So what are those “Most Basic Needs”, per Maslow?

The Bottom: Physiological


OK, “when you gotta go, you gotta go” so taking a dump or stopping your work to “shake hands with you wife’s best friend” is kind of important. Yet we’ve all heard the stories of the “Science Geek” who stood at their lab bench wetting themselves or “dropping a load” rather than stop that moment of discovery. Being so wrapped up in “Problem Solving” and “Creativity” that dealing with things like “I need to stop to excrete” just didn’t click.

I know I’ve had times I’m “working a problem” and wait until it darned near hurts before I’ll make a ‘fastest possible’ run to the bathroom. It’s a need, but not a priority… and it’s level of need varies a lot over time.

Homeostasis is a fancy word for “not too hot, not too cold”. You dont’ want to freeze, nor roast to death. If threatened with imminent death by freezing, you will address that before being “creative”. (In theory… but what about all those ‘creative’ self rescues?)

Breathing? Yup. I’ve needed to breathe often in my life. It gets your attention. Yet one of my fondest moments is a memory of being about 40 feet down in a lake, buddy breathing (someone else had scuba gear and I’d stop by some times for a bit of air) and just having a great time exploring for a minute or two at a time while deliberately NOT breathing. Clearly there is some “wiggle room” here…

And let me tell you, when you are “out of air and need some quick” as it’s already in the “I can’t stand it any more” range, “problem solving” is definitely running full tilt.

I was once about 30 foot down and my tank was at zero. It had a ‘flow restrictor reserve’ so as you go up, you get more air. Go down, less relative pressure, no air. Well, I’d hung out on the bottom as long as I could sucking every last breath from the tank, then headed up. At about 30 foot, one eardrum was starting to stretch and hurt. It was not “clearing”. OK, I stopped at 30 feet. This gave me about 1/2 minute of air more than I’d had on the bottom… Now, my choices: Go up now, break ear drum, potentially never dive again, have it hurt like hell… or stay where you are and die from drowning or solve the problem. Now in theory, I’m on the lowest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy. It’s all about the physical and I’m stuck between death and pain. He says “no room for problem solving”. I said “only way out is problem solving”. I did all the usual tricks (blow your nose, yawn, thrust jaw forward, etc.). No Joy. OK, last air from the tank, I’ve not got about 30 more seconds before I’m Out Of Luck. I head DOWN.

Why down? I’d figured that I’d tried everything else, the problem was probably that the added pressure inside the ear was keeping the eustachian tube closed and maybe if I brought the whole system back into equilibrium I could reopen the airway to the ear, then ‘bleed it out’ more slowly on the way up. At about 40 foot, it ‘cleared’ ( and I now had MORE air in my ear than before as I’d cleared it via the “hold nose and pressurize method” but with the canal open). I kept blowing a bit of air in/out at about 2 foot intervals all the way up. At about 15 feet I got another breath from the tank (very welcome as I was getting a bit light headed / desperate) but held my pace back to the surface.

The point? I can’t think of anything that would put you more on the bottom of Maslow’s Hieirarchy than “no air and I can choose pain or death”. Yet “problem solving” was what I did. Either I’m a freak or Maslow was wrong. Given the history of folks doing extraordinary things under great personal duress, I think Maslow has missed something with his chart. Maybe it’s covered in some other work, but the chart as taught has got a screw loose at least part of the time or at least for some people.


Are you kidding me? If I’m faced with death from no air, hypothermia, or going for some sex, it’s a toss up? Why am I getting that “Someone has a sex fixation like Freud” feeling? (I think Yung was more correct and lot of Freud’s stuff is just his problems..)

For me, at least, sex is a ‘recreational sport’ that comes somewhere well after “have breathed, have food, I’m healthy and have gone to work.”


We’ve covered this in another thread in comments. The short form is that I resent sleep and try to minimise how much of my life it consumes. I’ve gone about 40 productive hours in a row without sleeping (as a problem needed solving… clue!) and can function on about 4 hours a night indefinitely (though feel better at 6-7). OK, more ambivalent. I must sleep so it’s clearly a priority; yet I can easily “put it off” a fair amount when something more interesting needs be done. It’s more of a “yes it belongs here, but with flexible positioning over time”.

The Middle Tiers: Esteem, Love / Belonging, Safety


Self Esteem
Respect of (toward) Others
Respect by Others

Um, the “Respect by Others” ranks more basic and thus more important than “Acceptance of the Facts”?

Most folks would rather have their Ego Stroked and smoke blown up their skirts than look at something and say “The facts say otherwise”?

I say “No Way” based on me… but when I look at the “Climate Scientists” actions I see evidence to support that thesis. So are Skeptics just the folks who rank “Acceptance of the Facts” more important than “Respect by Others”?

Frankly, I don’t care much if someone respects me or not. I know what I’m good at, know where I’ve failed, and if they see where I’ve failed, well, they are a decent observer of the facts; if they denigrate me for things where I’ve done well, then they have a failure to observe the facts and “that’s not me”. So while “Respect by Others” is a “nice to have”, it tells me more about them than it says about me. So I don’t rank it above “accepting the facts” (or in Maslow’s scheme, below… as below is “more important”…)

“Respect of Others” ranks more important than “problem solving” and “morality” and “acceptance of the facts”? What are you thinking, Mr. Maslow? The facts first, the morality first, the problem solving first. THEN, and ONLY THEN, if someone has done those things well, does “Respect of Others” come to them. There is no way I can have “respect for others” at the expense of those three.

Yet the entire world of Religious Fanatics is built in a Maslowesque way… Hmmm…. See the Muslim World for a recent example; the Catholic Church 300 AD to about 1600 AD for an older one.

Then we’re supposed to have “confidence” and “achievement” but without any “acceptance of the facts” and “problem solving” and “morality” and “creativity”? I’m sorry, but that’s just backwards. Confidence and achievement derive FROM those things. They, and self esteem, are derivative functions of those basics. IMHO, this layer is just entirely wrong.

Love Belonging:

Sexual intimacy

OK, so he’s got “sex” in the list twice. Once as physiological and once with “intimacy” tacked on. First off, I note a fixation on sex. OK, I’ll admit it. I’m not fixated on sex. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great gift between two people. But it is just not ranking twice in my “needs” with one at the most basic level and the other just two steps up. I go to work first. I solve life’s problems of how do I keep a functioning life and family first. I sleep first. I go to the doctor first (when I’m ill). Look, it’s a great thing and I’m all for it, but would I sell my morality for it? Nope. Neighbor has a lovely wife, but if she ‘came on’ to me, it’s not going to happen. Yes, I have “hang ups” on morality (to use the ’70s jargon).

Yet all those divorce cases and soap operas say Maslow has nailed some large percentage of the folks…

And Maslow’s thesis is that I’ll sell out my morality, ignore the facts, give up my creativity and problem solving, trash my confidence and self esteem along with the respect of others and by others in exchange for frendship? Someone can invite me to The Club and everything else is out the window? Sorry, not for me. It’s called “integrity” and I’d rank it way more important than any friend.

Suck Ups can take that deal, not me. (Which may explain why I’ve never been invited in, to, or into The Club…)

And that “family” one is just precious. OK, I know, lots of Clannish folks out there and “tribe” counts for a lot. But really? “Dysfunctional Family Circus” ring a bell? “We can choose our friends but we can’t choose our Family.”? How about “I can’t wait to move out of this &^#*$ house!!”

My family is very important to me, but there are also some family members I’ve not seen in 25 years and that suits me just fine… them too. Clearly there is a lot of ‘range’ for ‘family’ affinity. If I had to choose my moral compass over my Brother-in-law, then, sorry Charlie, you’re going to jail… Someone in the family wants me to tell them that they can make it starting up a restaurant and I’m going to say “Sure you can!” as I know they desperately want it and will lose respect for me if I don’t agree and all it takes is that I ignore the fact that they are a screw-up with no restaurant experience; and Maslow predicts I’ll say “Sure you can!”? Nope. It’s going to be: Deep Breath. “Sue, you know you can’t cook, have no restaurant experience, and usually try to do more than you can accomplish so end in failure. I can’t see this working for you.”

That is the only way I can keep MY self esteem and my moral compass while helping to properly solve her problem… All of which, per Maslow, are not supposed to be on my radar at that moment…


Security of:

The Family

OK… so we’ve got “morality” in here, too. Exactly how can you have “security of morality” and not have “morality”? I think things are a bit confused here…

Security of Employment is supposed to be more important to me than my moral compass? My self esteem? My respect of others and respect by others? My family and sexual intimacy? My friends?

My God Man, has he never heard of “Hired Gun Contractor”? My employment was anything BUT stable for over a decade. Each month was “hustle a new gig” or no job. I’ve had a hundred times with “no job” (now being one of them). It’s part of the turf. Same thing for Sales folks. You earn what you hustle today. You are worth your last commission. This employment rank is just “way wrong”. Every single whistle blower out there has ditched the job for their moral compass. The number of folks who walk away from a mind numbing job as it doesn’t give them the self esteem, creativity, or problem solving opportunities they want is rather large too.

Maybe all of us are “different”…. Or maybe it’s a wide range and some folks ARE down here, desperate to flip burgers to feed the family and unwilling to ask if there is a better place to flip burgers. But clearly for me, and my kind, this is just ‘way wrong’ leveling.

Then again, for “Climate Scientists” looking for funding… maybe it is a fit. ;-)

Security of Body, Family, Health. To me they are “all of a kind”. I don’t really have much control over the Health one, though. We all get old and die. We all get infections and many die from them. And we each are dealt a different genetic hand to play. So yeah, health is important; but not much practical I can do about it so I don’t rank it much in day to day life. I avoid nasty stuff when reasonable, but that’s about it. Substantially every person who works in health care or teaching accepts they are going to the ‘daily germ exchange’ and does so. Cops and Firefighters put their health dramatically at risk every day (as do professional soldiers) as “part of the job” and part of feeling that they are earning the Respect by Others. Clearly this, too, has a wide range.

I will die first to save my immediate family. I will let my health go to save my life and my immediate family. There is some “ordering” needed here.

Resources? Property? I’m supposed to care more about my junk and my home than about “acceptance of the facts” and “problem solving” and “self esteem” and even more than friends and family?

How many times have you seen the TV interview of a flood or fire and the person is saying “It was just a house, we all got out alive and that’s all that really matters”. Ranking property down here at a basic need level is just lame. Property comes from the other needs. It’s a residual, not a basic.

My Needs or “Smith’s Hierarchy of Needs”

For me, the basic level is pretty close. I’d take out “sex”. Maybe I’m more like a Monk. Folks who find it optional and can go a long time ignoring it. Nice ‘gift among friends’ but hardly a driver of basic survival.

But to that level I’d also add “Accepting the Facts” and “Problem Solving”. They are just essential to having all the others happen. If you can’t solve the problem of how to get water, you are not going to have any water. I’ll skip drinking all in my canteen if I’ve ‘problem solved’ that I need to stretch it out a couple of days in the desert or that my kid is going to need it more than me as we hike out.

I’ve added the term “Survival” to the basic description as I think that captures the flavor a bit better. I’ve also ranked these roughly in the order of time importance. I can ‘hold my breath long enough to solve the problem’ (and have…) but first off you must simply accept the facts as they are. If you can’t see “what just is” you can’t get to the right problem solution to get you to the breathable air…

Once you are breathing, you can go a day or two without water, but only hours if the temperature is wrong. If you are not drinking, there’s nothing to pee… so it’s a ‘derivative need’. Sleep is a 40 hour need (probably about the same as water sometimes, but with a harder onset IMHO) and food? I can go weeks to months without food. It’s “not a priority” until a lot of other things have been met. Heck, I could even see putting it one more level up most of the time. I’m also pretty sure you are not going to be real worried about where your next meal is coming from when someone is sawing off an arm or attacking your kids, so I’ve promoted that “security” aspect to this basic level of need. (Though I put it after sleep, as it’s pretty clear that when you ‘hit the sleep wall’ you sleep, even if it puts you physically at risk of attack. Ask any soldier.) Does it belong ahead of ‘water’ and ‘sleep’ a lot of the time? Probably, but these things really need to be shown with a band or range on them.

The Bottom: Physiological / Survival

Acceptance of Facts
Problem Solving
Security of body
Security of Family

Love Belonging

I’ve added Morality to this level. How can one have friendship without having some kind of moral compass? How can you have a functional family or even sexual intimacy without that moral grounding? If I’m all lies and deception, who would be my friend? Who would stay in my home? So I see morality as either early in this level, or shortly after food in the other. There are many folks who will not eat animals for moral reasons…

I keep Family ahead of Morality as we are born into a family against our will, so for some period of time “family matters” and we’re still building our moral compass.

Personally, I can’t separate “sex” from “sexual intimacy”. Maybe for some folks is just a matter of plumbing, about as interesting as taking a dump. For me, “sexual” and “intimacy” are blended. So we’ve one listing for sex. I’ve moved Family to the top as I’ll do things for my family I’d not do for friends who’d caused me as much grief ;-) and as I don’t see how you can have sexual intimacy with someone without passing through friendship first, it is last on the list.

Sexual intimacy

Self Actualization

I’ve moved the “rump” of the prior top tier here. It is now just creativity and spontaneity. They are important to further accomplishments (not derivative of them) so must precede achievement, confidence, and self esteem. Basically, any damn fool can make an ass of himself being “creative” and “spontaneous”. Only later do they learn to harness it to achieve and gain confidence. So we learn to ‘self actualize’ then learn how badly we can screw things up without enough “acceptance of the facts” and “problem solving” and “moral compass”; then, and only then, do we advance to achievement, confidence, and respect. Watch any actor progress from “3rd grade play” to “college improv” to “Oscars”…


Self Evaluation and Esteem

If I’ve managed to keep basic physical needs met, have solved the problems of life and with a good grip on reality, with a family, friends, and life partner, then some derivative things flow from that. First off, I’m probably feeling pretty good about myself. Second, I’ll likely find some folks who I also admire for their decent grasp of reality.

I’ve ordered these this way, as I think: first you achieve, then you gain confidence, from that flows self esteem. Then, and only then, are you able to reasonably decide someone else is deserving of your respect as you can measure how well they have done, how strong is their moral compass, and what foundation supports their soul. Once you are doing that, Lack of Prejudice is an essential consequence. “Acceptance of the Facts” and “Respect of Others” forces you to confront the silly biases that society has shoved into your face from whatever cause. It takes self confidence to decide against the biases of your society.

Self Esteem
Respect of (toward) Others
Lack of Prejudice

Safety of Stuff Security

As I’ve no idea what makes “safety of morality” distinct from “morality” I’ve simply removed it. You either have your moral compass, or you do not. With family and self security promoted to a basic need, we now have a ‘rump’ of “stuff safety”.

As a “stuff security” rank, it’s just not that important. I can always “get more stuff” for most of the items. If I’ve done all the prior levels well, stuff will arrive as a derivative function.

IMHO, “health” is just another resource you have. It gets “spent” as needed getting through life. Important, yes, but not incredibly so. Many folks have ‘made the Faustian Bargain’ and worked in coal mines, as a soldier, firefighter, chemical plant worker, nuclear reactor crew, etc. It’s a ‘wasting asset’ anyway, so might as well spend it, but wisely… I could see maybe moving it up one level for folks who don’t have the “macho guy thing” pounded into their sense of self, though…

Similarly, Respect by Others is a derivative function. I have no control over it at all. It is simply a residual of a life lived well and honestly. It is, frankly, not a need at all. If it comes, it is a gift. If it does not come, I know who I am and what I have done in my life. I know what respect to pay myself.

Frankly, I spend little to no time worried about the “security” of any of these things. I note their presence or absence, and I work as time permits to get more of them, but the are a derivative of life, not the center of it.

I’m not real sure what makes a ‘resource’ distinct from a ‘property’ but I’m presuming it’s something like ‘property’ being real estate and bonds while a resource is more of a ‘hunting range, doctors license, or club membership’. Things that can bring home the bacon, but are less of a ‘thing’. I rank health at the top, as I’d rather have it than all the rest. Employment (by self or by others) brings the resources and property (though there is a wealth feedback loop there). And as we’ve already discussed, Respect by Others is purely derivative.

Security of external things:

Respect by Others

In Conclusion

So that’s “Smith’s Hierarchy of Needs”. That matches “me” much more than Maslow’s list. Perhaps the difference is reflective of what makes an Aspe the way we are, that “focus on the facts and problem solving”. Perhaps it is just what gives soldiers, test pilots, firefighters, police and astronauts “The Right Stuff”. Perhaps it is what makes a skeptic different from someone willing to “hide the decline”.

I think there is plenty of room here for individual interpretations, and individual variation.

For me, the major insight is that many of the rocks tossed at me over the years come from the fact that I do not fit Maslow’s order; yet folks expected me to. Various “persuasion” and “influencing” efforts that failed, and ended with folks looking at me with that “What’s wrong with you?” look… As I’ve said, “I don’t intimidate worth a damn” to which I’d add “Everyone has a price and can be bought, but mine is way over market” ;-)

So take a look at both hierarchies. Think about it. Do you match one more than the other? Do you have your own ordering? Does the question of “what does it mean?” speak to you?

Finally, I’d only add that: IF most of the world actually does match Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we are in deep doo and things will not end well for the world… IMHO, of course.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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44 Responses to Re Ordered Priorities

  1. Level_Head says:

    I’d largely agree with your new scheme.

    It does seem that there were some odd fixations — and perhaps some unintentional revelations — in Maslow’s hierarchy.

    One wrinkle gets thrown into this by OCD — an affliction that has perhaps trace effects in nearly everyone, and that has impacts upon Aspe folks in rather larger than the typcial percentage, I expect.

    Obsessive compulsive “goals” become surprisingly high ranking on such a chart, but are not easily to categorize into it. From procrastination to “my life depends upon it” rearrangement of one’s desk, various OCD behaviors make sporadic hits on the chart — temporarily important at best for most of us. For some of us, they are playing much of the time, and actively displace other layers.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

  2. Tony Hansen says:

    Don’t know why – but Maslow’s work reminded me of –
    “If we had some bacon, we could have some bacon and eggs, if we had some eggs”.

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    FWIW, ADHD OCD and Apergers are often elements of each other. My spouse spends a serious amount of time with some kids trying to figure out just which bucket(s) they fit in as there is overlap of “symptoms”… and just as oddly, often found in minor amounts in the most successful of people…

    But, to your major point:

    I deliberately did NOT add my own new categories. Contenting myself with just dropping redundant ones.

    I thought about “a whole new list” (which would include “integrity” as a specific…) but decided to make theis Mark I version more “approachable” to folks well steeped in Maslow and easier to see as a ‘critique’ rather than a ‘chuck and start over’…

    Maybe someday I’ll do a whole new approach… for now, though, I think this is the best first cut.

  4. H.R. says:

    Problem solving and creativity are definitely part of the foundation. They must come first.

    Someone had to figure out how to bring down a mastodon so they would have food. You can’t just sit around waiting for food or you’ll starve to death. We had clever ancestors.

    Water? People aren’t dumb. They move to where water is. You don’t set up camp or start a village thirty-two miles away from water. You don’t build your house and barn on land until after you’ve dug a well to make sure you can live on that land.

    And if you were not one of the creative problem solvers, well you probably fit Darwin’s theory more closely than Maslow’s hierarchy.

  5. Ken McMurtrie says:

    Hi EM. If I played some little part in inspiring your post, maybe I can justify some self-esteem boost?
    The subject of needs and priorities is very wide and deep. And very personal when you go into detail, ‘different strokes for different folks’.
    Then, as ‘Level_Head’ says, obsessive compulsive, I suppose among other things, alters personal priorities. So, the details are quite subjective, but the basic principles are pretty much fundamental.
    Some get their kicks from waging wars, others from making love, others from making money, others from leading ‘normal’ lives with a nice sensible mixture of rewards over and above the life-sustaining essentials.
    If one wants to play at theorising, it would be interesting to assess just how many of the “essentials” can be lived without before life is no longer worth living, and then, as you touched on, actually unsustainable. But, again, that would vary from one person to another.
    Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your blog.

  6. gnomish says:

    Entire Playlist here:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Parts 3 & 4:

    Part 5:


    Part 7:

    Part 8:

    {For the other 9, hit the playlist -mod}

    the foundation of any rational metaphysics is acceptance of the facts- that existence exists.
    all else proceeds from that axiom and the consciousness which performs this primary act of identification.
    logic, the technique of non-contradictory identification is not an automatic process, however. that requires practice if one is to get good at it.

    next is the understanding that the question of existence applies only to one class of entities – living things; therefore it is for living things that good or evil exists.

    but rand said it best thru galt, so avast – i’ll shut my gob and give her words straight up from youtube

    looks like part 6 is the money shot

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ken McMurtrie:

    I was intending to give a h/t to the inspiration but had forgotten on which thread it had happened and ran out of time to go looking…. But yes, h/t for inspiring me to ‘revisit’…

    FWIW, in pondering a statement I made above about students “absorbing and spiting it back out on the test”… I think, in many cases, that isn’t quite accurate.

    For me; a lot of it was more like a visit to the dentist: Done involuntarily as it was required to make other things work better in life, and after the initial discomfort and being made numb, there was something alien placed into the “head cavity” and it was more like “rinse and spit” than absorb and spit. Things “with issues” were not allowed to take up residence in The Tidy Mind, but had to be allowed to rinse about long enough to be spit out again. Then, when the procedure is done and the degree granted, one departs the premises as rapidly as possible attempting to forget that bad taste of what was ‘rinsed about inside’ and happy to have spat it out…

    Though in some cases, sadly, some bits were absorbed and need to be rooted out still… ( As I’ve said before, “I’m a recovering Keynsian”… )


    Edited to put in the playlist and the first set of videos.

    BTW, I very much like the philosophy put forward, but find it a bit too absolute in places. Things like thinking doesn’t happen on its own. For me, I have no choice. It just happens. I have a built in instictive need to think and while I can “shut down thinking” it takes a great deal of effort was it was THAT which was the ‘learned act’.

    Similarly the logic used is way too simplistic (as we’ve explored elsewhere, the binary logic is a bit too simple to campture reality without some significant circumlocutions…)

    But the core of it is accurate (if a bit imprecise…)

    But the particular details of what I find “doesn’t quite fit perfectly” will have to wait for another thread…

  8. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Integrity and Problem solving rate very high with me. I just don’t understand people that mangle the truth, sit on their backsides and complain about their problems, kind of like they are proud about how bad their lives are. Problems are just a challenge, a test, that needs a solution. What can be more fun than that? pg

  9. Malaga View says:

    My eyes hit the top of the pyramid…
    I read the first tier and my eyes rolled…
    I scanned down the tiers…
    Thought is this serious
    Then I read on and smiled…
    and kept on smiling as I read…
    Wonderful posting…

    Totally agree about that thing called integrity
    Seems to be in very short supply these days…
    Guess it must be an old fashioned concept.

  10. Malaga View says:

    I’m a recovering Keynsian
    Great line…
    Not sure there is any recovery from that complaint…
    Its like the old remedy of Bleeding by Cups and Leeches
    It continues until the patient dies…

  11. E.M.Smith says:


    At the end of part seven / start of part eight, the bit about ‘blanking out’ and ‘refusing to see’: I have great trouble NOT seeing and have great trouble “blanking out” things. IMHO, that is the “filter” that is missing in Aspies.

    (Aside to Murray: And no, Murray, it is NOT the presence of an “Aspe filter”, it is the lack of that usual and customary ‘blanking filter’ that seems to be in most NTs. “Accept the facts” is fundamental. “See what really is” is fundamental. “Problem solve and fit the pieces” is fundamental. It all “just happens” and I can’t stop it. It is only with great effort that I can keep my mouth shut long enough to regurgitate broken bits and get past the final exam in some classes; or avoid asking “If you say you think I’m a great guy how come you are thinking I’m a little bastard?” I can’t blank my knowing that the person is thinking one thing and saying a lie. And yes, I’ve “tested” enough times and ways to know that the case is that they are thinking one thing and saying the lie… That I can describe the physical queues that ‘tell the tail’ just means I can observe them while others who read them do so with lack of awareness; that awareness skill came long after I was using my ‘people reader’ and wondered one summer “how does it work?”… BY DEFINITION everyone is reading “ticks, nods, eye shape” and other ‘physical cues’, they just haven’t learned to observe the process at the same time too… unless, of course, you want to assert that folks are mind readers…)

    @Melaga View:

    It’s dead serious. Taught to everyone with an MBA as near as I can tell (as part of the HR and related topics) and I think it’s also taught in most social sciences and teaching programs as well. After all, you want to know what level of need the Rug Rats are working at as you can’t move them to “self esteem” and on to “accepting the facts” if they have an empty stomach … so better have a national free school lunch program… You see those kinds of ‘ripples’ all over the place.

    All base, IMHO, on a broken Hierarchy of Needs.

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    I think I’d put Integrity on the same line as Morality. To me, it’s all of a piece. I might give up my integrity to save my immediate family, but not a cousin or uncle. And a friend who asks me to compromise my integrity has got to have a damn fine reason, or I’ll be looking for a new friend…

    FWIW, one of my friends was once walked off the job. Fired, on the spot. From that moment onward, he would, while going over his resume, point at that job and say: “I got fired from them.” Then wait….

    It was National Semiconductor. They had a process where the jargon for it was “Pencil WIP”. WIP is “Work In Progress” and parts were sent from fab (fabrication) though various levels of testing, SEM imaging, and burn-in and then on to ‘box stock’. To “pencil wip” a batch was to sign off that it had been through all the testing, when it had not… He had simply refused to “pencil wip” a batch of Military Spec parts. He looked at it, said “Peoples lives will depend on these parts. No, I will not sign until they have been properly tested.” (When we were out of inventory and parts needed to ship or we would have a penalty to contract, there was significant pressure to ‘pencil wip’ products. MIL-spec testing could take months to properly test and burn-in, and that was really large slippage… I worked there too, but quit after a year, as I couldn’t do the ‘compromise’ either… lucky for me, I didn’t have much Mil-Spec stuff and managed my lines to never have an outage of inventory – though my boss gave me grief about carrying too much inventory…

    Oh, SEM is scanning electron microscope… Yup, every chip was to be visually scanned on a SEM image, along with electrical testing and running in a burn in pallet for various amounts of time. All so that $1,000,000 missle doesn’t fail because some jerk ‘pencil wipped’ the voltage regulator instead of letting that $2 part die in burn-in on it’s way to becoming a $20 MIL-Spec part…

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @Melaga View:

    It’s like being a “Recovering Alcoholic”. You are always in danger of a relapse, so never cured… but constant vigilance can lead to health, peace, and clearer thinking… ;-)

  13. Malaga View says:

    No hope for recovery in Europe until it falls apart…

    EU to ban cars from cities by 2050
    London and all other cities across Europe under a draconian EU masterplan to cut CO2 emissions by 60 per cent over the next 40 years.

    The European Commission on Monday unveiled a “single European transport area” aimed at enforcing “a profound shift in transport patterns for passengers” by 2050.

    The plan also envisages an end to cheap holiday flights from Britain to southern Europe with a target that over 50 per cent of all journeys above 186 miles should be by rail.

    Top of the EU’s list to cut climate change emissions is a target of “zero” for the number of petrol and diesel-driven cars and lorries in the EU’s future cities.

    Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission, insisted that Brussels directives and new taxation of fuel would be used to force people out of their cars and onto “alternative” means of transport.

    “That means no more conventionally fuelled cars in our city centres,” he said. “Action will follow, legislation, real action to change behaviour.”

  14. PA says:

    It seems that a very creative person would put creativity a bit lower on their personal needs pyramid than Maslow has it. I know from myself that being creative is just a drive I have and when I’m not able to be creative in some way, things get a bit uncomfortable inside. I remember once I was sculpting and time seemed to stop. It was only when I was finished, several hours later, that I even registered being hungry or tired.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    FWIW, this list from

    may be more “true to the original” than that pyramid from the wiki. What I remember from class was sort of half way between the two. The “glue on” at the end is a good example of how Maslow’s Hierarchy gets mutated a bit then used to influence all the folks who come out of this program at this college… Notice that the URL points at what I interpret to be “Faculty Development Communications Guildbook of Teachers Tips”… as this link seems to confirm:

    I’d tell them their “intranet” was on the “internet” but I don’t think I could find the right peson to understand what I was saying ;-)

    I’ve bolded a couple of bits in their “interpretation”. Yes, they are dead serious… After all, Maslow said sex and self exteme are critical and you can’t get past them to self actualization until they are met…


    from Psychology – The Search for Understanding
    by Janet A. Simons, Donald B. Irwin and Beverly A. Drinnien
    West Publishing Company, New York, 1987

    Abraham Maslow developed a theory of personality that has influenced a number of different fields, including education. This wide influence is due in part to the high level of practicality of Maslow’s theory. This theory accurately describes many realities of personal experiences. Many people find they can understand what Maslow says. They can recognize some features of their experience or behavior which is true and identifiable but which they have never put into words.

    Maslow is a humanistic psychologist. Humanists do not believe that human beings are pushed and pulled by mechanical forces, either of stimuli and reinforcements (behaviorism) or of unconscious instinctual impulses (psychoanalysis). Humanists focus upon potentials. They believe that humans strive for an upper level of capabilities. Humans seek the frontiers of creativity, the highest reaches of consciousness and wisdom. This has been labeled “fully functioning person”, “healthy personality”, or as Maslow calls this level, “self-actualizing person.”

    Maslow has set up a hierarchic theory of needs. All of his basic needs are instinctoid, equivalent of instincts in animals. Humans start with a very weak disposition that is then fashioned fully as the person grows. If the environment is right, people will grow straight and beautiful, actualizing the potentials they have inherited. If the environment is not “right” (and mostly it is not) they will not grow tall and straight and beautiful.

    Maslow has set up a hierarchy of five levels of basic needs. Beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, esthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. In the levels of the five basic needs, the person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on. Maslow’s basic needs are as follows:

    Physiological Needs

    These are biological needs. They consist of needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. They are the strongest needs because if a person were deprived of all needs, the physiological ones would come first in the person’s search for satisfaction.

    Safety Needs

    When all physiological needs are satisfied and are no longer controlling thoughts and behaviors, the needs for security can become active. Adults have little awareness of their security needs except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting). Children often display the signs of insecurity and the need to be safe.

    Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness

    When the needs for safety and for physiological well-being are satisfied, the next class of needs for love, affection and belongingness can emerge. Maslow states that people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. This involves both giving and receiving love, affection and the sense of belonging.

    Needs for Esteem

    When the first three classes of needs are satisfied, the needs for esteem can become dominant. These involve needs for both self-esteem and for the esteem a person gets from others. Humans have a need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others. When these needs are satisfied, the person feels self-confident and valuable as a person in the world. When these needs are frustrated, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

    Needs for Self-Actualization

    When all of the foregoing needs are satisfied, then and only then are the needs for self-actualization activated. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person’s need to be and do that which the person was “born to do.” “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write.” These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.

    The hierarchic theory is often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for self-actualization. Maslow believes that the only reason that people would not move well in direction of self-actualization is because of hindrances placed in their way by society. He states that education is one of these hindrances. He recommends ways education can switch from its usual person-stunting tactics to person-growing approaches. Maslow states that educators should respond to the potential an individual has for growing into a self-actualizing person of his/her own kind. Ten points that educators should address are listed:

    1. We should teach people to be authentic, to be aware of their inner selves and to hear their inner-feeling voices.

    2. We should teach people to transcend their cultural conditioning and become world citizens.

    3. We should help people discover their vocation in life, their calling, fate or destiny. This is especially focused on finding the right career and the right mate.

    4. We should teach people that life is precious, that there is joy to be experienced in life, and if people are open to seeing the good and joyous in all kinds of situations, it makes life worth living.

    5. We must accept the person as he or she is and help the person learn their inner nature. From real knowledge of aptitudes and limitations we can know what to build upon, what potentials are really there.

    6. We must see that the person’s basic needs are satisfied. This includes safety, belongingness, and esteem needs.

    7. We should refreshen consciousness, teaching the person to appreciate beauty and the other good things in nature and in living.

    8. We should teach people that controls are good, and complete abandon is bad. It takes control to improve the quality of life in all areas.

    9. We should teach people to transcend the trifling problems and grapple with the serious problems in life. These include the problems of injustice, of pain, suffering, and death.

    10. We must teach people to be good choosers. They must be given practice in making good choices.

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    @Malaga View:

    Oh BOY!!

    The spouse gets motion sick on trains. She wants me to fund a “Europe Tour”… so if I can just wait long enough, she’ll decide I don’t need to spend that money after all !!!

    South America, Here I Come! (It’s my vacation pick ;-)

    I guess Europe doesn’t want a lot of tourists from America… Fine with me… And I suppose that getting rid of those obnoxious industries like Mercedes Benz, BMW, Peugeot, VW, Fiat, Ferrari, and all their parts fabrication will be such an economic blessing…

    I’m reminded of “Never stop your competition from shooting themselves in the foot!” 8-0


    I call that being “in the moment” or “in the zone” or sometimes “The Focus Moment”. Time is just gone. Discomforts are gone. Emotional state is gone. I’m just absorbing or producing, either one…

  17. gnomish says:

    the formation of associations is automatic.
    forgetting that which contradicts what is accepted as true is automatic.
    animals are capable of this and a brain is built to perform these functions as kernel processes.
    the first is done while awake and the second while asleep.

    the validation of truth by logic is not automatic. symbolic logic is an abstract grammatical system that must be learned and practiced – by choice. it can not be forced. force is the negation of mind. it requires mastery of language and the calculus of implication. it requires a definition of truth.
    that’s where we get the sapiens part as our distinction – we can do that.

    as the universe exists in base one, so far as i can tell, any number of dimensions you wish to use may be valid for the purpose and useful – but are ad hoc and arbitrary.
    entities exist regardless of whether anybody measures them or not and the measurement is not the entity. yay aristotle!

    if someone were to utter this statement:
    ‘there is no such a thing as an absolute’, would you ‘instinctively’ do a double take at the fact that is the statement of an absolute and therefore belongs to the species simple.self.contradiction (and therefore is a lie)?

    anyway, i thought you might get something out of it worth the looking.

  18. gnomish says:

    @ PA
    “I remember once I was sculpting and time seemed to stop”

    i might be wrong, but perhaps one doesn’t age during these periods of timelessness. it sure seems that way, anyhow…lol.

    if anything can keep ya young, it’s being fully absorbed in something that deeply satisfies.

  19. E.M.Smith says:


    I’m getting quite a bit out of it and there is a great deal in it with which I agree. Like part 10 from about 2:18 to 3:20 ‘rings a bell’ for me ;-) and on out to about 8:00 is good too.

    But it’s things like “ONLY a rational mind can find joy”…

    I’ve known a large number of irrational folks who where quite able to find joy, even in things like hurting others.

    Similarly, the notion that one must always be “rational” has “issues”. There are times when it is best to be “irrational” (ala Spock in the episode of burning all the fuel in a flair, I suppose… “rational irrationality”)… and I’ve used “irrationality” to solve some various problems from time to time… Being able to be a Berserker has it’s merits… and reason in those circumstances WILL fail, I’ve tried it repeatedly over a decade+ with the same result…)

    So it’s not so much that I find it “all wrong” as I think there are a few places where it needs a few more “levels” of detail; and a bit less ‘binary absolutes”. Good, but incomplete…

    I do think it’s a great place to START a personal foundation, it’s just not the end point of the process…

    At any rate, love the presentation. I could never get far in the book. (Partially the little “flare” moments of “wait, that’s too simplistic!” and seeing 1000 pages to go… and realizing I was going to be in this state for a week…)

    Maybe I need to go see the movie ;-)

  20. gnomish says:

    ”There are times when it is best to be “irrational” ”
    perhaps not irrational so much as amoral or unethical?
    in the ‘life.boat ethic’ puzzles, the solution is, in fact, understanding that morality is the science of choice. that means in cases where there is no choice (or no good choice) then morality is inapplicable- inappropriate to the context, as you may be observing.
    in those cases, of course reason is appropriate. a reasonable conversation would be horribly inappropriate – ask dan pearl.
    had he used reason, he’d not have tried to be ‘sweet and reasonable’ where it was fatally inappropriate.
    similarly, as in poker, there are many times when one does not owe the truth to anybody. there are even times when self defense or the protection of rights requires deliberately misleading a predator, i.e., lying. once again, it is reasonable to apply the proper methods to a problem if one wishes an outcome favorable to survival.

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    Thirteen from 4:30 to about 9:10 is rather choice, too:

    Though I have to point out the kind of thing that causes me to ‘stumble’ in the reading… Lines like:

    “You can not force intelligence to work. Those who are able to think will not work under compulsion. Those who will, will not produce much more than the price of the whip needed to keep them enslaved.”

    So here we have “it won’t” and “For those where it does”… just not “tidy”. It cries out for “Many or most who are able to think will not work under compulsion. Those who will…”

    It’s that “slightly too much precision for the accuracy” and too much absolute for the reality and too simplified a set of choices for the actual set…. that’s what’s slighly maddening to me. So I agree with all the major conclusions, but find the method a bit, er, simplistic…

  22. Level_Head says:

    @E.M. Smith

    Though I have to point out the kind of thing that causes me to ‘stumble’ in the reading… Lines like:

    I think this was just badly phrased, and assumed certain words but made them ambiguous in context. Try it like this:

    You can not force [the intelligent] to work. Those who are able to think will not work under compulsion. Those [non-thinkers who will work under compulsion] will not produce much more than the price of the whip needed to keep them enslaved.”

    That’s what she meant.

    But I think that Ms. Rand here underplays the value of those folks willing to work at relatively unimaginative jobs. They are part of a system, and valuable. Even if they are not the creative spark that has harnessed Nature to Man’s ends, they are nevertheless capable of performing their tasks with dignity and integrity, exchanging their efforts for fair value and adding wealth to their own lot and to the world.

    This is not the same as forcing brilliance to perform upon command, Rand’s larger point.

    I thought of this passage when I saw the first Iron Man movie, when the jihadists were trying to force Tony Stark to build them a weapon to destroy their enemies. He did build a weapon…

    ===|==============/ Level Head

  23. E.M.Smith says:


    I thought of that as a possible interpretation, but also had enough other cases I thought I’d just run with that one as an example. In any case, the “untidiness” factor is a distraction.

    FWIW, I’m up to part 15 and find it rather good:

    So I find absolutes like “it’s doomed to fail” (in essence) and agree with it in general (societies do eventually fail when they start down the path of unjust rewards)… Yet… Societies can exist in that form for decades, sometimes even centuries… Think of Rome. 1000 years of slavery.

    So I think that something ought to also be said about the personal cost to be born of following her advice, and that it might well run for 1000 years…

    At any rate, as I said above, I agree with the conclusions (and the values expressed) in large part, just think it is a bit, er, loose with the reality in places and too tight with the absolutism in others. Better as a work of “docu-drama” than as “moral code to live by verbatim”.

  24. gnomish says:

    a novel is an art form, not a treatise.
    her ideal characters are not meant to be smelly armpit buddies down the street – they are meant to be heroes and villains larger than life – like a victor hugo beggar.
    she did plenty of nonfiction as well.

    apart from her talents as a novelist, though, she was the first to declare an objective morality which earns her a spot in my big 3, darwin, shannon and rand, for the big ideas that i can’t stop using every day because they give me the keys to understanding – i totally get off on understanding.

  25. Tony Hansen says:

    Who is Shannon?

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    @Tony Hansen:

    Don’t know for sure, but I suspect he’s talking about:

    Claude Elwood Shannon (April 30, 1916 – February 24, 2001) was an American mathematician, electronic engineer, and cryptographer known as “the father of Information Theory”.

    Shannon is famous for having founded Information Theory with one landmark paper published in 1948. But he is also credited with founding both digital computer and digital circuit design theory in 1937, when, as a 21-year-old master’s student at MIT, he wrote a thesis demonstrating that electrical application of Boolean algebra could construct and resolve any logical, numerical relationship. It has been claimed that this was the most important master’s thesis of all time. Shannon contributed to the field of cryptanalysis during World War II and afterwards, including basic work on code breaking.

  27. Another Ian says:

    Somewhat off this thread but to do with triangular structures and management.

    At a management training course we were introduced to the pyramid form of organisation (many Indians, one Chief).

    Which brought this response from another course participant –

    “So that is how it is supposed to work?

    I thought it was like a vegetarian’s dunny – the turds float to the top”

  28. David says:

    I agree with many of your thoughts on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I hope readers will take my comments from a philosophical, not religious perspective. Ancient India taught that human needs were physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual, and that mankind’s actions were based on the desire to avoid pain and suffering in all areas, and the attainment of happiness/bliss. It is apparent that some, suffering in one or all of these categories, choose death, and few would want any eternal life, were that life unending pain and misery. So India started with an understanding of the common goal of various needs and precedes from there to an in depth analysis of the threefold suffering of mankind, physical disease, mental inharmonies, and spiritual ignorance.

    India, in common with Christian and Jewish thought, teaches that mankind is, in essence, a being made in the image of the divine which has certain basic attributes, which mankind, being made in that image, cannot not help but seek. These are knowledge/understanding, power, and love. The sick and destitute feel powerless, the friendless and unmatched/unmarried feel lonely, the ignorant man is deeply miserable, often confused and whipsawed on waves of emotion. The miser is seeking power, the romantic is seeking love, the scholar is seeking knowledge. In effect, all actions, ignorant, (those that fail in their objective), and wise, (those which succeed) are looking for a happiness which is dependent (knowingly or not) on obtaining some degree of knowledge/understanding, power, and love. These fundamental categories each have a physical, mental and spiritual aspect. And so peoples priorities of needs varies depending on their focus or state of mind. Some seek power, love and understanding on the physical, some on the mental, some on the spiritual, some on all three levels.

    One aspect that falls most directly into mental harmonies and understanding, is morals. Many studies have been conducted on how the happiest people have two qualities. One is an attitude of service, doing for others. The self centered human is often the most miserable. Winning the lottery is a curse to many. I have hired and worked with hundreds of people. Without fail those who are most cheerful at work exhibit an attitude of working to help others, along with an attitude of gratitude. Where is there friendship and mutual respect, if it is not rooted in each doing for the other.

    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, without comment on the goals of those needs, is lacking in direction. Everbody has different priorties based on a different understanding. I agree that in many instances his are counterproductive to success. Without the top tier, all below it can and will fail.

  29. Tony Hansen says:

    Thanks E.M.

  30. Pascvaks says:

    Thoughts –

    We’re all different.

    Circumstances change.

    What’s important today may not be tomorrow.

    There are different “climates” in human “psychology”.

    Some “climates” are hot, some are cold, some are neither.

    A List is One Man’s Opinion.

    Most people “like” lists.

    Most people don’t think too hard in a classroom.

    When people are hungry enough they’ll eat anything or anyone.

  31. Larry Geiger says:

    I have never seen Maslow as applied to one person. I’ve always understood it to apply to a group. It seems to fit better when applied to an entire group of people. Taking it apart based on my individual traits, or any individual traits, would certainly result in a different set of traits at each level. I think that Maslow was trying to average out those traits across a population. YMMV.

  32. P.G. Sharrow says:

    I have been at the birth of and worked with many different creatures including humans. After breath the needs are intimacy, warmth and then food, in that order. pg

  33. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. “I can’t blank my knowing that the person is thinking one thing and saying a lie.”

    I find myself constantly amazed at the ease, the effortlessness, the sheer audacity of the average person’s lying. I am not saying that I never lie — I do — but it is painful, and not something I can easily do, even if I know that the person with whom I am speaking has already proven that he deserves to be lied to. The old question, “Do you lie to Nazis who ask whether you have Jews in your house?” is no ethical problem. Of course you lie, but I find that I am not good at it, certainly not anywhere near 50th percentile.

    P.D. Ouspensky (I think in his book (“The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution”) claimed that “the study of human psychology is the study of lying.” I think that he maight be right on that. For you, E.M., and for people like you, the facts come first. “What are the facts? What is the truth of the matter?” All the rest of the analysis, the opinion, the reaction is predicated on first finding (as much as practical) what the facts are. For the average person, the truth is secondary, the important part is “What do my peers think about this? What does this do to my self image?” Per Ouspensky, the only way that normal humans can psychologically face the cognative dissonance of the various mutually contradictory lies which they embrace each day, is by the use of what he refers to as “buffers” or what we today would call “bumpers.” People have mental mechanisms in place which seperate ideas and prevent them from banging into each other too hard. In practice, these buffers partition off each person’s awareness into quite distinct personalities, all simultaneously living inside the same skull. Case in point; an aquaintance of mine is a self described devout Christian. He tells me that his Christian Men’s Breakfast Group all agree (with one hold out dissenter (thank goodness there is at least one Lot!)) that Afghanistan ought to be bombed with nuclear weapons into one big parking lot and kill every man, woman and child there. I asked him “so, how’s that whole ‘Prince of Peace’ thing working out for you?” Needless to say, he was angry that I would say such a thing. The surest way to tell whether you have broached someone’s buffer is when they get angry.

    Here’s another example: A young man wants a car he can’t afford, so he lies to himself. “Sure, it’s a lot of money, but I will cut out pizza and movie tickets and I can afford it!” So he buys the car…and a few days later is upset to realize that he does not have enough money for pizza and movie tickets! Did he lie to himself? Sort of, and sort of not. The guy who bought the car was lying, not to himself exactly, but to the guy who wants the pizza and tickets. Two different people at this level, but both in the same skull. Likewise, the guy who parties late into the night is not the same guy who has to get up at 6:00am when the alarm goes off. With all that constant practice of lying, no wonder NTs find it easy to lie to YOU or ME!

    You have commented before on how heavily vested most people (NTs) are in lying. Based on what I have seen, yes, absolutely. The study of human (NT) psychology is the study of lying.

  34. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    Thanks for the pointer to P.D. Ouspensky. I’d not heard of that work before.

    I suspect that the Aspies / Autistics who withdraw and basically “go nuts” do it as a result of the inability to reconcile the real world they must live in with the bizzaro world that everyone else seems to live in.

    I know it took me a while to find that I ought to just trust the Reality Anchor and let all the rest “fall where it may”.

    I’ve had more “angry response moments” than I care to think about. The Sunday School teacher who didn’t like my asking about dinosaurs and geologic strata ( I actually feel sorry about that one, he was a “nice guy farmer” who just thought he would be helping the world by teaching farm kids Sunday School. Never expected to run into an 8 year old kid with encyclopedic knowledge of evolution, geography / plant distributions, geology / stratigraphy, archaeology, and a built in “logic engine” that could spot non-fit and stretch a mile away… and can’t let go of an error… I eventually just ‘shut up and regugitated’ then went home and read my evolutionary biology and geology / archaeology books…); to my family who want me to buy things with money that doesn’t exist; to the neighbor who thinks that spending money on the home is an “investment” instead of a slowly wasting asset…

    Yup, it’s a ‘sure sign’…

    FWIW, I developed the ability to lie rather well. I’m good at observing and learning behaviours and noticed that all the other folks did this odd thing, so I guess I ought to learn how to do it too. (Though I spent way too much time trying to reconcile “To thyne own self be true” and “Honesty is the best policy” and …) Basically, once I accepted that “Honesty is the best policy” was itself a lie in many circumstances AND that I needed to be honest to myself at all times, others not so much; the rest fell into place fairly easily.

    The Philosophy Of “Be A Mirror”:

    My basic solution is to “Be A Mirror”. IFF the other person is lying, they have given me permission to lie in return. IFF the other person is being honest, I must be honest. If no state is determined, I lead with honesty and watch for a reflection.

    This Philosophy Of The Mirror is used in other contexts as well. Someone is violent? They grant to me the power of violence toward them. Evil and manipulative? Guess what tools I can now use? Polite and kind? I can “be me”.

    This idea was confirmed when I worked in a Psych Ward for a year or two… I was a medical records technician and we worked in the doctors lounge. Everyone had a ward (mine was orthopedics) and we rotated in 2 week shifts into Psych so none of US would go batty…

    While there, a Doctor and Nurse were talking in a polite intelligent way. A patient ‘strolled in’ and watched. The nurse turned to the patient and in a very Nurse Ratched way angrily snarl shouted “GET BACK TO YOUR ROOM!” and as the patient turned and left, faced the doctor and continued in a polite subservient way “Yes, Doctor? And for Ms. Foo, what are we doing this week?”

    Cognitive dissonance? You bet.

    A bit later I asked Ms. Nurse about it. Her reply? “Most of the patients don’t really understand the words you are saying and those that do are usually drugged to insensitivity with Haldol. If I said to go back to her room in a nice voice, she would just stay and listen to the nice soothing sounds. I have to speak to her in the emotional level she can understand. ”

    So you must “be a Mirror” and speak to a person on the level where they are operating. If that is noxious angry snarls and bared teeth, so be it. If it is polite formal discourse, so be it. If it is “the expected lies”, to speak honestly will just confuse and anger them; so be it…

    And for some very few of us it is a very high baud rate absolutely honest untainted information share; unfiltered. Those moments are golden…

    FWIW, the spouse is a Twin. To watch the two of them talking is fascinating. It’s duplex, for one thing. Both talking at the same time, and not always on the same topic. Bidirectional multi thread. Often, answers or comments on one topic from the other person are interleaved into the dominate thread the person is talking about. It’s like watching two databases sync up.

    Oh, and some bits are “compressed” so you will get a sentence fragment that the other one knows how to complete, so gets truncated. “I saw Mable today about John Cres..” “Didn’t like lunch, it was horrib – John, had him last year and he’s got issues – potatoes were cold and mealy – Mable like butterscotch cookies for next staff meeting at the D.O.” “Oh, poor dear, try the Erik’s Delli Tuna – his IEP is overdue – I’ve got a Scotchies recipie that ought… – and next thursday we have a review meeting scheduled”

    It’s both fascinating and a bit boggling… but they can sync up a days worth of experiences in about 20 minutes.

    Back at The Mirror:

    So I found that as long as I was able to be honest with myself at all times, and honest to others until they “gave me permission to lie to them” I was comfortable with the “rules”… At that point it just became an issue of perfecting the ability to “act as expected”.

    And it is exactly the same skill used in acting. (My final class in college was an acting class. We had to ‘enter character and hold it’ for the entire 3 hours of the final exam period… loved that class). So when someone “Makes the Big Lie” they are telling me they expect me to be lying in return, and I can put on my NT Lier Persona and let it run. To them it’s just a game, like being in Hamlet, so I must “be a mirror”… and let it be just a game to me as well…

    At that point it becomes “just another skill” to develop. Though it’s one I try to avoid using until forced into it by the Other. So an employee habitually lies about why they can’t actually get their work done; then I’m allowed to lie back that while they are a valued employee, we’re having a rough patch and someone needs to be let go. They are happier with their self delusion and my not telling them they are a screwup. I’m ‘happy enough’ that they are gone and I don’t have to do all the “termination for cause” paperwork.

    FWIW, EVERY company does exactly that lie. During every business downturn I’ve ever been in, I was directed by management above me and H.R. that I was expected to try to retain the best, and those folks with “issues” that were below termination level offences ought to be given a priority in the exit queue… Not always in direct terms, or course… and I was expected to make the ‘exit process’ “smooth” which is a code word for not having the employee notice they were being ‘fired with an exit package’ instead of just ‘let go due to business conditions’.

    At the highest levels, management is expected to “fire whole devisions” by “restructuring”, that is often a “polite lie” for either “Your division has screwed up or under performed too long” or sometimes “you were / are a threat to me in my new position of power, out you go”. But as soon as you see “layoffs planned” you can expect to see massive “polite lies” all over the place. Fun to watch, actually. (And yes, Murray, I was stellar at it. I’ve “fired folks for cause” via a “polite layoff” and they ended up thanking me for it… and offering to help in the process. Had one guy expecting to use me as a reference. Yes, I can “lie like a rug” when justified by the facts and do it with such clear emotional connection to the person that they feel sorry for me. Been there, done that. A skill I’d rather never need to use again, though.)

    So, Jason, you can develop the skill with a bit of practice. The major issues for me were:

    1) I expected others to see lies as clearly as I did. They don’t (and those that do usually expect it and often want it… yes, they want the polite lie that lets them maintain their own fictions.)

    2) I thought it blanket immoral. It isn’t. It is only immoral with a person who has your level of morality AND your level of communication skill. Basically, it’s the “Lie to a Nazi” scale from “Honest folks” on one end to “Nazi SS” on the other. Everyone grades somewhere. You just need to ‘read their grade’ and ‘speak to them in the manner they can understand’.

    One final example of “Be a Mirror”:

    Bullies. They do not understand words. They understand only violent displays. You must “speak to them on their level” and “be a mirror” to be heard. So a swift boot to the head is the proper form of communication that they have requested. When in Rome…

    Oh, and a humorous sidebar:

    At my Nat.Semi job fresh out of college, my boss didn’t know me and I’d already learned the ‘be a mirror’ trick. So he starts off doing the ‘be a mirror trick’ too and he’s set his level to match all the other employees. I.e. about average. We’re both having regular meetings and each of us is “speaking average speak and displaying average displays”. This goes on for about a month and we slowly start to both ratchet up… Finally, one week, I start jumping to faster and higher level comm link and he matches plus a bit. About halfway throught the meeting I see him seeing that I’m who I am and that I know he’s who he is and we’re both way higher than we’ve been acting…. It can be “interesting” when two mirrors are facing each other…

    Since then I’ve learned to leave “clues” about potential top rate visible, but not at an offensive to others level. The occasional “big word”, the sporadic “visible flash” (though filtered and damped). It gets past some of the ‘leveling’ issues in places like Mensa events where the guy at the bar may be a guy off the street, or not…

    Also, it takes practice to stay ‘current’. In the last couple of years I’ve preferentially associated with folks who are pretty bright. I’d probably need a week or two to get “dumb bumpkin” back on line… (Though I have passed as a country bumpkin at some events … It doesn’t pay to shout “California Geek Here” in some parts of Texas…) So be careful to ‘tune up’ before major events…

    At any rate, I hope some of this can help you to “pass” better in the normal society and do so without guilt. Remember, you are only speaking to them in the language and at the level they have chosen…

  35. E.M.Smith says:


    Thanks, saved to disk for later reading.

    @Another Ian:

    Nice, very nice… I’m still grining ;-)

    “My kind of folks”… (~”You forced me to be here, doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with it”… )

    @Larry Geiger:

    Then I’m not part of his group! :-)

  36. Duster says:

    The problem with any philosophy or psychology is that it is always incomplete. Reality is always more complex than any model of it can be. Some models such as Newtonian gravitation appear nearly complete until the scale of application becomes adequately large or small so as to reveal the inadequacies. Apspies and autistics are not more or less in contact with reality than others, they are simply in contact with a different set of details than others. We are the heirs to, and victims of a 19th century mechanistic view of reality that tends to what you might call “thingify” reality.

    You often find people who consider their bodies or yours objects rather than systems, which is what they are as long as you are alive, systems with flows of matter and energy that define them and which are not even particularly similar in detail from body to body – other wise some of us such as E. M. would not get along happily six hours sleep while other need eight to barely survive, or who like myself can chew on poison oak twigs and enjoy something that would outright kill others.

    Classificatory systems, epistemologies, moral systems, economies and such are simply tools that approximate reality for working purposes. We forget that conditionality and incompleteness at our peril.

  37. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. “Basically, once I accepted that “Honesty is the best policy” was itself a lie in many circumstances AND that I needed to be honest to myself at all times, others not so much; the rest fell into place fairly easily.”

    LOL! I think you must have been a much quicker learner than me! Took me waaaaay too long to figure that out. Maybe I should have gone back and reread Heinlein. :)

    “My basic solution is to “Be A Mirror”. IFF the other person is lying, they have given me permission to lie in return. IFF the other person is being honest, I must be honest. If no state is determined, I lead with honesty and watch for a reflection.”

    THAT makes sense to me. My first reaction when reading this was “That is the ‘tit-for-tat’ winning strategy for the iterated prisoner’s dilemma!” Basically, an eye for an eye. Hmmmmm…. my slowness in trying that strategy might explain a few scars and some missing money….

    “And for some very few of us it is a very high baud rate absolutely honest untainted information share; unfiltered. Those moments are golden… “

    I suspect that you have gathered a small band of comrades over the years to share such moments with. I certainly have, and we actually meet at the book store once a week for coffee and the type of conversation that we cannot find anywhere else. A couple of times a year someone will be intrigued enough to eavesdrop a bit and ask can they sit in. Maybe every couple of years someone will actually be able to peddle fast enough to keep up and become one of the regulars. Not a club, no dues, no rules – other than civil discourse – just friends who share a more-than-normal mental life. That is where I met my wife. :)

    “So when someone “Makes the Big Lie” they are telling me they expect me to be lying in return, and I can put on my NT Lier Persona and let it run. To them it’s just a game, like being in Hamlet, so I must “be a mirror”… and let it be just a game to me as well… “

    Seriously, E.M., I really do appreciate the clarity with which you state this. Old habits really are hard to break and having a more rational layout of the ethical approach to this helps. There is an old saying that “In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.” Well… no. In the land of the blind, the one eyed man gets his keister kicked – unless he is smart enough to lie about that one eye!

    “So, Jason, you can develop the skill with a bit of practice. The major issues for me were:
    1)I expected others to see lies as clearly as I did. They don’t (and those that do usually expect it and often want it… yes, they want the polite lie that lets them maintain their own fictions.)
    2)I thought it blanket immoral. It isn’t. It is only immoral with a person who has your level of morality AND your level of communication skill. Basically, it’s the “Lie to a Nazi” scale from “Honest folks” on one end to “Nazi SS” on the other. Everyone grades somewhere. You just need to ‘read their grade’ and ‘speak to them in the manner they can understand’.”

    Point one I eventually figured out, but point two has been harder. I think you are correct – but it has not been something which I have ever found easy to integrate into my actions. You make a very good point about the range of lying being a spectrum though. Like a lot of folks, I do see shades of grey in life, but I know also that I tend to categorize things too often into black or white, zero or excess. Our family motto is “Way too much is just about enough.”

    “Bullies. They do not understand words. They understand only violent displays. You must “speak to them on their level” and “be a mirror” to be heard. So a swift boot to the head is the proper form of communication that they have requested. When in Rome… “

    Bullies. Bullies and criminals. Yes, that part I had to come to terms with back when I decided to be armed. I am a strong believer that aggression is wrong, that I may not initiate force… but self defence is another matter, and anyone who thinks that violence never solved anything has probably never been on either the sending or receiving end of it.

    “At any rate, I hope some of this can help you to “pass” better in the normal society and do so without guilt. Remember, you are only speaking to them in the language and at the level they have chosen…”

    Well…. yes, I think you are right – and I wish I had had you around as an example 40 years ago. Might have saved me some confusing times. As for passing in normal society, I am willing, but please, please tell me that I am not going to have to get excited about “that Big Football Game last Saturday!” I do have SOME limits! :)

  38. Jason Calley says:

    Sorry that last post showed up without line breaks separating the block quotes of E.M and my responses. Just assume that any rational parts are E.M. and that the blathering parts are mine.

  39. P.G. Sharrow says:

    @Jason Calley “the blathering parts are mine”.

    Ok with me Jason, Just means that I have to pay attention. pg

  40. Larry Geiger says:

    Some of this is way over my head but the twin/wife thing was right on. I also have one of those. We live in Florida. The twin lives in Kansas. My brother in law and I stay out of the kitchen whilst they are syncing up.

  41. E.M.Smith says:

    @larry Geiger:

    It’s mostly just saying that what a lot of the “psych”, teaching, and “management / HR” folks (and to some extent political folks) are using as a basis for predicting human needs and actions is likely wrong, at least for a lot of us, as we can “think and chew gum” at the same time…

    And yeah, they start to sync it’s “duck and cover” time… and never ever try to enter the conversation…

  42. EM – you directed me here, and it’s enlightening.

    I’ve always had problems detecting lies, and never been worth a damn as a liar. OK, I’ve gotten better at the “not tell the whole truth” bit, and also at the “don’t mention the truth” bit, and I tend to assume now that most people are lying or not telling the Highest Truth They Know.

    With a faulty BS detector built-in, I have to rely on my own knowledge of the events/situations being recounted to me to determine the level of Truth involved, so I don’t think I’d be capable of using your “Be A Mirror” technique, though I see the logic and usefulness of it. It does drive me to correlate a lot of information received in the course of deciding whether something is true or not, though. The ability to correlate a lot of disparate information-flows turns out to be very useful in various physics problems, too.

    On the rating of priorities, I can’t see any fault in your edit of Maslow as far as I see relative importance. It has however given me some new information (the original ordering and comments on that) as to why the majority seem to be so illogical and easily-led. Thanks to everyone who put in their 2 cents here – a lot of experience distilled.

    The Maslow pyramid makes sense too for the somewhat dysfunctional people I know, one of whom is in jail for drink/drugs problems – sex was definitely at the basic level for him. It could be that Maslow’s studies were biased because he was studying people who failed in life (bias in input data) and he was in fact correct as far as what to try to “put right” in such people.

  43. E.M.Smith says:


    Good points.

    I suspect that there are several different pyramids of priorities, based on different fundamental nature and beliefs. Perhaps there is fame and fortune in laying out a few examples of them and matching them to standardized tests of psych profiles…

    Glad you liked the posting and the comments. Makes it worth while and worth the time to do postings. Guess that puts “useful to others” as more important in my pyramid ;-)

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