User Tag List

123 Last

Results 1 to 10 of 90

  1. #1
    Happy Dancer uumlau's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    MBTI
    INTJ
    Enneagram
    953 sp/so
    Posts
    5,708

    Default The Elephant and the Rider - Jonathan Haidt's Positive Psychology

    I've been reading a pair of books by Jonathan Haidt:

    The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom: Jonathan Haidt: 9780465028023: Amazon.com: Books
    The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion: Jonathan Haidt: 9780307455772: Amazon.com: Books

    Jonathan Haidt is an academic and experimental psychologist at the University of Virginia who works in the field of "positive psychology". Positive psychology is the study of the human mind in those cases where nothing is especially wrong: no psychoses, no overwhelming anxiety, no need for intense therapy, no need to "fix" anything. Interestingly, Jung and in particular his work psychological types is an example of positive psychology, but ever since Freud's and Jung's works were mostly rejected by academia in an effort to make psychology more scientific, psychology has largely focused on what goes wrong with the mind and has tended to assume a common understanding of how the human mind works normally.

    In The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt presents an interesting picture of the human mind. The human mind is divided, and not in just only one way. It is split between mind and body, between new and old, between controlled and automatic. It is even split between conscious mind, the limbic system (emotions), and gut (the autonomous systems directly dealing with maintaining metabolism) - the Enneagram's mystical theory doesn't seem to be too far off from reality in this case.

    There are lots of different ways we can categorize how the mind is split, and along with the ways that align with Enneagram typology, there are all the Jungian perspectives as well, where there is definitely a conscious mind and an unconscious mind.

    Haidt introduces his own analogy of the mind, the one he has found most useful for explaining/studying the kinds of things he has found. A classical version of this analogy would be reason vs passion, where you have a charioteer (reason) constraining and directing horses (passion), and the ideal of this classical analogy is the ultimate superiority of reason, where reason brings one closer to the gods, and passion brings one closer to the animals.

    Haidt believes that while the metaphor is apt, the idealization is not. Ultimately, reason is NOT in control of the passions. A better analogy is an elephant with a rider.

    The elephant isn't stupid. It's very smart. It is very, very good at doing elephant things, and it has a huge "library of routines" that not only take care of eating/sleeping/breathing, but also handle complex things like relating to other elephants (humans, actually). The elephant has only two limitations. For one, it is rather short-sighted. Only the present moment and the last few moments really matter to it. Its other limitation is that it cannot speak. It has no words for what it has to say. It can think and feel and observe and react, but conscious communication is beyond it.

    The rider is also very smart, and it is extremely good at doing a lot of things that the elephant is bad at. It is very far-sighted. The rider can see how the past affects the present, how the present affects the future, and how that which is nearby affects things far away, and how things far away can affect us right here. It can also talk. Talking is very useful for talking with other "riders", who also know how to talk. Moreover, the rider can use logic and reason, write books, contribute to the total knowledge of humanity and so on. There is one critical thing that the rider CANNOT DO, however.

    The rider cannot "control" the elephant.

    If you can imagine an actual elephant and rider for a moment, the rider isn't pushing or otherwise forcing the elephant to do anything. The elephant does what it does on its own. The rider can direct the elephant, and the elephant might comply. The rider can train the elephant to react in particular ways, and so on.

    The rider and elephant can be mostly in sync, where each understands the other and they accomplish things together that neither could alone.

    The rider and elephant can be very out of sync, where the rider has one idea and the elephant has quite a different idea. This is why it is easy to decide to go on a diet (the rider's choice), and so easy to eat too much in spite of that (the elephant's choice).

    This dimorphism of the human mind can be used to understand a lot of "normal" psychology. Why perfectly reasonable people can do unreasonable things. Why some people seem to have it all together and others don't. How we can have huge blind spots and be complete hypocrites. Why it's so hard to change habits.

    I think this dimorphism imperfectly maps to Jungian functions. (Keep in mind I'm bastardizing the functions by doing this mapping at all, this isn't typology so much as a way to take your understanding of typology and apply it to this perspective.) In particular I think the elephant represents the unconscious mind directly: all of those thoughts and feelings that we KNOW and UNDERSTAND, but we can't figure out how to say. The rider does his/her best at translating these things, but the rider isn't the elephant, and the translation is lossy. Therefore, I would say that the rider is represented by the Extroverted functions: the functions that indicate how you interact with the world. Conversely, the elephant is represented by the introverted functions.

    This mapping has some interesting consequences (remember this is a bastardization of functions, not classical function theory). The main implication is that Fi, Ti, Ni, Si are all tapping into the elephant's understanding of things. It is the elephant that has that innate understanding of logic for an IxTP. It is the elephant that has a broad and abstract intuition for Ni doms. And so on.

    The elephant is NOT STUPID. The elephant is YOU. (More or less. )

    The elephant represents a very significant (and perhaps the most significant) portion of your understanding of the world.

    And the elephant mostly resides in your unconscious mind. How's that for a puzzle?

    .......................................

    I'll be posting more in this thread, gradually covering a lot of the material I've been reading of late. I have to say that these books really "clicked" for me. The models/analogies here make sense of a lot of things that didn't otherwise make sense, that you'd have to just shrug and accept something nonsensical as true.

    Of course, the point of posting this is to generate discussion.

    Have you read either of these books? If so, what do you think? Do you think my reading is off base?

    If you haven't read these books, what do you think of the elephant/rider analogy? Do you see this pattern in your own life?

    Future posts will expand on things like mental blind spots, hypocrisy, how you "train the elephant", how love and attachments work, how we react to adversity, and other topics. In the long run, this will turn into a discussion of the psychology of morality, where Haidt offers a very different vision of how morality is learned and understood than has been the case in modern scientific psychology, and eventually leading to a discussion of how this psychology of morality affects how politics and religion plays out (the topic of the second book). If you have any preferences for which topic(s) I cover first, let me know.
    An argument is two people sharing their ignorance.

    A discussion is two people sharing their understanding, even when they disagree.
    Likes meowington, MDP2525, SpankyMcFly liked this post

  2. #2
    Meat Tornado DiscoBiscuit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Enneagram
    8w9
    Posts
    13,925

    Default

    Interesting. Will follow.
    Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
    - Edmund Burke

    8w9 sx/so
    Likes meowington, Punderstorm liked this post

  3. #3
    Permabanned
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    MBTI
    INFP
    Posts
    472

    Default

    So an NF is an elephant man in one? My mind is split between shortterm memory (unconscious) and longtime memory (conscious). And I am Asperger INFP.

    Cool.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    MBTI
    eNfJ
    Enneagram
    359 sp/sx
    Socionics
    EIE Ni
    Posts
    1,590

    Default

    OMG.... I did a research project on The Happiness Hypothesis. If you are interested in this topic, you should check out the concept of "the wise mind" in dialectical behavioral therapy. I will try to write more on it later.
    Likes uumlau, Mustafa, Punderstorm, D'Ascoyne liked this post

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    MBTI
    eNfJ
    Enneagram
    359 sp/sx
    Socionics
    EIE Ni
    Posts
    1,590

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by uumlau View Post
    I've been reading a pair of books by Jonathan Haidt:

    Jonathan Haidt is an academic and experimental psychologist at the University of Virginia who works in the field of "positive psychology". Positive psychology is the study of the human mind in those cases where nothing is especially wrong: no psychoses, no overwhelming anxiety, no need for intense therapy, no need to "fix" anything. Interestingly, Jung and in particular his work psychological types is an example of positive psychology, but ever since Freud's and Jung's works were mostly rejected by academia in an effort to make psychology more scientific, psychology has largely focused on what goes wrong with the mind and has tended to assume a common understanding of how the human mind works normally.
    Furthermore, the subfield of "positive psychology" focuses on the strengths, virtues, and traits that help us to survive and thrive, and the process to getting there: happiness, resilience, hope, goal-setting, self-efficiency, self-actualization, etc. While traditional psychology tends to go for the "diagnose, treat, and fix" model, positive psychology likes to focus on tools, strengths, values in order to figure out solutions. It's used a lot in school settings, behavior change programs, and the workplace. There is not as big of a contrast between traditional psychology and positive psychology as it's made out to be. Motivational interviewing, acceptance commitment therapy, and CBT with mindfulness are some therapeutic modalities that would probably have overlap with positive psychology.

    I really did like Haidt's analogy because it really helped me to reframe my thoughts and emotions. When I tried to be in control all the time in the rider role, I would engage in the "overintellectualization" defense mechanism and try to to rationalize my thoughts and emotions into neat little boxes. However, if you do that long enough, the elephant will eventually throw you into a pile of dung. Once you let the animal be, you can gently guide it and, you will tend to have a smoother ride.

  6. #6
    Permabanned
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    MBTI
    INFP
    Posts
    472

    Default

    Plato first said this idea of litterally of rider and horses and animal and gods world. Strangely, i first heard about PP from a philosopher. INTJ.

  7. #7
    Happy Dancer uumlau's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    MBTI
    INTJ
    Enneagram
    953 sp/so
    Posts
    5,708

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mustafa View Post
    Plato first said this idea of litterally of rider and horses and animal and gods world. Strangely, i first heard about PP from a philosopher. INTJ.
    Yes, that's where the analogy comes from, in part, but no, it isn't "positive psychology" per se, but rather an analogy about reason vs passion, and Plato of course aspires to "reason". There are other philosophers, such as Hume, whose philosophy assumes that men are more about passions first, and reason comes after. Haidt indicates that he believes Hume is closer to the truth, psychologically speaking.
    An argument is two people sharing their ignorance.

    A discussion is two people sharing their understanding, even when they disagree.
    Likes Ene liked this post

  8. #8
    Parody Parrot meowington's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    MBTI
    INFJ
    Enneagram
    6
    Posts
    1,166

    Default

    I can direct my elephant (Ni) for the most, but it just won't calm down. It only knows gallop.
    "I’m forever near a stereo saying, ‘What the fuck is this garbage?’ And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers" ~ Nick Cave

  9. #9
    Permabanned
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    MBTI
    INFP
    Posts
    472

    Default

    I knew most of that, i am trying to talk scientifically like you guys. I. Like the wise mind theory.

    Peace

  10. #10
    Meat Tornado DiscoBiscuit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Enneagram
    8w9
    Posts
    13,925

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by uumlau View Post
    Yes, that's where the analogy comes from, in part, but no, it isn't "positive psychology" per se, but rather an analogy about reason vs passion, and Plato of course aspires to "reason". There are other philosophers, such as Hume, whose philosophy assumes that men are more about passions first, and reason comes after. Haidt indicates that he believes Hume is closer to the truth, psychologically speaking.
    I've always subscribed to the theory that man was more subject to his passions than his reason. It's one of the reasons I believe that systems which assume the inherent rationality of man fail. It's also one of the fundamental limitations of reason.

    This is why I find political theories convincing that begin from a place of understanding human nature and the limitations of our reason than I do enlightenment theories operating in a metaphysical vacuum where man is a fundamentally rational creature.
    Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
    - Edmund Burke

    8w9 sx/so

Similar Threads

  1. The Banned and The Damned
    By Haight in forum Official Decrees
    Replies: 325
    Last Post: 10-15-2017, 09:21 AM
  2. Difference Between the Congress and the Market?
    By nomadic in forum Politics, History, and Current Events
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 10-06-2008, 01:29 AM
  3. Difference Between the ESTJ and the ENTJ
    By Ezra in forum Myers-Briggs and Jungian Cognitive Functions
    Replies: 13
    Last Post: 12-28-2007, 07:56 PM
  4. The difference of the N and the S mind in Art and Music
    By wildcat in forum Myers-Briggs and Jungian Cognitive Functions
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 06-11-2007, 02:22 PM
  5. [Te] The Message and the Messenger
    By proteanmix in forum The NF Idyllic (ENFP, INFP, ENFJ, INFJ)
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 05-17-2007, 09:39 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
Single Sign On provided by vBSSO