[Paleopsych] Freud and traumas

David Smith dsmith06 at maine.rr.com
Fri Jul 2 02:01:59 UTC 2004


Despite my rather severe mathematical handicaps, I am a big fan of your
transduction of Freud's 1895 learning algorithm.

Contemporary psychologists often seem to make a virtue of their ignorance of
Freud, particularly in the US.  I get into endless scrapes about these
matters, because I have not yet learned to keep my mouth shut when I hear
people getting it wrong, and when people claim that Freud is scientifically
worthless, I play my Werbos card!


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Werbos, Dr. Paul J." <paul.werbos at verizon.net>
To: "The new improved paleopsych list" <paleopsych at paleopsych.org>; "The new
improved paleopsych list" <paleopsych at paleopsych.org>
Sent: Thursday, July 01, 2004 9:36 PM
Subject: [Paleopsych] Freud and traumas

> Hi, folks!
> There are a lot of cognitive psychologists who are as traumatized by
> Freud's ideas as
> Freud's patients were by childhood experiences. This may be due in part to
> many of them
> associating of Freud with sneaky girls who really did use Freud out of
> context to try to traumatize
> any easy victims like young nerds. But it is also due to the diificulty of
> "making sense" of Freud's
> ideas in more operational, functoinal terms.
> Before you hit the traumas -- there was a famous, beautifully clear
> critique of psychoanalysis
> (including Freud and others) by Baret and Yankelovi(t)ch years ago, a nice
> cheap paperback.
> It described Freud's theory of psychodynamics and the flow of cathexis -- 
> and characterized it as hopelessly
> mystical. But in fact, for my Harvard PhD thesis, I translated it into
> mathematics -- and it maps
> into a very general useful theorem, and to the most powerful and widely
> used algorithms available in the field
> of artificial neural networks.  (Unfortunately, most folks only use a
> stripped-down version
> of backpropagation, whose power is limited, but something close to the
> original more complex translation of Freud
> has been proven out on some very tough engineering control tasks; see Si
> al, eds, Handbook of Learning and Approximate Dynamic
> Programming, literally in press at Wiley and IEEE Press.) The history and
> links to Freud are discussed in
> my book The Roots of Backpropagation: From Ordered derivatives to Neural
> Networks and Political Forecasting,
> especially chapter 10, Wiley, 1994. (A good university library should have
> it, as it contains the original material
> on backpropagation, for which the popularized versions are generally very
> inadequate.)
> -------
> But... well... it has taken a long time to catch up to that one part of
> Freud, and really understand what's going on,
> functionally.
> The trauma part I discussed 'way back in my paper in the 1977 General
> systems yearbook, in a small section entitled
> "syncretism." And I have tried to revisit it, in a simpler way, many times
> since. But I haven't had time to
> really hammer home all of the key points to the general community. (There
> is a book on supervised learning edited by Roychowdhury,
> and the IJCNN proceedings from 1994...).
> Basically, global generalization requires many iterations through
> experience. Learning "from memory" is critical to
> our ability to generalize without needing to relive bad experience over
> over again in real life. That's one
> reason why we need these kinds of memories, which might be called
> subsymbolic episodic memories.
> "Assimilation into the ego" basically means adapting our more coherent
> "egoic" generalizing model
> of the world so as to be able to "backcast" or "explain" the memory,
> retroactively. But for the most accurate expectations,
> we need to COMBINE our "egoic" predictions together with a kind of
> neighbor" kind of
> allowance for memories we have not been able to assimilate, which point
> towards weaknesses in our egoic model.
> Maturity does NOT consist in reducing the influence of the "id," the
> collection of unassimilated engrams;
> rather, it involves a process of better assimilation of existing memories,
> COMBINED WITH teh formatoin
> of new memories or experiences which "expand the being space" (in
> Heiddegerian terms).
> Of course, people vary in their drive to assimilate (intolerance of
> cognitive dissonance, driving need for ego ...)
> and their drive to accumulate new experience (novelty seeking).
> --------
> All for now...
> Best,
>     Paul
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