Some people live with an intellectual framework that was at one point necessary for them to stay alive and functional in an environment of emotional torment.

The intellectual framework is fairly simple:

Set 1:

Set 2:

  • Externalized
  • Bad
  • Suboptimal
  • Worthless
  • Non-existent

Members of set 1 are conflated, members of set 2 are conflated, and sets 1 and 2 are a binary dichotomy.

The interesting implications of "internalized" and "externalized" largely involve motivation, and lead us to see some examples of how this framework, even if applied coherently, is a maladaptation.

Scenario 1 (simple):

Billy has the maladaptive intellectual framework. Billy is using a tool that belongs to Tom. Tom asks for it back.

In this scenario, there is a difference of motivations.

  1. Billy is motivated by Billy's use for the tool
  2. Tom is motivated by Tom's use for the tool

With the maladapted intellectual structure, Billy can classify each of these motivations into the conflated sets described earlier. Obviously the motivations can't both be internalized/good/valuable, as that would be a paradox, so, we get choices.

    1. Billy's motivation is bad/worthless/nonexistent, Tom's motivation is good/valuable.

      In choice A, Billy has a number of sub-options, all of which are self destructive:

    2. Billy himself is worthless/bad/nonexistent, and thus becomes suicidal.

    3. Billy's values underlying his motivation are worthless/bad/nonexistent, and thus "never mattered". If his values ever had mattered, that would reflect poorly on Billy himself. The values would be sacrificed to save the life.
    4. Billy's motivation is worthless/bad/nonexistent, and thus "never happened" or was really someone else's. If his motivation ever had existed, it would reflect poorly on his values. The motivation would be sacrificed to save the values.
    1. Billy's motivation is good/valuable, Tom's motivation is bad/worthless/nonexistent.

      In choice B, Billy has a number of sub-options, all of which are destructive to Tom:

    2. Tom's motivation is worthless/bad/nonexistent. Billy says "you don't really want it back."

    3. Tom's values underlying his motivation are worthless/bad/nonexistent. Billy says "you're stupid for wanting to do that"
    4. Tom is worthless/bad/nonexistent, in which case Billy's conception of reality would be much simpler with Tom removed from it. Actually killing Tom would typically require even more discomfort, so this would settle to mere extremely overt hostility unless more uncomfortable circumstances force the situation (e.g. )
    1. Both motivations are bad/worthless/nonexistent. This position has the property of requiring more intellectual discomfort and work to hold than the others, and is thus unlikely.

In essence, the conflict in Billy's intellect forces Billy and Tom to either internalize eachother by destroying bits of themselves, or become enemies. There is no middle ground, regardless of whether or not Tom thinks there should be.

Now, of course, real people typically have more complex motivations than this, and iterating and negotiating them and how they relate to eachother is all quite uncomfortable, so a high-functioning-but-still-maladapted Billy might come up with a clever alternative option to avoid the conflict:

    1. The tool itself is bad/worthless/nonexistent.

This may play out either as criticism of the tool or with intentional destruction of the tool.

Scenario 2 (proxied):

Frank has the maladapted intellectual framework. Frank's friend Bert is starting a farm. Frank has strong opinions on environmentalism, organic farming, and animal welfare. Frank reads up extensively on farming and decides to help Bert plan the farm, successfully convincing him to be environmentally responsible, nutritionally informed, and slaughter-free. Bert implements the plans, and finds he doesn't have enough economy of scale to break even. Bert finds an investor, meatpacker Kurt, to help Bert expand threefold with the agreement that Bert allow Kurt to raise and slaughter animals on the farm so long as Kurt do so with a mind towards environmentalism, nutrition, and the welfare of the animals. Frank is angry that the farm he helped plan is now a slaughter farm.

In this scenario, there are more motivations:

  1. Frank the activist is motivated by ethical farming.
  2. Bert the farmer is also motivated by ethical farming.
  3. Kurt the meatpacker is motivated by a securing his future in meat.

And there are more complicated dynamics:

  • Kurt believes everyone's interests are empowered by the agreement.
  • Bert believes everyone's interests are empowered by the agreement.
    • Kurt is better equipped to secure Kurt's future.
    • Bert is better equipped to secure Kurt's future.
    • Bert is increasing the scope of his ethical farming,
    • Kurt is increasing the ethicality of his meatpacking.
  • Bert cannot internalize both his own motivation and Kurt's motivation, but has no problem conceptualizing a reality in which both motivations are allowed to exist.
  • Frank cannot internalize both his own motivation and Kurt's motivation, and is completely unable to conceptualize a reality in which both motivations are allowed to exist.
  • Frank furthermore cannot possibly understand where he and Bert disagree.

So then we have options of what gets sacrificed in Frank's maladapted intellect:

  • A1: Frank
  • A2: Frank's values
  • A3: Frank's motivation
  • B: Bert (whose values and motivation are identical to Frank's)
  • C1: Kurt
  • C2: Kurt's values
  • C3: Kurt's motivation
  • D: The Farm

Which you can creatively fill out outcomes for.

Scenario 3 (pathological):

Ricky has the maladapted intellectual structure. Lilly enjoys talking about her art hobby.

  • Ricky: "Why should I be interested in art? I think art is bad."
  • Lilly: "I, personally, find joy in creative acts."
  • Ricky: "I do not enjoy it. I do not think I should be interested in art."
  • Lilly: "There are lots of other things to like about it. Color, form, patterns, technique and expressing visual ideas."
  • Ricky: "You're wrong. I have more important things to do than art."

Here is the simplest and most pathological example of maladaptation. Un-internalized motivations of others, regardless of context, cause intellectual anxiety merely by existing. Lilly argues about whether or not something is good in a broad context, Ricky argues about whether or not something should be internalized. Each thinks they are being attacked and neither understands why the other is doing it. Lilly learns to avoid Ricky and other intellectually maladapted people like Ricky, and Ricky learns to avoid (externalize/devalue) Lilly and other intellectually typical people like Lilly.


There are various wider conflict avoidance strategies which may be employed:

  1. Aggressively attacking unshared values and motivations wherever they come up. This strategy becomes more tenable with social power.
  2. Passively internalizing the values and motivations of others, replacing existing values and motivations as necessary. This is a tenable strategy for those who are powerless.
  3. Adopting consistent and unassailable values and motivations from which to legitimately justify the position that all externalized entities are worthless before they are even enumerated. (e.g. )
  4. Attracting like-minded maladapted people, eager to share values and motivations.
  5. Alienating non-maladapted people before their values and motivations even manifest.
  6. Hiding.

All of these are far simpler in theory than they are in practice.

And, of course, there are a variety of approaches if a coherent reality is no big priority, including apathy, ignorance, and all manner of self-deception/internal contradiction/doublethink.