If a problem spins out of your control, does that make you irresponsible?

Anankelogy 101

06  Defunctions


Wellness is psychosocial.

Common defunctions

Introducing defunctions

Biology and psychology speak of pathology and wellness. Anankelogy points to a range of functioning. Biology and psychology suggest a cutoff point between the two, implying a simple good-bad binary. Anankelogy provides four levels of functioning: peakfunction, symfunction, dysfunction, and misfunction.


Biology and psychology look primarily inward, reinforcing the Western bias of ideological individualism (and stigmatizing illness). Anankelogy recognizes wellness is psychosocial, looking inward and outward to contributors to wellbeing. More specifically, that your functioning capacity (i.e., your level of wellness) is an integrated mix of biology, internal cognitive processes including emotions, social impacts, and spirituality.


Where biology and psychology speak of disorder and healing, anankelogy speaks of defunction and refunction—of lowered and raised ability to function. Instead of waiting to address full blown problems, this list catches items slipping into symfunctionality. Instead or risking stigma, such items apply to everyone.


A higher standard

Psychiatry organizes a list of mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Anankelogy answers with this introductory list of defunctions, to identify common problems easily and systemically overlooked in that book’s medical model diagnostic approach. This short list complements this understanding of internal factors, including ego defenses and cognitive distortions, by articulating external factors.


Psychiatry finds it useful to categorize mental disorders as either egodystonic or egosyntonic. The former identifies maladies like severe anxiety and major depression that the sufferer ascribes as a problem originating from within. The latter identifies maladies like personality disorders that the sufferer ascribes as a problem originating from others. All the items in this list of defunctions tend to be egosyntonic: the suffering generally gets blamed on others. But that is a diagnostic tool not rigidly applied here.


Instead of diagnosing, anankelogy assesses the impact on each other’s needs from these various defunctions. Instead of relying on health experts to diagnose some inner problem, anankelogy encourages everyone to use relational knowing (as a testable hypotheses) to recognize the many associations outside of themselves affecting how well they function.

When testing the accuracy of the relational knowing statement, reason alone provides a first indication. The higher your functioning level, the more generally reliable the observed association. Such reasoning is kept accountable to available data that can statistically test the correlation.


Better relating

The greater the correlation between both sides in a relational knowing statement, the better. If all available data shows the link between the two is actually statistically weak, then the asserted correlation may not apply. At least not in your situation. It may elsewhere.


When it comes to traumatizing associations, no statistically significant correlation is necessary. The fact a horrific event could possibly occur only once more—to again threaten your wellbeing or even your survival—is significant enough of a correlation.


Accountability points to the plumb line of peakfunctionality. Not to the lower impersonal standards of empirical rigor or judicial processes. But to the higher standard of living fully functioning lives individually and together. The point here is not simply to know better, but for all of us to do better through more honest relating. This list provides a tool for such better relating.


Each entry follows an easy to follow format, starting with its number and title.

  • Then a definition follows to state what the defunction is.

  • The need experience of the defunction provides more detail.

  • Defunctionalizing frames the defunction in relational knowing statements, which can be converted to testable hypotheses.

  • Refunctionalizing reframes the same relational knowing statements with the relation reversed, to raise the level of functioning, which can also be converted to testable hypotheses.


Defunction pattern

This defunction list follows a pattern in drifting off course from resolving needs.


Avoidance defunctions

As life grows more complex with larger populations, resolving every specific need grows increasingly challenging. A pattern of avoidance creeps in. The first thing to avoid is the increasing load of pain from unresolved needs. The next to avoid is consequences of diminished functioning.


Popgen defunctions

Religion and philosophy play a large role in this adjustment pattern. They can offer meaning for suffering with a vision for overcoming it, but can also be cheapened when generalized for popular consumption that merely copes with painfully diminished functioning. A schism develops between thoroughly examined answers and their watered-down versions that tend to perpetuate this slide into lowered functioning.


Conflict defunctions

Failed avoidance options tend to give way to adversarial options. Flight shifts to fight. At this stage, fighting tends to overgeneralize the conflict. Instead of fighting to resolve needs, the emphasis in these defunctions is to fight for relief from the pain of unmet needs. The struggle actually perpetuates itself, and can become comfortably familiar.


Impact defunctions

Once attacked by others who overgeneralize you as their foe, you likely fall in line with adversarial norms. Your defensiveness is provoked. You guard yourself from further attacks. You counterattack. You perpetuate the slide into lower functioning even further.


Political defunctions

You join a tribe of folks sharing a common need-experience. You mark out your boundaries to declare your differences from the dreaded others. You contest how public resources should be managed. Your mutual defensiveness typically prioritizes relief over resolving anyone’s needs.


Systemic defunctions

Those in society who rise to the influential top tend to take advantage of this lowered functioning. They offer answers geared more toward pain relief than resolving specific needs. Most of these cultural or institutional leaders lack vision to spread peakfunctionality to all. Their own lack of resolved needs plants the seeds of their imminent decline. Attempts to crush the challenges of anankelogizers (who fully resolve needs) tends to make them stronger. Refunctions often flourish in the fertile soil of dead systemic failures.

The list groups these defunctions according to this pattern of six general types. Click on the item in the list below to quickly go to that entry.

Pronunciation guide

anankelogy [n.] (ä'-nä-kĕ'-lŏ-jē): the study of need, specifically here the human experience of need.

anankelogical [adj.] (ä'-nä-kĕ-lŏ'-jĭ'-kâl): of, relating to, or characteristic of anankelogy; referring to the role of need in another subject.

anankelogist [n.] (ä'-nä-kĕ'-lŏ-jĭst): one who studies the role of need in observable phenomenon.

anankelogically [adv.] (ä'-nä-kĕ-lŏ'-jĭ-kâ-lē'): referring to the role of need on some action. E.g., Political views tend to be less rationally deduced and more anankelogically produced. 

anakelogic [adj.] (ä'-nä-kĕ-lŏ'-jĭk): same as anankelogical.


Why “defunction”


Nature-based anankelogy recognizes your ability to function depends on both internal biological-psychological factors and external sociological-environmental factors. Wellness is psychosocial, not merely psychological.


This list emphasizes the psychosocial impacts on wellness often overlooked by Western emphasis on the exclusively psychological. These integrate what Durkheim called social facts, that transcend individuals and yet largely determine outcomes. The Western mind with its bias toward individuality easily overlooks external checks on full human agency.


The negative impact tends to become most visible in the individual as they lose their ability to fully function. Their behavior slips into self-indulgence. They are seen as less prosocial. They break laws. They become targets for law enforcement. They are shamed. They shame themselves. Western culture affords less critique to the external contexts contributing to individual lost functioning—until now.


The psychological literature is rich with explanations for pathology, or what anankelogy refers to as low functioning. This list seeks to:

1) complement what is already known from psychology by filling in the gaps with overlooked psychosocial factors of wellness, and

2) start at the threshold of a continuum of diminishing functionality, instead of relying on an arbitrary wellness-pathology binary.


Need-response resource


Often, these elements start out quite subtle. Then build up with creeping normalcy. By giving such elements a name, perhaps we can improve our response to such needs. And sustain wellness before it mushrooms into full blown pathology.


Typically before someone gets visibly sick, or loses full functioning, their needs fail to fully resolve. Some core need fails to return to full equilibrium. They lacked the proper resource to restore full balance. Their access to proper resources was lacking. They could not securely access resources out of their personal control. This list integrates the need-experience funnel to help understand a loss of personal, interpersonal and group functioning.


Although recognized as more value-neutral and less stigmatizing than diseasedisorder also applies primarily—if not exclusively—to internal loss of functioning. It conveniently overlooks the equally impactful external factors. This list recognizes how function exists within the individual and between the individual and others, and even within and between groups—without emphasizing any to the neglect of the other.


This list—which is not exhaustive by any means—identifies common limits to full psychosocial functioning. Instead of disorder, nature-based anankelogy identifies these as defunctions. To be sure, order is largely arbitrary to one’s culture. Function is more independent of culture. This list raises the bar, from how an individual functions to fit the given order, to include all impacts on functioning that results in the expected order.


In short, this defunction list provides applied anankelogy need-response with a disciplined means to resolve underserved needs in us all. Expect the list to grow. Perhaps you can add to it. See if it can speak to your experience, and help you address a problem or two.

1.  Vulnerability avoidance

Vulnerability avoidance is the persistent evasion of dropping your guard with others close to you, typically out of fear or rejection and often a consequence of normative alienation, nomoscentricity, pistiscentricity and other defunctions.

Need experience

The more authentic you can be with others, the easier to face your own shortcomings. They can give you honest, helpful feedback for improving yourself and your relationships. You are likely more courageously vulnerable toward those who personally know you the best. While you are likely cautiously vulnerable, if at all, towards those who know you least.

Avoidance has its place. If facing a threat risks unbearable trauma, temporary avoidance may be prudent. Assertive avoidance is better than passive, habitual avoidance. Acknowledge the threat while you avoid becoming overwhelmed. Slipping into a habit of avoiding the uncomfortable dimensions of reality tends to attract more pain to avoid. Keep any avoidance strategic and relatively brief. As soon as possible, find someone with whom you can drop your guard.


The more vulnerable you are towards others who you can entrust with your full authenticity, the more you can drop your guard and let others see more of your total being—both your strengths and weaknesses. Honored vulnerability correlates with more needs fully resolving, while remaining guarded to everyone (including toward yourself) correlates with fewer needs resolving, more pain, and less ability to fully function in life.


The less you can expose your deepest secrets with another who responds positively to your emotional intimacy, the more guarded you will feel when vulnerable towards others. The less you can feel safely vulnerable to anyone, and the more guarded as a consequence, the fewer of your needs can fully resolve. The more pain you endure. The less you can then function.


The more you can expose your deepest secrets with another who responds positively to your emotional intimacy, the safer you will feel when vulnerable towards others. The more you can feel safely vulnerable to anyone, and the less guarded as a consequence, the more of your needs can fully resolve. The less pain you endure. The more you can then function.

2.  Mass avoidance

Mass avoidance is the widespread norm to not personally engage with others or in something that seems uncomfortable or threatening. E.g., widespread evasion of our natural tendency to first estimate the trustworthiness of others by their most visible features, lest we get publicly labeled as a bigot. See normative alienation.

Need experience

Where vulnerability avoidance occurs on a personal level, mass avoidance occurs on a collective level. If few of us can feel safely vulnerable to be totally honest with others, or with ourselves, more of us will assume avoidance is common. Other reasons emerge to avoid the avoidable.

We learn to avoid direct confrontation with others when sensing the results could be worse than putting up with the status quo. Unless supported by similarly situated others, we are prone to vulnerably tolerate increases in anxiety and depression than to challenge the institutional culprits contributing to such pain.


As Jefferson affirmed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence: “all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” This applies not only to government, but to any large-scale mass institution tasked to serve public needs.


In mass societies like ours, mass institutions emerged to address large-scale needs. We learn to trust others demonstrably more qualified than ourselves to address many of our common needs.

  • We entrust our interpersonal safety needs to law enforcement.

  • We entrust our emergency needs to first responders.

  • We entrust our national security needs to the military.

  • We entrust our private goods and service needs to the economy.

  • We entrust our public policy needs to politics.

  • We entrust our justice needs to the judiciary.

  • We entrust our health needs to healthcare.

  • We entrust our aging needs to senior caregiving like nursing homes.

  • We entrust our credential learning needs to education.

  • We entrust our knowledge access needs to libraries including online search engines.

  • We entrust our entertainment needs to mass media.

  • We entrust our informed-of-events needs to journalism.

  • We entrust our social expression needs to online social media.

  • We entrust our direct communication needs to communication technologies.

  • We entrust our movement needs to transportation technologies like cars and planes.

  • We entrust our travel needs to public roadways.

  • We entrust our energy needs to power infrastructure.


Indigenous members of tribal societies generally amassed some skills to address all their needs on their own. They had to. Significant portions of their lives demanded forays of hunting alone or in small groups. Larger societies spread out responsibilities. You become vulnerable to others with the skills to more effectively address your needs. You learn to avoid risking your needs to others.


You as an individual know you lack the resources to confront better-resourced institutions. The more you depend on the good of such institutions, the easier to stomach its bad. Until your stomach keeps score. Then perhaps your flight-shifts-to-flight. Your fear gives way to anger. Your habit of avoidance snaps to become adversarial.


The more support you find, your avoidance mode will likely collapse into adversarial options. But if left in isolation and kept over-responsible, you likely remain stuck in mass avoidance with others similarly situated. You may not even notice it.

The more we massively avoid something unpleasant, like being labeled racist, the more widely reinforced the avoidance of something widely uncomfortable, such as the natural tendency to initially judge others by visible features. We can end up getting more of what we expect to avoid.

Racism, for example, will inevitably persist while overgeneralizing as bad, or as good, any pigment-based bias that would otherwise naturally dissipate if freer to acknowledge this ubiquitous tendency to first screen by instantly visible cues. We cannot solve our specific problems from the level of generalizing that created them. Mass avoidance serves as a kind of reinforced generalizing.


Mass avoidance of what is agreeably uncomfortable often crystallizes into a shared norm. We admit our fears to no one. We keep our guard up all the time. We often provoke each other’s defensiveness, blaming each other. Fewer of our needs ever fully resolve. We suffer more and more. We function less and less.


The fewer others are dropping their guard to expose their full authenticity, the less likely you will risk dropping your guard to expose your authentic self to raw rejection. The more others avoid, the more you avoid. The more we all avoid, and socially punish those who expose their authentic full being, the more normatively we all avoid matters we would otherwise face more courageously.


The more of us find the support to risk dropping our guard, and can present the consequences as a positive experience, the more others may be inspired to drop more of their guard. You likely will test the waters with those closest to you, or those you find most trustworthy with your authentic acknowledgement of your full being. The less you hide, the less others can rationalize hiding their questionable stuff. The more we socially reward exposing our true selves, weaknesses and all, the more infectious our love for one another. The more courageous we all could be toward each other.

3.  Symfunctional strain

Symfunctional strain is the ongoing emotional stress from needs not fully resolved, limiting your ability to focus elsewhere and often mistaken as lack of intelligence.

Need experience

Each need you experience not fully resolved continues to compete for your attention. Compared to your more pressing concerns, most of these partially eased needs sit on the backburner of your conscious awareness. They remain in a queue, until evoked into full focal awareness.


Meanwhile, your cognitive bandwidth shrinks. You find you cannot focus as fully and clearly on some things. Your persisting needs pull you for relief. They prioritize your thinking. They bias you. They compel you to do something for their relief, sometimes negatively impacting others outside of your awareness.


“You’re being stupid!” they insist. Because it’s easy to conflate this cognitive contraction with lack of intellect, or lack of rational thinking, or with poor choices. They likely suffer this symfunctional strain too. When continually enduring unmet needs as a norm, it’s next to impossible to respect the needs of others. Symfunctional strain can slip into dysfunction, into projecting pain onto others, and other defunctions.


The fewer of your needs actually resolve, the more your body naturally warns you how you are unable to function fully. The longer it takes to address your increasingly load of unresolved needs, the more of your attention is pulled to ease these needs. The more your attention is pulled to ease these needs, the less focus you can give elsewhere. The less these needs can resolve, the more at risk of sliding into dysfunction and into misfunction.



The more of your needs actually resolve, the less your body must warn you of a declining ability to fully function. The quicker you can address unresolved needs, the easier to give your attention elsewhere. The more readily your needs can promptly resolve, the more enabled you can sustain or move up into peakfunction.

4.  Discomfort avoidance

Discomfort avoidance is the evasion of any kind of pain, failing to differentiate between positive organic pain and less positive residual pain, biostructural pain and metapain. See pain moralization.

Need experience

Discomfort, as a mild form of pain, exists to warn you of a possible threat to be removed. Removing the threat, or realizing the perceived threat does not actually exist, sufficiently removes the pain. But when seeking to remove the pain itself, instead of the source of the pain, the trouble persists to report more pain. Pain is not the problem as much as the trouble pain reports. Shooting the messenger lets that painful trouble painfully persist.


Discomfort naturally starts as organic pain, to warn you of something to remove. If the actual threat is not promptly removed, or if not promptly removing yourself from the threat, residual pain sets in to repeat the warning. If still not removing the threat, biostructural pain sets in as the repeating warning burns a damaging neuropathway. Eventually, metapain sets in to warn of the threat of your body’s own persisting and quite damaging pain. Actually, metapain can accompany any of the other types.


Unless you are routinely processing your pain by promptly resolving needs, you are easily at risk of conflating your healthy organic pain with less healthy later forms of pain. You may slip into the habit of evading all forms of pain, which naturally builds up as the perceived and often real threats persist to provoke more pain.


Modern conveniences make it easy to avoid processing any pain. Intoxicating substances enable discomfort avoidance. Popular politics, ubiquitous technologies, easily available mood-altering substances, and other factors work together to turn this discomfort avoidance into norms of mass avoidance.


Instead of willingly struggle in pain for another, we are all more likely to expect others to endure hardships for us. With symfunctional strain consuming our cognitive bandwidth (cognition contraction), we may hardly question the norms of our frequent avoidance of discomfort.

Pain is not the problem as much as the trouble pain reports.


The less support you receive while struggling with something you find increasingly unbearable, the less apt you are to accommodate other uncomfortable items. The less your pain processes toward resolving its needs, the more guarded you’re likely to be against anything uncomfortable.


The more life presents you alternatives to enduring life’s natural discomforts, the more likely you avoid discomforts of almost any kind. The less you face life’s natural discomforts (or overloaded by unnatural discomforts), the more agonizing you likely find what otherwise would be tolerable.


The more you avoid discomfort, the more apt you are to project your unwelcomed pain onto others. The slower you process pain to resolve needs, the more likely intense pains leave a deep imprint of trauma on you. The more trauma you carry, the more difficult to process your life’s pain toward resolving needs. The more your cognition capacity severely contracts from such trauma, the more predisposed to settle for relief-believing and relief-generalizing. And the more apt you are to moralize all pain as bad. And the more drawn you are to popgen views.


The more discomfort you avoid, the more discomfort you tend to endure.



The more support you receive while struggling with something you find increasingly unbearable, the more apt you are to deal with other uncomfortable items. The more your pain processes toward resolving its needs, the less guarded you’re likely to be against anything uncomfortable.


The more life presents you alternatives to enduring life’s natural discomforts, the less likely you choose to avoid discomforts. The more you face life’s natural discomforts (and not overloaded by unnatural discomforts), the less agonizing and more tolerable you find life’s many discomforts.


The less you avoid discomfort, the less apt you are to project your pain onto others. The quicker you process pain to resolve needs, the less likely intense pains leaves a deep imprint of trauma, and can actually result in posttraumatic growth. The less trauma you carry, the easier to process your life’s pain toward resolving needs. The less your cognition capacity contracts from trauma, the less predisposed to settle for relief-believing and relief-generalizing. And the less at risk you are to moralize all pain as bad. And the less drawn you are to popgen views.


The more discomfort you embrace, the less discomfort you tend to endure.

5.  Pain moralization

Pain moralization is generalizing all aesthetically unpleasant experience as morally bad. In other words, it is believing all pain is bad. See discomfort avoidance.

Need experience

There is no such thing as pain apart from unresolved needs. Behind each unpleasant emotion is an unresolved need. Shooting the messenger of painful emotion misses its warning. More pain usually follows.


Fear warns you of something you cannot confidently handle. You still need to handle it, even if you moralize the fear itself as bad. Too often, the fear of pain is worse than the pain itself, and worse than the originating threat.


Anger warns you of something you cannot readily accept. You still need to face it, even if you moralize the anger itself as bad. Rejecting your anger can never substitute for the actual threat unacceptable to your life.


Depression compels you to redirect your energies elsewhere. You will be forced by nature to shift your focus, even if you moralize such depression as morally bad. While intensely unpleasant, depression serves a need. If left unheeded, the depression persists. If suppressed with medication, it naturally reemerges to keep warning you of the threat to be removed.


Sure, sometimes the pain is too much to bear. Sometimes it is necessary to provisionally lower the intensity of too much pain. Sometimes countering it with some indulgent pleasures, to distract you from all the pain, is not the worst thing you can do. But you best keep your eyes on the prize: facing and removing the threat at the source of your pain.


Once you recognize the threat and start removing it, its organic pain often subsides. But if recognized late, after layers of residual pain has set in, you may need some way to remove the threat of excess pain to more easily and more fully focus on the originate threat to be removed. The pain itself is not moralized as bad. You merely recognize there is too much pain to serve its purpose.


Meaningful moralizing seeks to fully resolve needs. Appreciating pain’s natural role in resolving needs helps to build a highly functioning morality.

There is no such thing as pain apart from unresolved needs.


The more you avoid natural discomforts of life, the more you miss life’s natural messenger of threats to remove. The more you miss your emotion’s message to remove threats, the more those threats persist to evoke more painful emotions. The more pain you feel overwhelming you, including more trauma, the more apt to generalize all pain as bad.


The more you embrace life’s messenger of pain, the more you know what threats to promptly remove. The more threats promptly removed, the better you can function. The better you can function, the less prone to moralize all pain as bad.

6.  Relief-belief

Relief-belief is latching onto what you think is true or not primarily to relieve yourself from discomfort.

Need experience

Ideally, we believe only what is actually true. In reality, we all believe things not fully aligned with reality. We believe what we need to believe, even if what we need in the moment is some relief from life’s painful reality.


As symfunctionality strain sets in from a growing list of unresolved needs, it shrinks one’s ability to think through all you face in life. Each unresolved need competes for your attention, robbing you of full focus of whatever stands before you now.


It’s painful. It also can feel like you are being too stupid to process your thoughts, as you know you should. Or perhaps have processed them before. You dare not let others see you stumble in your cognitive abilities, lest you get labeled as dumb.


You cling to ideas that offer relief, or hope of relief. You fill gaps in your knowledge with what provisionally provides you relief. If kept provisional, okay. You can update to more accurate information later.


Too often, temporary understanding solidifies into long held beliefs to relieve you of not knowing the full story.

Such relief tends to be short-lived. Your beliefs can only offer short-term relief. Resolving needs is what removes the pain.


The more you struggle in pain from a threat that persists, the more drawn you are to beliefs that offer you a sense of relief. The more you cling to these beliefs for relief, the less you engage in the actual threats to be removed for full functioning. The more you believe for relief, the more in pain you typically remain, keeping you attached to these comforting beliefs.


The less you struggle in pain from a threat that no longer persists, the less drawn you are to beliefs that offer you a sense of relief. The less you cling to these beliefs for relief, the more you can engage the actual threats and remove it for full functioning. The less you believe for relief, the less in pain you are kept, allowing you to detach from comforting beliefs.

7.  Relief-generalizing

Relief-generalizing is oversimplifying a reaction to some need to gain broad support for relieving its pain. “Relief-gen” for short. See relief-belief.

Need experience

Generalizing includes two yet complementary ideas. On the one hand, keeping a matter simple enough by avoiding too many disagreeable specifics. On the other hand., applying the approach to as many that find it agreeable.


In our democratic world of consumer driven choices, instant relief from pain tends to win over disciplined endurance necessary to resolve a need to remove its pain. In our lives of shared struggles, symfunctional strain prompts most of us to go along with broader approaches we can all agree upon. We dare not bring up specifics that could undercut unity.


For example, we debate if police brutality has its roots in a few racist cops or has roots in a racist system that compels cops to objectify mostly nonwhite citizens as a likely threat to law and order. This binary expects we can find answers without disconfirming specifics of actual lived experiences of police officers and lived experiences of those they frequently target. To avoid the discomfort of embarrassing specifics, we slip in a dysfunction of pain avoidance.


Relief-gen serves as the dysfunctional third step in the institution function array, after the symfunctional second step of binarism.

  • judicial relief-gen: prioritizing relief from pain of suffered violence without attending to any of the underlying needs, effectively perpetuating the trauma of that violence.

  • political relief-gen: prioritizing relief from pain of publicly affected needs without attending to underlying needs, effectively perpetuating the pain of psychosocial imbalance.

  • economic relief-gen: prioritizing relief from pain of economic insecurity without attending to any of the underlying needs, effectively perpetuating the shock of economic insecurity.

  • medical relief-gen: prioritizing relief from pain of health conditions without attending to any of the underlying needs, effectively reinforcing a lack of wellness or lack of healing.

  • educational relief-gen: prioritizing relief from pain from lack of access to educational opportunities without attending to any of the underlying needs, effectively locking out access.


We find ourselves too consumed by pain to realize apparent contradictory opposites are actually complementary to the essential whole. Embracing this whole is necessary to resolve the needs producing the pain. But at this point, we vehemently resist what is good to cling to the familiar yet consoling bad.


We generalize for relief with a sledgehammer approach what actually requires a scalpel of nuanced respect of all relevant facts on all sides. Consequently, we shape policies that rarely address the unresolved needs at the root of our politicized problems. We support institutions that incidentally perpetuate our pain and problems in the name of serving our needs, and then cling to them for relief from the predictable slide further into defunction.


The more you generalize for comforting relief from pain, the fewer specifics you address. The fewer specifics you address, the less likely you will get to the specific threats to be removed. The more you miss specific threats, the more pain you will likely remain in the long haul.


The less you generalize for comforting relief from pain, the more specifics you address. The more specifics you address, the more likely you will get to the specific threats to be removed. The more you removed specific threats, the less cause for in the long haul.

8.  Cognition contraction

Cognition contraction is the natural consequence of pressing needs consuming one’s focus or cognitive load, shrinking one’s cognitive bandwidth.

Need experience

Your working memory posts a traffic limit. Scientists can tell you that your body sends around 11 million bits of information per second for your mind to process. But your mind can process only a few bits of information at one time. If pressed with an urgent need, your body’s self-continuance mechanisms could limit this number further.

Each need you experience prioritizes your mind’s focus. The more intense the need (i.e., vital for your immediate survival as opposed to something that can wait till much later), the more of your mind’s processing space is consumed.


Consider the college student working at a fast food restaurant under intense pressures. They can hardy keep up during a dinner rush. When making a mistake with a customer’s order, the customer assumes the mistake proves the worker is not smart enough to work elsewhere. The worker knows it’s statistically possible because, unlike the prejudicial customer, they took a course in statistics.


Your temporary working memory can process only around seven bits of information at one time. If faced with an increasing load of unresolved needs, your immediate focus cannot track it all. Nor can your attention remain free from recurring emotional reminders of your unresolved needs.


As your mind pulls your cognitive abilities away from other matters to attend to needs, your ability to cognitively process other matters gets compromised. You easily stumble in ways that can leave you appearing, and feeling, rather stupid. What seems as a lack of intellect is actually a taxation on your full capacity to think matters through.


As your cognition contracts with mounting symfunctional strain, you become prone to other defunctions listed here, like vulnerability avoidance, relief-generalizing, pistiscentricity, popgen, binarism, reactive vacillation and others.


The more your attention must attend to immediate threats, the less you can focus elsewhere. The less you afford to focus on other matters, the more likely others presume you lack intellect or reasoning skills.


The less your attention must attend to immediate threats, the more you can focus elsewhere. The more you afford to focus on other matters, the less likely others presume you lack intellect or reasoning skills.

9.  Reified self-brokenness

Reified self-brokenness is when you generalize you are an innately flawed individual, rather than presenting as broken due to sociocultural conditions. See psychosocial reduction.

Need experience

Countless human generations made it this far by adequately resolving their self-needs and social-needs, sufficiently on par with each other. With the emergence of mass societies, the natural balancing act between self-needs and social-needs at a more local level became increasingly replaced with large scale psychosocial vacillation.


If you see yourself in an exceptional society, providing you with freedom and justice and peace, you naturally conclude shortcomings point to the individual. In a popular (popgen) version of personal religious faith, you generalize the teaching of original sin as explaining your utter failure to be your best in this exceptional land of opportunity.


This assumption of innate brokenness was replicated in the Enlightenment Era. The typical person is assumed to lack sufficient reasoning skills and therefore must rely on academic expertise to make smarter decisions. The lay person is viewed as duped by implicit theories, in contrast to the explicit theories of learned expertise.


Health professionals and even mainstream educators continue this historical paternalistic tradition. Socio-cultural conditions undermining good eating and exercising get systemically overlooked. The layperson is easily viewed as too limited to make better health choices. If economic norms depend on this assumption, it can be next to impossible to recognize disconfirming evidence to the contrary.


The less you can freely function as an individual, while assuming no external limits present you from freely functioning, the more drawn you are to believing you as an individual must be innately flawed.


The less you recognize external limits to your functioning, the more you likely see yourself as literally broken from birth. The more your relief-believing in your sense of individual helplessness finds support in the sanctioned beliefs of others, the more attracted you are to reifying your sense of individual brokenness.


The less you can freely function as an individual, but recognized external limits not allowing you to freely function, the less drawn you are to believing you as an individual must be innately flawed.

The more you recognize external limits to your functioning, the less you reify self-limits. The less your relief-believing in your sense of individual helplessness finds support in the sanctioned beliefs of others, the less attracted you are to reifying your sense of individual brokenness.

10.  Normative alienation

Normative alienation is the socially sanctioned expectation not to personally engage with one another, and rely instead on impersonal rules to guide behavior toward each other. See nomoscentricity.

Need experience

You cannot personally know the needs of everyone with whom you interact in modern society. So you fall back on established norms—both written and unwritten—to guide your actions toward others, as they do toward you. Not all of your needs can resolve if left to the minimal guidance of rules. At best, laws address your more basic needs. You need personal ties to address all of your affected needs.

As societies grow larger into mass societies, labor increasingly divides into increasingly specialized roles. Mass institutions evolved to serve a specific class of overarching needs. The need for protection from lawbreakers, for example, gave rise to law enforcers. As society expanded further, law enforcement subdivided into further specialties. One unit specialized in gathering evidence at crime scenes, while others focused in mitigating domestic disputes.


Mass institutions evolved to address large-scale needs like educational needs, health needs, legal needs, economic needs, and so forth. As these mass institutions replaced small scale interactions for respecting each other’s needs, we increasingly trust written and unwritten rules to address one another’s needs.


We grow accustomed to mass institutions accumulating resources to serve its commissioned large-scale needs. A splitting emerges between mission needs (like protecting citizens from violence) and institution needs (like the exclusive right to use lethal force). Individual institutions compete with other institutions for resources. Their focus on self-continuance tends to distract focus from their originating mission needs. Mass mission creep seeps in. They risk serving themselves at the expense of serving the population for which they institutionally exist.


As the population becomes vulnerably dependent on these mass institutions to serve these large-scale needs, the split typically expands further between “experts” and “laypersons.” Those most vulnerable to these mission needs, or large-scale needs, may resist most vociferously to any change. Their bias prompts them to become apologists for institutions failing to serve mission needs. They cannot risk further slide from symfunctional strain into painful dysfunction or worse. They must defer to these trusted experts to maintain the familiarity of normalized estrangement.


We remain personally alienated from each other as we expect impersonal norms to minimally guide our actions. Then it becomes awkward to ask about each other’s specific needs affected by a situation. So we typically sit back and relate to each other from convenient but likely opposing categories. While stuck in this sanctioned estrangement, fewer needs can resolve.


The less you personally engage with others, the more disposed you are to rely on rules to serve your needs. The more alienated you remain from others, the more dependent you become on impersonal laws. Fewer of your needs can fully resolve. You then easily slide into symfunctionality or worse. You will cite laws for how others should respect your needs, with less regard for how you are to respect the needs you affect in others. You slide into increasing levels of pain.


Laws best serve as a starting point for guarding your basic needs. By checking other’s behaviors impacting you, laws afford you necessary space to cultivate meaningful relationships. These relationships can enable you to fully resolve needs in ways no law ever can.

11.  Pisticentricity

Pisticentricity is centering your decisions around what you think is true or not, as opposed to continually interacting with others for feedback to your impactful decisions and actions. Pisti is the classical Greek word for belief. It also covers faith and trust, which arguably are distinct from each other. See relief-generalizing, relief-belief, and vulnerability avoidance. May involve cognition contraction.

Need experience

I don’t know what I don’t know. You don’t know what you don’t know. How will we know unless we remain open to what others have to say to us? If you have no one in your life to process your deepest beliefs or painful experiences, you are left to your own devices to figure out what is or isn’t true.


You know best through others who know you inside and out. Apart from others’ gracious corrections and sharing targeted information, you easily get clogged by blind spots, unchecked assumptions, and biases that cut you off from a vibrant view of reality.


The New Testament emphasis on trust shifts from relying on an all-powerful Creator to relying on your own wits to figure out what is true or not. “I believe” this or that replaces “I trust” someone to help check my biased thinking.


The more you slide into symfunctional strain, especially if slipping into dysfunction or misfunction, the more certain you will feel you must be. As your cognition contracts, you cannot afford too many ambiguities. You cling harder to your beliefs. You engage others less and less, just the opposite of what you need right now.


Absent of others engaging your experiences and beliefs, you are more easily drawn to reified self-brokenness, vulnerability avoidance, pain moralization, relief-belief and other defunctions. Your symfunctional strain prompts you to care more about your own needs than the needs of others.


You could break free from the clutches of this pisticentricity by reaching out to engage others. The more you vulnerably share your experiences and beliefs with trustworthy others, the less your life centers around what you recently felt must be so.


The less you can process your feelings with others, the more you must cling to your beliefs for relief, including political generalizations.


For example, the less you can freely admit your fears about another cultural group, with someone who can help you process your concerns in meaningful detail, the less you can let go of your previous generalizations about that group.


The more you can share your emotionally sensitive needs with a trustworthy other, the less reliant you will be on political generalizations.


For example, the more you can freely admit your fears about another cultural group, with someone who can help you process your concerns in meaningful detail, the more you can let go of your previous generalizations about that group.

12.  Nomoscentricity

Nomoscentricity is centering your decisions and actions around impersonal norms, instead of personally knowing what others may specifically need from you. Nomos is the classical Greek word for law. See normative alienation and vulnerability avoidance.

Need experience

We are geared to personally know about a hundred people or so. We know a handful of these the deepest. Outside this circle of close friends we count on a couple dozen or so causal friends. Outside our casual friends is a list of names in our social network. The further from the center of our social world, the more we rely on impersonal norms to determine our behavior toward one another.


The less we personally know each other and specific needs, the more we rely on impersonal laws to guide interpersonal interactions. This gives rise to the field of law, and the profession of lawyers, along with the mass institution of the judiciary. Those with greater means to apply laws to their advantage enjoy what we can call “legal leverage”. The less advantaged tend to acquiesce to terms less favorable to their specific needs under the pressure of privileged force sanctioned by leveraged law.


Laws rarely address specific needs. Norms are generally kept vague, to keep them applicable to as many as possible. Too many laws create too many accidental lawbreakers. Excess reliance on laws risk incentivizing irresponsibility. They can ensure your property is safe, and informal norms can protect you from racial epithets. But these norms cannot fully resolve your need for belonging, or for autonomy. Your needs fully resolve through your deeper social connections.

Laws usefully report boundaries to inform us what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, when we cannot track all the needs we could impact. But only to an extent. Laws try to match the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force to curb illegitimate use of force. But laws generalize. Laws can never fully address all your specific needs. Many forms of harm remain legal.


If honest, you can admit “crime” is mere convention. You don’t object to violation of law as much as you object to some negative impact on your needs, such as your need for safety. You trust the conventions of law to impersonally convey these needs. But if you only rely on the conventions of law, you set yourself up for repeated disappointment. Depending on legal conventions to relieve you of painful needs predisposes you to suffer more pain, to yearn for more relieving laws.


The needs themselves are not conventional. They exist without being written down anywhere. When we permit the criminal code or any law to stand in for specific needs that the law cannot effectively convey, overdependence on law risks permitting your overlooked needs to remain painfully unresolved. Your most painful needs could then pull you into prohibited acts of desperation. Too much law risks lawlessness.


While no one sits above the law, no law sits above the needs it exists to serve. Whose needs are best served by any law, or how it gets enforced? The point is not to obey any law to merely appease authority and expect all needs will then resolve. Laws themselves do not resolve needs. Caring people do, whether guided by laws or not.


Let every law remind us we can do more than its minimal requirement to resolve the needs it identifies, and the relevant needs it does not identify. Let laws serve as a stepping stone for communicating each other’s more specific impacted needs.


If you only have laws to set your standards, your own specific needs are likely overlooked. It’s hard to always obey laws that seem to leave you in the cold. A surprising number of Americans do not have someone they can call upon during an emotional crisis. They bear their stress alone. This breakdown of local community cohesion raises the role of impersonal norms. Instead of personally engaging each other, we rely more on impersonal rules to sort out our lives. And never more satisfied for the effort.


You could break free from the clutches of this nomoscentricity by asking those closest to you what they need from you. And tell them what you personally need of them. Not this will turn the tables right away. But you may find it an uplifting experience, to let go of impersonal rules by replacing them with interpersonal connections at the most localized and intimate areas in your life.

While no one sits above the law, no law sits above the need it exists to serve.


The less you personally know the needs of those around you, the more you rely on impersonal norms (written and unwritten) to guide your behavior to respect each other’s needs. The fewer people you personally know and who know you, the more central the role of impersonal norms to your life.


The more central norms play in your life, the fewer of your personal needs fully resolve. The fewer of your personal needs fully resolve, the more your consequential pain (i.e., symfunctional strain) pulls you to rely on norms for relief-generalizing.


The more you personally know the needs of those around you, the less you rely on impersonal norms (written and unwritten) to guide your behavior to respect each other’s needs. The more people you personally know and who know you, the less central the role of impersonal norms to your life.


The less central norms play in your life, the more of your personal needs can flexibly resolve. The more of your personal needs fully resolve, the less you suffer any symfunctional strain, and the better you can function.

13.  Prenormativity