“Happiness lies within one's self, and the way to dig it out is cocaine.”
― Aleister Crowley
People say that you cannot buy happiness, that there are no shortcuts to wellbeing, and that joy comes from within. Alas, people on in their deathbeds tend to regret working as hard as they did, regret not having had more fun, and regret not allowing themselves to be happier. Perhaps there is an element of self-denial we have to learn to overcome in order to find and retain happiness. You have to notice what you want and then just go for it.
Sure, science says that good diet and exercise increases health and happiness, but has there ever been a randomized controlled trial for whether Prada and yacht parties also increase one’s happiness? They most certainly do, according to anyone who is living the life. Luxury and instant gratification are every person’s birthright. They really do enrich our life; they are just unevenly distributed. Do yourself a favor and don’t deny yourself the company of beautiful people, the indulgence of great food, or the fun of a groovy nightclub. Chances are, these are not the parts of your life you will regret having done when you are on your deathbed.
Of course, the dose makes the poison. Anything in excess can kill you. But do not let the horror stories scare you: moderate users of fun in any form rarely make the news. Pamper yourself now and then and your life will just be better for doing so. And don’t feel guilty about it in the end, for that would defeat the whole purpose. We don’t judge; we just love to see you enjoy! So come on board and have the time of your life with us!
Did you try following the advice of Camp Hedonism? Really? Oh, so you are here because you couldn’t do “fun” things in moderation? You are addicted, compulsive, chronically dissatisfied, is that right? Well, you are not alone.
Look, here we care about maximizing the area under the curve of your happiness. And this, for most people, is difficult to do for themselves. The pursuit of happiness in the moment gets in the way of doing the things that will lead to long-term happiness. The paradox of pleasure is that pursuing pleasure directly tends to backfire. Instead, let us make sure we establish the conditions for long-term happiness. It is not true that all we do is give people psychiatric drugs (although we also do that). Rather, we provide any and all scalable therapies that can demonstrate cost-effective benefits according to our best scientific protocols.
We encourage you to think of your therapist as if they were a close friend and confidant. A friend who is not only trustworthy and committed to your wellbeing, but who has the combination of a lot of scientific knowledge of the nature of mental illness as well as a wealth of practical experience. Unless you are very lucky, most of your friends will not be able to advise you about e.g. depression or schizophrenia because, well, they don’t have the experience of having treated people with these conditions over and over. Practice makes perfect. Don’t wait until the situation is critical before you talk to a therapist.
Of course we have to make sure you are covering the basics before we use any of our heavier tools. We will help you craft a plan that works for you and fits your lifestyle where you still get physical activity, eat healthy, and sleep well.
Thank you for stopping by, and have a nice area under the curve (AUC)!
"Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true.
Losing someone hurts.
Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again.
Love is the only thing in this world that does not hurt."
― Liam Neeson
Did you follow the advice of your therapist and it made your life worse? Are you in benzo hell? Experiencing post-SSRI brain zaps? Having long-term akathisia from antipsychotics? You are not alone. The hedonic calculus of these drugs is hard to compute; but at least for a large minority of people who take them, it’s really in the red. They complain that whatever short relief they may have experienced is not at all worth the years of serious physical and psychological discomfort that ensued. The normal human mind does have a tendency to come up with solutions that are worse than the problem they are meant to solve.
So what is to be done about that? Most people don’t know it, but a large fraction of the world’s mental health problems are readily fixable with enough love. Because, as it turns out, love is not weak, and love is not scarce. Love is both powerful and renewable.
Unfortunately, recovering from failed psychiatric treatment can delay making progress along the path. But our techniques will slightly accelerate the healing process. And once you are over the hump, you will make steady progress towards a trauma-free state of being. It starts with gratitude journals. Doing practices, for example, of intentionally and deliberately saying thank you, I’m sorry, I love you, and I forgive you. And not as a one-time thing, but as vibrant energy to live by, a vibe to abide in. The forms love takes can be really diverse; but in all forms it is a powerful spell.
Verily, we ask you: Can you notice your own suffering? A lot of suffering is self-created. From being addicted to damaging stimuli and information (the 6 o'clock news) to subtle self-sabotage like listening to breakup songs on repeat, we tend to get in the way of our own happiness by injecting negative energy into our lives.
You have to see that in many cases people indulge in immediate hedonism or take psychiatric drugs because they feel like they are not meeting the expectations that would make them a good human being. But here we would suggest that at least in many cases this is a kind of unconscious choice to suffer; the knot of suffering obscures and obfuscates the fact that you can undo a lot of your programming by waiting for the right moment and noticing how you are subtly choosing suffering. You do so by contracting your awareness around your perception of what reality ought to be but isn’t. Noticing the ways in which you are pouring energy into these mental chains is the first step that then allows you to slowly, but surely, redirect it towards a wholesome mode of being.
Most people are surprised what a 10 minute guided loving-kindness (metta) meditation can achieve. And unless you were to experience it directly, the depth of unfolding of love over hundreds of hours of metta meditation is unbelievable to everyone who gives it a genuine shot. The experience of the grace of love you can have this way can heal you in ways traditional psychiatry wouldn’t even dream of. The energy of love can heal pent-up stress brought up to the surface in a way that seemingly defies physics, or at least one’s preconceptions of what love is capable of.
We do not use psychedelics in our practice, save perhaps for optional weed for those who benefit from it. We really do not need them to achieve the long-term changes we cultivate. Our “vector” roughly points in the direction of MDMA, but our emphasis is on traits changes rather than state changes. We are in it for the long-run. We choose to invest in love, and it pays off with a trauma-free existence. We encourage you to give it a try.
May this be of benefit to you and all beings.
Has Camp Wholesome healed your traumas and made you a happy person? Great! Then you may not need us. But if you feel stuck for some reason, perhaps unable to do the exercises of Camp Wholesome because it feels like you will have to accept some unfair outcome, or expose yourself to abuse, or worse, then what we have to show you may be very helpful.
The human motivational architecture is hard to understand in a vacuum: our history is key. Acknowledging our evolutionary origin does not make us bad people. Without exercising our deep drives we deteriorate over time, whether we like it or not and whether we recognize it or not. So living without being cognizant of what truly drives us beneath the surface opens us up to a wild goose chase of the pursuit of happiness. Not understanding what drives us beneath the surface makes us vulnerable to superficial and fake cures.
Hence, at Camp Paleo we consider very deeply the fact that our minds and bodies are calibrated for a very different environment than the one we live in. Thus, there are hidden costs of modern civilization; and their ubiquity makes them all the more illegible. In addition, we like to pretend that we are above our animal nature. A simple thought experiment that we use to reason about this is to imagine that we were to treat a pet monkey like we treat ourselves most of the time: “You mean you are feeding your pet monkey junk food and drugs, making it watch screens for 10+ hours a day, keeping it locked up in a tiny room, only letting it meet other monkeys for recreation once a week or less, rarely exercising it, and so on?” Call the animal protection services! This is clearly animal abuse. Well, so, aren’t we all perhaps abusing ourselves that way, too? We, as it turns out, are also monkeys. We deserve better than how we treat ourselves.
A core problem of modern civilization that Camp Paleo focuses on is the fact that we live in an environment with abundant super-stimuli. Social media is social super-stimuli, junk food is caloric super-stimuli, porn is sexual super-stimuli... even common ideologies are a form of super-stimuli. Humanistic philosophy as typically applied (though not in principle) is used as a kind of “tribal ethics” super-stimuli! No wonder modern life makes us feel so burned out. It’s important to be aware of the degree to which most things in our society are hacking our reward architecture and driving us slowly, but surely, insane. This is what we pay really close attention to at Camp Paleo.
We also recognize that low achievement and lack of challenge are themselves great sources of misery, and in the long run, causes of poor health. So we think that it is at times sensible to work intensely to achieve your goals even if that cuts against your wellbeing in the short-term. We hate to see people who were depressed because their lives were going nowhere becoming locked into a low achievement lifestyle because they decided to medicate the sadness instead of addressing the underlying problem. Challenge yourself; don’t be a lotus eater and expect to be happy in the long run!
We believe that any strategy for achieving long-term happiness that neglects basic needs and motivations such as access to potential mates, fair and flexible status ladders, sense of ownership over one’s work, and a feeling of belonging to a tribe is a recipe for failure. You can “drive the engine” for a while without satisfying these needs, but let it run for too long and soon enough “the tank will be empty”. Your motivation will simply refuse to engage! This is why our culture, institutions, and tribes fail in catastrophic and illegible ways. We don’t do a good job of tracking the flows of value that keep the engine of motivation running.
And this is why so many organizations with the mission to spread love ultimately fail. Because they do not generally have a mature understanding of the animal needs of humans and how failing to satisfy them can cause motivational collapse, they tend to lead to burnout. And worse, lack of care in making sure the game theory is adequate allows bad actors and opportunists to take over. Humans stand between killer apes and spiritual beings, and unless we acknowledge and make provisions for this fact we will always have illegible problems. Understanding, without necessarily fully endorsing, our base desires is a much better recipe for constructive cooperation and healthy communities than looking the other way and pretending we all act from “pure” intentions all the time. In the end, Camp Paleo is not about supplanting love as the main motivation, but merely about complementing it with a dose of sober realism. This is how you can make love truly effective. No other way allows us to take direct and persistent action to help the world. Successfully doing this is the only recipe for a truly happy life well worth living.
Don’t fear the energy!
― Banner at the top of the Camp
Understanding, following, and cultivating the best advice from all of the previous camps is a recipe for happiness. But what about superhappiness? Welcome to Camp Energy! Let us start by asking:
What do the following things have in common? Saunas, yoga, chanting, mantras, ecstatic dancing, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), breathing exercises, microwave resonance therapy, psychedelic psychotherapy, and 40hz stimulation via sound, light, and haptic vibration. Yes, they are all “alternative therapies”, but as it turns out they have remarkable positive effect sizes when it comes to health and happiness. But why? The common thread among all of them, and which separates them from other (ineffective) “alternative therapies”, is that they involve the judicious application of substantial levels of energy in order to remove blockages and round out the hard edges of your system.
If your teeth need regular brushing and flossing, why would you expect that your arteries and nerves wouldn’t need something equivalent? If the argument is that none of the interventions listed above existed in our ancestral environment of adaptedness, then of course we could point to the fact that toothbrushes also didn’t exist back then. Yet one’s teeth rot and fall out without being brushed. The same, we believe, happens to nervous systems that do not get regular applications of benign energy.
You see, a large underlying cause of disease is that there is a kind of “neuronal plaque” that builds up over time. Poor diet, poor sleep, low levels of physical activity, negative vibes, and of course many psychiatric and recreational drugs tend to accelerate the build-up of this plaque. But even healthy lifestyles lead to a slow but steady buildup of this plaque over enough time when one’s system is not “maintained” regularly. Now, if you come to us with a lot of this plaque, you will probably not see results from these therapies right away. But persevere and you will soon start to see compounding benefits, until one day the plaque will form visible cracks. Then you will see how doing these exercises are fun rather than gruesome; it means you are over the hill and you are biking downhill. Healing itself will then feel good, which allows you to keep going at it until all of your energy channels are clean and beautiful. Enjoy the free flow of energy, for this, as they say, is the good stuff in life.
Better yet, once you are “energetically clean”, you should develop the sensibility to notice when this neuronal plaque is forming so that you can proactively add the right type of energy to it and prevent its buildup to begin with. This is how you “maintain” a well-functioning system with no blockages.
To end on a very practical note, we should point out that a high enough dose of novelty is itself a therapy-grade energy-raising activity. This is why people not only have fun at festivals like this one, but also at times indeed feel transformed by them. So take this knowledge with you when you get back home. Make it a point to do something genuinely new at least once a day: walk a different route, invent a new perfume, write a poem, compose a little melody, or craft a brief choreography. Do not let a single day be wasted in numbing routine; reinvent yourself every waking moment. That’s the vibe of the Energy Camp!
big whorls have little whorls
that feed on their velocity,
and little whorls have lesser whorls
and so on to viscosity
― Lewis Fry Richardson
Welcome to Camp Self-Organization, you have arrived at a community of people dedicated to figuring out how the nervous system works. How it actually works.
What Camp Energy does is akin to alchemy: they know that some things work (and in fact, they work surprisingly well at times), and they have some rough sense that deep underlying principles are involved in what they do, but they fall short of being able to articulate why energy application works so well at some times and not others. They lack a general and coherent theory of how the nervous system updates itself. Our camp has a much more developed and nuanced view of how this all works; completing the analogy, we would be like what chemists are to alchemists. We have identified the core principles by which nervous systems self-organize. In fact, we have constructed a periodic table of self-organizing motifs and have mapped out how they all interact with one another.
According to our understanding, a lot of the benefits from Camp Energy fall in the rough category of Neural Annealing. The energy application turns on specific motifs that break off the patterns caused by the build-up of stress (“coldworked networks”) and kick-starts a reorganization process that homogenizes the distribution of energy, which scaffolds regular patterns of organization. As the network cools down in the presence of such regular scaffolding, the network settles on a smoother and more geometric configuration. This, in turn, enables the seamless transport of energy through the network- avoiding the signal losses through imperfections- in its future use. And when it is cold-worked enough again, another annealing cycle can bring it back to its desired state. Intuitively, by applying the right kind of energy you enter a state where you feel "melted" and your neural patterns become flexible. Of course, then, the process of cooling down is crucial for making the patterns and what you learned "stick", just as a slow cooling process is so important for the annealing of metals. Cooling too quickly is akin to cooling a metal with a bucket of ice-water. It can leave you brittle and messed up. So close attention to the entire process from start to finish is warranted, with each stage having its own special requirements.
So this whole model is not quite just the “plaque buildup” that Camp Energy would have you believe. It does have some overlapping features with that intuitive model, of course. But, we stress, getting the model right has far-reaching implications. It is what allows us to craft new therapies from first-principles.
Now, we should stress that neural annealing is just the beginning. We have therapies that are based on deep knowledge of both the scale-free and scale-specific dynamic motifs of nervous systems. We know how to use, for example, anti-tolerance drugs to modulate the control gain induced by pleasure, and thus help people to stay in love for as long as they want. We have ways of disrupting the cross-frequency coupling of pain states in order to keep them low-dimensional and under control. And many other promising therapies are now in the works.
Ultimately, our entire paradigm allows your nervous system to quickly develop beneficial holistic qualities. For instance, we have ways of quantifying and then facilitating the development of sensory clarity, the level of integration of the network, and the extent to which it generates consonance, dissonance, and noise. Having a nervous system with really good qualities is what makes pleasant sensations truly satisfying. It both enhances the pleasure while it dampens the development of a compulsion towards it. In plain English, it makes you have more happiness for less.
On the horizon, we are toying with a theory for the information processing advantages of chaotic states of the nervous system. This way we may not only help people to have healthier and happier bodies and minds, but also, give them the wings to explore the mind in an endlessly generative and sustainable way.
Come join our fractal organization!
Now that you have explored all of the previous camps, it is time to take stock.
Camp Hedonism taught you that you sometimes should in fact go for it when you see an immediate opportunity to feel happy. At the same time, you later saw that this being your only strategy leads to a downward spiral of endlessly chasing immediate pleasures.
Camp Psychiatry taught you that your target should be that of maximizing the area under the curve of your happiness. It also articulated the virtues of trust, friendship, and expertise in order to maximize the help you receive from others. Alas, some of its solutions turned out to at times cause a lot more harm than good, and happiness here does seem to have a ceiling: whatever conventional happiness is.
Camp Wholesome taught you that love is an immensely more powerful force and a renewable source of healing and happiness if you know how to kindle and cultivate it. That said, you realized that sometimes communities that hold this as their core strategy would fail in illegible ways, and you noticed you could run out of gas (motivation) in practical tasks involving other people.
Camp Paleo taught you that many of the problems that we face with mental health can be traced back to the mismatch between our evolved design specifications and our super-stimuli-filled modern environment. If we were a pet monkey someone would be calling animal protection services. A keen awareness of this problem allows us to set up organizations for success and ourselves for sustained long-term motivation. But you wanted more. Why settle for happiness if superhappiness is on the table?
Camp Energy taught you that specific kinds of judiciously applied patterns of energy applied to the nervous system can do something akin to removing plaque. A well-maintained nervous system is one that has clean energy channels, and this is the key to experiencing life to a much fuller extent. At the same time you noticed that the camp lacked a scientific framework to make sense of why some therapies work and why other ones don’t.
Camp Self-Organization taught you that there is a deep and non-trivial reason why specific kinds of energy application could lead to the beneficial refactoring of the nervous system. That indeed, it fits into a coherent framework of self-organizing principles, which can simultaneously explain the success of therapies, and perhaps even more importantly, be a generator for the discovery of future therapies.
And so here you are. The place where you left off, Camp Self-Organization, is a very advanced foundation for the cultivation of superhappiness. And as it stands, this is already quite extraordinary. But, aiming to conquer not only the heights of human mental health, but to peer into heaven itself, you have to realize that Camp Self-Organization has yet some way to go. It lacks a fundamental theory of phenomenal binding (how the pieces of your experience are related to each other), a complete and universal theory of what makes experiences feel good or bad (valence), and a deep understanding of the state-space of possible qualia varieties (such as color, the experience of time, smells, and all the rest). And without this, you will not be able to create the best world possible: paradise.
So here we stand, facing the open-ended future. And while we do not pretend to have the answer, we would like to call your attention to the following. There is a very common error in futurism: to take a single exciting technology, imagining what it would look like in a mature form, and then placing that mature form in the world as it currently is. But the truth is that by the time that technology would be fully mature, many other technologies and social changes will also have already happened. More so, these disparate technologies will all have been synergizing and interacting with each other along the way. So the real future looks completely different - unimaginable, incredible, unfathomable from our point of view.
So the future does not contain only one of the following innovations taken all the way. It contains all of them, and their complex interactions. That’s what makes it so hard to imagine. That’s why it is truly an open-ended problem. But among the things we expect it to feature prominently, we have: Free-wheeling hallucinations, generalized Wada tests, psychedelic turks, self-organizing principles for brain-computer-interfaces, fine-grained cellular control, adaptive drug delivery, and clockwork-precision valence-meters. The future, as you can imagine, is incomprehensible to our current selves.
So this path you have crossed so far is just the very start of your journey. Where you take this, is up to you. With all of these tools you have learned across each camp you are now equipped to begin building. Building what? Frameworks, visions, organizations, projects, and blueprints of paradise! Come join us in the task of Paradise Engineering. It is everything you ever imagined and so, so much more.