Psychosis as Semiosis

I have had an ongoing interest in semiotics for a while, but my interest flags between thinking semiotics as a branch of linguistics which is basically pointless knowledge production with no application except for reading comprehension and retention testing in education institutions, and thinking that it is the most meaningful level of understanding of anything that possibly can be looked at. Whatever the truth is about semiotics, the surest conclusion I can reach about it, is it’s about meaning.

I had a fleeting notion at one time when encountering the term ‘semiosis’, which relates to the apprehension of meaning, that it sounded a bit like psychosis. In fact, I thought that semiosis would be a good name for the altered state of sz which would mean something like abnormal condition in interpreting signs. Throughout my adult life I would hear and see things which for me would mean things that they in absolutely in no way would ever mean.

Usually the meaning was related to myself and affirmed my centrality to goings on in the world. I don’t want to provide many examples but one I will vaguely allude to was that a popular music group made songs on behalf of global power that I was central to. This to me would be an example best represented by a portmanteau between psychosis and semiosis such as psychosemiosis. But to me I just consider that semiosis with a hard OSIS.

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thanks @fractaled

related to this I have recently read a short book called The Virus in the Age Of Madness by Bernard-Henry Levy which has this short statement: “I have maintained that assigning a sense of meaning to something that has none or putting words to the beyond-sense that is the inexpressible fact of human suffering is one of the sources of psychosis at best or totalitarianism at worst.”

I’m not so sure about this statement in regards to ‘sources’ of psychosis or the part about human suffering where he seems to be being dramatic but he does affirm the basic connection between interpreting things wrongly and psychosis.

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Reminds me vaguely of the conversation I had with Tupac earlier.

You’ve given me some new words to look up today. I enjoy your musings, they always provoke me.

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who is tupac? Does one of us have that thug life tatted on our chest?

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Oh I meant @jonnybegood he used to go by tupac


When I read that I had a reference. How could I reference that back to myself? what is the connection in that. Maybe vagueness produces the search for meaning. i.e. activates branches in the brain that love to find meaning where there is none. Suggestion opens a new gate for reference finding.

I had an experience once where I saw the sz in my mind, it explained itself to me. It said that many branches in the brain go a certain direction and if too many multitasked branches have too many different paths (like tree branches) there is a conflict of consciousness and consequently dopamine requirements. Keeping all neural branches alive and running at the same time takes a lot of energy and it is why the brain prunes some neural networks that are no longer required or aren’t trained adequately. i.e. use it or lose it. but when pruned, there is excess dopamine because of pruned networks that can no longer uptake it. It is also why humans are not good at multitasking. Cannot explain it otherwise.

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After analyzing my “voices”, when they appeared and what the content of the “message” was, this is what I ended up concluding too.

The mind demands certainty. However, the external input (upstream data), perception of a situation, like read text or heard words spoken by a real person, may leave room for ambiguity.

A healthy mind acknowledges the ambiguity and moves on. Maybe the mind will produce a few rational ideas for an explanation, but that will be it.

On the other hand, a diseased mind produces (over)compensations for the ambiguity. These “compensations” will be voices, ideas or hallucinations, and the exact content depends on the character.

For example, a paranoid schizophreniac will interpret any kind of lack of information as a threat:

“There is a monster hiding behind that table or hiding in the tall grass in the yard.”

“I couldn’t hear what that person talked on the phone about, so it must be a conspiracy. Endless examples.”

Personally, I had delusions of grandeur. Therefore, when confronted with uncertainties, I received “messages” from beautiful “angels” and whatnot, that would remove doubts and ambiguity. However, the mechanism of (over)compensating for the lack of information is exactly the same.


And that makes it rather difficult and a conundrum:

Too much information overwhelms the brain, too little and the brain starts to produce it’s own. Since it is specialized in pattern recognition (faces, animals, monsters and harmful bugs) any odd signal will be scrutinized through that flight-or-fight filter. That is how it feels to me, as if there is never a balance and no escape. Amygdala is constantly triggered.

Besides, the brain must continue firing signals otherwise we lose consciousness. So it must do something.

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That’s why the best approach is CBT, that treats the mind as a “black box”. The method is entirely based on managing immediately measurable properties, the amount of sleep, the amount of food, content of the food, amount of exercise, frequency of “the voices”, etc.

From my experience, it was enough to just rationally understand my triggers, to be able to reduce my symptoms.

The goal is not to “cure” a patient completely, but reduce the most damage in the least amount of time.


For example this poor soul. Trouble thinking everything is related to me

They have the common delusion of perceiving every event as related to them (I had much milder case of this too). That also fits in the framework of desperately extrapolating meaning that I described.

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I would be more inclined to think about my experiences theoretically than with references to the brain which I know nothing of. For me ‘semiOSIS’ is about ego and solipsism and truth. Ego because everything relates to the self, or has your own individual interpretation or meaning; solipsism because the simulation your mind creates of the world becomes the world and you are the originator of it; truth because its nature is that it has objective facts that are grounded in the reality of the world but the exact meaning or reality of things is often out of reach, and when not psychotic we just ignore that they are meaningless, but when we are, the meaning becomes personal and would seem strange or unusual to someone else. Regarding what goes on in the brain I have no idea. It seems like meaning comes from the making of connections between things so that would have the analog of making connections in the brain but I dont understand neuroscience enough to conclude that when I make a connection between two unrelated things if there is a physical connection in the brain or something else.

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