Continued discussion after a 4 year gap
Freud’s ideas of a three part system were a great advance on the ideas prevalent in academia at the time, and are woefully short of a modern understanding (which has something closer to 20 layers of computational systems embodied in human beings, with each layer having many instances and levels of strategy).
Jordan Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning” and “Personality” lecture series (available freely for viewing on youtube) are the best introduction to the topic from both psychological and evolutionary perspectives that I have yet found.
And there is much more to it than even Jordan hints at.
It is really difficult to even begin to get a glimpse of the levels of complexity and uncertainty present, when our biology and culture contain so many simplifying “hacks” that work well enough to allow us to survive, yet mask what seems to be really present if one makes the time and effort to step beyond them and look more deeply at the realms of logic and mathematics and science and their relationship to our experience of being.
I’ve been consciously doing that for over 50 years, and even now I feel something like the overwhelm present to a toddler in a library.
Your three actions ( Interrupt, Remind, Replace ) are great tools, and I would add two more – decontextualise and recontextualise.
Learn to see the implicit levels of context that influence the levels of probability to interpretation and action within us.
Once we have distinguished some of those (for it seems to be an eternal quest) learn to instantiate new contexts to alter the interpretations that our subconscious systems deliver. It is kind of like your “Replace” option, but at a meta level, and can be applied to as many of the 20 or so layers of systems within us as we are capable of distinguishing and influencing.
As one of my old teachers used to put it, the key is to be able to create a gap between impulse and action within which one can alter context.
And in practice, we are so complex, with so many systems, that the vast majority of them must always be simply doing what they do.
Recontextualising significant numbers of them is a task requiring decades.
And it does in fact seem that complex systems require a cooperative context to emerge (at higher levels that is something like Universal Love), and games theory is also clear that unless accompanied by ever evolving suites of attendant strategies to detect and effectively mitigate “cheating strategies” such cooperation is vulnerable to exploitation and ultimately destruction. At higher levels of awareness, such necessary sets of attendant strategies manifest as levels of morality (which is not to say that any moral system in existence is anything other than some sort of approximation to something effective).
It seems that we do need to accept the many levels of systems within us, and to do what we can to move those systems to the highest levels of cooperation we can instantiate, and nothing is without risk. Being as conscious as possible of the risks involved is step one to developing effective risk mitigation strategies.
Seeing beyond such simple notions as right and wrong, and into realms of infinite possibility, is a step on a path towards acceptance of infinite diversity.
It seems to me that respect for individual life and individual liberty must lead to an acceptance of responsibility in social and ecological contexts.
The naive view of freedom that says anything goes (which is what the post modernists seem to have taken to insane and dangerous extremes) is not compatible with a respect for either life or liberty applied universally.
All levels of complex systems require real boundaries.
Cells without cell walls are just ocean (they do not and cannot exist).
Cells require cell walls, and cell walls are amazing structures, in what they let in and out, both passively and actively, and how those functions change with context.
Similarly with every level of complexity, complex boundaries are necessary (boundaries that are too simple fail to support complexity).
At higher levels, morality is such a necessary set of boundary conditions for the survival of social cooperatives, and we are all ultimately individuals within social cooperatives.
Our individuality is important, and the reality of the social cooperative to our language, culture and survival is just as important.
Both aspects exist and must be acknowledged as such.
Placing individual whim over social cooperation is the extreme end of objectivist and libertarian schools of thought, that fail to give the social aspect of our being due weight.
Placing the social aspect over the individual aspect leads to the pathologies of the extremes of socialism that we saw instantiated in the communist Gulags and the Nazi concentration camps.
So yes – complex, interesting, constantly evolving with new levels constantly emerging, and with each new emergence consequences ripple through all other levels, requiring adjustments.
And at each new level, it is the evolutionary power of cooperation that empowers complexity (competition tends towards simplicity).