Strange Loops

A Strange Loop is a self-referential hierarchical loop of perception. They were first described by Douglas R. Hofstadter in “Godel, Escher, Bach” and then again in “I Am a Strange Loop”.

The most famous Strange Loop is found in the “Drawing Hands” drawing by M. C. Escher:

Other examples are where a TV camera points at its own screen leading to an infinite corridor and a microphone gets too close to its own loudspeaker leading to a high pitched wail.

I am going to focus on the occurrence of Strange Loops in the human mind. Hofstadter identified one as the seat of consciousness itself; the concept of “I”. For my money there are many more, associated with the more common mental disorders:

  • Depression is a classic example of a feedback loop. Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions and vice versa. Depression is fixated on the Past and leads to low mood.
  • Mania is similar, fixated on the Present and leading to high mood.
  • Neurosis is a third, fixated on the Future but not associated with mood as such. Perhaps this is an example of a 1-stage Strange Loop (the hands are a 2-stage loop):

I don’t see any happy medium in any of the above. Although people advocate Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a way out of Depression it can just lead to a positive feedback loop and Mania. From experience I’d say that Mania is an extreme case of living in the moment in the Present.

I am postulating that a better place to aim for is Balance which is not fixated on Past, Present or Future, but is conveniently close to all 3 so you can visit them when desired.

I categorise some of my posts as Balance accordingly. This is another Strange Loop. 🙂

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