Essay originally written to explain to my therapist what I meant by mental coherence, and to explain how deficiencies in it can undermine essential aspects of life. He labelled it Weak Central Coherence.
Many of the issue described below are not that extreme anymore (and weren’t when I wrote the essay) – it is largely retrospective and describes worst case scenarios. However, the issues with weak mental coherence persist, albeit now in milder, subtler versions.
Coherence across time
Relevant for social understanding and communication, identity, learning from experiences, mood regulation, planning, punctuality and sense of meaning.
It is essential to understand that peoples’ feelings and actions are linked across time in order roughly grasp their personalities/values/preferences etc and make some sense of their behaviours. To consider that peoples’ moods and behaviours in different situations and across different points in time are part of patterns (not just sudden random events) and linked with many different factors; some which are present in the current situation and serve as triggers, and many other complex factors which are “invisible” in the current situation.
Without a grasp of that coherence, people tend to appear extremely shifty and unpredictable, and communication is like “fumbling in the darkness” without much sense of what is appropriate to say and do and what isn’t, due to not being able to forecast others’ reactions at all. That leads to high tension and high anxiety around people.
For example: if I don’t consider that a person’s attitude and reactions to me in this moment link up with past events (the person’s past experience with me + experiences unrelated to me, which I can’t know anything about); then I’ll assume that all behaviour is caused by something present “right now” and that I should be able to see what it is and adjust my behaviour accordingly. When I can’t see those factors, then I’ll be hyper-vigilant to a lot of different factors without knowing what I should focus on.