The intricate pattern of the brain: pride, shame, and the opium memory object

Human beings experience successes and failures in life. Sometimes these successes or failures are minor, but sometimes they are very important in the life of that person. In this article I want to write about the pride and shame that humans can feel, and the way in which they deal with them. I want to speculate that pride and shame are the average of the all experiences we have had with success and failure, and that they form memory objects in the pattern of the self that are attached to a certain level of emotion. Pride and shame form an important part of people’s lives and their interaction with others. How we deal with them defines to a large extent who we are. When the methods of dealing with pride an shame lead to an incorrect perception of reality, one has formed something I want to call the opium memory object. This opium memory object is a morphable memory object that acts as a lightning rod to deflect the thread away from shame or anxiety, and, preferably, into pride. This article is part of a series of articles. I want to advise you to read these articles first. And again, as with the other articles, I am not a psychologist or a neuroscientist, so take it all with a grain of salt.

In this article I am going to write about the way in which I think the thread passes over the pattern of the self. I have speculated that there are multiple ways in which the path of the thread over the pattern of the self can be influenced by hormones and the type of connections between neurons, being either inhibitory or stimulating. I have no idea on how this works exactly. As I have written before, my idea comes mostly from the perspective of psychology, not neuroscience. All that I can roughly see in that little neuroscience that I know, is that the path the thread can take, can be decided by the release of hormones, or when one neuron attaches itself to another in such a way that when the presynaptic neuron fires, it inhibits or stimulates the postsynaptic neuron. This will influence the thread, or any signal, in some way. In my observance of human behavior, I have noticed that it looks like this behavior is “somehow” connected to a pattern in the brain in the form of plasticity, and in the form of inhibitory or stimulating connections. These connections allow a signal to pass over this pattern in such a way that sometimes the signal can move, and sometimes it has to stop. “Somehow” in this mix, there is an emotional connection that, when triggered, can give an emotional response when we think of things. On top of that, the release of hormones can also effect the way in which this signal spreads. Since this seems to be a very complicated web of plasticity, and many connections, I am not qualified enough to even remotely guess how such a thing could be put together, so I will not even try. Having said that, I want to move on to the main topic of this article: pride and shame.

Pride and shame

We have all felt pride at some point in our lives and we have all felt shame. Pride and shame are such fundamental human concepts, that they are a fundamental part of every culture all around the world. But what are pride and shame, and where do they come from?

The baby and its tasks

Let’s imagine a baby and a parent playing with an educational puzzle. Let’s say it is that puzzle where the round shaped piece has to fit in the round shaped hole, the square piece in the square shaped hole, and so on. How does the parent entice the baby to achieve this goal? Let’s say that the baby plays with the toy for the first time, and so it does not know what the goal is. For this, the parent needs a mechanism.

When a new baby is born in a family, the baby is often fed, held, cuddled, and kissed by the parents. They also sing to the baby, often when they are cradling or cuddling the baby. They also speak in a tone of voice that is soft, and doesn’t scare the child. And they smile a lot to the baby. I do not know to what extent a pleasant, soft tone of voice, or smiling leads to a pleasurable genetic response in the body, but because it is often accompanied by things that will cause a genetic response, like cuddling or kissing, the touch of which I think release pleasure hormones, I want to speculate that these two, at the very least, get connected in the pattern of the self. So, the pleasant voice and the pleasant feelings of the cuddling will, I speculate, form a connection. This will result in the baby having a pleasure response in the future, when the parent uses the soft voice or smiles. The parent can then reward the child with just their voice or a smile.

So, when the parent and the baby start playing with the puzzle, the parent first demonstrates it. The parent can reinforce the idea that the correct puzzle piece going through the correct hole is the goal, by using a pleasant tone of voice and a smile. If the parent demonstrates it a couple of times with different pieces, and uses the pleasant voice accentuating the solution, the baby might get a general idea of what it is supposes to do. It can start forming the idea of a task and a goal.

The baby now tries a piece itself. It picks up the square piece and tries to put in the round hole. Expecting the parent to make the sounds again, it looks up to the parent, but the parent doesn’t make the expected sounds and does not give the child the expected hug. The child looks down and tries to realize what it has done wrong. It might try to push the square block in by force. It doesn’t work. The parent might take away the block and point to the correct one. The baby will probably track the taken away square block with its eyes, wondering why the piece is taken away, but if the parent points to the correct block and tells the baby to pick up the correct block, it might understand what is intended, pick up the block, and, let’s say, put it in the correct hole. The parent starts to hug and kiss the baby and smile a lot, and speaks in a soft voice, like saying “well done”, or clapping softly. These stimuli together form a series of micro memories that will lay the foundation of the pride memory object. The baby has achieved its task.

The pride memory object

When the baby is repeatedly rewarded for succeeding in a task, it will, over time, discover this as a recurring pattern. The baby will see that any task has a chance of success or failure, and it will find that success and failure themselves are therefore patterns to be recognized in the baby’s own achievements. Even later in life, it will discover that also others can succeed or fail as well. If the baby recognizes success, I want to speculate that a memory object is created to represent that recurring success. Since it leads to predictions and triggering of pleasure, this memory object will be mostly connected to pleasure. It lwill ead to a feeling that we call pride, and I therefore want to call it the pride memory object (PMO).

The PMO is the average of our experiences with all of our success and their emotional responses. Since success is almost always accompanied by predictions of a good future, basically all success is connected to pleasure, with some exceptions. So, I speculate that the plasticity between the neurons of the pride memory object and the neurons that release pleasure, wherever they are, is significantly increased, decided by the amount of pride we have felt in our lives.

The shame memory object

Success is not the only pattern that we can recognize after performing a task. We can also recognize failure, in ourselves, but also in others. Failure is also a pattern, and therefore I speculate that it also forms a memory object in the brain. It is, of course, primarily connected to anxiety. Since we refer to this feeling as shame, I want to call it the shame memory object (SMO).

Analogous to the PMO, the SMO is the average of our experiences with all of our failures and their emotional connections. And so, like with the PMO, I speculate that the SMO has increased plasticity between it and the neurons that release anxiety hormones, its plasticity decided by our past emotional responses to failure.

PMO and SMO are more complex than that

Although I think that the above is in principle correct, I do feel it is too simplistic. The PMO and SMO might, for instance, be segmented, and only certain parts fire when a task is failed. The shame that you feel when no one is around is different than the one where people are aware. Also, the amount of pressure felt from the outside world will lead to more feelings of shame. The PMO and SMO must therefore not be envisioned as being in one particular spot in the pattern of the self, but being comprised of many different neurons, probably all over the brain, that “somehow” instill anxiety or pleasure on the brain when a certain stimulus is detected. The same is basically true for all memory objects. As long as a certain amount of neurons can cause an emotional response together, whether being situated together, or spread across certain parts of the brain, they can represent (part of) the PMO or the SMO. And therefore, the circumstances and the nature of the success or failure decide which part of the SMO or PMO is triggered, and what amount of emotion is felt.

On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that people who feel (far) above average shame in one circumstance, also do that in another, at least, that has been my experience with people. Strong feelings of shame seem to exist universally in such a person, no matter what position of failure they are in. This is, to me, an indication that shame has a “single point of entry”, and the shame that is felt has at least a universal element to it. The same goes for pride.

For the rest of this article, I will stick to the more simplistic “single point of entry” versions of the SMO and the PMO, to not make things too complicated.

Non-social pride and shame

Over time, when a child becomes more self-conscious, they will realize that succeeding in a task also has rewards that are not connected to the outside world’s perception of them, like practicing cooking, which will increase the quality of someone’s meals. This reward will also be added to the average of the PMO. Also, failure can lead to anxiety even without other people involved, and that anxiety is connected to the SMO. But even though these external factors exist, I speculate that is is predominantly the social element of pride and shame that can make them so fundamental in people’s character, as these rewards or negative effects are often more rewarding or punishing.

Pride connected to anxiety, shame to pleasure

Earlier, I mentioned that the PMO and the SMO are mostly connected to pleasure and anxiety, the PMO to pleasure and the SMO to anxiety. But this, I want to further speculate, is not always the case.

When a child grows up under suboptimal conditions, they may not be rewarded for accomplishing a task. For instance, the parent might judge the task too harshly every time. This might lead to a distrust of the earlier belief in success. I want to speculate that this then can lead to a connection of anxiety to the PMO, which will result in a child doubting their successes and never be able to feel a proper amount of pride in their accomplishments. This child might then develop failure anxiety.

When a child grows up in a family where their failures are always polished over and excused, a child might literally grow up without shame. The SMO will then not be properly connected to anxiety, and when the task is failed, this person will care less than others, or not at all.


Since pride and shame are intricately linked to decision making, I want to speculate that the PMO and the SMO are connected to the question memory object (QMO) that I speculated existed in my article the intricate pattern of the brain: decisions. As the PMO and SMO are connected to such strong emotional responses, they probably play an important part in creating the pleasure and anxiety that ultimately are important in answering certain question.

Dealing with pride and shame

Supposedly, someone has performed a task at their place of work. They think that they have achieved the task successfully and feel a little pride. They continue on to their next task, but then a supervisor tells them that they made a mistake. The pride that they felt has suddenly turned into anxiety. Apparently they have made a mistake, but they have not seen the mistake with their own eyes yet, and so the thread in the brain of this person starts to block out memory objects that are connected to anxiety as it finds the most pleasurable way out. Maybe the supervisor was mistaken. Maybe the supervisor was looking at someone else’s work and mistook it for theirs?

As they look over their work, they see the mistake. The external stimuli now force the thread to pass over the acceptance of the observed pattern, and, because it is an occurrence of failure, trigger the SMO. Anxiety is flooded through the body in the form of shame, and a way out that is in line with the external stimuli that are being perceived is created. Correcting the mistake as quick as possible seems to be the best way out. The mistake is corrected, and the employee apologizes to the supervisor. The supervisor tells the employee to be more careful in the future and the employee agrees.

The opium memory object

In the above-mentioned scenario, a human with a healthy amount of shame and pride reacts in a healthy way to the criticism given. At first, they do not just believe the supervisor, and they want to see with their own eyes that they have done something wrong. When they see that they have done something wrong, they feel the correct amount of shame, leading to the conclusion that correction of the mistake is the best way out. But what if someone has, for instance, an SMO that is connected to so much anxiety, that their thread cannot access it? When the SMO is triggered slightly, the anxiety released is so overwhelming, that the only way out is one in which failure is not accepted. This person, then, starts to form a memory object in their pattern of the self that I want to call the opium memory object (OMO).

An opium memory object is a morphable memory object that is intended to deflect the thread away from predicted anxiety. I want to speculate that the pattern of the self of any human has many OMO’s to protect memory objects that are connected to anxiety, though many are benign and have little impact on our daily lives, and probably even ease it. OMO’s can also be spread into other people’s brains, which can then introject them into their own pattern of the self.

The creation of an OMO

Let’s say that the employee in the above mentioned example has an SMO that simply does not want to trigger, and the thread is immediately steered away from it. This person’s brain will continue to think of reasons why their work is “suddenly” incorrect. Did someone else alter it? Did the supervisor alter it? Since the anxiety connected to the SMO doesn’t allow it to be triggered, a normal acceptance of their mistake is not allowed, and the brain will start to settle on something else. Maybe the supervisor is trying to get them fired, they start to think.

It is this thought that will increase the plasticity between the memory object of the event and the memory object of the excuse that is made up, that will lead to the creation of an OMO. If the employee continues to believe that the supervisor is lying, they can deflect the incoming stimuli that cannot be accepted towards this memory object. When this employee goes home and thinks about the event, the OMO will catch the thread and steers it towards the belief that the supervisor is trying to get them fired. Since simply raising the hypothesis that the supervisor is trying to get them fired is not going to be accepted by other supervisors, the thread predicts that the employee is going to be in trouble if they continue to make such a claim. This predicted interaction with coworkers and other supervisors will lead to more anxiety. So, more answers are made up: there needs to be a reason for the “behavior” of the supervisor. The employee starts to wonder if the supervisor is afraid of the employee’s achievements, and if that is the reason that the supervisor wants to get rid of them. Are they afraid that the employee is after their job? These thoughts will expand the OMO. It morphs into a new, bigger form, that can catch more incoming external stimuli. The OMO becomes a narrative with which the employee can ward off any access to their SMO.

Not all OMO’s are this extreme. The OMO is this example is one that covers all of the SMO and is therefore a very strong one. If someone has so much anxiety connected to their SMO that only the thread passing over it repeatedly, forced by external stimuli, will make it trigger, it will simply not trigger. A person with an SMO that has such a strong connection to anxiety will have many OMO’s in their pattern of the self. I will cover more of this on a section further below.

Some OMO’s, however, only cover certain anxiety connected memory object.

Political OMO’s

When a certain political party uses fear to convince people to vote for them, they accompany this fear with previously conceived OMO’s which they try to get into people’s pattern of the self. They, for instance, instill fear in immigrants. They.for instance, constantly talk about how immigrants commit crimes. This way, in the heads of their followers, the memory object that represents immigrants is triggered, but also anxiety is released, and, I speculate, connected to the immigrant memory object in the pattern of the self, because they happen at the same time. This way, when people who have introjected this anxiety think about immigrants, they will feel anxiety. Their thread will now look for a way out. The politician has already thought of that, so they set up a structure of OMO’s meant to deflect the thread away from passing over the immigrant memory object, and towards the solution, which is instilled with feelings of pleasure. Vote for me, and I will get rid of the immigrants (and thereby the anxiety in your pattern of the self)! These OMO’s will connect pleasure to the memory object of the politician in the patterns of the self of their followers.

During the campaign, helper OMO’s are spread. I will build a wall to protect you from the immigrants! The opposition doesn’t know what they are talking about! We will increase the police force to keep you safe, unlike the opposition! These OMO’s will attach themselves to the other ones and form one big OMO. By connecting the instilled fear in immigrants to their opposition, the followers will feel the fear every time they see, hear. or think about the opposition. This will deflect the thread into the OMO and ultimately into the goal: the politician will save you, and that will give you pleasure!

When the follower has introjected enough of these OMO’s, the SMO and the PMO also start to play a part. The follower will start to be attacked by the opposition, and admitting that they have fallen for a con artist would be a very shameful event. This way, the follower will probably try to connect the OMO’s in one big pattern to deflect the thread away from the SMO. If the follower starts to believe that they are the ones who “truly” see and the others are “blind”, they can deflect the incoming stimuli into their PMO, as they are the ones with “special knowledge” that they “discovered”. If the follower’s pattern of the self allows this connection, it will probably happen, if the outside pressure is big enough. This, I speculate, makes it that being harsh with people who have OMO’s in their pattern of the self will lead to an intensifying of the belief. Society’s best way of dealing with this is by alleviating anxiety when someone admits that they had fallen for OMO’s. This way, the shame will not be so intense, and the thread can just process it.

OMO’s and addiction

People who are addicted to anything have OMO’s in their pattern of the self. These excuses are meant to alleviate any incoming shame. When you “quit tomorrow” you do not have to feel shame today, and so, “I am going to quit tomorrow”, is an OMO. Instead of feeling shame, an addict can already “reward” themselves by believing they are really going to quit tomorrow. This way, they can feel pride in an accomplishment that is not going to happen. One last “banger” before I quit, is also a really good way of temporarily alleviating the SMO, and deflect it into pride. Of course, doing this over and over again will only reinforce the pattern, and every day it is repeated with an increased chance of happening the next day.

There are other, more rigid OMO’s in the heads of addicts, but I am not qualified enough to analyze them.

When someone has an OMO around their entire SMO and external OMO’s

There are people who have OMO’s that deflect anything away from their SMO. Their entire life often evolves around making up excuses for their failures. Over time, they might develop a belief that they are just too good for the rest of the world. Or they start to fantasize that the entire world is made up out of deceptive agents, and therefore they can “justifiably” be deceptive themselves. Some even go as far as to plant OMO’s in other people’s pattern of the self. They, for instance, pit people up against a certain individual, the target, that is being perceived as a threat. They do this by telling OMO’s to the others in their community, the followers. This might take the form of “such-and-such always does things wrong, and is a moron”, or “such-and-such tells so many stories, and is a fantasist”. These OMO’s are meant to deflect anything that the target says or does into the PMO of the follower’s brain. They have certain in-group knowledge about an “outsider”, being the target. Because of the OMO’s, they start to perceive anything the target says as moronic or fantastical. This serves two purposes for the gossip spreader: firstly, it guards the SMO of the gossip spreader against criticism coming from the target. Secondly, their external OMO’s will lead to interactions between the followers and the target, where the target is constantly confronted with the OMO’s and is forced to introject them, at least to some degree. They will become more anxious in whatever way they choose to introject these OMO’s. This will, then, be used as “evidence” for the “weirdness” of the target, which will reinforce the OMO’s in the followers pattern of the self.

OMO’s and power

When a modern dictator is in power, they set the OMO’s in the heads of their people in such a way, that they only serve them personally. This will result, I speculate, in what is often called a “cult of personalities”. The function of the OMO’s aren’t just to keep the government in power, but are primarily meant to keep the dictator themselves in power. This way, they can make sure no other person steps into the OMO’s of the followers, and claim power for themselves.

In the Middle Ages, the kings of Europe tried to do it differently. Because their goal was to create stability in the country, even after the death of the leader, they needed different types of OMO’s in the heads of the people. In the Roman Empire, the death of an emperor would often lead to civil war. So, in the Middle Ages, they seemed to have build OMO’s in people’s heads that served the royal family, like “our family has protected our people for many years!”, when, of course, many families had protected the people for many years. I know too little about history to make a clear judgement on this, but I want to speculate that this way of OMO spreading is the reason that these monarchs often took their predecessors’ names as their regnal name. Also, they seemed to have styled themselves, in governing style, clothing, and the arts, in very similar ways as their predecessors. This, I would argue, would ease the transition from one person in the center of the people’s OMO’s, to another.


In chess, and in all strategy, there is a concept called initiative. A player is said to have the initiative, when they can force the opponent to defend against the player’s moves. The position is then such, that if the opponent would not defend, they would lose the game. The player with the initiative is therefore dominating their opponent. This dominance, I would argue, will lead to the triggering of the PMO, while the opponent will trigger the SMO.

In other human interaction, dominance is also a thing. When two people are having a debate, for instance, then one can get the upper hand in some way, which will lead to the triggering of the PMO. It is important to note here, that this does not have to be because they really have the upper hand. As long as one seems to think they have the upper hand, and will therefore feel pleasure, and the other thinks that they are losing in some way, and therefore will feel anxiety, then a situation of dominance has been established. I would argue that dominance in a debate will lead to pleasure, since you can dictate the moves, and therefore your PMO is triggered, and the other has to defend, and therefore their SMO is triggered. The realization that you might be seen as the winner of this debate will lead to predictions of praise, which will lead to pleasure, while the defending side starts to predict criticism, for instance, and that will lead to anxiety. This applies to all forms of public debates, from one-on-one to the collective debates that we have on many topics.

I would argue that a lot of people confuse being dominant with being correct. Because being dominant feels so good, the minds of the confused predict all sort of wonderful things that will happen if we only follow their ideas. However, dominating people in a debate does not mean that you are correct. The PMO can also trigger if dominance has been perceived incorrectly. One could, for instance, acquire dominance in a debate though deception. But if the dominant party is deceptive, they are not correct, so, dominance does not prove that someone is correct. If your ideas are not backed up by evidence, and there is even evidence contradicting what you say, then your plans are probably going to fail.

I suspect that a lot of people turn political debates into a battle of triggering each other’s SMO and PMO. If you trigger the other’s SMO, your PMO will be triggered, and you can declare victory. As long as you “own” the “other side” you can continue to believe that you are right. Dominance, therefore, plays a big part in people’s OMO structures. As long as they can create dominance, they can deflect external stimuli into the PMO.

Types of OMO’s

There are many types of OMO’s, in many different forms. They can be general strategies to avoid having to give answers, or have very topic-specific answers to certain stimuli. There are some overarching commonalities in these OMO’s that are often part of OMO’s. These patterns seem to act like some sort of scaffolding for topic-specific OMO’s to attach to. I want to list some of these commonalities.

  1. Vagueness: a lot of OMO’s have an element of vagueness to them. They say: “My politician has done what he said”, instead of naming the things that the politician has actually done, which they can’t, because the politician has done nothing. By just believing that the politician had done what he said, they don’t have to address the evidence at hand that suggests that they didn’t.
  2. Collective responsibility: OMO’s are often created to hold certain groups of people collectively responsible. In my article the intricate pattern of the brain: social entanglement, I have speculated that the belief in collective repsonsibility is probably the result of the way in which we store our knowledge about others in the brain. We simply cannot know billions of people, so we start to group them together, to be able to predict “them” at least to some amount. This collective responsibility, however, is often confused in an OMO as being an actual fact. The people clumped together in someone’s mind are now seen as identical. “They” should not be trusted, “they” always commit crimes, “they” are always lying, and so on.
  3. Deflection: some OMO’s guard the SMO, or some other anxiety connected memory object, by quickly deflecting the thread towards a different topic. “What about…”, is often the way in which this starts. “My politician might have committed fraud, but what about your politician? Did he not run a red light?” This way, the follower can try to trigger the SMO of the critic.
  4. Projection: a lot of OMO believers try to project their own behavior onto others. This can be done unconsciously, without realizing, but also purposefully, as a strategy to be first with the accusation, so that they can later claim that the actual accusation is, in fact, just a copy of theirs. I would speculate that the unconscious version emerges because people can only perceive in others what is also present in their own pattern of the self, since this must be the basis of understanding. This is, I speculate then, the reason that people have so much trouble understanding that not everyone is like them. Believing too much that someone else is like you can form a basis for a strong OMO protecting the SMO.
  5. Hedonistic belief: simply believing that the facts are the way in which it is useful for the OMO. Simply believing that “there is not enough evidence for climate change”, for instance, will deflect any form of evidence that comes the OMO believer’s way and make it go into the PMO. I want to speculate that it is this pleasure that makes them believe it.
  6. Hedonistic mind reading: people have a tendency to create an OMO that is based on something that I like to call hedonistic mind reading. People simply start to believe that other people’s motives are different from what they say publicly. The reason for this belief is that the believer then does not have to listen to the evidence that the critic is giving. The OMO deflects the incoming stimuli coming from the critic immediately away towards pride, as the believer knows that the critic is “full of it”, when no other actual evidence warrants this.
  7. “Both” sides: topics of any kind often have many sides to them. OMO believers, however, want to often pit their “theories” up against “the other side”. By doing this, all they need to do is to cast doubt on the “other side” and then their OMO’s become “true” by default. By portraying topics as two sided, the OMO believer can funnel anyone who doesn’t like the “other side” into their group, and start spreading their OMO’s externally. I like to call this process conspiracy funneling, as it presents two funnels to the audience, and tricks them into believing it is either one or the other.
  8. End debates quickly: OMO believers often want to end debates very quickly, to prevent any form of scrutiny of their OMO. They often just want to quickly shout their OMO, and then try to frustrate the opposing party to a maximum extend.
  9. Bridge trolling: OMO believers try to maneuver themselves in a position of judge of the evidence in a debate. Like a bridge troll in old folklore, they are the ones that decide what evidence passes over the bridge. To no surprise to anyone, none of the opposing party’s evidence passes. The OMO believer’s goal is to not have to present any evidence, and therefore not be judged by anyone. If you are the one judging other people’s evidence, you can never be wrong!
  10. Playing the victim: The OMO believer believes that they are the true victim. Their rights are under attack by others who have a different opinion. This strategy is often accompanied by collective responsibility, to assure that the “other side” is always “guilty”.
  11. Doubting the critics allegiance: for example, doubting someone’s patriotism, so that the OMO believer does not have to listen anymore and the SMO is protected.
  12. Doing it “back”: OMO believers often like to believe certain things about their opponents, so that they can do it back. So, by believing that the opponent is lying, lying becomes now an acceptable strategy for the OMO believer, since they, in their minds, are just doing it “back”. Like this, they can prevent the SMO from being triggered, even when lying.


Pride and shame play an important part in people’s lives. I speculate that these concept are represented in the brain by memory objects called the pride memory object and the shame memory object. In these area’s, the pattern of the self accumulates an average of all the emotional responses that have been felt during success or failure.

The brain has a way of protecting itself against the triggering of too much anxiety, like a shame memory object that is connected to too much anxiety. The brain does this by forming opium memory objects that are meant to deflect the incoming stimuli away from the anxiety.