Nodum questae (knot mindset in Latin) refers to the idea that any behavior model or ideology that was created or cultivated in an individual can be undone. The concept likens the mind to a rope. Over time, various knots are tied in the rope, which is representative of ideas and habits. The principle states that any knot that has been tied can be untied.
Getting angry and rough with a knot will not help you untie it. – Loric proverb
Note that this concept only applies to things that occurred due to influential changes, rather than, for example, brain injury. A prime example of something that cannot be “untied” is psychopathy, because evidence has been found that some individuals are born with different brains.
The concept does, however, contain one inherently controversial hypothesis: if a psychopath’s brain was changed due to influences (stunted parlimbic system), it could be changed in other ways (untying the knot). This hypothesis is, in part, due to the fact that the brain has a remarkable ability to adapt to injury or other stimulus. In other words, in some cases where the one brain area loses functionality, other parts of the brain adapt to take over.
If the brain can rewire itself after injury, why can it not be rewired in other ways? “Perpetually responding to its environment, the brain possesses a remarkable ability to rewire itself, to actually reroute sensory impulses and change its physical structure.” The hypothesis is that changes, even changes to the brain’s physical structure, can be influenced in much the same way as the brain already does in some cases.
This does not necessarily mean that all things can be cured, but simply that some of the knots can be undone, and that we have an obligation to do so (Cultura).
The analogy of the knot also addresses the perceived difficulties with regard to reversing many behavioral issues. It is easier to tie a knot, for example, than it is untying it. In other words, it is more work fixing a behaviorial issue than creating it. Some knots are harder to undo than others, and many knots can seem so difficult as to be impossible. The more knots there are, and the longer they have been there, the harder they will be to untie.
The concept is used to approach rehabilitation or behavioral modification of individuals, especially those who have perhaps been indoctrinated into extreme ideologies. Racism, Nazism, terrorism, even incels are the obvious subjects of nodum questae.
Society mostly responds to individuals with hatred and vitriol, further pushing them to the fringes and essentially “tying more knots” into their ideology. We tend to push these people away, further solidifying their negative behavior. Isolating these individuals and treating them harshly, therefore, is the opposite approach if one’s goal is to rid the world of that type of behavior or ideology.
- https://modlab.yale.edu/news/can-psychopaths-be-cured (2002-04-26). “Can Psychopaths Be Cured?”. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
- https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130116092151.htm (2013-01-16). “Research reveals exactly how the human brain adapts to injury”. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
- https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/science/sdut-traumatic-brain-injuries-regeneration-lobatz-2015apr02-story.html (2015-04-02). “The brain can rewire itself after an injury”. Retrieved 2019-12-20.