“I May Not Be a Smart Man, But I Know What Love Is. “
I can’t remember when I first heard the term “self-love”. Probably some internet meme or post relating to “enlightenment”. Certainly, more than one conversation with past romantic connections who notice my very obvious self-loathing. From the very first time I ever read/ heard it, the term never made sense. But it sure has gained in popularity. However, I am often confused at what people describe as the meaning of, and what “love” is. You can ask 20 different people and get 25 different definitions. Everything from something that seems “magic” and undefinable, to a flavor or a type of basket. But we do have evidence of a much more definitive description/ definition. This post is going to delve into that which we seem to think is so elusive.

East Meets West of Love
For many in this Western self-centered, splintered family, “individualist” society, love is a “thing”. A tangible noun that can be possessed but at the same time “magical” in that it is without any tangible way to detect it. This is of course silly and in direct contradiction to everything that is known and understood about human emotions. It is magic, but it is human magic. Something magnificent and very “human” that is still difficult to simply quantify even as we have learned much about it. Mostly because we all need to believe we are “loved” in order to survive. It is a driving force that has caused wars and created our greatest inventions. Contradictory to cultures where love is more “forced” with elements like arranged marriages and more appreciated with the lack of materialistic enhancements in their lives. There, “love” can be held more sacred and not as easily just abandoned. Part of that is the understanding of sacrifice that is required to sustain a tribe or family.

“Is This (Dopamine, Oxytocin, Adrenaline, Seritonin) Love That I Am Feeling.”
So what is “love”? I went over this before in a post written a few years ago here. I think the post was about “overuse” of the word. Part of that overuse is because there are different perspective. It is like a scientist and an artist describing a beach scene. One focused on the chemical makeup of the sand, the UV rays, and properties of the H2O. While the other describes the feel of the heat of the sun, the beauty of the horizon, and the comfort of the lover laying next to him. Both are accurate, but neither completes a picture.

On a neurochemical level, “love” is when the flood of calming, disarming, antianxiety neurochemicals such as oxytocin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and more discovered routinely in the system that trigger the sensation of being perfectly supplied needs. We sense a pattern that is interpreted as being safe and even necessary, the brain triggers behaviors to ensure that resources remains available. Those first experiences where our caretakers ease our discomfort form the very first sensations of “love”. This is why we find it necessary for dad to be there in the room now, and mom to have the baby placed on her chest ASAP. A newborns every second is a “first time experience”. They are forming those first ideals of what “love means to them.” The chemical rewards associated with the caretakers shuold last a lifetime.

“Calling Doctor Deep Seeded Emotional Triggers”
On a psychological level, love is one of the crude communications that flows between the subconscious and the conscious. When a pattern is identified that we recognize as being something that has in the past supplied pleasure or comfort, we associate that feeling of values to it. We can love anything from another person, to an animal, to objects, to other stimulus. We can love a band, or a type of music. We can love a smell such as coffee in the morning. We can love the taste of a favorite food. We can love the beauty of a sunset. We can love a touch of a warm ray of sunshine on a summer day. When it comes to other people, it is a combination of all these senses. Their voice and their words. We can love the very image of them or seeing them in motion. We can even love things that they have given us that reminds us of them. That is the crude senses, that do not have to be in direct contact. Then there are the “intimate senses” of people close to us. The touch of their flesh pressed against our own. The feel of the hair are all stimulus that paint an emotional picture. The taste of the lips of a lover or the food shared with friends and family. The smell of the cologne or the hints of pheromones that we can hardly detect. The smell of a mom’s cooking that reminds us of the best days of our childhood. These are stimulus that our minds have associated with improving our chances for survival. A baseline that dates back to when we were in the womb and a database we build starting from birth. We see a person or a thing that literally is interpreted to our subconscious as “This is important for our survival”.

In this is the reason why breakups are harder for the one that didn’t see it coming and/ or has not replacement for the benefit given by the association. The person doing the “breaking up” has been desensitizing for some time. The benefit of connections have already been resolved to nominal. This also explains why some people feel so strongly at the breakup that they will do the most irrational things to secure that connection. It is literally “life threatening” to some. In prehistoric and really up until modern times, it was in fact an increased risk to life and livelihood. Thus “hate” is born of love. Hate is the thing that threaten ones security.

Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?
From a philosophical perspective, love is a force. Not a noun, a “thing” or even an action or “verb”. It is a bonding force that ties two nouns together. A “conjunction” if you will. It is the reason behind the deed. It is the connection between two bodies. It is a fluid that flows between cylinder and piston. It is both the action and the reaction. In many ways, philosophically it is “chemical catalyst” that sets off a chain. But most of all the one thing that describes love is “sacrifice”. It is the result of one giving something away that brings them comfort for the benefit to or for the benefit of another. Most often current of future protection.

This shouldn’t be as foreign of a concept as it seems to be to so many people. We are taught about it from the moment our parents stumble tired, into our crib, to care for our needs. Their choice could have been to continue to sleep, to ignore our cries. But they didn’t. They sacrificed that comfort so we could be comforted. We are taught that our “soldiers” love their country because they are willing to sacrifice their own lives so we can continue the life we lead, to “be free”. We are taught it in our churches when we are told “God so loved the world that he gave his only son to suffer for our sins.” Or in the actions of that son who accepted his fate was tortured and crucified so we may have an example of what “love” looks like. Songs that endlessly proclaim “love hurts”. Every dramatic movie about what somebody goes through to save or reach the people they love.

If I could paint a picture of “love” it would be two people standing face to face, with outstretched hands holding their own hearts and saying simultaneously. “this is my heart, you have a unique way to harm me. I have only your words and your promise to protect me from you. Still I have no fear.” When it is healthy between two people, that is what it looks like. Both putting something on the line, sharing a trust and forming a single unit that together is stronger and more protected than the two are separate. I have since come to realize I take that image from a picture my parents had of Christ holding his heart.”

To really drive this idea home, consider the idea of “unconditional love”. What does that mean? “I will be there whenever times are great and whenever you are acting towards me in ways that are enjoyable and pleasurable?” No. It means “when times are bad, when it would be better for me to disconnect from you, to not risk my own comfort or security to try and bring you some. Even if you are acting hateful towards me, I will still put myself on the line. I will sacrifice for you.”

The phrase “I love you” literally can be translated to “I put your wants, needs, desires, and my very well being, ahead of my own and for your well being.”

It Takes Two… At Least
This is why the term “Self love” is confusing to me. All of these perspectives of the emotion of “love” require one common element. Another person or object. It requires the transfer of emotional energy. This being the case, you can’t “love” yourself. This sounds as funny as saying “I made love to myself”. In intimate settings, loving is a feverish pitch of giving and receiving. Which the individual actions of masturbation or buying of services may resemble the same, as “making love”, it doesn’t work emotionally the same. It is like eating candy with immediate gratification but empty quickly burned calories. It doesn’t provide any long term sustainability. Neither does the notion of “self love”.

With this being the case, this understanding of the force of love, “self-love” is impossible. You can’t put your own wants, needs, and desires ahead of your own wants needs and desires. What people say, “self-love” what they mean is self-care. They mean they stop doing things that are harmful, damaging, and for no apparent reason. They mean they have stopped torturing themselves for mistakes they made in the past. They mean that they stopped doing things that will shorten their lives and start doing things that will keep them in the world and in the comfort of people that (are willing to sacrifice for) love them.

For The Love Of Hate
One common misperception is that “hate” is the opposite of love. Hate is more adjacent to love. Referenced earlier, an idea better explored in a different post. Hate cannot stand alone without love. To hate somebody or something, it has to threaten somebody or something that you love. A person will sacrifice themselves to terminate something they hate for something that they love. The opposite of love is indifference. The utter lack of concern over the well being.

That brings us to “self-loathing” or “self-hating”. This IS possible, and even healthy at times. It is possible to hate ones own behaviors and want to “destroy”, to stop repeating them. That self-loathing can be the reminder of how intensely the long term consequences of a action that feels good can be. You do not like the way you look. Dieting and working out are really forms of self-punishment. Nobody wants to do those things for pleasure. It doesn’t feel good when somebody else tells you that you are fat. But it does when you see that yourself and it leads to healthy behaviors.

There is of course, very much room for dysfunction in self-hatred. When the behavior being done to repress the memory or desire to do something else is just as bad if not worse., it is not healthy use of self loathing. There is a danger even when love of others mixed with self loathing can turn deadly. When a person feels that your very existence is harming somebody they love, and seek slow ways to reduce your longevity. That seems to be better off included in a post about hatred itself though.


First, Introducing the PFC

Evolutionary psychologist and social researcher Dan Gilbert, observed in one of his TED talks this fact.  “It turns out the pre-frontal cortex does lots of things, but one of the most important things it does is an experience simulator. Pilots practice in flight simulators so that they don’t make real mistakes in planes. Human beings have this marvelous adaptation that they can actually have experiences in their heads before they try them out in real life.”   Those “experiences in their heads” are not placed there by magic or passed on through genetics.  They are there as the result of a solution of time, exposure, and luck of the draw.  Those experiences form “patterns” and are stored in our memory banks to be recalled at need.  So, when a guy comes into the board room and says, “why don’t we combine smelly sardines and yogurt and sell it in the dairy section. The fish will naturally settle to the bottom, so we can call it ‘fish on the bottom’ yogurt”.  Everybody else in the board room can recall the taste of smooth creamy sweet yogurt, then combine the smelly fishing stimulus of sardines, and, without creating the product, say, “No, no that will never sell.”  (Sadly, this didn’t work as described and there was this exact product for a while.)  Weather a stimulus resulted in pleasure or pain is crucial to the way just imagining that stimulus affects our behaviors.

What Exactly Is A “Pattern”?

Most people think of the word “pattern” and think it refers to something visual.  Others, maybe they think of it being cyclical and/ or re-occurring.  Both are true, but not the whole picture.  The human being has five distinct senses.  For sake of clarity, they are sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.  The last three are the “Intimate senses”.   (This is my phrase used to describe taste, touch, and smell.  Senses for which you must be in close, even intimate proximity to the sources of the stimulus. You cannot replicate them through the media.) You mind spends its time simultaneously probing though outside sense which it monitors through the senses for input.  At the sme time it is issuing, most often subconscious, commands to your body.  The ones that others can see and come to know about are called “behaviors”.  For example, you feel an itch in your nose and you notice that you can’t smell as distinctly as well. You skin on you back reports the feeling of seat covers.  You taste buds are dormant and not being used.  You ears here your favorite radio station playing through speakers that are familiar to you.  Your eyes confirm it.  You are in the safety you have come to know as your car.  Your mind issues the command, “pick it” which is a semi-conscious module of a program of other behaviors that are unconscious .  A pattern of movements associated with cleaning the bugger from your nose is initiated.  The car is an environmental pattern.   Something you wouldn’t do in a business meeting, at the dinner table, especially on a date.  The proof? Just as your finger starts to fish the inside of your nasal cavity, you look to your left and see an attractive monkey staring back at you.  All the sudden the “abort” command is issued by the brain. You try to play it off as an “itch” on the outside.  Awareness alone changed the environment.

What Is So Important About Recognizing Patterns?

We monkeys were not the strongest animals.  Nor were we the agile or quick.  We couldn’t change colors or blend in very well.  So the more advance we got of a warning of danger, the better chance we had at getting away.  But that meant we had to recognize those threats and react accordingly.  We see a rustle in the bush, is it a rabbit or is it a bear.  Using our nose, ears, and maybe even feeling of the ground, we make a determination based on what we have experienced before or our interpretation of what has been passed on to us by others.  In this case, applying the wrong pattern can mean life or death in either way. That is a strong evolutional force. If we recognize it as a rabbit, it means we eat, and our behavior is very different than if we think it is a bear.  In those early days, not missing a meal opportunity was as important as not getting mauled by a bear.  Darwin awarded life and offspring to those who mastered the nuances of pattern recognition.

Loss of innocence

There is only one “first time”, one “first impression”, one occurrence without pattern. It has been commonly referred to as “virginity” in more than just the sexual nature.  “A coaster virgin”, a “Karaoke Virgin”, a “Vegas Virgin” are socially understood terms today by even somebody who had never heard them. These are often used to refer to intense or exciting experiences that come with a little to a lot of anxiety.  They mean you have not personally experienced them yet.

At the moment you first experience, say, your first kiss, there is a “snapshot” taken and committed to mind.  You may have preconceived notions at what it might be like.  Maybe even some rather romantic ones at that.  But those are not “beliefs” in the core sense.  But at that moment, a baseline is set.  You are “experienced”.  The sight of the person and the surroundings, the feel of all the things from the pressure to the temperature of the environment, the taste and smell of the person, the sound of the song on the radio are all recorded so that the PFC can later recall it at need.   This is why anniversaries and specifics are sacred to some people. To get back and reinforce that pattern.  (I’ll get to that in a bit.) That initial experience is the on by which your mind will reference from that moment so long as you mind still lives and remembers its past.  Every moment preceding that was innocence.  All the “preconceived notions” are wiped away.

This is not the post to get deep into the subject, but I will take just this moment to say that this is why past civilizations and philosophies demanded virginity to be part of marital unions.  The belief that if you were both learning at the same time and if you were both had no other experiences to compare it to it, the want or desire to break the marriage and all the social problems that came with such an event, were minimized.  So much more to say about this, but that will have to come later.  But people who lose their innocence together and have much social pressure to remain together, have been shown to have more lifelong relationships.

Innocence, like time, cannot be taken back once experienced. It is a one way street.  Is this not what every parent is talking about when they are stressing to wait till a child is older and hopefully with a better understanding of the consequences before they experience “Adult” aspects of life.

Reinforcement, deviation, and all out misconception. 

After the “loss of innocence” you have a loose pattern.  That pattern forms a “belief”.  Every experience after that will either affirm or discount that belief by how well it fits that pattern.  When you think about this, you understand how “prejudices” such as racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism can be both “learned”/ “environmental” and “natural”.  These two things most people like to think of as opposed forces.  They most definitely are not.  (But again, that is another subject all together). Patterns that trigger behaviors of fear, alertness, hunger, desire, and love. Each sub category has sub-categories onto themselves.  This harkens back to one of my first posts on “personality maps”.  Your mind detects a pattern which it selects an overall “feeling”.  Then that feeling is trimmed down until an a behavior is selected.  The way we react to these patterns defines our personality.  While none of us are born prejudice, we learn it from our environment, and then the more times we see that pattern, the more it affirms our belief.

While “prejudging the moving bush to be a threat might be useful and life preserving, it is not the whole story, and it can lead to wrong conclusions.  Worse, the more we look for that pattern in places where it isn’t, the more wasted fear and energy we spend that is crucial to survival.  This disconnect from reality is not a long lived trait in our evolutionary past or even in places where consequences for your actions are more directly connected.  In the US we do a lot of things that would get us killed in more part uncivilized environments.  When people look upon other people and assume them to be threats, trustworthy, or desirable based only on limited experience of them, mistakes can be made that cause conflict, turmoil, or even harm.

I called our brains “crude pattern recognition machines”, because while this all might seem well and good, even brilliant of idea, it is far from perfect.  Better than any other so far?  Sure.  But, referring to Dan Gilbert in a different TED talk, he gave this example.  Hundreds of millions of lottery tickets are played every year.  Of those, tenths of tenths of percent are actually winners.  However, who are the only ones we “sense”. The ones we see and hear about in most cases.  Not even out “intimate senses”.   The winners.  Professor Gilbert  surmised that if we had to endure the 10 million people who got up on stage and said, “I didn’t win” before we heard the last guy say, “I won!”, nobody would play the lottery.  But because we see and sense the winners affirmed far more often than we do the losers, we have a very unrealistic understanding of our chances.  Early in life, I met people, old at the time, working in low paying factory jobs who seriously banked on winning the lottery as a retirement plan.

We see this in political rhetoric. I could easily turn this into a post more deserving of my political blog “Logic and Politics” and will be in the book of that name. I will try to keep it conceptual here, but I think it is worth noting.  Conservatives often harping about how people on welfare drive Hummers and eat steak every night.  They are all on drugs.  This would be harmless if people weren’t elected and policies weren’t set like the one in Florida that spent so much money on drug testing and actually found so few people actually were guilty of the pattern assigned to them.  Liberals are not immune to this, though they like to think themselves to have “an open mind”.  Usually that means so long as you agree with them.  They often tout the validity of genetic linkage method.  This approach of testing for the same gene in the case studies and attribute it to the same behavior.  First, the problem with the possibility that there may be distant and/ or indirect relationships where not only genes but behaviors were passed down is a danger, it also doesn’t parse out behavioral associations with people who belong to the society and willing to submit themselves to a psychological experiment.  One way I like to put it is this.  In the case of two infant twins, given up at birth, they have one very profound thing in common, they were adopted out and by people who went to great lengths to get a child.

Parenting Of Patterns

Patterns recognition has far more uses than detecting threats and finding food.  Nature granted no living things with immortality.  The approach she took was to replicate the organism. It is the very point of every organism that ever lived, to find a way to sustainable copy itself.  For humans, why our evolution spurred so far and so relatively fast, was because we of our ability to recognize patterns.  I recently read an article that restated the things I have heard a million times before. That, generically, we seek mates that are symmetrical, healthy, and display traits of strength and fertility.  In the past we learned what those meant by looking around our tribe and especially to our parents and family.  Today, we have media, unrelated peers, and trial and error opportunities to figure them out for ourselves.  (Not that we want to, but often those are the only choices we have left.) Using these criteria, we seek a mate that fits that pattern.  Then, once we find one, we have expectation on how they should behave.  Some people can handle and adapt to mild deviations from that behavior.  Others are driven into cognitive dissonance when that person doesn’t match their preconceived notions.  Even tolerance is a learned behavior.  How we respond to patterns that don’t fit, how we can allow manipulation and deviations.  WE are seeking for that perfect counterpart to replicate our pattern.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, our parents can be great suppliers of initial patterns.  In fact they need to be aware of the great influence they have on a human being still in it “influential years”.  Why do you think they call a baby “innocent”?  Or “the innocence of childhood”?  This is when a machine designed to recognize and categorize a pattern is experiencing the “recipes” for the first time.   They are creating the flow charts.  There are two ways of learning the appropriate actions. One, made famous by B.F Skinner, called “operand conditioning”.  We react to a change in the environment, to the new set of stimulus. If our reaction brings positive and pleasurable results, we react to the same or like stimulus the same way.  If we experience negative, punitive, or painful consequences as a result of our behavioral response, we strive not to repeat it.  That presupposes that we know of other options.  There can be a monkey wrench thrown into the “Skinner box” if we experience a rare occurrence of attention and/ or pleasure and pleasure from being hurt, behaving badly, or being absent.  In this busy society where parents only have time to react to the obvious dangers and negative behaviors, this condition as become common for many generations.  Likewise, if a parent micromanages every pleasure, rewards every slight success, they risk diminishing the effect of the reward and dooming the child to a life where they can never get the level of reward that the overcompensating parent once gave them.  This is common in households where the parent grew up with very little.  As an adult, the child recognizes the pattern of admiration and appreciation on the faces of those around them, but that pattern is not compensated with the equivalent reward. So we must strike a balance of letting children learn and experience and giving them aid and lessons.

The other way we “learn” is by mimicking the patterns that look like us.  We start by mimicking our parents or caretakers. We learn that this sight, smell, touch, sound, even taste (think of men’s obsession with boobs here) brings us pleasure. But these “patterns” smile, we smile back and they show obvious signs of pleasure and give us more attention.  For a newborn, holding a parents attention is crucial to survival.  As we mimic those we see, we get a sense of what we are supposed to do.  We like to reward animals for human like behavior when we see it, then like to think of pets as more than animals.  (And they are, don’t get me wrong!) Newborns see us walk hear us talk, watch us eat, and they first learn of these behavioral options,  then they want to try them out.   This is why I personally preach doing nothing in front of your children you don’t want them to do.  Not even newborns and toddlers. The classic, “where did you learn to do that?”  “I learned it by watching you, ok?! I learned it by watching you!” applies.  The first time you hear your kids swear, this becomes an issue.  In a healthy parent child relationship, the parent wants them to mimic them.  In fact, it is the point of life, they are doing what nature wants them too.

So what do we look for in our daughter’s pursuers? As men we look for ourselves.  Think about the pattern as a parent that opens the door and sees the boy or girl there to date our daughter.  (Many cultures skip the whole dating process.  It leads to happier, less devastating life events, but this is in severe opposition to the tenants of our “Free will” philosophy.) Believe it or not, what you are doing at that moment, is math, how well will the copy represent you.  Race is obviously the quickest way to match a pattern.  We see their similar traits to our own and confirm they will make an adequate match. The mind makes assumptions, that in most other parts of the world are more accurate, about the person standing before us if they have the same racial traits.  If race and social status are perceived to be different, either a deeper consideration must be explored, or the hostile “fight” mechanism kick in.

Artificial And Constant Rewards

Sadly, the pharmaceutical industry has come up with a $10 billion answer for the anxious and depressed condition by figuring out the chemicals that trigger the feeling of “Reward” and then putting them in the system, turning it on all the time.  The problem is that “manic” behaviors occur when you “feel” rewarded for every behavioral action that comes to mind.  Doesn’t matter about the negative consequences.  Gambling, spending, adultery, risky sex, drugs and alcohol use, lashing out at those who anger, and of course, suicide are all “behaviors” we would normally fear.   Our brains would not be  “rewarded” for these behaviors and might actually recoil some well feelings just for thinking them.  (Imagine banging your head against a wall when you screwed something up.) We normally would want to do those things because we could use our PFC to simulate the negative consequences and the pain for those actions. But SSRI/SNRIs allow the mind to feel reward for those actions.

Every Step You Take, Every Breath You Take

No not me, your brain is watching.  Your existence is a continuous flow of interaction between the outside world through your senses and your brains decision making center.  The stimulus, triggering your brain, to send response and behavioral commands to your body.  Those behaviors can, in fact will, physically influence the environment and trigger new stimulus and new behavioral instructions.  We couldn’t remember, and thus build anything if we weren’t able to store and recall memories of these patterns and respond to the stimulus we just influenced.  This ongoing stream never stops.  There is a majority of them that never leave the subconscious. When we use the word “think” we are often referring to actions and reactions were aware of, but those are just the tip of the iceberg.  You brain has been watching everything you experience and only “selectively “ focusing your attention on the things that require attention.

Freud’s Bad Rap
   Let’s face it, over the years Sigmund Freud has gotten a lot of bad press. Some of it deserved, as not all of his theories have panned out.  Much of it undeserved.  Stated by people who either didn’t understand what he was saying or didn’t read anything but the “Cliff’s notes” and extrapolated a very wrong conclusion.  Often those misinterpreted conclusions have been repeated by people who never read anything but the title of the theory, and then they proceeded to throw both baby and bathwater out.
   Sure theories about “penis envy” and other psychosexual based theories, if they were alone, would show a person in need of mental help.  However, his “iceberg” model of the human personality, discovery of the “subconscious”, ego, id, and super ego, and the “defense mechanism” that he identified, still hold as founding tenets of psychology today.  He often used terms that mean very different things today and to other people, that were poorly interpreted. For example, he uses the term “erotic” to describe things that are stimulating, exciting, and obscurely motivating.  Today, this kind of emotion is attributed solely to “sex”.  Which can be offensive when you are talking about “objects”. 
What Does Freud Have To Do With The Father Daughter Relationship? 
   The Oedipus complex is one of the misunderstood Freudian theories. Most of you know it as “Women are attracted to/ marry their fathers and men are attracted to/ marry their mothers”.  With such generalization, so much is lost in translation.  First most people immediately think “physical” and “visual”.  But Freud is not the “Father of modern visual style and biology”.  He is known as “The Father of modern Psychology”.  He wasn’t talking about what they “look like” (though physical appearance, as important and varied as it has become in our society) but rather what their personality type is expressed.  Another variation on this in our society is the your “emotional father figure” and “emotional mother figure” is not necessarily your biological father or mother.  We live in a society where 70% of the children born to women under 30 are born into single parent homes.  Divorce and unmarried couples that split are at unconscionable numbers in Freud’s time.  You can’t copy a pattern that you are never aware of.  A man can not learn to mimic his father if his father doesn’t exist.  Nor can he learn how to pick and treat a wife.  Likewise, a daughter who never knows her father, can not see her mother being attracted to him, nor she can not see how she should be expected to be treated by him. But the human mind NEEDS a pattern. So it will seek out an alternative way to acquire one.  
 Crude Pattern Recognition
   This topic is far too extensive to put in this post.  So you will have to accept the premise or go and validate it somewhere else (I recommend Dan Gilbert’s TED talk for starters). OR wait till I get around to writing a post directed at the subject.  But, basically, our brains are crude pattern recognition tools. We experience patterns with our senses, and then assign “feelings” to them.  Fear, love, hate, ignore, and other “associations” (think Skinner Box here) are made and reactions planned.  In a traditional healthy family, at birth, two parents start doting over us.  We have needs, they take care of them, we associate comfort, love, trust, and appreciation to them to the point of dependency.  Separation at this point is devastating.  Mommy and daddy really aren’t any different at first.  They establish their difference in the months to come.  To what extent depends upon the cultural and family practices. As girls grow into being girls, and boys into boys, they begin to identify themselves as one of those roles.  But, how are they to act?  For that, they mimic the patterns they see that they believe is most like themselves.
   Sadly in the US society, that image comes from a television, video game, a mother playing both roles, a rotating “father figure”, or a father that is more like a child himself.  Without this strong bond and unassailable sense of direction, girls and boys may look to teachers, religious figures, or the creepy guy down the street for that pattern to mimic.  They may just “try stuff” (experiment) and see how their friends and family react.  It has become such an unpredictable method of learning about the world. 
Tradition Once Broken Can Not Easily Be Mended
     The problem is “Being a good parent takes having examples of good parents.”  Too many generations have we given up our right/ opportunity/ role of being parents, of teaching ethics, morals, spirituality, philosophy to “the system”.  At younger and younger ages we are sending them off to the jungle of group education.  There they learn from other kids how to think and feel about sex, drugs, violence, and what it means to be “a good person”.  They loose trust in the parent that they don’t see very often.   The political environment has an indirect say, often passive-aggressive messages that may not be in line with the parents.  (For example forcing “transgender bathrooms” in middle and high school. This says to the child that an authoritative figure condones sex for pleasure and behaviors that surrounds it.  A child without direction may feel the need and the pressure to try it out.)    An example of accepting a behavior is the same as condoning it.  Parents, often so busy just “putting a roof over their heads and food on the table”, are absent with that voice.  Making it worse is the few times children see today’s parents, they are getting drunk watching sports and/ or screaming at the TV.  They try to shove parental responsibilities and “Being adult” children themselves into the same time space.  Assuming that their little onlookers are less observant and “stupider” than they are.   Lacking understanding of how to parent, they wrongfully believe that they can behave in ways in front of their children that they wouldn’t accept in their children.  Telling your children not to drink and smoke while you have a beer and a cigarette in your hand is more than pointless. They see a parent’s mixed messages, that makes the parent a hypocrite, thus, an untrusted source. Losing respect for the parent, leaves the parent only with the option of controlling them by use of fear.  This is why the common concept of beating your kids and negative reinforcement is useful as a tool, is so profoundly common in our culture. Sentiment such as “kids are bad today because they don’t get spanked like they used to” is far too common.  This despite all the research to the contrary. The voice that matters most, to any of us, is the one that the message never varies.  Often, for kids, that is the  kids they are friends with.  Don’t know  about you, but I don’t think a 14 yr old boy has the best message for a 14 yr old girl.  I never do anything  in front of my (now 8 yr old) daughter that  I would not want her to do.  Actions speak louder than words, by far. 
Be a Good Example of The Role You are Assigned 
   So, be the man you want your daughter to marry.  Be the husband you want your son to be. Be the woman you want your son to marry.  Be the woman you want your daughter to become. Show him what he is expected and can expect, where his strengths and boundaries are as a man.  Show her what is expected and what she can expect.  Teach her to settle for nothing less.  Teach them both that patience and slow moving in this society pays off big in the end. For god’s sake, “making choices” does not come natural to human beings!  Teach them both to be strong, make choices, don’t be afraid of screwing up, don’t be afraid to make a good choice.  Teach them that innocence can only be lost once.  Be it a true “innocence” or a relative one.  Once you give up enough, you cross the line and it gets harder to walk away.  “Where did you learn to let men walk all over you?!”  “I learned it by watching you, alright, I learned it by watching you!”  
And Obvious Problem
   Let’s say enough of us agree with this sentiment.  In fact, bad parenting is far from costless to our society.  This lack of good examples has been shown to increase chances of going to prison or being impoverished and in need of government subsidy.  What could be done as a matter of policy.  When I suggest parents being held more responsible, and thus held more accountable, for their children’s actions I am often chastised. If parents felt there was consequences to not being involved, would it not promote involvement.  What would such a policy look like?  I guess for me, simply saying “not being a good example is bad” is not enough.  How do we, as a society, address that issue? With the statistics of those in single parent homes, this is beyond an “epidemic”, bad parenting is a global crisis.  

In his TED talk on the book and Subject of “The Psychology of Evil”, Professor Phillip Zimbardo Said, “Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He comes down and says, “I want to know, who is responsible? Who are the bad apples?” Well, that’s a bad question. You have to reframe it and ask, “What is responsible?” Because “what” could be the who of people, but it could also be the what of the situation, and obviously that’s wrongheaded.” The “What” Zimbardo is talking about is what psychologist and sociologist refer to as “Social environment” or rather “Environment” in many cases. Often times when describing a behavior such as addiction, obesity, homosexuality, and depression scholarly articles will explain something like, “Scientist and researchers believe that these behavioral traits are the result of both biological and environmental factors.” (Though many times they can name the environmental factors and the study that links them, but hardly ever the biological factors that stand up to any peer review.) The individual experiences make up a tree, a single event. All of them combined make up a living breathing unique “forest” that is the whole person. Most people believe their choices to be the result of their conscious deliberate efforts and telling them that “if you had been put in the situation of the people you criticize, with the same experiences, you would have done the same thing” draws the ire of cognitive dissonance. It is just hard for us to see how we could have “felt” and thus acted any differently. The fact that our senses report to our brains that can not, themselves experience directly the outside world, and through indirect interpretation, resolve to a reaction based upon past experiences. Those experiences are out of our control most often. If our brains are a “judge or jury” then our conscious desires would be the plaintiff and the social environment would be the defense. This post is about trying to make social environment more “graspable”. You can not find much about this topic, at least written in English.

Positive Environmental Movement: Stairway To Zen.

While Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment is a fine example and useful in explaining “group environment”, understanding the individual will is better demonstrated by Milgram’s “conformity” experiment or Skinner’s box. To use an analogy as an example of will being changed by immediate and present environment, let me start with this. Imagine you are a secretary sitting at the reception desk of a small office building. You have been assigned some logging and filing that you are doing in hopes of pleasing your boss and getting whatever rewards comes from that. Already, here we see your will is not your own. If it were, you probably would have stayed in bed this morning. But let’s imagine this environment changes in two very different ways. First in walks a man with a large bouquet of flowers and ask for “Molly”, the accountant. You recognize the guy as Molly’s longtime boyfriend “Joe” who has been to 2 Christmas parties. You were intent on, and left unobstructed, to be productive. However, this change in environment has your will shifted to warm interaction, and gleefully sharing in the pleasant joy of the flowers Molly is about to receive. Joe’s actions changed your will and actions. We could dig deeper and say that Molly’s actions from the night before, influenced Joes actions, which influenced your actions, which are about to have an effect on not only Molly, but the rest of the office staff. This is Karma in motion. There is now a living breathing environmental relationship with all those people in the circle of influence. How you react to your senses registering “Joe”, “Flowers”, his request, and your current priorities all have an effect on your behavior. Change your past experiences with any of the stimulus, or change the stimulus, and the behavior, predictably in most cases, change. In the negative sense, this is often called, “escalation”.

Negative Environmental Movement: Escalation To Hell

Let’s look at a negative example. Now suppose you knew that Molly and Joe’s relationship was on the rocks. Joe has a restraining order against him. Joe enters the building, and even if you were cold and uncaring about Molly getting flowers before, you now are moved by this presence relative to your knowledge. Then you see the gun and hear him say, “where is Molly!!?” I can guarantee you were not planning on cowering and hiding behind your desk when you left the house today. The stimulus you perceive at the change in this environment. There is nothing in the resulting behavior that is part of your chosen “will”. however, it is “predictable” and in fact, probably the intentions of somebody other than yourself. You chose to do that only because of Joe’s will and his actions. Like the other example, Molly’s actions from the night, weeks, ect. before have led to your being in this situation. Likewise, the whole office is affected by Joe’s action from this day forward. That is different than somebody getting flowers that will be quickly forgotten. If somebody was to start screaming or even introduce another gun to the situation, this environment could (and most likely would) quickly escalate. People who are trained hostage negotiators are trained to “deescalate” situations. Which means their will is to manipulate the will of the offender to be more relaxed, more open to less violent options. So what if the intent was of a group to grow larger, manipulate more people to join their cause and create “Social Pressure”. Once you join the cause, you now have inspiration to escalate. This is the root of group, gang, and mafia initiations. But here, in this analogy, your role of an afraid witness and “Joe’s” role of a crazed ex lover are locked in a much more direct relationship.

All Influences Are Not Created Equally

Using this example, we have seen how one person, only loosely related to another, had various levels of influence upon each other’s will. There are some general truths about the effect of ones will and the strength and longevity of influence that can be predicted. (I will resist the opportunity to delve deeply into the effect of parenting, or lack there of, in our current society.) For example, a stranger has less effect on your will than somebody your know, respect, interact with routinely, and/ or “love”. Parents and/ or initial care givers have your respect and hold you as valid until the day you prove them to be false or in opposition. So if “will” is the result of how you assess and react to stimulus, these sources are those that introduce many of your “first impressions”. So strength, longevity, and validity of a “belief” is far more profound from a familiar source than an outside source. Likewise, if a person looks, sounds, or affirms that of people of sources you believe in, they can share in that strength of validity.

A person in the elevator says, “nice shirt” you feel uplifted, and an overall feeling of joy may contribute your mood. But it will be quickly forgotten consciously. Now, if it was somebody you found attractive, the compliment might even effect your behavior in the future when picking out cloths to wear in public. A spouse, a friend, or a family member all will have different lasting effects with the same comment. inversely, A stranger you overhear (intentionally or inadvertently) passing on the street saying something about your attire will last longer and have more of an impact than a criticism from some mild acquaintance you interact with on a daily basis. The later will have other opportunities to change that impression.

In the above example, it was pointed out that fear has a much longer impact than joy. You will remember the feelings and reactions associated with the day somebody came to your work place and initiated a fear response far longer than one of pleasant joy. A rape victim may have only spent hours or less with her offender, but the impact will be longer lasting and stronger than that of all those that try to comfort her. Every entity from marketers to politicians know that fear is a far greater motivator to get you to relinquish your will for one that they predict and can “value” than any other emotion. Partly, this is why we have evolved as far as we did. Because, if we didn’t have caution and remember that a rustling bush held a lion once instead of a raccoon, thus making us more cautious of moving bushes, then we would have met pretty rapid ends. But we remembered and formed an emotional response called “anxiety”. We eventually transferred that anxiety through stories, songs, writings, and media. This is why there are advertisements for “one day only!”, “while supplies last”, and “don’t be left out” type of commercials than there are any other type. This is also why no matter how strong the intent for a politician to “remain positive” and “not conduct a negative mudslinging campaign”. They always do. Because so long as their competitor is willing to do it, they have an edge the well intending politician can’t compete with. The whole point of a campaign is to motivate you to do something you otherwise would not have. This notion of “transferred anxiety” is the bridge between personal influences and personalities into one that makes a group predictable and the collective will more powerful than the individuals.

Moving The Group: Herd Mentality

Lots of discussion has been had recently about the actions of groups as a result of riots, demonstrations, and racial tensions. So how does incidents that seem mild and in fact common, swell into riots. We all belong to various “groups” and this is more true than ever before. Leaders are people who “tell stories”, “paint pictures”, provide a backdrop to a groups mutual beliefs.

This is where the understandings of the Stanford Prison Experiment come into this discussion. If you are not aware of the SPE and how it worked, I really suggest you look it up. The basics though is that in just 6 days 18 ivy league college students, randomly assigned roles, changed and did things that had their environment not changed, they would never have chosen to do. 9 of them assigned to be “guards” become torturous, belligerent, controlling monsters. A total of 10 (because one did request to leave) descended into being subjugated, repressed, and rebellious. They actually believed themselves to be prisoners. This was just after 6 days. The head of the experiment was Zimbardo himself who positioned himself to be the “superintendent”. Imagine living in an environment of poverty and crime. An environment where people who “make it” leave and the only leaders and influences are people who are committing crime and/ or are impoverished. Education is hard to come by. Examples of whole families are rare and far between. At this point in time, elders still remember the days of repression, mistreatment, and being considered second class citizens. This is a life long influence as they look into the eyes of those who would make up and enforce the laws. When they see these events the details they focus on are the ones that confirm the narrative they have been told and even experienced their whole lives. Lashing out, rage, riots are predictable. Thus the president of the US was on TV the moments before the verdict that they knew would incite the anger was announced.

Another element to the rioters are the observers. A reaction to these misunderstood actions often leads to escalation and counterproductive banter. Eventually the fire just burns itself out, but the issues remain unresolved. I have endured endless banter of those who see the rioting as individual acts. People who have never walked a mile in the shoes of the people they are judging. People assume that the behaviors related to group will is the result of individuals first justifying their behaviors and then act upon them. The evidence (like that of SPE or Abu Ghraib) observes the opposite is true, that the actions are often subconsciously manifest and then consciously justified. Like a gambler trying to explain why he spent all his money or an adulterer explaining why he cheated, so it is with the actions once the explosion of a riot breaks out or any other group activity. These activities and justification can have such a powerful effect that they can have physiological changes. This explains the “power of prayer”. The observers can’t understand what they are not a part of.

Predictability Of Demographics

It is the goal of science to make predictions that come true. When those predictions are the result of our social groups, they are useful information. Marketers like to call these groups, “demographics” and they study them to determine and predict behavior. If we truly had “free will” this would play hell on being a marketer. By its very nature free will is random. Choices that are random are unpredictable and impossible to predict. But if a marketer knows what group you belong to, and can learn the “narrative” they can predict what you will value. Then it is a matter of offering you what you want. But, today, it is far less of an innocent passive arrangement. Marketers have found ways to write and manipulate that narrative. Thus the rise of high dollar sports and symbolism and branding. “Wear these shoes like everybody else in your group does, like your idol and leader does.” When these idols are media figures like musicians and actors who play up the stereotype and write lyrics and scripts that reinforce that narrative, it fuels the fire. I guess indirectly, just as our story of “Molly and Joe” had indirect influence over the secretaries will, so do marketers have indirect responsibility for the unrest. They can predict the behaviors of the demographic, some do and know that they play a dangerous game, yet they do it because there is money to be maid. And when it goes south, they can slink into the corners and say, “hey we had nothing to do with it, we all have ‘free will’.”

More And More Social Environment Matters

So that brings us to where marketing meets modern technology. In times before what we would now call “the modern world” the number and impact of our influences were far less random and disconnected from our geographically local environment than it is today. As short as a few hundred years ago, the people that influenced your will were first and most often your family. Then your community or tribe (extended family) had an impact. Lastly might have been your church or spiritual leaders. Nature itself had a much more profound impact on your chosen actions than it does in our very artificial world. Weather, local habitat, and a encounters with wild life were more often likely to influence a person’s “will” than today. As we modernized, influence came from radio, then TV, and onto today’s world of mass advertisement and social media. People can read this post from places around the world, in many different languages, and be influenced by my thoughts. My will is to change the way people see other people and find mutual likenesses. Social media has had monumental impact. We have seen entire regions of the world fall into revolution based upon the connections and influence of social media. In the past, people would have feared expressing open and in person discontent with a government or a system. But social media gives distance and mild anonymity. As people started expressing their desires, fears, and frustrations that they felt were individual, they became aware that they had numbers, and with numbers, the unlikely casting off of their oppressors became a likely possibility all based on the “relative will” of each other.

While regions still dominated by tribal and 3rd world ideologies found understanding of these influences, the modern communities of the west seem to play down or completely disregard the notion of “relative will”. They trumpet “free will” and preach self-responsibility as if it is an actual choice. Living on communes we call “communities” and call for liberty as if our actions stop at our person. The impact of social influence now extends and is more frequent based upon social circles. Today, as parent at young and younger ages, go back to the work force and their children are left to have their will shaped by people outside of the family. Their teachers and peers are more often a much more profound of an impact on what choices they make. Further, laws and social norms that shape the acceptance of the way we view sex, drugs, and violence have neglected the existence of “relative will” and promote the irrational notion of individual freedom of choice. Marketers have as much of an influence on the notions of sex, drugs, and violence than parents do. It isn’t that we are not crafting the will of the younger generations and their beliefs are random. They are being crafted, just by people looking to make money off of them, and not ones that care for their longevity.

Leadership and Will

I have always wondered, and even with this understanding still wonder, “what made so many Germans follow a madman such as Hitler?” The things that were done to the Jews as well and the willingness of so many men to fight as his soldiers is just perplexing. Something got that social environmental snowball rolling, and there was nothing that slowed it down. Not until the leader was destroyed, and then it was like they just woke from their haze. Likewise, I assert that I believe I could have saved millions of lives and averted a world war with a hug (or many hugs) if I could have just met Hitler at a much younger age and gave him attention and direction. He could have, with the right environment, been the source of much good. However, Hitler’s charisma and offering of an idea that many wanted to believe, he was able to start that ball a rolling.

Later in that TED talk Zimbardo said, “Heroism as the antidote to evil, by promoting the heroic imagination, especially in our kids, in our educational system. We want kids to think, I’m the hero in waiting, waiting for the right situation to come along, and I will act heroically. My whole life is now going to focus away from evil — that I’ve been in since I was a kid — to understanding heroes.”

What is a hero? A hero is a leader who changes the direction of a social situation. He/ she re-writes the narrative. They gain respect of their demographic, their group. They are people who reject the pressure of their own will if it would lead them to do something wrong, dysfunctional or most pleasurable. They instead run into fire, stand up to the bully, join the revolution against a repressive regime. With their voice, that proverbial snowball has nothing to slow it down. Whether the change is good or bad is often a matter of perspective.

Creating Heroes and Leaders

Fear is often caused by ignorance. AKA “fear of the unknown”. Fear can most easily hijack the will of the ignorant and weak minded. Understanding that our wills are relative to the wills of those we encounter leads to conclude some truths. The more educated, enlightened, knowledgeable a person or society is, the more they have the benefit over controlling not only their own, but the will of others. (Studies have shown that the more educated a woman is the more likely she is not to get pregnant until after she is married and financially self sustainable.) These strong and fearless personalities can shape the way of the world in this globally influenced communities. The downside is that provides validation of that line from Spider-man, “with great knowledge comes great power, with great power comes great responsibility.” Children are not born into this world to end up criminals, degenerates, or even homeless and unproductive. Sure, we are responsible for our own choices. However, with this understanding, we cannot absolve ourselves as a society of the part we have played in creating the individual, in shaping his or her personality, in controlling their will with our own.

Conclusion And Thoughts

This is certainly a harder concept for us in the west to understand. In my area a pizza delivery man was killed by an addict for less than $40. One of my pro gun acquaintance said, “this is why I carry”. The problem with this belief is that it discounts the fact that, as with any environment, any change a single person makes is subject to the “butterfly effect”. First, if a delivery guy is to be ready for the rare addicted psychopath, he would have to have gun drawn on every customer as they answer the door. Which will reduce not only his tips he needs to survive, but the number of pizzas ordered for delivery. But, the influence wouldn’t stop there. As addicts learn that pizza delivery guys might be carrying, the ones that would have just robbed and ran away, will find the option of shooting first and taking the money and maybe even a gun, more “pleasurable”. The act of simply a few delivery guys successfully thwarting their robberies would send stories and change the behavior of future robbers.

If there is one thing I would like the reader to take away from this post, it would be this realization. Over sexualizatoin on TV, sports, and media, the legalization of self medicating substances, the honoring of men and women with great regard whose job is to blindly follow orders and kill people at request, all of these “influence” the will of our people. Whether you think these are “Rights”, “good or bad”, or functional, they are not devoid of influencing the will. If you support and promote these ideas, then you must be willing to accept that there are adverse consequences that lead people to believe and thus act in ways that are clearly not good, healthy, or socially functional. When a person ends up in prison, homeless, or prematurely dead, it is a failing of their choice. But it is also a failing of their parents and it is also a failing of our systems. We should not just absolve ourselves of the responsibility of these failings.

I believe this book should be mandatory reading in high school. I do not concur with the use of drugs to treat the disorder. Rather, I see this as a calling to the US and western society in general that we have to acknowledge we are doing things wrong, and we have to compensate for our modern lives while still being the humans we have always been. If there is one thing this book shows it is that a healthy stable family, with biological mother and father offering a single message with an attentive persistence is far more important than we give credit to. It shows that our hyper sexual, hyper violent, hyper addictive society has come to force acceptance of the symptoms of our dysfunction on the culture instead of correction the root problem of shoring up the family. This is reflected in our pressure to accept abortion and gay marriage, wars and guns, and marijuana and prescription psychotics. These new policies are designed to remove the consequences (that often come unpredictable and grouped together as this book shows) for poor behavior. It shows that the way we live as observed by the rest of society and to young mind, is confusing, hypocritical, and damaging in its message. These mixed messages can lead to a lifetime of confusion and mental angst.

Judge my conclusion only after reading this or a like scientific text. Many of these conclusion are in opposition of my own self interest or that which would make me “feel” good. I can only follow the evidence. I can only recommend changes to the system based upon the feedback from the cycles.

Here is the book in PDF form.
I Hate You–Don’t Leave Me

Empathy Defined:

First, so we are starting from a common understanding of the concept, I would like to define the word. I often hear or see it misused.
“1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it

2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”
This is not to be confused with “Sympathy” which is “Feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” Empathy is synthesized sympathy. That is why the two are often confused.

Empathy, therefore, is the ability to project yourself, having never had an identical (or sometimes even close) occurrence of the same experiences. It is the foundation upon which “love” is built. Systematically speaking it is the ability to feel pleasurable chemical releases associated with interhuman connections without actually having duplicate stimuli experiences recorded in memory to relate the response to. Without identical events to compare, we must “reason” to an emotional conclusion. For example, If you have ever had a shot, or tasted something unpleasant, or hitting your finger with a hammer, we can observe somebody doing the same activity and we can experience sympathy. We know how that feels, there is no need for computing or applying reasoning. However, many of us have never experienced somebody close to us dying, never experienced being blind, never experienced being destitute, then we have to reason it out using what we do know and behave accordingly. We have to think about the time we missed somebody we loved, and then synthesize sympathy via those memories and imagining that it never ended, they we knew they were never coming back. Computing how that feels and coming up with how to behave towards the person feeling that. We have never been blind, but we may be able to think about how bad we are without our corrective lenses and then how much we use our eyes, and synthesize that sympathy by reasoning that being completely unable to use our eyes would be worse. We have observed and projected that, from our perspective; empathy does exist in some animals at a lower level. (Get to “levels” in a moment.) But for the most part, this adaptation is what makes us the Superior race and species. Empathy is what makes up human. When we see human characters in an animal, we are Empathizing with them.

PFC, The Human CPU.
So what was systematically so important about empathy that the human race felt the need to really embellish, improve, and even grow the capacity for empathy? In fact, we developed a specialized tool for formulating and processing Empathy. Dan Gilbert put it best in a TED lecture I saw recently. He describe the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) as a “flight simulator” capable running scenarios without actually having to experience them. We don’t need to slam our thumb with a hammer to know that it hurts. We can take in the stimulus of the behavior, the look on people’s eyes who have recently don it, the look of the thumb days later, and the curse words coming out of their mouths and run the scenario in our heads and think, “ I sure as hell don’t want to do that!” or “If I had done that, I would want somebody to get me some ice, show me some attention.” I was yet a virgin when seeing porn and experiencing the stimuli of the sounds and looks on the people bodies and faces, added that to what I had learned while exploring my own body, and “reason” (The act of computing things that are known against things that are unknown and resulting in conclusions.) “That looks pleasurable. I must do that.” Even the most inexperienced can use empathy to learn and react. Children can use the unpleasing look in your eyes and on your face, the body motions, and the angry tone to determine that touching a hot stove will not be pleasurable. They saw you act that way when they did something dangerous or harmful before. They know how they felt when you were scolding them. Watching you suffer alone, in most cases, would be enough. They don’t need to have Pavlovian type training to draw that conclusion. (Though some people feel the need to anyway. That is called “overkill” and popular amongst helicopter parents.) That is the power of our advance PFC. It is the processor of our brains.

Empathy, A Product of Evolution.
So again, I wonder, “why evolve this mechanism to synthesize empathy?” Well you have to go back to the fact that we are social, tribal, and group animals. We are not the biggest animals. For our size, we are not even the strongest animals. Alone, we are not even the smartest animals. If we were like fish born into our environment without parental intervention, we would all die. But what we learned was that in a group, we were smarter, faster, stronger than any animal or group we encountered. Remember the Aesop’s fable about the “bundle of sticks” where the father has sons put sticks together to demonstrate their strength? (look it up if not.) Humans learned that lesson at some point. Evolutionary function systematically adapted our bodies to build that understanding. But to move, gather, hunt, protect, build, and learn more efficiently, to retain the lessons already learned and move on, Neanderthals had to develop a way to pass that information from human to human and have them retain it. It was equally important to get each other to want to stay connected. In order to do this, our brain needed a way to see other humans and feel emotional (and sometimes manifest into physical) stress and pain in order to provide the proper care. Sympathy already existed. When it was applied to the current message in the PFC and empathy was that way. With the knowledge that losing a member would make the group weaker and less smart, each member was protected out of self-preservation. Being able to predict and stop or remove one from danger as well as a desire to do so were all the outcome of the PFC and empathy.

Empathy Is “The Golden Rule”
“Do onto other as you would have done onto you” is the essence of the “golden rule”. The title of the article reflects how important it is to empathize. So in order to understand that, beyond a basic and identical capacity, how to respond when somebody else is hurt, happy, sad, fearful, lost, and 20,000 other emotions, we need empathy. We know that being called “fat”, “stupid”, “rude”, and “lazy” (aka “American”) is offensive. It is a child’s lesson to say, “You don’t call people those names. It hurts their feelings. You wouldn’t want somebody to call you those names!” It seems to be a far more difficult lesson to understand the hypocrisy when one calls somebody a “drug addict” while slurping down a caffeine filled coffee, a sugar coated doughnut, and smoking a cigarette. Even though your need to consume caffeine, nicotine, food, and booze are identical to other addictions. It is certainly next to impossible to apply empathy for the family of an enemy soldier. We see a beggar on the street begging for some change, and, not knowing a single thing about his plight, we have no means to feel empathy for those cold, hungry, and depressed. Because it is necessary to teach it, the golden rule has been a foundation of every peaceful philosophy ever contrived. It is based upon just this depth of empathy. To look beyond your eyes, ears, and nose when judging somebody and “feel” their pain, and accept that you know nothing of their experiences.

Levels of Empathy
AS promised, a addressing of levels of empathy. Because the goal of evolution and the product of “The Human System” is to create a human that is more equipped to take on changing environmental threats and continue its genetics into the future, an order was the natural result of this need. The order of preservation goes like this. The self, the family, people of the same physical characteristics (race), People of the same geographical location (country), then people with the same philosophy or religion, and lastly people of the same species as yourself. There are some cultures that order things slightly differently, but this is generally it. The magnitude in which you are able to apply empathy is dependent upon where the person you are viewing ranks in your scheme of preservation. The more readily you have access to sympathy, the more intensely you can experience empathy. Empathy is the priming mechanism used to get the connection moving and it is rooted in self-preservation. Without empathy, we would stop at self-preservation. As people become more aware and more enlightened, if you will, they begin to notice the value in preserving themselves by preserving those outside of them. No dog or fish understands the need to share empathy with people half way around the globe. But humans do. But they don’t feel as much “connection” as they do to people in their family. That is exemplified by a trip to Wal-Mart where we see endless rows of toys and electronics made under conditions that we would never stand for here in our own country. Empathy’s equalizer is “cognitive dissonance”.

The Dangers Of The Loss Of Empathy And The Rise Ff Individualism
We have seen empathy diminish over the generation. This is especially true in western cultures and cultures touched by western influence. There is a divergence in growing communities between perception and reality. Many cultures, like those of the United States, the citizens believe they are free to make choices free from influence upon the tribe and/ or by the tribe. They are unable to see how the choices and behaviors of others affect and influence their own. They BELIEVE they are individuals and self-sustaining. That is the perception. Many times Empathy is painful. In a country where there is a lot of pain, this is especially true. It is allowed because a diminishing of empathy has allowed for them to disconnect, to not feel that pain, from the other tribe members. We don’t even see a need to protect our children beyond physical harm. We often pawn the education and development of the empathetic system of our offspring on to the government via the public school system. That often covers very little of the needed education leaving the children to form little sub tribes and randomly through experimentation and chance, develop a moral and ethical system to base their empathy on. Capitalism drives individualism. This causes empathy to be seen as a weakness. Bullying, reclusiveness, and irrational and boisterous behavior is the result of pushing out empathy. The whole time these members of the tribe believing they are individuals, even though the reality is very few of them could supply their own food, shelter, and clothing without the contributions of a governing body to help. This self-preservation is not being coupled with self-sustainability. They have become too specialized to operate as separate family units, let alone separate beings. However, family units have become so disconnected that they are not even able to associate functionally with their own family members. So the populations waxes and wanes between the dysfunctional belief that they can exist on their own and calls for more support from the government. These types of societies are like teenagers screaming they “can’t wait till they grow up!!” and “Can I borrow the car Please?”.

Antidepressants and Antianxiety Medicine and Empathy.
Here is my “overall understanding” of how AD’s work. With this grasp on how empathy works and its importance in continuing Human civilization, It can be applied in this way. This is what I have “reasoned” using my person experience with them and empathizing with others. Much of the things we do are because we understand how those decisions will affect the people we care about (empathy). Why is it wrong to have an affair, steal what you want, lie to people, kill people, get drunk/ high/ or addicted, rape, spend money without reserve, lash out at people you who piss you off, commit suicide, or sit around the house and do nothing? Because you have people in your life that you care about, right? Remembering that Freud projected that most decision (including the ones you never make) occur on the subconscious level, long before they become conscious consideration. Most of us like at least one of the the ideas of sex, drugs, lashing out, taking what we want, spending like we are on vacation, making out pain go away, and/ or sleeping the day away. But we don’t because we know that our actions will cause somebody else emotional pain. If it is somebody we care about, then we are driven to do something against our immediate gratification. Depression and anxiety occurs the level of empathy is nearly equal to the level of personal desire. For example, as a high school kid we really want to stay in our bed and sleep, but that will make our mom very angry. So our choice becomes staying in bed (at which point other negative stimulus will be applied until the pleasure to get out exceeds the pleasure of staying in bed by our parents) which will lead somebody we care about being angry and sad and thus to unhappiness. The other choice is to get out of bed, which is also not going to lead more directly to our happiness. When the only two options that we view leads to discomfort, anxiety ensues as we first search for another option. If we don’t find another option, then depression results.

Suicide is one of the most selfish acts a human can ever take. It is an assault against the whole tribe. IT pleases only the person who took their life and absolves them of any consequences for their action. However, nearly all Antidepressants have black box warning about suicide. Even stranger they require a doctor to keep in contact with the patients care takers to watch for “abnormal behavior”. So an analytical mind wants to know, “Why don’t they ask the patient” and “Why is a drug used to treat depression being held responsible for suicide?” The reason is that the patient isn’t aware of anything different. They have always had these thoughts. But in the past, empathy, concern for how others would feel, stopped them from doing something so selfish. But that lead to further discomfort and unhappiness. They have always wanted to kill themselves but empathy stopped them. Proponents of these dangerous pills will say things like, “They are most dangerous because when you take them, people get the energy to kill themselves.” They are not energy pills. Many would tell you they are quite the opposite. What they do is remove your inhibitions, your empathy. The following are symptoms of “mania” brought on by the use of antidepressants.
Excessive happiness, hopefulness, and excitement,
Sudden changes from being joyful to being irritable, angry, and hostile
Restlessness, increased energy, and less need for sleep
Rapid talk, talkativeness
Racing thoughts
High sex drive
Tendency to make grand and unattainable plans
Tendency to show poor judgment, such as impulsively deciding to quit a job
Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity — unrealistic beliefs in one’s ability, intelligence, and powers; may be delusional
Increased reckless behaviors (such as lavish spending sprees, impulsive sexual indiscretions, abuse of alcohol or drugs, or ill-advised business decisions)

Many on Antidepressant experience low levels of this disconnection. They find they are no longer in love with their spouse, happy with their job, connected to work. They don’t feel the anxoiety associated with not having enough money, food, or other resources to provide for anything other than their self and the immediate needs. They don’t feel obligated to make their parents or children happy, even if they have valid concerns. Many find that lying to them is acceptable in order to avoid uncomfortable thoughts that wouldn’t make them feel good. Because if you can’t think, “How would I feel if my loved one lied to me”. That would require empathy. They can feel that ideas such as not using drugs or alcohol, spending, or stealing had “trapped” them before. They may not want to get up and go to work, but they have function enough to know they have to if they want to support themselves. At the extreme, mania can absolve all empathy. This is where personalities like that of the black widow, rapist, serial killer, suicidal, or shooters come to life. In this state their empathy system is disconnected, but they are still able to plan and very good at manipulating others. They can be in this state for months, because they are being held there by an upset in their chemical system and the way the PFC is functioning. Manic behavior is also identified with brain damage to the PFC and previously with lobotomies. These people lacking all empathy and what they desire they can plan for. Immediate and unrestrained self-gratification is the only drive.

Over Empathizing
While it may not be possible to “over emphasize”, it is quite possible to “over empathize”. Since providing empathy often results in another person paying attention, seemingly being “fixed” emotionally speaking, and building some loyalty, it is possible for people to apply too much empathy to a person or a behavioral trait. Psychologist call this state of “over empathizing” enabling. When the behavior is one that is destructive to the community this is not healthy as a form of connection. Parents need to be able to reject empathy in order to deliver negative reinforcement sometimes. In western culture we have seen over the years a rash of social acceptance of dysfunctional behaviors. Some deserved acceptance but came without understanding of a need to make up consequences. Slavery ending was a good thing for example. However, there was no consideration as to what plan should be instated to deal with the new role as members of the culture. But that is an issues for a different post all together. But generally the course that is leading to out devaluing of the tribe goes like this. First there is a dysfunctional behavior. The person(s) conducting that behavior is ostracized and criticized by the tribe. A few members unable to control their own empathy rush to the aid of the people acting dysfunctionally. The culturally damaging behavior then finds “reward” and the people who are doing the “Rewarding” also get pleasure. Now those onlookers that are weaker in character also seek comfort of having people be attentive to them. So they either assume the bad behavior in order to first draw social ire and then the relief of the attention that comes with it. The other option is to be one of those who “enable” the bad behavior. Less reward, but less risk. The poorly behaved and the enable then form a group. The group forms a cause. The cause forms a movement. The movement then calls the dysfunctional behavior a “right”. The “right” is then forced into public consideration. Where empathy for those we care about is juxtaposed opposed to what we know is bad behavior. That paralyzes those that care the most. That leaves only the extremes to battle it out. Think of enabling an alcoholic instead of forcing them to deal with their alcoholism. (This is a truly grey and fluid area. The need for occasional emotional medication has been part of human culture since the dawn of humanity. ) Next thing you know, drinking too much alcohol becomes a right. The society becomes infested with alcoholism. More deaths and dysfunctional members are produced as a result of what has become a right. Much of that “production” isn’t caused genetically, but rather a result of other members, especially younger and more impressionable, seeing the alcoholics having fun and getting attention. They seek that self-gratification. In the end not all things should be “conserved” but that is a far cry from “every behavior should be liberated”.

The Need to Reintroduce Empathy.
This is a long post I know. I thank those who read through it. But we need to go a little further to complete the circle of this idea. Our culture, and really our world, has lost this sense of tribalism. For generations now we have hardened our receptors to the feeling of empathy. Part of that is because there are so many of us. In the frontier towns where there was 1 miller, 1 doctor, 1 blacksmith, and a community of people to raise crops, any one of them missing was felt as a loss. In a tribe, everybody was trained to do everything the tribe needed. But everybody was needed to do the chores. A loss of one meant a reduction of access to basic needs. In those communities the strength of the people was greater than sum of the individuals. They were made strong, like bundles of sticks. Today, there are so many of us, we take life for granted. Not just in living it and ending it, but in creating it in the first place. If we cannot grasp what our ancestors knew all those thousands of years ago, that we are on this ship together and survival depends on us all understanding that, we will continue down this path of self-destruction. We will continue to deny the reality of science, deny that systems have actions and reactions. We will continue to pollute, make wars, and over populate. In the end, it will be to our ultimate demise. To think all you have to do is look at an addicted bum on a curb and instead of thinking, “what disgusting vile creature” you instead think “wow, I wonder how he got there. That is unfortunate. I wonder if I could help.”, is a big change. Compassion and empathy will go farther to promoting human rights, ending hunger, disease, wars, and providing peace on Earth than any act self-preservation. Until we come to understand that the human race is an organism, and we are simple cells of that organism, the lack of empathy will continue to destroy our chances at a future, the ultimate goal of any species.

The Lie The Tell Themselves

Often in the course of debate, I have such a hard time pinning down those who believe the “free market” (which is an indirect lottery) to see it is far from fair and just form of economic distribution, is because they are so willing to believe a lie. In this case the lie that the system is way more level than it actually is, those that believe “I did something and people paid me for it” is describing the subtle yet very real forces of sociology. Common sentiment are, “CEO/ Business owners worked hard to build their business” as if there were no laborers in their business. “I didn’t make these people poor, I provided them with jobs, they could have chosen to work elsewhere, and they took the offer I made them.” But that is a school of thought that so much lacks understanding of human psychology and sociology that it is darn near of the likeness to a sociopath. People believe all kinds of things about other different people that allows them to do some generally negative and dysfunctional behaviors. The consideration of other races of people are animals, or some less variety of human has lead the way to many wars and genocides. Republican pundits recently kept telling themselves that Romney would win, even though the chances for over a month before looked bleak. They had convinced themselves and their views that Obama was less than human. That he was a threat to their very existence. There is so much vested by some people in leadership choices, the thought of losing is incomprehensible. They want to believe they deserve more, so they accept a story that confirms it at face value.

Raw Examples of Social Experiments.
It is common to hear people exclaim, “Nobody held a gun to their head and make them do it.” But to think that only threat of harm is the only way to influence another person’s behavior is to reject 100 years of psychological understanding out of hand. Nobody held a gun to the “shockers” in Milgram’s experiments. Nobody forced the “guards” in the Stanford prison experiment (or in Abu Ghraib) to be mean, violent, or demean the students that were designated as “prisoners”. Many generations after the negative punishment of the Stephenson experiments with gorillas was removed, the anxiety still existed. When you have a single mom who lost her husband to a draft and a war who has to find out some way to care for her children, you don’t need a gun to get her to work for a dollar an hour. Those children witness their mother working for such low wages and when they feel the threat of financial ruin, they too accept that they have to work for low wages or die of starvation. When your other option is to return to your native country overrun by drug cartels, crimes, and corrupt governments, your option to live in a project shack, work for a dollar an hour, and collect welfare seems far superior.

What Causes One To Choose Inequality?
This is a question that in itself could be a post, if not a book. But forgoing the factors of life experiences that create different triggers and concentrating just on the mechanical meaning of the question, the answer can be summed. In order to get people to do something unjust, that subjugates them, and socializes them into something less than equal, one only needs to trigger their “Fight or flight” / fear mechanism, and then offer them hope the most desirable path. Remember we are driven by the pleasure principle. If you can control which options appears most pleasurable once all the consequences are weighed, then you can control their will. Sometimes informing them of an option they have never considered and using high pressure to force a quick decision is just the way to do it. Making a choice, even a bad one, has immediate good feelings involved. If a person made one with your help or urging, they can assign some pleasant feelings to you. Violence is only one method by which to trigger the fear mechanism. Fear of starvation, fear of being homeless, fear of social disgrace are all factors that violence cannot make one feel. Fear of these things happening to a child or loved one seems to compound the need for resolve. When that fear reaches an entire group, it spreads like wild fire. If you can find a segment of the society which is already riddled with destitution and fear, half your work is done. In the minds of many large business providers, they may even be able to think “I can help these people.” You can’t. There are no good options until they first help themselves. Nothing proves that more than the popping up of not only Wal-Marts, but “payday lenders” and now “internet cafe’ casinos as well. Breeding ever so slightest sprinkles of home for security, equality, and justice and many will flock to it like starving pigeons. People choose inequality because they feel they have no choices (and sometimes don’t) where they are equal. Sometimes the choices that will lead to equality are a matter that require the entire community to unite and work together. In those cases the few who break ranks earn reward, but at the cost of the whole community. A drug dealer is an extreme example of this. Everybody knows they are bad for the community. But a few do it because they see pleasure in it over the risks.

The Slave Example
So back in the late 1800’s a “business owner” could go to a market and buy a human being to do services for him. The term I was describing before is called “cognitive dissonance” which is how the mind justifies a contradiction. Now he (the cotton famer) could say that he simply purchased them because “Somebody was gonna do it”. Many would go on to boast about how good they were as salve owners. “I never hit or mistreat my slave. I treat him with respect, and I even put a new roof on that old chicken coop (Which I no longer allow chickens to live in) so he wouldn’t get wet when it rained. Good guy, right? So, if he has no threat of physical violence, why does the slave stay? Because where is he going to go. What are his other options? Outside the farmer’s protection, there are people who would be violent towards him or her. He can’t own land, go to school, earn money, ride on a bus, go to a hospital, or even in some cases teach himself to read. The Underground Railroad gave opportunity to so few slaves and many that it did were so afraid of the consequences if they got caught, that they chose to stay. They are Africans, adapt to surviving in a completely different environment. Oddly enough, on the day that Lincoln freed the slaves he didn’t do them any favors. Many stayed, because, where the are they gonna go? If they are fresh off the boat the only help would have been to deny anybody buying a human being. But after a generation or two here, even that is not a rational solution. They can’t “go back to Africa”. They have no natural environment that is truly “free” any longer. They are “free” to make the only choice available and of their knowledge. Before they earned the right to be equal, many generations saw and became comfortable living in less than socially acceptable conditions and by less than acceptable behaviors. Today’s projects are the results of transferred anxiety and behaviors dating all the way back to the time when we could buy humans.

The “Reality” That Is Still There In The Morning When You Wake
So there are many many ways other than direct threat of violence to force a choice on people. If there is a threat to the 3 basic needs, the mind will quickly launch into anxiety and troubleshooting mode. “How am I going to fend off this threat?” If you offer a less then equal, just, or humane option to address that threat when no other option exists or is viewed as too big of a risk, then you have control of their will. Even if they know it won’t bring pleasure, the opposite is true of the pleasure principle. “There is no free will. The path that is perceives to cause the least amount of pain will always be chosen.” When the republicans woke up in the morning, they all started organizing movements to secede. The reality is that they had backed the loosing leader, the world didn’t end, and time moves forward. But fear drive their actions. If you control the fear, you control the individual in most cases. if you control the fear of the whole community, you can have subjects as loyal as any who are captive to a gun.