The Evolutionary Reason, The Romantic Notion, And The Over Use Of That 4 Letter Word.

I recently read an article that explored that this very question. The author pointed out that we use that word to describe our affections towards everything from food to technological gadgets, to music, to TV reality shows. We pledge our undying love to a mate or a spouse for all eternity. (Which it turns out last on average about 5 yrs. in American perception.) So what is this “love” emotion and why do animals such as humans need to develop such a thing. Why is it so prized and necessary to be long lasting? What it means really depends on what perspective you are considering.

Defining Love Chemically?

“Love”, chemically speaking, is the induction of a higher than normal flood of a few defined neurochemicals such as dopamine, adrenaline, serotonin, Oxytocin, and other I am sure. Some stimulus that has been identified as fulfilling a need in the past causes us to react. (I’ll Get back to this one) The idea is to give us a “high” that millions of poets, artist, and musicians have written about. This intoxication changes our behaviors and hesitations in a notable sense to those close to us. This is necessary to make us overcome our mistrust of strangers normally triggered by meeting them. That immediate “high” eventually wears and resolves into a more sustainable stimulus chemical response as this stranger becomes an important part of our environment. At that point, missing that object of our “love” is a trigger for less then comfortable chemical reactions. Depending on how close, we may even suffer withdraw.

Love Defined Romantically

We think of “Love” as blind siding us, coming from nowhere. While simply not true, again I will defer. It is this “thing” that makes us “want” to be near and do things for another person. It is magical what draws us to them. Creating pleasure and comfort for them bring the giver pleasure and comfort as well. Words are hard pressed to describe the euphoric feeling of being “in love”. Though many have tried, as I will. I am not a graphic artist, my art is in my writing, sometimes I wish I could paint a 1000 words. I have said in the past that if I could paint “Love” it would be two people standing in front of each other with their beating hearts in their hand, offering them as an exchange to each other while simultaneously saying, “I offer you the unique ability to hurt me. I have only your promise and my faith in you to protect me.” This is about as romantic of a picture as I could imagine. I think I take it from an old pick my parents had of Jesus that was one of those ones that moves as you moved your head. It showed a similar idea.
In a nut shell, “trust” is synonymous with love. And here is a little inside track guys. (come in close, I don’t want the ladies to hear this.) Get a chick to trust you, that you will be there for her, to protect her and provide for her, she will melt in your hands (so to speak). It doesn’t matter how much, or how endowed your tools are. The world will spin. In return, so will yours. Alright ladies you can come back.
Love in the romantic sense is a desire to be associated with another person in the entire community’s eyes. They know the person that “loves” you is one of your protectors and vice versa. That is the point of marriage.

Defining Love Psychologically

Love in the psychological sense is the placing of trust and security in another person (or object). This person or object has been identified as something you can turn your back on without fear of attack that will help promote your comfort necessity level. Our minds are forever trying to streamline the decisions between subconscious lessons learned and the conscious decision. The more a stimulus (sight, smell, taste, feel, sound, and thought) imitates something we have already deemed as “safe” and “desirable” the more are apt to feel affection for it.
The first thing we love is our mothers. Held in her arms supplying warmth, protection, and nutrients she is the first stimulus. Animals of all types know their mothers by sent dominantly. These things become the basis for all that we “love” in the psychological sense.. Next up should be a father providing very similar stimulus of warmth and protection. As you learn and develop, these two people provide the image of what love should look like. This is an affirmation of the Freud observation that we marry our parents. These things that we associate with providing care and protection become triggers for our system to supply the chemicals to produce the romantic feelings of “love”. That thought is what I was deferring to. If you love and respect parents who are intelligent, kind, and conscientious of their decisions, then you will look for those traits in a mate. If you hate your parents and you will choose a more rebellious approach. If your parents are aggressive, violent, short sighted, degenerates, then so it will be that you are attracted to such traits in a spouse. Dating somebody who isn’t of your like ilk is a source of much anxiety. That doesn’t matter how healthy, stable, and functional (good for you) the other person is.

A Systemic Look

Keeping in the spirit of this blog, our emotions work like a network router. When you first turn it on, it enters this “learning” state where it takes data in and stores it. It uses this data to later determine the shortest path to achieve its goal of delivering your favorite blog post. When it does its job completely, the receiving computer sends back an “ack” to say, “good job”. If a path goes down and becomes untrustworthy, a router throws out that option. There is a building process to reestablish a path’s trustworthiness. Some routers have an option that makes no sense. You can shut down all the ports. At which point the thing is nothing more than an expensive paper weight. So it is when we are first born, we are warmed, fed, and protected. We observe the stimulus associated with providing those needs. Chemical reactions are assigned to make us feel comfortable. Then in the future we perceive the same stimulus and immediately, without conscious though release those chemicals as motivation to continue to pursue said stimulus. Somebody who provides a steady stream of stimulus that causes out bodies to produce these good feeling get out “love”. If that love is violated there is a process that must transpire to reconnect that trust factor again. If parents falter in their responsibility to provide protection and care it can cause a person who has no basis to identify stimulus to trigger the trust and love emotions.

The Evolution Of Love.

So why did we humans develop this emotion of love? Restating my primary thesis, “we are born into this world needing the 3 basics. Nourishment, warmth, and protection.” Love was a very efficient way to form social connections that would more adequately supply these needs. We are designed to love from the moment we are born. Our senses take something in that provides one of these needs and we assimilate that to our subconscious so the next time we see it, we know to desire it. Not sure how to get it at first, but we will know we want it. So as we grew and became more complex creatures with more complex lives and emotions, so too did our understanding of how to process love became more complicated. In the prehistoric days, you provide food, make a fire, and are strong enough to protect a woman she loves you. If you look strong and healthy enough to help forage, hunt, and bear children, you too were “loved”. As the techniques and meanings of providing and care moved into working land, to bringing home a paycheck, the things that defined these needs become less direct, obvious, and therefor conscious. Now, much of what attracts us to a mate are based on calculations based way down in the subconscious. The family love each other and depend on each other to become a stronger unit. Our love of “things” possessions has always existed. There are things like a spear, a flint rock, or a cave that we have loved.

Who (And What) Do You Love And Why?

Now snap forward to a Materialistic world with both parents working, divorce rates and split homes as the norm for about 70% of all children at some point in their lives. We no longer find we can trust other people to supply “food, clothing, and shelter”. “My parents got divorced, cheated, lied and contradicted each other, my spouse will do the same one day.” “My friends and schools and clicks have changed so many times growing up, why trust anybody but myself?” In inanimate objects we can “trust” to provide our securities. That food will provide nutritional security. Those sounds help me drown out physical threats. Money can buy all kinds of security. Clothing can provide warmth, social status, protection, or just remind us of some other person who provided some influence. We all long to belong, but now at an arms distance. So we associate with things that can’t leave us. Sports teams, patriotism, military services, political parties, religions, and so on. They provide this distant sense of need to belong to a community though we have long forgotten why that need exists in the first place. Believe me. Being a Cleveland Browns fan provides absolutely no security. We spend a lot of time “lusting” after things that we believe will provide us with more stability and protection. Cars, electronics, and houses we think will gain us security.
As a result of this disconnected constantly changing way of life, We have lost the ability to “love” each other. We have exchanged our “communities” of the tribal nature for close quarter, independent living where nobody knows their neighbors. When somebody says “I love snoggie (?)” What they mean is that that character behaves in a way that the person saying it identifies as agreeable to their philosophy. When they say they “love (my) I-Phone”, it means that tool makes it easier for them to get food, protection, or warmth. Some algorithm deep in their subconscious has worked out that this advances their goal of acquiring their needs.

Conclusion?
Yes we do use that word too much. But like many other issues, it is a symptom of our dysfunctional culture/ society, and not something you can treat. It is a sign that we are pulling apart and becoming disconnected. There are all kinds of ill effects from that emerging reality. When I hear somebody say, “Love that burger” and then say they love me.. I feel like a piece of meat, or no better than.

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I don’t like the Flow of this one. I will be editing in the near future. I think I am going to make The senses a specific idea and then break out ideas off of it. Only way it will be focused enough to even hold my attenion.

Man, this is going to one of those post that is hard to classify. Part fact, part opinion, part observation. I really don’t think anybody who reads this will be able to say they don’t agree. Some, many may feel that I am missing some or even a lot. I decided to make this about intimate (meaning lovers with touching on close friends) because otherwise this topic alone could be a book. But here we go.

Three Ways to Acquire Information:
First way:
Recently giving myself over to the empirical train of thought mainly, there is the root assertion of that philosophy. The assertion is that everything we know about our world, comes to us through our senses. This is important when considering human relationships. Everything you know about somebody that is factual has come from your sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Direct stimulus to brain is the most easily assimilated into the minds storage and recall mechanism. (As in the past I have mentioned that, I believe the PFC plays the most profound role in recalling “lessons” and acting on those lessons.) By this I mean that you actually experience the event with all 5 senses sensing the input from the actions related to I. If we actually experience a person with all 5 senses, we get a better mental picture about them and form “trust factors” associated with them.

Second way:
This is in opposition to the second way with is to “witness” the event. The example here would be actually skydiving as opposed to watching a guy skydiving. (Despite what Hollywood would have you think, when you are actually plummeting through the air at terminal velocity and you can’t get your chute to open, there is no intense dramatic music playing in the background. But they need to feed that sense of hearing to try to get you to feel the intensity.) So you can watch a person get caught in a lie and witness some of the physical responses to the shame and guilt. However, that is not going to have as a profound impact on stopping you from lying in the future as if it were you yourself. (I will comment on forgiveness and second chances later). That impacts varies partly on how attached you are to the liar and/ or the offended.

Third way:
That leads to the third way we get input. Completely void of physical stimulus and based solely upon what somebody tells us. This has the least impact and has the most chance at warped or corrupted data. That interns leads to bad behavioral decision. A commercial can say, “our product is the best”. You won’t believe it at first, but after hearing it over and over the impact gets stronger. This is where the “trust factor” comes into play. This data comes from a person, a book, an audio/ visual source that only describes and give the information. As the person sensing the information how much of it you assimilate into your own personality, depends on how much you trust them. (I could go off in a tangent about parenting here, but I will hold the course.) As an example, FOX news has been shown to me to be very biased and often nonfactual. When I see a report from them, I do not immediately believe it. So if they say, “Don’t eat beans cause they will give you gas”. I am not going to be as driven to change my diet away from beans. CNN has demonstrated a more factual history and NPR has even more so. Their impact to affect me is different even if they delivered the exact same story. There is a conundrum here. This is the worst way to receive information, make a judgment, and act upon it. It is fraught with predisposed notions that might be wrong or not relative. However, you can not see emotional stimulus. Because that “environment” is inside the mind of the individual. This is age old and well known, but it is the explanation why every mental health expert insists open and often communications of each other’s feelings is imperative to maintaining a healthy bond. What is left to the imagination has too many biased and often unrealistic influences based solely on past history.

The Forth Out Of Three Ways:
There is a Fourth way we assimilate information. But we really don’t “gain” anything. That fourth way is that we “reason” or rationalize it. We take other like raw data from other situations and form an opinion about a stimulus. For example, I have experience the loss of a loved one, I have been told life is precious by those I trust, and I have watched the reaction of those who have lost loved ones, so I reason that “all life is precious”. This is a completely corruptible format of information processing. Don’t believe me, ask Santa Clause. However, if you are not exchanging positive stimulus with your partner, you are leaving too much to the imagination. Depending on how he/ she was treated in the past, well that is going to have an affect on what they imagine is happening in that void. So, remember how there ex was an A-hole/ bitch, guess what they are envisioning of you? They can’t stop it. It is all they have to go on.

Going Negative:
I am going to start out with the least fun and probably shortest of the two types of stimulus. Let me first say that everything you do will have either a positive or negative impact. There is no “in between” or neutral. Actions happen, and so do reactions. So what makes it so hard to be in relationship? Imagine trying to stop your car when your only choices are to throw it in forward or throw it in reverse. There is no break. Intimate relationships especially, are all 5 senses oriented. You need them to be stimulated to maintain the bond.

More then a few guys I know that broke off relationships with (I am sure this goes both ways, but I am a guy and these are the stories I know.) a woman who had a dirty house, had cats that smelt bad, started gaining massive amounts of weight right after, had spending problems, or was constantly being over critical. Many of them would say, “I really loved her but…” These are all different types of stimulus. Smell, sight, sight/ rationalization combo. All of the ones I am thinking of broke it off after more then 6 months, many after more then a year. Little by little the negatives of these situations became the only thing that was evident. They closed off, and the rest was left to the imagination. You have to think about how much of your relationship is negative stimulus. If it is most of the time, even though your are moving forward at the moment, the car is in reverse, and the wheels are starting to catch.

Keeping it positive:
This has come up a few times as the result of two things happening simultaneously at the moment. I have a couple of buddies who are in long distance relationships and trying to hold them together and the advent of Facebook doing an IPO. It has lead to discussions about sensory stimulus or our cultures growing lack there of it. The expanded version of what I told my buddies about the long distance relationships is this. Relationships require all 5 senses. It is not just about sex, and hanging out, and doing things together, and sex (did I mention they are guys?) and the obvious. It is about experiencing the same stimulus together. The smell of a restaurant or the popcorn at the theater imprints itself and sets of triggers in ones head. The feel of the plane as you taxi down the runway on a vacation. The sound of silence on a midsummer’s night sail. Not just the taste of the food but the taste in the air when sharing a meal. When making love it is not just the “feel” of the obvious, what makes it “hot” is the feel of the less considered places. Wind on the ear from a breath, smell of well earned sweat, the taste of being tasted, the sight of satisfaction, the sound of the activity almost as a music score. All of these inputs culminate to make a mental image in your mates head that confirms “security”. Star this, Confirming security is what a relationship is all about. If you are holding somebody by simply exposing their insecurities, you are being abusive.

When you are talking about a long distance relationship you only have access naturally maybe two. Even that is often just text based visual and sound based audible. If you are going to beat the odds of a long distance relationship failure, you have to work extra hard at making up for the missing stimulus. You have to make it as natural as possible. For example, cook or order the exact same meal. Open a web cam session, and share the meal as if you were together. The other thing is that you have to lean heavily on the audio and visual. You have to find ways to say “I love you” way more often then if you are together. Then he/ she can just see the look on your face when you look at each other. You can tell that they were being honest when they “just went out with the boys/ girls”. You can just feel the security of the situation when in the same room. When you are not there, in the very primal sense, you are not confirming the other persons security. So to make up for it, the reinforcement has to come often and extreme at times. The other thing is doing a lot of planning together about when you are together. Even if many of the plans fall through, just the security of thinking of each in the other’s future is a positive stimulus. That is as long as they trust you.

At home, if you want to maintain that brand new feeling, you have to stop yourself and reflect. Do we experience more positive or negative stimulus exchanges. That requires taking an honest hard look at yourself from outside yourself. Putting yourself in the other person perspective and asking “how would I react if somebody said this to me in this way?”

Summary and conclusion:
This is getting long and I am sure I have lost most of the male readers already. So I will just say that everything you know is a result of your 5 senses taking in the data. Listen and look at yourself routinely and ask, “am in in forward or reverse most often?” You can choose to be happy no matter where you are. If you are in a situation where a person can not stop being negative, you can choose to leave. Just make sure that they knew they could stop that fate first in a positive and loving fashion. “If you don’t stop calling me fat, I am gonna leave yer ass” won’t do anything but put more negative fuel on the fire. Instead say, “what you are saying to me hurts. Do you want to hurt me?” The point is that is in not just the message, it is the sense that it is delivered to and the method of the delivery. This concept will be revisited for sure. So go out and think about how to use all of your senses.

If I say the word “Anxiety”, what picture pops into your head. Is it a person in a waiting room? Is that person waiting for the word on a loved one in an operation? Or is it a grandparent waiting for the news of their newest arrival? Do you picture the pacing outside a divorce court room? Or the guy about to pop the question to his long time love? The reality is Anxiety is all of them.

I had one of the most profound epiphanies that really moved my understanding of how everything we humans experience is tied together. What I discovered was that the single most important attribute humanity has is anxiety. It would be like that tickling feeling that you get just before a bee sting or you put all of your weight onto a pricker thorn while walking barefoot. It is that warning to the emotions that first uncomfortable itch is to the physical body. Via this method, our brains are able to classify and store every piece of information that it receives from its senses. I’ll dig a little deeper into “anxiety math” another day.

The process begins the moment we take our first breath. We are not born with most of our anxieties. We don’t know to judge a race, gender, food (kind of), body type, political party, guns, or buttons (you know who you are.). We have no basis for knowing what love, hate, kindness, greed, and helplessness is. We really don’t even understand completely our own physical pain response. We learn these tings from our environment. If you want to know what your very first thought in the outside world felt like, do this. Swim to the bottom of a 10 foot pool, let out all your air, and wait. When you start to feel a little like you need a breath, wait 3 seconds longer, then swim to the top. That desire to take that first breath held in check by the physical inability to do so, describes that moment just before you emerged and learned how to use your lungs.

To make this simplified and something most all of us can understand, I will use the common variety child toddler example. In this example, a child desires to have a toy his little brother is playing with. He desires to just take it, but anxiety stops him. Anxiety comes from past experiences where the events went as follows. He takes the toy. Chemicals in the brain are released that are positive and committed as “satisfied” to the subconscious. He is happy. However then the little brother cries, mom comes in, punishes the little boy. This releases chemicals in the brain (or closes off release of chemicals can be debated) that commits to the subconscious a negative or “not satisfied” response. his warm feelings of happiness ends. So when the desire to take a toy from his little brother comes up again, here is the steam of thought. He can reject the desire out of hand. This repeated too many times causes depression, especially if it is seen as a survival need. The subconscious reasons, “I must eat, but I can’t eat because I have no food. Every option that I can think of to get food comes with dire consequences. But if I don’t get food, i will die.” So the anxiety cycle spins until depression ensues. Rejecting the behavioral choice out of hand with no other option will not lead to a “not satisfying” chemical release from his brain. But his brain needs happiness. The second option is that he can take the toy and apply techniques that he hopes will stop his little brother from crying. He will try multiple techniques to do this before realizing that mom will always find out. So, finally resolving no other options he can think of (including negotiating, beating, and any other option that he has learned in the past applied towards his little brother.) The last option is that he can adapt his brain not to respond with negatively chemical releases to the mother’s punishment. Thus no anxiety, he takes the toy and doesn’t care about the punishment delivered by his mother. He acted in a way he had in the past demonstrated as wrong, but, no longer cares, he couldn’t be happier. (I think most of us can agree that this results in stronger and more intense punishment from his mom. Or dad then finally gets involved.) This can be the result of an environment where negative stimulus is so constant that the brain becomes numb to its own chemical toxicity, and therefore anxiety. Or if inconsistent results from the punishment loose the connection between action and consequence. This is known as “extinction”. The brain may even try to correct that problem by jolting its anxiety factor by doing risky behaviors just to “feel”. They are not precise and pinpointed. This taking away of anxiety is what Antidepressants do as well. But that too will have to wait for anther post.

I would like ad that this is an example of bad parenting. Alternative options should have been taught to the little boy before punishment was required.

This process is useful in learning a new skill. Weather it be a cave man learning to hunt or an attorney learning to present a case. Anxiety is a required attribute to the personality. This anxiety in itself is not a bad thing. It sharpens skills, focuses the mind, prepared for a life change, and holds people to their commitments. Anxiety is a problem when it is too focusing, the trigger is an irrational (at least for the subject) fear. Or it is so crippling that it doesn’t allow movement or paralyzes emotionally, academically, and/ or physically. When the resulting behaviors from the anxiety are unhealthy, dysfunctional, or in opposition to desired goals, anxiety is a problem. But again, you can’t just reduce anxiety as a blanket proposal. Identifying the trigger and addressing that issue is really the only way. A blanket approach is apt to reduce anxiety that drives one to get out of bed in the morning and go to work, stay in a committed relationship, or save their money instead of gamble it all away. It keeps you from putting your hand near a hot burner, pushing too hard on your razor, or driving your car with reckless dis-concern.

Marketing is about hosing an anxiety, exasperating and exploiting it, to make you think you need a product to reduce that threat. If you die your family will be destitute, buy life insurance. If you vote for this candidate, he will come take your guns away and then people will break into your house and kill you, vote for our guy. If you don’t buy this nice car with these safety features and pretty shiny appearance, you will get hurt in an accident and you won’t get social acceptance. This is often unhealthy in its very nature.

To sum up the point, we need to stop this demonetization of emotions, especially anxiety, but also depression, guilt, and sorrow. They have purpose. to be honest, I would rather loose a limb or one of my senses then to reduce my anxiety. I have come to understand that these other traits are subsidiaries of anxiety. They all have function and use.

Taking “Athletes Are Not The Only Ones Who Practice – We all practice being who we are.” On to a deeper level and applying generally accepted concepts seems to be a logical next step. Warning, for those of you who don’t like Freud for some reason, turn away now, we will wait……. Now the rest of you, this is very Freudian in nature. The terms and concepts are gleaned from reading his work and the translation of them.

The Recap
In that previous post, I tried to convey how I believe that we learn our emotions and behaviors by observing those around us. The pleasure principle (which I haven’t gotten to yet) drives this learning process. We only can know the things we have been taught, observed, or reasoned through. Reasoning can only ocur with knowlege already gleaned and combining it. Once we find a desire can be fulfilled with a specific chain of actions we practice them until we don’t have to think about it anymore. At that point it becomes a “behavior”. Since this is Freudian in nature, if you are not hip to the lingo, you might find it more pleasurable reading if you read the link under Freud to personality map.

How we learn and practice
So how do we go from a desire to play the violin to being Paganini? I use his name because an urban legend attached to him claims that upon being discovering practicing without a violin, he said, “The violin is just so others can hear what I am playing. I hear it in my head.” He was known for his fast and furious arpeggios. One doesn’t just pick up an instrument and do that. It takes much repetitive motion. The violin offers a sound, and if that sound is the one expected, it is pleasurable. That motion is committed to a part of the unconscious memory for quicker recall. There is no conscious “debate” or second guessing. Muscians talk about their instruments just talking to them, or “feeling the groove”. Masters of their trade do without thinking. Our “desire to action” processes are happening simultaneously are high speeds. (In respect to the title of this blog, imagin how many things your computer is doing as you read this article. Futher, imagine how many things your brain is doing as well as comprehending this text.) The breathing of air is controlled by our unconscious brains. At this very moment you are doing many things that your are not conscious about. But at one time you were. The “id” only expresses the initial desire and the strength and intensity of that desire. The rest is up to the “Ego” and the “Superego”.

The board of Egos
There is enough evidence to assert that the Superego is the place where conscious reason is preformed. It next to nonexistent at birth and is grown out of the minds experiences. (we call this maturing.) The Ego is considered the CEO/ the executer of commands. It however takes every desire to the superego for consideration. At least at first. Debate and struggle between “id” and “Superego” are common and part of the learning process.

The ego just reacts.
The super ego It has a list of known scenarios and their outcomes, picks one that best suits the current situation, and delivers that message to “go ahead with that behavior/ action” or rejects the desire out of hand. If the ego has experienced the ids request so many times, the request to the super ego becomes “just a formality” or just “paperwork”. BUT remember that which is routine once wasn’t and took much more conscious attention. This is what a “professional” is trying to do. It IS what we all do with our emotions that we commonly use. You do not think about smiling, laughing, or getting angry. These emotions are the result of a debate process had deep in your past. So far that you can’t remember the circumstances for the debate. For reasons of speed of decision it is unnecessary to remember how you got there. Once the memory of that debate is repressed, the response is called a Pavlovian response. The debate still continues on, just at a much faster pace and in the unconscious. Speed is important. Remember for every conscious decisions you are aware of, there are million of subconscious ones happening at computer type speeds.

More like a functional marriage or partnership then hierarchical
However the ego and the superego are generally equal in weight in any decision. (This is a generalization and idealized much like most marriages. Many dysfunctional marriages like dysfunctional personalities do not have equal decision making. Some even let their k”id”s run the affairs.) What happens in the conscious mind can occur either pre or post behavioral decision. By that I mean sometimes the superego carries on a conscious debate, (“do I buy an ice cream bar or a cup yogurt cup?) and then the reasoning is passed onto the ego for approval. (This is the stuff that pathological psychology is made of.) However, sometimes the ego makes the decision and the superego accepts it without debate. (The reason I repeat that is that this is the stuff a therapist tries to reach, but often can’t. It is out of reach for the patient.)

Not all behaviors accepted are functional or even consciously desired.
Think about the CEO who signs a piece of paperwork that shouldn’t have been considered routine, but he was too busy to look it over. (Think one day you are picking your nose in your car, then you look over and see a hot chic/ dude looking over at you.) That occurs in the subconscious. However, the action itself is “Real” and conscious. So after the behavioral choice is made, the ego is forced to “reason” or “rationalize it”. It is a huge violation of security if the ego condones a bad decision. (This is actually a HUGE concept that will be addressed in the future.) So the superego looks for tangible things to “justify” the joint decision. These types of compulsive behaviors are the result of their pleasure outweighing the other option in that situation so many times in the past that they are not considered with respect to the rational of the current situation. (The CEO is busy and has a billion other things to get done, so he just signs without reading. You pick your nose cause it itches, at home who care, nobody sees it.)

Time and urgency is a factor.
A person will carry on a conscious debate and also applying unconscious criteria at a much slower pace over dinner choices. In these cases the superego is apt to generate the most acceptable suggestion. But a ball coming at a batter at 100mph in a random has to be predominantly driven by the unconscious. Both mistakes and greatness occur when the ego reacts. Then there are variations in between. A salesman tries to push into buying a car by appealing to your pleasure of how things look and smell and feel; all while pushing you to sign before somebody else buys it or the deal expires. The behavior is the purchase of a new car. It is made up of many behaviors before the one where you sign on the dotted line. A good decision can only be made though if good decisions have been practiced and making them have been rewarded. (See The Binary Positive Reward System for a more detailed version of my belief on this aspect.)

Learning the wrong way can be harder to undue.

This is true of the person who pursues an instrument of sporting hobby as much as it can to our emotional lives. This is a really big topic and the one I am driving at with this series of posts. If you learn to swing a club or bat, finger a fretboard, or preform a dance step the wrong way first, it is harder to get your decision making team back into the board room to think about this. If you have a program that plays music on your computer, you have to physically change settings in order to get it to play using a new and different program. This is true of our emotions. That which makes us happy, sad, anxious, and feel loved is ingrained in us from the start. If we are taught to have the wrong or inaccurate emotions assigned to external stimulus, then it is hard to change that. We see this in abusive relationships and those people who find themselves in one after another. For now that will have to do. I will just add that this is why it is so important to pay attention to what your child perceives during those initial years of life.

Other Undebated decision
Ego dominate decision are also made when the subject matter is painful or fear invoking and the mind has already worked to repress the events that lead to the behavior. As mentioned before, in many of these cases the mind might now that the behavioral decisions are not necessarily the best ones, functional, or even healthy, BUT the circumstances that lead to that behavior are too painful to recall and reassess. This is more extreme then just picking your nose or twisting your wrist when you swing. The point is that I wish to make the reader conscious that when you react emotionally, it is driven by a history (a pathology) of experiences. This is an understanding that will help one address behaviors in their lives or the lives of loved ones that seem out of control. That is enough gibberish for now I guess.

This is a concept that I will also refer back to. It is one of the profound concepts. Having to refer back is a reality of this thought and self exploration that I am writing this blog (and hopefully book) for. These understandings are woven together like a grass mat. Remove 1 and the whole thing starts to fray and falls apart.

Why athletes practice
I think that all of us will agree that even the best athletes have to practice to remain “the best”. Here is a question that seems rhetorical at first. “Why?” What is it that Tiger is doing by repeating the same swing, or a Verlander “warms up” before taking the mound, Eliot Fisk practices the same tune over and over again, or Armstrong would do anything else but ride in the Tour for? I would get much agreement if I said, “They do it to make the perfect swing, pitch, performance, ride something they don’t have to think about.” They push it to the unconscious. They strive to make the right behavior is just a reaction. How well a batter does against Verlander depends on how quickly he can assess the speed and trajectory of the oncoming ball and the brain transmits the appropriate commands to all the muscles and ligaments. The less an athlete has to think about it, the better he is at his task. Sometimes athletes learn wrong, or are convinced there is a better way. Golfers often “learn a new swing”. It means replacing that which they have ingrained with the new way. This is considerably more difficult.

We all practice being us
I think that I can still keep heads nodding if I say that sports and music are more then just physical but also mental. Aside from the above mentioned motor related mental connection, there is also an emotional related attribute to any activity. For example, I play darts a lot. I am actually not as good as I should be for as much as I play. (ADD might be partially to blame for this.) I know how to hit the bull’s eye every time. Yet at best, when I am playing a relaxed game with people who are just doing it for something to do at the bar, I only hit it 33.3%. That percentage dramatically increases when I force myself to focus OR I am in a clutch game. My whole mental focus must be grabbed and forced into one task. I play with others who do not have to put as much a conscious effort to achieve the same results. To them, the task of throwing darts has been assimilated into their subconscious. The reason I like darts so much is because it takes such concentration that it distracts me from the chaotic and painful life that has surrounded my day to day. That only works because it isn’t that natural for me.

What do you practice
So here is where I try to walk you into a new understanding. Athletes and musicians are not the only ones who practice. In fact, emotionally we have all been practicing (at least) since the moment we were born. We have been trying to learn what behavior to emulate since day one. A desire turns into a conscious debate of all the possible reactions to that desire that we know of. A conscious debate turns into an action. If that action brings us a pleasurable result, it is registered as a “behavior”. We repeat that behavior until it becomes a personality trait. A personality trait is something we do without conscious debate. When a mental health professional is tasked with addressing or changing a behavior, it is their job to trace that process backwards. This is called a “psychological pathology”. When it becomes a personality trait, it is a reaction. It no longer requires conscious thought. Because of that reason, patients often don’t even remember where they learned it. Many times they are not even aware they are doing it.

A later post to discuss the mechanics
Because I want to tackle this in bits, I will hold off on going too deeply into the process of debate and reaction as a concept. But the lesson is that how we treat our parents, siblings, family, friends, spouses, and children are the result of lifelong practice. (doesn’t matter if that “life” is a couple of years or 80 years.) BUT we do things without thinking about them. This concept can be applied to everything from aspects of abuse to lifestyle choices. AND, just as breaking an arm can change the physical aspect of an athlete’s performance, a major emotional break can change personality traits. (Think about what has happened to Tiger Woods since he had that marital trouble.) Sometimes for the better, sometime not. If you are reading this, for the most part everything you do (including reading boring blogs written by crazy laymen about psychological issues) has been practiced in some aspect long before you did it. Then there is “anxiety” caused by trying a different approach. HMMM. More stuff for later.

Resilient vs. Repression
If you want to make me cringe quicker then the sound of a puppy getting its shot, say the phrase “Kids are resilient” to me. If you are a mental health expert and say that, I will become near nauseous status. The definition of “Resilient is – Marked by the ability to recover readily, as from misfortune.” This simplifies the complex nature of the human mind. Namely how it deals with pain. To simply “recover” or return to its original shape is not accurate when applied to human behavior. The more accurate statement would be “children easily repress”. But repression doesn’t mean recovered or unaffected. In fact it means quite the opposite.

First, a little about “repression”. It is the minds primary defense mechanism. It is what all other defense mechanism is made up of. The “stages of grief” is the road to repression. The way a crime victim forgets the face of a perpetrator. The way a young child is abused and grows into an adult with no recollection of it. These are all forms of repression. “Psychological repression, also psychic repression or simply repression, is the psychological attempt by an individual to repel its own desires and impulses towards pleasurable instincts… The repression is caused when an external force puts itself in contrast with the desire, threatening to cause suffering if the desire is satisfied, thereby posing a conflict for the individual; the repressive response to the threat is to exclude the desire from one’s consciousness and hold or subdue it in the unconscious.”

How Repression Heals
So in the case of a lost loved one, your desire to hold, share space, and communicate with them is the desire. The “external force” is death. Depending on how profound the relationship was to the griever’s 3 basic needs, the more difficult it is to repress the feeling and desire to connect with them. As the body and mind goes through the desire, then the realization, and the feeling of insecurity cycles, the lesson is learned. (Like teaching a dog not to pee on the carpet with a spray bottle. Action followed by discomfort slowly changes the desire to repeat the action.) The stronger the desire, the more times it has to be repeated. Even when fully repressed doesn’t mean “influential”. It certainly doesn’t mean forgotten.

This is an important tool for progression. Could you imagine a life if you remembered the pain of the loss of a loved with the same intensity as the day it first happened. A woman would never have another kid if she remembered the pain of labor as vividly as when it was happening. It allows you to learn a lesson with out having to learn it again every time, but not feel the discomfort in a like situation. With it our personalities evolve.

The Inherient Flaw or Repression
Repression can also be a “Pandora’s Box” of pain and dysfunction. The problem with this system is that the “user” has no access to the logic driving their behaviors. That which is in the “subconscious” is obviously not conscious. Since you are the only one both physically present and aware of your perception every moment of your life, only you have the key to your subconscious. But the reason why you repressed these memories is because they were not pleasurable to remember. Since were are a species wired to seek the “most pleasurable option” always, recalling painful memories is a catch 22. Often they are only released in a way that is irrational and only relieves mental pressure. Extreme cases of this become known as OCD. Where a sufferer must perform an action no matter how irrational and for no conscious reason they can reiterate. This is kind of like “close source code” to a computer program.

We can all agree that the actions of someone who harms or kills them self is irrational. Likewise, a mother drowning her children or a serial killer are equally unfathomable. These are all psychosis caused by a subconscious trying to vent. This is a “feedback loop” or“stuck” program logic. Two opposing perception of what would be pleasurable lead to unexplainable behavior. In its basic form “I want to flee” is in opposition with “fleeing will make things worse”.

What causes this?
Well that is a good question. The subconscious is filled with guilt, fear, and self loathing. That bridge that connects the subconscious and the conscious it the “trigger”. The trigger is related to the event that caused the lesson to begin with. To streamline the thought process, the mind just needs these triggers to issue a response in the form of a behavior. For example. Let say you burnt yourself on an open flame for the first time. Later, an open flame will cause alertness. Putting your hand over it will force a reaction to withdraw. This is a good example, since most of us never burn our hand on an open flame (or at least that isn’t our first exposure) but is conditioned by our parents. Time we have learned to both use and fear an open flame. Take your hand and slowly move it towards the flame and feel the anxiety well up in your chest. Eventually you will reach a point where you can not push yourself any further or hold it there any longer. Imagine a spouse who had an affair. The trigger becomes the person they cheated on. Seeing that person reminds them of their guilt. This situation makes recovering from an affair hard. Now imagine if that anxiety and guilt is caused by self image. This is the case of anorexia type disease.

Not a Chemical Imbalance
One thing that people who suffer from this do NOT have chemical imbalances and are not physically dysfunctional. There is nothing a pill can do to solve this dilemma. In fact they are just as normal as anybody else. Their sensitivity is off. All pills do is suppress the thought process so one side of the debate can win. They do it however with out any concern to which sided of the debate wins. So if the debate is “I don’t want to go to work but if I don’t I will get fired.” Drugs could suppress the anxiety about getting fired.

How repression kills?
Realizing that we are attempting to “rationalize the irrational” here, this is a little loose and hard to grasp. Guilt and fear will drive people to irrational conclusions. A complex set of internal rules and counter rules stemming from defining events that make up their behavioral maps exposed to loops. For example, studies show that a woman who looses or aborts a child has a greatly increased chance of feeling inadequate when they do have a child. The child becomes the source (trigger) of discomfort. Some try to over compensate by over nurturing the child while others turn on the child as the blame for all their bad feelings. When this isn’t significant to quell these subconscious feelings of guilt, even more extreme and irrational options are considered. One might be, “I am an awful mom, I should stop being a mom.” The only way to do that is to get rid of the kid. “I will be saving the child because they won’t have to grow up with such and awful mother.” So what you have in this case is a woman who looks to the outside world like a great and caring mom who dotes on her child/ children. However, inside is a subconscious time bomb brewing.

Our behaviors are driven by all of our life’s experiences. Even the ones we have minimized or completely pushed from our conscious still dictate how we react to stimulus. Your little “hand ups”, “pet peeves”, or irrational concerns have roots in your subconscious.

Free will is an illusion. People always choose the perceived path of greatest pleasure.” – Scott Adams

There are many of theories about which ones, the magnitude, and how chemicals work on our system. Whether it be testosterone (which inspires aggressive drive to propagate), estrogen (the yang to testosterone yin), oxytocin (the calming agent), or cortisol (that protection mechanism), are just some of the internal chemicals. There are pheromones that are chemicals traded between systems that researchers believe is how we trade biographical information about each other. Then there are of course the chemicals we use to “medicate”. But, it seems apparent that the main quest of the system is to get dopamine, the “candy” for the neuro system. Like my 4 yr old daughter quests, finds, and commits to memory the behaviors that lead to receiving candy, so does the brain do the same for that which leads to getting dopamine. (Ironically enough, eating candy releases dopamine in my daughter’s system.)

(Here is where I step away from anything I have ever seen theorized and confirmed with research. So know that you are entering my “school of thought” based on my observations and connection of other pieces of research.) A computer performs all of its complex activities based on a simplistic system known as “binary”. Binary systems have 2 “bi” number designations. 0 = off and 1 = on. For more look here. (http://www.kerryr.net/pioneers/binary.htm ). In computers 0’s and 1’s are combined to make what we call “bits” and “bytes”. In our brains I believe these things are called “thoughts”. And the hand that flips a switch “on” and “off” is chemicals reactions like that of dopamine interaction. A more accurate way to portray this is the brain judges each experience as it was “satisfy” or “no change” in an attempt to fulfill our needs.

Without getting too much into a subject I hope to elaborate on later, I reluctantly mention the BIOS of a computer is the “Basic Input/ Output System”. We humans have this structure are born into this world with this component. Aside from the physical instructions given to us by this BIOS there is an emotional one as well. Freud referred to it as our Id. Our Id drives us to make ourselves comfortable. We desire selfishly, without concern for consequences to get our 3 basic needs fulfilled. And the first lesson we learn is that we cry. Bam! Our needs are met. Dopamine is the reward and reinforces that we flip that switch again. (Here I will caution that I am using dopamine as an icon. I do not know enough about neurochemicals to know all of the theories on chemicals. I use this to identify a chemical change that give us a reward).

At birth, we have a very limited and simple system. We don’t feel comfortable, we cry. This is our only source of output. No concept of time or even reality outside of what we immediately feel. This is why those first minutes, hours, months years are so important to the development of a mind. That starts to adapt immediately. Their immediate goal is to keep them your (the parent/ primary care giver) attention as much as possible. If they have your attention, an infant feels secure. As it grows, this new being finds more complex ways to hold your attention. If a new behavior attains your attention, dopamine is the reward and a new behavior is added to the pallet of the individual’s personality.

To be noted here is that this PARTLY explains why children of the same family unit end up with some very different personality traits. Think of it like a bullet that leaves a gun from the same position is only ever so slightly shifted only millimeters ends up at a target a 100 yards away at very much different places and magnitudes apart. Affected by the wind and changing environment. Two children in a home are going to be treated very differently. The amount of attention they recieve and the tools to make self confident choices are very differnt. (I will elaborate later on this as well.)

Likewise, parents get rewarded. I don’t want to get into the concept of the “immortality goal” at the moment. But parents want to see that their offspring are cared for. They get rewarded by their family and the community around them when they do it right. When the baby responds favorably (stops crying for instance), parents get a chemically rewarded as well. Adult systems seem a bit more complex, like an adult finds Bon Bons more rewarding then plain ice cream. An infant, then child sees and feels a parent getting rewarded for behaviors and will mimic these behaviors. These lessons are stored in the subconscious and dictate behaviors into adulthood. Behavioral input has far more impact then simply vocalized instructions.

But when all broke down to its smallest units, each behavior is the result of individual experiences with the bits set in the “on” or “go ahead that has worked” position. Behaviors that do not solicit reward are forgotten and not used. This is why many mental health experts say, “catch them being good.” This also explains why negative reinforcement can be such a wild card. If spanking is the only time a child gets attention. This punishment becomes a reward. But that too will have to wait for another post.

Thanks for bearing with me. Last point. The computer you are reading this from has a specific individual unique address. Just as we all have unique personalities. Your computer has IP addresses and MAC addresses that tell information requested from this site who you are. You have an OS that has a specific way of allocating space on your hard drive under your profile. That program dictates which program is used to view this page. It too allocates space. So too are our personalities. If we could break down our personality into tiny little behaviors. We would come up with a binary number that was unique to us. NOW, one might take from this that I fall completely into the “Nurture” camp. Absolutely not. “Nature” or biology dictates behavior in two distinct different ways. That too will have to wait for a different post. But I will sat. They will never find a “gay gene” ,an “alcoholism gene”, or a “fat” gene. Anybody who claims so is basing it on junk science.

So if you buy into my assumptions, (did I mention I am a system designer and not a mental health expert?) and believe this is a rational train of thought a few other questions should be considered relative. What affect does 2 primary care givers behaving in a manor that is contradictory. What affect does divorce, alcoholism, abuse, or parents that argue have on a forming mind? What affect are young children in daycare having on their cognitive development? Loss of a parent to death? What if a parent gets hooked on drug (or my favorite, has a manic reaction to an antidepressant)? What about children who have been put into colder more sterile environment of an orphanage? What about a brain that experiences a loss that can not be rationalized? How does punishment work?

These and many more will be explored in the future.