How We Develop Our View Of The World

Our development environment has critical periods where we are imprinted with what the world looks like based on a snapshot of whatever is going on at that time. If that picture we receive during critical periods of development is distorted, we can then become trapped in a prison of living in the context of responding to that distortion for the rest of our lives, even though it may no longer bear any resemblance to our current reality – an echo chamber of trauma is one example of this phenomena.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-06-early-stress-confers-lifelong-vulnerability.html

Dealing with the after Effects of Trauma

If we look for a common property in a wide variety of mental dysfunctions that arise as a result of trauma, we could say they reflect a hijacking of our capacity to use our higher order thought processes to govern our lives in proportion to the current circumstances. They put our thought processes on a more reactionary, less rational level. People with short fuses, or those who respond out of proportion to the reality of current events, or obsess over people, topics or things out of proportion with reason are typically expressing the after effects of trauma.

The traumatized brain is characterized by the thinking center (frontal cortex) being underactivated and the emotion regulation center as well as the fear center being overactivated. With this in mind, we can see the challenge to assist someone suffering the echoes of trauma or to cope with them if we suffer from the effects.

When we look at the array of thought disorders that commonly plague human (and animal) culture, we can see this common thread. Obsessive compulsive disorder, for instance, is expressed through repetitive thoughts and behavior rituals that crop up to the point where they invade the cognitive real estate we need for dealing with reality on reality’s terms. This can cripple the individual (or group’s) capacity to see what is currently going on clearly. As a consequence, the behavioral response may appear rational to the individual (or group) experiencing the effects of distorted vision, but the perception and response are not proportionate with what is currently going on.

Hoarding disorder is another example involving an extreme reluctance to separate with possessions to the point of the hoarding increasingly closing that person off from the outside world because of a perceived, however irrational need to save things. The common core of this, and many other thought and behavioral disorders is that our cognitive processes, the ones that, if functioning well, help us perceive and respond to the world in a proportionate and rational way, are either taken over, or diminished because an exxagerated proportion of mental energy is being devoted to reactionary faculties. In other words, we’re reliving the trauma over and over in symbolic form.

Whenever we see someone responding out of proportion, either by not being concerned about serious dangers, excessive dominance or cruelty, or in any way exaggerating unimportant things to monumental proportions, we are probably seeing the echoes of trauma.

Here’s some resources that offer deeper look at the symptoms and potential approaches to begin helping with, or working these things out.

https://www.unh.edu/counseling-center/dealing-effects-trauma-%E2%80%93-self-help-guide

http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/four-steps-to-erasing-trauma-of-painful-memories-061214

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/ptsd-overview/basics/symptoms_of_ptsd.asp

 

The Decline and Fall of the Manufactured Consent Cartel

Although this documentary is about viral videos, there are some interesting undertones in its storytelling that illustrate how culture has undergone a massive shift in recent years as a result of the democratization of information sharing through social media technology. The documentary outlines who and what rose to prominence, and who fell, as a result of the shift. It almost inadvertently documents the reasons for the decline of the influence of media and large corporations as the manufacturers of consent and popularity. Perhaps why they are so desperately grasping to regain control of the manufactured consent reigns through a bonfire of self congratulatory prattle and obsessive repetition these days.

Sorting Reality from Ideas

We live in a culture where some segments truly believe (or at least act like) preferences and feelings have some kind of sacred status – where the more villainizing, stomping, protesting, and loudly signaling our outrage, the more legitimate our argument is. As if our personal passion were a suitable substitute for substance – as if spouting off with vein popping force somehow makes the argument more credible. Some of us apparently lack depth perception to see beyond ourselves, and as a consequence, we project our arrogant ignorance along with our fears, suspicions, hopes and emotions on to public figures, associates as well as cultural icons of every stripe, dead or alive. We live in a universe whose boundaries extend to the outskirts of our own ignorance. We then mistake our ghostly projections for reality, not knowing the vomited echo of our ignorant self indulgence blowing back on us is not an accurate picture of the social landscape. What we see as reality is actually composed of reflections from the hall of distorted mirrors in which we live and breathe.

Unless we make the investment to exit the shadowy cave of our own self importance to embrace the wider social reality , we will continue to falsely assert our sanctity and suffer the frustrated experience that is spawned from that reactionary prison. Unless we embrace a reality that recognizes we coexist and attempt to forge a climate of respect and dignity at the same time we also defend against real antagonisms that can destroy us, we will become a fountain of frustration spewing maligning scorn and incessant tantrums toward any perspective other than our own. Even worse, through the destructive force of our self importance spawning a reactionary climate, we will conjure up the very demons that consume us. We will bathe in the toxic bile we made out of this false idea that we alone have the one true bead on how we all should think and behave…

In the dim glow of our ignorance we can miss the profound hypocrisy and irony of our stance. Our ignorance will also protect us from an awareness of our powerful contribution to the disintegration of the foundation on which we all stand. This also means that when the destruction of our own making comes to fruition, we will be ignorant of its source much less its resolution or prevention. We will continue to live in a wordy world of self righteous blame and impotence like any fundamentalist – baying at the moon with the expectation that it should bow to our cries and change its course.

A cat is natively wired to be suspicious of being attacked from anything outside its very small trusted comfort zone. This is not because of how the world actually is, it is because the cat sees the world through its own self induced lens. It thinks of how it would behave and projects that motive on to the outside world, and then bathes in the experience of life that is generated from that place… And this, by the way, is the very nature of the spectrum of mental illness that spans from neurosis to psychosis.

The Relationship Economy Expressed through Nature

The relationships that are woven into the fabric of nature stretch across a spectrum from predatory and parasitic all the way to mutually beneficial, and in some cases the relationship can become necessary. (Obligate) The common thread throughout the biological relationship economy is that the relationships that take root and survive over time either provide a benefit in terms of what was necessary at some point to survive and propagate in the context of the environment, or at least those that do not prevent survival from happening.

When we consider how relationships emerge in this context we can see that thin times would be inclined to produce behaviors where higher risk in exchange for nutrition would be part of the process, bringing about relationships at the parasitic and predatory end of the spectrum. More fruitful times would incline a more mutually beneficial relationship economy to develop – one that improves the adaptive strength of the whole relationship community. This range of behaviors that emerges in the context of environmental cues over time can then become ingrained as the adaptive strategy until and unless this strategy becomes a selective disadvantage, in which case there will either be a behavior change, or extinction. The behaviors that emerge over time develop multiple levels of complexity because of fluctuations in the availability of nutrients and climate conditions etc. In this climate pockets of mutually beneficial behaviors such as organs in a body can exist inside a predatory organism which also needs to hunt and kill other organisms as a predator in order to feed.

The link below illustrates an example of a mutually beneficial relationship that developed between fruit bearing trees and elephants, where the elephant gets fruit in exchange for spreading the seed of the tree and producing a “fertilizer” package in which to plant it. This relationship strengthens the adaptive advantage for both organisms, making them in effect part of a singular relationship climate – interdependent. The tapestry of relationships expressed through nature communicates what is possible in climates of cultivation vs. those of domination as well as how the spectrum of relationships shape what a given organism will experience as life.

It is significant to note that we humans have the capacity to shape the environment. We are not simply destined to react. We can participate. If we leverage this ability effectively, we can shape our experience by shaping the relationship economy in which we exist to be mre inclined to produce “fruitful” relationships.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/amazing-african-elephants-may-transport-seeds-farther-any-other-land-animal

Some thoughts on Parenting

Here’s a couple thoughts on parenting (from an old guy who made many mistakes, so keep or toss this advice as you see fit.)

The best advice I know for a parent is to shape the social environment as best you can to make sure the child (children) has a way to control their behavior. In other words, putting them in time out for 5 or 10 minutes because they lost their temper and are misbehaving is not as effective as putting them in time out and telling them to come back out as soon as they calm down and are willing to act appropriately. The idea is to make sure they know what the expectation is and that they have some measure of control over what happens to them by how well or poorly they meet the expectation. When kids just get punished for wrongdoing it tends to make them think they are “bad”, rather than develop a sense that the thing they did was disruptive or destructive. The first is about developing a negative identity, the second is about expressing constructive behaviors and restoring one’s place in a social context. Punishment delivered from authority also creates a learned helplessness and a dependency on authority figures which can be dangerous and is often exploited. The idea behind teaching children to steer rather than steering things for them is about crafting behavior so their identity develops in a healthy way to understand that they have a rudder and some influence on what happens based on how they behave.

It can be difficult with real small kids to convey the message that they participate in what happens to them, but as soon as they can learn to steer for themselves, a parent’s job is to do their best to guide them to steer themselves well in the social and environmental waters they will have to face. The point is, emotional and behavioral discipline is the engine that makes the difference between somebody who life happens to, and somebody who makes life happen.

I think it is also important to remember that the job of a parent is not to protect children from all harm, it is to help them to cope effectively in a world that will have some percentage of jerks and disappointments. They need to be exposed to some of these things to practice how to deal effectively. This means learning how to deal with unfairness, death, and things beyond their personal control as well as how to accomplish constructive things by effectively assessing what they can do and leveraging what they can do to craft intentional outcomes. If you create a safe space they may not have the coping skills when they face the real world and they will be shocked that laundry doesn’t do itself, things cost money, and choices have consequences.

Where does Intelligence Reside?

The one on the left is a wasp, the one on the right is a moth. The question is; Where, how and on what level does the intelligence by which this mimicry takes place reside?

 

If we define intelligence as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, examples of mimicry like the example detailed in this story (linked below) have always left me wondering how a biological organism would be able to perceive and respond, at whatever level it takes, to recognize and assemble this cloak of deception without some capacity to sense “other minds” as well as a capacity to carry out a morphological change in response to that recognition of what’s going on in the mind of the other species…

For this moth to drape itself in the cloak of a wasp is a remarkable event, which we seem to be able to adequately describe, but our descriptions are certainly not explanations. In terms of explaining the event, what we typically call out, (adaptation, which is a description, not really an explanation) seems inadequate on its own without some kind of recognition of a sophisticated capacity for conceptualization and response embedded in the biological framework going on at some level that produces this sophisticated expression of adaptation. Just thinking out loud here.

https://phys.org/news/2017-02-biologists-years-textbook-wisdom-explanation.html

The Power Law and The Nature of Systems

Zipf’s law, also known as the power law identifies the uncanny consistency of the frequency of behaviors in natural systems, including complex organized adaptive systems like biology. For instance; the frequency of the most used word in any language no matter where it originates will occur approximately twice as often as the second most frequent word, three times as often as the third most frequent word, and so on.

Ziph’s law goes by other names, such as the power law, but the orderly distribution of relative frequency is remarkably consistent across many systems, these include physical, biological, and social systems. City populations follow this distribution. So do the sizes of craters on the moon, the strength of solar flares, the frequency of behavior patterns such as sex or foraging in various animal species as well as the sizes of activity patterns of neuronal populations, volcanic eruptions, and so on. It is also true of social systems.

This information on Ziph’s law has a lot of implications if it is fully unpacked. If we extract the value from what it means we might consider the fruitless waste of time it is doing things like angrily baying at the moon over the 1%, or whatever name is given to primary social influencers. Changing Ziph’s law seems fairly unlikely to succeed no matter how loudly we squeal. It is perhaps a more effective strategy to focus instead on the fact that we are all responsible for the tone of the relationship climate we all live in and contribute to.

Based on the fact that natural systems arrange around this law, including social systems, a more effective thing would be to build a social economy based on how much we can give to each other, rather than how much we can get from each other. In this way those who, in the future, will assume the inevitable mantle of having the most influence might also be inclined to behave with these same values. Even if this took a couple generations to take root and bear fruit, it would be worthwhile. A quote attributed Gandhi, perhaps falsely, but good advice no matter where it came from comes to mind; “Be The Change You Want To See In The World”

 

 

What Is Going On In The Brains Of People Who Can’t Enjoy Music

 

piano

Our brains can be thought of as a collection of “cognitive organs” that must work in concert to be able to function fully. The same way a malfunction or weak connection, or an excessively strong connection for that matter between the organs in our body can cause many issues, some advantageous and some limiting, the strength of the connections between brain regions can also have an impact on how we see things and what our reactions to those things are.

When we consider how these differences can affect our individual and collective experiences we can begin to understand how these causes and effects play out. With this knowledge we can make better choices. In the case outlined in the article below, a reduced functional connectivity between the cortical regions responsible for processing sound and the subcortical regions related to reward can cause a condition called musical anhedonia. Musical anhedonia is the inability to be moved emotionally by music. Understanding this condition closer may reveal some interesting things about our nature and our evolutionary development.

Here are a couple articles to dig into the topic a little deeper:

Lack of joy from music linked to brain disconnection

What Is Musical Anhedonia? The Brains Of People Who Can’t Enjoy Music May Provide Clues About Evolution

Striking a Balance between Tradition and Rebellion

tradition

Here’s a couple thoughts on the value of the balance between traditions and the rebellious agents that emerge each generation to challenge them and test both their strengths and limitations. This perspective may be subject to revision. Some assembly required. Void where prohibited by law.

Traditions are the bonds that hold a society together. They lay the foundation for trust by enabling an expectation for behaviors that, if accommodated, can help the individual to navigate – to forge a niche. They calm the social waters so to speak, make it a familiar place, rather than frightening one that saps all our energy trying to figure friend from foe, but this strength of tradition only works if they are held in the proper strength. Traditions held too rigidly and overbearingly cause the social structure to become unable to adapt to changes, so it shatters under the weight of that need to change when it inevitably comes, too loose and the social structure devolves into chaos along and the fruits of cooperation and integrity die off.

In just the right measure, the balance between tradition and rebellion helps a society to prepare for and adapt to the variables it needs to face in a developing social and physical environment. The conflict between tradition and the rebel is also a ritual reminder and ceremony of sorts that reinforces the bonds we need to forge a society at all. (The biological drivers for this are, in effect, a religion embedded in our nature that many of us only know by their abstract, literally untrue, yet figuratively valid capture in the various rituals and religions that have emerged over the years) From my perspective, traditions and rebellion are like water – too much, we drown in them lifelessly floating as an object, merely existing more so than living, too few, and we die an agonizing death from the thirst we need to satisfy in order to remain integrated.