Tag Archives: Sociology

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 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

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

 

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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

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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.

When Objects and Actions are Laced with Meaning

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There are many ways to look at language. Depending on the lens we use to look at it, different aspects of how language relates to our experience of life are revealed. If we use a lens that looks at language as a two pronged process, the first based on identifying objects and actions, and the second, optionally breathing meaning into these objects and actions, this lens enables us to clearly see the roots of human identity and culture. From this perspective, we can form a map that is able to move us more effectively in intentional directions.

The first aspect of language is in identifying objects and actions. This is the basis of understanding the physical world, the second aspect is the basis of identity and culture and also becomes the means by which we express the nature of our emotional being. A rock is a rock, unless it’s a special rock, imbued with meaning. A rock embellished with a story, and a history, with cultural significance can become an object for which people act to fight and die for.

Throwing is an action involving an object in motion, until and unless it is imbued with meaning. Throwing a coin into a fountain for instance means nothing more than the description of the process, unless that action also symbolizes the hopes for the thrower to realize a wish. If the act is connected to meaning it is then transformed from a mere act, to something significant. It is this significance, that the individual and cultural world is built on. This blend of objects and, or actions and meaning is the fire on which our individual and group identities, indeed our perception of consciousness is formed.

We could study the structure of the alphabet for an eternity and never have the key to know it’s significance unless we shares meaning. Meaning, until and unless it is shared is sterile. It can only live within an individual, but if it is packaged up and transmitted one to another, its significance can spread. It is this replication of, and defense of a particular set of shared meanings which defines groups or cultures. Our experience of life is determined by object and action to be sure, but it is also defined by meaning. Our cultural bonds grow in a soil of object and action, but the energy that drives the experience is built on meaning.

So powerful is this aspect of meaning in our lives, that we humans can suffer from ideological blindness where we become so lost in the meaning that we lose sight of their connection to objects and actions. At the extreme, it is possible to become infected by a totalitarian regime of meaning, that locks us in a frustrated prison of expectation and frenzy, where we fruitlessly attempt to get reality to conform using our ideals, not realizing that it is the loss of our moorings in reality that is the problem, and not reality’s failure to conform.

Reality sets the boundaries to the possible, it is up to us to appropriately blend significance into the mix of objects and actions to accomplish anything real. It is this awareness of the basis of expression that enables us to express a meaningful life.

The Two Primary Drivers of Biological and Social Order

Any coherent unit of order, no matter if it is biological or social from an organism, to a group, to organizations and communities, or nation states are established by two primary behavioral drivers. The first driver is a collection of coordinated activities that establish the integrity of the unit. A group needs a cementing bond to identify “self” from “other”. Self behaviors are aligned around the community. In biological terms, an individual organism is built on a framework of shared genetics and common epigenetics that form a cohesive bond. In the case of complex creatures like ourselves, this coordinated effort extends to specialized organs that coordinate activities to maintain integrity, and the ability to collectively obtain and metabolize nutrients that also maintain the integrity.

In social terms, integrity also has bonds, these bonds may be formed with a set of ideas. It could be the love of a sport, or the behaviors that support the commonwealth of the community. In all cases, the global principle is that there is some form of cohesive glue that establishes and maintains the integrity of the group, thus establishing a metabolism social order.

Behavioral expressions are the way a social group demonstrates and reassures itself that it is maintaining integrity as a cohesive unit. These behaviors are how a group nourishes itself. This can come in the form of ritual behaviors such social nit picking in chimpanzees, or in the case of humans, it could come in the form of uniform clothing, symbols, the wearing of hats, common language, saluting a flags, the saying of pledges, or taking of oaths either formal or informal. These things, and how they are valued determine the strength of the bonds that maintain the metabolism of the group.

The second primary driver of group cohesion is the development of a kind of “behavioral immune system” that has the capacity to reject any behaviors or contend with situations that are perceived to be potentially harmful or destructive to the integrity of the group. This social immune system that provides a defensive group cohesion engine is not unique to humans by any means. In fact, we are but one expression of this global biological driver that is threaded throughout the entire web of biological life from top to bottom. We see its expression biochemically and socially.

Here is one small example of this principle at work in the case of ravens, those that cheat are excluded from the protective network of cooperative birds. Ravens are able to cooperate when, for example, mobbing predators, but they exclude cheaters because they free ride on the assumed risks the others take. Here is more detail on this group cohesion behavior in ravens.

On Bacterial Intelligence And Sociality

Although Eshel-Ben Jacob Died in June of 2015, during his life he was a leader in the theory of self-organization and pattern formation in open systems. He extended this work to include adaptive complex systems and biocomplexity. He studed bacterial self-organization, through a lens that holds bacteria the key or seminal force that can lead to our understanding how larger biological systems work, incluging ourselves.

Microbes are often thought of as reactive participants in the scheme of life. Mindlessly chewing away on food they happen to stumble on without much in the way of insight about the future, how they fit in to the larger biological community, or any other kind of depth perception necessary to navigate with competency toward a more certain future in a sometimes antagonistic and ever changing world, but this is simply not so according discoveries made by Eshel-Ben Jacob. He discovered, among other things that they exhibit population control, have an understanding of the need for biological diversity in order to deal effectively with changing environments, in addition to a powerful range of adaptive tools to negotiate the environment. As it turns out, bacteria may not be simple in any respect, they may merely express their intelligence and social life in different ways, on different scales than we do. This thought provoking lecture, given at google, is well worth a listen.

Mate Selection Expressed on a Molecular Scale

The level of detail through which behaviors are expressed that are aligned with ensuring adaptive advantage extends to the microscopic. In this case a strategy for sexual selection involves the production of some kind of protein or chemical in the ovarian fluid of ocellated wrasses which helps define the acceptance or rejection of sperm based on whether the male that emitted it will be more inclined to tend the nest or not. The idea being that those males more fit to carry on the species will be more likely to breed, enabling the species a better chance to continue forward.

From the article: “Female ocellated wrasses prefer males that build nests and take care of the fertilized eggs as they develop. But there are other types of males that do not provide parental care and compete to fertilize the eggs a female lays in the nest prepared by a nesting male. Small “sneaker” males hang out around the nest and dart in to release large amounts of sperm when a female is spawning. The females, however, seem to have found a way to thwart the sneaker males by giving an advantage to the nesting male’s sperm.”

Among the questions that might ride in the undercurrents of such a fantastically coordinated biological process if we anthropomorphize the situation a bit is; How does the female know that the chemical signature of “sneaker” males is different than the nesters? How was she able to translate this information into a coordinated process to produce a chemical in response that is able to  differentiate between sneakers and nesters and select based on criteria that is advantageous to the female? Regardless of whether or not these are legitimate lines of questioning, the behavioral dynamics expressed through the relational field we call biology certainly is intricate, and whether or not these are the right questions is not as important as recognizing that there is room for questions – plenty of food to feed a passionate curiosity.

To read the full article in Science Daily Click Here

Cancer Is a Biological Outlaw

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Cancer is a biological outlaw. It begins its career as a cell triggered by a set of circumstances that cause it to diverge from participating in a contributory role in the community it draws nourishment from. Instead of a vested stake in the biological community that sustains it, cancer turns to a life characterized by parasitic behaviors that turn predatory over time.

Cancer turns against the cooperative unity on which biological systems depend and becomes an expression of destructive greed and consumption without a community aligned purpose. Its implied purpose narrows to its own interests, to the immediate gratification, to right now, to more and more, to domination over cultivation – to itself at the expense of the community. Through its behaviors, cancer becomes a biological outlaw.

If cancer was assigned the attributes of a self aware being, it would be defined as either failing to recognize its detrimental behavior toward its own future, or identified as someone that doesn’t care. Either way, it’s devoid of participating in the implied social contract that all sustainable living systems depend on; that of working in the limited context of the environment and contributing nourishing value back to the biological community it depends on for life, so that community is stronger than it ever could be as isolated parts.

There are many kinds of cancer with many different causes, but the common thread is a lack of regard to translate the taking from the community with corresponding activities to give back something of value to it. In the case of Pancreatic cancer, once the cancer takes root and steals the resources it needs to establish a foothold, it begins to use that theft to hijack the production machinery of nearby cells to feed itself even more. It uses this fuel to grow stronger and demand more. With increased strength, it now causes the enslaved cells working at a frenzied pace to serve its demands to sacrifice their lives in order to make more room for it, and for it to selectively feed on the dying remains to strengthen the cancerous process still more…

Cancer can enjoy a burst of extravagant artificial wealth by predatorily consuming great quantities of the genuine wealth produced by the nourishing relational acts of the biological community from which it feeds. As it increasingly consumes without regard for renewal, it crosses a terminal threshold where its demands exceed the capacity of the system to compensate for the collective theft, murder and interference of nourishing biological commerce. It is at this point where the biological system cancer depends on to fuel its excesses collapses in on itself.

Why does cancer behave this way? Why does this myopic collection of predatory behaviors consume without an eye for the sustainability of the system on which it depends? Cancer dominates, but if its strategy is successful, it becomes a victim of its own success. It ends up dominating itself out of existence. It is destroyed itself in a bonfire of its own greed and ignorance.

Upon seeing this cancerous behavioral agenda clearly exposed we might recognize that cancer comes in many forms. We might be inclined to see the parallels between cellular cancer and social behavioral cancer on other scales. Upon seeing this parallel and coupling it with some of the behavioral dynamics coursing through our human behavioral veins, we might be compelled to wonder if there is such a thing as “Mancreatic Cancer”. We might also ask whether we ourselves are engaged in aligning our individual and collective activities toward cultivating that which sustains us – that which we need.

When it comes to the micro decisions that lead to the macro effects of our life, not only reflected back on itself, but echoing outward to the community at large, we may want to be careful to define success before we engage in it, because in our frenzy to accomplish a false success, we could find out too late that as soon as somebody wins at monopoly, the game is over for everyone.

For more information about the way Pancreatic Cancer works: Click Here