(I’ve had this article proof-read by a friend and, apparently, it still needs some work – I’ve touched on too many subjects while forgetting to explain them all well, or reach the point, at the end. I’ll keep it published, for now, – proceed at your own risk
Update: OK, this article has been scratched. I advise you to skip it and go to my about Page, linked at the top, where you can find all my good articles about psychology linked in proper order. I hate deleting stuff so I will keep this. You can read it as a study of my own psychology….)
Like I said in my article In Tristitia Veritas, the human condition, and our civilized lifestyle, force us to constantly lie to ourselves about ourselves, as individuals and as a culture. This puts the science of psychology in a spot, so to speak: we have been raised on the idea of free will, whereas science is already coming to the conclusion we are merely biological robots. The idea of free will is needed as an instrument of manipulation, in society: If you make another person believe they have control over their own behavior, then you have the ideological justification to demand that they change it.
Well, behavior can change, if the right evolutionary pressure is applied. In this case, it’s social pressure, supported by an idea that justifies it. This creates the brain programming needed to alter behavior. This is how society evolved, by planting ideas in our heads that justified and explained the ever changing social order.
There is another element to this: education, socialization. We breed cultural intolerance into children by traumatizing them whenever they display an undesirable behavior. This is a vital aspect of how cultural memes are spread: in order for you to accept your culture’s social order, all other possible orders must be rejected. In order for you to change your behavior, take it away from the natural tendencies imprinted in you by your genes – reprogram yourself – trauma is needed.
If a child exposes themselves in public they are humiliated, and it’s explained to them – to some degree or other – why they are being humiliated. In order to avoid humiliation in the future, and this is a process that happens unconsciously, they develop an aversion towards this type of behavior. This aversion is supported by the half-remembered trauma of their humiliation. If they see other people behave this way it triggers the memory of the punishments they themselves received when displaying the same behavior, and in order to avoid feeling this pain they assume the remembered role the educator played, in the past, they become angry at the person displaying the behavior, and they will scold and humiliate them.
The British, in past centuries, coming to India or to Africa, no doubt felt themselves immensely superior to the people they were subjugating. Their technological advantages (including the technology of social organization) were, of course, a justification of this feeling of superiority: if we can enslave you it means we’re better than you. This ability to enslave, and/or slaughter, people (or animals) who are simply unable to resist you, will, of course, be used, by those that have it, to gain the advantages this action brings. But on the level of our own brain-programming, we need to have an ideology that will explain and justify this action.
So the British said they were civilizing the savages. Their cultural bias supported this claim – “these people are not living by our taboos, hence they are uncivilized. They do not have our technology…..”
Now, you cannot, having brought with you all this cultural baggage, understand the human mind, realize that it is merely a biological computer and figure out (reverse-engineer) the algorithm that his computer is running. You will also be tempted to use the old reprogramming approach: plant memes in that person’s head to change their neurotic behavior.
But neurotic behavior is driven by other forces, much more powerful. Its source is imprinted memories of trauma that can force irrational patterns of behavior on us. You could call it a learning mechanism, but it works differently than our regular learning process works; subconsciously. A recent research has already proven there is a strong connection between childhood abuse and mental illness (I need to find it). Before we delve into those connections, I’d like to put forward the idea that all education is, in fact, abuse. It is intended (though, not consciously) to traumatize a child into accepting the social norms of the society they live in. Spare the rod, spoil the child, says the old proverb. In a society where trust is based on the passionate acceptance of the common social memes, a person who is different, who does not make the sounds everyone else is making, will be in trouble.
There are, of course, other problems plaguing the science of psychology. The economic forces that prefer to medicate and to sell high-end equipment would not profit much from talk-therapy, or from curing people relatively quickly without using too much equipment or drugs.
I would like to conclude this post with a couple of examples of this ‘programming’ of which I speak.
Every experience we go through, in life, is recorded in our brain, maybe not fully, maybe only part of the information is kept, and maybe more significant moments in our lives generate more accurate and more detailed recordings…. be that as it may, without memory, we would not be able to learn. Regular learning works by accumulating these recorded experiences, accented by the emotions those events evoked in us, which are also recorded – everything we interact with, in our world, has an emotional value, on the scale of pain-to-pleasure.
These accumulated experiences slowly modulate the way we respond to our environment, as we learn, based on them, how to obtain more pleasure and avoid things that are unpleasing. But ‘unpleasing’ has another aspect: pain.
Pain indicates failure to survive. A pinprick would not be serious enough to trigger this emotion (we failed in our efforts of survival), but a severed finger, for instance, would. I believe there is a more primitive part of our brain that controls the handling of pain impulses – something that is probably much older than the proverbial ‘reptile brain’, (if it even exists). Whenever we are injured, or when our brain perceives that our conditions have worsened – losing a job, a friend, losing money, being humiliated (losing social status): all are perceived (and also, real) threats to our survival – we feel another kind of pain, psychological pain, and this is also handled by that ancient brain.
As opposed to regular memories, that hold information that can be accessed and evaluated, consciously or semi-consciously (intuition), these traumatic memories are treated as patterns that signal danger, and also hold clues as to how to avoid this danger in the future. They are evaluated subconsciously, and they force their conclusions on our conscious behavior, thereby generating irrational behavior and mental illness. One of the characteristics of neurosis and of psychosis is that the urge to behave irrationally is something irresistible that flows from within, something that cannot be distinguished from your normal, sane, decision making mechanism – to use a paraphrase on John Nash’s words, describing his own illness.
Before I give you those examples I’ve promised you, a couple of word’s on evolution’s role in all of this. Why have this hierarchy of ‘brains’, that operate differently, why not just have one, well-rounded, well-developed, rational, brain….
Evolution does not ‘choose’, it just accumulates. If something works it will not be replaced until something better evolves to replace it. Or is added to it…. losing some individuals because a system that works in most cases has failed those particular individuals, because they had to endure extreme conditions, or merely uncommon conditions, is not a problem, evolutionarily speaking. We need the runts to die so we can all be made better for it.
PTSD is one vivid example of traumatic programming. My view is that all mental illness is a form of PTSD. That PTSD is an extreme and very obvious case of emotional trauma (to remind you, physical pain also generates a type of emotional trauma – I will explain it in depth in future articles).
What basically happens, in PTSD, is the exposure of an individual to extreme stress in a life threatening situation, or to repeated physical threats. We notice it because it happens late in life (usually over the age of 10, which is a late age as far as socialization goes), to an individual who’s personality is already formed. Therefore the trauma cannot be ‘absorbed’ into this formed personality very effectively, we’re no longer pliable enough for this to work, so it becomes like a big, ugly, wart, on its surface.
My second example is even better. It involves a hypnosis parlor-trick. In this experiment the subject and the hypnotist are sitting on stage, in front of an audience. The subject is put in a state of hypnosis and is given the following suggestion, by the hypnotist: ” When you wake up, whenever I put my hand on my tie, you will take your coat off. When I take my hand off my tie, you will put it back on”.
The subject is brought out of hypnosis. The hypnotist lays his hand on his tie. “It got warm in here”, says the subject, and takes off his coat. The hypnotist takes his hand off his tie. “I think there’s a draft in here”, says the subject, and puts his coat back on. So it will continue, with the subject responding to the hypnotic suggestion, taking his coat on and off as the hypnotist puts his hand on his ties and then removes it, all this time trying to rationalize his behavior. Again, this reminds us of neurotic (and/or psychotic) behavior, at least some of us; but what’s happening here?
I think psychologists will tell you that it’s not completely understood…. there are conflicting models…. but I did not come here to scorn their science. We see here an instance of programming that is unlike the regular programming we undergo in our day-to-day lives: learning, accumulating experience and data about the world. In this instance we see a person actually entering commands into another person’s brain, so to speak. That person acts upon them without understanding the causes for their behavior – more so than usually, I mean – and, since all behavior needs justification, he makes one up, every time.
Again, this reminds us of neurotic behavior. The rationalization. The programmed, semi-aware, response to certain stimuli. And the use of stock phrases by neurotic people, when they are stressed.
Actually, #3 is visible here only if you know a little more than I’m revealing, at this point (can’t do it all at once). The phrase entered as a command, by the hypnotist, might be partially revealed by the patient, in their speech, if pressed. I believe that this is a unique case of a much broader phenomena that it directly related to mental illness.
Like I said before, traumatic events leave imprints in a certain part of the mind – imprints that later generate patterns of behavior. What’s the connection to hypnosis? Well, trauma happens when we fail to survive; keep in mind that survival does not merely mean ‘not dying’, it means succeeding as much as possible, getting as farther away from the possibility of death as we can. Survival also means succeeding in spreading your genes (the true purpose for which we were built by our genes), which involves many activities: being socially and economically successful, attracting attention, etc.
When hypnotized, we lose control of the situation, of what happens to us. this is a mild case of failure to survive, so the imprint will not be very powerful – indeed, the effects of hypnosis wear off, after awhile, even if not removed by the hypnotist with a cancellation command that must be entered with the original command. To make the effect more permanent the hypnotist should have caused a serious injury to the person under hypnosis. This happens in real life, and when we are at he very beginning of our existence, we are, as a rule, quite helpless – a condition which facilitates trauma.
I have already mentioned, earlier, that neurotic patterns of behavior are based on ‘clues’, present in the traumatic memories that generate them, on how to avoid similar danger in the future. This is something that needs to be discussed at length, and we’re running our of space, here, so I will just say that if it indeed works as I have described above, then I would expect language to play some role in it, since it carries information, just like actions do. And here, with hypnosis, we have a demonstration of this principle at work.