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How to Fix Our Problems: Psychology and Civics!

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posted on Aug, 19 2015 @ 01:07 AM
With the way the world is today, with the things that go on, not just here in our comfortable western lifestyle, but in other continents with other people, living their own lives, living to lesser ages, living with more disease, more contention, and more suffering, it is inherently easy for the human organism to turn away from it all - to pretend it doesn't exist.

I just finished watching the movie Virunga and it just left me flabbergasted. If you have netflix, you may have watched it; if not, I suggest you watch it by some other means. The moral of the story, at the end, is this: a western corporation like SOCO international can do what it does in Congo (bribe politicians, judges, and anyone who can potentially block or aid their goal of drilling for oil in a Africas oldest national wildlife preserve, home to the last remaining gorillas) because there is not enough oversight or taxation of large corporations at home. Furthermore, greed rules the minds and hearts of so many people that it seems nearly impossible to scale back what is already going on.

In one pivotal moment in this breathtakingly daring documentary (it was filmed amid a civil war) a French journalist wearing a hidden camera records a SOCO project manager and someone who identifies himself as a 'mercenary', but now goes by the title of SOCO 'security', talking in what can only be properly described as narcissistic rambling, such as "they (the congolese) cannot rule themselves. They (presumably, blacks) are like children". And later on in their mindless projections, they say "they don't care about the animals; no, there must be something else". Because of course, how could anyone actually care about animals? These two men, one a French, seemingly upper crust man in his early 30's, and the other, a British ex-special forces now "security" tactician for a big corporation, could hardly have demonstrated greater naive stupidity about how their own minds work.


How is this concept not taught in schools? How is it this phenomena, now known since at least the times of Freud, has not penetrated our school systems? For one reason or another, our political systems have been overwhelmed by men who are unable to control their feelings - succumb to delusions of grander, and are prone to exercise power whenever they experience anything feeling like 'shame, anxiety' or the like.

Projection occurs for a simple reason. Human beings, like all organisms, are embedded in an environment. An environment, of course, is a 'catch-all' for the stuff that happens around us. Imagine, over time, how an organism needs to respond to perturbations - or changes - in it's environment. The response is what we call 'adaption', which is basically a homeostatic process whereby the organism develops skills that offer flexibility in response.

Since the somatic marker hypothesis, it has become common in neuroscience and psychology to conceptualize the human mind as being "studded", as it were, by the activities that operate within the body; diurnal, ultradian and circadian rhythms from within, the food we eat, the attention we show to our body when it aches, or when we need to go to the washroom (do we delay?) all affect the quality of our embodied experience; but atop of this 'internal' process is the social worlds of our environment. And it's primarily this realm which 'occupies' our attention.

The body is the realm of feelings; and feelings, what are these things? Science tells us that feelings are "messages" from the body that let consciousness know how things are going. Amazingly, human consciousness is more than just this, but there is still this paradoxical relationship between the external 'symbols' we use to communicate and the homeostatic prerogative of our physical organism: our minds 'yearn' for contact and recognition from others'; yet our body's - as individuals - serve themselves. And so, what is projection? Projection is what the mind does when it talks about the activities of others, or beliefs about the nature of reality, and doesn't realize or recognize that the way they attend to such matters has everything to do with their own history, their own relationships, and the way these two factors have intertwined in engineering a personality that sees the world in a particular way.

When the two corporate goons talked about the congolese or blacks as not being able to 'govern themselves', they self-righteously ignore basic biological facts about the way the environment 'selects' the pathway of development; so long as differences in opportunities exist - in education, healthcare, or stability in political environment, a different creature will created: a different brain will have been 'hardwired' by the 'information' coming in from the environment.

These two foolish human beings unknowingly succumbed to the oldest and most pernicious thing about human thinking: we are dissociative.


Dissociation is just like anything else in biology. When a perturbation or a 'negative' thing happens here - say something toxic to a cell - the cell enacts behaviors that resists the perturbation. In complex mammals, we have the more obvious behaviors of flight, fright or freeze. But what about us big brained humans? Is it at all possible that this "economic" law of internal conservation, a system in the organism that 'detects' and adapts to environmental challenges, also operate in our minds? The answer is yes - it does.

Our brain itself shows how this is in it's hierarchic organization, with the lowest levels (brain stem) controlling the older and more basic life-preserving processes (metabolism, peristalsis, heart beat, breathing etc) the next higher level (limbic system) handling emotional information, cued by the way and manner in which the organism seeks to communicate something; and the final, human level of thought (cortex) the place of perception, attitudes and beliefs.

Dissociation is just this basic defensive process 'raised upwards' and embodied by situating it as the higher level processes of our cerebral cortex which presents the world in the way that it does for us - with the addition of self-consciousness and a capacity to retain a memory of ourselves in relation to the world without us

It is so tempting to think of ourselves as perfectly "fitted" to understand the world as it is, but the neuroscientist Michael Tomasello perceptively notes that human cognition developed not for 'seeing truth', but for something far more common: trying to convince one another of something. This common and naturalistic way of thinking, given the power and success of evolutionary thinking is obviously true: it's powerful and exciting to be living at a time where we both clarify the nature of our consciousness, and at the same time, encounter the paradox of being a conscious being in an otherwise automatic world.

Our default state is automatic. Our default awareness is selfishness. And our default habit is arguing loudly and forcefully. But these habits - as habits - are not set in stone, but grow out of a cultural matrix that "scaffolds' how brains develop and make meaning of the world around them. That's really all it is. The world is ours to make of it - but in order to make of it, we need to recognize how our minds work, and to do that, we need to teach the non-academic world, society at large, what science has discovered about the human con

posted on Aug, 19 2015 @ 01:20 AM
...condition, and what we can do to change the feedback loops that keep these processes as they're going.

It seems to me that dissociation is screaming to be discussed as a primary "process" that impairs and complicates the communicative process. For instance, if I raise my voice, I am also expending more energy - and also feeling more emotion. If you hear yourself (which may not be possible during high energy outbursts) you will notice that you use absolutes and generalize from loose examples; you, in other words, are not seeing reality correctly because you falsely believe that you are able to access truth from a position of intense emotion.

Intense emotion is good for living, bad for communicating when things get testy (or otherwise contentious). You need to 'keep track' of the processes occurring within you - the logic in the communicative act itself; this all of course implies that you think of yourself as a good person, and would like to be a good person. Dissociation, because it essentially 'blocks' one state of mind from another (reaching its most extreme manifestation in MPD, where an episodic amnesia exists between self-states) is what leads us to do things we know we shouldn't be doing but do anyways: emotion speaks louder and with higher fidelity than reason; reasons only 'entry point' into human thinking is when the mind speaks and is aware of itself with minimal emotional 'tensing''.

This is what a sound theory of human functioning implies: it should be consistent behaviorally with what's observed in every taxa from cells to bears to humans, and it should recognize that the almighty 'mind' and the ideas therein are scaffolded and framed by non-conscious processes that 'frame' the world by having us pay attention to things that have released "dopamine" reward circuits in the past. Perhaps we will never make a better world until we accept the crude reality that "feedback loops' within dopaminergic circuits feed that ever-present human propensity to seek pleasurable feelings, and no pleasurable feeling is like that of social power - being recognized and liked by others.


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