Definition of syndrome
- a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition
- a set of concurrent things (such as emotions or actions) that usually form an identifiable pattern
In my attempt to understand the root cause of the causes of life destabilisations, several articles synchronistically and serendipitously provided definitive answers yesterday that is consistent with the assertion that violence is an acquired syndrome rather that a congenital defect of our human nature. (Please see: US Defence Secretary Calls on Military to be “Ready” for War Against North Korea. “There are No Risk Free Options”, Army is accepting more low-quality recruits, giving waivers for marijuana to hit targets, War Culture – Gun Culture: They’re Related, and The Psychology of Mass Killers: What Causes It? How Can You Prevent It?.)
The last article was seminal for me in connecting different ideas I have come across over the years in my search for meaning and understanding of the underlying method of this violent madness that pervades every aspect of our society today. What I propose to do is summarise as best as I can in the author’s own words the ideas presented and how they are intimately connected to each other and to provide a neurobiological framework that connects the best neuroscience with the deepest analytical psychology in our toolkits of life appreciation.
The father of peace studies is Johan Galtung and his seminal article on Cultural Violence was the first to provide a typology of violence that has guided my thoughts on these matters.
In the subsections on definition and typology of direct and structural violence, he wrote:
“By ‘cultural violence’ we mean those aspects of culture, the symbolic sphere of our existence – exemplified by religion and ideology, language and art, empirical science and formal science (logic, mathematics) – that can be used to justify or legitimize direct or structural violence. Stars, crosses and crescents; flags, anthems and military parades; the ubiquitous portrait of the Leader; inflammatory speeches and posters all these come to mind…
…One place to start would be to clarity ‘cultural violence’ by searching for its negation. If the opposite of violence is peace, the subject matter of peace research/peace studies, then the opposite of cultural violence would be ‘cultural peace’, meaning aspects of a culture that serve to justify and legitimize direct peace and structural peace. If many and diverse aspects of that kind are found in a culture, we can refer to it as a ‘peace culture’…
…Cultural violence makes direct and structural violence look, even feel, right – or at least not wrong. Just as political science is about two problems – the use of power and the legitimation of the use of power – violence studies are about two problems: the use of violence and the legitimation of that use. The psychological mechanism would be internalization3. (3We then schematically divide control mechanisms into internal and external, positive and negative: identifying ‘internal, both positive and negative’ as good and bad conscience respectively; external positive as reward and external negative as punishment. ‘Internalization’ is conscience deeply rooted in the person system, ‘institutionalization’ is punishment/reward deeply rooted in the social system. Both serve to make the act come forth ‘naturally, normally, voluntarily’….)…
…The study of cultural violence highlights the way in which the act of direct violence and the fact of structural violence are legitimized and thus rendered acceptable in society. One way cultural violence works is by changing the moral color of an act from red/wrong to green/right or at least to yellow/acceptable; an example being ‘murder on behalf of the country as right, on behalf of oneself wrong’. Another way is by making reality opaque, so that we do not see the violent act or fact, or at least not as violent…
…I see violence as avoidable insults to basic human needs, and more generally to life, lowering the real level of needs satisfaction below what is potentially possible. Threats of violence are also violence. Combining the distinction between direct and structural violence with four classes of basic needs we get the typology of Table I. The four classes of basic needs – an outcome of extensive dialogs in many parts of the world (Galtung, 1980a) – are: survival needs (negation: death, mortality); well-being needs (negation: misery, morbidity); identity, meaning needs (negation: alienation); and freedom needs (negation: repression).
The result is eight types of violence with some subtypes, easily identified for direct violence but more complex for structural violence (see Table I). A first comment could be that Table I is anthropocentric. A fifth column could be added at the beginning for the rest of Nature, the sine qua non for human existence. ‘Ecological balance’ is probably the most frequently found term used for environment system maintenance. If this is not satisfied, the result is ecological degradation, breakdown, imbalance. Ecobalance corresponds to survival + well-being + freedom + identity for human basic maintenance. If not satisfied, the result is human degradation. The sum of all five, for all, will define ‘peace’…
…Then some comments on the content of the Table as it stands. The first category of violence, killing, is clear enough, as is maiming. Added together they constitute ‘casualties’, used in assessing the magnitude of a war. But ‘war’ is only one particular form of orchestrated violence, usually with at least one actor, a government. How narrow it is to see peace as the opposite of war, and limit peace studies to war avoidance studies, and more particularly avoidance of big wars or super-wars (defined as wars between big powers or superpowers), and even more particularly to the limitation, abolition or control of super-weapons. Important inter connections among types of violence are left out, particularly the way in which one type of violence may be reduced or controlled at the expense of increase or maintenance of another. Like ‘side-effects’ in health studies, they are very important and easily over looked. Peace research should avoid that mistake.6 (6The easy approach is to dump all ‘side-effects’ at the doorsteps of some other disciplines demanding that they shall clean it up conceptually, theoretically, and in practice – as economists are wont to do.)
Included under maiming is also the insult to human needs brought about by siege/blockade (classical term) and sanctions (modern term). To some, this is ‘non violence’, since direct and immediate killing is avoided. To the victims, however, it may mean slow but intentional killing through malnutrition and lack of medical attention, hitting the weakest first, the children, the elderly, the poor, the women. By making the causal chain longer the actor avoids having to face the violence directly. He even ‘gives the victims a chance’, usually to submit, meaning loss of freedom and identity instead of loss of life and limbs, trading the last two for the first two types of direct violence. But the mechanism is the threat to the livelihood brought about by siege/boycott/sanctions. The Gandhian type of economic boycott combined refusal to buy British textiles with the collecting of funds for the merchants, in order not to confuse the issue by threatening their livelihood.
The category of ‘alienation’ can be defined in terms of socialization, meaning the internalization of culture. There is a double aspect: to be desocialized away from own culture and to be resocialized into another culture – like the prohibition and imposition of languages. The one does not presuppose the other. But they often come together in the category of second class citizenship, where the subjected group (not necessarily a ‘minority’) is forced to express dominant culture and not its own, at least not in public space. The problem is, of course, that any socialization of a child – in the family, at school, by society at large – is also forced, a kind of brainwashing, giving the child no choice. Consequently, we might arrive at the conclusion (not that far-fetched) that nonviolent socialization is to give the child a choice, e.g. by offering him/her more than one cultural idiom.
The category of ‘repression’ has a similar double definition: the ‘freedom from’ and the ‘freedom to’ of the International Bill of Human Rights,7 with historical and cultural limitations (Galtung, 1988a). (7A document consisting of the Universal Declaration of 1948, the two Convenants of 1966 and an Optional Protocol. The Bill has not yet attained the standing it deserves, among other reasons because of US failure to ratify the Convenants.) Two categories have been added explicitly because of their significance as concomitants of other types of violence: detention, meaning locking people in (prisons, concentration camps), and expulsion, meaning locking people out (banishing them abroad or to distant parts of the country).
To discuss the categories of structural violence we need an image of a violent structure, and a vocabulary, a discourse, in order to identify the aspects and see how they relate to the needs categories. The archetypal violent structure, in my view, has exploitation as a center-piece. This simply means that some, the topdogs, get much more (here measured in needs currency) out of the interaction in the structure than others, the underdogs (Galtung, 1978, parts 1-111). There is ‘unequal exchange’, a euphemism. The underdogs may in fact be so disadvantaged that they die (starve, waste away from diseases) from it: exploitation A. Or they may be left in a permanent, unwanted state of misery, usually including malnutrition and illness: exploitation B. The way people die differs: in the Third World, from diarrhea and immunity deficiencies; in the ‘developed’ countries, avoidably and prematurely, from cardio-vascular diseases and malignant tumors. All of this happens within complex structures and at the end of long, highly ramified causal chains and cycles.
A violent structure leaves marks not only on the human body but also on the mind and the spirit. The next four terms can be seen as parts of exploitation or as reinforcing components in the structure. They function by impeding consciousness formation and mobilization, two conditions for effective struggle against exploitation. Penetration, implanting the topdog inside the underdog so to speak, combined with segmentation , giving the underdog only a very partial view of what goes on, will do the first job. And marginalization, keeping the underdogs on the outside, combined with fragmentation, keeping the underdogs away from each other, will do the second job. However, these four should also be seen as structural violence in their own right, and more particularly as variation on the general theme of structurally built-in repression. They have all been operating in gender contexts – even if women do not always have higher mortality and morbidity rates but in fact may have higher life expectancy than men, provided they survive gender-specific abortion, infanticide and the first years of childhood. In short, exploitation and repression go hand in hand, as violence: but they are not identical.
How about violence against nature? There is the direct violence of slashing, burning, etc., as in a war. The structural form of such violence would be more insidious, not intended to destroy nature but nevertheless doing so: the pollution and depletion associated with modern industry, leading to dying forests, ozone holes, global warming, and so on. What happens is transformation of nature through industrial activity, leaving non-degradable residues and depleting non-renewable resources, combined with a world-encompassing commercialization that makes the consequences non-visible to the perpetrators.8 (8Hence it is at this level environmental degradation has to be counteracted, through de-industrializing and de-commercializing processes, not by converting one type of pollution or depletion to another through patchwork approaches to this major global problem.) Two powerful structures at work, indeed, legitimized by economic growth. The buzzword ‘sustainable economic growth’ may prove to be yet another form of cultural violence…” – Cultural Violence
In the article, The Psychology of Mass Killers: What Causes It? How Can You Prevent It?, Robert J Burrows goes on to look deeper into our socialisation that manufactures violence and authorises its full spectrum dominance:
“So why does someone become a mass killer?
Human socialization is essentially a process of inflicting phenomenal violence on children until they think and behave as the key adults – particularly their parents, teachers and religious figures – around them want, irrespective of the functionality of this thought and behavior in evolutionary terms. This is because virtually all adults prioritize obedience over all other possible behaviors and they delusionarily believe that they ‘know better’ than the child.
The idea that each child is the only one of their kind in all of living creation in Earth’s history and, therefore, has a unique destiny to fulfill, never even enters their mind. So, instead of nurturing that unique destiny so that the child fully becomes the unique Self that evolution created, adults terrorize each child into becoming just another more-or-less identical cog in the giant machine called ‘human society’.
Before I go any further, you might wonder if the expression ‘phenomenal violence?’ isn’t too strong. So let me explain.
From the moment of birth, human adults inflict violence on the child. This violence occurs in three categories: visible, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’. Visible violence is readily identified: it is the (usually) physical violence that occurs when someone is hit (with a hand or weapon), kicked, shaken, held down or punished in any other way. See ‘Punishment is Violent and Counterproductive’.
But what is this ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that is inflicted on us mercilessly, and has a profoundly damaging impact, from the day we are born?
In essence, ‘invisible’ violence is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themselves thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioural dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).
When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.
The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, parents, teachers and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioural responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioural outcomes actually occur.
For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (e.g. by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behaviour that is generated by their feelings (e.g. by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.
However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviours, including many that are violent towards themselves, others and/or the Earth.
Moreover, this emotional (or psychological) damage will lead to a unique combination of violent behaviours in each case and, depending on the precise combination of violence to which they are subjected, some of them will become what I call ‘archetype perpetrators of violence’; that is, people so emotionally damaged that they end up completely devoid of a Self and with a psychological profile similar to Hitler’s.
These archetype perpetrators of violence are all terrified, self-hating and powerless but, in fact, they have 23 identifiable psychological characteristics constituting their ‘personality’. For a full explanation of this particular psychological profile, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’. Of course, few perpetrators of violence fit the archetype, but all perpetrators are full of (suppressed) terror, self-hatred and powerlessness and this is fundamental to understanding their violence as explained in ‘Why Violence?’
Rather than elaborate further in this article why these perpetrators behave as they do (which you can read on the documents just mentioned), let me explain why the suggestions made by others above in relation to gun and drug control, socioeconomic factors, ideological/religious connections, constitutional and legal shortcomings, resisting efforts to consolidate elite social control, and revised education and entertainment programs can have little impact if undertaken in isolation from the primary suggestion I will make below.
Once someone is so emotionally damaged that they are effectively devoid of the Self that should have defined their unique personality, then they will be the endless victim of whatever violence is directed at them. This simply means that they will have negligible capacity to deal powerfully with any difficult life circumstances and personal problems (and, for example, to resist doctors prescribing pharmaceutical drugs), they will be gullibly influenced by violent ideologies, education and entertainment, and they will have virtually no capacity to work creatively to resolve the conflicts (both personal and structural) in their life but will do what was modeled to them as a child in any effort to do so: use violence.
And by now you have probably realized that I am not just talking about the mass killers that I started discussing at the beginning of this article. I am also talking about the real mass killers: those politicians, military leaders and weapons corporation executives, and all those other corporate executives, who inflict mass violence on life itself, as well as those others, such as academics and those working in corporate media outlets, that support and justify this violence. This includes, to specify just one obvious example, all of those US Senators and Congresspeople who resist implementing gun control laws. See ‘Thoughts and Prayers and N.R.A. Funding’.
In essence then, if the child suffers enough of this visible, invisible and utterly invisible violence, they will grow up devoid of the Selfhood – including the love, compassion, empathy, morality and integrity – that is their birthright and the foundation of their capacity to behave powerfully in all contexts without the use of violence.
Instead, they will become a perpetrator of violence, to a greater or lesser extent, and may even seek employment in those positions that encourage them to support and/or inflict violence legally, such as a police or prison officer, a lawyer or judge – see ‘The Rule of Law: Unjust and Violent’ – a soldier who fights in war or a Congressperson who supports it, or even an employee in a corporation that profits from violence and exploitation. See ‘Profit Maximization is Easy: Invest in Violence’.
In addition, most individuals will inflict violence on the climate and environment, all will inflict violence on children, and some will inflict violence in those few ways that are actually defined as ‘illegal’, such as mass killings.
But if we don’t see the mass killers as the logical, if occasional, outcome of (unconsciously) violent parenting, then we will never even begin to address the problem at its source. And we are condemned to suffer violence, in all of its manifestations, until we inevitably drive ourselves to extinction through nuclear war or climate/environmental collapse.”…
…In summary then: For the typical human adult, it is better to endlessly inflict violence on a child to coerce them to obey. Of course, once the child has been terrorized into this unthinking obedience, they won’t just obey the parents and teachers (secular and religious) who terrorized them: they will also obey anyone else who orders them to do something. This will include governments, military officers and terrorist leaders who order them to kill (or pay taxes to kill) people they do not know in foreign countries, employers who order them to submit to the exploitation of themselves and others, not to mention a vast array of other influences (particularly corporations) who will have little trouble manipulating them into behaving unethically and without question (even regarding consumer purchases).
Or, to put it another way: For the typical human adult, it is better to endlessly inflict violence on a child to coerce them to obey and to then watch the end-products of this violence – obedient, submissive children who are powerless to question their parents and teachers, resist the entreaties of drug pushers, and critique the propaganda of governments, corporations and the military as well as the media, education and entertainment industries – spiral endlessly out of control: wars, massive exploitation, ecological destruction, slavery, mass killings…. And to then wonder ‘Why?’
For these terrorized humans, cowardly powerlessness is the state they have been trained to accept, while taking whatever material distractions are thrown their way as compensation. So they pass on this state to their children by terrorizing them into submission too. Powerfully accepting responsibility to fulfill their own unique destiny, and serve society by doing so, is beyond them.
The great tragedy of human life is that virtually no-one values the awesome power of the individual Self with an integrated mind (that is, a mind in which memory, thoughts, feelings, sensing, conscience and other functions work together in an integrated way) because this individual will be decisive in choosing life-enhancing behavioural options (including those at variance with social laws and norms) and will fearlessly resist all efforts to control or coerce them with violence.” – The Psychology of Mass Killers: What Causes It? How Can You Prevent It?
We now turn to the life-work of Darcia Narvaez, a developmental psychologist, to explore the deeper psychology involved and how this full spectrum of violence has become ingrained, legitimised and normalised in our psyche, whether it be as per Galtung’s direct, structural or cultural violence or as per Burrows’ visible, invisible or utterly invisible violence. Several of her articles will be quoted in their entirety as they help focus our minds and heart from the collective utterly invisible cultural level down to the direct visible levels of violence and will help connect to the deep analytical aspects of psychology that will help us unplug individually and collectively from this violent matrix of human dysfunctionalities and life destabilizations.
In her article, Trump, Stress Reactivity, Trance, and Ethics, she wrote:
“Why are US citizens susceptible to Trump’s protectionist ethics?
This post is in response to Don’t Blame Trump: Heal Thyself, America by Peter T. Coleman
Peter Coleman’s blog, “Don’t Blame Trump: Heal Thyself America,” notes the features of the USA that contribute to the popularity of Trump.
George Lakoff describes Trump as evoking the Strict Father frame which attracts conservatives who tend to hold that frame (in contrast to the Nurturing Mother frame that liberals are more likely to evoke). Sylvan Tomkins in the 1960s argued similarly that one’s childhood experience with parents shape these types of world views (he called them ideo-affective postures). Harsh parenting brings about a “normative” posture and more responsive parenting brings about a “humanistic” posture.
What is interesting to note is that many people around the world have problems that are worse than those in the USA. So why doesn’t every country with the types of difficulties Coleman identifies rally around authoritarians like Trump? Why is the USA prone to authoritarianism? What brings about the Strict Father fame?
There are probably many answers to that question. Here is one.
Survival systems are systems that we are born with but that get “tuned up” by early life experience (or trauma). They include the (major) stress response (e.g., Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal or HPA axis), and the mammalian emotion systems that trigger the stress response (fear, rage, panic).
In early life, the foundations for sociality are supposed to be growing, like all the micro skills for getting along with others (initiating a social interaction, picking up on facial signals, recognizing emotions, expressing emotions, sharing eye gaze and its communications, etc.). But if a baby is routinely left isolated or distressed, these systems do not grow well. Instead, the survival systems get enhanced, with stress reactivity a dominant feature.
The USA is one of the only nations in the world that does not provide paid leave for parents with a new baby. As a result, many babies are shipped to daycare providers, the vast majority of whom cannot provide the sensitive care the baby needs to grow well. Even when a parent can stay home with the baby, they are often encouraged to force the baby to sleep alone, a toxic experience for a mammalian baby. These experiences undermine the child’s development, leading to a pervasive sense of threat, easily triggered throughout life.
As Paul MacLean pointed out, when threat is perceived the older parts of the brain can take over the whole mind. In fact, the stress response shifts blood flow away from higher order thinking, away from open-mindedness. The individual seeks to restore a sense of safety through several evolutionary mechanisms. Keeping out anything that is “not me” through territoriality. The importance of like-me ingroup membership is salient, leading to an us-against-them orientation and avoidance of anything different or unusual—difference appears threatening.
A threatened individual shifts among the survival system mechanisms—rage, fear, panic—as if in a trance, which leaves him susceptible to internalizing messages conveyed by an authority figure.
This probably especially works with a male voice. A deep sounding voice from above (a stage) will sound like mother’s voice transferred to the fetus in the womb. The calming effects are not mindful but mindless, a hypnotic trance.
Donald Trump is a master at triggering fear and a pervasive set of threat which puts susceptible listeners into a submissive trance. He offers a salve for the panic he has set in motion—any ideas he provides are taken in like a hypnotic trance.
When threat is pervasive and the mind is taken over by a survival orientation, moral perception shifts. The mindset is one of self-protectionism. Protectionist ethics are concerned with safety. Decisions and actions are made accordingly. In this mindset, it seems logical to think of taking up arms against the threat, to kill the threat. It seems right and good.
What’s wrong with protectionist ethics?
Protectionist ethics are fine if your child is being threatened by an oncoming car or if your house is falling down on your head. Taking extreme measures is reasonable. But protectionist ethics are not helpful in social situations because they are misleading. They mistakenly make you think you are alone, unconnected to others. They encourage social opposition instead of cooperation. They pit one person against another when negotiating interests is more effective and helpful to all. Lab studies show that when people are primed to be afraid, they become less cooperative.
Also at play in the followers of Trump are their beliefs. If you believe that you are superior to X but X is doing better than you think you are, then you get stressed because the world seems upside down. The survival systems will be evoked (rage, panic). X here can be males believing themselves superior to women, whites believing they are superior to other-colored people, Americans believing themselves superior to other nations. These kinds of beliefs lead to a sense of entitlement and are challenged by any improvement of the inferior group.
Many Trump supporters bring beliefs that have already triggered their stress response. They are further manipulated by Trump’s rhetoric. And in that state of survival orientation, they are provided with the solutions that he advocates: being dominant—perfectly reasonable and reassuring to the protectionist ethics activated.
Understanding how we are all susceptible to such rhetoric and manipulation is the first step to taking charge and not letting it control us. We can step back and logically think through what is being said. We can dampen down our fears by turning to our loving relationships that awaken in us other types of possibilities and alternative futures. ” – Trump, Stress Reactivity, Trance, and Ethics
In another article entitled Is Humanity’s “Moral Sense” Inherited or Nurtured?, she wrote:
“Humans are born into a cooperative world. They become cooperative with good care
Humanity’s morals have deep roots in the cooperation of the natural world. In fact, cooperation is dominant in our lives and in nature.
Human beings live on a planet that is highly cooperative, where each entity evolved to give and take in an endless, ever renewing cycle of mutualism (Worster, 1994). Ecosystems are cooperative units of organisms that live in balance with one another. One animal sloughs off their skin or other matter and another animal uses it for homebuilding or nourishment. (Think of all the dust mites in your home!)
More and more researchers are paying attention to the extensive cooperation within biological systems, such as forests (Wohlleben, 2016, The Hidden Life of Trees) with vast social networks where old trees nourish the young, and soil, which is alive with countless organisms in every centimeter (Ohlson, 2014). Cooperation is so fundamental that in the natural world, very little changes across generations—most of what exists in one generation is conserved into the next, including symbiosis that is widespread (Margulis, 1998).
Indeed, humans are part of the tree of life, sharing characteristics with other animals and even with species that emerged billions of years ago (Shubin, 2009). For example, the spinal column we share with other vertebrates evolved more than 500 million years ago (humans have been around for about 2 million years).
Human bodies are themselves communities of cooperation, whose genetic material consists primarily of the genes of the trillions of micro-organisms that form the microbiota that keep us alive (Collen, 2015; Dunn, 2011).
In other words, we emerge from cooperative systems and we are cooperative systems. (Yes, there is competition but it plays a relatively minor role in the ongoing workings of the biosphere.)
Genetic competition plays a minor role in what we inherit and who we are. Humans inherit many things beyond genes (Jablonka & Lamb, 2006). Based on ethological and evolutionary sciences which gather and compare observations, Evolutionary Developmental Systems Theory offers a comprehensive list of human inheritances which include culture, the ecological landscape, and self-organization (Oyama, 1985; Griffiths & Gray, 2001). For example, within a lifespan the individual will self-organize around the opportunities and supports provided. Humans do this moreso than any other animal because of our great immaturity at birth and long maturational schedule (3 decades).
A key inheritance directly related to moral values may be the “moral sense.” This idea came about because Darwin (1871) sought to counter theorists who argued that humans are naturally selfish. Instead, he identified components of a “moral sense” through the tree of life, showing that morality was not contrary but fundamental to human nature. The set of characteristics –empathy, social pleasure, concern for the opinion of others, memory for plans and outcomes in relation to pleasing the community, and intentional self-control to fit in socially—can be seen here and there in other animals but culminate in human beings. Recent experiments with animals support Darwin’s observation of animals. For example, rats will help a trapped peer instead of eating a favorite snack, chocolate (Ben-Ami Bartal, Decety & Mason, 2011).
If we understand that it is normal, based on ethological evidence, for humans to display the moral sense described, then we should ask why some people lack the moral sense or even act with an “immoral sense.” How does a group of humans lose the moral sense?
Unfortunately, the opposite assumptions and questions have been asked by scholars. As Ho (2010, p. 67) points out, contrary to Darwin’s views, neo-Darwinian theory predominates and emphasizes the competitive selfishness of humanity; having been constructed by socio-political attitudes (“Victorian English society preoccupied with competition and the free market, with capitalist and imperialist exploitation”).
The neo-Darwinian view, grounded in unverified assumptions, resulted in the presumably paradoxical question “how could altruistic behavior evolve (given that genes and the behavior they control are fundamentally selfish)?” Instead, based on evidence across nature, including humanity, the question should be inverted: “why do animals compete, given their natural sociality?” (ibid) And, we could extend the question to: Why do humans behave in selfish, aggressive ways when the moral sense is part of their heritage?
Moreover, when we look more closely, we see that across societies the moral sense seems to vary in scope: some societies show little moral concern, others show it only for a subset of humans or, in indigenous societies, include more-than-human entities (e.g., animals, plants, rivers). If the moral sense is innate, why such variability?
Although Darwin seemed to assume that the moral sense was innate, recent research is suggesting otherwise. It now appears that the moral sense is largely developed after birth and requires particular kinds of experience. Right now, the dominant culture is undermining the development of the moral sense–in males and females (but males are affected more).
My collaborators and I study how the Evolved Nest affects wellbeing, social and social development. The evolved nest is predictive of cooperative behavior and wellbeing. The next post will address these data.” – Is Humanity’s “Moral Sense” Inherited or Nurtured? (Please click on the link above for references quoted in the article)
And on to the next post entitled: Raising Children With Love or Dynamite?
“With the evolved nest we become human; without it we are fearful “reptiles”
Do you know any vicious people? People who are routinely self-centered, cruel, domineering, or exclusionary? People whose “hearts” seem to be missing? Soul-less, mind-less, grasping for power or control? Withdrawing from the world with self medication from consumerism, physical pleasures, media, drugs or even intellectual pursuits? Driven by deep fear, why are there so many people like this in the USA?
The USA is one of the worst places in the world to raise a child. There, I said it. How can this be in the monetarily-richest nation on the planet? Of course, life is about more than money.
The USA undermines the provision of what young children need at virtually every step in their development.
But, you say, our kids are not starving. True, but they are probably malnourished if they are eating processed foods to any great degree.
But, you say, they are safe from war. Yes, but they are not safe from other environmental dangers, like the thousands of new chemicals put into the soil, air, water and the hundreds known to be carcinogenic but not banned from use (Davis, 2007).
But these challenges are only symptoms of the larger problem I am pointing to. I am talking about something bigger, broader and more fundamental, which encompasses food provision and environmental safety. The care and tenderness with which we raise children. The missing tenderness. The missing evolved nest.
The Evolved Nest. As ethological observations of many animal species have noted, all animals provide a nest that matches up with the maturational schedule of their young in order to optimize normal development (Gottlieb, 2002; West-Eberhard, 2003). Humans are no different. Humans evolved a particular nest to provide the intensive care an immature newborn needs (Konner 2005). Humans are born highly immature compared to other hominids (and should be in the womb at least another 18 months!) (Trevathan, 2011). As a result, most brain development occurs after birth. Thus, humans evolved to expect a particular set of experiences in early life (Greenough & Black, 1992). Child wellbeing requires an intense level of support on the part of the mother and community (Bronfenbrenner, 1970), a situation that was available throughout most of humanity’s existence (Hrdy, 2009).
How do we know what humanity’s evolved nest looks like? Substantive evidence comes from extant studies of foraging communities around the world, the type of society in which the human genus spent 99% of its history (Hrdy, 2009; Konner, 2010). Nomadic foragers raise their children in a similar way wherever they have been observed around the world (Hewlett & Lamb, 2005). Anthropologists summarize the shared caregiving for infants and young children across these groups:
- “young children in foraging cultures are nursed frequently; held, touched, or kept near others almost constantly; frequently cared for by individuals other than their mothers (fathers and grandmothers, in particular) though seldom by older siblings; experience prompt responses to their fusses and cries; and enjoy multiage play groups in early childhood.” (Hewlett & Lamb, 2005, p. 15)
To this list of characteristics, also observed in these communities, can be added soothing perinatal experiences and positive social support.
Really, you’re saying, you’ve got to be kidding (right?). Nope. Not kidding.
How much do these characteristics matter for development? A great deal. When animals don’t receive their evolved nest, they become abnormal specimens–just like Harry Harlow’s monkeys. Remember those monkeys deprived of maternal love conveyed through touch? They never recovered and became autistic and antisocial.
It may be best illustrated this way. Think about raising a wolf in a human family: you will end up with a wolf. The wolf is not plastic enough to learn human ways. But if you raise a human in a wolf family, you end up with a wolf-child (as has happened numerous times in known history). The individual raised by wolves ends up missing many characteristic human attributes—they prefer walking on all fours, like wolves, instead of on their feet, like humans. They don’t develop language or social skills. There are sensitive periods for the development of various characteristics. Humans are greatly affected by their experiences after birth.*
In fact, one of the most important evolutionary inheritances humans have may be the evolved nest. Why? Because human physiology and psychology are highly shaped by post-natal experience (Gomez-Robles et al., 2015). Neurobiological systems important for all a human becomes are shaped at this time. This includes the development of sociality and moral values (and Darwin’s moral sense).
Here are just a few of the indicators of how the USA undermines the provision of the evolved nest by mothers and fathers.
Pregnancy. It is important for mothers to avoid stress and distress during pregnancy as they negatively influence the personality and physiology of the child (Davis & Sandman, 2010; Davis et al., 2007; Gluckman & Hanson, 2005). Stressed moms create more irritable babies (making it harder to care for them). But there is little expectation of this in the USA these days as all women are expected to work up to the birth (and even return to work shortly after birth). Imagine, instead of resonating with baby, getting their bodies in tune, tuning up the baby’s systems, the mother is distracted during pregnancy and absent during the most important times for brain development.
Child Birth. Medicalized birth in the USA is a clear and present danger for normal mothers (Wagner, 2006) and at every step tends to traumatize the mother and baby (separation, painful procedures, sensory shock to the infant), undermining normal mother-child bonding and entrainment (Buckley, 2015).
Post-birth experience. The child’s proper development depends on bonding with mother and continued entrainment with her physiology as the child needs an external womb experience till about 18 months of age. An immature infant learns self-regulation from calming, affectionate care. The USA is the only advanced nation and one of the few in the whole world without paid maternal leave after birth, which with an expectation of women at work and no child care support at work, undermines the evolutionarily “designed” mother-child relationship. Babies are unlikely to receive the carrying and responsive care needed if shipped to daycare. They necessarily become distrustful of the world from the denial of their need for mother’s mothering. Moreover, the USA is the only advanced nation whose practice of infant circumcision is both widespread and condoned by medical professionals, despite its great harm.
Breastfeeding. Only about 15% of US hospitals are “baby-friendly” which refers to mostly breastfeeding-friendly practices (i.e., circumcision is not addressed), such as not separating mom and baby, not giving formula or sugar water. Across the country, infant formula is advertised and given as free samples, practices banned in other advanced nations. The rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months are low in the USA. Breastfeeding should go on for years in order to develop the proper physiology of the child, such as the immune system which does not reach adult functioning until around age 5.
Affection and responsiveness. Babies expect to be held and carried virtually all the time — their normal physiological development requires it. Under normal, naturalistic birth conditions, mother does not want to put baby down. She and the baby become magnetized to one another from reward centers being activated in the first hour or so (Buckley, 2015). But, practices mentioned above, plus USA cultural pressures to not ‘spoil the baby’ or let baby ‘control you,’ eat away at mother’s instincts. A mother must have great resolve to shut out this mistaken and harsh advice. More here, here and here.
Multiple responsive caregivers. Babies need constant in arms support, which of course cannot be done by a mother alone. In fact, isolating mothers and babies is a recent, health-undermining practice. Mothers in our prehistory were always mothering with other mothers who shared care and even breastfeeding when necessary (Hrdy, 2009). Babies should be kept calm as their physiological systems set their parameters and thresholds for functioning. For example a frequently distressed baby will develop stress-reactivity, a low threshold for getting upset, which they take forward into the rest of life (Lupien, McEwen, Gunner & Heim, 2009). USA capitalism has prioritized money over family and relationships, breaking up extended family life, and undermining basic trust children have toward the world through the practices mentioned earlier. More here and here.
Play. All mammals (and other animals too) play (Burghardt, 2005). It is a sign of health and sense of safety when young mammals play. Children expect to play from birth. Banter (sometimes called “gossip”), a more verbal form of play, is what characterizes human relationships in our ancestral conditions. In small-band hunter-gatherer communities, most of life is spent in social leisure (minimal work is done for food-gathering) which includes song, dance, storytelling and teasing banter. Series on play here.
Positive social support. The child in an extended family typically finds one or more relatives that love him or her. In nuclear families, this may not occur. The USA has emphasized nuclear families but in welfare-dependent families, policies have supported single-parent households. When children are shipped to daycare, preschool and join school populations, they are typically isolated with those of the same age and coerced to “learn” (Gray, 2015). This is counter to the naturalistic pedagogy that was normal until recent centuries where the younger modeled the older and the older mentor the younger. The contemporary, though abnormal, same-age lifestyle encourages competition and peer risk taking, rather than the growth of social cooperation, which is fundamental for the success of any society.
Gender differences. Boys need a more extended nest since they are the more delicate sex in virtually any way measured (Schore, 2017).
Consequences of the abandoned nest. Just like a species-typical nest is necessary to foster a species-typical individual, whether monkey or elephant or whale, the evolved nest is fundamental to becoming human. Animals raised in a species-typical manner are confident and comfortable in the world. They learn their place in the biocommunity and live cooperatively with others. The human being raised atypically, common in the USA and spreading across the world is afraid. Their confidence was broken early and burgeons into protectionism–against self needs, against intimacy, against others, against the world. Such a person does not learn his place in the biocommunity because such learning was thwarted repeatedly in early life. The denial of the evolved nest teaches the child to deny himself, to distrust the world and to deny respect for others. (And it takes a great deal of courage, insight and healing to repair such early toxic damage.) Meanwhile, the social and physical world explode with walls and armaments against others.“
*NOTE on BASIC ASSUMPTIONS:
WHEN I WRITE ABOUT HUMAN NATURE, I use the 99% of human genus history as a baseline. That is the context of small-band hunter-gatherers. These are “immediate-return” societies with few possessions who migrate and forage. They have no hierarchy or coercion and value generosity and sharing. They exhibit both high autonomy and high commitment to the group. They have high social wellbeing. See comparison between dominant Western culture and this evolved heritage in my article (you can download from my website):
Narvaez, D. (2013). The 99 Percent—Development and socialization within an evolutionary context: Growing up to become “A good and useful human being.” In D. Fry (Ed.), War, Peace and Human Nature: The convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views (pp. 643-672). New York: Oxford University Press.
WHEN I WRITE ABOUT PARENTING, I assume the importance of the evolved nest or evolved developmental niche (EDN) for raising human infants (which initially arose over 30 million years ago with the emergence of the social mammals and has been slightly altered among human groups based on anthropological research).
The EDN is the baseline I use to examine what fosters optimal human health, wellbeing and compassionate morality. The niche includes at least the following: infant-initiated breastfeeding for several years, nearly constant touch early, responsiveness to needs to avoid distressing a baby, playful companionship with multi-aged playmates, multiple adult caregivers, positive social support, and soothing perinatal experiences.
All EDN characteristics are linked to health in mammalian and human studies (for reviews, see Narvaez, Panksepp, Schore & Gleason, 2013; Narvaez, Valentino, Fuentes, McKenna & Gray, 2014; Narvaez, 2014) Thus, shifts away from the EDN baseline are risky and must be supported with longitudinal data looking at multiple aspects of psychosocial and neurobiological wellbeing in children and adults. My comments and posts stem from these basic assumptions.
My research laboratory has documented the importance of the EDN for child wellbeing and moral development with more papers in the works (see my Website to download papers):
Narvaez, D., Gleason, T., Wang, L., Brooks, J., Lefever, J., Cheng, A., & Centers for the Prevention of Child Neglect (2013). The Evolved Development Niche: Longitudinal Effects of Caregiving Practices on Early Childhood Psychosocial Development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28 (4), 759–773. Doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2013.07.003
Narvaez, D., Wang, L., Gleason, T., Cheng, A., Lefever, J., & Deng, L. (2013). The Evolved Developmental Niche and sociomoral outcomes in Chinese three-year-olds. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 10(2), 106-127.
– Raising Children With Love or Dynamite? (Please click on the link above for references quoted in the article)
And finally, let us go even deeper to discover the root cause of our acquired life destabilisation syndrome and how it has become normalised, embedded and embodied in our personal unconscious and collective unconscious. As explained in From Life-Blind Mindedness to Life-Grounded Heartfulness: Our Emotional GPS Revealed and illustrated in An illustrated guide to our long forsaken Emotional GPS, there is a connection between our life destabilised and dysfunctional emotional GPS and the full spectrum of our social pathologies via its capture and gerrymandering of our individual and collective cognitive and emotional maps to serve the dominating vested interests of the ruling “assetted” class. Professor John McMurtry’s life work as detailed in his magnum opus The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure, identifies the personal and collective unconscious algorithm at work and at play as follows:
Rationality = Self-Maximizing Choice
= Always More Money-Value for Self is Good
= Self-Multiplying Sequences of Ever More Money to the Top Under 1%
= the Ruling Growth System with No Committed Life Functions
= All Else is Disposable Means to this Multiplying Pathogenic Growth
Interestingly, if we look at the neurobiological processes involved in learning and memory, and which guides our information gathering and processing life capabilities, we at once see an adamantine connection between levels of control in brain emotional-affective functions and deep analytical strata of the psyche as illustrated below.
As illustrated above, we can connect our collective unconscious with our primary process instinctual emotions, and these processes work behind the scenes to guide us when we are optimally cared for with minimal toxic stress to regulate all aspect of life functioning. When this optimal development is compromised by cultural and structural design or accident, then personal nightmares develop as signposts to course correction, and collective pathogenic myth-making, narratives and theories are created to justify and legitimise our life dysfunctional behaviors and the violent domination of the masses.
Our personal unconscious can now be identified with our secondary-process emotional control systems and our consciousness can be identified with our tertiary-process social emotions, cognitions and awareness functions.
It is interesting to note that most of our social-cultural programming occurs in our personal unconscious secondary-process control systems and it here where complexes in deep analytical psychologies are learnt and recalled from implicit procedural memory and where Prof John McMurtry’s money-maximising sequencing algorithm manifests as the pathogenic money complex, which has reprogrammed the salutogenic life-giving and life-enabling complexes from their natural and life-sustaining developmental course, as illustrated below:
So, although it is bottom-up processes of learning and development and the influences of our rumination and thought that influence the trajectory of our physical, mental and social development, this does not occur in a vacuum, but are influenced by top-down systemic cultural and structural processes via cognitive regulation and conditioned responses. It is here where life-dysfunctional social constructs are molded and where our pathogenic social, economic and political institutions were forged and have since then served to deregulate our cognitive and emotional facilities with life-disabling conditioned responses.
For example, social constructs such as private property were invented to legitimize theft and enclosure of the commons from First Peoples and to justify their genocide. Profit was invented to legitimize life-deprivation and despoliation of the health and wellbeing of our planetary and social life supports systems, and the rapacious exploitation of coveted resources and people from their ancestral places of abode. Open markets were invented to legalize unlawful control and limitations of life-resource gift exchanges, distribution and recycling between nature and all of Her inhabitants. And finally, nation states were invented and bootstrapped by legal, financial and military means as they serve as firewalls to protect the ill-begotten gains of the money masters as they legitimize the life-corrupt systems in the modern era and became agents of their protection rather than protecting the life-supporting system which we all are inter-dependent on for life-sustenance.
And with the endarkenment of life values via the “enlightened” anti-life-philosophers (an oxymoron as a lover of wisdom has to be pro-life and not anti-life), a regimen of soldiers in the guise of bankers, lawyers and accountants have been indoctrinated to serve the money complex, and the politicians have become the de facto overseers of this now globalized financial plantation being dictated to by the international financial industrial complex. Hence the existence of perpetual wars and the cycle of violence from corruption at the top and poverty at the bottom as shown below, and the narratives, as manufactured in scriptures, constitutions, treaties and other similar codices and promulgated by the academic institutions and mainstream media so as to justify and legitimize these pervasive life-destabilizing practices.
In summary, by equating violence with acquired life-destabilizing syndrome, a unifying diagnosis can be made based on the wisdom of life-stewardship and how the destabilization is as a result of human pathogenic interference of the natural flow of life-enabling processes. The default life-processes or natural history of life are health-enabling (salutogenic) at every level of life organization, and it is us, when we did not know any better, that tacitly allowed the corrupt private moneyed propertied ruling class to hoodwink us and manufacture our unwitting consent. (Please see the following trilogy of articles for more details: Is pathogenic human interference the cause of our social and planetary woes?, Is our credit creation system the father of all pathogenic human interferences? and On why our pathogenic credit creation system creates pathogenic disconnected and addicted selves.)
Direct and visible violence occurs when we have acute life-destabilization in the form of hitting, beating, raping, shooting, bombing, polluting and depleting. Structural and invisible violence occurs when we have chronic low-grade institutional life-destabilization which is best exemplified by the boiling frog parable:
The boiling frog is a parable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that arise gradually.– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog
And finally, cultural and utterly invisible violence is chronic cognitive and emotional life-destabilisation that has been regularized, hyper-normalized and legitimized to justify our being dumbed and numbed down so as us not being able to see and feel the corruption in the contrived corrupt systems and to challenge the unlawful and illegitimate unaccountable and opaque authority of the ruling class. It is only until we have brought from the unconscious to conscious awareness the machinations of the life-corrupting ruling class, would we be able to consciously unplug from this Matrix of corruption, and help reboot our social constructions so as to create a network of grass-root life-activists that are the most inclusive to allow us to pass the tipping point to save our planet and our communities as we enable the most beautiful non-violent revolution of the mind and the heart that we now know is possible.
I will leave you with the most forceful quote yet that would summarize the predicament we are in and why it is imperative to boldly go where no one has dared to go before:
The taboo against knowing what is wrong with the accepted surrounding rule of daily life is ancient, but in this case is globally fatal.— Professor John McMurtry