Beyond the Pecking Order
By Ernest Pecci, M.D.
If we observe animals in their natural habitats, we would see that they are usually relaxed and content. So, too, we might conjecture, the natural state of humans is to be happy, loving, creative, and content. Civilizations evolved with the purpose of creating an environment where this natural state would be made possible for larger numbers of people. Yet, the mental state which we encounter in others and experience in ourselves is commonly quite the opposite....
Somehow, we all seem to understand what a person who says, “I feel crazy,” means. It is a state of upset, overwhelm, and turmoil in the head, with no known solution. It is often associated with physical exhaustion, headache, emotional depression or apprehension.... The cause of feeling crazy is stress, which is caused by inner conflict [incompatibility]. Physically, the body becomes armored; the muscles become tense and especially the jaw, throat, chest, shoulders, and pelvis, in an attempt to numb all sensation. Stress occurs when the innate instincts and the learned, social instincts are at war with each other [mind and heart]. There is a paralysis resulting from inner rebellion, guilt, helplessness, and self doubt. This is one definition of neurosis, and hardly anyone is free from it.
What is a human being, and how do we differ from the animal kingdom? We can say that we have highly specialized brains with large frontal lobes and extra convolutions in our gray matter which enables us to engage in abstract thinking and complex reasoning. Perhaps our dilemma is accurately symbolized by the Great Sphinx of Egypt: a spiritual being entrapped in an animal body.
In any event, until we understand more about the nature of our animal body and its built-in patterns of coping and survival, we will continue to be deluded by the notion that our behavior is largely determined by free will.
We are gifted with a mind that can control every facet of our physical body. Yet, without a respectful awareness of the innate instincts and drives of the physical body, and without proper training and a disciplined mind, sooner or later it is the emotional needs, the drive for power, the sexual usage and the survival instincts of the physical body that will ultimately run the mind.
Humans normally have a strong intellectual defensive mechanism which serves to hold in check instinctive impulses and drives so that they can behave in a socially acceptable manner. The result, for the average person, is inner conflict and neurosis. Why are animals, who apparently have no such defenses, less troubled and able to behave more “humanely” to one another in social structures, than do humans? Perhaps it is because animals do not experience the alienation between their inner world and their outer world of nature. And, why don’t animals, like most humans, have to expend immense psychic energy in suppressing an inner volcano of rage that threatens constantly to erupt to every provocation? Perhaps, if humans within a given family or social system accepted each other unconditionally as animals accept one another within their social groupings, there would be little need for the defensive functions of the ego and for the constant storing of rage.
Until we accept the inseparable relationship of the physical body to nature, and obey the laws governing all of nature, we cannot prevent its breakdown and its aging prematurely despite all of the technological advances of medicine.
As each civilization becomes more complex, it paradoxically becomes more dehumanizing, more stressful, and more out of touch with the natural order or things. It eventually begins to decay from the center outward, as it core breeds malaise, depression, and violence. This is the problem facing all of our major cities today: the insidious corruption of human values breeding self-alienation and violence. None of this is natural to nature. Rather, it is the result of severing our bond to nature and to the natural flow of the underlying order which sustains life on this planet [especially the food supply].
The mind of man has the power to create beautiful edifices, spacious cities, and complex social systems. But, lest he be constantly aware of the danger, he too easily becomes entrapped in these structures of his own making. His identity becomes lost in the artificial fabric of a great, creative cultural illusion which now veils him from his true identity and his primordial interdependence with nature. We live in materialistic world dominated by the left brain. From a very early age children are taught to exercise their left brains for spelling, math, and the memorization of endless duplicated information at the exclusion of their right brains. Yet, it is our right brain, the creative and intuitive aspect of our nature, which is by far our greatest asset and the source of every major new discovery. A balance between the two is needed. And the proper use of this balance, under a disciplined mind, yields the greatest fulfillment of our potential. Young children are primarily right-brained, which means that they experience the totality and wholeness of nature without dissecting it. Once they make the shift to the reasoning intellect, they cease to experience the real world, except in terms of what they tell themselves.
One of the problems with our educational system today, is that it puts data into the left brain as answers, instead of questions. This not only limits, but obstructs, the creative function of the right brain. It is not so much what schools teach as way they do not teach that makes a tragic waste of the precious opportunity they have to influence positively, the mind of young children during their most receptive and impressionable formative years. Schools might better serve society if they focus upon the real lessons which children need to learn...
Perhaps, if there was one word to describe what is needed most in the world today and which is lacking at the level of the family, among the various subgroup in our society, and among the nations of the world, that word would be “communication.” Paradoxically, the explosive growth in the technological transmission of information around the world has nearly made close interpersonal communication obsolete.
During the first five years of schooling, children should spend more time learning to communicate with each other than listening to the teacher. Interpersonal communication is the basis for learning. During the first two years of school, all of the major modes of communication are stifled to the exclusion of technological communication...
We are trained to go through life in our own little booths, trying to mind our own business. It makes us paranoid. People who live in an apartment house in a city of a million people are lonely because of this. A woman is being knifed on the sidewalk in New York with 35 people watching from their window, every one of them minding their own business until she is dead.
Why is everyone so busy? Where are all the people rushing to go? They are afraid if they stop that they will get in touch with their loneliness. We don’t have time to really make contact, to really touch each other, or to fully savor life. Certainly, we are not taught this in school. Life is outside the windows of the dreary rectangular classroom. Finally, the bell rings announcing the end to one more long day of confinement. Those whose parents want to push them toward success, will have precious little time to savor the outdoors because of the added burden of homework. What if a child could be made to study endless hours until he read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica? What then? Very few highly successful men would credit their high school or college classes for their success. In any event, six hours per day of linear thinking is sufficient for any child.
As the unit of the family goes, so goes the social structure. Children search for a sense of significance in the eyes of the adults about them, as they reach out for emotional bonding, acceptance, and love from their immediate “tribe.” When they see eyes clouded with fear, worry, and indifference, their spark of innocence becomes encapsulated in a protective wall. Something in them begins to die as anger covers their hurt feelings.
Civilization, with it social constraints and enforced, suppressive learning environments, promotes the progressive dehumanization of children. There is a loss of bonding to nature, and with this, a loss of essential being and worth. They become out of touch with inner reality [soul] at the cost of serving an outer reality [ego]. Spiritual values are reduced to empty concepts and religious ritual. They develop a negative emotional state which, like heavy, smog, cloud their consciousness with fear, confusion, overwhelm, and apprehension. Behind it all is the heart’s aching for spiritual nurturance. Street drugs and prescription drugs are used in large quantities to calm the mind’s frantic clamoring for the harmony which only nature knows. In every human being there is an inner loneliness and an inner desperate search for something, anything to fill the void left by the loss of essential purpose and being. Once the tie to nature is severed, the resonance with the inner and outer world is lost, and with it, an instinctual sense of one’s ground of being. The outer world is seen as an enemy, a competitor, a barrier to the fulfilling of one’s inner needs. To attack or to blame someone out there becomes the way of easing a conflict within. The stresses of day-to-day coping creates inner conflict, irritability, frustration, and a desire to give up or to resort to violence. It is as if something imprisoned inside is crying out for expression regardless of the consequences. Creating more prisons is not the answer.
Psychiatrists are only recently placing emphasis upon the exploration of the human qualities of basic goodness and love. And the power of love when activated can overcome the forces of hate. Researchers now seriously term love as a nutrient and compare its role with Iodine and Vitamin C. There is some evidence that love even influences the growth of children’s bones. It certainly affects a child’s ability to learn in school; it is the foundation of emotional health, the magic wand that lifts the curse of self-dislike... That is why is it so important that we learn to understand the capacity we all have to love and the power inherent in loving to dissolve anger and fear.
We are human beings in an animal body, and as such are subject to all of the baser emotions common to the animal kingdom. But whereas anger and fear are survival mechanisms [shock] to provoke attack or to assist in flight in lower animals, these emotions serve no useful purpose in man [except to help re-establish one’s personal boundaries (anger) and propel one to take action (fear)]. We are unique from all other species in possessing a center of higher awareness, intuition, knowing, and will. Then, too, we have an intellect that weighs, judges, and is capable of rational decisions. Only when we lose sight of the special nature of our being, do we regress into helplessness and fear and then bring senseless suffering to ourselves and to others. The motives of the animals are based upon survival of the species and the pain/pleasure principle. In humans, the prime purpose of all activity is toward freedom to restore to oneself the full awareness of who we are. The pain/pleasure principle only temporarily satisfies the pain, despair, and loneliness created by our deeper memory of our separation from whence we came and the yearning for the oneness we once knew. So, sense pleasures, physical pleasures [addictions] are sought as a desperate measure to temporarily try to satisfy something that cannot be satisfied in this way. The yearning, the emptiness, the longing, the loneliness, the incompleteness, the dissatisfaction still there behind it all... Ideally, as we evolve as a people, the extreme polarities, such as a master-slave, gradually merge into a brotherhood of equality. And this is the inner battle we all must resolve, the struggle between self-serving isolation or cohesive communion with one another.
In the course of an average lifetime each person plays many roles in a variety of relationships with others, including parent-child, husband-wife, teacher-student, and boss-employee. These relationships are held together by our gregarious nature and an innate need to create and to sustain a meaningful social bond. Through these experiences we learn something about giving and receiving, the rewards of service, the responsibilities of authority, and the right use of power. Rollo May stated, “...no human being can exist for long without some sense of his own significance.” As humans, we must learn the true meaning of power. The misuse of power leads to estrangement and an endless search for significance through control, domination, and violence. The right use of power is for empowerment. One’s own sense of significance can be best measured by the willingness and desire to enhance the significance of others. In the animal kingdom, power is expressed through instinct and emotion. In the spiritual man, power is expressed though reason and love. However, fear and competition closes the heart. With the heart closed, man becomes enamored with himself. Then the greater the wisdom, the greater the pride. When the heart is open, the greater the wisdom, the greater the appreciation and the awe of the fathomless mystery of life all around us... I have come to realize that even more important than being loved is having someone who appreciates your love. Children who are not hugged grow into adults who do not like to be touched. You empower others by how you receive what they have to give.
By Ernest Pecci, MD, from the book, ‘Dog and Human Behavior, Amazing Parallels and Similarities.’
"Even more important than being loved is having someone who appreciates your love. You empower others by how you receive what they have to give.