2 The Human Mind
“Although intelligence tests are usually speed tests for the sake of convenience, it is debatable whether speed has any rightful place in the basic concept of intelligence.”
Isabel Briggs Myers
Operating theory of the nervous system
To better understand human behavior, it is important to better understand the physical structure of the human nervous system, and its operation. Like any other organ in the body, the nervous system has evolved over time, and increased in function and capacity. The human nervous system is constructed in layers of increasing function and capacity. Those layers start in basic functions that govern motor functions and bodily reactions, and extend to higher functions like spatial reasoning, complex and abstract thought.
Your nervous system is not so much a single computer but an array of different computers each performing specific functions. These computers are spread throughout the entire nerve harness of your body. Tiny clusters of nerves in the spinal cord handle unconscious reflexes. The sensation of physical pain and the initial reflex associated with the pain is handled as close as possible to the source of the pain. This design allows for the split-second reflexes that can mean the difference between life and death. It is easy to observe the functioning of this in human children. Watch a child receive and react to an injury during their play, and for a moment they are in a bit of a stupor. A couple of moments later the emotional reaction sets in, crying and calling out for help.
Up the spinal cord at the base of the brain another computer known as the amygdala is responsible for higher level survival functions. The amygdala is what possesses a child to cry out after an injury is received. The specialization of this organ engines a coordinated body response to further protect the total biological system. Crying out for help loudly serves to bring aid. This organ helps with any response where protection of the total biological system is required. The amygdala is on standby mode at any given point in time analyzing sensory information for threats to physical wellbeing. Through the process of learning the amygdala develops a set of pre-programmed contingency plans for threat scenarios.
The nervous system is capable of mustering a finite amount of energy from the body's metabolic system. The human metabolic system acts as an energy traffic controller for the total physical system. Energy is directed where it is needed, when it is needed. When a life threatening scenario occurs, the energy controller for the body turns off higher reasoning to direct energy to survival systems. If a person has no previous memory or training of what to do then they will behave erratically.
Observers might conjecture why they didn't try x, y, or z. But that kind of analysis is not available to the animal in emergency survival mode. After the exciting event the information collected from the experience needs to be processed. The emotional information is processed by the nervous system using the whole body. Things like jumping, waving arms and shouting are all activities that discharge the energy of the excited state and all things that are done to process positive or negative emotional experiences.
In an excited state the higher functions of the brain governing complex and abstract thought are metabolizing at a minimum level. Higher functions are in sleep mode. If necessity calls for the use of higher reasoning, the body will redirect energy to the higher functions, and reduce survival functions lowering the excitement level of the motor control system. For instance, if you find yourself having an ‘emotional meltdown’ performing basic math can cause a reboot, and regain control over your composure and situation in general. Lower functions cannot perform mathematical calculations, and the body will redirect energy to your higher reasoning.
Cognitive function layers are well illustrated by Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Fundamental functions of the nervous system are capable of recalling memories. Hence why the military will frequently engage in physical drills. Life and death skills learned in a simulation are integrated in memory so that application in the real situation is automatic. Higher and higher up the pyramid more processing power is required to perform the functions. It takes our full metabolic energy and attention to process information all the way to the top of the pyramid where original creations can happen.
Emotional information is processed all over the body in different regions of the body producing physical sensations. For instance, the feeling of intense fear is a feeling that can be felt as a tight constriction in the chest. Anxiety is a more intense fear emotion producing a more severe constriction in the chest. To integrate this information up the cognitive pyramid the full feeling needs to be acknowledged by the total nervous system and expressed. Tools for emotional expression such as stress journaling allow the nervous system to process emotional information up the cognitive pyramid.
Unprocessed emotional information will result in continual revisitation of that information until it can be fully expressed through creativity. For example, while working on this project deeply seated frustrations of my own came up. Distracted by feelings of anger and sadness I became jammed in analysis and evaluation. Taking a break from writing, my partner suggested stress journaling my feelings. Next to my desk there is a cast iron urn, marker, strips of paper, and a box of matches. Writing out feelings of frustration, sadness, and a stream of obscenities on the paper. Striking a match and watching the flare of the flame and then touching it to the paper. The feelings ignite into a larger flame as the paper is consumed by fire. Placing the paper in the iron urn just before it burns my finger tip and admiring the beauty of the flame. After doing this twice a feeling of relaxation and contentment is once again restored.
Once again, able to resume writing after having processed the information through creative expression. Focus has returned and can once again engage in the act of creative formulation. Without processing emotional information through creative expression, a person will remain stuck at various levels of their pyramid. Ever heard the term analysis-paralysis? This is the root cause.
As human beings we have the same fundamental components yet each of us is very different and unique as well. Nobody in this world will live life through your own eyes. You only live your own unique perspective and have your own unique experience. In every way your own unique perspective and deep internal world is a gift that you have that nobody else can have. There is nobody in the world that is exactly like you, so for that you are special and unique.
Through a great deal of study about the differences in human behavior four fundamental personality categories were identified. The major types are Artisans, Guardians, Idealists, and Rationalists. Each of the major personality types are further divided into four subtypes. Every person has two distinct personality types, a major type and a minor type. Personality and temperament sorting is something that can be done using a variety of online tools.
Embracing one’s own personality type and that of others can be a very liberating experience. My own partner and I experienced a great deal of romantic conflict in our relationship until we started feeding each other the right flavor of behavior. Imagine you like strawberry ice cream and your romantic partner or friend likes chocolate ice cream. By assuming one’s partner will like the same flavor as you do and vice versa then you’ll constantly be feeding each other the wrong flavor. The result of this over time is mutual resentment.
It is currently unclear why exactly humans fit into these different categories of behavior type. All things have evolved out of necessity. Each behavior type helps fill in crucial functions that stabilize society while promoting growth at the same time. One’s personality type can be an excellent informant to help guide one towards their ultimate answer.
99% of who you are is fabricated by the time you are 16 years of age. The first 6 years of a person’s life are an incredibly crucial formative period. During one’s toddler years they are unable to process the information that other people have emotions. Thus, toddlers are like little psychopaths exploring the properties of the world without consideration for the barriers of others. At around 5 years of age a child begins to develop the capability to imagine the thoughts of others.
It is during this formative period in a child’s life that they will perform a number of different behaviors that are considered socially unacceptable. However, treating young children in a harsh manner based upon their routine breaking of social conventions is inappropriate. The child has not yet developed the ability to process social conventions and this is often the sour spot for traumatic emotional experiences for a child.
There are a nearly incomprehensible number of boundaries for a young child to test. Human children learn by observation of their environment and the people in it and all of their social behaviors they will learn from the people in their environment. Lie to a child, and they will learn to lie to you. Be emotionally violent with a child, they will learn to be emotionally violent to you. Every single negative behavior a parent exhibits will be reflected directly back at the parent. This can be infuriating from the parent’s point of view because people generally do not like it when their own behavior is thrown back in their faces.
As will be discussed in the next chapters sufferers of negative cognition training often experience amnesia about their own behavioral dysfunctions. When a child reflects behavioral dysfunctions learned from their parents back at them this can be enraging to the parent who is completely oblivious that they taught it to their children. Unaddressed this often results in generational perpetuation of emotional trauma.
Children in the United States are being unfairly prescribed behavior altering drugs when it is their parents that should seek rehabilitation for their own behavior. As a child I was prescribed these drugs and the result was a long-term buildup of resentment, and despair. Those built-up emotions were not fully processed for 25 years. Data from the Nyborg experiment as well as the broader research on the subject has led me to conclude that just about everyone is on a spectrum of emotional trauma from their childhood ranging from moderate to severe.
Though the vast majority of nerve connections are formed in childhood the mind is a forever changing organ. Immersed in different environments one’s behavior will adapt to the environment over time. Our mutable brain can be kept in a constant state of change and adaptation through routine exercises of learning new skills and processing new emotional experiences. The mind is easier to change if it is made to change often.
Environmental engineering for the sake of behavioral change is a powerful tool and can lead to inevitable results when vigorously applied. Our constant ability to change and adapt means that we can design systems in which desired behavioral outcomes can occur. A tremendous portion of the human economy is built to cater to emotional trauma. People with emotional trauma engage in a huge range of behaviors designed to numb their pain. Electronic entertainment, games, drugs, pornography (including pornographic books), shopping, social media, and many more are simply devices in which people go to numb away a deeper seated emotion.
Systems built to ultimately force confrontation and expression of those deeply seated emotions are the key to unlocking the next evolution in human economics.