A Hurricane, a Dog, and the Secret of Wisdom

There were many sad photos last week at the height of Hurricane Harvey’s Texas destruction. One, particularly, stood out for me. It was a photo of a German Shepherd, all alone, tied to a pole, in the midst of rising waters.

The social media response to the photo was damning. Many people condemned the owners for leaving a dog in such a vulnerable position. Several suggested eternal damnation for the people who abandoned this animal. Many people posted that they couldn’t comprehend leaving their animals at all, let alone left so vulnerably. The invective and hate were running full throttle. And there’s the problem with human beings.

The photo definitely evoked emotions, and people ran with the thoughts those emotions evoked without seemingly any attempt to consider the universe of possibilities. They accepted their first — and only — perception and the emotion that the photo elicited. Here are several thoughts that would have been useful.

I wonder whether that is a staged photo?

Is this dog lost or was it abandoned?

Perhaps the owners left it there briefly to rescue their other dogs and the cat?

Perhaps the owners are out of shot, hailing a rescue boat?

Etc., etc.

Moreover, even if the dog had been abandoned, what were the circumstances?

Perhaps the owner was searching for his lost children? Or searching for his/her parents, spouse and other three animals?

It is also likely that whomever this dog belonged to, was in a severe state of stress, possibly having seen their home, lifestyle and future totally destroyed. I have had to evacuate from oncoming hurricanes. I have always taken my pets and couldn’t imagine leaving them behind, and many don’t evacuate for precisely that reason. Last year, Hurricane Matthew actually hit my community but despite a lot of damage, it was nothing like Harvey. However, let’s cut some slack to people whose lives has just been brutally turned upside down and truly are in survival mode. This doesn’t condone cruelty and the abandonment of animals, but neither should it justify the cruelty and abandonment of people.

The point is that the hurricane that is in this picture, isn’t a tropical cyclone, it is the seemingly increasing human incapacity to think beyond what is at the surface, what I call “iceberg thinking.” At a time in our evolution, when people have mastered the art of emotional manipulation (see Advertizing), we need our capacity to be discerning more than ever. We need to realize that the default setting of the brain is indeed a quick, impulsive, emotional response, which drives the narrative. But we have to move on from there, because that is the road not just to fake news, but hate and the end of objectivity, intelligence and wisdom.

Three of the hardest words to utter are simple: “I don’t know.” I have seen thousands of affirmations designed to improve self-confidence and remove fear but for me, before all that, we should start with this one.

“I really don’t know what is going on. I can imagine dozens of scenarios, but without more information I don’t know. And when I don’t know, I am in no position to judge.”

That is the thought process of the wise person.

PS: When I saw this photo, Leaha Mattinson and I had just finished recording a Master Your Life episode on the Secret of Wisdom, which begins airing tomorrow, Tuesday September 5th at noon ET on VoiceAmerica radio.

https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/102147/they-secret-of-wisdom

The Neuro Eclipse: Why are they getting more common?

Horrific acts of terror. People yelling hateful slogans against hate. Slavery on the rise in supposedly sophisticated countries. “Leaders” around the world involved in almost psychopathic acts and threats. Surely, Man was meant to get more sophisticated over time and not head the wrong way down the evolutionary trail. Mankind has turned into Man-not-so-kind. What the heck has happened?

NEURO-ECLIPSE: WHEN THE LIMBIC SYSTEM COMPLETELY BLOCKS OUT THE FRONTAL LOBE

If Man has reverted to his primitive fight/flight instincts, it’s because they exist and are primal. Survival is the brain’s first priority, and, as a result, we have an effective system designed to ring the alarm bells when something is threatening (emotions) and dictate our thoughts and behavior so we can respond to the threats.

The feature that supposedly separates the men (and women) from the other animals on the planet is that Man has developed the ability to “think.” Theoretically, Man has the ability to consciously evaluate threats and emotions and plan accordingly. Man has the ability to consider and control feelings rather than simply be driven by them. Much of this activity is derived in, or runs through, the frontal lobes.

Interestingly, the frontal lobes are the last major part of the brain to develop, suggesting that a level of maturity is necessary for them to develop a thought-driven, emotion-controlling influence. It is estimated that the frontal lobes aren’t fully developed until the mid twenties. However, perhaps it isn’t age that is important in their formation, perhaps it’s experience?

The frontal areas of the brain are in many ways about self-control: the ability to resist the pull of the emotional limbic system. And it’s reasonable to assume that experiences that develop self-discipline and control are key to effective higher consciousness and frontal lobe activity not the mere passage of time. Without the development of self-discipline, those frontal areas of the brain will be weaker and incapable of resisting the primal influence of the limbic system.

So perhaps the rise of the neuro-eclipse has to do with a culture that has become more permissive, more entitled, and more narcissistic.

“I mean how dare you teach my child self-discipline!!! Let him be himself!!”

If you take that approach, your child may well be himself but that is likely to be a self that is out of control, driven by emotion and at risk for constant neuro-eclipses.

Walt Mischel’s research from the 1970s showed that children who showed self-discipline subsequently did much better in life than those who didn’t. You don’t have to be a neuroscientist to figure out why. Adrian Raine’s neurocriminology research shows that many offenders have impaired frontal lobe function leading to out of control, impulsive behaviors with little thought of consequences, or much else.

It’s not just that stressful emotions can overwhelm thought processes. Our thought processes are largely driven by emotions, so you need the ability to manage those feelings if you are going to act appropriately and even give yourself a chance at productive thinking. Otherwise you might find yourself marching in places like Charlottesville, or driving vans into pedestrians in Europe. Or simply failing at being a responsible human being.