Posted Sat October 08 2011 by kbehan
(Be advised that this a long essay on theory.)
Recently there was a productive discussion (except for you know who) on Lee’s Psychology Today blog in regards to the differences between dogs and cats in terms of their respective social capacities. I would like to springboard off this discussion in order to more thoroughly develop the concept of “emotional capacity,” as well as to distinguish the notion from Daniel Goleman’s concept of emotional intelligence—which in essence advocates the control of emotion by reason—and which is how this kind of intelligence (emotional capacity = feeling what another is feeling) is generally misconstrued. What we have to understand about animal intelligence is that it is dependent on being able to incorporate a sense-of-self within the surroundings, rather than postulating a self relative to the surroundings as in the “emotional intelligence” model. This is the fundamental misinterpretation of animal behavior whereas the notion of emotional capacity is the ONLY theory intellectually consistent with Darwin’s notion of continuity due to common descent.
Meanwhile, some misinterpret probing for the distinctions between dogs and cats as if we’re asking which is better, dogs or cats, and then in order to salvage the good name of cats the counterargument reflexively becomes that dogs and cats aren’t really very different (“My cat comes when called.”) as otherwise one must be better than the other. It’s as if we’re discussing social capacities between races of people when the topic of comparative behavior really should be approached without an emotional charge as we would the question: What are the differences between carbon and helium?— so that we can ascertain the chemistry essential to life. So my argument isn’t that dogs are better than cats because they are more social. It is that dogs have a higher emotional capacity than cats and can therefore perceive order and flow in situations and under conditions that cats cannot. All animals share a core emotional dynamic and in this fundamental sense all animals are the same. Thus on rare occasion we observe the lioness nursing the gazelle fawn. However this core is not static, it is dynamic, specifically, as a platform for elaboration that ultimately renders the phenomenon we call sociability. Species of animals vary in their capacity to sustain this process of elaboration under higher and higher rates of change and a high capacity enables such individuals to go by feel when under stress and encountering resistance.
A feeling is a process of elaboration that depends on the individuals’ sense of its “self” becoming, from its point of view, integrated with its surroundings. Then, if the object of its attraction can reciprocate in kind, and all animals can potentially do so because the same emotional core is universal in animal consciousness, then an auto-tuning/feedback dynamic is enabled so that two individuals become emotional complements, equal and yet opposite, to the other. Since this fulfills the fundamental mandate of energy, which is defining two poles (one-with-energy-to-give relative to one-with-energy-to-absorb), energy can move between them and both parties to the interaction feel internally gratified and therefore rewarded for whatever action or inaction they may have performed in order to complement the object of their attraction. Nothing tangible has to happen, it just feels “right” given the way neurology, physiology and anatomy interface to frame an animal’s perception of experience.
What this means is that all animals have feelings, but a feeling is like a pipe in terms of how much energy (emotion) it can carry. When, where and how the process of elaboration breaks down, constitutes the size of the pipe and determines how strong a given feeling can be and whether the feeling can persist long enough to impact the environment so that it can be shaped to conform to the internal dynamic of the feeling. This is where such expressions as “Will To Live” and “Where There’s A Will There’s A Way” come from. (If one has ever had a strong impulse in one context, that then fades when in another context even though the underlying emotion hasn’t been resolved, that is an example of a low emotional capacity so that the feeling couldn’t be sustained in a new context.) Emotional capacity and the protocols of its elaboration are essential to dog training because the fundamental question is: How big is the pipe between you and your dog? If the pipe isn’t big enough then under certain circumstances the dog will not be able to feel its owner and won’t listen.
On the other hand, if one party in the interaction were to resist the other and fail to become its equal and yet opposite, then friction results and both will end up with more of an emotional charge (and a sensation of being incomplete because of an internalized vibration, which from that point forward demands completion) than when they began. (This is why dogs with strong social natures will avoid conflict that they could easily win and even bear the brunt of an outburst without retaliation because they orient toward feeling whole and avoid acquiring sensations of incompleteness.) Because it takes two to make a connection this principle of emotional conductivity (I can’t feel good unless you feel good) provides an inborn impetus toward sociability. This doesn’t mean that sociability is a foregone conclusion in any given encounter because the acquisition of an emotional charge can also beget an addictive cycle of load/overload hyper-tension that is then relieved by the prey instinct, which is why dogs do on occasion fight other dogs, bite kids, kill cats and not to mention that it is extremely rare to find lionesses nursing gazelle fawns. It’s just that since the makeup of every animal is predicated on a universal emotional core, sociability is over the long term and statistically speaking, inevitable. Nature has all the time in the world and every action or inaction be it social or “anti-social” increases the energy of attraction and ultimately contributes to the construction of an interconnected web of ecosystems. As Darwin said: “We are all netted.”
To digress for a moment, animals don’t recognize the before and after effects of an experience they go through by virtue of a cognitive understanding of a cause that led to an effect that is then framed within a cost/benefit kind of analysis, which is what the conventional and scientific theories are trying to demonstrate. Rather they can feel if there is an increase or a decrease of compression from moment to moment as emotion courses through their body/mind, and then whether or not they are still holding a charge after any given event. If a dog can integrate its self into its surroundings, then everything that happens during an event is part of one moment no matter how long it may take to transpire. Within a moment (and the experience of an intense situation can be slowed down in an animal’s perception of it by a strong feeling) an animal can perceive the direction of flow and and the pace, or beat, of change and in this emotional state can thereby adjust its actions in order to synchronize with the most significant elements of the system in flux. But if an animal cannot perceive both poles–the polarity of tension (-) relative to the polarity of release (+)–in a given frame of reference, then when something changes, that individual experiences this as a new frame of reference, a separate moment, and has to reacquire a sense of its polarities and then cannot form a coherent energetic view of events running their course over a span of time. They become con-fused and their actions have a static, load/overload quality to them because they’re leaping from one moment to another. (For example, if these concepts are hard to follow, then the reader is experiencing many moments with discontinuity between them. But if the logical arc is whole, then it is experienced as one moment. If you’re experiencing many moments, my apologies.) This fragmentation of a moment or the capacity to experience it whole, rather than cognition, is how animals learn from experience on the most fundamental level.
Now what makes dogs singular is that they can integrate their sense of self into circumstances that for most other animals are not conductive (see supermarket analogy of consciousness). Because their emotional appetite is so high, a dog is able to turn what other animals perceive as absolute negatives, or barriers to the flow of emotion, into positives, in other words, that which cannot conduct or resists emotion can be made conductive through the sheer force of desire. They are able to do this because of being able to process the deepest and most intense physical memories through their hunger circuitry so that in a situation that is daunting for other species, they can apprehend the potential for flow, and they are able to do this because of the aforementioned capacity to synchronize with what they perceive as a source of tension, and when in sync what an object of attraction does feels energizing rather than destabilizing. They can link the negative to the positive in their surroundings.
I presented the idea in YDIYM, that the fundamental purpose of hunger isn’t nourishment, but rather it is a programming hook so that external objects piggyback on the brain-to-gut connection. Through a Pavlovian imprint during infancy, external objects literally travel down the subliminal focal beam, and there is quite literally energy that is materially real because the neurological activity in the dog’s brain has become subliminally attached to this point of reference within the body/mind. From the individual dog’s point of view, it perceives a change as a displacement of its physical equilibrium and the subsequent neurological energy generated by its brain, it feels as if it is attached to its physical center-of-gravity, as if something is pushing on its body at that point, the epicenter of where it senses its physical center-of-gravity to be within its body via the subliminal beam of attention. This hook by which external objects are imported, is like open source software so that other developers (i.e. the external environment) can create new code within the dog’s body/mind.
If the hunger for the external object of displacement (attraction) is strong enough, there is a commensurate feeling of fusion between its physical center-of-gravity and this external object of attraction. When it moves, the dog feels as if it is moving and ultimately, the back and forth (Newton’s second law of motion, every action has an equal and opposite reaction) and this can induce the feeling of weightlessness just as two kids experience on a seesaw. This state of emotional resonance increases the dog’s emotional capacity and now the two can come to operate as one, as if they are physically connected. Something that was non-conductive (the predatory aspect of the other dog) has been made conductive through the force of desire, i.e. processing external objects via the hunger circuitry. Resistance becomes sensually arousing rather than emotionally inhibiting.
The second dog is likely to respond in kind because the approaching dog by acting as its mirror, puts pressure on the dog but simultaneously deflects its attention onto its body so that physical memories of resistance will be processed through the hunger rather than the balance circuitry. This back and forth mirroring process has been misinterpreted as “calming signals” and while the term calming is apt, signaling is not. Both individuals are working within a universal auto-tuning/feedback dynamic. They are creating the signal and this auto-tuning/feedback process is what calms them, there isn’t a calming signal.
If a dog can process a physical memory through its hunger circuitry as opposed to its balance circuitry (animal consciousness is the confluence of balance and hunger along a variable ratio) then it is not being governed by the past, which would limit it to the reflexes or habits that had worked previously (as in output having equalled input in order to maintain a sense of equilibrium). Instead it will feel compelled to act as an emotional counterbalance to the the object of its attraction and this will inspire it to tune its behavior to the present, immediate-moment reality. If the object of attraction is manifesting an “up” state, then it will feel moved to get itself lower. If the object of its attraction is still, it will tend toward action. If the other dog is direct in its manner, the emotional dog will deflect its attention off its eyes and act circuitously. If this being is tense, it will feel soft. In such an interaction, going by feel means being guided by flow, and so a feeling unlike a habit, thought or instinct, proceeds according to what’s actually happening in that moment.
The significance of hunger being predominant over balance in animal consciousness is this ratios’ critical impact on emotional capacity. For example, when in balance mode, capacity is limited because when stimulated, an individuals’ output (action) has to IMMEDIATELY equal input (the degree to which it has been stimulated) and so it will quickly react to the stimulus rather than act in correspondence with the stimulus. It isn’t able to wait for the moment to unfold because just like losing one’s physical balance, an instant response is required to return to equilibrium. (This is the quintessential definition of a “reactive” dog.) Typically and ironically emotion has long been considered the impulsive force on behavior when the real culprit is instinct and habit.
Instinctive reflexes are a short term, electrostatic-like, load/overload manner of discharge whereas emotional capacity is what tailors a response in a measured way to the moment and with a coherence which also factors in the long term. Instincts preclude action that is fine tuned and corresponding to what’s happening emotionally within the object of its attraction. “I don’t care what you feel because I can’t feel what you feel.”
But on the other hand if it’s processing through its hunger circuitry, then it doesn’t have to act immediately to keep the emotional equilibrium checkbook in balance because it’s feeling flow, the ultimate metric of safety and gratification. I like to use the metaphor of fly fishing to explain this phenomenon. The accomplished angler doesn’t try to overpower the fish but lets it run its course because it’s the flow of the back and forth that is the real point to fishing. In the hunger over balance frame of mind, impulses (such as getting the fish on shore as quickly as possible)can be overridden because when the individual relives a physical memory via its hunger circuitry, it’s “in its body” and feeling whole and therefore doesn’t relive the particulars of how physical memory was acquired, but rather physical memory serves as a lump sum, pure emotional counterweight to what it is attracted to. This translates into feeling movement that is coherent because it feels as if it is moving along an axis directly and physically linking it to the object of attraction. Whatever the observing dog does is immediately fed back into its sense of its own body by virtue of what the object of its attraction does. The behavior of the other individual isn’t acting on him, but within him and the dog quickly apprehends that it can control the object of attraction by controlling its own actions given this immediate feedback loop. But at the opposite end of the spectrum when balance is over hunger, the dog can’t get that linkage. This coherent back and forth motion is a predictor of an imminent state of suspension, the aforementioned feeling of flow. It’s like two magnets coming together and at least one of them is free to flip and can readily attach to the other. We see a dog that’s in its body “collect” itself into its hind end because it is feeling energized (just as if it’s eating food) rather than destabilized (as if it’s falling), even though no tangible, material dividend for its patience has yet been realized. (Note that the nourishing, energizing effects of food are realized before any nutrient is actually digested or metabolized. This is the aforementioned programming “hook” so that external objects of attraction can be imported via the subliminal beam of reference, and emotionally digested and metabolized so as to arrive at a more complex and nuanced sense-of-self which now includes the object of attraction.)
When hunger is greater than balance, then the balance mechanism is subsumed into its social function and serves as a tuning faculty by which the individual precisely attunes to the object of its attraction. (We can observe this laser precision manifested with cutting horses, herding dogs and athletes, cheetah running down an antelope by cutting the corners oh so delicately, and especially gymnasts.) I argue that emotional capacity has evolved to be higher in canines than other animals (save one) due to the fact that they hunt a prey that is large and dangerous, which means going-by-feel within a maelstrom of rapid fire change and intense resistance, which is especially pronounced after we factor in the physical capacity of canines relative to the physical power of their prey. I believe that emotional capacity (the ability to go by feel) is the source of the complexities of canine social life as well as the dog’s incredible behavioral plasticity. During the process of elaboration, elements of the environment are imported and integrated into the individual’s very apprehension of its “self.” (“What-I-Want and How-I-Feel is Who-I-Am”) And so the the dog’s sense of its self evolves in real time to changing circumstances allowing its responses to become more and more refined and nuanced according to the specifics of the situation. Historically this behavioral plasticity have been mistakenly attributed to higher cognitive functions but there are many clues in the everyday and extraordinary things that animals (and most especially and vividly dogs) do that clearly indicate that cognition and constructing a theory of mind isn’t at work. What we’re really observing is a feedback dynamic precisely attuning to a specific set of parameters the longer the process of elaboration can be sustained. The concept of emotional capacity can best be brought into relief by considering the differences between the various species of animals as well as to consider the differences between the various breeds of dogs. When the process of elaboration reaches the highest levels, it becomes finely tuned to the object of attraction. This is the essence of each breed of dog, finely tuned to the prey the breed was selected to hunt. Emotional capacity is why we have the wide diversity of dogs, genetic plasticity running in parallel with behavioral plasticity due to the far more fundamental and underlying emotional capacity.
In a nutshell, when an individual has a high emotional capacity then the individual feels that a negative-represents-access-to-a-positive. The individual feels that the eyes (-) of the other being, grant him access to his deepest physical memories and the powerful feelings arising from within his body (+). A simple emotional circuit is completed. Note that in the core emotional dynamic, the circuitry isn’t in the individual. It must evolve into physical reality by coming into syncopation with an object of attraction. Only half the emotional circuitry is in the individual, no animal is an island.
Meanwhile back at the Psyche today discussion, I will address a complaint that was raised by our internet friend apparently signaling from his post in a galaxy far, far away. While his criticism didn’t make the forum due to his problem with civil discourse it somehow showed up in my inbox. And because it can be construed as a legitimate questioning of the term emotional capacity I’ve coined, I’ve extracted the following:
“The silliness of Behan’s argument is that one can just as easily claim that a dog’s “emotional capacity” is easier to overload than a cat’s.”
So is the notion of emotional capacity fickle, can it be turned around to mean anything one wants it to mean? No because it’s part of a model and if it’s used capriciously, the model falls apart. (You may have noticed that dominance theorists are now arguing that a dominance hierarchy is a bubble-up emergent phenomenon, in other words, an oxymoron. This is a capricious use of language that renders the term nonsensical.) Since my definition of emotion (a virtual force of attraction) distinguishes it from instinct (genetically encoded reflexes triggered by sensations attendant to the collapse of a state of attraction), and because feelings are centered in the heart and are therefore distinct from thoughts centered in the head, emotional capacity means one thing and one thing only, the capacity to go by feel under a high rate of change. (For example a successful NFL quarterback reports that after several years of experience the “game begins to slow down.” In other words he can feel what all the other players on the field are doing as the action unfolds. His body becomes attuned to an incredibly high rate of change. There is also an interesting experiment wherein a stunt man is dropped into a netting from a 200 foot height. He wears a special watch that flickers too fast to be read except as it turns out, when he’s in free fall. I interpret this to mean that his familiar frames of reference of his body/mind, which are predicated on balance and a specific state of body tension, have been erased by finding himself in a state of suspension and so quite literally, the moment slows down.)
In my model emotion follows a principle of conductivity so that if two parties in an interaction can manifest complementary traits or “poles” so as to sustain a feeling of flow in their heart, a social structure arises that is predicated on the internal principles of emotion (conductivity and the conservation of energy). Therefore a universal module of emotion is responsible for all cooperative and social behavior no matter the species and so the definitive question now becomes at what level of intensity, does the fundamental module collapse so that the individual reverts to instincts, habits, or in the case of humans and perhaps some primates, thoughts, in order to cope with an overwhelming experience. So if I were to arbitrarily declare emotional capacity to be one thing or another just for the expedience of sustaining an argument, then it no longer fits into a model that simultaneously encompasses a coherent definition of sexuality, learning, drive, and personality, instinct, thoughts, etc., etc., etc.. This model evolved over many years of observing dogs and animals without projecting thoughts onto their behavior and does not rely on oxymorons and internal contradictions to encompass the full range of behavior. I eagerly invite a critic to construct their own model which shouldn’t be difficult if as they claim dogs can think as they must be thinking akin to how we think, varying by degree rather than in kind.
Meanwhile, the most fundamental commonality between man and animal is inarguably emotion rather than intellect, and since humans are emotional, I don’t see why we can’t know what an animal is experiencing on a purely emotional level. I’m not speaking in totality, but on this inarguably shared plane of emotional experience. Even if I am wrong about cognitive capacities of animals, the reality remains that unless we start with a rock bottom fundamental definition of emotion, it will prove impossible to discern what aspect of intelligent and adaptive behavior is due to emotion as opposed to the higher reaches of cognition. By immediately leaping to cognition to explain complex adaptive behavior, objective scientific inquiry is immediately at that point terminated. Currently behavioral sciences are working without a model which is akin to trying to understand the interactions between atoms and molecules without understanding the workings of gravity, the laws of motion and electromagnetism. Therefore, since the emotional dynamic is universal to all emotional beings, our own personal experience of emotion can be our best research tool.
This paradox reminds me of a scene from “The Emperor of Scent” when biochemist Luca Turin, who is promulgating a new theory for the sense of smell, brought a set of samples to a scientist who was a gate keeper on publication. Turin’s fascination with the sense of smell arose from his love of perfume, and like a wine connoisseur he can decode the complex chemical admixture of any perfume given that his love of smell cultivated a rarified nasal “palate.” But when he suggested to the scientist that he look up from his papers and actually smell the concoctions he had laid out on his desk to experience the rationale for his claim through his own senses, the man was shocked by the idea, as if using one’s nose was antithetical to science. Likewise, if one is able to parse apart the internal experience of sensations, instincts, thoughts, feelings and emotion within their own body/mind, then what we experience during an emotional event is potentially our best tool for scientific inquiry. The first step is to learn to not invest an emotional experience with Time (since no one knows what that is) and with this skill in hand, our most subjective sense, our feelings becomes our most objective lens into our own animal mind, that which we hold in common with all other animals.
For example, immediately preceding an outburst of anger or an implosion of guilt is a sensation of collapse, a rushing in on itself, like the sandy loam of a riverbank being eaten away by flood waters. This collapse transpires within the center of our chest and this is the precise instant when one’s emotional capacity is being breached. On the other hand there are occasions when the opposite happens and rather than a caving in we experience a welling up, as if the middle of one’s chest is an energy vortex, a well spring, and in this state everything happening around us feels energizing and empowering rather than destabilizing or burdening. Things seem to slow down.
By paying very close attention to this one can verify the concept of emotional capacity for oneself and so we can arrive at a fundamental choice, who are we going to believe, the experts or our feeling heart? As Luca Turin’s work suggests sometimes we have to stop and smell the roses.
One of the logical underpinnings of NDT is that the size of the prey and the danger quotient in hunting such animals, is the best explanation for the social life of wolves and hence, the behavior and trainability of domestic dogs. Overcoming resistance is how the dynamic of emotional capacity evolved. Wolves had to be able to feel which prey animal was becoming confused and then cooperate with their peers in synchronized motion. This capacity was highlighted via domestication and so our pet dogs feel what we feel because they live at ease in our world of incessant change. Another way of saying this is that they feel sensual in circumstances wherein other species would feel sensitive.
The hunting to social linkage is of critical importance to dog owners because when a dog’s hunting drive is properly developed, then a healthy social disposition and willing obedience is ensured. Whereas if the dog’s emotion and learning is approached from either the dominance or the scientific models of learning, then the hunting template is left for the dog to figure out on its own. Many dogs can indeed do so because for many dogs chasing a Frisbee or going for a car ride is satisfying to a “low prey threshold” temperament, and the emotional battery will eventually connect the necessary dots so that life with its owner can be emotionally construed by the dog as a group living in synchronized motion. (The negative, owner’s eyes, does to an extent lead to the positive.)
One can also say that the extent to which both of these models deviate from their theoretical underpinning (for example the notion that playing tug of war is simply a “high value reinforcement”— albeit a term that actually denies where the value in a reinforcement comes from) also happens to be the extent to which both end up being successful in the real world. So a trainer plays tug with their dog as a reward and they interpret this as being positive and then attribute their dog’s trainability and a good social nature to the virtue of being positive rather than understanding that when emotional capacity is high enough because the dog is able to convert unresolved emotion to resolved emotion by way of overcoming resistance, even “negatives” become positive. It’s the power of the negative given the dog’s high emotional capacity that is truly responsible for the dog’s successful development.
And then however, by the same token, when one doesn’t access the hunting/group dynamic directly, this can cause eventual failure since those dogs with extremely strong hunting drive, or those dogs under a great deal of stress, can break down when under a heavy emotional load if the emotional capacity isn’t specifically addressed in regards to the phenomenon of overcoming resistance.
In the Psychology Today discussion two good objections were raised to the prey size/danger relative to predator criteria. One was that lions do in fact hunt very large and dangerous prey animals as for example, giraffes and water buffalo, and it occurred to the reader that this therefore can’t account for the nuance of canine social structure. Lee countered that while true, nevertheless the size disparity between lions and large prey and canines and large prey still remains, however I concede that the danger of a giraffe with its powerful hooves and amazing reach is pretty overwhelming. (The question remains whether lions regularly target these animals or are they merely hunts of opportunity.) Below are links to a number of videos of various hunts with canines and lions so that one can judge for themselves the disparity in physical strength between canines and their prey relative to felines and their prey. To my eyes, the canines look a bit delicate and quite feeble relative to the overwhelming physique and power of lions.
But nevertheless the legitimate point remains that lions on occasion hunt large and dangerous animals, but then what does this point actually substantiate? It actually substantiates the point it’s arguing against since the extent to which lions hunt large dangerous prey, is the extent to which cats are able to be domesticated to a level that approaches the domestic dog. In fact because the emotional dynamic is a fundamental module of behavior that is universal to all animals, whenever an animal is placed in a synchronized, emotionally conductive “medium” (I’m thinking here of Alex the Parrot and Washoe the chimp) they begin to exhibit rather spectacular capabilities. Is their emotional capacity being raised due to the affection and bond with their human handler?
Perhaps the best objection that was raised to the hunting/social thesis was that the distinguishing feature between feline and canine and what makes the canine hunting style possible, is physical endurance rather than emotional cohesion. Due to physiology, a cat is soon exhausted if the kill isn’t accomplished quickly. However, while this places a physical capacity over an emotional capacity, it still leaves intact the premise that the hunt is critical and could still be the basis for a refined style of social living. So even if it were the case that physical endurance allows for complex teamwork that plays out over a long period of time, the hunt still comes first. Interestingly, African Wild Hunting dogs have a hunting strategy completely predicated on physical endurance and yet these did not produce the domestic dog.
But I am also arguing that physical adaptations arise from the emotional dynamic, in other words emotion comes before genes (logically this is the only way it could be a universal feature of animal consciousness) and that therefore, the attribute of physical endurance derives from an underlying emotional capacity as well. Canines evolved to have physical endurance because they are endowed with emotional persistence, not the other way around. I used to run cross country in college and running along a narrow trail through the woods made me feel energized and tireless because of the feelings induced from rapidly racing past things, whereas traversing a large open field and looking at a long reach to the horizon, could make my legs feel like concrete beginning to harden. My emotional capacity was buoyed by one context, and burdened by another, and my perception of physical fatigue followed from this. (Donnie Osler recently posted on the site scientific findings from an athletes’ “kick” which I believe ties into my concept of an emotional battery.)
Obviously emotional capacity has to be working beneath the genetic scenes because I noticed in my cross country days that I was mostly running with other tall skinny guys so a geneticist would take issue with me here. In other words, my gene code wasn’t changing in real time based on my emotional capacity (although epigenetics is now causing us to rethink this). However my point is that the malleability of my perception depending on context is a signature in one’s consciousness of the far deeper correlation between the two. Genes fundamentally are limits that keep a given species locked into a given niche in service to the network. It’s when the emotional conductivity raises high enough that genetic constraints on behavior are suspended and then the base emotional code can take over. This happens when hunger for flow (it takes two to flow) is more pronounced than keeping in stasis. (Dimasio’s definition of emotion as fundamentally about homeostasis is “Dimasio’s Error” to paraphrase a title. The drive within the organism to return to homeostasis is the body/mind capturing energy for subsequent integration.)
Actually all animals are persistent in regards to whatever their particular species categorizes as prey and this is because attuning to prey (that which absorbs and conducts emotion) is a universal feature of the emotional dynamic. One animal isn’t fundamentally different from another; they all carry the trait of persistence, what differs is the degree of resistance they can handle, otherwise “the game speeds up.” Thus we can restate the concept of emotional capacity by noting that a high emotional capacity allows a dog to perceive a preyful aspect (emotional ground) in things that other animals cannot, and this is why they manifest the trait of doggedness as a persistent feature of their makeup across a broader range of contexts (and in my view also why they carry the physical adaptation for endurance) because they can next associate the negative with the positive so that it becomes an access channel.
In summary, emotional capacity enables a platform of elaboration so that a raw, undifferentiated energy of attraction can evolve into a refined feeling BY INCORPORATING OTHERWISE NON-CONDUCTIVE ELEMENTS OF THE SURROUNDINGS INTO THE ORIGINAL FEELING OF ATTRACTION. The social structure that emerges from this is not an emergent capability per se, but is actually a statement of information, a computation of change so that an emotional charge becomes manifested as highly correlated personality states, like frequencies of light in phase. In other words, the personality of a dog is a computation of how change is being processed IN ITS GROUP.
How does emotional capacity explain the social “savvy” of wolves, the most important aspect is the collective raising of the young, whereas in contrast in African Wild Hunting Dogs and lion social systems, infanticide is a regular feature of the reproductive cycle?
NUCLEAR FUSION. Because the emotional capacity of wolves is so high, their social life follows wholly from the social life of their prey. Just as the musk ox form up into a circle with the young pressed deep into its center, every aspect of the wolf’s social life revolves around the communal raising of the cubs. The cubs are at the hub of the wheel and every behavior of the adults is like a spoke radiating out to form a wheel. Cubs and adults become of one mind.
In the canine mind, inanimate objects can become “group triggers” because they induce the memories of hunger. They then become midpoints around which the group orbits and a social order emerges upon this platform. This is what dogs can do far more readily than cats and the signature of this is that when you arouse a dog with the movement of a prey object, he visibly drools whereas cats, while they will bat at it and pounce, do not drool copiously. So group triggers can get deep into the physiology of the organism beyond its species genetic hardwiring and preprogramming, so that the emotional circuitry can evolve between two parties in an interaction and beget a social order.
Only half the emotional circuitry is in the individual, the other has to evolve into existence or the capacity is breached and then there is no platform for elaboration. These group triggers can be the cub, and they can be inanimate objects that induce the memory of a social order. Dogs having a high emotional capacity, are particularly susceptible to importing external stimuli into their body/minds and then when excess stimulation hyper-excites their prey instinct, and the dog “loses consciousness” and can’t feel the essence of what it is looking at. It’s akin to an epileptic seizure and is the basis of the so-called “rage syndrome” and even manic cases of aggression in the stronger natured dogs.
According to famed natural veterinarian Dr. Schoen: “In cats, hereditary epilepsy is actually quite unusual. Normally, one can find a particular cause. These include feline infectious diseases such as feline leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis, feline AIDS, chemical toxins, brain tumors, head trauma such as after being hit by a car as well as various problems with the liver and kidneys.”
In nuclear fusion, the external becomes emotionally welded to the internal and then hunger for an object of attraction (which depends on sensing its preyful aspect) becomes a platform on which the movements of said object, feels energizing rather than overwhelming. And since emotion only moves according to its own inherent principle of conductivity, and since emotion is universal to all animals, if the object of attraction can reflect that emotional energy back at the one who projected its emotion onto it, and if they can both feel hunger for the other, then an auto-tuning/feedback dynamic comes on line created by the two parties and this then guides the interaction along to higher and higher levels of elaboration. Both parties behave so as to cause the object of their attraction to behave in a way that heightens its feeling of pleasure. They each become, literally, the ground for the other. This ping/pong template is the basis of all advanced dog service work and canines are different than felines because at a high rate of intensity, a cat’s emotional capacity collapses and they now must go by either instinct or habit, rather than by feel. They go by their past rather than by being in the moment.
Under certain conductive circumstances, we will observe this process of elaboration occurring in all species of animals, and yet nonetheless the prime distinction of capacity remains. We can think of emotional capacity as a pipe, every organism is a conduit for emotion, but certain species become overwhelmed at specific points and this triggers discrete behaviors, quite akin to light along the spectrum being radiated at specific wavelengths. To our eyes, it looks like these behaviors are unrelated to another species version of same, but that is analogous to how we once thought of the color blue as unrelated to the color red.
The emotional dynamic is a platform of elaboration wherein energy is reflected back and forth from one component of the system to another and in this way it evolves into more and more complex feelings. This process of elaboration collapses more quickly in cats than dogs, and when it collapses, the intensity of the collapse triggers species specific fixed action patterns or reflexes. Whereas a dog can feel emotionally fused with object of attraction so that the intensity of collapse merely fuels a stronger and stronger hunger rather than an imbalance. For example, if you tease a dog with a prey-like toy, he salivates. If you tease a cat, he either bats at it or pounces as the process of elaboration quickly collapses into a prey-making reflex because the intensity is too high.
My point here is to show that this is not a cognitive kind of intelligence. Therefore on the most fundamental level of distinction between species, it’s not that one species of animal has this or that behavioral module and another animal does not, a capacity that can then be traced to this or that neurological structure in the brain, rather the fundamental differences between animals is to what degree or level of “amplitude” (intensity of the experience) that the individual can participate in until its carrying capacity is breached at which point it responds with either an instinct or a habit (or a thought in the case of humans). Emotional capacity is the fundamental agency of learning because it’s how animals integrate external variables with internal emotional states, the foundation 6of a coherent response. Thus, when an individual can’t participate further in this process of elaboration, then species specific reflexes or habituated responses take over and we see there resulting behaviors fall out along a spectrum and we see them as fundamentally different. So in the way that emotion and intelligence is currently entertained it’s as if we’re looking at a two dimensional figure when in reality it is three or poly-dimensional, in other words, our tendency is to see intelligence as something static rather than dynamic.
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