Anthropomorphic "double-talk?"

Dr. Beckoff in his blog on Psychology Today makes an intriguing observation that people are more willing to acknowledge that an animal can be happy whereas they resist or become uncomfortable with the idea that animals can be unhappy. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/200906/anthropomorphic-double-talk-can-animals-be-happy-not-unhappy-no

He believes that this makes it easier for people to allow substandard or even inhumane ways of handling and housing animals. While my hat is off to the raising of awareness that such thinkers as Dr. Beckoff and others have contributed to our understanding and especially our care of animals, however I don’t see this paradox as indicative of people attempting to minimize an animals’ sentience in order to justify a possibly harmful treatment. I don’t think every anomaly has to be filtered through the prism of animal/rights/welfare politics. Rather I believe this reveals that people intuitively grasp a subtle truth about the nature of emotion.

Being happy means being in-the-flow (and flow arises from a feeling of being “grounded”) this is the essence of emotional experience, emotion being energy-in-motion, “time flies when you’re having fun” and all that. However the state of being unhappy is not the opposite of being happy in the sense that it is a black emotion relative to a white one. Rather it is the absence of emotion and the attendant sense of flow altogether. For example, a negative electrical charge is indeed the opposite of a positive electrical charge and so they are equal and yet opposites in all ways. However weightlessness is not the opposite of gravity; rather it is the absence of gravity altogether.

One way of apprehending this distinction is to consider the sense of forward thrust one has when flying in an airplane. During the flight one can watch a movie, eat a meal, carry on a conversation or even sleep, and yet there is always this underlying sense of momentum ever-present that is such a deep background fixture it is seemingly out of mind, like a white noise we can’t hear after a period of exposure. But it nevertheless is essential as a platform for any possible enjoyment or happiness one might experience on the flight.

So a feeling of well being is predicated on this underlying sense of flow seated deep in the subconscious and which makes one’s “footing,” or frame of reference, feel stable. And we can see that this is the case because were the engines to back off or were they to cut out completely, immediately sensations rush in to the body/mind to fill that void and just as suddenly we think wistfully about being back on the ground. I believe these instincts are the basis of what we experience as unhappiness. Sometimes it happens suddenly, but there can also be a slow degradation of momentum (think about traffic beginning to slow on a busy highway and the uprising of instincts that then begin which are proportionally intense depending on time constraints and the degree of urgency to get to one’s destination) and the body/mind being a learning instrument will begin to experience an instinctual occlusion and respond proactively before an outright interruption does in fact occur. In the absence of emotion and its flow; the resulting sensations, instincts and thoughts have been misinterpreted as negative emotions and as a source of unhappiness and as the opposite of being happy. So I believe people intuitively sense that emotion is an organic sense of momentum built into our very constitution and consciousness and that it is always a positive energy and that animals do indeed experience it.

However in the human mind the condition of being unhappy must immediately be ascertained by the higher capacities of the mind as being due to a “reason” and hence a person’s inherent reluctance to acknowledge such a state in an animal since intuitively we understand that animals are emotional but not intellectual. (This is why we use the same words to describe emotion that we do animals, “wild,” “irrational,” “unpredictable,” “crazy”) So do animals feel what could be called unhappy? Yes, but animals experience “unhappiness” in the sense that they too can feel out of the flow, be disordered and hence are beset with sensations and the subsequent instincts by which they cope with these sensations. (Animals don’t think about the source of the interruption, rather they experience an instinctual experience I call “attribution” in order to locate the source of the interruption and this can lead to rather comical results as well as neurotic behaviors.)

Is such a distinction worth making? Yes, for one thing since Dr. Beckoff makes the observation it can be made to appear that people are inherently hypocritical in their way of looking at animals given that they lack a model for emotion and thus a means to articulate the distinction I’m making. And to avoid being hypocritical, they would be forced to concede that if an animal can be happy then it must be able to be unhappy as well in the full human context of the experience. This then leads to the concession that animals are people too and from here we will not be able to draw all important distinctions between animals and people, between emotion and instinct, and between feelings and thoughts. (Lee Kelly has written an important article on these dangers. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-puppy-my-self/200906/how-dogs-think-the-debate-between-emotion-and-logic ) We do no service to the good nature of animals by turning them into people.

Finally, distinctions are important because otherwise we are led to the conclusion that there are such things as negative emotions and this perpetuates a judgment not only against the nature of emotion but against the nature of animals as well. I feel that the discussion of animals and emotion is so confused because emotion has yet to be properly defined. What is emotion? Is it an instinct, a thought, or is it energy?

Published July 4, 2009 by Kevin Behan
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8 responses to “Anthropomorphic "double-talk?"”

  1. Jannik says:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/mar/09/chimp-zoo-stones-science

    this article is quit interesting it also refer to some of ur other articles

    Jannik

  2. Subaru says:

    Behan couldn’t be more wrong. It is in fact the opposite of what he thinks. When people are ‘grounded’ they feel unhappy and they are happy when they are not grounded.

    In and in fact when people are unhappy they describe their physical being in a way that is closer to being ‘grounded’. ‘I feel down’, ‘like dirt’, ‘feeling low’, they are so ‘grounded’ they have to ‘drag themselves’, describing a feeling of ‘heaviness’ and being ‘burdened’. This experience is caused by being in the flow.

    In comparison, happy people don’t describe a ‘grounded’ feeling. On the contrary, they are ‘on air’, ‘cloud nine’, ‘floating’, ‘elated’ (from the latin for elevated), ‘high spirits’ , ‘walking on a cloud’ or a sense of ‘flight.’

    This resulting feeling is caused by the super-convergence of ultra high energy frequencies that are channeled through an ellipse and then reflected on a catenary and results in increased amplification of feel good vibrations while harmonic interference eliminates feeling of unhappiness. This causes an upward helical structure in the non corporeal consciousness which we interpret as happiness.

    It just goes to show that when people use metaphors as arguments in absence of evidence, they can argue anything. This is what distinguishes Behan from a real researcher, they have facts and Behan has metaphors.

  3. DaveD says:

    Subaru said: Behan couldn’t be more wrong. It is in fact the opposite of what he thinks. When people are ‘grounded’ they feel unhappy and they are happy when they are not grounded. In and in fact when people are unhappy they describe their physical being in a way that is closer to being ‘grounded’. ‘I feel down’, ‘like dirt’, ‘feeling low’, they are so ‘grounded’ they have to ‘drag themselves’, describing a feeling of ‘heaviness’ and being ‘burdened’. This experience is caused by being in the flow. In comparison, happy people don’t describe a ‘grounded’ feeling. On the contrary, they are ‘on air’, ‘cloud nine’, ‘floating’, ‘elated’ (from the latin for elevated), ‘high spirits’ , ‘walking on a cloud’ or a sense of ‘flight.’

    I have been following Subaru’s challenge to KB and have to say I totally agree. The quote above is a elegantly simple answer that NDT followers should be comfortable with, as it is a good example of how our language is consonant with our emotion. However, it solidly contradicts KB and his major argument.

    Subaru continues: This resulting feeling is caused by the super-convergence of ultra high energy frequencies that are channeled through an ellipse and then reflected on a catenary and results in increased amplification of feel good vibrations while harmonic interference eliminates feeling of unhappiness. This causes an upward helical structure in the non corporeal consciousness which we interpret as happiness. It just goes to show that when people use metaphors as arguments in absence of evidence, they can argue anything. This is what distinguishes Behan from a real researcher, they have facts and Behan has metaphors.

    ROFLOL! That is artfully clever parody of KB.

  4. kbehan says:

    Now this is the kind of critique I appreciate, I can really “sink my teeth into it” and will respond at length shortly. In the meantime, this is about an energy theory, not about me so in the meantime please do not burden the reader with insulting remarks BECAUSE IT IS BORING, not to mention irrelevant. I have deleted some tiresome posts in that vein but don’t intend to play K9 Discussion cop, otherwise I will have to block your posting access. It should be easy for the sophisticated thinkers among us to keep this discussion on topic.

  5. Heather says:

    “Who” exactly is happy, and relative to what frame of reference? To be happy/unhappy, which is a concept (thought), there must be an entity that perceives itself separate from others, which is also capable of comparing relative happiness from one moment to another moment. That is, such an entity would have a developed ToM. So the place to start a concrete discussion would be over at the Canine Thought Experiment article. Subaru, perhaps you would like to end the speculation about that particular study and enlighten us brain-dead folk that so easily fall prey to unscientific dog training theories about its conclusions?

  6. kbehan says:

    Subaru said: “Behan couldn’t be more wrong. It is in fact the opposite of what he thinks. When people are ‘grounded’ they feel unhappy and they are happy when they are not grounded.”
    “In fact when people are unhappy they describe their physical being in a way that is closer to being ‘grounded’. ‘I feel down’, ‘like dirt’, ‘feeling low’, they are so ‘grounded’ they have to ‘drag themselves’, describing a feeling of ‘heaviness’ and being ‘burdened’. This experience is caused by being in the flow. In comparison, happy people don’t describe a ‘grounded’ feeling. On the contrary, they are ‘on air’, ‘cloud nine’, ‘floating’, ‘elated’ (from the latin for elevated), ‘high spirits’ , ‘walking on a cloud’ or a sense of ‘flight.’”
    KB: Indeed our language is consonant with our emotion but without a model the metaphors cannot be interpreted meaningfully. To be clear, I am not speaking metaphorically, I am speaking literally, physically and I will argue that emotional experience is the opposite of Subaru’s analysis because he is in fact only going by metaphor. In an energy model, first comes emotion, then physical structures and then psychological systems. This means that the emotional dynamic piggybacks on the physical and neurological systems to implement the network consciousness which is organizing all emotional experience. And this means that an emotional experience or relationship directly correlates to a physical experience so that if one would like to parse apart what they are experiencing when emotionally connected to someone, they could could do so by parsing apart what they are experiencing when physically connected to an energy system (such as driving a car or swinging on a swing).
    Feeling low is the absence of energy from not feeling connected, i.e. grounded. One doesn’t feel weighted down by feeling in the flow (imagine trying to convince Kobe Bryant during one of his scoring sprees that he is experiencing the condition of being weighted down) rather, by the feeling of flow meeting with resistance to the degree that compromises the feeling of connection.
    When the body/mind feels fully grounded into something, it has projected the physical center-of-gravity into that object of attraction, and the emotional conductivity of the interaction is so high that the body/mind “lets go” and thus feels as if the movement of the object of attraction is occurring within its anatomical midpoint. (This happens from the body/mind averaging out all motion into a midpoint, as when someone goes up and down on a see/saw, all physical sensations of accelleration/deaccelleration subsequently average out into a feeling of a wave, or flow, that resides within the heart.) The anatomical midpoint of a physical body in motion (as when jogging, dancing, driving a car or swinging on a swing) is the heart. This is why the heart not the brain is the epicenter of all “true” feelings. In other words, everything going on in our body/mind during an emotional experience is not pure emotion or a true feeling, but an amalgam of these plus instincts, sensations, habits of mind and thoughts. One can parse apart a true feeling from this amalgam by concentrating on the feeling of resonance/weightlessness/emotional suspension originating within the heart.
    When someone feels low, they lack energy because they are not grounded (brain intensity converted into smooth peristaltic action). For example if we consider the principle of electrical conductivity, if there is a loose connection between the cable and the battery, then electrical “juice” doesn’t flow and the system loses energy. So being grounded is not the experience of being weighted down, rather, being weighted down (not a true feeling) is from experiencing resistance to the experience of flow, which then triggers physical memories of earlier collapses and failures, additional memories which is why as an accumulating value they evoke the sensation of carrying the “weight of the world.” Also, one “feels” like “dirt” when they violate the attunement derived from the true feeling of resonance made available within their heart. (The reason one can feel like dirt in the first place is because they’ve imported the essence of something toxic via their hunger circuitry, which is the feedback component of the animal body/mind. They’ve overridden their “gut feeling” and so “feel soiled.”)
    Flow increases the sense of energy because it turns unresolved emotion into resolved emotion. To induce this, one must feel physically connected or “grounded” to either one’s surroundings or to a discrete object of attraction. For the body/mind the primary organ of grounding is the jaws/mouth and ingestion impulses. (The secondary organ is physical sensuality.) So imagine being at someones’ home and yet not being offered food or drink. One senses separation and these sensations are centered in the Big-Brain, furthermore, the body is tense. Whereas when food and drink are offered, the body/mind softens.) When grounded, the object of attraction becomes an emotional counterbalance so that when it moves, a corresponding perception of internal motion is experienced as well. You can think here of teasing a dog with a bite toy, the motion of the toy increases the level of energy in the dog because the dog has projected its physical center-of-gravity into the toy, and because it feels connected/grounded into the toy, therefore all motion of the toy is pleasurable and extremely energizing. On the other hand, if a dog doesn’t project its p-cog into the toy because it’s concerned with maintaining its balance, then the motion of the toy is “unsettling” and the dog winces as if it is about to be struck as the toy comes its way especially at a high rate of speed.
    It’s impossible to attain a state of weightlessness (i.e. “walking on air” “high on life,” “on cloud nine” etc, etc.) without it being based on a feeling of being grounded. For example, imagine being on a plane bringing you to an exotic vacation destination. Understandably you are excited if not euphoric, literally feeling as if your “head is in the clouds” as the plane lifts off. However this energy of excitement is dependent of feeling connected to the flow of the plane. If undue turbulence is encountered, the state of being connected can collapse and that destroys the euphoric state of elevated spirits. The same as when driving a car or being pushed on a swing. The feeling of flow is centered in the heart, and if something interrupts the experience of flow, the sensations of collapse begins here in the heart. In other words to attain a state of weightlessness/resonance, one must attain a state of being in counterbalance with one’s surroundings by way of a profound feeling of being grounded so that all subsequent external and internal changes average out into a feeling within the heart. In other words, the body/mind and all its physical and nervous processes conforms to the wave pattern as established between the projector and the projectee as each others counterbalance. The Pavlovian imprint of the external object of attraction moving the internal physical center-of-gravity subsumes all organ/brain function to the wave pattern. This is where the meaning to a true feeling evolves from.

  7. christine randolph says:

    haha Suby…a teenager that is grounded is probably not happy…

    let’s face it that some days/moments we are happier and others not so much and dogs are probably the same.

    for instance many owners know that if the dogs see the owners leave they might mope around a bit and get separation anxiety if they are that kind of dog…so this would be a prime example.

    it is often not easy to determine how happy animals/dogs are so i.e. (i have said this before) sled dog people can say the dogs are happy being chained to their houses and we have no proof that this could be untrue

    a sign for me and I have said this before, animals refusing food are likely NOT happy

    other than that, I might not be able to know and my animals just have to suck it up.

    can we know more, do we need to know more ? yes probably but we can make do.

    about being grounded.
    people who have no inner resources to get back to in difficult times are described as “not grounded” and in my view, more likely to be depressed even with minor setbacks.
    people who fly high as a kite might be manic depressive. obviously we all hopefully have experienced euphoric behaviour but a grounded person knows that this is unsustainable and does not need to be sought to be balanced and happy day after day.

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