Point Four: Physical Memory

While I do not expect an interesting dialogue to emerge from this post/counter-post exchange with the Unknown Scientist,


I nevertheless welcome the opportunity to rub my theory up against the mainstream in order to render some important distinctions that can help bring the emotional dynamic into sharper relief and hopefully make the effort worthwhile for the reader. While I personally believe there’s a spiritual dimension to animal consciousness, my mission in dogs is quite pedestrian and down-to-earth, to promulgate an immediate-moment manner of analysis which renders a model wherein emotion works just as does other forces of nature, such as gravity, electromagnetism and thermodynamics. The US thinks I’m talking about telepathy and other mystical processes, he/she actually thinks I’m New Age, but unlike behavioral sciences that believe random mutations in the face of environmental pressures are the source of behavior, I’m not conflating Why-is-there-behavior? (akin to asking Why is there electricity?) with How-does-behavior-work? (akin to asking How does electricity work?) That the US holds to this misstatement of my theory when the words on the page say the opposite betrays the false dichotomy that the US operates under and that apparently his/her mind can’t get out from under, that if it isn’t thinking than it has to be instinct. That there could be another possibility, feelings, and they gain their coherence not from cognition, even though they do inform it, but from how feelings have an architecture and principle of movement resonant with the internal dynamic of nature itself, apparently can’t penetrate the linear paradigm the US operates under.

Particularly humorous is the US‘ assertion that I’m selling something, as if there is a great financial return in promulgating this theory. Believe me the easiest way to gain a following and capitalize financially is to assert either that dogs think, or that dogs want to achieve dominance. NDT is the trail off the path OFF the road less travelled and is not especially conducive to making friends and influencing people. Of course that’s not the point, the beneficiary is the dog, happily well-adjusted from being understood.

What I’m saying is so simple, it requires a child’s eye view of nature to apprehend. We have to process what we’re observing, reading and learning through an entirely emotional, immediate-moment frame of mind and resist the intellects’ relentless drive to conceptualize experience and to personify animals according to a personality theory of behavior. It also should be noted, that everything the US accuses me of, he/she is actually guilty of. For example, the real mechanists, the true heirs to Descartes, are the B.F. Skinnerites and those that seek to reduce consciousness to its neurological nuts-and-bolts from which consciousness has supposedly and magically emerged. Bear in mind that no matter what model for consciousness one might subscribe to, there is no escape from the sheer and utter fantasticality of it all. It all requires a leap of faith and constitutes a miracle of miracles beyond human comprehension. From my point of view, the notion that emotion is a function of attraction that renders a universal operating system of animal consciousness, making communication and connection possible between beings, is simply the most logical interpretation of the evidence before us.


The Unknown Scientist quotes me below…


“Physical memory tunes the organism to the vibratory essence of those things that are emotionally relevant to its evolutionary niche.”

and responds with:

“I’m a practical guy. I wan’t detailed mechanisms not rhetoric, metaphors and stories. What is physical memory? How does it tune? What is the vibratory essence of things? And how did (he) measure essence?”

What’s ironical about such a complaint is that actually NDT is the only system currently providing a highly detailed model for emotion and what’s going on within the animal mind, most especially through the phenomenon of physical memory. Physical memory is caused when there is resistance to the expression of emotion. Period. This resistance causes unresolved emotion, carried as a latent but never dormant physical memory that in everyday behavior is then projected onto the forms of things as an immediate moment method of assessing the thing visually, safely at a distance, before actually making contact. Then, the physical memory shapes the way the individual approaches and makes contact if conditions warrant. In this way, individuals act as if they are gravitationally and electromagnetically charged particles. They come to interact as equal and opposites, be it prey—predator, female–male, parent–offspring, peer-to-peer. In all these interactions one individual acts as the emotional counterbalance to the other, and if the interaction elaborates over a long enough period of time, they become each other’s mirrors even down to the smallest nuance of personality traits and behavioral dispositions. This is why I say emotion enables a group mind and why it is energy.

A particularly graphic example of emotional tuning as a derivative of physical memory is the phenomenon of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In PTSD a physical memory comes to the surface when triggered by external circumstances. In other words the victim has become “tuned” to a specific set of circumstances affiliated with the trauma so that the individual is thereafter forced to relive the experience when this latent memory is triggered. Tuning is the best term to apply because the victim does not have control over the memory and its affects, the individual doesn’t have volition over it, he can’t summon it into conscious awareness and work through it rationally. Only a feeling can resolve unresolved emotion, not a thought. Also, I’m not claiming to have discovered physical memory, rather I’m arguing that it serves a far more important function in everyday behavior and learning than has been previously ascribed to it. The connection of physical memory to Pavlov’s research can begin that reassessment.

Apart from trauma, physical memory is the basis of a feeling. It’s how a person experiences a sense of emotional movement from a word, a touch, a movie or a book even while at rest, or in the case of animals, when they observe or sense others. The Central Nervous System has no control over physical memories because these evolved to viscerally connect the animal mind to its surroundings and thus compel it to respond just as if it is a charged particle of consciousness (feelings of compression versus feelings of flow) and this is adaptive because nature changes in accord with gravity, electromagnetisms and the principles of motion and thermodynamics. So animals have an embodied cognition that innately informs it and tunes it to its species-specific niche.

From Wikipedia: “Vibration is a mechanical phenomenon whereby oscillations occur about an equilibrium point.”

In my model of behavior, a physical position or movement is a vibration, be it an action or a static configuration of the body—about a point of equilibrium, the physical center of gravity. This point of equilibrium is the essence of the system. There cannot be a more down to earth process than maintaining equilibrium via the mechanics of locomotion. This process is also the physical predicate of an individual’s Will and sense of its self. It’s how an individual inserts itself into, and imposes itself onto, its surroundings. It associates what happens with how it configures itself about its p-cog and the related physiological states and emotional affects, this is the basis of how it makes choices. It learns to move its body to affect how objects of attraction/resistance make it feel.

The emotional dynamic of a feeling is based on the mechanical dynamic of locomotion, i.e. where the individual feels its physical center-of-gravity is going to be at the end of any given action. The dog projects its physical center of gravity ahead of where it is in order to arrive at a particular place, and also onto objects of attraction in order to assay its emotional conductivity, i.e. can said object absorb its momentum. One runs hard to catch a ball, but one doesn’t run hard into a wall. Emotional projection fast forwards to either intersect an object of attraction, or avoid an insurmountable object of resistance. If the subject doesn’t feel that the object can absorb the physical momentum generated as a simple mechanical prerequisite of moving their body from point A to point B, then physical memories of corresponding scenarios are invoked and come to the surface of its awareness in order to guide it. This is the platform on which the interaction will elaborate if the object of attraction/resistance can participate in the process of elaboration. And because emotion is a universal operating system of animal consciousness, an object of resistance can be induced to become an object of attraction and thus improve the feeling of flow for all.

Behaviorally it’s not possible to be less esoteric and more practical than the concept of emotional projection, birds do it, bees do it, even dogs and we humans do it. We project our physical center of gravity ahead in space and then our body and mind moves in order to catch up and return the physical and emotional systems to equilibrium. When animals project their p-cogs ahead in space, we end up describing this vibration that seeks to return to equilibrium as a  “pattern of behavior.” A pattern is a vibration, a periodic movement of the animal’s body around an equilibrium point. Any interpretation of behavior that fails to incorporate locomotion as the basis of perception and apprehension around an immaterial point, i.e. essence, i.e. the p-cog, is story telling, inserting a human psychology in order to tie a series of events into a chronological narrative. Animals do not construct a narrative. They live in the immediate-moment guided by the physical memories from its past and this causes the future to conform to the power of desire (the overwhelming urge to resolve unresolved emotion).

Physical memory is the bodily record of resistance that is experienced as the body moves. Emotion demands motion, movement encounters resistance, resistance is stored as a physical record of experience. This memory of unresolved emotion is accessed by way of an individual’s subliminal attention on its physical center-of-gravity, the same focus required to move the body. Just as it takes an external force (gravity) to be able to feel where the physical center-of-gravity is within the body, it takes an external trigger to access the physical memory that accrues around the physical center-of-gravity. (If one has ever felt embarrassed by tripping in public, that is an example of involuntarily accessing one’s physical memory.) Physical memory must be triggered by an external agent since apprehending one’s physical center-of-gravity requires an external force as a frame of reference. (This then begs the question as to whether an astronaut can internalize new amounts of unresolved emotion or access unresolved emotion in the weightlessness of space given that it is thereby impossible to apprehend one’s physical center-of-gravity. In other words, can one have a feeling in outer space? Yes, because once imprinted during infancy the forms of things are equivalent to mass, i.e. resistance to acceleration, and therefore a form can trigger feelings of weight/mass/resistance, just as alignment and synchronization with a form on earth can induce a state of emotional suspension, i.e. weightlessness.)

Due to the need for an external trigger, it-can-only-get-out-the-way-it-went-in, hence the organism can be said to be tuned to that which can resolve its unresolved emotion. The more traumatic the experience, the deeper in the emotional battery it is embedded (imprinted onto the viscera by way of Pavlovian Conditioning) and the more intense the resistance to movement that will be required so as to trigger it. Furthermore feelings of resistance (physical memories) are projected onto anything that is complex or novel.

The overwhelming influence of physical memory on the emotional mind means there is a feedback loop (as in Pavlov’s bell) whereby inputs are imprinted onto the viscera, and also a feed forward loop whereby internal states are projected onto the surroundings. In this way feedback integrates the individual with its surroundings and feed-forward can allow it to manipulate it to its Will. This feedback/feed-forward loop has been confused with a cognitive understanding of cause and effect and is the source of all the confusion and all the debate about the animal mind. Feedforward means that the tension an animal experiences in its internal processes, most particularly in the propulsive force generated by muscle tension in its large muscles of locomotion, the internal force with which the individual is going to accelerate its body in order to go from point A to point B, it associates with the object of attraction. Therefore if an object of attraction resists being accelerated, an animal feels that an object of resistance by its mere presence is exerting a force on its body.

For example, in the highly publicized experiment that was purported to reveal a canine comprehension of inequity, this basic predicate of social interactions was missed altogether. Every interaction at the rock bottom level of experience is mediated as a transfer of momentum. When the dog finds itself attracted to something, in the dog’s mind it is associated with the force of the muscles that will accelerate its body in order to go from point A to point B. The degree of attraction is matched by the force of propulsion (muscle tension) required to go from point A to point B concurrent with how much the dog wants the object of attraction. (The greatest irony in the experiment is that the physical memory of movement is why a dog is innately moved to give its paw with but the slightest prompt. It’s quite literally taking that first step forward.) And if the dog perceives that its momentum cannot be absorbed by the object of attraction, then the state of attraction either collapses, or on the other hand, it is internalized by the individual (if it still feels grounded via projection of p-cog) into the object of resistance. And now it feels as if that force of propulsion is an external force acting on it. In other words, its own state of muscle tension is perceived as an external force pushing on it. One form of this we otherwise term avoidance behavior and we call it avoidance behavior because the dog is turning away from the source of what’s pushing against it. In this experiment, that force triggers the physical memories of being corrected which is clear to see in the pictures of the experiment and even more vivid if you’re able to find the video that at one point was posted.


That all interactions are at their substrate a transfer of momentum is in perfect accord with the Constructal law and so that all behavior will infallibly integrate with all of nature’s flow systems. The animal mind is a flow system, and dogs are particularly adaptive because they are the most soluble and viscous in how they emotionally relate to their surroundings. They flow where other species cannot go.

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Published July 30, 2013 by Kevin Behan
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6 responses to “Point Four: Physical Memory”

  1. Martin says:

    This audio segment is entitled “Melding Two Memories”: The audio will summarize the research better than I can but the things that really struck me is that the researcher stated that he was looking at the most evolutionary conserved area of the brain. Also the researchers joke about the fact that your most accurate memories are the ones that you do not think about.


  2. Chris Fowler says:

    I have been reading the recent discussions between the skeptics and the NDT community with great interest. For anyone who has hung
    around horse people or dog people, it is all too familiar. Everyone clings to one trainers theory, or whisperers tricks, or noted researchers
    latest revelations, which of course requires forsaking all previous theories, and philosophies. In the end, we still have more untrained,
    unsocialized,and neurotic dogs than the owners and shelters can handle.

    To the Unnamed Scientist, I admire your faith in science. I hope you never have to discover the difference between the ‘art’ of
    medicine vs the ‘science’ of medicine. When the science of medicine fails even the most dedicated and versed practitioner, it is the understanding of the art of medicine that can make the correct diagnosis. Two equally prepared practitioners see the same
    set of problems, one sees nothing unusual, the other ‘feels’ the need to look further. At that point, it is pure instinct that suspects
    the nature of the problem. You can’t explain that, you can’t train that, it just is.

    NDT is not a cult, and I am not a ‘believer’. I have gleaned much useful information from the clickers, and the pawsitives, and the
    cognitives, and even a few whisperers. There are as many ways to train a dog as there are dog trainers, and most of them work, if
    you are halfway consistent.
    My problem, they all stop short of explaining, ‘Why Dogs Do What They Do’. THAT is my ONLY question.
    When an idea, or theory is consistent with what is observable, it gets my attention. Kevin Behan’s ideas and explanations, as ‘strange’
    as they sound, are actually consistent with what I observe in the parade of dogs that pass thru my property (I board dogs).

    If I may, I think Kevin is trying to explain the ‘art’ of understanding dog behavior, gained from years of observation, into the confines of science and biological principles. Once again, art vs science. Some ideas language simply cannot capture, so we either take a leap
    of faith, or we stay put.

  3. Josh D says:

    One example of physical memory which was a big “aha” moment for me was thinking about the patterns of abuse that seems to occur from generation to generation in dysfunctional families. It’s clearly not a cognitive or rational response to treat someone in a way that was previously hurtful to the original victim, yet it occurs. It makes perfect sense through the lense of physical memory or an emotional formatting – coming back out the way it went in.

  4. wetnosewarmhearts says:

    More commentary in support of NDT flow–

    There are parallels to NDT theory in human trauma studies, namely the work of van der Kolk and Levine.

    Behan: “Physical memory is caused when there is resistance to the expression of emotion.” (above)

    Levine: Trauma is “‘locked’ in the body. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a “fundamentally a highly activated, incomplete, biological response to threat, frozen in time…. All animals, including humans, are physically programmed by evolution to flee, fight, or freeze in the face of grave threats to life and limb….in humans, when these natural responses to danger are thwarted and people are helpless to prevent their own rape, or beating, or car accident, the unfinished defensive actions become blocked as undischarged energy in their nervous systems. They remain physiologically frozen in an “unfinished” state of high biological readiness to react to the traumatic event, even long after the event has passed”

    Van der Kolk: In regard to trauma, he found that “the experience of physical helplessness was at the core of trauma, there was something about frustrated action to repair the situation that played a role in developing long-term PTSD….the body as much as the mind, might hold the key.” In 1996 van der Kolk “published a paper called ‘The Body Keeps the Score’….trauma disrupts the stress-hormone system, plays havoc with the entire nervous system….he demonstrated with four-part scientific harmony that it is our bodies, not our much-vaunted minds, that control how we respond to trauma….something called somatic memory.” The implication for recovery is profound because “The moment you’re not feeling your body, you’re gone because the body really is the enine of aliveness.” “Grounding” into the body is crucial.

    Although van der Kolk is a renowned psychological researcher, his theory that the body holds trauma has been met with a lot of resistance. He attributes this to the different orientations of clinicians, who want to just help the patients in front of them, to that of researchers who seek a pure testable theory. Further, he acknowledges that he challenges the traditional and very lucrative talk therapy profession, an invitation for objections.

    All Levine and van der Kolk quotes from a 2004 article entitled “The Limits of Talk” that was published in the Psychotherapy Networker.

  5. kbehan says:

    Fantastic material, the overwhelming emotional effects of physical memory is so important for us to understand. Couldn’t have come at a more apt time, please see the next post on the principle of emotional conductivity.

  6. cliff says:

    @ Chris
    A very astute comment. My father was a physician. A dedicated scientist, he also understood the “art” of medicine, and his practice overflowed with satisfied, cured patients. So with Kevin.

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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