The Function of Dysfunction

Generally we think of a rabid animal, foaming at the mouth, sinking its fangs into  the nearest warm blooded victim, as a crazed, frenetically enraged beast, a “mad dog” on a berserk rampage. Yet if we more closely consider the behavior of a rabid animal, we observe that there is a coherent and time-deferred string of actions in such attacks. During the rabies epidemic of the nineties I recall a case in New Jersey of a raccoon climbing onto a house and then down its chimney, working its way through the downstairs, ascending a staircase and finding a woman asleep in her bed whereupon it attacked her. That’s a lot of dots to connect: Find human domicile, point of ingress, methodical search for suitable victim, and then complete the mission. I don’t believe it ran around deranged, bouncing off one wall to the next until it happened by chance to encounter the unsuspecting woman in an upstairs bedroom. I don’t think that happened  anymore than a tick happens by chance to find itself at the top of a blade of grass when a deer walks by. Rather the diseased raccoons’ behavior was purposive, deliberate and precise (though obviously not cognitive), a systematic tracking of its movements so as to not repeat itself and in terms of a distinct objective. Interestingly (and inconsistently from my point of view), modern behaviorism doesn’t consider this form of complex and deliberative behavior to be invested with intention or illustrative of a higher cognitive process, whereas it does when a crow drops a hard-to-crack nut onto a busy roadway.

Of course there’s no question that human beings are endowed with cognitive oversight of their behavior which is why we consider the child molestation scandals at Penn State and Syracuse University, the calculated, cold-blooded violation of an especially innocent victim, to be so vile. It also has larger implications as well because we can see how maintaining the “brand” of Penn State became more important in the group think of the Penn State community than an ethos of education based on free thinking. Too many people went by the path of least resistance rather than by way of the heart.

However even in cases of such abuse it can prove illustrative to step back for a moment and take note that the vast majority of child molesters were in fact molested when they were a child. This phenomenon was highlighted recently by an alleged victim of the Syracuse assistant coach, Zach Tomaselli, announcing that he was likewise launched on a pedophilia track and was confessing as a first step in contrition and seking help to break the cycle.


So we need to ask, why is there a compulsive tendency to-do-unto-others what we most hated having-been-done-unto-us? Why doesn’t it work the other way around so that the victim of abuse would become the least susceptible of all to perpetrating the same abuse on a new victim?

Because “The Charge” Can-Only-Get-Out-The-Way-It-Went-In. The charge is like a virus that replicates itself traveling the path of least resistance until Heart emerges to resolve it along the path of highest resistance.

What is the Charge? It is when the entire repository of unresolved emotion in the emotional battery, in particularly the deepest kernel around which all else is arranged, the physical/emotional center-of-gravity, is summoned to the surface by an external trigger. While the intensity of this upsurge can overwhelm the emotional capacity of an individual, nevertheless this cycle is how information of an emotional content (emotional bonds as catalysts for cooperation) is transmitted throughout the network as well as through Time. In terms of the individual, it tunes the animal mind to the most intense thing in its reality. At this point, what the individual does with this information is dependent on whether they are “in their body” (feeling) or out-of-their-mind (instinct). In the former they are capable of synchronizing with others along the path-of-highest-resistance, whereas in the latter they succumb to the path-of-lowest-resistance.

The animal mind is predicated on an emotional battery filled with unresolved emotion, the physical memory of a positive state of attraction that didn’t run to fulfillment. Thus, our default setting is stress which is why we wake up at 3 in the morning in a state of duress rather than in a state of bliss. It’s hard to attain bliss but it’s easy to be stressed out, stress is easy to transmit, bliss is not. Stress is the default setting because it serves as the reminder of unfinished business and tunes the organism to an “appropriate” stimulus of discharge, even though it may take days, months or even years for that to transpire.

In the eighties I once worked with a German shepherd that when it was a young pup had the unlikely misfortune to be attacked by two different miniature schnauzers. What were the odds of that? And so what did this young male grow up to hunt on the high plains and mean streets of Stamford, Connecticut? Indeed, the dreaded miniature schnauzer. This shepherd was good with all other dogs, big ones, little ones, black ones and white ones but whenever he spotted a small, grey, taut-muscled miniature schnauzer it was lights out.

The functional purpose of such “dysfunctional” behavior is to transmit energy in a specific manner that will then generate “new” energy. And I used the word appropriate in the above paragraph because the linking of the charge to a relevant stimulus for its discharge guarantees the coherent transmission of energy, even though so much “dysfunction” will occur.

Emotion can’t move at random, it moves according to principles, from one pole to another, from high pressure to low pressure. On the individual level the principle of emotional conductivity is predicated on the brain-to-gut connection, it then elaborates to the higher sexual/sensual plane, and finally to the highest plane of a true feeling. A true feeling occurs when a group is in sync and in this state emotion can move toward the path of highest resistance because of the experience of resonance/weightlessness. At every level of elaboration the movement of emotion transpires according to a template, i.e. Temperament, which is itself predicated on the laws of nature.

Temperament is a circle and for purposes of illustration it can be likened to a clock face, with 12:00 being the “Predator” polarity at which an individual can express emotion and energy is thereby externalized, and 6:00 being the “Prey polarity at which an individual’s emotion is repressed and energy is internalized. Emotion always travels from the Predator polarity toward the Prey polarity (as in a parent saying to their baby with chubby cheeks, belly, arms, legs and tush: “You’re so cute I could eat you up”). Note however that the smiling, giggling baby is in emotional sync with the adult tickling them, and so even though the baby is at the Prey polarity, he isn’t being repressed but instead is being energized. However, were the tickling to get to be too much in terms of a rate of stimulation, we would observe the collapse of the baby’s state of attraction and abject terror/crying would ensue as in now all of a sudden energy is being internalized. “America’s Funniest Home Videos” is full of these collapses. So I would like to make the distinction that internalizing when in a state of sync is absorbing energy rather than its repression, and it can be “pinged” back as a pong so that the interaction between two beings can elaborate to a higher manifestation of complexity. This is what’s going on between baby and parent during a tickle fest.

However, even when an individual is repressed and forced into the 6:00/Prey polarity so that it must internalize energy, nevertheless he is being imprinted with both polarities (Predator and Prey) in that instant of intensity. For example and interestingly, if a strong electrical surge is applied to metal, it is magnetized and thereby acquires both the North and South poles because it is impossible to have a magnet (except under exotic  laboratory conditions) without two poles. And likewise when a belligerent dog pins a weaker dog to the ground, the one being pinned down is being imprinted with the equal/opposite 12:00/North polarity which complements its own 6:00/South state of emotional paralysis. So the emotional battery is like a spring being coiled to store potential energy, but is also information in that it keys the animal mind toward the Prey polarity as its means of release were it to find  itself at the Predator polarity. This is Information: Predatory aspect = trigger; Preyful aspect = releaser. Predatory pole = action; Syncing up with object of attraction = Flipping Poles so as to make New Energy.

So when the repressed individual finds itself at the 12:00 Predator polarity in intense circumstances, it will experience an (almost) irresistible urge to discharge its emotional battery on that individual now occupying the 6:00 Prey polarity. And this is functional because it ensures that energy even when repressed will ultimately be expressed. The beat will go on.

This is why when a father who was beaten as a boy, grows up and finds himself in the middle of an intense family situation with his son, he will tend toward beating his own son. Instinct will run counter to compassion, the temptation will be a collapse toward the “path of least resistance” i.e. explosive energy going from 12:00—>6:00. While from an outsiders’ perspective it would appear that an adult, grown man is abusing a child in an irrational fit of anger, the truth is that in the animal mind of the father, he has merely migrated to the polarity from which he can now vent the charge that he had been forced to internalize decades earlier. From the Charge’s “point-of-view” there’s nothing inconsistent about doing-unto-others-what-was-most-hated-being-done-unto-us because energy is moving along a consistent progression of Predator–>Prey—>Predator—->Prey; a steady ticking of a primordial clock. In fact, from the point of view of the abusive father’s animal mind that has no conception of time, egalitarian concepts of fairness, familial relationships and responsibilities, or any kind of concept of cause and effect—–he is actually defending himself FROM HIS FATHER by beating his son because his son and the intensity of the circumstances, is putting the father into the exact same overloaded situation of paralysis as when he internalized all that energy as a young child. The only thing that has changed is that he now finds himself at the Predator polarity relative to the boy at the Prey polarity and in this energetic frame of reference the charge has instinctive license to discharge in that direction. From instinct’s “point of view” it’s the same-old, same-old, the one charge moving in a straight line, year after year, generation after generation, being preserved and bumped up (as when an individual seeks out a setup-for-an-upset) to maintain its intensity level. And at some point in the future new energy will enter the network when this particular charge of unresolved emotion finally becomes resolved.

Consider the mother wolf whooping up on her cubs, generally misinterpreted as an authority figure instilling discipline in order to foster cooperative teamwork. But what is actually happening is that the mother, unbeknownst to her, is “tuning” their nervous systems. Her cubs are internalizing an intense charge, completely overwhelmed and paralyzed, fibrillating with fear. The long term behavioral consequences? For the rest of their lives they will have an intense and highly constricted perspective on any predatory aspect that they LOOK UP AT. The angle of view and the degree of compression determines how deep into their emotional battery they are regressed by such a trigger. And this means that a large formidable, dangerous prey animal, like a moose, will attract their charge and if that moose is healthy, they will feel inhibited, they will internalize the force of attraction just as they did when their mother put a whooping on them. Healthy Moose = Angry Alpha/Mama. Energy can’t move from 6:00 toward 12:00 on Temperament’s “clock face.”

But if the moose is weak or confused (Prey polarity), then their fear will externalize into an overwhelming surge of predatory lust of great intensity and now they are at 12:00 relative to moose at 6:00. Additionally their emotion is being grounded into the moose and so they will FEEL aligned with the Predatory aspects of their peers and in this state they feel sensually aroused by the resistance offered by the Moose and by being synchronized as a group and overcoming an object of resistance formidable enough to accommodate their collective intensities, this resolves unresolved emotion. They avoid healthy moose (Predator Pole) and target weak ones (Prey Pole) and then when in a state of synchronization, they are emotionally magnetized toward each other around the prey and new energy enters the system, a great bounty of food to sustain their high capacity social style of living with cubs back at the den far away. The emotional bonds between them grow stronger.

However, because the window for this heightened emotional capacity is quite narrow, in other words, specific to a weak moose, therefore the mother isn’t teaching her cubs respect for her authority and how to cooperate (the moose is), rather she’s putting a LIMIT on their capacity to cooperate, i.e. so that they can’t align around a healthy moose, the path of absolute highest resistance. This is fine in the natural scheme of things because it’s maintaining a balance of nature, i.e. maintaining the intensity of the charge. Nevertheless, information of an emotional content (alignment around an intense object of resistance, i.e. an emotional bond) is being reliably transmitted through the network and through Time. (I would like to further suggest that tapping into this template is how canines and human beings became emotionally entangled tens of thousands of years ago so that both species could arrive at resolution, i.e. civilization.)

There’s an interesting parallel here with how email works on the internet. We sit at our keyboard and type out a series of sentences, complete with punctuation, spaces between characters, grammatical rules, paragraphs, symbols, conjugated verbs etc., etc., all of which is necessary for the message to be legible for a reader. But in order to send it through the network, our computer strips it of all rational formatting and compresses it into dense, compact code that is illegible as human communication. But in this compressed state it can be broken up into packets, tagged with originating source, and then sent to radiate through the network by way of many paths until it ultimately arrives and is pieced back together within a recipients’ inbox on their computer. Upon arrival the on/board browser decompresses it and converts it back into a legible form. It travels through the network by way of compression, and it’s up to the browser in real time to put it back into a visible and comprehensible state of information. The reason for this is that it’s infinitely easier to transmit these packets, and it simultaneously offers exponentially less chance for error and without the software necessary for decoding. This problem of information transmission is the exact same problem confronting the evolution of life, how to radiate the information of sociability throughout the network and through Time. We can think of the moose as the wolf’s network’s browser, it receives the charge and then decompresses it and converts it into the visible form of a cooperative emotional bond.

Nature has all the time in the world, it doesn’t care what individual gets it together. Sooner or later the right circumstances and individual will come along to decompress the stress and turn it into new energy. Until then, the charge will faithfully replicate itself generation after generation, epoch after epoch, until eventually unresolved emotion becomes resolved. This is the story of life on planet earth.

In the meantime we can take heart that there are some people, even though victims of abuse themselves, who are willing to go by feel and align with their fellows in order to achieve resolution in their own time. They have not been limited in their emotional capacity due to the abuse they’ve suffered. And this brings us to our only choice; whether we will be passive relay switches , keeping the charge bumped up to a high intensity level so that it will be reliably passed along, or, dynamic energy nodes, turning stress into new energy. And to someone like Zach Tomaselli who has chosen to be a dynamic energy node, I would like to say thanks for the new energy.

Published December 13, 2011 by Kevin Behan
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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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