One of the best parts of the NDT conference was the variety and quality of the various venues we visited. The Von Liche Kennel tour took us through the greatest privately owned working dog kennel in the world, an inspiring example of a dream coming true through the power of passion. We also rode on a Wabash/Erie Canal boat on a restored section of the canal way, and this Interpretive museum gave me the best window into American life in the early 19th century I’ve ever experienced. I could easily spend a day or two there. Then we worked dogs and had a cookout at Prophets Town which transported me back to my favorite period in American History, the story of the Shawnee and their contact with white settlers in the great Ohio River watershed during the 18th century. I could easily spend a summer there. Finally we attended a lecture and group howl at Wolf Park, my interpretation of this experience being the subject of this particular post.
THE SCENE: We sat in a bleacher from where we can observe the wolves behind a high chain link fence. There were over a hundred people in attendance and the wolves are big and beautiful, their presence not diminished one iota by the fence between us. A presenter gave a learned talk on the latest science on wolves and answered questions, which included parrying some contentious ones from one particular gentleman, but their discourse seemed to end to everyone’s satisfaction. Standing behind the presenter was another person, whose duty on this particular evening seemed to be keeping the wolves before the audience by periodically treating them from a bait pouch. One of the wolves was a small black female and she kept largely to herself not wanting to get too close to the two males who were noisily vying for sole access to the treats. They were brothers, virtually the same size and pelage, mirror images of each other.
WHAT I WAS TOLD was that the wolf glued to the person with the bait bag, and who was getting all the treats, was the dominant one. His brother persisted in annoying him because as the presenter put it, he was not yet convinced of his brother’s emergent status; what she termed the “If Bill Gates Had A Younger Brother Theory.” If pressed I’m sure the presenter would have enumerated the salient points of the Resource Holding Potential argument, but was dumbing things down and spicing things up in order to keep the younger kids in the audience engaged in the discussion. From time to time the “Omega” would press into his brother hovering over the person with the bait pouch and virtually insert his snout as deep into his brother's jaws as he could manage, just as if he was trying
to climb inside his body. He was doing it much more intensely than the two wolves pictured above (photos of wolves in this post generously supplied here by Kim Kapes who runs a canine sanctuary in Orlando, Florida) but it's close enough to help visualize what went on between them. This “aggressiveness” on the part of the Omega produced a cacophony of growls and whines between the two wolves rising ever higher in intensity, like fingernails screeching across the blackboard. In between these confrontations the Omega would withdraw to where a patch of deer hide lay on the ground, pouncing on it, seizing it, giving it a couple of fierce shakes before settling down for a brief chaw, which couldn’t quite satisfy his displaced frustration because each and every time he was soon back into the bait pouch drama with his brother.
WHAT I SAW was the overwhelming influence of physical memory on the animal mind. In other words; this........
........a young pup inserting its snout into its mother’s muzzle, resulting in an upwelling of regurgitated food....is the same frame of mind as.....
this......the Omega pushing his snout into his Alpha brother’s muzzle resulting in this case not of an upwelling of food, but of vitriol. Of course these two interactions don’t seem equivalent to us due to the the age differences between pups and adults, and the nature of the various relationships, peer-to-peer as opposed to parent-offspring, and the outward physical behaviors, thus we presume that these various interactions are necessarily governed by fundamentally different principles. But this is not so. No matter the relationship, no matter the context, the same fundamental of emotional conductivity underwrites all these interactions and just like when the body physically moves from point A to point B by first projecting the physical center-of-gravity onto Point B, any interaction between any individuals unfolds by first projecting the emotional center-of-gravity INTO the object of attraction. Emotion works according to the same script as locomotion. The mind moves emotion the same way the body moves momentum. The so-called “supplicant” Omega is projecting his emotional center-of-gravity into the “dominant” Alpha, and in the above instance, a universal underlying template, flow as a function of negative-as-access-to-positive, is blocked by the Alpha’s predatory aspect.
Meanwhile the Alpha is feeling knocked off balance by the Omega’s emotional pressure, hence he curls his lip and bares his fangs, his muzzle crumpling into a snarl. The alpha is feeling the uprising of his DIS, one function of which is to serve as an emotional ballast so as to maintain equilibrium when balance is in question. The uprising of DIS is also experienced as a burst of acceleration as another of its functions is to maintain emotional momentum, like a battery releasing a special reserve of thrust to get a vehicle through a rough patch. And then a further function of physical memory is to inform the individual from past equivalent experiences as to the source and ultimate level of intensity the disturbance is going to reach. (For example, the rate of increase in the pain of an ache that’s just beginning, activates a physical memory that informs us as to how bad it’s going to get, it’s a wave function and we can discern from how intensely it builds just how painful it’s going to feel when it crests.)
The Alpha at Wolf Park was resisting the input of the emotional charge being leveraged against him by the Omega, and he does this by pushing his subliminal beam back against his muzzle, hence the strident whining, growling and snarling radiating from his snout. In other words, his subliminal beam of attention has been carried forward to his muzzle as DIS has gotten past his heart holding area, (where it would be were he aligned and in sync with the Omega--what I call the "null value") and he’s trying to stop it from leaving his body which would compel him to move toward the Omega, which he feels he can’t do because the Omega isn’t absorbing the movement of his DIS given how intensely the Omega is reflecting his emotional projection right back at the Alpha. The Alpha by pushing out, is trying to hold himself back, while simultaneously resisting any more input given that he’s at his breaking point. This internal emotional contortion is reflected in the external physical distortion of its face and snout, which are in fact comported in the equal and yet opposite of what he would be doing and feeling were he and his brother tugging against something they were holding in their respective jaws, for example, just like the deer hide nearby to which the Omega was constantly gravitating and for his part reliving that particular physical memory.
In this instance, the so called social-inferior is perceiving this frame of reference through his hunger circuitry, whereas the so called social superior is perceiving the same frame of reference through his balance circuitry. Being in hunger, the Omega feels the deep rumbling emanating from the Alpha as emotional movement, as potential energy, as if there is a flow of nutrient coming, just as when his mother would convulse before regurgitation. The Alpha on the other hand feels its DIS rising as if he is about to regurgitate--or vomit--which is why in this case it feels upsetting just as if he has eaten something noxious.
We can sum up all of the above by saying that both the Alpha and the Omega are reliving the physical memory of their mother from their infancy. Because the Omega is in hunger, he’s perceiving the alpha-as-mother as a source of nutrient, i.e. the flow of energy, which is in fact what lies at the end of the linked chain of negatives, alpha-(as-access-to) - helper - (as-access-to) bait bag. In contrast, because the Alpha is in balance, he’s perceiving the Omega-as-mother from infancy, however, he is reliving the memory of being knocked around during the cleansing/licking-all-over routine.
What could be more parsimonious? The same template finding seemingly diametrically different manifestations. To our intellectual, time-centric mind these various scenarios seem driven by different psychological motives. But were we to resist injecting a rational ”If I do this, then you might do that” psychology of two separate consciousness cogitating relative to each other, the real story emerges that the original imprint of life into which every wolf is born, constantly repeats to form the framework for all complex learning: the negative-equals-access-to-the-positive. This begins with an infant’s hyper excitability to get to the eyes of his elders, to the pubescent pups stimulating regurgitation in adults by licking their lips, to peers vibing each other in eye-to-eye stare downs, to the pack member that sees the vulnerable prey defining the emotional axis of the group, to the pack projecting their DIS and hence their voices toward a distant midpoint for which they collectively yearn.
Every act is a social act based on the projection of the self. In all behavior the emotional flow of energy is organizing the pack into a polarized mirror image of each other around the various resources over which they seemingly contest with each other, so that ultimately they can mirror (i.e. hunt) their number one resource, a large dangerous prey. This self-organizing complex behavioral system results from the physical memory of their earliest emotional experiences constantly being recapitulated when they encounter resistance when going after what they want. No matter what they learn, it tracks back to the original imprint inculcated over the first ten days of life, the scope of the chapter in YDIYM entitled “The Miracle After Birth” which I hope the reader here might revisit. The real miracle is the group mind.
How then is this immediate-moment interpretation different from the Dominance-as-Control-Over-Access-to-Resources theory? First of all, the Dominance as access to resources theory requires a human rational psychology, and this despite the fact that emotion is a preverbal arational dynamic, millions of years older than cognitive development and language. As a psychology that depends on the capacity to verbalize, it cannot thereby identify the emotional dynamic that is fluidly shifting from context to context. Instead it has to make the human psychology increasingly complex in order to try and hold the various dots together. This is an intellectual dead end every bit as much as the old idea of a dominance status hierarchy of rank that it has replaced in the mainstream way of looking at animals, and which in twenty more years it too will join in the dustbin. If one studies the sites which purport to show what’s going on inside the dog’s mind, one discovers that one could just as easily substitute the same psychology that informs children, which should be a clue that something is missing.
Oh, and during the final encounter, the Omega brother pinched the lips of his “big brother” particularly hard, and who did we see slipping off into the woods, tail uncharacteristically low, leaving the bait bag all to the other? Of course, it was the Alpha quitting the scene. The two brothers were not working out their status relative to various resources according to a vast psychological narrative, “If I do this, then you might do that....” They were working out their emotional polarities relative to unresolved emotion, the deepest layer being Deep Inner Stress. The individual we were told was a submissive, and therefore acting acquiescent, respectful, appeasing, etc., etc.., was in fact exerting pressure on the one we were told was an emerging dominant. Because the Omega was acting “prey-like,” (lowered height and tail, intense vibration) he had emotional leverage and his physical memories served to inform him how to exploit it. The dominant was being paralyzed by the predatory passive-aggressiveness of the “submissive;” i.e. the prey. When a “dominant” projects into a submissive, (i.e. preyful) the emotional leverage shifts to the submissive which is why they act so assertively in their submissiveness. The Omega put so much pressure on the Alpha that eventually the latter lost his feeling for the food altogether and he withdrew from the action. And because being “submissive” is so effective, over time a submissive works ever harder at being submissive and asserting itself from that leverage point. And so yes a hierarchy emerges, but it has nothing to do with rank or status or trying to control this or that resource. Eventually the Alpha (I have no problem calling the one stuck at the predator polarity the Alpha, or the Omega the Omega for the same reason, it’s just that it isn't accurate to say that are either dominant or submissive, but rather predator-like or prey-like) couldn’t take anymore and had to withdraw. The predatory aspect of the prey controls the predator’s access to the prey. That’s how the body/mind and the group dynamic that we discussed over four days at the various venues in Indiana can be summed up. Once again, my profound thanks to all who came and those who helped make this event a reality.