This book is a Get Out of Jail Free card and a passport back into the playground.

The aim of this book is to set you free. But free from what? Free from neurosis. Free from the feeling that you have to obey authority. Free from emotional intimidation. Free from addiction. Free from inhibition.

The key to happiness, mental health and being the most that we can be is absolute and unconditional self-acceptance. The paradox is that many of our problems are caused by trying to improve ourselves, censor our thinking, make up for past misdeeds and struggling with our negative feelings whether of depression or aggression.

But if we consider ourselves in our entirety in this very moment, we know these things :

1. Anything we have done is in the past and cannot be changed, thus it is pointless to do anything else but accept it. No regrets or guilt.

2. While our actions can harm others, our thoughts and emotions, in and of themselves, never can. So we should accept them and allow them to be and go where they will. While emotions sometimes drive actions, those who completely accept their emotions and allow themselves to feel them fully, have more choice over how they act in the light of them.

Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a “good deed” under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves. And loving ourselves unconditionally, means loving ourselves exactly as we are at this moment.

This might seem to be complacency, but in fact the natural activity of the individual is healthy growth, and what holds us back from it is fighting with those things we can’t change and the free thought and emotional experience which is the very substance of that growth.

How to Be Free is available as a free ebook from Smashwords, I-Tunes in some countries, Kobo and Barnes & Noble


It is also available in paperback from Lulu or Amazon for $10 US, plus postage.

The ebook version currently has received 457 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. I-Tunes.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Thoughts on Jeremy Griffith's "Freedom : The End of the Human Condition" - Part 13

Griffith’s Compassion for Animals

“Unfortunately, because animals’ innocence (lack of the psychological upset we humans suffer from) confronts us with our lack of innocence (our vicious angry, egocentric and alienated state), we humans so hated, despised and resented animals that we have hunted and shot them for ‘sport’ ; but one day we are going to have so much sympathy for animals because of what they have to endure trapped in a life of having to relentlessly compete with each other, often with their closest friends! (‘Friends’ in the sense of those with whom they have shared their life and developed emotional bonds.) Certainly the same extremely competitive state exists for plants and microbes, but, not having the developed nervous system that animals have, their awareness of the agony of that horrifically competitive existence could obviously not be anywhere near as great as it is for animals.”

If we tried to justify our anger and selfishness by comparison to the savagery and selfish competition we see in the animal world, why would animals (apart from gentle baby animals maybe) confront us with our “lack of innocence”? There are plenty of cases of deliberate cruelty to animals, but a lot of what we do to animals, like hunting, I think reflects indifference to their interests rather than hatred. If an animal is just an object to you, then testing your skill by seeing if you can shoot it makes sense. Hunters generally don’t look angry to me. Not like people shooting people. I think people hating other people is more common than people hating animals. But that isn’t something Griffith can so easily use to make us feel guilty.

I’ve expressed the view elsewhere that compassion is projected self-pity. This doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a wonderful thing, a motivation for us to respond to the suffering of others because it resonates with our own neurotic suffering, but we shouldn’t mistake it for a state of mental health.

It seems as if, historically, compassion for animals amongst humans has not been particularly strong, but it has become much stronger among many people in recent times, with the rise of animal rights and veganism. While this might lead to a reduction in suffering by animals, and there is nothing wrong with that, I see this as a byproduct of our neurotic suffering. We see in the animals a reflection of our wounded selves.

I don’t “hate” or “despise” animals, but I’m not going to lose any sleep at night over the fact that they need to compete with their “friends” for a fuck.

This tends to reinforce my view that idealism is not a natural expression of the psyche of a well-nurtured individual, but rather a characteristic which arises from severe neurosis, equivalent to obsessive compulsive disorder, in which anything which is perceived by the sufferer as “not right” causes them great discomfort. The healthy self-accepting individual is not selfish and is cooperative and generous, but is able to accept the world as it is, including any unavoidable suffering which goes on within it, with equanimity. In that way no energy, which might be used to make things better, is drained away.

Love-Indoctrination

The theory of love-indoctrination is probably the strongest element in Griffith’s work. This is his attempt to explain how a cooperative society of proto-humans could develop from out of the genetic selfishness of other animals. The idea is that mothers nurture their children for genetically selfish reasons, because the children contain their genes, but to the children it looks like selfless behaviour and so they are socialised into a culture of such behaviour.

I have no problem with that. It makes perfect sense. And it makes perfect sense that maternalism will be genetically selected as the more maternal the offspring the better the chances of their own offspring to survive.

The problem comes in the next step : “…the training of individuals in unconditional selflessness. And with this unconditionally selfless behaviour recurring over many, many generations, the unconditionally selfless behaviour will become instinctive — a moral soul will be established — because genes will inevitably follow and reinforce any development process occurring in a species; in this they are not selective.”

There are two problems with this. Griffith is saying that learned behaviour becomes instinctive if it continues long enough. I believe this is not the accepted view amongst most biologists. In this video, Richard Dawkins talks about some isolated instances where learned behaviour might develop into an inherited instinct, but note that, even in these rare cases, it only does so if what is learned confers a competitive advantage on the individual. Learned selflessness would be likely to be disadvantageous to the perpetuation of someone’s genes and so be self-eliminating :

https://richarddawkins.net/2015/04/darwin-day-2015-questions-6-how-does-learned-behavior-evolve-into-inherited-instinct/

Griffith does acknowledge the problem that selflessness would be self-eliminating if it wasn’t universal to the group. But this still doesn’t explain how it could become encoded in the genes. Natural selection is a process of the winnowing out of those less fit for their environment. If everyone is equally fit, there is no winnowing and therefore no reinforcement of any genetic traits. The only way I can see where cooperative traits would be genetically encouraged is if there were sexual selection for cooperativeness, for instance if the females refused to mate with selfish males. (Actually, Griffith says this later : “…females were not only not dominated by males, but dictated mate choice by choosing to reproduce with non-aggressive, cooperative males — hallmarks you would expect of a society highly focused on maternal nurturing of their infants.” But he mentions that only to make the point that the females were “more maternal” he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that this selective breeding is the only way a cooperative culture could become genetically reinforced.

I think Griffith is right about our extended nurturing period socialising us into being a cooperative species, and also that it was what liberated our fully conscious mind. But I don’t think we acquired a genetic programming for unconditional selflessness. I think our co-operative way of life was maintained because it felt good, and was only disrupted when we began to think about the disparity between our way of life and that of predators, and in so doing gave birth to the toxic concept of idealism.

I believe that the human mind itself liberates us from the dictatorship of the genes which affects other species. Using our mind we can see that cooperating with others is a way to achieve the things we want. It is through our ideas and imaginings, and the communication of them that leads to a confluence of our emotions, that we come together in meaningful ways. It is ideas which bring us together or tear us apart, depending on whether they make us more or less self-accepting and accepting of others.

Now you could say that, when I say that it feels good to cooperate, this is because we have a genetic orientation to it. But, even if that were true, I don’t think it is a dictatorial one. It is the learned conscience which troubles us. If I like eating chocolate more than I like eating potatoes, but for health reasons I have to eat potatoes and avoid chocolate, I may be unhappy because I’m missing out on the pleasure I crave, but I’m unlikely to feel guilty about the fact that I’m eating potatoes. I don’t see that a genetic orientation to cooperation, in a human with a fully-functioning mind, would be condemning of that mind’s experiments in not being cooperative. On the other hand, if at a vulnerable age, we are told we will go to Hell if we play with ourselves, that will tend to bring about major turmoil in the mind because we are being condemned by an authority figure for doing something natural. I don’t believe that anything inside our body is unforgiving in that way.

Bonobo Sex

Griffith says : “Indeed, it is an indication of how difficult it is to develop love-indoctrination that even bonobos, living as they do in their ideal conditions, and who ‘have developed a more cohesive social structure’ than chimpanzees, still find it necessary to employ sex as an appeasement device to help subside residual tension and aggression between individuals…sex amongst bonobos is like the ‘naked and they felt no shame’ sex that Moses described our innocent Adam and Eve/bonobo stage-equivalent ancestors as practising, not the anti-‘social’ sex that humans currently practise, where…it is used to attack/fuck innocence…”

What he seems totally unwilling to even consider is the possibility that the sharing of pleasure, sexual or otherwise, is literally the making of love, that it is through the mutuality of our pleasure that we nurture each other and open the bonds of loving communication.

Nurturing

Griffith is right that nurturing is very important to the development of the individual, but his explanation of why is bullshit. He believes that we are born expecting an ideal world and ideal behaviour from those around us. Since “selfless” nurturing behaviour is what we expect, we are hurt if we don’t get it, and we can never recover from that hurt.

Not only is there no evidence, as far as I can see, for this idea, it is an idea which is itself positively toxic to the nurturing process.

The basis for mental health is unconditional self-acceptance. Ideal nurturing then would be unconditionally accepting nurturing. This would give the child a sound grounding in self-acceptance. But to be unconditionally accepting of her child, a woman will need to be unconditionally self-accepting. If she believes that the child is born expecting her to be perfect in her behaviour, then that is liable to put pressure on her, make her feel guilty. She will therefore not be able to give her child unconditional love.

Griffith feels that an ideal mother needs to have had as little as possible exposure to sex. So any mother who reads Griffith’s work and believes him, and who has a normal enjoyable sex life, is liable to worry about the effect that this will have on her child.

To make it worse, even though Griffith knows that people have trouble understanding his “defence for humans” he still goes around promoting his nurturing-sabotaging views on nurturing to those who haven’t understood it.

He also promotes the idea that we can never fully recover from insufficient nurturing, but the problem with insufficient nurturing is that, like encounters with corrosive - and thus corrupting - idealism, it leaves us with highly conditional self-acceptance. But this can be repaired by learning the habit of unconditional self-acceptance.

In a sense, what Griffith is unwittingly doing is crippling people and then giving them wheelchairs.

Development of the Conscious Mind

Griffith believes we had to be selfless to become fully conscious because selflessness is the theme of existence and we can’t acknowledge that and think truthfully if we are not selfless. So other animals, being genetically selfish, could not develop reason.

I think it makes more sense to consider that other animal’s minds have had to be focused on the struggle for survival. A longer nurturing period provided our minds the chance to develop in a less focussed way, freeing us up to have the complex pathways needed to think more deeply about the world around us.

It is true that selfishness blocks us from thinking  holistically, because to see the whole picture we have to be relatively free of personal bias. If we are unconditionally self-accepting then we can acknowledge all aspects of the world around us without any of those aspects having to be blocked out or exaggerated to meet the needs of our self-acceptance.

No doubt our proto-human ancestors were unconditionally self-accepting before the arrival of corruption in the form of idealism. And, if we reject idealism and cultivate unconditional self-acceptance now we can once again learn to think truthfully.

Selfishly Unselfish?

If we did have a genetic orientation toward selfless behaviour which makes us feel bad when we go against it, does it not follow that we would feel better if we went with it? So doesn’t it follow that, whether we go with it or against is determined by our own good or bad feelings? In this case, if returning to selfless behaviour will make us feel good, are we not being selfless for a selfish reason?

Integrated Bonobos

Griffith’s description of the social integration of the bonobos, the way a troop seems almost like a single connected organism, is impressive. His love of the animals comes through just as strongly as does his disappointment in we humans. But Griffith is not like those bonobos. He is not integrative. His idealism makes him divisive. It forces us to put up our armour - to become more selfish than we already where.

This is the problem with idealism. What we want is to be able to accept ourselves unconditionally. Idealism and being confronted about our “non-ideal” nature in the presentation of a highly dubious theory meant to provide a defence for us and a chance at healing, is liable to undermine that self-acceptance even more. So if I were not such an accepting individual, when Griffith says how the possibility that the bonobos might end up being made extinct “is truly unbearable to think about” I might feel like taking a gun and killing every one of the cute little creatures just to make the self-righteous prick feel as bad as he makes others feel. O.K. So I’m being deliberately extreme there, but I think the point I’m making is an important one. To withhold acceptance from someone, or to make it conditional on them supporting your theory about the human condition, is liable to push them towards more aggressive and selfish behaviour, whereas unconditional acceptance soothes. If he really wants to save the bonobos, he needs to recognise that the lack of acceptance he embodies is what is pushing people towards more and more destructive acts. If they practice evasion of truths they find painful to confront that is a sensible containment. Better that than that they confront them and be made either hostile or self-destructive.

We do need to be able to know ourselves and to look at the realities of the world head on, but we can only safely do that when the psychological infrastructure is in place, when we have learned to practice unconditional self-acceptance.

Read Part 14

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