Friday, August 12, 2016


The thoughts on emotions of conflict and emotions of bonding are my own design.  They make sense to me but I am not making them “black and white” or “either/or”.   The stuff on depression and despair are also my own.   The definition I give of love is also my own.

     Emotions have been categorized as primary emotions and emotions of reference.  The primary emotions come with the package.  Infants have these emotions. Numerous researchers have listed these emotions.  A hybrid list would be anger, sadness, disgust, interest, joy, and distress or fear. These grow and mature across time and become more shaped by the external environment. At base, these are our body speaking to us.

     Emotions of reference emerge with the development of the self-consciousness of the self.  This is the time around two years of age where the mobile, verbal toddler is letting the I, Me, and Mine fly around.  (The term “emotions of reference” comes from Michael Lewis’ book Shame.)

     From the beginning of human life, membership in our social group is all important. From here we find our meaning, our value, our importance.  Each individual human is forming and evolving from the onset of life.   Self consciousness begins to clearly manifest with the child recognizing herself in the mirror by the age of 18 months old.  It is certainly off and running in the two year old toddler with the developmental convergence of mobility, linguistic pronoun use of “I”, “me” and “mine”, and the beginnings of what Michael Lewis calls the emotions of reference; examples - pride, guilt, shame, jealousy.  These emotions are measures of the self with some social standard.

     My social environment teaches me the what, how, when, why, where, and who  of referencing my self.  When a perceived need arises to compare myself by looking at the advantages that age or sex or hair color have in my family, my envy develops.  I accomplish the spelling of a word with great applause from my grandmother, my feelings and the incoming messages converge into pride.  These experiences and the experience of all emotions of reference are my feelings of how I fit into my social environment.

For a highly and imperatively social animal, our lifelong development of attachment/bonding is pivotal to belonging.  We have a genetically based need to find structure, process and meaning within a social context that arises from both our evolutionary path and the very composition of our information processing.  It is an interplay of biology, language, family, society, culture, and cosmology.  It is a dynamic, ongoing, relational process within ourselves and with others.

I choose the word belonging with its obvious anthropocentric overtones, for three reasons.  First, I look out from human eyes with human concerns.  Second, I wanted a word that fit the transformation of the infant’s need for attachment/bonding that occurs with linguistic acquisitions around two years of age.  Finally, with the adaptive function of self consciousness having evolved to facilitate our fitting into the social setting, the word belonging with its warmth and substance seemed to capture this lifelong, dynamic process. 

Lack of social support has been linked to cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diseases of the immune system, addictions, as well as depression and other forms of mental illness. A child in an orphanage can be given the best of physical care.   He can be kept clean and well fed; but if he is not picked up and loved, he may lose weight and die.   Among tribal people banishment from the tribe can mean illness and/or death. This need not be actual physical removal.  Simply the loss of the social support takes away the sense of place, time and meaning.

I believe the experience that wells up when we feel we do not belong is shame.  Shame is the experience of not being acceptable in the social environment; of our personhood or an intimate aspect of our humanity being ostracized. 

As example, shame arises when we, especially as children, have no socially acceptable release for our natural frustration/anger.  Or where our natural feelings of flight manifest as fear or terror are condemned.  Shame is the feeling that arises when a behavior that is manifesting a naturally occurring internal state invokes the social response of disgust; of being cast out; of not belonging.

With the social response imprinted very early on our basic survival patterns, self-talk acts to maintain a sense of shame whenever the disallowed internal experience occurs.  This is often below awareness because recognition of this aspect of our self is a threat to belonging; hence to survival.

Shame’s counterpart is guilt. Guilt arises from the disapproval of our behavior as opposed to rejection of our personhood.   When guilt occurs, a way is taught for rectifying our error and for the acceptable expression (no matter how convoluted) of our experience within the social context.  Guilt provides a process for continued membership in the group.  In this way it provides continued support for the “traditional” patterns of socially accepted behavior.

     Shame and guilt are decidedly different experiences.  Guilt offers continued membership while shame banishes. The pathway to human belonging is channeled and powered by these two emotions of reference that arise through the functioning of self consciousness.   I believe these two emotions of reference are primary in the processes of personal and social change.

     Another way of dividing emotions is possible.  Although not mutually exclusive, emotions can also be seen as expressions of either conflict or of bonding.  Emotions of conflict describe situations that need changing; situations that are threatening.  We feel fear at finding a snake in our path or perhaps we feel anger at having been passed over for a promotion.  The emotions of conflict are designed in the body to persist until we change the situation.  The persistence of conflict emotions until removal of the conflict originally had high survival value.  In the modern world so condensed in time and space and with no safe outlets for these conflict emotions, this persistence represents a serious problem of adaptation and health.

     Excitement, joy, curiosity are examples of emotions of bonding.  These emotions are designed not to persist.  They occur with nursing, with play, with laughter, with intimacy.  For a highly social animal, the need to regenerate bonding emotions by seeking situations that elicit them also has survival value. 

     Metaphorically, conflict and bonding emotions can be compared to fat soluable and water soluble vitamins.  The fat soluble vitamins are necessary but too much of them in the body are toxic.  The water-soluble vitamins pass out of the body very quickly and must be replenished.

     There is a further corollary involving emotions of conflict and bonding.  Most of us have known the persistence of fear, sadness or anger in our life.  These emotions were originally designed to persist. They may persist in humans because of psychohistorical events. Then when we feel joy and it does not persist there is a tendency to blame ourselves and feel like we are failures.  We are being unfair to ourselves.  We are comparing apples to oranges. 

     Emotions are timeless.  When we tap into our sadness, we tap into all the sadness we have ever or will ever feel.  This is a hard one for cause/effect types like myself.  It is easier to appreciate by separating the content of a sad event from the unique bodily experience of sadness.  The content of sad events will vary in the future; not our personal, internal domain of sadness.
We have joy within us as a natural response. When we experience joyfulness, we move into a sensual mind field that is neurological and biochemical.  Within this field we move outside the realm of clock time.  When we feel joy we open ourselves to our universe of joy. 

     In the broadest sense, our emotional reactions to the continuing events of our life are the thread that gives us a personal sense of history.  Emotions give meaning to experience in the moment and connect us to our memories.  Our memories give us our history.  Emotions shape our experience of the self.  

     Let me add one final point.  Love is not one emotion; it is all emotions.  A white light when passed through a prism becomes a rainbow of colors.  Metaphorically, love is the white light of emotions.  When passing through us, love is the many hues and blends of the various feelings socially shaped and expressed as emotions.

      This perhaps gives us some clarity as to why it is so difficult to love ourself and others.  Love is all the emotions.  Emotions are timeless.  With love, we tap into not only our joy but also our fear and sadness from now, before, and in the future.  At times this makes it painful to have love for ourselves and/or others.

      When our emotions are affirmed, nurtured and guided, the structures and meanings of the developing self are connected internally and socially. There is belonging. 

      Love is the energy of life speaking to itself.   We are the crystal and love comes from within us and through us.  Love, as all the emotions, as the white light, stands as the grail of human spiritual endeavors.  To love is to celebrate living.  It takes great courage.

Depression and despair are the handmaidens of shame anger.  They arise unbidden.  Each of the people we have looked at experiences these two sides of the same coin when the energy from the shame within them overwhelms. 

Depression is a helplessness.  It is a feeling of not inadequacy but no adequacy.  Like being in a huge vat of mud and not being able to move fast enough.  It is not being able to change the circumstances or environment or behaviors.  It has been called anger turned inward.  If it were turned outward it would be aimed at the circumstances/environment/behaviors (persons) that are creating the helplessness. Depression is related to the past. It arises when all our adaptations fail to relieve energy of our shame.  The energy of depression is pervasive and is a mood and in the gut.

Despair has to do with hopelessness. This relates even more strongly to time.  It has to do with the future. It is a fear of a continuation of the present situation.  It is same old, same old. It is the feeling that there is no freedom from the repetition of the patterns of adaptation. These patterns are unsuccessful in getting our needs met and they will go on and on and on.  So the future is bleak and hopeless. 

Depression rises out of the gut from the energy of a failed past and flows into the head dampening action.  Despair arise out of the mind because the idea of a future is in the head.  Despair flows into the gut dampening the emotional energy for action.  They are truly the two headed face of shame in control.


Conlan, Roberta (editor).  1999.  States of Mind. Wiley. NY.

Fossum, Merle and Mason, M.  1986.  Facing Shame: Families in Recovery.  Norton. N.Y.

Gilbert, Paul and Andrews, B.  1998.  Shame:Interperson Behavior, Psycholpathology, and Culture.  Oxford U. Press. Oxford.

Gruen, Arno.  1988.  The Betrayal of the Self.  Grove Press. N. Y.

Lewis, H.B.  1987.  The Role of Shame in Symptom Formation.  Eribaum Ass.  Hillsdale, N.J.

Lewis, H.B.  1971.  Shame and Guilt in Neurosis.  International University Press. N.Y.

Lewis, Michael. 1992. Shame-The Exposed Self. The Free Press. N.Y.

Lowen. 1985. Narcissism: Denial of the True Self.

Luria, A. R. 1973.  “The Frontal Lobes and the Regulation of Behavior.”  In Psychophysiology of the Frontal Lobes.  Edited by K. Pribram and A. Luria.  Academic Press. N. Y.

Lynd, Helen Merrell.  1965.  On Shame and the Search for Identity.  Science Editions. N.Y.

Masterson, James. 1988. The Search for the Real Self.  Free Press. N.Y.

Middelton-Moz, J.  1990.  Shame and Guilt.  Health Communications.  Deerfield Beach, FL.

Miller, Alice.  Drama of the Gifted Child

Peristiany, J. G.  1966.  Honour and Shame.  University of Chicago Press.  Chicago.

Potter-Efron, Ronald and Potter-Efron, Patricia.  1989.  Letting Go of Shame.  Harper. N.Y.

Pound, A.  1982.  "Attachment and Maternal Depression."  In The Place of Attachment in Human Behavior.  Edited by C. . Parkes and J.
Stevenson-Hinde.  Basic Books.  N.Y.  Pages118-130.

Pribam, K. 1984.  "Emotion: A Neurobehavioral Analysis.  In Approaches to Emotions.  Edited by Scherer, K; Ekman, P.  Lawrence Erlbaum. London. Pages 13-38

Pribam, K. and Luria, A. (editors) 1973.  Psychophysiology of the Frontal Lobes.  Academic Press.

Scheff, T. and Retzinger, S.  1991. Emotions and Violence: Shame and Rage in Destructive Conflicts. Lexington Books. Massachusetts>

Schieffelin, C.  1985.  "Anger, Grief, and Shame: Toward a Kaluli Ethnopsychology."  In Person, Self, and Experience.  Edited by G. M. White and J. Kirkpatrick.  Univ. of California Press. Berkeley.

Schneider, Carl.  1977.  Shame, Exposure, Privacy.  Beacon. Boston.

Schore, Alan ( 1999). Affect regulation and the origin of the self: The neurobiology of emotional development. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Hillsdale, New Jersey.

Vaillant, George. 1974.  Adaptation to Life.  Little, Brown, and Co. Boston.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


This might make a great workshop

In 1975 because of the oil embargo there was a great interest In “simple” living.  I lived off the grid at that time, with no electricity.  Did have a car.  I taught a night continuing ed class at one of the local college.  In my naivete (and arrogance), I thought I knew what simple living was (not in anyway like the 3 billion people in the world that lived that way not by choice but by circumstance.

Having said the above, there was an exercise that was interesting.
The first class I suggested that for a couple of days whatever they touched, they would ask:
     What is it made of. 
      Where does it come from
     Do I need it.
     Can I make it myself.
      How much energy is in it.

How much electricity does an American home use?
In 2014, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,932 kilowatthours (kWh), an average of 911 kWh per month. Louisiana had the highest annual consumption at 15,497 kWh per residential customer, and Hawaii had the lowest at 6,077 kWh per residential customer.

What if you were allocated 1/10th of average use – approximately 90 kWh a month; how would you use it?   That is 3 kWh a day.
How about three times that much 270 kWh a month; 9 kWh a day.

Here are your appliances choices, click link for larger chart:
Here are your tool choices:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Beyond Belief

 This another essay by Dave Pollard that I share with his permission. Note the URL to the original.

Beyond Belief (repost)
Posted on June 8, 2016 by Dave Pollard

I am reposting, in their entirety, the ten articles I wrote that were published in SHIFT magazine (which is now on hiatus) between 2013 and 2015, since some of the links have changed and so that my blog contains the full text of these articles (useful for searches etc.) Thanks to SHIFT for the graphics (much better than my originals), and for publishing and editing my work.
I’m not spiritual. Really.
image: from a video made by a fan of Deva Premal’s Moola Mantra, original source uncredited

People often ask me if, in my self-proclaimed state of joyful pessimism and contemplative gratitude, I’ve finally discovered spirituality.
I insist that I have not.

Just about everyone I know who self-identifies as “spiritual” also believes our civilization will somehow be ‘saved’ from collapse (by science or technology, or the market, or wise leadership, or human ingenuity, or by a god or gods, or by a massive human consciousness-raising). What good is a ‘spirit’, after all, if he/she/it can’t save you from perceived disaster?

No thank you, no salvation needed here.
I’d like to think that most non-spiritual people have moved on, as Derrick Jensen puts it, “Beyond Hope” for saving our culture and our species. Tom Robbins says we now have no choice but to “insist on joy in spite of everything”.

We who are resigned to the inevitability of civilization’s collapse strive instead to be unattached and equanimous, but not nihilistic or depressed about it. We humans can only be who we are, and who we are is ignorant of complex systems and preoccupied with the needs of the moment. So it is. Life is wonderful and worth living every minute anyway. No soul or striving or sacredness required.

But a little voice inside me says: “That sounds kinda spiritual to me. Borderline Buddhist even. Are you sure you’re not spiritual? You throw around the word Gaia as a shorthand for all-life-on-Earth, but it sounds pretty Goddess-like. You have a picture of her in your mind, some kind of wise, wild, beautiful meta-creature?”

And I must confess that my belief that complex systems are unfathomable, and cannot be known or understood or ‘managed’ or predicted or changed or controlled by humans, no matter how rich or powerful or organized or skilled or motivated, sounds not dissimilar to the faith that some ancient peoples had in some higher, invisible, awesome power.

And I am on a journey these days to try to really see what I know intellectually – that my self, my mind, my sense of being all-of-a-piece, my sense of separateness, my sense of self-control and my sense of time are all illusions, conceptions, ideas that are extremely useful in surviving day to day, but ultimately false. If that truth-seeking isn’t a spiritual journey, what is?

Although it’s defined a thousand ways, spirituality is ultimately about belief, and faith. For most who call themselves spiritual, it is about belief in something larger and more important than ourselves and our species, and faith that there is a purpose to our struggle and a meaning to our lives.

I don’t understand the need of spiritual people for purpose or meaning or something larger than everything-that-just-is, the need for something to strive for and to progress towards.

My great-great grandfather, who lived through the Long Depression (which lasted from 1873 more or less until 1896) wrote in his diary about his duty to do whatever was necessary to leave things better for his children than they had been for him. This was the era of robber barons, urbanization caused by bankruptcy of family farms, and child labour, an era which followed a period of relative agrarian prosperity and equality. He was spiritual. He had faith that his struggle and belief would be rewarded in the afterlife and through increased opportunity for his children. He never lost his faith. His children and grandchildren would contend with WW1 and the Great Depression. 

Whether he was rewarded in the afterlife is anyone’s guess.
We boomers were really the first Western generation in recent history to challenge that faith en masse. Many of us became secular humanists in youth, and believers in the gods of money, markets and technology in middle age. Or were “born again”. Most of us have now become salvationists of one kind or another, seeing the world through very different evolved worldviews, and defining life’s meaning and their purpose accordingly.

These days we also have the advocates of scientism whose faith is, paradoxically, in scientific certainty and the knowability of everything. Science, its advocates contend, can ultimately solve any problem, reduce everything that can be known to simple equations and perfect models, and allow us to transcend our bodies and live anywhere, forever. It’s the new salvationist religion of science that, preposterously, self-identifies as atheistic. The myth of progress expresses itself in many different ways, each with its fervent and unshakable believers.

But every generation has its skeptics, and I think the boomers, the first generation whose rebelliousness was largely celebrated rather than suppressed, has retained more than its share. And just as we have politically moved Beyond Hope, we have culturally and philosophically moved Beyond Belief.

Stephen J Gould argued in Full House that the emergence of vertebrates (let alone humanoids), even in a physical environment ideally evolving for life as we know it, was a one-in-millions long shot. If we manage to render life on this planet extinct, he said, there is very little chance of it re-emerging in any fathomable time span, and even if it did re-emerge, it would almost certainly be unrecognizably different from the web of life that emerged from the primordial soup a few billion years ago. Our search for extraterrestrial life (at least in the sense we define the term) is foolish, he would assert, and the search for extraterrestrial “intelligence” (some form of life we could communicate with), is absurd, and based on nothing but faith, a will to believe in something in spite of its staggering improbability.

This does not sit well with people who argue that life tends to emerge and grow in complexity and resist “death” tenaciously whenever and wherever it can. Life, these believers assert, is predestined, the will of all existence. No matter that such belief is tautological.

So what does it mean to be “Beyond Belief”? It means appreciating and embracing complexity, and accepting that we cannot ever hope to fully know, predict or control complex systems (including our bodies and the microcosms within them, and social and ecological systems, and our planet, and all the macrocosms beyond it). It means accepting that in our study of science and technology (including the so-called “social sciences”) we may devise interesting and useful, within limits, models of reality, but that these are only absurdly simplistic and limited representations of reality — stick men on cave walls.

It means challenging everything you are told, everything you believe and everything you want to believe. It means appreciating and accepting what is without pretending or hoping to fathom it. It means becoming humble. It means learning to live without the need for meaning or purpose or progress or something larger and more important than the miracle of what just is, what has evolved from the universe’s infinite random walks through possibility.

OK, I used the word ‘miracle’. That’s pretty spiritual, isn’t it?
Nope, afraid not. ‘Miracle’ comes from the proto-Indo-European word meaning to wonder and to laugh. That is what awaits those who can let go of their beliefs and faith. To wonder, and to laugh. To notice. To really see. To really be.

Beyond belief, that is all that you need.