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Man will become better when you show him what he is like.
The Animal in The Mirror
We humans are the most evolved species on this planet.
Although it does not always feel that way.
We are a people of great contradiction. We celebrated our sophistication, our information, our technology, as the 20th century became the 21st, yet it brought with it terrorism and crimes against humanity the likes of which we thought we had left, sealed in the dark shadows of our often-barbaric history. How does this make sense?
There is an answer — a rather straightforward one.
Because we believe that we are already evolved, we remain blind to how un-evolved we actually still are. This keeps our progress as a society, as individuals, and as a species slower and more painful than it needs to be. But fortunately, we can change that.
This book explores a simple and essential truth about human beings: even though we like to think we are all unique, we are all the same and we all behave in predictably the same ways. And more importantly — our thoughts and actions are chosen by our survival instinct, and not by our intelligence.
While we may all look and sound different, and while we may all be free to make our own choices, our uniqueness is essentially only skin deep. Beneath the trappings of our everyday exterior, there lives at our core an instinctive animal, and its primary concern is safety and survival.
Knowing this is not simply important, it is essential if we hope to evolve into a more civilized species. Unfortunately, we usually refuse to see it, believing we are already evolved and that this simple, instinct-based idea is a gross (and therefore inaccurate) over-simplification. As a result, most of us do not recognize that we are always under the influence of our instinct, which is every bit as smart as we are. We are carried along by its current even as we think we are leading our lives intelligently.
In reality, we are animals first and humans second. When we make a choice, we choose the option that will make us feel the most safe. In everyday life, we do not stop and evaluate every thought and action against cold logic and reason before deciding something, though that is precisely what we think we do. Instead, we react, making quick decisions — thinking with our emotions. And because we are all built the same way, we all tend to manifest the same behaviors as a result. This is why stereotypes exist, and it is also how psychologists are able to classify and diagnose mental states and behaviors.
If we do not see the animal in our mirror, the animal is in complete control.
With few exceptions, we all respond in the same ways to the same situations. Even our bodies react to things in the same ways, which is why we all exhibit the same set of body language and facial expressions that represent (and reveal) the same underlying feelings. In most cases, we could not hide these physical signs if we tried.
The basic truth of our sameness clarifies the reasons behind many troubling human behaviors, like:
why kids bully and many school officials ignore it
why Jews and Muslims cannot seem to resolve their differences
why religion causes division between people rather than propagating love and tolerance
why men and women struggle to understand each other
why so many marriages end in divorce
why so many abused women stay in their relationships
why uncorrupt politicians are so uncommon
why dictators subjugate their people and why their people allow it
why so many smart people do stupid things with their money and health
why so many Republicans and Democrats think each other are stupid
why many people (ab)use drugs and alcohol
why we feel depression
Understanding human instinct gives us a window into our core, into our deepest truth. It provides a key to understanding just about everything we think, feel and do — to ourselves and to others.
Change is automatic. Progress is not.
Evolutionology is a made-up term. It is intended as a contraction of Evolutionary Behavioral Psychology because the things we feel, think, and do come from the way our biology and brain developed (or were Created), which determined how our psychology developed… which determines our behavior.
This book will deal in generalizations. Some people may feel that generalizations are untrue (or not useful) simply because they are generalizations. On the contrary, generalizations teach us about how most of us tend to behave or believe, and while there are always exceptions and explanations, generalizations can be quite illuminating about the human condition. As such, they can teach us about ourselves if we are willing and courageous enough to look.
Be warned, from the start, that you may not like everything you read. We will all be taken off our pedestal a little, and we will not necessarily enjoy that, but we should get to know ourselves (and everybody else) a lot better. And that is a journey well worth taking.
This chapter will lay out the basic ideas of EvolutionologyTM and explain exactly how it is that our animal instinct makes us behave.
The Human Blind Spot
The ostrich buries his head in the sand to avoid the truth he does not want to accept. Unfortunately, he is not the only species that does it. We humans are experts at denial and avoidance. Like a talentless singer auditioning on live television, we do not see the truth. We only see what we want to see.
This is not because we are stupid or delusional, neither is it a design flaw. It is how we are chemically programmed — our DNA, cells, hormones and brain. We have a built-in blind spot.
We cannot escape our chemistry, but we can understand it, something we are not currently doing as a society. We constantly marvel at how this person could do this, or how that person could think that. We lament the hatred, bigotry and killing in the world. Most of us profess to want world peace. And peaceful relationships. And politicians who aim to serve the people instead of their own interests. And religions that actually teach tolerance and inspire peace. We do not have these things, yet we keep insisting that we should.
The problem is that we keep aspiring towards them, but our animal nature keeps getting in the way. That makes progress slow. Our indignation pits us against each other, and we continue to flounder in the dark. We insist on remaining blind to the fact that we are not only doing the same things to each other, but that it is also because we are, in fact, all alike.
The only way to fast track our evolution is by understanding the invisible instinctive force behind our thoughts and actions.
So what is this human blind spot? It is when we blind ourselves to the animal in our mirror, to our own flaws and primal motivations. Our creative brain spins a compelling story that places us as the protagonist, the hero. It justifies our behavior and choices, which therefore paints the other person as the one who must be in the wrong. (It is always that other selfish driver.) We always interpret things in our own favor in order to maintain a positive self-image so we get to feel good about ourselves, justified, and therefore safe.
The blind spot — our sense of denial — seems contradictory. On the one hand, our instinct should propel us away from danger rather than increasing risk by ignoring it. On the other hand, we have a powerful need to feel right and validated, and to avoid the negative emotions associated with fear and danger. We ignore or deny a threat or an unpleasant prospect, hoping it will go away on its own… until it becomes so serious that it cannot be ignored or denied any longer. And then we face it because we have to. But of course, it has usually become much bigger and much worse of a problem during that time!
But if we start to understand this tendency, by yanking our heads up out of the sand and shining a little light on the human condition, we will see the reasons why we do the things we do and why we treat ourselves and each other the way we do — rich versus poor, nation versus nation, man versus woman, religion, race, politics, sexuality, bigotry, greed, lust, etc.
Once we have seen this, we cannot un-see it. We are then wiser and we become capable of elevating ourselves and our society. If we want our world, our country, our communities and our relationships to improve, we must stop living like ostriches. We must understand why we fear, react, hate or love. We must understand why people do what they do, think what they think, and feel what they feel. We must evolve to the point where we, and not our chemistry, are in control of our lives and our planet.
(end of excerpt)