These last sections are far more dense and complex than the ones in Part 1. I have tried my very best to unravel JP’s thought process and make it easier for the ideas to be digested. Do leave your comments if you have any feedback.
Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back
Section 7: The Nature of Nature
In this section, JP presents us with the question: “How do we conceptualise nature?” He also tries to get us to question our own assumptions of what is “nature” in “natural selection”. What do we understand about “nature”?
Some may consider nature to be something static, dynamic or even a fantasy. JP asserts that nature shouldn’t be considered as a fixed point or that its growth something linear and constant, like how the view that human beings are the pinnacle of evolution. Nature also includes growth that we are unable to observe. A great example of this is how JP describes how we are blind to the trees when we look at the leaf and blind to the forest when we look at the tree. In other words, there is more than meets the eye, especially in our peripheral and conscious mind.
Nature isn’t the fantastic idea of gardens and beautiful beaches either. It’s also deadly viruses, drought, disease, death and decay. But it is also because of these parts of nature that Man has made protective mechanisms to prolong life and establish security.
Some may think that nature has played no role in the social products of culture. But one cannot deny that because the “order” of these systems has existed for such a long time, it is bound to influence the life of Man. An “order” of Being is “natural”: it has lasted for so long that it has become the “order”. This “order” is what “nature” has selected and consequently ‘allowed’ to exist for so long. This “order” is the dominance hierarchy (DH), the constant struggle for survival, up and down the finite pyramid of resources and dominance for the survival of the species.
The (DH) is thus an ancient system of nature that nature has “selected” over a very long time (thus the nature of nature). It is the master control system, affecting all aspects of Being, of neurochemistry and of victory and loss. It is the production and loss of serotonin in the struggle of status in pursuit of passing off the best genes for future generations.
My Thoughts. This elaborate section has one key message: the DH is a system that nature has selected and remained victorious for a long time. It is the critical factor that has allowed many species to pass own their genes to many generations. All the parts of the DH ( the serotonin, the dispute management, the competition for resources etc) are part of this preserved ancient system. We can’t escape it. We have to embrace it.
Section 8: Top and Bottom
This section explains the access that those in the top and bottom get, and also the perception of an ancient part of the human brain. This part of the brain assesses the levels of dominance and pays attention to the treatment we get from others. It determines values and assigns us a status, much like a self-perception mechanism. If it deems that we have little worth, then it will restrict serotonin production. We become more reactive and emotional. Why? At the bottom of the DH, there are low levels of serotonin, emergencies become more common and reactivity becomes essential for survival.
Being hyper-responsive and having constant alertness uses up a lot of energy and resources. At the bottom, our brain becomes neurotic. It thinks that the smallest unexpected impediment may produce an uncontrollable chain of the events that need to be handled alone. This results in a perpetual sacrifice of what could otherwise be stored for the future. When you don’t know what to do, you must be prepared to do anything and everything in case it becomes necessary. In the end, it cultivates an impulsive nature in mating and pleasure and the physical demands of preparing for an emergency will eventually wear you down.
At the top of the DH, everything seems good. It’s a safe environment since the chance of any threat is low. Changes could be opportunities. Serotonin flows plentifully, making one confident and calm. One’s position is secure and thus one’s future is more likely to be good. There is no need to grasp impulsively and you are able to delay gratification.
My Thoughts: JP explains the ramifications of being at the bottom and at the top. The section seems to attempt to sell the benefits of being at the top and also warn us about the hell at the bottom. It made me think about my own life and how sometimes I allow my life to be at the bottom and how long I’ve avoided the struggle towards the top. All I can think of now is how crucial being organised and disciplined is to one’s psychological health. It’s so subtle but its consequences are far-reaching.
Section 9: Malfunction
JP describes the body is like an orchestra. It has its many parts and can only function well if the parts have rehearsed well. In rehearsing well, the activities in life lose their complexity and gain predictability and simplicity. One simple way to begin is to wake up the same time every day as sleep resets insulin levels. Another way is to have a breakfast comprising of primarily protein and fat. Having a carbohydrate rich breakfast provides too much energy too fast while subsequently allowing a rapid drop in energy levels.
The next part of the section talks about the positive feedback loop in that it is bad. The positive feedback loop is bad when the attempt to use something as a solution becomes the reason for disease or disorder. For example in alcoholism or substance abuse, or in agoraphobia and depression. Bullying can also result in a a positive feedback loop where it can establish counterproductive physiological adaptations throughout a victim’s life.
My Thoughts: One of the best sections in this chapter as it tells you how to be aware of possible malfunctions that a human being can and may go through. It has given me the wisdom behind the rationale of waking up the same time every day and a reason to seriously develop more discipline in myself. I may finally find my own rationality towards discipline. Towards the bigger idea of DH, this section explains how those at the top get there and how those at the bottom get there. Developing routines provides predictability and simplicity, in preparation for complexity and dispute. It allows an environment where serotonin can flow and begin calming our senses to allow us to focus on what’s important. It allows us to chart a map to lead us on a path up the hierarchy.
Section 10: Rising Up
JP begins the section by talking about victims of bullying. People become victims sometimes because they can’t fight back or they won’t fight back. It also happens to those who have decided that all forms of aggression are morally wrong. This is more likely to happen to those whose fathers were excessively angry and controlling. Having a perception like that restricts one’s capacity for aggression within a narrow view of morality. This person will not be able to command “genuinely righteous and appropriately self-protective anger” that is required for self-defence. JP puts it aptly, “If you can bite, you generally don’t have to.” Thankfully, the ability to respond with aggression and violence is a skill that can be developed. This actually decreases the likelihood that actual aggression will be necessary rather than increases it.
People who refuse the muster self-protective responses actually open themselves up to exploitation. This is different from those who are truly unable to stand up for their own rights due to a actual inability to do so such as in an actual imbalance in power. The naivety that people are basically good and that no one actually wants to hurt anyone else can actually invite abuse and abusive people into their lives. These gullible notions also include the idea that threat and the use of force is wrong.
The first step out of this naive outlook is to see that resentment is part of the action that keeps tyranny and evil at bay. They must accept that a willing individual can protect others from the corruption of society through anger, speech and action. When they start to realise that seeds of evil can exist within them, they begin to see themselves as dangerous and develop self-respect. They begin to see the possibility of resisting oppression, that they have the ability to withstand because they understand how monstrous they can and will become. This is because there is very little difference between the capacity for mayhem and destruction and strength of character.
JP describes how positive feedback loops can be a double-edged sword: it can spiral counter-productivity or it can get you ahead (Price’s Law/Pareto Principle/Matthew’s Law).
He also describes how emotion is partly bodily expressed and can be amplified or dampened by facial expressions.
He explains how the reactions of others can amplify our own reactions based on posture since people size each other up all the time and thus it is important to present yourself as a winner.
To conclude, JP says that by standing up straight with your shoulders back, you communicate to others that you voluntarily accept the burden of Being, that you align your nervous system to respond differently to the challenges of life.
October 4th 2018, 9.15 am.