Book 6--smashwords edition

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--In Search of Utopia--



What Makes Us Tick?


Lemuel Gulliver XVI as told to Jacqueline Slow

© 2010 ISBN978-0-9823076-0-1

Dear friends—Obviously I wrote this series to be read from Book 1 to the end, but silly me! Readers often begin with what sounds interesting to them. This may leave them unaware of the characters, my friends and I. So let me introduce us. We were boyhood friends, as wild and as close as geese heading south for the winter. But our university educations split us philosophically like a drop of quicksilver hitting the floor. But like those balls of mercury, when brought together, they again become one. As have we.

Ray became a Catholic priest and moved far to the right of where our teenage liberalism had bound us. Ray calls himself a neo-conservative. We think he is a reactionary.

Lee slid to the left of our adolescent leanings, and somewhere along the line became an atheist. Lee is a lawyer.

Concannon, Con for short, retired from his very successful business. I guess his business experience moved him a bit to the right, to conservatism—a conservative just to the right of the middle.

Then there’s me. I think I’m pretty much a middle of the roader—except for my passion to save our planet by reducing our population before global warming, massive poverty and far-reaching famines decimate our humanity. Hope this introduction makes our discussions make a bit more sense.

By the way, as most of you know, we have put our photos before every bit of dialogue. This should make you more familiar with us. So the books read more like plays. Since most of you read the books in PDF or EPUB format it is no problem. But if you read them in RTF or TXT you will probably lose the photos. This will make the transitions of the conversations more difficult to follow. LG

Table of Contents

Meeting Dr. Chan

Motivation—our reasons for doing

Freud–and the need for pleasure

The power drive

The need for love

Combinations of needs and drives

Nature or nurture

Freud and sex

Maslow’s characteristics of self-actualizing people

Power as a motivating force

Power and success as primary drives

Power over

Violence as power

War and conquering

Power in sports

Power and terrorism


Power and sex

Gender and power

Power in sexual harassment and abuse in sport

Power and religion

Power through social traditions sanctified by religions

Other illustrations of power

Addressing the power drive in education

To be human we must be able to love

Psychological intimacy

What is love

The kinds of love

The need for love

The development of love

The ingredients of love

Power over and power to

Loving—the continuum

Finding meaning in our lives

Hypothetical structure of our minds

Adjustments—rational and irrational

Attack and retreat

Adjusting to stress

Normal and abnormal behavior

Stress and adjustments

Some common patterns of adjusting

Attacking—the fighting approach

Types of attacking behavior

Types of withdrawing behavior—the fleeing approach

Forgetting reality

Distorting reality

Atoning for reality

Retreating from reality



How it affects parent licensing

How it affects our education

The path to mental health and its resulting happiness

Setting goals

Contentment and happiness

The capacity to be happy


Meeting Dr. Chan

—“Good morning gentlemen. I want to introduce you to Dr. Chuck Chan. He is a professor of social psychology at our university.”

—“Glad to meet you Dr. Chan. Wanda Wang suggested that we meet you when we were in Singaling.”

—“Glad to meet you all. Please just call me Chuck. I know you have spent some time with Dr. Wang in Kino. She is a delightful lady. Wanda and I go way back. We got our doctorates at the same time at your alma mater Commander. Of course I was in psychology and she was in philosophy but we knew each other socially. Then I got a ‘post doc’ at Stanford and she got one at Berkeley. Nowadays we are often put on the same podium to debate our beliefs, my realistic belief in the basic psychological drives that motivate us and her idealistic concepts of ethics as higher level motivations. We do come close when my ideas of power intertwine with her ideas of self-centered motivations. The difference, of course is that I believe that most people react into their behaviors and she believes that we can think our way into our behavior. I would certainly like to believe her, but the evidence points to the fact that we are psychological, not logical.

As you have probably heard, that’s why we psychologists study our field—to throw suspicion off ourselves.

We are afraid we won’t be seen as logical. People are more likely to do something from a psychological need for power, then rationalize their actions based on the assumptions that Wanda talks about. I may have an inferiority complex, as probably we all do in varying degrees. I then may hit or kill someone who is less powerful than I am. I feel good. My rationalization for why I did it may be societal, ‘he is in a different gang.’ It may be God based, ‘he is in a different religious belief system’. It might even be self-centered, ‘I want to get into a gang.’ Or perhaps it’s greed, I wanted his watch or his money. The general lack of reasoning ability in our human race is sad, when we all think we are thinking, but we are generally just reacting. As Napoleon said, we have to laugh at ourselves to avoid crying for ourselves.

Wanda told me about your diverse group of lifelong friends. She said you had some very interesting discussions about values. Now we are going to discuss another source of our motivations.”

—“Right. Hopefully with your psychological input and her ideas on values we can get a better handle on what makes people tick.

You mentioned Stanford. Lee, here, is a Stanford man. I wonder if you are as liberal as he is. Ray is a priest and a graduate of Notre Dame. Con and I are UCLA grads.

Having now looked at my own country, along with Kino and Singaling I wonder what it is that motivates us to behave as we do--to accept or reject such very different values, to accept or reject the leadership of the society, to accept or reject the lifestyles lived by our parents.

As I have said, on my voyage I was able to read the works of the great, and not so great, intellectuals of our race. It now gives me cause to consider some of the psychological theories that may explain why we behave as we do. My reading and thinking do not give me such certainty that I can put all of us humans into one mold. Indeed, it appears that there are quite different drives and needs that motivate us. My guess is that we are not all robots who can be programmed by behaviorist planning --like so many rats in a maze.

Oh, if I only had infinite knowledge and could tell the world my plan! But, unfortunately, I do not. I have neither an infinite mind nor infinite knowledge so I cannot approach certainty. My only hope is to clarify in my own mind what I have read and apply that to what I have experienced.”

--“Throughout the ages, many sages have written about who and what we are, it took the beginnings of psychology to begin to focus seriously on our motivations. Just as the great religious leaders seem to be climbing the same mountain from different sides, the astute psychologists seem to be analyzing our similar behaviors only through slightly different sets of spectacles. Each recognizes similarities in our functions--but each emphasizes a different part. So Sigmund Freud saw pleasure as the major driving force and found that any drive for power we might have, which he called sublimation, is only a small part of the pleasure drive. Alfred Adler, as you know, was an early colleague of Sigmund. He found that power was the major drive, and sex or pleasure was merely a part of the power drive.

So let’s first acknowledge that most thinking people assume that everyone thinks like they do. They’re wrong. Genetics, neurotransmitters, hormones and our environments affect our thinking. Recognizing that, let’s see what I can do to help you. I’ll have to warn you that I try to go back to the basics as much as I can. There are so many theories in psychology about what motivates us, how we learn and how we perceive things that I don’t want to confuse you. I could probably start at a hundred different points, but let’s go back in history a bit. You know that Sigmund Freud popularized the idea that we have an unconscious part of our mind.

I think we all agree that we have a conscious mind, at least mentally healthy people know what’s going on around them and what they are thinking. Mentally ill people don’t experience the same things in their conscious minds that most of us do. They may hear voices or experience their reality in quite different ways than the rest of us. Their ‘reality’ may be a product of a brain malfunction or maybe they just learned a different reality at some time in their lives.

The brain malfunction is one thing. Learning a mentally unhealthy approach to life is quite different. The motivations for these people may be the same as for mentally healthy people, they just behave anti-socially. We’ll come back to this kind of behavior later.

So let’s start our look at motivation with Freud. His classic theory was that our natural impulses often lead us to behave in ways that society doesn’t approve of. So society and religion develop a conscience in us to tell us not to do the naughty things that our instincts tell us to do. Then the free part of our conscious mind has to wrestle with how we are going to behave-- by choosing between our conscience and our more basic sensual pleasures.

As you know, one of the basic questions in psychology, anthropology and philosophy is whether humans have instincts. It is clear that animals have them. But if we are going to operate with the religious and philosophical ideas that we have free will, we become responsible for our actions. If we are mono-theistically religious we can choose the way of God and if we act in accordance with His laws we can spend eternity with Him. If we have instincts we can’t be blamed for not following the path that some people say God has commanded.

A powerful example of animal instincts was shown in the work of Eugene Marais. I’m sure you have seen examples of the nests of the weaver birds in Africa. These small finches build a large tear drop shaped nest with complicated knots holding the twigs and hairs of the nest in place. Marais took some of these finch eggs and removed them from their environment and had them hatched by canaries. When the new finches were born they were not exposed to any of the building materials common to their species. When they mated their eggs were removed and again hatched by canaries. He did this for four generations during which there was no contact with their parents, with nests, or with nest building materials. After the fourth generation Marais allowed the new birds access to the traditional nest building materials. To his surprise they built identical nests with identical knots to those of their great-great-grand birdies. (1)

It seems that instincts are much stronger as we climb down the evolutionary ladder. Does that mean that humans don’t have any? It’s doubtful that we have shaken off every instinctual gene in our march toward free will! When you realize that our genetic make up is 98.77% that same as a chimpanzee and about 60% the same as a chicken, we would have to assume that we have some instincts.

Psychologists, philosophers, historians and sociologists have all wrestled with the questions relating to ‘why we are who we are.’ Do our genes predispose us to a certain type of personality? Is it our families and neighborhoods, our environment, that is the all determining factor? Or, more likely, is it a combination of the two? To what degree are we limited or driven by our instincts, our heredity or by our environment?

Are we basically violent beings    as some anthropologists assert? Or are we primarily peaceful, loving beings, as some humanists believe? Is the fulfillment of pleasure, like sex, our basic drive or are we driven to find higher meanings in life? Serious students of human nature have expressed each of these theories.

Perhaps by understanding some of the various psychological theories of personality we can better understand and direct our thinking and actions. Perhaps such knowledge can give us better control over our own lives. The more we know about ourselves, the better we can control our own destinies. This is what much of science and most of education is all about. If we can get a better grasp of the appropriate sciences and develop an appropriate set of values we can have healthier and happier citizens and a more nourishing society—then we can live more positively.

With ten billion brain cells it doesn’t take much imagination to think that we might be directed somewhat by heredity, somewhat by what has happened to us in the past and somewhat by our present day thinking. I assume you are aware of the brain imaging work by neuroscientists that shows that our emotions are more important in making decisions than is our intellect. How much of those emotions are the result of our unconscious memories? This needs to be studied. But we often fear knowledge because it jars us from the ruts that guide the routine of our lives. If we are rational animals, there is little evidence for it.

Do we have free will? The philosopher-mathematician Bertrand Russell said that if he knew all the laws of the universe and everything that had happened up until now, he could predict without error what would happen in the future. So one of the West’s great minds believed that we are merely going through the motions of living. It parallels the religious thinking of John Calvin-- that we are predestined for heaven or hell, because God knows what will happen. Yes, Father Ray.”

—“But doesn’t Russell’s thinking refute his theory? Did his atheistic beliefs and his mathematical genius grow from the input of his environment? It would seem that his materialism is quite counter to the religious beliefs of his society. And how did his mathematical ability transcend that of his professors? I find it impossible to accept the Godless materialism that has made some small inroads into our traditions. And I cannot accept the instinct inspired ideas that we are merely animals. It is obvious to me that we have free will. I just look back at my life experiences and I see people making conscious choices.”

—“Well Ray, we like to think that we can think for ourselves and our quest for a religious afterlife and our civil laws are based on that premise. But is it true? Some say what we consider to be free will is merely an illusion. Some research shows that we are determined—determined by our genes and our past experiences. Many studies have shown that the unconscious mind determines how we will act, then the conscious mind does it—thinking that it made the decision itself. Other research seems to indicate that some things occur randomly. But then maybe we believe it because people deny that they don’t have control over their behavior, except in court then they are looking for excuses for their anti-social actions.

New brain imaging is giving us pictures of how the brain will react. Imaging often shows us that the brain will react in ways quite different from the logical rules that we think of as our unique human ability. The limbic system in the brain often takes priority over the logical section of the brain. This has an effect on our buying habits, our preferences for films and television programs, and many of our daily choices. So there are many factors that may motivate us—and most of them are probably not consciously decided. But we hope that as we become more humanized we are more able to think for ourselves.

Studies in Germany show that people’s unconscious minds have made their decision before the intellect or the conscious mind thinks it has decided, since the unconscious mind can make a decision up to ten seconds before the conscious mind thinks it has decided. Does this kill or cripple our idea of free will? For the religious, does it reinforce John Calvin’s ideas? For most religious people, does it make them question the scriptural mandate that they have the ability to make moral decisions freely and correctly.

I think that many who have become atheists or agnostics have actually thought their way into their new beliefs because their thinking has taken them away from the belief system in which they were raised. By the same token, have people who were raised without religion but then converted also used some free will in so doing? Yes Lee.”

--“As an atheist, I would like to think that we have all followed the lane of logic to arrive at our new beliefs. But I have seen people who have rejected religion only because it interfered with their pleasure driven behavior. So I think some have rationalized their way to their atheism rather than reasoned their way.”

—“Good point, Lee. That illustrates the problems we encounter when we look at our motivations and our behavior.

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