The human ego doesn‟t like the idea that we are animals, but nobody can deny that we have the same physiological needs as the rest of the animal kingdom – which means that this is precisely what we are. If, however, we swallow our pride as „higher beings‟, we will see many other similarities which, as well as being primarily animalistic, are possessed by characteristically human psychological abnormality.
People manifest territoriality in different ways: they care for their family, they feel attached to their birthplace, they are saddened by or rejoice at the losses and successes of their football team. They take pride in their nation and are often ready to give their life for it, defending their principles and beliefs as something indivisible from themselves. What happens to us when we unconsciously feel the need to be right? Our psychological perception is completely transformed and our consciousness along with it: adrenaline pumps, our tone becomes coarser and, to a varying extent, our behaviour becomes aggressive, as if what‟s become important for us isn‟t the truth, but the defence of „our truth‟. Our sense of „self‟ has been incorporated into the information we hold, i.e. what we know has become part of our mental territory, part of who we think we are. In arguments we attack and defend, we fight mental battles, protecting a virtual store of information in order to preserve the virtual image which we have constructed. Who needs to defend this information? Even if we prove that we are right, we don‟t change anything, but mentally we affirm our feeling of superiority and protect our virtual sense of existence.
At this point in our evolutionary development as a biological species, these mental territories constitute what we are and we see them everywhere: as our territories and as alien territories. What „I think I am‟ gives me a sense of identity – an illusory sense of existence arising from the mind. The more successful and expansive a particular territory, the stronger the sense of Self. Similarly, the greater the threat of a particular territory being reduced, the greater the sense of threat to the existence of the mental self-image. When the mind feels threatened, it sends a danger signal to the body, which responds with negative emotions and defensive reactions. This is the same perceptual mechanism with which animals sense genuine mortal danger. Human beings only defend the mental territories which they mistake for themselves. There is no real danger of death. But the mind and the body tell us something very different and we enter into a perceptual illusion in which we fight for survival.
If you say something against my football team, „I‟ react … If you don‟t agree with my beliefs, „I‟ react … If you comment on my appearance, „I‟ react … But the words which cause us such pain are in no way dangerous! In fact, the real danger comes not from them, but from the unconscious reaction to which they lead in defence of the reality of a virtual idea which we have constructed for ourselves …
If you take the bone away from your dog which loves you with all its heart, there‟s a chance that it will bite you. This is a reaction in defence of food and is generated by an instinct for self-preservation. If you tell someone they look stupid in the pullover they‟re wearing, absolutely the same reaction will follow. As with the dog from which you took the bone, their mind will perceive „deprivation‟ because you have made them feel mentally diminished. The sense of what is actually happening gets lost, their mind clouds over and their perception puts them in a reality where they are fighting for survival. Offended by your comment, they react because what they are feeling is terrible: they feel that they have become smaller and this derives from the sense of their mental selfimage being threatened with mortal danger. This is nothing more than a mental illusion. There is no real danger of death.
Our minds never stop analysing. All the information around us is subject to a bipolar analysis of whether it is good or bad for us – and this is followed by a bodily reaction. And because the Self stands at the centre of our world, we mistakenly believe that, as perceivers, we are participants in what we are perceiving, even though it doesn‟t have anything to do with us. And so we unconsciously analyse everything that happens, assessing whether an event will benefit or harm the Self, whether it conforms to our mood or even whether it conforms to our moral understanding. There is something within us which is more like an impulse than consciousness and causes us to form opinions and judge the world around us. Pay attention to what happens inside you when somebody crosses your path! They probably haven‟t noticed you, but you experience the feeling that something has been done to you personally. Pay attention as well to the crowd of people who appear in your way when you‟re hurrying somewhere! Notice what your feelings towards them are at that moment!
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