and its Link to World Peace – Part A

         Welcome to stren #80.  Today’s wisdom may surprise you when you learn how sexual pleasure is linked to the creation of world peace.

Sexual gratification is the third most powerful physical pleasure higher species can experience.  Why number three?  Number one is direct electrical stimulation of the brain’s pleasure centers – studies have shown that monkeys will repeatedly push a lever to the point of complete exhaustion to sustain the buzz.  Based on my professional experience with drug addicts, I rank the feelings produced by certain chemicals second because narcotic users consistently choose the ecstasy of “a good high” over orgasm.  Nevertheless, sexual pleasure is nature’s number one gift of physical satisfaction in that it requires no unusual intervention on our part to experience gratification.  Indeed, we require extraordinary indoctrination by our nurturers to reduce the pleasure by admonitions that create guilt and inhibitions in our early stages of development.  Traditionally we are taught that sex must be avoided until we satisfy certain criteria, such as commitment or marriage. 

            Our mores have dramatically changed in recent years, especially with respect to women.  Fainting and psychologically induced paralysis were commonly described by Freud and others, a result of the Victorian values dominant in his time.  I am old enough to remember when the use of the word “virgin” in a motion picture was sufficient to restrict its distribution, and I recall that it was common to see sex-related hysterical convulsions in my earlier years of psychiatric practice.  The idea that a woman’s role sexually “is to please her mate and bear children” was also common.  The number of women never experiencing orgasm has diminished, and the availability of explicit and accurate sexual education has immensely improved (in most areas of the world).  The restrictions and punishments for “sexual misconduct” remain more severe for women than men.  Two of King Henry the VIII’s wives were “legally” beheaded for alleged unfaithfulness, and stoning or beheading is still an approved punishment for substantial members of our world population.  I believe this lack of equality can be attributed to nature’s early bias to provide males with physical strength.  The growing equality is related to the increasing prominence of our cerebral cortex, which emphasizes wisdom, otherwise called “common sense.”     

            Sexual experience must be our number one natural pleasure because, foremost, the survival of any species requires reproduction of the life cycle – procreate, nurture young to sexual maturity, and then die.  Consider the extreme program nature assigns to salmon: they must swim upstream to lay their eggs and, exhausted, die so their carcasses can provide nourishment for their offspring.  Parents in all species make extreme sacrifices, often unacknowledged or unappreciated, for their children – although nature is kinder to us than the salmon.

            Psychologists offer the universal observation that “behavior that is rewarded is repeated.”  This explains why sex is a prominent command of the animal portion of our brain, and orgasm, once experienced, becomes a highly prized delicacy.  Consider how different our behavior would be if babies were born immediately and orgasm occurred nine months later.  I found it especially enlightening to learn that the pleasure centers in our brain overlap with the centers for aggression.  This makes sense.  If a species were motivated towards sexual experience but lacked the aggressive energy to pursue a mate, that species would soon become extinct.  Indeed, males displaying aggressive “manliness” are observed to attract more women and be most sexually active. 

            We are provided with chemicals, primarily hormones, which influence our behavior.  Androgens, so-called “male” hormones, promote behavior to compete and dominate for the right of mating choice.  In many species, males fight for “harem rights.”  Estrogens, so-called “female” hormones, favor aggressive energy to make oneself attractive to a mate and thereafter protect progeny to maturity, often at the peril of one’s own life.  As it is expressed in the lyrics to the show, The King and I, "The bee goes from flower to flower to flower . . . the flower does not go from bee to bee to bee."  Males are more easily aroused by sight and smell to aggressively seek immediate short term satisfaction, while females tend to be slower to sexual arousal, more responsive to touch and persuasion, and preoccupied with the awareness that they bear the longer term consequences of sexual engagement.  Men innately think about sex more often than women and fantasize orgasm anytime with anyone; romance and parenting is more a women’s preoccupation.  One man for one woman is one way but simple observation persuades it is not nature’s way.  Males are instinctively drawn to play with a gun or war toy, rather than cuddle a baby doll.  It’s important to note that we each possess both androgens and estrogens, so these distinctions are not absolute.  However, our nurture tends to emphasize the differences.

            Behaviors can be predictably turned on or turned off by the regulation of hormones and other biological substances.  Sexual behavior remains dormant for many years until a burst of chemical changes are unleashed when we reach puberty.  It is quite apparent that we, like all higher life, are powerfully subject to two masters we label by such names as fate and circumstance, nature and nurture, and instinct and habit (“tradition” is habit passed forward from generation to generation).

            All species exert extraordinary energy and take life-endangering risks for the short-term act of copulation.  Our emotions often successfully trump our intellect even when we know the short term gain is likely to create longer term pain and the brief immediate physical satisfaction is not in our best interests.  It has been said that the male brain is prewired to dissolve in his penis upon slight provocation.  How better to explain the regular news stories of famous dignitaries whose careers are tainted by a salacious sexual episode?  I recall during my training in psychiatry, after Professor Allen Barnes lectured on the topic of sexual pleasure, he concluded by advising we not jeopardize our careers for a few minutes of sexual pleasure.  A fellow resident asked the first question: “How do you make it last a few minutes?” 

            Having established that procreation is our most powerful source of energy, let’s now go to “Part B” of this stren to consider the link between sex driven aggression and world peace.

Stren #80: Understanding Sexual Pleasure
and its Link to World Peace – Part B

In Part A of this stren, we learned that our pleasure and aggression centers are narrowly focused on directing energy to sustain the life cycle at any cost.  We differ from other life on earth by our ability to create symbols, assign them meaning, and experience an elaborate private consciousness.  As interpretive creatures, we add non-physical, i.e. “mental” or “spiritual” power to physical power.  Our cerebral cortex, physically mature and equipped with symbols, uses fantasy and imagination to interpret the data our senses provide.  Assumptions and ideologies create a value system.  Our ideas, energized by the values we ascribe to them, have the power to supersede the demands of our biology.  The personal mental world may become more influential than the physical reality we all share.   

Fantasy and imagination provide a unique mental-spiritual second signaling system that empowers us to influence our primary signaling system.  Freedom, patriotism, religion, and greed are examples of the endless values we may adopt to change ourselves and the world.  “Common sense” puzzle solving ability allows us to discover and grow knowledge of nature’s universal laws of cause-and-effect.  Symbols add the common sense problem-solving that recognizes collaboration for mutual gain is preferred to win/lose or lose/lose confrontation.  Our ideas introduce new phenomena not provided by the creative forces of nature.  A step above consciousness, self-consciousness empowers us to attain self-mastery and act independent of the demands of fate and circumstance. 

As we increase knowledge we become more powerful creators!  Our mental-spiritual self is sufficiently powerful to selectively override or modify the pre-wired action patterns of instinct and tradition.  In addition to the trial-and-error adaptive behaviors nature inscribes in all life, only humankind possesses a sophisticated cerebral cortex capable of freeing us from fate and circumstance. 

Through the power of interpretation, we transform ourselves from servants of fate and circumstance into their partners in determining our destiny and that of all about us.  We are no longer an amoral species limited by powers beyond our control.  We make assumptions that explain the world, and then we may choose to act on the assumptions or beliefs we value instead of the predetermined action pathways prescribed by instinct and our nurturers.  We introduce free will and morality by assigning values to our actions.  Freedom is the ability to create alternatives and choose from among them.  Mental freedom offers the choice to accept what our creative forces have made of us or to selectively modify what is to bring about what we create.     

Power entails danger as well as opportunity.  Power may be directed wisely and stupidly – to constructive and destructive outcomes.  “Stupidity” is mindlessly trying to solve new problems using the prewired pathways that were effective for yesterday’s issues.  “Wisdom” is applying common sense to today’s knowledge to create “out of the box” solutions that replace established actions that have become dangerous.  Prevention replaces trial-and-error learning.  Trial-and-error is no longer adaptive given our new weapons of ultimate destruction that provide no second chance.  

One of the ethical concerns of contemporary science is that a small number of dictators will use our new technology of mind control to make most of our populace mental slaves.  Most people don’t realize the extent to which we are already preprogrammed by our genes and culture.  Historically, dictators attain power through mind control by the instructions given to us during our prolonged immaturity when we lack the ability to resist.  For example, we are biased to identify with a flag, a country, and worldview; and every national anthem emphasizes the successful defiance of its enemies.  The possibilities using today’s knowledge of genetic manipulation and brainwashing are hardly imaginable. 

            We are genetically preprogrammed to identify with “our kind,” a circumscribed family with whom we resonate and respect. Simultaneously we alienate ourselves from non-family who we disrespect, view as competitors, and are disposed to fear as enemies deserving harmful aggression.  Newborns bond to the source of security that protects them.  It doesn’t matter if the nurturers are well-meaning or tyrants; the newborn will cling to the perceived source of life-saving and life-granting protection.  Perhaps this explains why some women will sustain repeated mistreatment and yet remain loyal to an abusive partner. 

What force shall direct our power?  The prime candidates are the instinctive demands of the animal portion of our brain, the prescriptions of our nurturers, and the common sense solutions we ourselves create applying the collected wisdoms of our intelligent cerebral cortex.  The distinction is critical because power directed by our instinct for procreation is likely to lead to human catastrophe, whereas power directed by our intellect is our means to avoid self-annihilation and promote peace.  The enlightenment into the nature of our instinctive energy for procreation in Part A prepares us to choose wisely.  The way to proceed is the subject of ANWOT and described throughout these strens.  Here is essence of what we must understand:

Visualize our two ways of thinking: (1) the preprogrammed action pathways of instinct and tradition, advocating what has been determined by fate and circumstance, and (2) the common sense conclusions derived from current knowledge to provide original solutions to the problems we create by our new technology.  Our animal brain is driven by emotion while the cerebral cortex portion of our brain is dominated by logic, by common sense.  We can predict which behaviors will be favored when our growing mental power is directed by the instinct to procreate at all costs, and compare them to the actions favored when applying common sense to knowledge of cause-and-effect.              

The power of interpretation directed by our animal brain (instinct): procreate and sustain the life cycle at any cost; behavior is prescribed and amoral, lacking judgment of right or wrong; priorities are local – self, family, tribe, country, flag, political and religious ideology, sports teams, war heroes, etc.; power, winning by domination; greed and speed, immediate gratification, survival of  like kind, emphasis on short term outcomes; win/lose or lose/lose confrontation to benefit our side; either/or thinking - “My way, the only way”, WAR.

For the early part of our life’s experience, our creative power is predominantly controlled by our animal brain.  The narrow goal of procreating and raising progeny to reproductive maturity can be expanded to include the symbolic equivalents of satisfaction.  For example, money, fame, and the promise of a rewarded afterlife may be among the values described above.  

The power of interpretation directed by our human brain (intellect): assumptive worldview and beliefs to explain the world determined by common sense applied to current knowledge; choice making establishes a value system – morality and immorality are added to amoral behavior; universal values such as “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Treat others as you would be treated”; love, forgiveness, cooperation, wise creeds and good deeds; emphasis on short and long term outcomes, win/win collaboration for mutual benefit; global priorities are added to local priorities;  both...and thinking – “What is best for us and them, for now and the future?”, PEACE.

Instinct provides that all life identifies with the source of its early survival, its local family, its “own kind.”  Our senses provide information on the superficial characteristics that provide instant recognition of friend and foe, safe and dangerous.  Our intelligent cerebral cortex enables us to “see” beyond the superficial.  We have discovered we are part of a greater family – those who also possess a sophisticated cerebral cortex.  Common sense is our means to recognize that as we become more powerful creators, we advance civilization and insure our survival by uniting our collective intelligence for mutual gain.  Attempting to dominate by physical might is no longer adaptive when competing warriors all have weapons with ultimate destructive power.

 Instinct and intellect are commonly at war with one another.  Instinct, being hardwired, is incapable of negotiating peace, whereas intelligence is designed to do so.  Instinct consists of the solutions that worked for yesterday’s problems and that have survived over millions of years of trial-and-error learning.  Though tried and proven to be effective for most current issues, hardwired action patterns are not adaptive to dangers we have never experienced.  The problems that we create with our explosion of knowledge requires a newer way thinking (ANWOT) that favors applying common sense to current knowledge of cause-and-effect.  Our human brain has not only enabled us to create new action pathways and choose from among them; we can choose to add common sense wisdom to the freedom to choose.  We may also make the unwise choice of not choosing, and continue to blindly obey the commands of instinct and tradition.  

Fantasy and imagination initially serve us as a preparation for action that is more effective than those hardwired for automatic response.  We now recognize the value of imagination as a substitute for harmful physical actions that have become dangerous.  We may create emotional consequences by the mere act of thought control.  Our socially prohibited instincts can often be satisfied in fantasy, allowing us to deal with reality using common sense.  The newer use of imagination as a substitute for actions that are no longer adaptive is a learned skill we make available to ourselves through appropriate education of our intelligent human brain.   Review stren #79, “The Use and Abuse of Fantasy.”      

            Our journey in history began with the energy to procreate.  We have come a long way and progressed to a critical border crossing.  The gift to those we love of continued survival and a better life is ours to offer if we unite our collective intelligence.    We have adequate teachers of physical science who have pushed far ahead in creating extraordinary means of constructive and destructive action; what we require are teachers of common sense, what is called “mental” or “spiritual” science.   Until we teach our population to emphasize common sense thinking (Einstein’s solution to destructive aggression), we will continue to mislead ourselves by focusing on the petty differences we create by our political and religious ideologies, as well as ethnic, racial, and gender differences, while we overlook the far greater similarities that identify us as one family.   

            I have been rebuffed by friends who insist that confrontation and war is our nature and we can’t change it.  Common sense, what we call science, teaches us that the ability and the responsibility to change are part of our nature!  We are not static human “beings”; nature has made us human “becomings.”  Through the gift of our intelligent human brain we are challenged to become the civilized species we now can foresee.  Nature is pushing us out of the nest.  Humankind has been given the opportunity to fly on our own power.  We have been offered nature’s greatest treasure – the mental freedom to choose.  The work we require to apply our freedom wisely, to “fly” on our own power, confronts us with our greatest danger.  We must graduate from trial-and-error learning to add wisdom to knowledge.  We require prevention.  Our weapon for mass construction (WMC) is educating ourselves to emphasize what is called cognitive rehearsal or “no-trial learning.”  The errors we make in our imagination cause no harm.  They allow us to get it right the first time when we physically act – as we now must.

            This stren recognizes that sexual aggression is the fountain of our energy.  Making peace with our nature rather than vilifying it has great value.  Let’s apply common sense knowledge to direct our raw energy to the constructive pathways that make our world safe and more wonderful.   

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[1] I acknowledge Allen Barnes, M.D., professor of obstetrics/gynecology at Johns Hopkins for his lectures on sexuality among other teachers during my professional training.