Meet Your Mind: Instincts, Intellect and Their Impact on Human Behavior
Abraham, Mark, The World and I
On the true lessons of history
Once a documentary claimed that in the past five thousand years the world had lived in true peace only for forty-one days. I was skeptical on one hand and intrigued on the other, so to verify this claim I randomly selected three ancient countries--Russia, Iran and China--and researched how frequently they had fought. Together, they had been at war for some 1,550 years out of the previous 1,750 years. This unintelligent behavior pattern indeed defies humans' claim as the paragon of intelligence.
Yet a brief glance at man's achievements--such as building the pyramids, inventing the fax machine, landing on the moon and reaching Mars--reveals his superb intelligence. This demands from us a reconciliation of this discrepancy, of how an entity can be simultaneously intelligent and unintelligent. This seemingly inexplicable human phenomenon reveals that we lack a proper understanding of our own species. We need to notice that humans function under two distinctly opposite mental forces. One is responsible for our behavior; the other achieves our goals. One is unchanging, stagnant and primitive, while the other constantly improves itself. These two forces are ceaselessly entangled in opposition and in cooperation. Yet due to the subtle nature of such associations, it continues to pass unnoticed. Understanding this mental phenomenon is a pre-requisite for taking an accurate inventory of the human soul, to grasp why we do what we do.
Fascinated by the human intellect, the thinkers of the past have studied man from an intellectual standpoint alone, grossly ignoring the other force. However, this force affects the human conduct more profoundly than does the human intellect. Neglecting this almighty mental force has created a missing link in studying man that has rendered the works of most of these thinkers inconclusive, if not misleading. Thus, we still lack a thought system to help us better understand our species and ourselves. All our inclinations, disinclinations, likes and dislikes, discourse, deeds--both good and evil--stem from the co-function of these contrasting mental forces. Understanding this unequivocally requires a deeper knowledge of these faculties that induce them, and urge us to do what we do individually and collectively.
This neglected mental entity is instinct, three displays of which are universally accepted. However, there are thirteen more that pertain to humans, each inducing its own brand of conduct. They are the instincts of: 1) aggression, 2) tribalism, 3) sexuality, 4) territoriality, 5) adventure, 6) chauvinism, 7) gregariousness, 8) politicking, 9) the maternal instinct, 10) the will to live, 11) laziness, 12) curiosity, 13) greed, 14) fear, 15) rhythm, and 16) the instinct to divulge. Usually instincts selfishly engender our interests and choose our mode of conduct, and then employ intellect to find the best ways to achieve the objective. Thus, instincts drive us, while intellect guides us, rendering intellect a mere tool and a servant at the service of instincts. However, we continue to misunderstand the role of intellect in human conduct.
To better grasp this concept, we need to review some distinct properties of instinct and compare them to those of intellect. The loose use of the term "instincts" by many reveal that this phenomenon is barely understood despite the momentous role it plays in the lives of all beings and man. Frequently people say, "my first instinct told me this and that." If there is a first instinct that tells a particular thing on a particular subject, then there must also be others that could also have a voice on the same subject. If so, what are they and how can we distinguish them from one another? This is a clear indication of the fact that instincts are ambiguous phenomena at best. Yet, it is instincts alone that bring the whole world in to action and to life, and set the world in motion.
Even in psychology or philosophy books the references made to instincts are shallow and vague. The writers treat it without establishing what instinct is, how it works, what it does, and most importantly, how it interacts with intellect. They treat it as if it is the best-known thing; totally ignore it as if it is not relevant. This becomes clear in studying the works of C. G. Jung, Arthur Schopenhauer, Sigmund Freud and Fredric Nietzsche, to name a few who have dealt with it. Yet, there are others who have totally ignored it, such as Karl Marx, as if it does not exist, or is not relevant. Astonishingly, as important as this phenomenon is, the amount of work done on it is almost nonexistant.
Instincts are raw energies innate to each species that induce impulses, inclinations and disinclinations, each strongly longing for certain satisfaction and pleasure, and to avoid pain. They are imbued with aggression that results in violence when their progress is frustrated and when opportunities for violence exist. Instincts never change by time or locations and are impervious to both, and thus they remain one-dimensional, stagnant and primitive. Each instinct strives for a particular objective with a total disregard to all else, again rendering them one-dimensional.
Because instincts alone govern the world of lower beings--which is unchanging, stagnant and one-dimensional--all instincts in all beings by nature are primitive. One cannot produce them if they do not exist, and cannot eradicate them if they do exist. However, their intensities in certain species may be altered by external means in limited ways. They emerge and function in the absence and in the vacuum of intellect and reasoning. They are original, forceful, almighty and compelling. Not only they are blind, but also they are blinding.
What they frequently blind is reason. By nature, all instincts in all beings are utterly selfish and the sole function of each is to seek pleasure and satisfaction, and to avoid pain. Instinct's nature does not lend itself to being concerned with the …
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Publication information: Article title: Meet Your Mind: Instincts, Intellect and Their Impact on Human Behavior. Contributors: Abraham, Mark - Author. Magazine title: The World and I. Volume: 21. Issue: 12 Publication date: December 2006. Page number: Not available. © 1999 News World Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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