To clarify how conditioned, prejudicial thinking driven by the primitive biological brain* creates conflict, the BioCognetics context was created to understand psychosomatic conditioning—how it impacts the human brain mentally, emotionally and physically, and how it extends from the playground to the battlefield. This pioneering field is based on the initial insights of modern notable thinkers, including quantum physicist Dr. David Bohm, educational philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, and authors Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.
BioCognetics has been expressly designed to reflect the nature and structure of bullying that creates conflict in the way we have been conditioned to think and act. BioCognetics uses the relevant context of bullying to demonstrate the cause and effect of prejudicial conditioning because all ages can relate to it. Young people can most easily understand prejudicial conditioning if it is grounded in their real, daily experiences. From the concrete rather than the abstract, they can come to understand what prejudicial conditioning is, how if affects them, and how it impacts the world. Visit the Framework page
At the same time young people are taught about the fundamental structure and nature of bullying, they are introduced to a specially designed system of mental and physical self-defense skills called MAP S.T.A.R.S. (Mental and Physical Safe Training Awareness Response System). In this way, the young person not only gains insight into the initial impulse of conditioned, prejudicial thinking at the primary or prevention level, but also learns to work out conflict at the secondary or resolution level by the use of verbal, de-escalation techniques. In addition, the young person at the tertiary or management level also builds confidence through avoiding a freeze, fight or flight reaction to an immediate potential threat as well as future supposed threats that are caused by the bio-reactive fight or flight system that gives the prejudicial conditioning its biological authority.
Our preliminary inquiries into the cause of human conflict through our work with Liberian children of war for over seven years revealed at first that these young combatants’ brains had been psychologically conditioned to fight people they were told were their enemies because of years of political and economic propaganda, but later as our work progressed we discovered that there was a far deeper biologically primitive impulse inbuilt into their brains that was the root cause of conflict. In other words, the biological brain was the source of conflict. It was what creates the divisive psychological conditioning. This biological instinctual drive has been rooted for eons in the primitive human brain being hardwired for war as a genetically programmed survival instinct –that combat is in our DNA and demands to be exercised. But it is misguided and hence it is therefore preventing survival. The extreme outcome of this genetically erroneous hardwired compulsion to war can be called “genetic genocide.” Visit the Causes of War page
Understanding human conflict is conventionally addressed in a remedial, reactive way at the secondary level of “resolution” through therapeutic or moralistic means, as in the case of individual conflict, or through diplomatic or political intervention, as in the case of social conflict -‐ or it is addressed at the tertiary level of managing conflict through judicial or military intervention. These remedial, reactive approaches do not address conflict at the primary prevention level in understanding and avoiding the fundamental psychological factors that create conflict in the conditioned way we think and act and are therefore essentially ineffective because they do not prevent conflict from happening in the first place.
Step 1: Create a rationale for a consistent empirical framework to comprehend conditioned prejudicial thinking as a whole.
Step 2: Expand awareness of the nature, structure and implications of conditioned prejudicial thinking that leads to human conflict at all levels.
Step 3: Develop awareness of conditioned thinking beyond its psychological make-‐ up to include a holistic insight into the involuntary, automatic, three-‐stage, reactive configuration of conditioning in the mechanical disorganization of the human brain that produces an internal environment of discord.
Step 4: Realize a significant justification to bring this urgent issue to the forefront of education as an essential subject matter in teaching young people to understand and peacefully resolve conflict created by conditioned, prejudicial thinking.
Step 5: Create appropriate educational resources and training for teachers to teach about the cause and effect of conditioned thinking in Youth Peace Literacy: Visit our Resources page
Whether with an individual or within a group, conflict begins identically with conditioned pre-judgments. An unexamined thought initiates a domino effect of fearful emotions, which in turn trigger the biological fight-or-flight system. Although this may be necessary when there is real danger, it is inappropriate when prompted by an unverified, imagined threat. This cognitive, emotive, bio-‐reactive coupling produces a powerful psychosomatic reaction of conflict internally and externally. In BioCognetics this situation is called a “CEB” or a “Cognitive–Emotive–Bio-reactive.”
The term CEB encompasses the whole of prejudicial conditioning, not just the cognitive or mental process initiating this domino effect of the three-stage process. As one becomes conscious of this process, one has the possibility to avoid conflict at the primary prevention level. In other words, by recognizing the underlying structure at this fundamental level, one can prevent detrimental conflict from happening as it occurs, and therefore be free from having to react out of it. But this awareness is based on the assumption that the innate bio-reactive, holding pattern of this part of the brain can be properly attended to.
When an event occurs that disturbs us, automatic thoughts enter our brain so fast and so mechanically that we don’t notice them. And if we don’t notice them, we certainly won’t question them. Still, they affect our attitude, our mood, our body and our ability to function clearly. These thoughts, based on either false information or a misperception of reality, are often referred to as “cognitive distortions.”
When a conditioned thought/emotion triggers one of these distortions, it typically stimulates the bio-reactive survival system in the instinctive deep-rooted primitive brain. This situation occurs when we can’t see through the falsehood, and the primeval brain reacts to the image as if it were true. But if we can counteract this with an Empirical proprioceptive viewpoint, we can see how a conditioned, prejudicial image (say, of a bully) can jump in and lie to us about a need to protect ourselves.
However, the problem occurs when we can’t see through the falsehood and this instinctive deep-‐rooted primitive brain is reacting to it as if it were true. Whether in bullying situations or regular daily life, recurring cognitive distortions cause us unnecessary conflict. Even when the outer stimulus of a bully, for example, is removed, this triggering process can get internalized. In BioCognetics this is called “looping” or “biocognosis,” as the stimulus of bio-‐reactive fear spins around and around constantly sending messages of a “threat” to the cognitive and emotive parts of the system, when, in fact, there is none.
It is most significant that this biological flight or flight system in the primitive brain can be triggered inappropriately by an image of a threat when the actual threat is not there. This part of the brain cannot differentiate between an actual threat and a supposed one. Behind the psycho–emotive conditioning, this deeper biological (“bio-reactive”) conditioning holds or locks the initial psychological image of a threat in place. No amount of rationalization can reach that deeper place.
We have to get to it by giving the deeper, biological/bio-reactive primitive brain what it wants – to feel confident that it can fight, that this more ancient part of the brain system can deal with the threat by preparing the body to defend itself. This part of the brain only “knows” that there is a “threat” created by an image and to it, it is “real.”
This is very evident in young people we call youth-at-risk, including children of war, who have been continuously abused and therefore perceive the world as a continuous threat, even though they may be in a non-threatening situation. In other words, the biological fight or flight system—the bio-reactive part of the primitive brain survival system— is stuck in the “on” position.
To disrupt this biocognosis–looping reflex pattern, young people are taken into a safe, controlled environment where they are taught the MAP S.T.A.R.S. ™ set of self-defense techniques. This purposely triggers the flight or fight mechanism while simultaneously instilling the confidence to be able to “fight”. All the old brain really desires is to feel able to protect itself from harm, whether real or imaginary. Remarkably, even a little physical training goes a long way. This process has worked especially well with youth-at-risk as a therapeutic process, although it is applicable to everyone, whether they have been a victim of serious bullying or not. As the participants integrate their newfound insights with the newly acquired physical ability to handle hostile situations, prejudicial, conditioned ideas of imagined enemies fade and automatic triggers are put into a state of abeyance.
In the same way that homeopathy works through a system of “like curing like,” developing this specialized set of self-defense skills cures the need to use those skills. The primitive brain acknowledges them with confidence, and relaxes. As one becomes conscious of this newfound insight into prejudicial, conditioned patterns of thinking, feeling and acting, one becomes aware of the potential to be creative in each fresh, new moment. Thus, BioCognetics brings an enhanced proprioception both physically and mentally to the very foundation of conflict. Through role- playing, developing cognitive awareness and expanding their insight into conditioned, prejudicial thinking, young people thrive in this environment of non-violent alternatives for resolving conflict.
The innate human faculty that can rectify conditioned thinking is called proprioceptive learning (also Empirical observation**). It is non-accumulative learning as opposed to knowledge, which is accumulative learning, the gathering and analysis of information to arrive at a certain intellectual theory or conclusion.
Proprioceptive learning is the ongoing state of non-accumulative observation that sees the conditioned thinking as it is without judgment or trying to change it, and in that moment of nonjudgmental observation realizes the danger of it and does not act on it, thus freeing the mind from its habitual conditioned divisive state of reaction.
Proprioceptive learning is an innate potential for psychological self-correction. This faculty is self-operating in that it sees what is unhealthy in the thinking process and in the moment of intelligent awareness it nullifies the effect of the conditioned thinking, thus making it ineffective. One doesn’t need to do anything, for proprioceptive learning is self-corrective in and of itself. But in order for proprioceptive learning to come into effect, the education of the young person has to address the nature and structure of conditioned thinking that is preventing this capacity from performing its innate capacity.
As Quantum Physicist Dr. David Bohm states,“We could say that practically all the problems of the human race are due to the fact that thought is not proprioceptive. Thought is constantly creating problems and then trying to solve them. But as it tries to solve them, it gets worse because it doesn’t notice that it’s creating them, and the more it thinks, the more problems it creates – because it’s not proprioceptive of what it’s doing.”
“One gives close attention to all that is happening in conjunction with the actual activity of thought, which is the underlying source of the general disorder. One does this without choice, without criticism, without acceptance or rejection of what is going on. And all of this takes place along with reflections on the meaning of what one is learning about the activity of thought.”
“Let's see if I can propose something. First of all there has been the theory of the three brains: the reptilian, the mammalian and the new brain –the neo-cortex. Now the cortex appeared rather suddenly. The reptilian and mammalian brains came into equilibrium with their surroundings and were more or less suited to them. Then suddenly the cortex appeared. The mammalian brain with its emotional response responded to the environment and it worked, statistically. But now it's surrounded by the new brain. It's a different environment and it doesn't work because of simple reasons. The new brain can produce images, which are very convincing to the old brain. The old brain does not actually see these objects but the whole body still responds in a way, which corresponds to the object. The old brain knows how to get correspondingly stirred up in response to a lion and it says, "run". Or something nice appears and it says, "Go there". The new brain, however, can produce images, which means not just pictures but stirring up the whole system as if there were that thing present. The old brain doesn't look out to see whether it's there or not. It can't. It just gets stirred up. So therefore it can say those images are irresistible. Either it says I want them or they frighten me or they make me enraged or whatever. However, the new brain is functioning in the environment of the old brain. Namely, all the neurochemicals and so on come from there. All the desire and all the energy to do something come from there.
“The new brain has no reason to do anything by itself. Therefore, when it gets all stirred up, it's confused and it doesn't work right. It's not integrated. When these neurochemicals are too strong, they confuse the new brain. Let's take an elementary case. Suppose a certain thing disturbs or frightens you. Your mother comes along and says don't worry about it; she lulls you into a sense of security. What happens is that that thought liberates just as simply as a nice situation would; it liberates what are called endorphins which coat the nerves that produce pain or fear, which then produce an effect rather like morphine - they're named after morphine. Then when the situation suddenly changes or you think differently, the endorphins are removed. Eventually you're hooked on them. Why? Because the old brain demands that you think again in such a way as to reproduce those endorphins; it demands this of the new brain. Therefore it demands false thoughts that will lull you into a nice sense of security (like being identified with a group).
“Now who is providing you with the false thoughts? The new brain. It is simply a machine that provides whatever thoughts will satisfy what's going on in the old brain. The old brain makes a demand. Let's say it needs food; food comes in, it stops. It needs a nice thought that says everything will be all right. When it comes in it says, "O.K. It doesn't bother me anymore." The new brain gets hooked; it gets habituated into providing the old brain with the thoughts that will lull it into a good feeling.
“The new brain has to do what the old brain wants, and then that's the way the system presently works. The desire, the energy, the intention fundamentally come from the spinal column. The new brain cannot see any reason to do anything. It's sort of an analytical function.
“The new brain cannot control the old brain. Functionally that's an illusion or delusion. But society and culture said, "Let the new brain control the old brain. Being virtuous consists of doing that."
“The old brain is dealing with survival, but then it also sent signals that the new brain picked up as suggesting that it could help with survival. Therefore, the new brain found out that it could help the old brain in the struggle for survival by all sorts of methods improving tools and whatnot.
“The challenge to humanity is this: How is humanity going to get these two brains to work together? Some new movement is needed which cannot start in either brain. It must start in another way. More creatively (proprioceptive learning – Empirical observation)
David Bohm was a Quantum Physicist who made significant contributions in the fields of Theoretical Physics, Philosophy and Neuropsychology. He worked closely with Albert Einstein at Princeton University. Dr. Bohm’s books that reflect proprioceptive learning are Thought as a System, On Dialogue and Changing Consciousness.
** Empirical observation– being derived from or relating to direct observation rather than theory, speculation, dogma or ideals, i.e. looking at what is factually, actually without any interpretation or reference to any authority.