You can learn a lot about people by interacting with pets. It's said that pets are like people, but people are also like their pets. By observing how pets react, we can learn something about how we often react, unconsciously, from our animal nature. Think this is not important? It's crucial, because we're being manipulated every day by people who understand this. We are being programmed.
Yet, for some reason (or perhaps on purpose), behavioral psychology has given way in the popular consciousness to other forces. These "forces" are outside the control of the individual. Popular today is the concept of "biological determinism," where your genes and biology control your behavior. The other is "collective determinism," where your status in life is determined by your membership in a particular identity group - or your victimization by another group.
What this means is in the mainstream "analysis," Santa Barbara psycho killer Elliot Rodger was not directly responsible for his murderous rampage - his Asperger's, or the NRA, or "white male Hollywood" made him do it. But before we delve more into the psychology of people, let's take a detour into the behavioral world of cats.
Let me introduce you to "Princess Fiona" - she's a tortoiseshell cat rescued from the shelter, brought home to keep Leo the cat company. (He was adopted from the shelter a year ago, and gets separation anxiety.) People wrongly assume it's difficult to win over a cat, but it just takes a little patience and a lot of cat treats.
It can actually be harder to get two new cats to like each other, but it involves the same behavioral psychology that you can use to get an aloof cat to warm up. The trick is to associate something positive with the new person or cat. It also involves getting the cats to acclimatize to each other through repetitive introduction to each other's smells.
The number one way to get cats used to each other is to first keep them in separate rooms/areas and then feed them on opposite sides of the door. They will start to get used to each other's presence this way, and if done consistently and with patience, can even turn fighting cats into friends again. (Watch the show My Cat From Hell to see this in action.)
This does not happen overnight. The feeding trick was being used with Fiona and Leo, but only for a few days, and the first time he actually saw her (instead of smelled her) he chased her across the living room. The cat behaviorist told me to keep them separate for longer and just be patient.
Rewiring the pathways in the brain takes time and repetition.
You can use these principles with human beings, as well as yourself, for positive and negative. For example, if you want to change a bad habit, you can program yourself by either punishing yourself for engaging in the bad habit, or rewarding yourself when you abstain from it. Your brain will start to make certain associations with the habit, which is really how and why addiction happens with so-called "non-addictive" substances such as food or marijuana.
I worked with a cognitive behavioral therapist on my phobia of stinging insects. It stems from childhood when my sister was taken to the hospital for a spider bite and had bad reactions to bee stings. I just assumed I was allergic and would run screaming to the hills anytime a bee flew by. I finally got tested by an allergist only to find out my bee allergy was in my mind - I am not allergic to any stinging insect. What I did by running away from bees and wasps actually reinforced the fear - and made it worse. The cure? According to the cognitive-behavioral therapist: "Exposure with response prevention," which is a fancy way of saying, "Stop running and deal with it, and the fear will go away."
You basically rewrite your mental program when you do that. As much as "willpower" is maligned today, you can use your own will and determination to reprogram your own mind. This is where your free will comes into play.
Cognitive behavioral therapists actually have a neat treatment for panic attacks. It involves the patient engaging in physical actions (such as hyperventilating into a paper bag or spinning around on a chair) to mimic feelings of panic, so they become used to the fear and no longer "fear the fear." It works!
So let's take a look at how Elliot Rodger inadvertently programmed himself to become a killer. Please understand - because I can already see the negative comments flying - that I am not saying this happens in all cases, and everyone is different. I am also not saying that this is "the" answer or the only cause. But in this case, you have a socially awkward kid who is clearly feeling alienated due to his broken home. Instead of spending quality time with him, the parents let him babysit himself with video games and pornography. The results are bound to be bad.
Let me state for the record that I enjoy video games and have actually played through the entire original Halo game as well as Halo 2 (which was a big letdown). I enjoy first-person shooters. But the difference is, I rarely played these types of games alone, and certainly not for 14 hour stretches. I almost always played Halo with a male friend of mine. We'd hang out and eat something and socialize while playing. We'd play against each other with the split screen, for often hilarious results.
Those times I did play Halo alone with Xbox Live were not as fun, and frankly, sometimes a little creepy. It was a more sinister experience. I mean, you are basically running around with a group of virtual strangers, picking people off. (I would prefer to avoid direct confrontation and take people out with my sniper rifle.) But usually, I gravitated more towards lighter fare like my surfing game (for when I couldn't surf for real). I got rid of my Xbox and haven't replaced it. Now? I mostly play The Sims on my iPad.
Elliot Rodger, on the other hand, played first-person games for hours upon hours, alone. Each time he killed someone in the virtual world, he got rewarded. Maybe when he was tired of playing his game, he'd "relax" with some online porn, where he got more "rewards" for interacting on a very shallow level with unobtainable women who weren't very real or representative of the type of woman who might be interested in him.
For a healthy person with real-world relationships, playing video games or using porn isn't going to turn you into a psychotic woman-hating killer. Elliot Rodger shows us, however, what happens when we program ourselves with sex and violence as our main source of mental food.
For those of you skeptical about the effects of porn on the brain, a study just came out showing remarkable brain differences in men who engage in porn. The short version: Porn desensitizes you. What makes me want to smack my head is how often, these days, researchers always have to couch their findings in the caveat: "Well, maybe guys who have these types of brains are more like to use porn in the first place."
Ummm...excuse me, but since when did a brain pop out of the womb fully formed and embalmed in amber, never to change? I wish these "researchers" would just admit it - we rewire our own brains with our persistent habits and life choices.
You don't need to be a psychologist to understand this. This is part common sense, part experience, if you are paying attention.
Thus, his Elliot Rodger's sad downfall into evil should be a warning to us all about the dangers of unconscious programming around us. It'd be easy to delve into the subject of sex and violence in the media, but let's look beyond to the more subtle forms of programming.
"Normalcy bias" is a form of programming, for example. It's a very subtle type of programming that is everywhere, and not just in our media. It's part of the culture. It's that disdainful look you get when bringing up a so-called "conspiracy theory." It's the commercials that show happy, thin, attractive people with toothpaste smiles. It's the natural desire for things to be normal.
Staying in "The Matrix" is more pleasant and easier. So why do people break out of conventional thinking? The main difference between people still in "The Matrix" and those who are out of it is free will. More than that, though, I can guess that some sort of event or past experience makes it easier for some folks to break the mold.
Let me try to explain (and I realize this is not a perfect metaphor). Since I've never been stung by a bee, probably the best cure for my fear of bees or wasps would actually be to get stung. (Not that I'm looking to do that, but it can't be worse than the painful allergy shots I get regularly.) I would have my momentary freak out, realize I am still alive, and then my brain would be instantly rewired to lower the threat level.
So what got me to "wake up" and reject "The Matrix" was being "stung" - it was a deep betrayal by the "side" I used to be on. I then became "exposed" to the ugly truth. My mental orientation changed, and I realized that much of what I had been taught was actually upside down and backwards.
However, part of the reason I changed was because I was willing to change, and I decided to explore alternatives. We are programmed, but we also have free will.
Unfortunately, the people still in "The Matrix" have been literally programmed to distrust and mock the people who have stepped out of it. Perhaps if we set both sides on the other side of a large door, with bowls of ice cream, we might come to some understanding.
Given that is not likely to happen, we can keep ourselves aware and alert for any efforts to "push buttons" designed to instigate automatic reactions, and work on coming up with our own "bee stings" to help shake up the sleeping populace.
My concern is that the biological and collective determinism being taught and pushed by The Powers That Be are trying to "program" everyone into believing we are passive victims of life and can't control our own minds, thoughts, behaviors, and reactions. In effect, we are being programmed to believe that we can't be programmed, and that we have no free will to change our own programming.
Part of what those of us who have "woken up" need to do is counter-programming - just exposing people to alternative ideas, even if they mock them at first, helps them to adjust to them and possible accept them later. But be warned - this same "idea desensitization" technique is being used all the time by The Powers That Be but in reverse. They are already desensitizing people to all sorts of horrors - such as laws in Belgium allowing euthanasia of children.
Even if you dislike the controversial Alex Jones, consider the full impact of his slogan:
"There's a war on for your mind."
Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist, expert in human behavior, eminent scholar, triple PhD, renowned physician, President of the United States, super genius, or any other person of "authority." Therefore, my observations are simply that of a flawed human who has read a lot of stuff.
Stephanie blogs sporadically at a number of websites, including Freeople and Free Thinking Christianity.