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May 10, 2013 · 6:10 pm

On Behavioural Modernity

For a while now I have been looking into the concept of Behavioural Modernity. This falls into two possible theoretical models. The great Leap Forward: which posits a sudden change in the human brain, or the change over a period of time.

50,000 years ago, our ancestors made this change from having minds on a par with other animals, to minds that developed language and a capacity for symbology. My own deductions favour the slow development. This note explores that conclusion.

First a note on Evolution. A common misconception held by opponents of the understanding of evolution is that “Humans descended from Apes” at no point did Darwin say this, what he said is that several historic strains of human and ape were descended from a common ancestor.

I began to explore this concept after observing my dogs and pondering on the nature of thought. When we think, we think in terms of language. I certainly cannot think in abstract without the use of language or image, and it is with the use of language that I truly comprehend and internally communicate. I assume this to be common and shared by members of the human race who have grown out of babyhood and are not brain damaged.

It is apparent tome, however, that the dogs communicate with each other – mainly non-verbally- and with us. My observations show that they prefer non-verbal communication, mainly indicated by their tails, ears and mouths, but that they resort to making a variety of noises when non-verbal indicators fail to put their message across. They have particular barks to ask to play, to scold me for going out without them and putting the pack in danger, and a bark that says “pay attention” and is followed by having us watch where they go to indicate what they want to do (I need to go out, I want to cool down in the bathroom, it is time we all went to bed) . But is this language in a pure sense? I don’t believe so, but it indicates a prelanguage state that can reveal something of early humanity.

I have sat facing my dogs, holding my hands against my head as if they were pointed ears. With every movement of my hands to indicate ears forward, back, down etc, the dogs show an emotional reaction. Too many conflicting messages in a short space of time sees them tip their heads to one side, then the other – indicating their confusion. Prelanguage gestures indicate emotional states, not abstract ideas or symbols.

Humans (and Apes), are blessed with the opposable thumb, a biological key to the use of tools. I believe that before we developed tools we were in that same prelanguage state. Things were fairly simple when the tools were a handy rock, stick or bone, but as the tools our ancestors used became more complex, and the need developed to teach the next generation how to craft them, emotional indicators became insufficient as a means to communicate. We therefore developed verbalisation in an increasingly complex pattern to pass on these abstract ideas.

we are told that our brains developed a facility for creating and interpreting symbolic ideas within the prefrontal lobe in order to adequately develop this facility. we are further told that Humans are the only species to have developed this capacity. I disagree.

My dogs have adapted to the rudiments of interpreting symbology. They recognise certain words – their names, words like “Doggies” “puppies”, “out” “walk”etc as a symbol of an abstract idea. They cannot create symbols, but are able to learn and interpret them.

Dogs however, are not a self-aware species, unlike Elephants, Apes, monkeys and some other mammals, which have also demonstrated a capacity to understand symbology. The test for self awareness is simply this. In humans, a blob of colour is applied to the forehead and then a mirror produced. Children (usually under three) are not self aware, and will touch the blob they see in the mirror. A self aware child (usually over two years of age) will see the reflection and touch their own forehead. Dogs are not self aware, and always see their reflection as another dog. Some Elephants have been able, when learning to paint, to compose a picture of their choice (usually from nature).

Undoubtedly, The human has the most developed capacity to create and interpret symbols. No doubt we have had the most practice. But I conclude that our current complexity of thought, language and communication developed slowly over a very long period of time, rather than in a single quick leap forward, and that the capacity exists in other animals to develop along their own lines given a long enough development period.

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Relationships: Prepared for Committment

Serious about your relationship?  Ready to commit to it?

Early preparation.

Generally, parents are our role models for our own choices and behaviours in future relationships.  Where they are functional,  we can learn to be functional,  where they have dysfunction,  we learn dysfunction.  Ideally their example teaches us respect for ourselves,  good self esteem,  and a flexible and adaptive means of communicating and negotiating with others.  Even with the best will in the world,  however,  if positive aspects are absent from the role relationship,  they will not be instilled as values.

How then do I balance myself?  How do I learn the values to help me cope with my future relationships?  In working with clients my basic map for them consists of 1) Who and where they are.  2) Where do they want to be?  and 3) what prevents them from being there.  Here are the required factors needed within the objective – relationship.  By asking these of your partner and providing them equally,  the relationship can find a solid foundation.

I depend on you to tell me whenever you feel mad – sad – glad – scared

I depend on you to treat me with dignity

I depend on you to protect yourself from unnecessary harm

I depend on you to be honest with me in significant matters

I depend on you to keep your word – make agreements and keep them

I depend on you to cherish me – cherish yourself – cherish us together

I depend on you to respect yourself – love yourself – care about yourself

I depend on you to tell me your history so I can know you more fully

I depend on you to listen to me when I talk about myself

I depend on you to not take things personally when I talk about myself

I depend on you to be supportive of me when I am hurt – confused – lonely – tired – stressed

I depend on you to respect that we are different,  and that it is okay that we are different.

I depend on you to be patient with me when I don’t fully understand

I depend on you to support my efforts in personal growth and knowledge

I depend on you to experience difference as okay – not as right or wrong

I depend on you to ask when you do not know, do not take me for granted

I depend on you to take care of yourself,  not rely on me to protect you

I depend on you to play (physically,  emotionally,  intellectually,  socially,  spiritually)

I depend on you to learn (be curious,  grow,   challenge, stretch,  do new things)

I depend on you to reach out to me on purpose – find out how I am – talk to me

I depend on you to be open about yourself – do me no harm

I depend on you to grow with me in our lives together, and for our future also

We are responsible first for our own wellbeing,  and secondly for each others.  We are not respecting a partner who we take first responsibility for – that results in our protecting them by failing to inform.  Give your partner every right you desire for yourself – if you would feel affronted by the loss of a right,  so will they.  Love isn’t all feeling.  It often involves doing the right thing for a partner despite periods where feelings may be lacking.  If you feel this, admit it to yourself,  revisit your contracts and dependencies together.

Love is enhanced by the fallow periods,  your constancy and dilligence are rewarded by adhering to these principles.


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Relationships: The Contract

Relationships are often described by their participants in magical language.  We cite fate as being responsible and use phrases such as “it was meant to be”,  “We are so in tune” etc.  As pleasant and wonderful and real these feelings are,  they can potentially sabotage the reality of the relationship,  preventing it from maturing and creating unsettling,  unpleasant and disillusioning characteristics.  Contracting,  while appearing to be cold and in denial of  some of the magical illusions of an idealised natural relationship,  inevitably prevent a wealth of disillusion,  and allow a closer bond.   Even when researching resource material,  I find that contracting invites negativity through its language – whether by creating a list of “no….”.  “don’t….”  or “Thou shalt not….” negativity,  and by recourse to parental terminology such as “must” “mustn’t” and “never” as prefixes to conditions.  Ultimately the best results will be seen in a free will atmosphere of choice by contracting parties,  so where possible I have avoided negativity and parental pressure in composing and drawing information from various source material.  Hopefully,  this will not disturb the phrasing by making it unwieldy.

Rules for relationships Health and Safety

This is dependant on refusal to employ violence,  threats of violence or any out of control behaviour.  Any examples of these can destroy feelings of health and safety,  perhaps permanently.


By respecting your partner’s boundaries of person,  property,  papers,  time and space,  and by staying calm in order to avoid behaviours such as yelling,  screaming,  blaming,  shaming or name calling,  we keep our own dignity and that of our partner.


Only make agreements you can keep.  If you are unable to keep an agreement,  renegotiate it in a responsible manner.  Breaks can occur,  though if they recur take account that there may be a hidden,  even unconscious purpose to them that require investigation.  Agree to stay in Adult Ego state (see Blog on ego states last month).  Co-operative adult living excludes concepts of reward and punishment,  staying clearly in terms of consequences of actions.  Focus on helping,  support and sharing in negotiation.   Share feelings regularly,  especially mad,  sad,  glad,  scared feelings as “I feel” statements.  If you want something,  do ask for it rather than feel sore that your partner didn’t read your mind.  If you offer something that is not accepted,  take the refusal without bad feelings.  Be clear about things that are or are not personal.  Whining and sulking are not found in Adult ego state.  Stay in adult and offer please and thank you to keep the strokes appropriate.

Relationships require feeding and appreciation to grow.  Ritual mutual respect verbalised is good care and a good habit to keep,  Regular crises indicates a dysfunctional life style,  calmly discuss change.  Discuss difficulties while they are still small to prevent their growth.  Maintain and confirm a relationship of equals,  if you are unequal,  one of you may be viewed as an authority figure by the other,  which may prompt rebellious acts.   Make parenting agreements together which are fair,  firm,  functional,  flexible and also fun.   Trust grows from consistency,  reliability and productive behaviour and communication.

Five Trust Contracts

Non-Collapsing Contract.  The couple agree to maintain personal standards without collapse.  Therefore behaviours such as ultimatums,  walking out,  breaking contracts,  switching off integrity,  discipline or hygiene,  or any threats of these behaviours are excluded behaviours.  When this is broken the implied statement is: I’m free to make whatever decision I want.

Protection Contract.  The couple agree to anticipate stressful situations by giving each other preventative support and information and thereby save each other needless pain and anxiety.  By being considerate,  knowing the partner’s weaknesses and showing restraint the couple save each other the pain of jealousy,  embarrassment,  needless anger and hurt,  and uncertainty.  When this is broken the implied statement is: I don’t care how you feel.

Openness Contract.  The couple agrees to talk through issues,  preferably on the same day, and with calmness.  They exclude condescension,  abruptness,  secrecy,  and blocks to intimacy,  while observing three principles of openness.  Bring it up, Talk it out, wrap it up.  When this is broken the implied statement is: I don’t have to tell you anything.

The Pleasuring Contract.  The couple agrees to pleasure each other.  In sex by asking for and doing as the other asks,  without gameplay that delays or avoids the other player’s requirements.  In events by going to new places on the request of the other.  In personality by revealing surprising and refreshing sides of the personality to the other which will challenge the routine predictability of the relationship.  When this is broken the implied statement is: we can both have fun in our own way.

The Flexibility Contract.  The couple agrees to spontaneously give in during an argument regardless of believing they are in the right,  without an attitude of giving in just to keep the peace.  When this is broken in flexibility the statement is:  I will not change my position for anyone.  When broken in actuality the statement is:  It looks like we see things differently

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Interlude: Robert Anton wilson on quantum physics

The late robert Anton Wilson is one of my heroes in life.


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Relationships: Unresolved Dependency Issues and Boundaries

Successful relationships are the realm of people who have resolved their dependency issues.  Each unbalanced dependency we fall prey to increases the risk of failing to form or maintain healthy relationships.  Dependency issues are listed here.

1. We assume responsibility for others’ feelings/behaviours

2. We feel overly responsible for others’ feelings/behaviours

3. We have difficulty in identifying feelings – am I… mad… sad… glad… scared?

4. We have difficulty in expressing feelings – am I….  mad… sad… glad… scared?

5. We tend to worry and/or fear how others may respond to our feelings

6. We have difficulty in feeling and/or maintaining relationships

7. We are afraid of being hurt or rejected by others

8. We are perfectionist and place too many expectations on ourselves and others

9. We have difficulty making decisions

10. We tend to minimize,  alter or even deny the truth about how we feel.

11. Other people’s actions and attitudes tend to determine how we respond and react.

12. Our fear of others’ feelings (mostly anger) determines what we say and do

13. We question or ignore our own values to connect with significant others.

14. We value others’ opinions more than our own.

15. Our self esteem is bolstered by outer/other influences.

16. We have major difficulty acknowledging good things about ourselves (Thank you, nice to hear)

17. Our serenity and mental attention is determined by how others are feeling and behaving.

18. We tend to judge everything we do,  think,  or say – harshly – by someone else’s standards.

19. Nothing is done,  said,  or thought that is “good enough“.

20. We do not know or believe that being vulnerable and asking for help is both okay and normal.

21. We don’t know that its okay to discuss problems outside the family,  that they are not “secrets”.

22. We don’t know that feelings just are – it is better to share them than to minimise/deny/justify them.

23. We tend to put other people’s wants and needs before our own.

24. We are steadfastly loyal – even when the loyalty is unjustified – and personally harmful.

25. We have to be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others (control struggle).

When we were children,  our boundaries were imposed on us,  rather than be a matter of choice.  Parental examples and impositions create a model which we take with us into .adult life.  We may find these boundaries comfortable or uncomfortable,  they may vary according to where we were brought up,  whether or not we had siblings etc.  but we can change them.

First,  we should examine the five categories of boundary.

Time.  How much of your time is yours?  Who owns other areas of your time?  Do you resent the time they demand?  Do you manipulate that time?  How?  What is the cost of that manipulation to you?  Do you resent others manipulating your time?  What does that cost you?  What were your parents’ rules about time?  Did they kill it,  waste it,  use it etc?

Space.  How was space used when you were a child?  Did you have your own room or share?  How close to you can people be before you feel uncomfortable?  Does your space regularly get invaded?

Person.  How were you trained in areas of health & Safety?  Dignity?  Agreements? What were your parents’ rules in these areas?  Was your person respected or taken for granted?

Property.  Did you have your  own stuff,  or was everything shared?  Is your money your own?  What did you learn from your parents about property?

Papers.  Was your wallet and room your own?  Could you have a private diary?  Could you write down secrets and know that that was respected?  What were your parents’ rules about homework and paperwork?  We cannot change or control our past,  but we can make changes today.  If we don’t understand childhood boundaries,  then we walk into or create circumstances we cannot control or understand.  By understanding the conditions we grew up by,  we can adapt and make life safer and more suitable for our lives from this point on.

You define your reality by all that you know,  all that you believe,  and what you do about it.

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Rackets and Time Structure


Rackets are the term we use for substituted feelings – we hide the true feeling while feeling the coded or permitted feeling,  and we do this when we feel our true feelings are invalid or not permitted.  We develop racket feelings due to childhood scripts and carry them into adult behaviour.  The racket emotions are familiar because we learned them during childhood in order to adapt to circumstances that demanded we not feel the genuine feeling,  but instead allow pressure from others to install a more acceptable set of feelings.  An example of this is the child who is attacked by other children and who feels much fear of the situation,  however the parent rejects the child’s fear and pain along with all genuine feelings in favour of permitted responses and feelings in which the child now feels anger instead of fear.  The approved of feelings becoming the racket,  feelings which now feel justified.

“Examples of racket and racket feelings: “Why do I meet good guys who turn out to be so hurtful”,  or “He always takes advantage of my goodwill”.  The racket is then a set of behaviours and chosen strategies learned and practised in childhood which in fact help to cause these feelings to be experienced.  Typically this happens despite their own surface protestations and hurt feelings,  out of awareness and in a way that is perceived as someone else’s fault.  One covert pay-off for this racket and its feelings,  might be to gain in a guilt free way,  continued evidence and reinforcement for a childhood script belief that “People will always let you down”.”

In effect,  a person creates a false persona in order to manipulate circumstances and respond to them in the currency of the false persona,  rather than allow their genuine experience of circumstances which risk the real, and now illegitimate feelings,  to be exercised.

Structuring Time

When working with people I will suggest strategies to help clients achieve their goals.  Not every strategy suits everyone,  I accept this and am happy for the challenge to find other means.  The one thing I do not accept is the plea:  “I don’t have time”.  Nobody has time,  time is in short supply,  however,  each and every one of us will make enough time for the things that matter to us.  So I do not accept “I will try”,  we negotiate on “I’m not sure”,  and I’m absolutely clear that if we have not got time,  then we haven’t made time.  If we haven’t made time,  it doesn’t seem so important to us.  Not everyone is good with time however,  so I offer this:

There are six ways of structuring time by giving and receiving strokes:
This is sorted in accordance to stroke strength,  Intimacy and Games allow for the most intensive strokes,  in general:

Withdrawal – Time alone means no strokes are being exchanged

Rituals. – A ritual is a series of transactions that are reciprocal,  stereotyped and based on social programming.  Rituals usually comprise a series of strokes exchanged between two parties.  For instance,  two people may have a daily two stroke ritual,  where, the first time they meet each day,  each one greets the other with a “Hi”.  Others may have a four stroke ritual,  such as:
A: Hi!
B: Hi!  How do you do?
A: Getting along.  What about you?
B: Fine.  See you around.
The next time they meet in the day, they may not exchange any strokes at all,  or may just acknowledge each other’s presence with a curt nod.
Some phenomena associated with daily rituals:
If a person exchanges fewer strokes than expected,  the other person may feel that he is either preoccupied  or acting high and mighty.
If a person exchanges more strokes than expected,  the other person might wonder whether he is trying to butter him up or get on good terms for some vested interests.
If two people do not meet for a long time,  a backlog of strokes gets built up,  so that the next time they meet,  they may exchange a large number of strokes to catch up.

Pastimes. – A pastime is a series of transactions that is complementary (reciprocal),  semi-ritualistic,  and is mainly intended as a time-structuring activity.  Pastimes have no covert purpose and can usually be carried out only between people on the same wavelength.  They are usually shallow and harmless.  Pastimes are a type of smalltalk.  Individuals often partake in similar pastimes throughout their entire life,  as pastimes are generally very much linked to one’s life script and the games that one often plays.  Some pastimes can even be understood as a reward for playing a certain game.  For example,  Eric Berne in Games People Play discusses how those who play the “alcoholic” game (which Berne differentiated from alcoholism and alcoholics)  often enjoy the “Morning After” pastime in which participants share their most amusing or harrowing hangover stories.

Activities (work).  – Activities in this context mean the individuals work together for a common goal.  This may be work, sports or something similar.  In contrast to Pastimes,  there is a meaningful purpose guiding the interactions,  while Pastimes are just about exchanging strokes.  Strokes can then be given in the context of the cooperation.  Thus the strokes are generally not personal,  but related to the activity.

Games. – We have looked at some games,  we will be looking at more another time.

Intimacy. – Intimacy as a way of structuring time allows one to exchange the strongest strokes without playing a Game.  Intimacy differs from Games as there is no covert purpose,  and differs from Activities as there is no other process going on which defines a context of cooperation.  Strokes are personal,  relating to the other person,  and often unconditional.

The Philosophy of transactional analysis.

People are OK;  thus each person has validity,  importance,  equality of respect.
Everyone (with only few exceptions) has full adult capability to think.
People decide their story and destiny,  and this is a decision that can be changed.
Freedom from historical maladaptations embedded in the childhood script is required in order to become free of inappropriate,  inauthentic and displaced emotion which are not a fair and honest reflection of here-and-now life (such as echoes of childhood suffering,  pity-me and other mind games,  compulsive behaviour,  and repetitive dysfunctional life patterns).
The aims of change under TA are autonomy (freedom from childhood script),  spontaneity,  intimacy,  problem solving as opposed to avoidance or passivity,  cure as an ideal rather than merely ‘making progress’,  learning new choices. “


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