Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Instincts and intuition

I maintain that humans don't have instincts, animals do.

We homo sapiens have intuition.

Instinct is built in an organism the moment it's born.

Intuition is learned, so we can make logical, reasonable decisions in order to take logical, reasonable actions to survive or thrive.

The first place this difference becomes apparent is at birth. We humans are completely helpless at birth. In fact, we even have to be taught to suck our mother's milk to survive. More, we're in need of constant care and protection for several years after birth. We also have to be "potty trained," which doesn't really resonate with the animal kingdom - except for the very few pets who have been trained to use the potty by their humans.

Think of mammals other than humans. They're either standing up and walking within minutes of being born and know where to find mama's milk and how to drink it, or their eyes are closed (this is what I call blind faith) and they still know how to find the milk spigot to survive, even if they have to crawl over their brothers and sisters to get there.

As they grow, they instinctively understand they need to chase and catch or find and graze or capture food. They understand how to relate to each other in their groups - normally there is a chain of command that is well respected and tolerated in the group until a change in leadership becomes necessary.

Animals understand naturally how to deal with and protect themselves from hazardous weather by which we feel victimized. They do all sorts of things to survive that we normally either can't or won't. Like live on bugs and berries.

Animals we've domesticated and made pets, that we've removed from their natural habitat, still instinctively love dark, cave-like portals like their crates - because they're similar to the caves in which they lived tens of thousands of years ago.

Seriously, as you look at the animals on this blog, compare how they deal with life -- all its threats and relationships -- and how we humans are not naturally equipped to handle similar threats from nature and predators if we were left out in the middle of nowhere, and you'll understand what *real* instincts are.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Eggs need the warmth of mama chicken to hatch; let's say the egg can hatch on its own if it's hot enough? Baby chicks still need the warmth, nurturing and imprinting of mama chicken to learn the ropes of life, but they instinctively know how and what to eat on their own from the getgo. I say it's the chicken, 'cause it seems only reasonable to me!

It doesn't mean we're "less than" animals because they're instinctual and we're intuitive. In fact, despite their amazing instincts they tend to have very few reasoning powers.

Like the penguins who make the great march in the film "March of the Penguins." They don't understand that because of changing weather patterns (the "rumored" global warming) they could make other wiser decisions these days about making the march and its route.
This lack of reasoning contributes to the inability to adjust to changes in environment and loss of habitat, which can result in their extinction.

Human extinction is caused by humans killing one another or allowing the environment to wipe us out if our air and water are allowed to be increasingly poisoned with pollution.

Anyone who trains animals knows that even the smartest still need extraordinary patience, repetition and rewards because their reasoning powers are limited.

Our differences are extraordinary, but all worth respecting and admiring.

Again, human babies are totally helpless to survive on their own from the moment they're born. More, they're incapable of caring for themselves or even being "potty trained" for many months or even years. A baby's speaking language communication skills with adults comes slowly; animals communicate with their elders almost immediately. And vice versa.

How do fish automatically know how to swim, eat and survive at birth? Of course, they stay in schools. (rim shot!) What about insects automatically knowing how to do their thing?

All of which means that whatever intuition we have as individual humans we are taught or must be curious enough to want to learn. I believe animals are fine with what they already know unless they are taught by humans to work with them, do tricks for them or in some way enhance human lives, education or pocket books.

I doubt if animals think of themselves as owning one another. They're more into a pecking order of roles.

This is not to say that animals don't have emotions or experience pain. Elephants come together to care for an ailing comrade by holding him or her up, standing beside the sickly elephant, knowing that if he or she falls to the side, death is certain.

Anthropomorphism (attributing human emotions and characteristics to something non-human) continues to be studied. Anyone who lives with a beloved pet knows the belief in a mutual, unconditional love is very real. Who knows if we're deluding ourselves - what they're really thinking? But it is reassuring to share our lives with our creature comforts.

Now there is something we humans have called the "sixth sense." That's the extra one that can show up after taste, smell, touch, hearing and seeing if we're open to it.

It comes from allowing our psychic and psychological senses to open and receive information, feelings and visions from what is called the Spiritual Universe, spiritual energy, God, and more. Most people tend to try to close off these uber-human experiences to "protect" ourselves from the unknown.

It's part of our spiritual experience that can be learned and expanded with practice, or closed down, depending on the individual.

I find the question of spirituality and animals captivating. I believe that animals are not afraid of death. As much as they are wired to stay alive, survive, protect their young and procreate the species, they don't appear to fear death.

Do they know what's on the other side? It's said that cats can see angels. So when they're sitting there, staring for hours at "nothing?" Some think they're being entertained by the angels they can see and we can't.

At any rate, the reason I talk about this is that so many actors I've worked with refer to instinct when they mean intuition. They expect themselves to do something they can't because they don't have instincts.

But! If we understand that we're capable of creating a phenomenal athenaeum of information to build an extraordinary intuitive sense, we can understand that we must compile it consistently, constantly, that we must learn everything we need to make us increasingly intuitive, while still mixing in good old emotion and reason. Once we comprehend how to learn in a way that contributes to trusting our perceptions, senses, actions and intuition? Amazing things happen for any artist. (Merci, M. Monet!)

It's just a matter of continually inputting information we need, just as we feed information to our inner personal computers, which already have individual emotion and sense or reasoning built in, created by our experiences and education in life. Only humans have the capability of including emotion and reason to engage the intuitable information positively or negatively.

For example, two people may have identical educations and information, but one views the situation in a negative way, the other the (same) situation in a positive way-both based on how they feel, both based on a "hunch," or their "intuition."

Animals don't go there.

Instinct means they're wired to do certain things in certain ways with certain stimulation or motivation.

Still, not one is like the other. Individual personalities abound, no matter if it's a penguin or lizard or...

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

33 dead - because it started as "just" a domestic case

Several years ago, when I was the ombudsman/Reader Advocate for The Seattle Times (my experience there is another story you'd find fascinating) I wrote one of my weekly columns about the mistaken age-old journalistic philosophy that relationship, psychological and sociological stories are "soft" (read: *not real*) news, while murders, accidents, fires and basically fall in front of your face with photo ops incidents are "hard" (read *real*) news.

The outcome, unfortunately, of all too many of what they believe to be "soft" news becomes unnecessary "hard" news because the issues inherent in those "soft" stories are not explored adequately.

How we interact, treat ourselves and each other, relate and communicate - or fail to - all too often results in significant abuse and even homicide/suicide.

Worse, it spawns future generations of adults who have learned as children dysfunctional relationship reasoning and actions, which is nurtured by unceasing violent media, news and music images.

When adults finally understand their thinking and behavior is unhealthy, dysfunctional and out of whack and they choose to seek help, they've got a couple of footlockers stacked on all the childhood baggage they have to work through first.


Of course, the only way to address this with significant and faster results is to teach children how to treat themselves and others in a smart, healthy, protective and caring way. Most effectively, this is done by example.

Like, if you're telling your kids not to drink alcohol - while the first thing you do when you get home is open a bottle of beer, or consider a celebration barren of meaning unless there's alcohol - from wine to whiskey to scotch to tequila to champagne ... um, they only hear what you do, because what you say obviously isn't the truth.

So two people at Virginia Tech are killed by an unknown assailant at 7:15 a.m. yesterday, but police don't become too excited or consider the situation extremely urgent because, as one of their own police officers said - they believed it was "just" a domestic problem.

As they saw it, given their interpretation of the crime and evidence, their problem was to track down the "domestic" shooter. The armed shooter who had not just killed his innocent former girlfriend but another innocent individual as well - who what trying to mediate their argument.

The rest is another, abhorrent chapter in US gun abuse history by a guy who couldn't have his way, whose "woman" wouldn't do what he wanted her to do. Another coward who planned his revenge because he couldn't handle himself when he believed he lost control over someone who would not do his bidding. Who refuses to be owned by him.

By the way, these monsters don't "snap."

They carefully plan obtaining weapons and ammunition, how to reach their destination without being detected, how to find and access their victim, as well as an escape plan - even if it's suicide.

Recently, a woman was shot and killed at the University of Washington by a former boyfriend-turned-stalker. She did everything right. The UW has a thorough system of addressing such problems - it was just never put into motion.

For whatever reason, her complaints, her notification of all the officials who were supposed to be contacted, the evidence of the "domestic" crimes he had already committed against her along with her clear and present pleas to police and campus authorities that he was out to kill her ...

Yes, for whatever reason, her information was not passed up the chain of command to people who could have properly protected her and her co-workers.

It is believed that if the complaint had been other than a "domestic" dispute, it would have been handled differently. Like all other cowards, including the mass murderer at Virginia Tech, the UW woman's killer killed himself so he would not have to be accountable for his actions.

Domestic violence is not decreasing in the US.

American women are still assassinated in large numbers in domestic disputes, as are men, and the failure of the nation, law enforcement, judicial and government to be outraged and take severe action against perpetrators of domestic violence continues.

I believe in reasonable gun control, especially for automatic weapons.

But if the NRA got smart, they'd invest lots of their lobbying billions in programs to help families, kids and individuals learn how to live without harming and killing each other.

Unfortunately they're hard on selling guns, soft on helping to prevent people from abusing them.

Filmmaker John Waters is producing a reality courtroom program about spouses who kill one another. He notes that juries *never* get tough on the killer because, he says, they understand homicidal rage that occurs in those marriages.

A culture of violence is nurtured by a government that proclaims an unnecessary war is a proper means to solve a non-existent problem (oil) - killing tens of thousands of innocent people ("collateral damage") as well as our own and our allies' soldiers; a country that pushes the death penalty as a legal punishment even though several of those put to death have been found to be innocent; music, films and TV programs that glorify guns and killing as a means to solve problems; people who immaturely decide that the best way to deal with an issue is a straight line between a gun and its living target.

People smarter than me have said it; there is a hole in the soul of our (US) nation. The only way to fill it is to find out what is missing in our individual souls and what created the hole so we can learn to fill it once again. Many outside our nation who once admired and even revered the American promise - which depends on having a national soul - believe we have lost it.

But it all starts with that soft news story still put on the lower shelf of the what's urgent news code: what makes us treat ourselves and others with disrespect or respect; abuse or care; meanness or kindness; and an abiding interest in finding new and other ways to solve problems.

Just a thought.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007


Triangulation is what happens when a third person is pulled into a situation that initially involved just two people.

There are healthy and unhealthy reasons and ways to triangulate.

First, the unhealthy.

Triangulation done in the nature of gossip, backbiting, dishonesty, manipulation, harming reputations with false information or other karma-messing actions always comes back to rip one's psychological face off, sooner or later.

It's nature's way of balancing energy.

The folks who indulge in this do it from a state of fear. Fear of not belonging, being enough, doing enough, knowing enough and basic insecurity. After the negative triangulation, the triangulator generally feels a false sense of power, control or "being included" when they spread "information" about someone that may be confidential, inaccurate, half-true or even untrue.

Sometimes people who triangulate don't actually know what they're saying *is* harmful, necessarily confidential or untrue because they're not aware of the truth or the destruction they are causing; the poison they spread without considering the consequences. They sometimes convince themselves the end is worth whatever means they employ.

Lots of people who want to feel or appear to be in charge might triangulate in an attempt to use the information as leverage to manipulate others to seek more power - maintain a position or go for that promotion.

And it works - too often - until the truth gets out, and it always does, sooner or later.

Then .. ouch.

Credibility suffers or is outright demolished.

Just read about all the Bush administration appointees going to jail because they illegally indulged in triangulation.

Likewise, people who can't handle stress if they feel caught in the middle of a situation might also do this to relieve themselves of the pressure they experience - whether or not it is actually a stressful situation.

It may not be a genuinely stressful situation, but the person still experiences stress and wants to get out from under it.

Again, what they say in order to get out from under may not even be accurate or true but a misperception. Still, a great, if temporary relief is experienced.

And beware the person who speaks poorly of others, not taking responsibility for their own behavior, for they shall do it about you sooner or later, with or without any reason.

Pity the person drawn into this sort of triangulation without researching the information they've been handed, for they shall suffer mightily when they discover the truth.

And remember, triangulation spreads like a blanket of cockroaches in the night - one person triangulates; that triangle suddenly turns in to a hundred triangles and the "information" spreads.

Mind you, this is the basis of all sorts of great and painful drama over the millennia in plays, films, books, etc., - so if you like trauma drama in your life? You might be a triangulator...

Likewise, writers count on triangulation for all sorts of character machinations in their work.

Healthy triangulation:

If you're having trouble in your relationship, on the job or with another individual or group, you may choose to speak with a coach, counselor, psychologist, priest, parent, teacher, rabbi or minister.

If you're having difficulties with a legal business relationship, you may want to talk with the business's attorney.

Just be certain the counselor or the attorney won't triangulate and inappropriately share your confidential information with others involved in the situation!

It shouldn't happen, but believe me, it does, and the ramifications are sad, indeed!

Seeking assistance, help or guidance from a reliable source to solve a problem is seen as a healthy and positive triangulation. Or filling someone in on the truth of what has been falsely said about them may also be a healthy triangulation if they can set the record straight or prove their innocence.

OTOH, inappropriately sharing personal or inappropriate information about others is pretty unhealthy - and is usually guaranteed to create a karmic collision down the line because problems only build when someone tries to push a personal agenda or needs to hurt others in order to build themselves up for reasons of personal insecurity.

I've been around people like this over the years and always keep out of their way because I know what's ahead if they don't clean up their spilled milk. Left to fester, that karma crash happens, sooner or later, when they least expect it.

Here's hoping it *never* happens to you!

Keep your karma clean! :-)

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