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Human Nature and Behavior

by Alfred de Grazia



Most babies cry when they are born. If they do not, they are liable to receive their first spanking. This, say their attendants, will clear their lungs; it will circulate their blood; it will exercise their reflexes. It is good for them. This crying may be uniquely human. Calves, for example, do not cry when they are born. They lay stunned for a moment, and then gradually pick themselves up, pull themselves together, receive some licks, and crawl or stumble around. The mothers of apes drop their young almost disdainfully and hardly attend to them at first; the orangutan mother is more considerate, more human.

Perhaps babies cry because they are already more frightened than animals. A famous psychoanalyst, Otto Rank, found the mental state of the baby deplorable, and traced the major behaviors of later life to the trauma of birth. Some conscientious mothers even followed his line of reasoning to the point of giving birth by caesarean operation, thus assisting the baby's birth and relieving its pain of passage from womb to open air. I do not know that the effects of their altruism have ever been reported.

Dr. Rank, passing over the possibly similar plight of calves, babes of monkeys, and puppies, ascribed the most marvelous effects to the human birthing experience. He sees "in the birth trauma the ultimate biological basis of the psychical." Even the myths of the creation of the world, that are [1] told in many cultures, are regarded by him as a sublime attempt to undo the birth trauma and to deny the separation of the infant from the mother. Although everyone has undergone and many have later witnessed the radical experience of parturition, Rank interpreted myths and fantasies of the end of the world as wishes and efforts of the human individual to be reabsorbed into the great All and Oneness. Further, "the Flood which initiates a new world period is nothing but a 'universal' reaction to the birth trauma, as the myths of the origin of the earth or the sea also show." Religion, creativity, humanness – all are to be attributed to the tragedy of parturition. No one is exempted. I think that he is reversing the order of nature.

Attacking the perinatal problem by another method, Stanislas Grof employed psychedelic drugs, particularly LSD, in seeking to learn of people's re-experiences of the earliest events of their lives [2] . He could identify four matrices of recollections. One expressed feelings of unbounded ease; another, frightful threat, confinement and torture; a third appeared as a struggle for survival and an ecstatic release; the fourth, a separation that seemed a kind of death followed by resurrection. These would connect with the physical sequence of natal events and incorporate analogous later effects. This is matrix (2); the unbearable and inescapable situation of the foetus, sensing uterine contractions while confronting a still-closed cervix, would and did engender visions of fear, plague, and natural catastrophe.

Lacking evidence that historical experiences can affect the germ plasma, we must regard these as visions of other life experiences, as secondary or derivative suggestions, and attached to the perinatal process by mental association. We do not deny that they originally occurred. Rather, when they did occur and were experienced and remembered, they reinforced the analogous perinatal feelings. And, if what we have said concerning Rank's theory is correct, the perinatal experience is a reinforcement of the pre-existing genetic fear of oneself that already begins with the foetus. Hence, a double reinforcement may operate upon the original fear. Every species, indeed every individual, has its own pre-existing structure for experiencing; experience is species-specific and organism-specific.

Otto Rank and Stanislas Grof are asking too much of the nasty surprise of birth. Rather, I should say, the baby is crying because, unlike the animals, he already possesses a kind of fear that they do not, and cannot, know. This is his existential fear, an anxiety sensed upon the realization of the existence of himself. He is reacting to a harsh accident, true, but knows already this existential fear and is demanding immediately that he be relieved of it. He already has a frustrated Voluntarism, a will that he expects to appease by action. He is terribly frightened because he is already trying to put his head together and to find himself in himself, whereas the animals have merely to compose their circulation and limbs.

The infant already wants more than to fix upon comfort, although this, and food later on, will usually quiet him. Surely, given the option, the baby would prefer to return to the womb. But there, too, he may well have been frightened, not only by jostling and growth pains, but by the sense of the greatest problem of existence, how to form his identity. For his brain has begun to operate in the peculiar human way. He may be already indecisive, unlike the beasts, feeling that there is a decision to be made, and wants to do more than to wait upon the comfort of the nursery. Perhaps it is well to slap him if he does not cry: he should stop dreaming and come to attention.


The baby cannot realize his problem. He does not know that his instinctive mechanisms are blunted, blocked and delayed, and that he will pass his life in a mammalian vehicle, a jalopy that he must tinker with and fix up at every turn of the road. Luckily, he is to be trained immediately as a mechanic. Not for him are the joys of a long life of instinctive behavior, consisting mainly of speedy, replicating responses to specific stimuli.

The delays of instinct, touching upon the whole gamut of behavior, provide the human with a continuous fear. The instincts cause tension in their persistent efforts to complete themselves. At the same time, the person finds himself inundated by the tongues of instinct, lapping upon areas of behavior often little related to the original direction or object of the stimulus-response mechanism. The sexual instinct, for instance may emerge as Oedipal, romantic, homosexual, fetishistic, sadistic, aesthetic and/ or aggressive behavior; rarely is it merely the highly relevant "display; hop on; hop off; go away" sequence that even higher animals perform. The delay of instincts by a possibly genetic blockage is all-important: it permits the chaotic creational flood to rush into all the crevices of the forming human nature. The retardation of his animal instincts is viewed as flexibility in the human's behavior. Human flexibility is both cause and consequence, therefore, because both the "decisions" and the follow-up activity are subject to delays in the central nervous system.

The animal world, by contrast, exists by instinct: events emit stimuli; instinctive reactions succeed or fail; the residuum reassembles amidst the continuing events. Almost never is the process punctuated by pauses to consider a dilemma. If its spasms of calculation fail, the animal surrenders to the inertial process. It falls back upon its collective line of defense, it breeds. The animate world can depend upon exponential reproducibility to render individual choice unnecessary for species survival.

Meanwhile the human creature depends upon what he calls mind or intelligence. He has not chosen to do so. He cannot do anything else. Would that he could, for his lot is fearful. His reactions blocked at every turn, if only for an instant, he lives in anxiety over the last turn, the present turn, the next turn, and all the ones he can remember or imagine or foresee. Stripped of ready instinct, he confronts an instinct-ready world. He is innately, individually, and culturally anxious, and the world he encounters is too large to cope with non-anxiously.

Terror drives him to act quickly, but not instinctively, and instinct is the quickest action. Why must he forever fearfully reflect? If, unlike animals, man has to make up his mind, there must be some unique quality in the mind. If two or more options rush into the open question raised by the blocked instinctual response, there is a conflict, an anxiety. Even if there is but a single and obvious solution, a pause to determine so can cause anxiety.


When the posing of options is continuous and inevitable, the very existence of a single mind can be doubted. The pervasiveness of choice and anxiety in the actions of the human being must signify that "ordinarily he is of two minds" about everything he experiences. "Two souls within me live, damn!" said Goethe.

Two souls may be too few. The well-known case study of Sybil documented sixteen different persons in a single human female, each conscious, aware, able, and resting upon the substrata of the other fifteen. Whatever the number, so long as it is more than one, it suggests that a third trait can be allocated to the non-instinctual, fearful creature, which is a multiple personality.

Called by another name, this is self-awareness, a kind of behavior that could never come about were it not for the fact that someone is asking questions of someone else. A self is aware of itself. "I think, therefore I am", wrote Descartes. Not quite, we say. Rather, "I recognize myself; therefore, we are." When, 3000 years before, Moses turned aside to inspect the fiery un-burning thornbush, he found there Yahweh who spoke to him saying "I am the I am" and Moses worried (says the Bible) about what people would say when he said to them "I am the voice of the I am that is the I am."

Because our selves share nearly identical anatomical housing and have highly privileged access to each other, for all practical purposes they are considered as "one in body and soul." In fact, the compulsion to be oneself is so suspiciously strong that no matter what the proof to the contrary, the self will always be the irreducible unit of human existence. Like non-Euclidean geometry and warped space, the poly-self will remain a theoretical construct, out of the realm of the common sense. It will help to understand human behavior, however, and have powerful applications in psychological therapy and law. It will, among other things, clarify an idea that is to be found in a many "primitive" and "advanced" cultures, that a person "possessed" is not to be treated as himself. So now we have the human creature, living in a house of fear, governed by a committee, and acting accordingly in non-instinctual ways.

What is the agenda of this committee of egos? The agenda seems infinitely varied; it can contain anything in the whole world, internal, external, from a microbe to the stars, unlimited, too, in time or space. But the preamble to every item on the agenda is always the same: "This is a bill to control fear by..." So the human seeks control, first of himself, that is, of the committee: "This house must put itself in order." Then he must seek to control others; he must at the same time, just like a government, govern himself while he governs others. And, besides the others, he must seek to control the world, for he senses that not only these others, but also the whole world, threatens him and needs to be ordered. Something of this conduct of operations seems implied in Anna Freud's idea about the ego's "tendency to synthesis," as opposed to the fear of ego destruction, which she recognizes as an instinctual anxiety [3] . (I say, of course, that the ego was hardly there in the first place.)

Control implies power, the determination of the wills or behaviors of people and events. "Power is an ingredient in the transactions which take place within all object relationships and is thus an ingredient in the interlocking forces which determine personality," so declares Arieti. Veritably we may contemplate now a being that is instinct-delayed, poly-ego, fearful on both counts and power-driven: ecce homo.

Control is said to occur when someone determines the behavior of persons or things. The drive to control is a reciprocal of fear. All humans, possessing existential fear and self-fears, must seek control, primarily of the self. Very quickly in all situations the physical self becomes the arena of only a portion of the struggle for control. External objects and beings are also incorporated into the struggle. The self, others, and the natural world are the triple object of efforts at control.

The total of objects, both inner and outer, operate subjectively without discrimination. Whether a person feels he controls his temper or an empire, by physiological indicators of stress, or by any other tests, he is calmer and more relaxed. If he is insatiable in his wishes to control, the diminution of tension with success will be brief and shallow; his fears will cause him to move immediately to assume control in other spheres. Under no circumstances can the urge to control be satisfied.

Assuming that all humans are basically alike, rather than divided between those who are genetically human and those who are only culturally human (a question already alluded to), the challenge may be offered that women are less interested in control than men. This would imply, by our theory, that they are more instinctive, more unified and stable as persons, and less fearful. More hominidal, therefore? Less instinct-delayed? Such may be the case. There is folklore about "a woman's instinct." This special female capacity is a popular belief today. In the Western European Middle Ages, women were for a time denied a soul, until a Church conference finally decided the issue in their favor. A "soul" translates into the more active madness and suffering often characterizing males.

But it is suggested that for the time being we assume a close similarity of the sexes. We offer, as adequate and at least temporary justification, that women are generally forced out of formal control activities, that they operate "underground" for control purposes, and that, anyhow, an accurate and thorough inventory of control activity would disclose an equality of the sexes.

The absolute renunciation of control-needs and efforts is sometimes attempted. The cosmic indifference of Buddha lets nothing matter save finding nothingness. Once filled with nothingness, one will be at peace. All identifications and attachments are renounced in order to concentrate upon control of the self. With an elaborate strict regimen of diet and exercises, and by abstemious human relations, bolstered by a sophisticated rationale appeasing conventional philosophical demands, a mental balance is achieved that is distinguishable from selfishness, catatonism, or bestiality. Resemblances to autistic trances are present. The discipline remains severe; the drive for control of the world is not abolished. A more than casual resemblance to the Buddhist outlook is to be perceived in Teilhard de Chardin's attempt to extricate mankind from its dilemma [4] . He sees the remedy as man's reflectiveness, enlarged greatly until the world is co-reflected in his mind in a universe of ultra-reflexion. This is a vague formula, but it takes on greater meaning when we ask what is Chardin's human dilemma. This, it seems, is a state of fear, which he describes abstractly: the great fear of the human species is to be closed in and lost in an unfriendly world, condemned to live with himself as a fixed species.


Identity and identification begin with the question of the self or ego. "Everyone is to himself that which he calls self," wrote John Locke, in discussing the idea of a person [5] . The self is "an object to itself," said G. H. Mead. The reflexive form reveals "that which can be both subject and object." This is what distinguishes man from animal, he argued, rather than the alleged possession of a mysteriously endowed soul [6] .

Sommerhoff regards self-awareness as part of consciousness and, in his study of The Logic of the Living Brain, says that it is formed of "coherent internal representations of the physical self," hence also of the self's relations to its surroundings. "... The unity of the physical self finds expression in a family of characteristic transformation expectations the brain accumulates during ontogenesis." [7]

Sweeping in more closely toward the concept sought here, Hilgard declares, "The unity of consciousness is illusory. Man does more than one thing at a time – all the time – and the conscious representation of these actions is never complete." [8]

When the personality degrades to "a delusional chaos," some awareness survives. "Part of that total complex which we call the ego, the 'self, always remains alien to the delusions. This constellation accounts for the fact that the non-affected part of the ego may disbelieve and even criticize the delusions; on the other hand, the incorrigibility and the senselessness of the delusions are precisely due to the fact that many associations contradictory to the delusional are simply not brought into any logical connection with it."

Building one's self is then every person's lifelong occupation. As we have said, he is driven by the fear of not being oneself to begin with. The self is a predisposition, but not a bequest, of nature. Indeed, it is never fully achieved. Man is always an infant in this regard. While apes grow quickly and soon act "self-possessedly", the human can grow in every respect but this, that he never achieves a single self. "The mature person is self-confident," by which is signified that his existential fear is under control and that he egoistically regards himself as one. A total lack of self-confidence results in a kind of vegetative existence, a sickness as grave as any; even the most elementary kinds of self-control disappear into incontinence and catatonism.

Both "identification" and "role-playing" are in the area of the dispersed self. A "role" is behavior according to a social sub-type, which is employed to escape insecurity by virtue of a more secure status. A role may be manifested as casually as a costume for the mardigras once a year, or as intensely as a permanent switch in identity accompanied by amnesia. Role changes are common in modern society; they are rare in simple communities, where a fisherman is son of a fisherman, but even there the person goes through life-roles such as adolescence or grandparentage, has a role in a church, and so on. Roles are culturally defined, often assigned, and when fully developed and effective, encapsulate the dispersed self, guarding and maintaining it against dissolution.

Identification can be attested in the assumption of a role, as the boy who identifies with his father, the fisherman, but can more broadly extend to all manner of being and abstraction. Thus one may detach some part of himself and affix it to an identification with the working-class movement, or with the Virgin Mary, or with his family and neighbors, or with a bird. Identification is associated with the wish to control its object; this may be difficult, for frequently ambivalence arises out of an obviously uncontrollable identification. The self, though it may appear so, is not a social creation, as G. H. Mead and others would have it be. Man would never have a self, a poly-ego, if he were not structured genetically to engage in the search for self by a mind that has to be pulled together. Mead's work is completely intelligible and useful, except on this crucial point. It is significant that he does not seek to go beyond society and culture as the determinants. Meanwhile, he provides us with precisely those kinds of observations which we need, as, for example: "The phenomenon of dissociation of personality is caused by a breaking up of the complete, unitary self into the component selves of which it is composed, and which respectively correspond to different aspects of the social process in which the person is involved." [9]

He advanced and stressed the concept of "social roles," those social housings for the individual selves, and showed how small children could play games with their selves, as well as others, being now one kind of person, now then another – father, mother, evil one, good one, police and bandit, and so on. This author's grandchild was raised bilingually in Athens, and when playing with a toy car and policeman, would speak as the policeman in Greek, then reply as the car-driver in English.

Bleuler used the word "schizophrenia" to denote a split personality, merging the Greek words for "split" and "brain" or "heart," thus meaning more than brain. Schizophrenia was applied to madness of the disordered personality, and numerous mental illnesses received different names in the early years of psychiatry. Afterwards, it became fashionable to assert that one should ignore the etymology of the word, even ignoring Bleuler, for that matter.

The trend of my work, however, has been to extend the term in its literal meaning – that is, to introduce the idea of multiple "splits" – to extend it to cover practically all mental disturbances not attributable to organic and accidental lesions, whether congenital or post-natal, and to transform the disease into the elements of normal behavior, regarding normal individual and social behavior as specific resultants of certain adjustments to a natural schizophrenia. Thus self-consciousness is what might be termed in the lexicon of psychopathology a form of delusional thought. To be human, then, is to be schizotypical, or schizoid. Not to be so – that is, not to be self–aware– is impossible, or is stupid in the sense of being of the hominidal species of the primates.

Again, all humans, including mad humans, are self-aware. Even in a case of severe catalepsy, self-awareness is evident. Bleuler reports cataleptics who can maintain the same position for months. But, as a patient is moved, his muscles flex and adjust so as to maintain any position in which he is placed. Normal children and hystericals will sometimes do the same, after being punished. Hilgard describes a hypnotised subject who can, as instructed, divide himself into two beings, one who feels no pain upon stimulation and says so, another who feels it and comments upon it.

The source of the phenomena of self-awareness is the dispersed selves. One would not know oneself unless there were at least two of one, the observer and the observed, the knower and the known, or, better, two mutually perceptive observers. In Hilgard's experiment above, he was able to elicit two speaking selves with contrasting points of view regarding a painful stimulus.

Since there is so much of the delusory in human nature, as Bleuler and many other students have shown, it occurred to me at first to regard self-consciousness only as a form of delusion. I think now that it must be reality and that the concept of the single self must be delusory, a kind of megalomania based upon an illusion of the dominating self. Just as the human sees one image with eyes that register bi-focally, so he mentates, especially when asked, as a whole, though his mind be operating eccentrically. Both neurological and psychological evidence of this will be advanced later on.

The ego is not singular. "It" perceives and exists as a poly-self. Any single self in the set is a sensed or perceived claim on an acting and behaving organic system in relation to or in conjunction with claims of others. A person is a system of selves, a polyself system. Ordinarily, people successfully inhibit irrelevant material from enough of their mentation to assure others and cause others to believe that they are acting as a single or at most a self-aware self. Even too much self-awareness is a cause of disturbances, akin to disturbed behavior in the eyes of observers and in the concerns of the subject; suspicions are aroused; rapport is weakened. When persons begin to operate on several levels almost simultaneously, they are accorded various complexes by medical practitioners. Bleuler gave numerous illustrations of such behavior among his schizophrenic patients.

Hilgard's studies of divided consciousness by means of hypnosis expose a "hidden observer" or "co-conscious" as an ordinary concomitant of existence. This self among selves is not a monster, a "beast of the unconscious." "The concealed part sometimes turns out to be healthier than the openly presented self." [10] Expert though he was in hypnosis, Sigmund Freud fashioned his theory of id-ego-superego from classical social psychological theory, from Plato's Republic (I argued in a paper of 1949) rather than from experiential materials readily available to him. He thus may have posed the wrong parties in psychic conflicts. The polyego concept is structurally and biologically manifest; it can be the subject of experiment; it can be operationally described.

The origins of the poly-ego, the core of human nature, must be in neurological transformations at some time in the past. Here we assume the poly-ego to exist, leaving its ancient origins to be traced in Homo Schizo I. Sufficient for the moment is the hypothesis that when this transformation occurred, a number of critical innovations occurred with it, enough so that we can assume a quantavolution of creation, a Hologenesis. Human nature came all at once. As the first humans experienced for the first time a poly-ego and have until now repeated the experience with every new person, we look for a massive effect upon the human being and find it in the eternal fear that possesses mankind.


Students of fear in humans and animals are rarely satisfied by obvious causes; human fear is not a pie to be cut up and assigned to wild animals, bad dreams, strict parents, and the like. It is well to make tallies, thus a third of the population fears snakes, most of these fear them intensely; a great many fear heights or being alone in public places; many fear injury and illness; and nearly everyone fears an assault at the time that it occurs [11] . But, perhaps because they are difficult to study and even to conceive of, "little systematic research has been applied to the nature of what are sometimes called existential fears." [12]

As with the concepts of human nature and instinct, many psychologists would like to rid themselves of the concept of "fear," believing it to be vague and operationally undefinable. But, as Jeffrey Gray puts it, "Experimental psychology – as well as common sense – has been forced to invent the hypothesis of a complex psychological state, 'fear, ' precisely in order to make sense out of the otherwise shifting and imprecise relationship observed between stimuli and responses." [13]

We do not distinguish here between fear and anxiety. "Anxiety, the psychological equivalent of pain, is characterized by a feeling of dread.. a vague fear.. not related to specific situations or objects.. part of the human condition." So says Mendel, abstracting from a lifetime of administering intensive psychotherapy [14] . Physiologically, insofar as anxiety can be detected, it exhibits the chemistry and muscular tensions of fear. And fear, when slight, is indistinguishable from anxiety. And anxiety can become terror and panic. The common use of the term "anxiety" has to be attributed to the need to allay people's fear that they may be suffering from fear.

Fear is part of the human and of all that he creates. The role of fear in religion is large, so that a working out of fears often has taken place in the arena of the sacred. Religion approached by faith, says Rudolf Otto, cannot be the same as religion approached through reason. Central to faith is numen, the specific non-rational religious apprehension and its object, at all its levels, from the primitive stirrings to exalted spiritualism. And central to numen is dread, for it is the sacred, holy, awful confrontation of man with god or the divine essence [15] .

Fear can be both immediate and existential. Immediate fear erupts upon the encountering of threat to the poly-ego system, a learned and/ or sensed emotion that sends an ad hoc electro-chemical alarm through the central nervous system. Existential fear, also an electrochemical effect, is normally at a constant level which we posit to be above some pre-human level.

What evidence is there for a continuous higher level of existential fear in human nature? That man is an anxious animal has been a byword in psychology. This means ordinarily that the human is never at ease with himself. Rare cases of such are a subject of marveling comment, probably misplaced and incorrect. To suit the needs of homo schizo, all neonates are trained to high levels of anxiety.

It is often argued that humans are culturally indoctrinated in fear, and therefore generally exhibit that continuous anxiety which has every conceivable object as its trigger or focus. Cultures are discoverable that train their children not to possess or display fear. Many mothers of modern western culture earnestly try to preserve their children from the sense of fear. The mothers are reinforced by cultural institutions that have special needs. These, where successful, invariably train only an ignorance of or resistance to fear in some respects deemed crucial by the society, such as facing up to an enemy in battle.

Here, in the first place, there is reason to regard the training as retraining, that is, the acquisition of one set of habits to overwhelm a contrary set. The partial training underscores the practically limitless outlets to existential fear; global courage is not hoped for. The brave Spartans were obsessively fearful of their Helotic slaves; fearful of alliances; fearful of women; fearful of their gods; and would turn tail for home even from a battle if an earthquake occurred. The display of fear is culturally determined; the fear itself is universal. The most persuasive argument against the presence of an existential human fear is that the human is occupied with so many objects over such large spans of memory and futures that one is bound to be always in a state of anxiety over something. If it is not one's health, it is the apparitions of a stormy sky; if not an enemy, it is an institution.

As in so many areas, here too, one must ask first of all if the logic is not reversed, possibly in a type of cognitive disorder: why does the human tend to so many things in the world, not only the infinite now, but the infinite past or future? Is the object pursued or attended to because it serves as an outlet for fear or must one believe that the human is so naturally rational as to fix his concerns upon practically everything, only then to discover a fearful aspect to it all? I think that the answer to this question will emerge from this book.

Briefly, though, a fixation upon a single or very few objects is suspiciously phobiaphilic; the expansion of the scope of objects occupying one does not increase the general fearfulness of one's state, but rather the contrary: it makes the state of fear more bearable. Extraverted, "neurotic" characters typically disperse their attention and, as a result, acquire unusual versatility.

Furthermore, as we shall argue later, fear is not eliminated by therapy. The objects may be changed. Or, by a variety of means, including drugs such as tranquilizers and alcohol, a high level of fear may be reduced even greatly. Fear is controlled by forcing the physiology, not by clearing away impediments to natural courage.

Comparing the occasions for fear it is doubtful that the human lot is beset by more fearful stimuli than engage the attention of animals. Yet we see in man a variety of psycho-pathological tendencies and behaviors – such as merciless aggression and global attentiveness – not present in mammals and apes. Hence we must seek the source of existential fear in a logical and real condition, which we say is the poly-ego. Self-awareness, inevitable in mankind, produces continual anxiety over his inevitably and profusely invented fears. In 1933, Freud laid down the theme ".. that the ego is the only seat of anxiety, and that only the ego can produce anxiety," and "that the three main varieties of anxiety – objective anxiety, neurotic anxiety and moral anxiety – can so easily be related to the three directions in which the ego is dependent, on the external world, on the id and on the super-ego." [16]

This reads, in our terms: on nature, on others, and on the variegated selves. The self is too complex to be divided into id, ego, and superego. There is a pragmatic instinctive principle involved, but there is no reality principle. The self is never a real self, either.

In systematizing psychology, Freud might better have dispensed with external objectivity and relied upon a phenomenological theory of the world as a wholly subjective creation of the mind. The clutch of components of the ego engage themselves in anxiety-reduction operations. The so-called id, ego and superego elements are ancient and misleading ideas of how the mind works, even though they are conventionally handy for political, moral, and hence therapeutic disputation. Certainly, though, Freudian psychology is erected upon the presumption of ever-present anxiety.

Not until we learn how this continuous drizzle of fear and anxiety is precipitated in human life by the delayed instinct and the split self will we understand existential fear. For the moment, we should counsel alertness against assigning to any experience the accountability for generalized fear. This means to avoid any commitment to sweeping theories such as that of Rank's birth trauma, or to presuppositions like Otto's that dread is validated by its divine associations. Or such large categorical explanations as "castration fear," which is undoubtedly of diagnostic utility. Or, for that matter, to any summing up to 100% of fear by adding experiences from the womb to the tomb. Rather, hypothetically at first, and then as certainly as the evidence and logic permit, let us maintain that the human would be fearful and anxious even if he lived a life totally free of frightening experience. The whole human mental structure appears to be given over to controlling the mind so as to reduce the stress of fear. The poly-self is elected as a governing committee by a central nervous system that was previously under more centralized management. The brain of the hominid loses coordinative ability and in so doing produces the human brain, which imposes a new system of coordination.

The poly-ego, hence self-awareness, would not be present if it were not for the depression and confusion of instincts in humans. What forced the human egos to emerge was the necessity for continuous decision-making and what made this in turn necessary was the delaying of instinctive response. How this happened is to be discussed later on; what it consists of is relevant here.


We begin by a comparison. Legions of horseshoe crabs (which are more related to spiders than to other crabs) make their way up the beaches of Cape Cod to breed with precisely the most predictable heavy tide, that which occurs with the full moon nearest to the summer solstice. In the swirling low waters the females discharge their eggs, which are fertilized by the sperm discharged by the males. The adults retire with the tide (save for a few who are trapped in retreating, and bury themselves in sand until the next heavy tide). The fertilized eggs sink into the sand where they develop and wait to hatch upon the occasion of the tide of the next full moon, whereupon they move out to sea.

Instinctively, one may surmise, the horseshoe crab has mastered complex processes that homo sapiens would have to learn by pragmatic science. One is the relation of sun and moon to tides, or at least the empirical knowledge of when the heaviest reliable tide of the year occurs. Another is the organization of legions of males and females in rut to congregate at the same place for the purpose of conceiving upon the beach a new generation, which itself develops within the narrow limits of the next lunar month, at which time it can emerge to descend upon the sea. Thousands of such instinctive processes are possessed by the animal kingdom. In many cases one animal's instincts are aligned to exploit the instincts of other animals. The human, and perhaps the human alone, can make a great many adjustments of his behavior to imitate or relate to and exploit the instinctive behavior of the biosphere. The human's blocked instinctive structure is the basis or take-off point to invent a multitude of instinct-like habits that, for example, would have him waiting upon the beach at the summer solstice to capture the horseshoe crab and sell it for fertilizer and souvenirs. Some animals exploit instincts of other animals, as we have said.

The term "instinct," like "human nature," and "ego," has a suspicious slackness about it. No wonder, given its history. Charles Darwin used it not quite as loosely as he did the idea of "natural selection," S. Freud used it as a workhorse for one speculative probe after another; MacDougall, the social psychologist, pounded it into mincemeat; Tinbergen managed to use it respectably in his study of animal behavior; and Fletcher recently reconciled its ethological and psychiatric meanings usefully.

N. Tinbergen defined instinct as a hierarchically organized nervous mechanism, susceptible to primary releasing and directing impulses of internal and external origin, which responds to these impulses by coordinated movements [17] . The hierarchy is altered by changes in the intensity or by suppression of other instincts. An influential hierarchical order by Rensch gives as instincts sex, deference, feeding, cleaning, and ultimately hunting and collecting. I doubt, however, that there is any hierarchy of instincts in humans except in a group statistical sense, owing to the human ineptitude for specific instinctive response.

Obviously, all writers have had in mind the large fact that animals and men respond automatically when stimulated in certain ways: they blink quickly when about to be struck in the eye, for instance. (Even so, madmen and small boys can teach themselves to control the blink.) This unrestrained reflex is instinctive, as are a great many chemical and motile reactions of the organs and limbs. In the human bloodstream are to be found leucocytes, cells that hunt infectious bacteria – instinctively? Then where is the instinct: in the whole person or in the leucocyte?

As instincts come to require training (the baby can be toilet-trained) or as the stimulus of the instinct provokes a broader response (when struck, the creature dodges, snarls, and strikes back), they enter an area of science that can ultimately merge with speculative philosophy, as when one speaks of an aesthetic instinct in man. Freud's last thrust in the arena of instinct emerged with a death (thanatos) and a life (eros) instinct [18] . This dualism reminds us of entropy and negative entropy, the universal breaking down of motion and material and the countervailing creativeness of life, which, if given optional conditions of sustained full reproduction would soon cover all the stars and the spaces between with organic matter, and then presumably expand the universe beyond even the dreams of the explosive universe theorists. This thought might be taken as an irrelevant comment on the irrelevancy of Freud's two-fold classification. But neither is the case.

In this very book on the pleasure principle, Freud came as close as he ever did to the theory of homo schizo. In the course of denying the domination of pleasure over human mentation, which relates to the anhedonia symptoms adverted to later on, he moves to the question of unpleasure. "Unpleasure corresponds to an increase in the quantity of excitation" that is present but unbound in the mind; pleasure is a diminution of excitation. [19] He thus agrees with G. T. Fletcher (1873) who linked pleasure and unpleasure with stability and instability, in between which lay indifference. And he foreshadowed the behavioral conditioning school of today several of whose representatives occupy an honorable place in this book.

Now Freud, typically pushing ideas to their limits of tolerance (and toleration), makes death a pleasure and then an instinct. "Instinct is an urge inherent in organic life to restore an earlier state of things which the living entity has been obliged to abandon under the pressure of external disturbing forces." [20] Instinct: reversion: death. Freud's "death instinct," so readily misunderstood, can be shown to make sense in the light of the theory of homo schizo. For we say that man seeks to revert to the animal in order to recapture the instinctive bliss of the single self. That is, man unconsciously seeks his death as a human, and of the human species. This must be very close to what was gestating in the mind of Freud.

I see confirmation of this thought in a cloudy but weighty remark that relates to the dependent clause of the quoted sentence. For he writes: "In the last resort, what has left its mark on the development of organisms must be the history of the earth we live in and of its relation to the sun. Elementary things do not wish to change but are forced to evolve organically by external disturbing and diverting influences." My work in Homo Schizo I deals heavily with such "influences." What is pertinent here is that, by the theory of homo schizo, the evolved thing, man, wants to rid itself of the burden of the very trait that speciates it, that makes it a unique species, and such is the instinct-delay that creates and maintains its perpetual angst.

Freud's early preoccupation with the sexual instinct is less pertinent, disclosing, as critics have pointed out, an ideological attachment to the worries of well-to-do patients in a bourgeois society before World War l. The varieties of sexuality, it rather seems to us, given the cultural accent upon the subject, indicate a dispersed instinct, a conflict of selves, and an employment of sexual displacements to dispose of existential fear. Love consists of identifying an ego element with people and objects (even a 'security blanket') which reassure one against fear. Love is usually deeply involved with control, and control of course is a heavy motive in sexual attraction.

Affection plays so large a part in nurturing and training an infant that it becomes naturally a well-developed area of fixation for many problems of other instinctive zones besides the sexual. One can understand how affection is attached to all manner of "irrelevant" encounters and objects. It can be plucked out and credited with being the basic drive. But we always should refer to the human basic drive as self-control, then to other essential interests such as sex and food, and finally to myriad mixed displays of all of these.

Without enthusiasm and with qualms, a definition of instinct may be put forward: instinctive behavior in a species is present when, in the absence of training, a uniform behavior reliably results following upon a definite stimulus. The number of instincts in mammal species subsumable under this definition must be in the hundreds. An important fact is that for every primate instinctive action, there is a human equivalent, ontologically recognizable. This fact is relatively easy to argue. However, the near reverse may be also true, as ethologists and sociobiologists increasingly contend: for every type of human action, defined with increasing specificity, there may be a genetically related primate instinct, with allowances made for training in both cases.

The discussion of human instinct centers about the comparative laxness of instinct in the total behavior of man when compared with the behavior of animals most closely resembling him. Compare the separation of the mother bear and her cub, so simple, with the separation of the human female from her child, so complex, so full of woes, the inspiration of thousands of customs and volumes of literature. And include especially the "exceptional" societies such as those in which the mother is trained like the bear mother, who lumbers away leaving her cub whimpering on the limb of a tree, or the societies employing all-male initiation ceremonies to break the maternal grip, or fascist and soviet societies whose nursery schools are intended to abort family influences deemed incompatible with the ideas of the regime, or societies where the tie is broken by taking up one's first job in a distant city. Humans can come close to, or seemingly go very far from, animal practices.

When giving birth, women in comparison with primate females are more agitated and uncertain, and follow practices not observable among the primates, such as engaging attendants. Again, primate females have a defined rut period when they will accept sexual advances, whereas human females frequently are receptive of sexual overtures most of the time. Kinsey found that a mild rut period is present in slightly over half of a human female population. The complications in the life of humans introduced by just these two departures from the instinctive norms of the primates are numerous. On the one hand there are the "unhappy" components in the difference of instincts: confusion, doubt, malaise, anxiety, ignorance, ineptness. On other hand there occur some "happy" elements: flexibility in relating to other environmental demands, such as planning hunting absences; reasonable timing; more frequent opportunities to breed; and the possibility of introducing healthy practices; not to mention luckier males. Here are two behaviors, in primates and humans; they "could be" alike. But some mechanism generalizes and renders indistinct the human behavior. The words used to rate human against non-human instincts are many; observers find in the human instinctive structure "atrophy," "depression, " "generalization, " "abortion," "diffusion, " "disintegration," "vagueness," "blunting," "delay," and "suppression." Obviously we have many words to choose from in denoting the main peculiarity of human instincts.

Pursuing the concepts of poly-identity and fear, and considering that we shall have to provide later on an operational and etiological system for whatever word we choose, we settle upon "delay," instinct delay. This can be postulated as a general suppression of brain-mediated responses to stimulus such that an instruction can intervene to make unreliable any response. Among instructions can be included decisions, so that one can imagine the delay as automatized, unconscious, or deliberate. Culture, that is, training and education, can affect both instructions and decisions.


The basic product of the instinct delay is the poly-self. Assuming that several centers of the brain can become seats of an "ego," the delay of instinctive response will cause these centers to develop and exercise influence. The instinct delay produces milliseconds of "hesitation" and "doubt." This is enough for the several centers to sense a problem, that is, non-fulfillment of the instinctive loop of stimulus-response-extinction of impulse, and to react. The general consciousness is supplemented by a superior and dominating special brain center and several inferior but rival ones.

The dominant consciousness now perceives its rivals and the "problem." It casts a pall of fear over the central nervous system, including itself. The problem of non-immediate fulfillment of the instinct impulse is complicated by the sense of competitive decision-making or instruction-giving centers associated with it. Hence the external fear of ourselves is established. Physiologically a low-level of Cannon's fear-flight effect, involving the adrenals, is produced.

Now we have in operation: instinct delay, poly-ego, and existential fear. The person behaves accordingly. He seeks control of the laggard instincts and their wayward derivatives. He seeks to organize his poly-ego into an effective and more comfortable relationship. He tries to abolish his fear, which, after all, is nothing but a continuous play of the fear sensations of animal life and which, mistakenly, he treats as nothing more than an interminable chain of immediate fears.

Man can and would like to fill infinity with his control activities. "... The overriding purpose of the behavior is an attempt to achieve some security and certainty for the person who feels threatened and insecure in an uncertain world. The possibility of controlling oneself and the forces outside oneself by assuming omniscience and omnipotence can give one a false illusion of certainty. Therefore the main ingredient is one of control." So writes L. Salzman on The Obsessive Personality. [21]

Time and space concepts are great instruments for control. Man in effect enlarges the world by imposing more and more of a time frame behaviorally upon it. He obsessively connects himself with natural instruments of time-passage, hence time-reckoning.

The same occurs in the space world. This is part of an irresistible expansion of Man's will to control, which is of course dependent only upon his insatiable need to control his head which in turn depends upon the unquenchable fear that fills his head (and total body libido). And the fear comes from his inability to execute promptly and certainly the numerous and varied, often contradictory, orders of the incoming stimuli. He is more agitated in civilized than in less complex, calmer societies, and more in rapidly changing than in "stagnant" cultures. And the inability is fostered by the blocking and diversion (displacement) and echoing of incoming orders. The brainwork involved is discussed in the next chapter.

Control by evolutionary reversion is impossible. Man is unable to reestablish the instinctual basis of existence. He cannot speed up his responses and eradicate their derivatives, except that his attempts at doing so produce the astonishing phenomenon of culture. Nor can he put aside his centers in favor of "one king, one throne, one people." Nor finally can he do away with his fear. The failure to complete automatically his instinctual urges, the dissipation of these urges into bizarre forms, and the conflicts of his "split brain" guarantee a level of fear that would approach panic if it were not channeled into new worlds of activity and location.


Animals possess analogues, structurally and functionally, to human compulsions, obsessions, displacements, identifications, and other human mechanisms. Further they can be trained and experienced so as to approach in limited ways the enormous human ability to alter behavior by training and experiencing.

Chimpanzees use sticks to hit the ground, throw at predators, poke for termites (breaking off awkward projections), and choose the more suitable from a set of sticks. They can invent. Their females (and the gorillas') anticipate and protect their infants from potentially dangerous situations. They use sign-words and hover on the brink of making symbols of them. A mother rhesus monkey, whose young male has approached a female and aroused the leader, will divert the leader from chasing him by suddenly assuming an attentive position towards a remote point; this alerts him to his duties in foreign affairs and allows the rascal to escape. And so on [22] .

What must be stressed is the unique human dependence upon these mechanisms. Humans are absolutely helpless without constructing these mechanisms. We can picture the situation as a trade-off. In return for losing a huge number of instinctive reactions, the human acquires an ability to reconstruct reactions quickly and in manifold forms.

As loss of control occurs, fear erupts. The human seeks to return to the hominid and restore the animal mechanisms, but in marvelous ways. By continuously searching to retrieve his nature, man provides himself with thousands of behaviors of the same categories but inestimably greater in appearances and consequences. He even creates robots, near to absolutely instinctive "animals."

Seen from one perspective, the human behavior is homologous to the animals. Seen from another, the human behavior is only analogous. Whether one opts for the former or the latter view is simply a question of whether to regard as important the phases that intervene between stimulus and response: instinct delay – loss of control – existential fear – diffused or diverted reaction. Since these phases create the human, we prefer the view that human behavior as a whole is only analogous to animal behavior, but that man and primate share homologous infrastructure and functions. The human adds a special neural loop to the stimulus-response cycle.

Identification is strictly constrained among animals, for instance. The animal self is monolithic. An evanescent mother love of the bitch for her pup will only temporarily crack the stone of self. Yet one may not ignore the dog who anticipates the feelings and command of the master, and who may die in mourning upon his demise, a strong but narrow identification, possibly of human-like physiological origins.

Fletcher, in his work on instincts, classified affection as instinctive in both animal and man. Affection consists of the satisfactions brought by a sense of identity, with sexual and control overtones, but, again, often exists side by side with resentment and hostility as ambivalence depending upon the apparent effectiveness of the controls being sought through identification. However, not only abundance and variety distinguish human from animal affections, but also self- consciousness. Insofar as a person is self-aware, his self-awareness will travel with his identifications and affections.

But even in self-awareness, we should preserve the useful hypothesis, as put by Lashley, that "the rudiments of every human behavioral mechanism will be found far down in the evolutionary scale and also represented even in primitive activities of the nervous system." [23] . Conflict and self-destructive behavior can be trained into a rat.

Most ethologists seem presently to agree that the differences between man and other species, while apparently wide, are still differences in degree rather than in kind. This view may be correct on a phenotypical level; as stated, analogous behaviors can be extracted from man and beast. But this is not the crux of the matter. If the human utilizes a mechanism that duplicates animal behaviors but this mechanism is implicated at the same time in other functions which do not accompany the animal behavior, even though in some cases the animal uses other mechanisms for the implicated functions, we have an important structural difference.

Phenotypically the behaviors may be alike, genotypically they operate differently. A bird may be musical, and so a man, but a bird can compose music rarely and never invents an instrument like a violin. This may have to do with such findings as that animals seem not to possess cerebral specialization in any manner like humans. No double dissociations, for example, have been reported in animals [24] .

Even if it can be proven that "animals have an ability for perceiving rules, incorporating them, and then applying them to appropriate situations" it is not correct to add "whether or not this ability is learned or innate is not important.." [25] The vast role of training in human behavior is a proof of instinct delay. I cannot think of a more significant distinction on which to base a separation of species. Man is condemned to a life-work of completing his instincts. If he were not so proud of himself as a species, he would perhaps say that the transition from hominid to man offers a splendid example of regressive evolution. The individual is constitutionally unable to reinstinctivize himself. It is commonly imagined that humans can revert to the beast. Not if it is homo sapiens schizotypus whom we are discussing. Mental disease (i. e., schizophrenia) cannot cause such a reversion and does not in fact do so. A person is not genetically capable of becoming (by mental illness or otherwise) a healthy (or even unhealthy) mammal. Such a person can commit every imaginable peculiar or abnormal act, but it will be a human act. One should not be misled by the multitude of instances in which sometimes, in cults, ceremonies and mental illness, a person will play the role of a pig, bear, horse, etc., or for that matter, identify with clouds, angels, chairs, and rocks.

This inherent incapacity to re-mammalize is one of the most persuasive proofs that a genetic mutation occurred in the final transition from hominid to human. For, even if human behavior had changed from the hominid to a new fixed behavior owing to a permanent change in environment, such as we shall later discuss, it would be possible to retreat from mental illness in the direction of mammalianism. That is, a way would be found to psychosomatize and build up a new chemico-electrical combination to supply a new type of person. It may be noted that when a mammal is driven into "insanity", it seems to become self-aware, that is, human, and when it is cured it reverts usually to its normal un-self-awareness.

De-instinctivization is accompanied by another important development in the human, namely, individuation. A social group is forced to tolerate deviations, if only because its totalitarian intentions must founder upon the rocks of its inabilities. The individual must fail, as well, in his desperate attempts to control himself, that is, his alter ego. Much less can he attune himself perfectly to the modal group behaviors. Under such circumstances, the ideal of individualism evolves and prospers in the very presence of the ideal of group conformity. The person becomes ultimately aware that he is different from others, the gaps between the various demi-instincts and the required definite response in actions and habits become filled with his unique character. Each human can be different – and comes to think of himself as different – because he has a unique set of habits or activities to fill the gap between demi-instinctual response and definite practices as the norm.

As with other animal-human analogues, the observations of Eihl-Eihesfeldt and Lorenz are illuminating but theoretically inconclusive. Their explanation of aggression comes down to the following: two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. In the case of animals, two cannot eat the same morsel, couple with the same female, hide in the same small hole. When inflamed by the same desire at the same moment for the same object-use, they lack (permanently or temporarily) a sense of indirect consequences – which is to say, a sense of plan or of future – or they conceive of no other known solution; or when there are "actually" no consequences, beyond the encounter, that matter subjectively to all participants and the group, then a specific violent (or implicitly violent) exchange may occur.

Next, animals that behave in groups have codes about their aggressive and other behavior. These codes both limit and enlarge the scope of dominating and violent behavior that may be expected in any representative set of encounters.

In the case of man, the limits are so broad and the impulses so complicated that so far as we can tell, any innate tendency can be converted into a type of encounter that everyone concerned would regard as non-aggressive and, of course, aggressive.

We conclude that homo schizo produces more behavioral effects than any species, as many as a great many species put together. When operating with a perceived challenge and under scientific rules, he can imitate or reproduce almost every animal behavior. He can reproduce his logical apparatus by computers. He can outwhistle birds, and decoy ducks. He can cut his birth fertility to nil, or stimulate multiple births by chemicals. He is the most flexible animal, the most individually varied, a virtuoso, a polymath, and so on. Prod his brain electrically and an endless flow of free associations and a stream of consciousness is verbalized, though it is neither free nor conscious. And what is in his mind is potentially in his behavior. Considering that his physiology is almost identical with certain primates and that the apparatus used for being human has been hitherto practically indistinguishable from them, we much seek the origins of his uniquely broad and sophisticated outputs in a freedom from instinctive binding. The search is just begun. We go on with it now, in the operations of the brain.

Notes (Chapter 2: The Search for Lost Instinct)

1. The Trauma of Birth, London: Kegan Paul, 1929, xiii., 104-5.

2. Realms of the Human Unconscious, London: Souvenir Press, 1979.

3. The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, N. Y.: International Univ. Press, 1966.

4. The Future of Man, N. Y.: Harper and Row, 1964; The Phenomenon of Man, N. Y.: Harper and Row, 1961.

5. Essay Concerning Human Understanding, I, Bk 2, 448ff, N. Y.: Dover ed. 1959.

6. Mind, Self and Society, Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1934, 136-7.

7. 350, 349, et passim.

8. Ernest Hilgard, Divided Consciousness, New York: Wiley 1977, 1.

9. Op. cit., 142.

10. Highland, Op cit., 249.

11. Jeffrey Gray, op. cit., ch. 2; Stanley B. Rachman, Fear and Courage, San Francisco: Freeman, 1978.

12. Rachman, op. cit., 145.

13. Op. cit., 34.

14. Op. cit., 29.

15. The Idea of the Holy, London: Oxford U. Press, 1928.

16. New Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis, N. Y.: Norton, 1933, 118-9.

17. The Study of Instinct, London, 1950, ch. 1.

18. Beyond the Pleasure Principle, N. Y.: Liveright, 1950.

19. Ibid., 2.

20. Ibid., 30, 32.

21. 1968, 13-4.

22. M. R. A. Chance and C. J. Jolly, Social Groups of Monkeys, Apes and Men, London: Jonathan Cape, 1970, 165-8.

23. Quoted in Trevarthen, op. cit., 1951.

24. Hicks and Kinsbourne, in Marcel Kinsbourne, ed., Asymmetrical Function of the Brain, N. Y.: Cambridge U. Press, 1978, 523. cf. Trevarthen in the same work, 379.

25. Trevarthen, Ibid.

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