Insights and Healing with Patrick Moore

Why Humans are Naturally Active and Curious
May 25, 2016, 9:55 am
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I read a lot. I am curious about what is natural for humans and how much we’ve been conditioned away from our natural state. This morning I was reading about Piaget’s theory of childhood development. He said yes, babies arrive with instinctive reflexes, and by one month old they already actively explore, and synthesize the results of their exploration into new behaviors. Babies are naturally active and curious!


Naturally Curious Animals c) Patrick Moore

Piaget’s theory was resisted by established psychology. Where Piaget’s theory said humans seek stimulation, Freud’s theory said that humans tend to escape stimulation. Stimulations are an annoyance, Freud said. Hunger is an annoying stimulation. You don’t eat because you are curious for new stimulation, you eat to stop that annoying hunger, in Freud’s view.

First, which view do you agree with? Do humans instinctually avoid stimulation, or naturally seek out new stimulations? Are humans like or unlike other animals in this regard? To side with Freud, humans are unlike animals. We have these behaviors that tend to escape stimulation:

  • We close ourselves in quiet houses to block out the natural stimulations of nature.
  • We clothe ourselves to dampen the stimulation from our skin of hot/cold, breeze, bugs, branches and deliberate touch by other humans.
  • We dampen our sensitivity to stimulation using alcohol and opioids.
  • We numb our sensitivity to stimulation using TV, video games and other electronic media. But isn’t this stimulation? Yes and no. Yes, we stimulate ourselves with loud flashy experiences. But we know in advance the range of stimulation. We control it. There will be no surprises. While using these things and for many hours or days after, we have a reduced sensitivity to natural stimulation including the temperature, breezes, sounds and other things we do not control, that have the potential to surprise us or be new experiences. We flood ourselves with old predictable stimulations to avoid new experience stimulations that might be beyond our control. In Freud’s view we do not crave the stimulation of TV screens, but we use this known stimulation to escape natural stimulation that includes the unknown, which we fear.
  • We wear dark glasses to block nature’s stimulations when we are outdoors but take them off when we are in front of our controlled-stimulation-machines. Dark glasses also block others from seeing our eyes, which are our “windows to our souls.” We want those windows closed.

I have done all these things. While I am not proud to say so, I still do my own versions of numbing and escaping the full experience of life. Still I am striving to embrace life more fully.

This list above appears to support Freud’s view that humans instinctually escape stimulation.

But I ask, just because humans tend to do these things, does that mean it is natural for our species? Piaget observed that infants one month old are doing the opposite. Some tribes in Australia, African and the Amazon still do very little of this list, which shows it is not our species that escapes natural stimulation, but only most of our species.

Is it possible that humans are born natural, and that by the time they are old enough to hold an electronic device or a beer, they are trained by culture to numb themselves to stimulation? Perhaps Freud is correct in the tendencies of adults, but not because avoidance is our natural instinct. I believe we avoid natural stimulation because our culture rewarded us when we did and punished us when we didn’t. As Piaget observed, infants don’t avoid stimulation but do all they can do, experiment and test all boundaries. I believe this is because infants have not yet been trained to be Freudian. I believe Piaget’s view describes what is natural for humans, and Freud’s view describes human tendencies after they’ve been fully assimilated into Western culture.

The authors of the book I am reading (Piaget’s Theory of Intellectual Development by Herbert P. Ginsburg and Sylvia Opper) suggest that Piaget’s theory is incomplete. Freud’s theory has an explanation why humans behave to escape stimulation. Freud’s explanation includes terms like id, ego, superego, envy, libido, drives and Oedipus. Piaget’s theory gives only observations, and no explanations.

Piaget observed about the infant: “when capable of an activity, he tends to perform it.” (p. 34) But WHY does he test every human capability he possesses, by acting it out? According to the authors, Piaget offered no explanation for why. They conclude this section by saying, “alternative views designed to explain the individual’s preference for activity and stimulation must be developed.” The third edition of this book was published in 1988 so maybe an alternative explanation has by now been written. In case it hasn’t, I offer one below.

How and why would it be natural for each human to perform all activities he or she is capable of?

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts you may anticipate what I’m about to say: Edgar Allan Poe gave an answer in his poem, Eureka. Plato gave practically the same answer in his dialogue, Timaeus. Their answer is, our universe is designed this way. Individuals are a microcosm of the entire universe, and so we behave in our realm like planets behave in theirs and galaxies in theirs. This universe was created curious, and so each of us is naturally curious when we emerge in this universe.

Why was this universe created as a curious universe? Poe wrote this universe was designed so that a maximum amount of difference would occur in the expansion phase after the big bang. A maximum diversity allows the maximum creativity in the contraction phase (a few billion years from now) or where there is local contraction, for example within a galaxy. Poe said this is not the first universe but each big bang/big crunch cycle is like one heartbeat of the universe that has had millions of heartbeats before this one. The being whose heart is this universe, has an intention. Its intention is to have new experiences. It would be bored if this universe (this day, this heartbeat) were exactly the same as all the previous ones. This universe was adjusted differently than previous universes, with a little more cosmological constant, a little more entropy but not too much, so that this universe would have even more potential to evolve some truly unique creations than the last universe. According to Poe, this universe was intelligently designed to be a creative one, with just the right balance of pushing and pulling forces at varying distances to create stars, planets, water, gasses, tides, seasons and evolution of life from bacteria to the complex organisms we now see. Evolution is the proximate cause of life, while intelligent design was the first cause, the cause of evolution.

I don’t swallow any literal explanation whole. Peter Kalkavage’s 2012 translation of Timaeus has a wonderful introduction. Kalkavage describes Timaeus’ explanation of how the world was intelligently designed as “a likely story.” It’s not that Timaeus’ description of how God created the demiurge who created the Universe animal who created the Stars who created the Planets who created the people, is fictitious. It is just the best description that could then be given in words, about a process that is truly beyond human comprehension. I believe Poe’s Eurekaverse is a second to Plato’s Timaeus, in being a “likely story.”

Poe’s likely story offers one possible explanation for Piaget’s findings. Infants seek out new stimulation, new experience, test out every capability and opportunity available to them. They do this because they are made as microcosm of the whole universe, which was created curious.

Freud’s view is still true. Adult humans do tend to avoid curiosity by numbing activities and isolating themselves inside cars, houses and buildings where they think they can control and limit their experiences. But this adult tendency is not our natural essence. Freud’s view describes the enculturated, conditioned human. Piaget’s view describes the natural essence of the human, still resonating with the universal design of curiosity.

Compassionate Communication is More than a Technique
May 15, 2016, 6:25 pm
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Nonviolent Communication (NVC) helps heated conversations to de-escalate and have a happy, or at least happi-er ending. The method has been used in a wide range of conversations from romantic partnerships to crime rehabilitation to nations clashing.

2007 06 cello practice with Kathy

The book Nonviolent Communication shares four steps (p. 6-7). I think the four steps are confusing so I boil them down to two steps:

  1. “When you do (x), I feel (y).”
  2. “So would you be willing to do (z) for me.?”

As soon as I read the steps, I thought to myself, these steps are all about me. That won’t help the other person very well. Why would the other person suddenly be willing at step two to do what I request? In fact, when I tell him my step one, he’s likely to think I’m blaming him. He will then feel defensive and we won’t get anywhere.

But I seem to have missed page 4 where Rosenberg said, “NVC is more than a process or language. On a deeper level it is a… quality of compassion, … as “giving from the heart”.” Again on page 12 he says, “NVC is not simply a language or a set of techniques for using words; the consciousness and intent that it embraces may be expressed through silence, a quality of presence as well as through facial expressions and body language.” Several times he says “nonviolent” and “compassionate” communication are the same thing.

Next, Rosenberg gives a convincing real example: An irate man came to one of Rosenberg’s talks in Palestine. The man was angry at Americans, and called Rosenberg names, shouting violently. The day before, the Israelis had lobbed tear gas at Palestinians. The tear gas canisters left lying around the ground had printed on them, “Made In America.” The man was angry about the attack and since Rosenberg was an American, the man was angry at Rosenberg (p.13). Rosenberg uses compassionate communication with the man, but interestingly uses neither step 1 nor step 2. Instead, Rosenberg listens and reflects. After the initial insults, Rosenberg replied by guessing what the man wanted and needed. Each time the man retorted angrily, Rosenberg paraphrased back to the man what he understood of the man’s wants and needs, so the man would know he was being heard. The man’s anger toward Rosenberg began to dissipate after five repetitions of the reflective listening. By the end of the day, the man invited Rosenberg home for dinner (p. 14). But even by dinner Rosenberg still had not used step 1 or step 2.

I emphasize these things because it is too easy to think Compassionate Listening is just a technique. Reflective listening could also be considered just a technique. But to care enough to listen, even when someone is insulting you loudly, to be curious to know, what made this person so angry, that is more than technique. Rosenberg told this story so early in his book because he wants us to know, the first thing you need to do is to really care about the other. First be curious about their needs, while suspending your own until the right time. Stick with serving the other even when the other is verbally attacking you. It’s not about what you get out of the interaction, at first, but about what the other will gain.

And the Palestinian man was too angry to hear someone else’s feelings and needs anyway. Especially those of an American. Rosenberg quickly understood the man’s state. He imagined the results of saying something like, “When you yell at me and call me names, I feel fear. I need for you to speak to me in a kind voice.” That would be doing the NVC steps, but would that have had the effect he wanted? The man probably would have come back with, “Who cares what you feel and think you need? You’re telling me you need kind voices to feel comfortable, while I need safety for my family?! Why should I care for your comfort?” The step-by-step NVC process would not have helped here. What helped was unconditional compassion.

Or, if you like steps, perhaps we could modify the late Dr. Rosenberg’s steps and insert a few steps before step one.

0.1     Be a) unconditionally compassionate toward, and b) curious about the other person. While you’re at it, c) nonjudgmental and d) present would help.

0.2    Guess, intuit or quickly piece together the other person’s wants and needs.

0.3     Ask the person for clarification – “It sounds like you want (x) and need (y). Is that accurate?”

0.4     If the person is still in an escalated emotional state, repeat 0.1 through 0.4 as many times as necessary.

0.5     Once the person can relax and listen, then go to step 1.

In the story at Palestine, Dr. Rosenberg’s feelings, triggers, wants and needs were never mentioned.


When we are in conflict with another person, we want so badly for the other person to hear our needs. We want so badly to tell the other person, “This is the horrible thing that happens in me, when you do that thing I dislike.” We long to tell them, “I need for you to stop doing that thing I dislike.” These steps of NVC are things we would be excited to practice, because they mean we will be heard. These are good steps in being assertive. I think the term “Nonviolent Communication” fits steps 1 and 2. Steps 1 and 2 are about me, my needs, my being heard, obtaining acknowledgement from the other about how he has affected me. When doing these things we tend to be aggressive, or sometimes violent. Steps 1 and 2 are about doing this less aggressively, nonviolently.

I think steps 1 and 2 can be done unconditionally compassionately. But Rosenberg’s term “compassionate communication,” in my opinion, is slightly different than “nonviolent communication.” In this perspective, the compassion is the focus on the other person’s needs, as in steps 0.1 through 0.4.

In the essence of compassion, we realize:

  1. since I love to be heard, and to express my needs, and to have an influence upon the other person… then…
  2. I will give what I love to the other person. Then at least one of us will be heard. At least one of us will have their needs expressed. At least one of us will experience the influence upon the other.


I probably disagree with Tony Robbins, who says on the back cover of Rosenberg’s book (third edition): “…Dr. Rosenberg’s strategies .. will set you up to win every time.” If you are doing the steps as a strategy to win every time, you probably won’t help others very often. If you are using this technique to get what you want, others will sense this. They won’t feel heard. They won’t feel understood. They’ll feel manipulated. And that feeling will be accurate. In fact, if you are using steps 0.1 through 0.4, you are not guaranteed to win every time. You are not guaranteed to win, ever. You may lose every argument. Because you are not thinking about what you will win. You are thinking about what the other person needs and wants. Steps 0.1 and 0.2 are shifting your focus to the other person’s needs, not your own. You are curious about the other person’s needs. You are present with the other person. The importance is on the other person, at least for the duration of your compassion. But maybe I was too hasty to disagree with the quote with Tony Robbins. Perhaps what his quote meant was, you “win” something better than winning the argument. To the degree we can be unconditionally compassionate with others, even if only for one minute at a time, these are things we do win:





  • Feeling good about oneself. Feeling really good about being a person who listens to others, who truly cares about their needs.
  • Resonating with another person, actually connecting with them at a core level.
  • Perhaps respect of onlookers.
  • Perhaps after losing the argument, you gain — not respect, but something from the other. The look in his eye says something. What is it.. love?
  • Perhaps your being unconditionally compassionate while connected with him, resonates him to be unconditionally compassionate. While he is being compassionate perhaps he will initiate some gift going your way.
  • Your issues within yourself, that have dogged you for decades, begin to unravel, resolve and transform. Your symptoms decrease. You win spiritual development, maturation, personal discovery, resiliency, vitality and new personal qualities and gifts. You thrive.

So I take back what I said about Tony Robbins. You do win every time.