When a dog or wolf is in the hunt there are “two emotional values”: predator and prey. So think of your dog as having an energy “problem” that must be solved: whatever amount of emotional energy that needs to run to ground, there needs to be “prey” to plug into. Prey energy that is either interrupted or blocked creates a problem because the energy is not being conducted and the flow of emotion is disturbed. Suppose a dog is chasing after a deer and the owner yells to the dog in a predatory fashion. While the dog may stop, he is now facing a predator (owner) and therefore is left with all that ungrounded energy. Whereas, if we are prey-like in that situation, for instance by running away, we attract the dog and give the prey drive the opportunity to continue to move and plug into ground.
Observe a mother dog giving birth to pups and the days following. There lies not individual puppies and a single mother, but one organism, one pulse, one network of flowing energy. Kevin contends that learning through emotion and drive is not delayed; rather, it starts at the moment a pup is born into the world. The keyword is weightlessness – pups/dogs seek an ’emotional center of gravity’. You imagine a group of puppies latched onto the mother’s nipples, like electrical cords plugged into sockets. It’s as if the mother is one giant circuit panel. Separation from this creates a sense of mass chaos and the pups are “cut in half”, until they regroup and plug back in.
When you see two dogs meet each other, its as if two batteries come together to form one circuit: positive to negative, north to south, both aligned on the same axis. He sees this as a single intelligence that can occur between human and dog as well – its just a matter of whether we are willing to look for it. Kevin gives the analogy of a circle, with each dog placed an equal distance apart from the center, which is the group mind. He suggests that prey drive exists externally: it is what connects the dog to the world. As it pertains to humans and dogs, he believes that “we become part of this emotional alchemy, as our dog involuntarily projects its emotional center of gravity into us.” We must feel with our “Heart” to appreciate this.
It took me a while for this response because I had to do some research. There’s the often-quoted phrase, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” And there have been some revisions of that such as from Kurt Koffka, the German gestalt psychologist: “the whole is something else than the sum of its parts,” implying that the relationship between the different parts is more meaningful than just adding them up. But I don’t want to focus on the psychology of gestaltism, because NDT is NOT a psychological theory for dogs (although I can’t help but point out that the immediate moment/here and now concept between the two are right there). I do want to pay attention to the idea that maybe there is a parallel to what we FEEL in group consciousness and that of gestaltic holism. One can look at group consciousness as an example of “the whole that is greater” but when it comes to dog training I believe you have to consider a few things. Might the following be relevant to discuss:
- Perception: human beings have an amazing ability to perceive in their own minds, at higher levels of cognitive functioning, what they think about any particular experience. With perception comes a sense of separation from the self and others (eg, animals, nature, humans, etc). Whereas with dogs, from a NDT “perspective”, the group mind seems to be a function of feeling, as opposed to thoughtful perception, or point of view. But I suppose if you wanted to play with words, you might say a dog perceives with its heart, insofar as that feeling of group connection occurs externally and between more than one being. The difference is dogs don’t “see” themselves separate from each other – if there is a group with harmonized/flowing drive, then they feel they are one.
- Emergence Theory: have a look here. In a few words, I take it as systematic phenomena emerge from a series of smaller individual entities interacting with each other. For instance, the hunt (complex system) emerges from the interaction among individual wolves (“simple” interactions). Its just like individual geese in flight who form a V, or the water molecules that organize at freezing level to form the intricate patterns of a snowflake. Could it also be that the group mind indirectly emerges between a person and her dog when she reads and then understands the words from the NDT books?
- Quantum Mechanics: I am by no means a physics guru but I checked out a few sources: quantum mechanics; and if you’re really interested; and if you are a novice such as myself and want a few laughs here. My brain actually hurts after trying to understand that material. I’m probably showing up late to the party here, but I wonder if it’s safe to say, that on a quantum level, the wave of emotional energy is what makes each dog feel connected to another? In other words, is what Kevin is saying about two dogs becoming one at least related to quantum mechanics? And there’s another tie-in to this: one of my co-workers (she’s a counselor as well) introduced us to a revolutionary method of treatment called HeartMath. It comes down to achieving cohesion through practicing techniques that enhance your heart-brain connection. This is to help explore and manage emotions and behaviors. Much of their research involves studying the electromagnetic field that is created by the heart and the power contained within that field. As my co-worker put it, the work we do with our clients has an electromagnetic effect on each other: even though we are in separate rooms with our clients, the emotional work that is being conducted is within the field of other people. I think this topic speaks, from a physics perspective, about group consciousness as being a feeling that the “whole is something else than its parts.”
Putting all of this together: if you imagine the hunt, or even the dog-and-owner group mind – the whole of those parts is represented by the shared feeling of cohesion. It seems like mind-boggling stuff at first but I think when it boils right down to it, it is quite simple. So the whole that is the group, whether its a pack of wolves, or a dog and owner, means more energy surrounding a single feeling or object (prey). Using an example from the chapter, it’s not so much about adding 200,000 volts of energy with 200,000 volts of energy to get 400,000 volts of energy; rather, it’s more about what you as a group can do with it. But when we train, as Kevin talks about, we ought to go by feel, as opposed to thinking in order experience the “whole.” Maybe I’m off my rocker with all of this, but I’m just trying to get my mind wrapped around it.
Whew, I need a nap!