Blog: Why Act Like a Neanderthal?


Where does hostile behavior come from?

In ancient times, man (as in human beings which includes both men and women), had to defend him or herself from predators and so when he/she felt threatened would growl, show teeth, bite, hit or otherwise lash out. This aggressive behavior was a defensive mechanism meant to protect the individual from harm. Not having an aggressive personality would have put the individual in a very bad or weak position in this type of hostile environment. Thus aggressive behavior was a learned and appropriate trait for hostile environments. However, these learned traits have come down through the ages as part of our DNA. That said, even big black bears don’t attack unless provoked and can be calmed with a little honey. Wow! So something sweet can tame the savage beast? What a concept! And, it works on humans too. Try offering a treat rather than a stick and you might find more pleasant behavior waiting for you.

Are we all basically a more modern Neanderthal?

Sometimes I think so; but as a species, we have learned to moderate our behavior – that’s what being civilized is all about. Being a member of a society means we’re not feral anymore, not most of us anyway. Ever try to tame a feral dog or cat? I was told that after about 8 weeks, a kitten would be too far into being feral that they couldn’t be tamed. Well, I proved the status quo wrong. I adopted two kittens that were most probably at least 10 weeks old and with a great deal of patience, love and understanding, guided them into being household pets. (One just died after 17 years of being the most loving creature and taught me much about unconditional love. The other one, his sister is still with me. ) The same can be said of children. If we mistreat our children, even to the extent of not paying enough attention to them, overly criticizing them or in the extreme, actual abuse, it is entirely likely that they will grow up to be dysfunctional adults, totally over reacting at every potentially threatening situation.

How can we correct the unacceptable behavior?

If wild animals can be taught to behave, use the cat post for scratching rather than the curtains, and know which furniture is for them to use, then certainly with love and understanding we can teach our children to be productive members of society. This is certainly true for adults as well since children grow into adults. Thus I feel that the issue with out of control adults really starts in childhood. No, I’m not totally blaming parents for all the ills of adults – we all have to take responsibility for our own behavior at some point – but there are many situations where looking to childhood and the messages we received there have a huge impact on our current lives.

If this is you, what are your options?

First, look at your life now. Is it all it can be? Could your aggressive behavior be causing you issue? If so, take a look at what you can do to correct it. Anger management classes may be appropriate in some cases, more formal therapy may be required in others. If you’re the type of person that can be reflective, spend a weekend with a book that helps you to walk through your childhood, answer questions and meditate on the specific memories that are of real issue for you. What pushes your buttons? Often, this type of inner awareness work will reveal certain patterns that will help you to moderate your behavior into a more balanced stream and move from aggression to assertiveness. In the end, you will be a much happier person and no longer a Neanderthal.

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