Am I predator or prey?

Someone asked me, in response to a previous message, whether I am predator or prey. My reply:

Yes, you are *exactly* right. Humans are capable of being either. This means that we can switch from one set of neurotransmitters to the other set in an instant. Deer can’t do that. Lions can’t do that. They mostly use one pathway or another.

You see the implications of this with regards to bipolar disorder?

The problem isn’t the switch for us, it’s that we switch for no reason and the chemicals take a lot longer to dissipate than non-bipolars’ do. Our non-bipolar friends seem to have a lesser response to a sudden fright too. That’s my opinion.

Predatory behavior is useful in the business world – but *modulated* to help you achieve career goals. You can’t litter your cubicle with the gnawed bones of the competition. But you don’t get to be a corporate CEO by cowering at staff meetings either. Stress is the result of long-term exposure to the prey neurotransmitter, adrenaline. You’ve heard them talk about “fight or flight” and that’s what they mean.

If you don’t like being a predator, it’s because you haven’t learned how to use it constructively.

In answer to your question, I can be either.

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4 Responses to Am I predator or prey?

  1. Jessica says:

    I’ve been meaning to comment, but for some reason, I was reluctant to create a WordPress login. It turned out to be a painless process.

    I have a couple points.

    First, humans are not the only animals who act as both predator and prey. Food chains and webs wouldn’t function properly without the “middle men.”

    I’m not sure whether the bipolar analogy is tight. It is true that bipolars are more aggressive (predatory?) when manic and meeker (acting as prey?) during a depressive episode. Alright, I guess it works.

    Humans are unique in the sense that we’ve risen from the middle of a food web to the top. Also, few of us actually kill our own food. We’re predators with nothing left to prey on but each other.

    I am neither predator nor prey.

    Jessica

  2. Leslie says:

    Ah, ok, the middle-sized fish. I have to agree.

    I would kill my own food if I could be sure either a) I am capable of a clean kill, or b) I could stand to look it in the eyes and kill it with a hand-held weapon, a knife or a club rather than some mechanized thing. I’ve never killed anything bigger than a chicken.

    But I wasn’t talking about myself, I was talking about our species in general. Even if the 300 million Americans suddenly attain enlightenment, there are still 6 billion more people on this earth, and a lot of them are too hungry to philosophize on their relationship to their food.

    Part of being a predator as far as catching food goes is that you enjoy the chase and the killing. I’m trying to understand that from watching my cat. She definitely enjoys the hell out of it. I’ve seen her stop and lick a mouse as if were a kitten. I believe that in that moment she really loved her little playmate. So what do you think is going on there? Does she disidentify with it and the licking is purely an expression of how she feels, or does she empathize with it and want to calm it down?

    If God didn’t want us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?

  3. Jessica says:

    You’re right that many people don’t have the luxury to consider their relationship with food, aside from the fact that it keeps them from starving.

    I am a lax vegetarian (We don’t buy meat for the house, but we sometimes order it at restaurants).

    Prior to my manic episode in 2003, I was a very strict vegetarian. I was even a vegan for about a year. I still use rice or soy milk in lieu of cow’s milk.

    When I was manic, my diet changed drastically. I started craving and eating meat on a regular basis, so perhaps there is something to your theory about mania making one more predatory (to highlight a previous topic).

    I have never killed an animal myself, but if I did, I might enjoy it just as much as a cat savors the act of hunting. At the base level, I am a predator. I simply choose not to act on the urge or even consciously recognize the desire to hunt and kill. If I did, I might awaken a primal need; I might enjoy killing so much that I would continue to seek prey (farmer? hunter? serial killer? Soldier?).

    I like to think that as time passes, more and more people will successfully stifle their predatory urges, and that these urges will ultimately become so unnecessary that they will be as useless as an appendix. Blood thirst will dissipate and become an evolutionary disadvantage, then finally disappear.

    I doubt that the cat empathizes with her prey, because if she did, she might become a vegetarian, just as empathy drives many humans to eliminate meat from their diet. Supposedly, empathy is a uniquely human trait, a trait which may evolve even further, the internal / societal war to end all wars.

  4. Leslie says:

    I do not believe that empathy is unique to humans. Part of the reason for this is that I believe life is a continuum, not a billion separate acts of creation. Without empathy, could wolves travel in packs? Would they take care of their pups?

    This is starting to lead into a discussion of empathy and identifying with your victim. Does the sadist enjoy the masochist’s pain?

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