Dr. Lippman: Hello. I’m Dr. Cathie Lippman. I have the privilege and honor of speaking today with Dr. Terry Dr. Preston. Dr. Preston practiced clinical psychology for over 30 years. She was my teacher at the neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA and has continued to be my teacher and support since then. Dr. Preston has developed some new ideas and theories about human behavior and development that I find really exciting and productive. That’s why we’re speaking with Dr. Preston today. Dr. Preston, please tell us how you came to these new ideas.
Dr. Preston: Well, Dr. Lippman in the last 30+ years that I have been working in this field and just in my life in general, I kept finding that the things were not looking the way that I was trained to understand them. I was trained to think of people as having illness and sickness and my job was to find out what that was and fix it, if I could. But as I experienced people, I kept finding that they were incredibly creative that they were incredibly able and adaptive to almost any kind of circumstance and they had actually lived through some pretty awful things, but they adapted and they were living relatively decent lives. Some problems but nothing really, nothing really illnessy that I thought. And I decided that I have really needed to look for closely at this whole business of their adapting of human beings adaptability and their ability to change.
Dr. Lippman: So what you’re saying Dr. Preston is that people can adapt and change. Tell me about that.
Dr. Preston: Well human beings in contrast to animals, don’t have instincts, that’s not something people generally understand. We talk about having instincts all the time, but actually human beings learn everything. We’re born with practically nothing patterned in our nervous system, and we learn and place that those patterns in our nervous system in our behavior systems in our whole body throughout our lives.
Dr. Lippman: So what’s the difference between instinct and learning?
Dr. Preston: Well, an instinct is a preprogrammed pattern of behavior. It’s built into the nervous system into wherever it belongs whether it’s in the biology, chemistry or into the nervous system in general. Learning takes place by interaction between the person and the environment other people things around everything else. Things that are learned can be changed.
Dr. Lippman: So there’s a difference between humans and animals.
Dr. Preston: Very definitely. Human beings don’t have these instincts and for instance and instinct is like a baby goose. When a baby goose is born a baby goose will see some being moving. And if it’s its mother it’s great, it’ll just go after the mother, but if it’s not his mother if it’s fox or human being it’ll go after whoever it sees. And it’ll do that for the rest is life and all you baby geese will do that no matter who they are where they are any other circumstances because it’s built into the system. They must follow that behavior and human beings don’t have these behaviors that we must follow.
Dr. Lippman: So baby animals have instincts and human babies learn. What is that about?
Dr. Preston: For both animals and human beings obviously it’s about survival. The instincts that animals have allow them to survive pretty fast after birth but human beings have a protracted period of time while they’re learning and they’re nervous systems are actually developing. Animals already have their nervous systems pretty well developed. The advantage that the human being has is that it has a protracted learning period which reflects both their genetic abilities and the environmental sources around them so they are huge adaptors. Human beings can adapt practically any kind of environment.
Dr. Lippman: So, what’s you’re saying Dr. Preston is that baby animals and baby humans both need to survive, and baby humans can learn and change. What is the discrepancy between what you were taught and what you have learned?
Dr. Preston: Well what I was taught basically was that survival is the name of the game, and I wasn’t taught that human beings didn’t have any instincts. As a matter a fact, I thought they did for many, many years. But human beings have a social order called a hierarchy. A hierarchy defines a difference between human beings. A hierarchy says that some people are more powerful than others. Some people have the potential for power than others. The particular hierarchy that we operate with most of the world at this point is a patriarchy that says men of power and more potential for power than women. It doesn’t matter what the nature of the hierarchy is who is supposed to be better than whom because I found that nobody is really different from anybody else. All of us partake of the same potential for power as every other human being in the world.
Dr. Lippman: So you’re saying that everybody has the same potential for power. I’m confused because aren’t people different? Aren’t some people stronger than others?
Dr. Preston: Well, those are manifestations of power. Actual power lies however in making a choice. Human beings have infinite variety of choices that they can draw on and that’s part of the difference between them and animals.
Dr. Lippman: Can you give me an example?
Dr. Preston: Well, for instance you take a 250 – 275 pound brawny tall strong man. No there’s the essence of strength in our society. Our society says that person is a powerful person. The fact is though that that person wasn’t a strong calling brawny huge person until somewhere between 12 and 18 depending on the genetics, of course. There was a whole period of time up until then when the child was just a child like every other child, with one exception. The child was male. So the child was told that he was powerful so when his body grew up and became this very perfect example of strength it was okay for him to just let that grow and let his sense of power grow, and everything else. But when they began, there was no difference in power in terms of what they could do between a woman—or a little girl—and him. You know. They were the very same at that point, until they grew up, but the woman the female was not was told that you didn’t have as much potential for power. So matter how she grew up, she didn’t grow up into manifesting power. She grew up into she doesn’t have any. And that’s a major difference the society puts on individual human beings, but the fact is that girl who is growing up she could’ve grown up into a 250 pound brawny female. You know. I’ve seen some of each of them from birth has exactly the same access to choices that each of every other human being has.
Dr. Lippman: Well, that certainly is a novel concept that each of us has the same power and certainly very different from what I was taught.
Dr. Preston: The only limitations we have on ourselves are that that our society puts on us. The society is what puts the limitations on not the intrinsic nature of human beings. We have infinite potential everyone of us and we need to learn how to manage that power. We learn how to do that physically, but we don’t learn how to do it emotionally.
Dr. Lippman: So, Dr. Preston are you saying that we are not as limited as we think we are?
Dr. Preston: Absolutely. Yes, in fact, we don’t even begin to understand how are great potential is. We’ve only tasted a bit of it. And then we get limited by the society, but the reality is that life has great abundance and richness, and we can partake of all of it.
Dr. Lippman: Wow!
Dr. Preston: Yeah.
Dr. Lippman: In summary, what we have learned is that human beings do not have instincts we can learn. We can learn as much as we need to. We can adapt and change as life presents itself to us. Life is full of abundance and we are not limited by what we think we are limited by. For more information about Dr. Preston’s ideas go to her websites.