Loretta Graziano Breuning Ph.D

Founder and Author

I am Professor Emerita of Management at California State University. As a teacher and a mom, I was not convinced by prevailing theories of human motivation. Then I learned about the brain chemistry of animals, and everything made sense. I knew this information could help people, so I set about creating resources. I’m thrilled that they’ve helped thousands of people around the world, and have been translated into fifteen languages.

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How I Met My Inner Mammal

I grew up around a lot of conflict and struggled to make sense of it. When I learned about the conflict within an animal herd or pack or troop, I could accept the frictions of life instead of getting frustrated. Learning about the brain chemistry behind mammalian social drama gave me peace.

My formative years were spent inside my mother’s view of conflict. It fit the general pattern of: “Your Dad is bad. Your brothers are bad. You are bad.” She expected me to agree with her. I learned to run from conflict. I did that by reading, especially about distant lands.

I escaped to college, where I learned that capitalism is the cause of conflict. I escaped to Africa after grad school, where I noticed that Africa has conflict too. I learned that everyone expected me to agree with their view of conflict. I handled that by reading and writing.

I moved to Manhattan and worked for a Japanese company. I was still looking for the promised land and Japan was it according to the trends of the day. But I learned that Japan has conflict too. I studied many theories of human behavior and found all of them riveting but none of them worth pledging my loyalty and forsaking all others.

I became a college professor and began teaching what was taught to me. I was intrigued by the conflict among college professors. Science conflict is certainly better than primal conflict, but the patterns were eerily familiar. I kept shopping for insight instead of choosing sides.

I became a parent. I wanted to protect my kids from conflict, but of course human life is more complicated. I hoped to at least teach my kids the difference between internal conflict and external conflict so they could find their internal power instead of always blaming externals.

I became a zoo docent, and studied animal conflict in depth. Animals cooperate too of course. Their brains are always choosing which option best promotes survival in each moment. Most people around me think nature is all good, and “our society” is the cause of all bad. But the facts don’t support this, and we are free to follow the facts.

We mammals seek the safety of social alliances because that promotes survival. Our social groups have conflict because each brain evolved to focus on its own survival. Mammal groups stick together despite the conflict when they have a common enemy – because that promotes survival. It’s not easy being a mammal!

We mammals are born helpless and vulnerable. Reptiles are born with survival skills and leave home as soon as they crack their shells. We mammals need others to meet our needs while we wire up our brain. The bigger a mammal’s brain, the longer its childhood, because it takes time to wire a brain from life experience. Our early dependency frees us to adapt to the niche we’re in instead of being born adapted to the world of our ancestors. The first circuits of our brain are the core of our survival learning, which is why it’s so hard to re-wire them.

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