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Battle trance is a term denoting a specific altered state of consciousness that characterizes the psychological state of combatants during a combat situation. In this state, combatants do not feel fear (for this state, Joseph Jordania uses a term "aphobia") or pain (analgesia), and all the individual members of group (unit) are acting as one collective organism. In this state humans lose their individuality and acquire shared collective identity. In a battle trance humans may behave very differently, from extremely altruistically (to the point of sacrificing themselves to save others), to the extremely aggressively (to the point of participating in mass murders). Battle trance affects both men and women and can be induced in individuals as well as groups. Battle trance state may occur involuntarily (for example, mother acting in total disregard of her own safety when her child is suddenly attacked), or can be induced by ritualistic behavior, involving loud rhythmic group singing, stomping and drumming on external subjects, as well as the use of different psychogenic substances. It is speculated in battle trance that the fear emotion was suppressed by the brain so humans could fight more effectively. Even against the largest of foes like mammoths, mountain lions, bears, or lions humans could come out on top because of this suppression of fear.

Term[edit | edit source]

The term was proposed by Joseph Jordania.[1] According to Jordania, the battle trance was developed by the forces of natural selection during the early stages of the evolution of hominids, as the crucial factor of the defense from predators.

Evolutionary function[edit | edit source]

According to Jordania, after shifting to the open grasslands and the Savannah in Africa, hominids were too small and weak to defend themselves against African predators individually, but in the state of the battle trance, they could scare away even the strongest predators with their intimidating visual and audio display and fearless behavior. In the state of the battle trance they were all acting as a group, losing the feel of their individuality, disregarding their personal safety, and behaving in the best interests of the group.

Battle trance and the origins of human arts[edit | edit source]

As ritualized induction of the state of the battle trance (and collective identity) was supposedly based on group singing, stomping, dancing, and body painting, Jordania suggested that the phenomenon of the battle trance has a potential to explain the origin and primary evolutionary function of different human arts.

In military[edit | edit source]

The biggest area of application of the phenomenon of the battle trance is the military. Psychological strength (sometimes known as morale, or "fighting spirit") of the combatants mostly means that they can go into the state of the battle trance during combat situations. Inducing the battle trance in combatants in order to make them active participants of the action is the central function of the psychological preparation of the combatants. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote: "The difference between an ordinary man or boy and a reliable killer, as any drill sergeant could attest, is profound. A transformation is required: The man or boy leaves his former self behind and becomes something entirely different, perhaps even taking a new name. In small-scale, traditional societies, the change was usually accomplished through ritual drumming, dancing, fasting, and sexual abstinence -- all of which serve to lift a man out of his mundane existence and into a new, warriorlike mode of being, denoted by special body paint, masks, and headdresses".[2] The combat-induced altered state of mind is well known to the participants of military action in all societies, from traditional to contemporary western societies.[3]

In this state, in the heat of the battle combatants might not feel the pain of the wounds. Military commanders used different means for centuries in order to induce trance-like psychological state of the battle trance in their units. Use of military drill has been a part of psychological preparation of soldiers in contemporary armies from the 16th century (see military trance), and the use of battle cry is known universally from different human cultures.[4] Members of the contemporary combat forces widely use listening to heavy rhythmic music (mostly heavy metal) and sometimes even practice dancing in groups in order to prepare themselves for the combat missions.[5]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Joseph Jordania, 2011. Why do People Sing? Music in Human Evolution,pg 98-102
  2. Barbara Ehrenreich, 1997, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War Henry Holt and Company
  3. Chris Hedges, 2003, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Anchor
  4. William McNeil, 1995. Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History Cambridge: Harvard University Press
  5. Jonathan Pieslak. 2009. Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War Indiana University Press

External links[edit | edit source]

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