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Theory of Emotional Warfare

Emotional Warfare

Defined for general purposes

Emotional Warfare is defined [for general purposes] as the strategy of consciously, subconsciously, and/or unconsciously redirecting unwanted inward emotions onto another or others (through the use of Tactics) to elicit specific emotional responses for the purposes of acquiring, controlling, or manipulating a sense of security for oneself.

– Kroger, Reference Guide to
Emotional Warfare: Book 1 (2015)

Emotional Warfare — defined in this general-purpose format — is fully compatible with psychopathology frameworks that address brain or mental diseases and psychosocial injuries or disorders and with advanced understandings of agency and efficacy. It extends beyond the conventional or folk-psychology idea of emotional triggers; tropes such as scapegoating, pushing buttons, or gaslighting; the psychoanalytic notion of splitting, which can be understood in either interiority psychoanalytic contexts (e.g., the dichotomy of all-bad or all-good thinking) or within both psychoanalytic and psychosocial contexts (e.g., a purposed “game” of relational splitting or turning groups of people against other groups); concepts such as displacement, transference or counter-transference, and projection; and the various professional-to-mainstream understandings of these concepts and their associative meanings, such as generalized understandings of mental conduct or field-oriented perspectives.

Emotional Warfare

Defined for technical and discipline purposes

Emotional Warfare is defined [for technical and discipline purposes] as the mental conduct of the human person consciously, subconsciously, and/or unconsciously redirecting unwanted (known, subliminal, repressed, and/or suppressed) inward emotions onto another or others, through the use of specific overt or covert Tactics that causally correlate with cyclical patterns and recurring/desired mental representations (i.e., content-based and emotional-paradigmatic Roles) that house the emotional models and implicit-to-explicit functional-causal attributes informed by given neurophysiological orientations, behavioral predispositions, and distinctive Emotion-Based Survival Skills (EBSS). This takes place interiorly to psychologically persuade the person of the validity of their own conceived/perceived notion of “self” and identity and externally to elicit specific emotional responses, intrapsychically manifested and externally presented, from another or others for the purposes of acquiring, controlling, or manipulating a perceived sense of security for themself. [*Emotional Warfare is conducted by means of intra-interplay within given situational dynamics in an attempt to satisfy innate False Self agency and efficacy and/or biological survival value needs or purposes.]

– Kroger, Emotional Warfare Essay Collection: Vol. 1 (2017–2020)

Emotional Warfare

A Multilevel Definitional Framework

The theory of Emotional Warfare operates within a multilevel definitional framework and is purposively structured to be understood across the necessary levels of discourse — from the common domain of inquiry and a common-sense propositional framework to the metatheoretical and academic. The general-purpose definition has broad appeal and application. Both this earlier articulation and definition of Emotional Warfare and the more recent, technical definition are centered on the functional-causal intra-interaction of redirecting unwanted inward emotions (whether known, subliminal, repressed, and/or suppressed) by the human person and the holistic causations at play through the various neurophysiological and cognitive mechanisms in reaction to internal and external stressors or threats to the person’s fundamental and basic human need for Emotional Survival — producing the more technical depiction and articulation of the False Self as an organism–environment mediator that develops agency and efficacy within the intra-interplay of Emotional Warfare and its Pattern(s).

Additionally, although I use the verb redirecting to suggest a directional interior-to-exterior flow, the underlying subconscious and/or unconscious end result is the opposite: a directional exterior-to-interior or inward flow designed specifically to acquire, control, or manipulate (or psychologically persuade) the self or another for a sense of security. Put more academically, consider this to be a mental conduct that makes redirecting within this definition of Emotional Warfare a transitive verb in the sense that it is intended to affect something else in a multitude of ways: (1) redirecting something toward the exterior or another or others, either materially in the form of the physical (biological) human body of another or other human person(s) or metaphysically in the form of another’s or others’ mind or self; and (2) redirecting something interiorly toward one’s own physical (biological) and/or metaphysical self and sense of perceived emotional security, which I simplify as Perceived Security. Both instances may also be extended to redirecting something toward instrumental physical resource needs that, when attained, have an emotional effect and establish levels of Perceived Security. This moves the direct context and the subtext — as well as the overall meaning making of the terminology — of Emotional Warfare’s multilevel definitional framework directly into the mental health and mental disorder categories, as well as the category of well-being on individual and societal or sociopolitical levels.

Taking an objective, critical approach to these internal/external questions yielded the development of a functional theoretical framework that examines both the narrow and broad biopsychosocial roots of Emotional Warfare within the natural world and how it deeply affects the overall individual and collective human experience and natural and nonnatural normative senses of the moralities and meta-ethics (i.e., consider axiology: the philosophical study of value). While I continue to explore this primarily from a philosophical perspective, the platform’s principles and concepts embrace contemporary research in the fields of psychology, social psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience. Each of these has revealed automatic psychological and physiological responses to the human need to be accepted socially (e.g., social embeddedness, likeability, social status, and/or social influence through forms of popularity) and the effects of not being accepted socially (e.g., aloneness, loneliness, abandonment, low levels of likability, social status, and social influence through forms of unpopularity).

I make no distinction between the terms likeability and social status. People can equally pursue likeability (which some in the mental health fields consider a “healthy” pursuit) and social status (which some in the mental health fields consider an “unhealthy” pursuit) for the same purpose of achieving an inward–outward or outward–inward flow of Perceived Security.

A Law of Nature and Common Denominator

As a social species, for the purpose of physical and emotional survival, humans (while operating individually on a spectrum) are desperately, obsessively afraid of being abandoned and alone and thus constantly pursue a sense of belonging and acceptance to quell this emotional uncertainty, generally without being aware that they are doing so. Emotional Warfare is the unconscious and/or subconscious to conscious strategy people use to force others to provide them with this sense of emotional security. Emotional Warfare is self-perpetuating — as people find themselves on the receiving end of it, it diminishes their own emotional freedom and manipulates them into imbalanced or untrue relationships and roles. They then practice their own versions of Emotional Warfare in return in order to regain some of their security, which triggers a new wave of Emotional Warfare from the other party, and thus the cycle continues. Through the series of psychological steps and/or states that I refer to as Building Blocks, people’s need for emotional security and their skill in Emotional Warfare deepen from early childhood through adulthood. As long as people are fighting for status or recognition in their lives and relationships rather than being internally and interpersonally authentic, they are both practicing and suffering Emotional Warfare. Emotional Warfare works within the laws of human nature and also relates to mental health and mental disorder, as well as to well-being on individual and societal levels and, more broadly or conceptually, throughout humanity.

The Building Blocks
of Emotional Warfare

Each individual is essentially indoctrinated into and gradually becomes enmeshed in Emotional Warfare from preconscious infancy to adulthood. I have termed the psychological steps and states in this process of pattern identification, recognition, and processing the Building Blocks of Emotional Warfare. (Note: The term Building Blocks is intended to denote the natural science or mechanistic anchoring to the integrated functionalism of the psychological steps and states, establishing One Divide’s mechanistic functionalism and functional-causal theoretical framework. For a detailed exploration of the Building Blocks written for a broad audience, please see Book 1, The Reference Guide to Emotional Warfare; for a more technical, academic discussion, please see The Essay Collection: Volume 1.) Ultimately, these Building Blocks come together to form a behavioral pattern and dual-purposed psychological and psychosocial field (within the interior realm and in the outer, external realm) of Emotional Warfare that governs the individual’s life until they become aware of it and begin to prioritize emotional freedom and authenticity over the need for emotional security. These Building Blocks inform the action of Emotional Warfare and ultimately form the interplay of its Pattern(s), which occur on the (1) inward or intrapsychic level and (2) outward or intersubjective and/or interpersonal level. This supports the multilevel definitional framework of Emotional Warfare and provides various entry points into the theoretical framework of Emotional Warfare. Each of the nine Building Blocks has an underlying base of Emotional Survival supporting it, reifying and/or instantiating its context and meanings for maximum intelligibility within the human experience, whether from a first-person, subjective view or a third-person, objective standpoint.

A Law of Nature within Humanity

The use of Emotional Warfare has become an inherent part of our survival and of our overall human experience and thus existence. It is an emotion-based form of war that we all experience interiorly as we deal with issues central to self and identity and outwardly as we strive to win and maintain the acceptance and belonging we believe we need for our Emotional Survival. The depth of this war, which is waged within our emotional realms or psyches and/or within our private relationships and in societal groups, is deceptive and confusing, and we all underestimate it. Emotional Warfare has been a basic element of the human experience — working as both a natural law and a law of nature within humanity — and is becoming ever more sophisticated in our technologically advanced and more emotion-based modern world. It is almost always subconsciously used and is a behavioral issue (or pattern) that pervades mental health, society, and every interaction and relationship we have. It closes us off from the individual emotional freedom we search for as well as the human unity we strive for, and its hidden nature has yet to be properly exposed.

Evolution of Emotional Warfare
(and the False Self)

Addressing Modern Advancements
in the Fields of Psychology and Neuroscience

Modern advancements in the fields of psychology and neuroscience and the current level of understanding of human behavior give the individual and their False Self a broader and more precise set of tools for Emotional Warfare than people had in the past. At the same time, for many (though not for all), technological and lifestyle changes have simplified the physical aspects of survival, and so life centers more on emotion now than it used to. Because of this, Emotional Warfare is more a part of modern society than it was in previous generations.

Despite the fact that modern warfare has higher death rates than previous forms of war, this is arguably the most peaceful time in human history.1 Yet still the current of Emotional Warfare circulating in society has intensified, and the basic need to survive and evolve has made people more efficient in the use of it. The human population (individually and collectively) has suffered deeply from this. It has increased and distorted the obsession with a perceived sense of security (or, conversely, higher levels of anxiety or existential concern) because it has generated a higher level of conflict and mistrust among people — which, of course, makes them feel all the more the need for Emotional Warfare to gain a sense of security, as Emotional Warfare taps into physical and emotional instincts innate in humans. So how do people learn to survive this world emotionally when confronted with the behaviors of others, or more importantly their own?

Basic psychoanalysis and standard self-help aren’t the answer. Even the person who originated the concept of the True Self and the False Self or false-self disorder, Donald Winnicott, feared that psychoanalysis could end up reinforcing a patient’s False Self. Authoritarian interpretations by the analyst could pressure the patient to comply with those interpretations in search of acceptance and/or approval from the analyst.2 The cognitive development3 and “Machiavellian intelligence”4 of an individual has been associated with such things as ability to lie (particularly to avoid punishment), control of outward social behavior, ability to learn what is accepted, and manipulation of others within the social group, all of which have only validated the development of an advanced and expanded conception of a False Self state of being (and disorder variances) and its agency in the intra-interplay of Emotional Warfare stratagems/tactics. In this structuring, cognitive development also allows an individual and their False Self to use the IQ to build individualized forms of Emotional Warfare, such as a child’s early-stage attempts to lie (as conceived by Darwin5 or recently Evans & Lee6) or, in general, later-stage attempts to verbally or nonverbally persuade and/or manipulate the intersubjective or socio-subjective environment (i.e., constructed or perceived reality), because the person knows how to make reasonable, believable, justified arguments — whether operating within conceptualized mental representations or mental systems of a moral construct or model (e.g., belief system or ideology) or not. This then leads to a level of emotional and social intelligence — both of which have evolved along with the species (consider earlier works such as Thorndike’s “Law of Effect” and “Animal Intelligence”).7

In regard to the Pattern of Emotional Warfare, cognitive development combines nature and nurture. A person’s False Self and EBSS of the Inflated A and Inflated B are thus defined by the masculine and feminine negative emotional traits not only as they were passed down through the repeated cycle but also as they were developed through observation and learning and, ultimately, as they were reinforced — especially through surviving those cycles directly. The polarized view of the negative masculine and feminine emotional traits determines the degree of Emotional Desperation that is also passed down and, consequently, the degree of deception that the False Self (and its EBSS) then uses in the outer world. And, of course, all of this determines the effectiveness and potency of the individual’s Emotional Warfare as the False Self perfects its arsenal of Tactics (along with not only its EBSS but, ultimately, the repeated cycle it is bound to) with each successful use of them. This leads to the first level of the Emotional Prison — the deployed False Self learning whom it has to be — setting the foundational aspects of the individual’s emotional imprisonment.

For the researcher, the accepted understanding in the field is that the amygdala (a ganglion of the limbic system adjoining the temporal lobe of the brain) is the integrative center for human emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation, and it is involved in the experience of fear and aggression. It is also responsible for fear conditioning, emotional learning, association of memories with negative events, and defensive behavior (visceral reactions within the body such as “fight or flight,” which can lead to, among other things, the development of what I classify as the dominant EBSS and immediate domination or subjugation between individuals, such as the establishment of Inflated A or Inflated B False Self Roles — see reviews of the Building Blocks of Emotional Warfare in Book 1 or Book 6). Along with the sympathetic nervous system, it is part of what responds to Emotional Warfare on an instinctual level (consciously, subconsciously, and/or unconsciously), as emotional primal instincts — equal to but separate from physical primal instincts used for survival — react to fear. This reaction has intensified particularly as emotional primal instincts have become, mistakenly, intertwined with False Selves due to the notion that acceptance and belonging equal security, which has led to the sacrifice of independent emotional freedom. The neurological aspects of how people respond to Emotional Warfare also contribute to the formation of the Building Block of the Emotional Prison (Levels One and Two). For example, the emotional and critical-thinking components of the mind further the internal conflict in Level One: True Self versus False Self (e.g., primal emotional survival mechanisms vs. critical or cognitive functioning — the cerebral cortex and its lobes, the most recent structure in the development of the human brain to evolve). They also help create the Emotional Prison Level Two, as outside influences (another or others) respond, instinctually, when their Perceived Security is threatened. This, in return, exposes the Pattern(s) of Emotional Warfare that govern each of them and, therefore, their own Emotional Prisons (Level One).

Both philosophy and, more recently, psychology, with its distinction as a science from philosophy and biology, have heavily explored the area of the self and its identity and/or personality or personalities. The “blueprint” that comes with the development of the EBSS, through nature and nurture, creates the disposition of the False Self and thus the eventual emotional models the False Self takes. These emotional models or Roles evolve as the False Self learns to survive its environment and/or emotional paradigm(s) and derive Perceived Security for itself. This aspect of how the False Self sees itself continues to evolve as the individual and their deployed False Self move into the outer world. As understanding of these identities and/or personalities has increased, so has the False Self’s ability to craft and embody emotional models more proficiently. The emotional paradigms in which these outward-facing personas operate also become more complex to accommodate the more-proficient False Self. In turn, the False Self develops greater ability to conceal both its levels of Emotional Desperation and its Hidden Agenda. Remember, as the False Self Roles evolve, the repeated cycle matures and the Pattern of Emotional Warfare intensifies. Moreover, the Pattern’s thresholds, which govern the individual’s life, become ever more complex and enigmatic. This has only made exploring identity more problematic — especially in today’s more emotion-based world, which furthers the mission of a False Self through new teaching techniques (i.e., critical thinking, positive thinking, etc.), the increased insertion of Emotional Warfare Tactics into society as a whole (i.e., educational systems, businesses, leaders, groups, etc.), and technological advancements (i.e., accessibility of information, social media, online forums or platforms, etc.). As a result of all of this, it has become increasingly imperative that the individual learn to find, defend, and protect their independent emotional freedom. Emotional freedom is earned through finding security in one’s True Self, which one does by learning to identify and reverse the Patterns of Emotional Warfare.

Addressing Practical to Sociopolitical Understandings

In broader, practical to sociopolitical terms, since Emotional Warfare has long been ignored, it has evolved and advanced over time. Our abilities to observe and learn — especially when it comes to pattern recognition and finding significance in events in our own lives and humanity’s history — have failed to recognize the true depths of the individual and collective repeated cycle and ultimately to identify the Pattern of Emotional Warfare that has created it.

Emotional Warfare has slowly become an inherent part of our overall Emotional Survival as we have evolved as a species, and thus it has been spliced into our overall human experience; it flows just below (and at times even deeper beneath) the surface of our conscious reality, creating an underbelly to our world which governs us. In this regard, Emotional Warfare informs what has become commonly known as psychological warfare — but is fully distinct from it. Tactics and techniques move out of the realm of Emotional Warfare and into the realm of psywar (i.e., propaganda, perception management, etc.) when they are applied consciously. The mainstream use of psychological warfare and its infusion into modern society through its insertion into business, professional, political, ideological, and educational platforms forces individuals to use more and more sophisticated forms of Emotional Warfare in their daily lives, creating a cyclical development of Emotional Warfare in the human race, establishing Emotional Warfare as

an evolving law of human nature
and common denominator of the human condition.

“With the advent of influences like perception management, exploitation of the Emotional Desperation of others has only escalated in our modern world; our richer knowledge of human behavior has given us more tools to use against each other, and thus the current of Emotional Warfare that circulates among us has intensified.”

- The Reference Guide to Emotional Warfare® and the Philosophy of One Divide®

Though understanding of how people’s emotional realms are created biologically and neurologically is advancing, humans still act primarily as emotional and social beings (and will continue to do so, as a mammalian species) who rely heavily on emotion and verbal and nonverbal forms of language to communicate, understand, and operate within the human experience on both intra- and interpersonal levels. Because of our social nature, this is inevitable, making Tactics of Emotional Warfare an inevitable human characteristic that becomes highly personalized within and on the field of Emotional Warfare yet is simultaneously universal to all human persons.

We respond to Emotional Warfare on an instinctual level, as it strikes at the core of our fundamental need to feel secure. Our primal instincts keep us alive, not only in the physical world but also in our emotional world. Emotional Warfare taps into both our physical and emotional primal instincts. Fear — an innate and healthy emotion — and the fundamental need to feel secure in life are the basic driving forces behind our emotional primal instincts. But when our fear climbs too high and we feel our fundamental need for Emotional Survival isn’t being met through acceptance and/or belonging, we fill with Emotional Desperation — the antithesis of a healthy level of fear.

The volatile boundary between healthy and unhealthy levels of fear continuously fuels our obsession with security and adds a seemingly inescapable layer to the paradox of security versus freedom that forces us to use Emotional Warfare. This layer forms out of the conflict between the fear of uncertainty, which is immeasurable, and the fear of ultimate freedom: being alone in life. Life itself is filled with inevitable daily hardships, which will without question make us feel, as we are emotional and social beings. Our Emotional Survival will be challenged, and feelings of Emotional Desperation will undoubtedly follow… And so our thoughts single-mindedly return to acquiring, controlling, or manipulating a sense of security for ourselves.

The levels of Emotional Desperation within us determine the strength of Emotional Warfare we use to expunge these unwanted emotions and redirect them onto another or others, knowingly or unknowingly; in this way, Emotional Desperation acts as the foundation to Emotional Warfare. The effect of Emotional Desperation is incalculable, and people using Emotional Warfare for their own ends have exploited it throughout time. This leads to internal and interpersonal conflict — a paradoxical practicing and/or suffering of Emotional Warfare’s patterns — that, when unidentified or underestimated, can have severe long-term consequences, all of which is evident within historical contexts and looking at the human condition.


  • 1. Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature. Viking Press.
  • 2. Winnicott, D. (1971). Playing and reality. Tavistock Publications Ltd.
  • 3. Piaget, J. (1936). Origins of intelligence in the child. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • 4. Byrne, R. W., & Whiten, A. (1988). Machiavellian intelligence: Social expertise and the evolution of intellect in monkeys, apes, and humans. Clarendon Press; Byrne, R. W. (2008). The thinking ape: Evolutionary origins of intelligence. Oxford University Press.
  • 5. Darwin, C. (1877). A biographical sketch of an infant. Mind, 2(7), 285–294. doi:10.1093/mind/os-2.7.285.
  • 6. Evans, A. D., & Lee, K. (2013). Emergence of lying in very young children. Developmental psychology, 49(10), 1958–1963. doi:10.1037/a0031409.
  • 7. Thorndike, E. L. (1898). Animal intelligence: An experimental study of the associative processes in animals. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 2(4), i–109; Thorndike, E. L. (1905). The elements of psychology. A. G. Seiler; Thorndike, E. L. (1911). Animal intelligence. Macmillan.
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