Now before we set out on this, I want to underline, I do not have any training in this area and im open to any science that backs up or disputes what i’m saying. I believe that depression can be caused by neurological degenerations such as Alzheimer’s MS, and Parkinson. As well at traumatic brain injury and Ill health and dietary malalignments in general. I am not looking at these causes, Im just discussing an idea regarding a type of cycle myself and many other people have found themselves in. Please, for all the dietary and medical induced depressions, do not consider this as leaving them un-acknowledged.
Lobsters get depressed
Lobsters and in fact all animals brain neurochemistry is essentially and surprisingly unchanged throughout evolution to humans. Lobsters experience victory and defeat in aggressive confrontations, Edward Kravits discoverd when a lobster is defeated its serotonin levels are lowered and the dominant ones are raised. The body of the lobster shrinks, and it is depressed in appearance and behaviour. However if the defeated lobster is given a boost to its serotonin it will try to win dominance again, perhaps to its own physical peril. So we could petentially look at the chemical reaction to defeat as a self defense mechanism against future damaged or, from a a sexual selection lens, as a cue to stop the breading of lower quality males.
From an fitness selection lens, in humans, the health implications of depression hormones are well established. Depression lead to a feed back loop of ill health, impulsiveness, poor decisions and ultimately shorted lifespans. So perhaps on an even deeper level, it manipulates health to remove from the eco system ‘less worthy’ organisms that would otherwise live longer using more resources and having more chances to pass on genes. Nature is ruthless.
How imagination is a survival tool.
A human is able to be defeated in many more abstract ways than a simple lobster joust. In fact the imagination and its ability to visualize future and test for the validity of many ideas is what gives us success. A lower order creature learns only by physical mistake, if it does not have the appropriate instincts, so in a new situation it may learn or it may die.
However a human can imagine and visualize a future and plan and prepare how to… REACT TO IT! Now if the future imagined is defeat, then much as the lobster reacts to the situation of defeat. A human will have neurochemical reactions to an imagined future or conceptual lobster battle defeat. So in the absence of a looming dominance battle and the human has an imaginary defeat, and has a physiological reaction. In abstraction of this ‘defeat’ or ‘failure’ in non-lobster terms can come in many more ways than getting ‘out lobstered’ by a bigger lobster. This also apply to feeling of failure, as most people suffering depression feel failure, guilt, shame and rejection. As opposed to anxiety and stress as we will cover these later.
The problem of living on your emotions and instincts
Wolves are more complex than lobsters. When wolves fight for dominance, and one surrenders, showing its belly and neck. The other wolf spares it. Now this wolf does not ‘know’ why it is doing this. It has an instinct, it may even have an emotion. But it is not aware it is saving this wolf because it may need it later to fend of a rilval pack or to bring down an elk. Wloves have no concept of this and operate in the moment via emotions and instincts.
People are guided by their feelings and emotions, with out knowing the origins of their feeling or emotions. Many people regularly blame their feelings and emotions an external source. This may have an ’emotional truth’ to it. But by not delving into the mechanics of this deeper we are left closer to the wolf and lobster than to transcendence. We live in a hierarchical world, again so do lobsters, it is primitive beyond even trees or grass some 600 million years old. By giving something our approval we are signaling to its dominance in some way, by giving it causality or blame we are signalling our subservience. If we are unable to identify our role and responsibility in situations, and simply react and feel, with out processing. We are wiring ourselves to be guided or ‘dominated’ by our instincts. This is in contrary to the language of anyone who is successful, universally they have the language of EMPOWERMENT. Consistent high achievers almost universal have language empowerment and honesty with themselves.
Pleasure vs Happiness
It not perhaps obvious the what differences there are between Pleasure and happiness, perhaps because on face value they are two positive emotions. I want to rename them for this purpose to a positive reaction and a positive emotion. It is readily possible to achieve a positive reaction, and this is easily sold or marketed all the time to us. No one is suggesting that a happy meal, makes your life more… happy? However at that moment you may become “happy”. Without going to off topic, again we come to our culture and the ECONOMY that we live in, where pleasure is sold and marketed freely, while the more difficult product of happiness is not. This is because I believe it can not be “sold”. I don’t mean that in an obvious way, I mean that it has to be taught and then practiced.
Now have our biological systems been tampered with beyond repair? With with all the sugar, neon lights and pornographic images? …This is another blog article. Regardless research is conclusive that positive emotions are only possible to be achieved in one way. This is with the envisioning of an aim and then seeing some progress towards that aim. It is paradoxically not goal at the end of the aim itself that causes happiness. I think we have all experienced this to agree. In the economy, think of a computer game, literally the aim of the game is to ‘progress’ towards the end. It hijacks our circuitry and inner narrative to make us feel ‘satisfaction’ and ‘happiness’ as we ‘achieve’, well… nothing in the real world. It is the participation of an architectural role and drama and feeling of achievements towards this that we light up to.
Re Asses your AIM
This current economy has sold us the ideals of instant comfort and pleasure. This is creeping into our minds circitrary system. Despite our Christian values still defining our laws and our archetypal neurology idolizing sacrifice and selflessness. We are slowly being programed and sold away from this idea. So much so that the meme of “Do what makes you happy” or “follow your heart” is on may peoples minds and Instagram. I’m going to dispel this in one fell swoop and I hope it is eliminated from the vocabulary of anyone over the age of 13 from now on.
If your sole aim in life is happiness… You will never be happy. Now think about this. We can only experience positive emotions when we envisage ourselves achieving our aim. If your aim is happiness. And you have achieved it, you will now be unhappy. Worse still, on your “journey” to happiness, lets say your itchy, cold, hungry. Well now the happy ship has just hit a storm. Your goals are all now in peril and you can certainly no longer see yourself achieving this given how cold your feet are or how its to rainy outside.
So you are never going to achieve the goal of happiness through seeking happiness and in fact it is rational to conclude that it is un achievable. You will undoubtedly grow old, become sick and everyone around you will also do this. So If your goal is happiness, well your going to get sick and die so you will have no chance at achieving this.
Taught and practiced
So I believe we need to learn what is is that causes our un-happiness. And what is a valid complaint and what is not. And we also need to learn what it is that causes our depression and the languages and mechanics of how to reverse this. I believe what people have imagined as their goals should be qualified and achievable. More than this, their goals must have validity to all of us as a culture. We need to transcend our primal instincts to look at something attractive or eat something sweet. Because this culture off app’s, push button notification, Drive through takeaway, instagram-protien-shake-beach-booty, fast-shiny-now! Doesn’t deliver anybody true happiness, as defined by neurosciences. It gives us little chemical spikes as we do good, get a like, buy a new gizmo, book a trip to Bali.. and defines pathways to gratification of these.
The neurons that fire together wire together.
We are driven to consumerism, pushed by negative emotions such as anxiety and social envy and from the media that sells us fear and fast food… We are nervous, envious and full of inadequacies with unrealistic ideal being pedaled. Insatiable to achieve our materialism, we get addicted to the energy of stress and use it a tool, to frightened of failure to let it go. When your pushed by negative emotions, you will associate what your doing with negative feelings. This is in opposition to living by positive emotions. And if your goals are hedonistic and narcissistic then how will you feel anything positive like pride or altruism.
Depression and need for instant gratification.
According to Princeton neuroscientist Barry Jacobs, PhD, depression may occur when there is a suppression of new brain cells and that stress is the most important precipitator of depression. However researchers don’t know whether the dip in serotonin causes the depression, or the depression causes serotonin levels to drop. When stressed and depressed we experience changes in the hippocampus and amygdala, We become more impulsive and seek pleasure over long term comfort as our pre frontal cortex experiences shrinkage. Essentially we become wired for consumerism, the perfect cog in a wheel of an economy. A fear driven highly motivated impulsive consumer. Ready to swallow the next get rich quick scheme or ideal vision of a holiday or tasty treat. Unable to discern images of over sexualised caricatures living out dominance and avoiding defeat and depression.
Consumerism and the effect on civilization.
If you know it or not, advertising is hijacking your primitive systems. Providing you with cues and threats, that create emotions and then motivations and decisions.
Let us take a Mentos ad. Our primitive brain sees one lobster looking happy it has a Mentos, and other lobsters unhappy they do not. The Lobster with the Mentos is dominate. This lobster will survive, pass on genes… Buy Mentos, get a better pair of sunglasses, go to Phuket or any other image you see of people being happy. Consume more! The sort term goals and life vision of these things is valid and in many ways achievable. But the drive to get there will need to be balanced with avoidance of discomfort and stress or threat of depression.
We need to quantify in math a formula for happiness. There needs to be a greater social good, it needs to be pulled by positive emotions not pushed by negative ones. Is it pleasure or is it comfort? Does it leave us proud and satisfied or does it leave us empty until the next spike? We are wired this way no matter how we feel about it. But we need to harness our mechanics and have a higher order vision for how we will use our primitive mechanics.
- We need to choose our emotional fuel so that it does not burn us out.
- We need to choose our goal, so that it doesn’t contradict greater goals we may have or our species may have
- And we need to develop mechanics and workshops to re-tune and fix us up when we break down along the way.
Only then will we be able to move away from consumerism and the polluting we are doing to our planet. There are mathematical formulas, such as Geoffrey West’s, that are showing us we will destroy ourselves independent of climate change unless we have a cultural revolution.
A life of design
A mistake many people make is that they think they are living a life of seeking happiness, when they are essentially only seeking to avoid discomfort. They are not living lives by design, understing their mechanics and driving themselvres on clean energy.
Just as our economy has hijacked our primitive drives and harnessed it to make us act. We to can harness our emotions as the motivators they are in the mechanics of our system.
Take home message
Now this is not to say anyone is bad, or anyone is stupid or anything negative in the slightest.
Non of us are living with inventions of our own, I did not invent the computer I am typing on, you did not invent the wheel on the car you drive to work and more importantly none of us invented the culture we are all living in. We are lucky to be living in the best culture life on earth has ever developed, a Christian based law and value system, a democracy. This is an ancient system however and is based on universal truths passed down through word of mouth myth’s of the extraordinary. Just as they are humanly true and emotionally true, they where unable to be scientifically true, especially as we know of intricate science now.
I believe it is all our duty to live by not only our Christian, Democratic western culture that we all love. But to add to this a layer of science and generate a new course to live by that takes into accountant our very core systems and mechanics. It is time we to not just survive our interactions with each other, but to evolve past our primitive biological origins in all our language and processes.