I think I may have stumbled on an idea of the function of panic and anxiety is first introduced to our brain functions, and the reason behind why I think depression is a by product of these circumstances. It struck me as I woke up this morning in my haziness of waking slumber. I spent the last 2 hours trying to put it into words.
Let me start by being clear, I’m no medical expert. This hypothesis is solely based on observations of personal experiences for nearly 2 decades. Nothing that what I’m proposing here is based on any medical study or expertise, just shooting from the hip here. Here goes…
I think panic and anxiety are anatomical responses to the advent of the notion of social usefulness and the never ending, constantly growing need to prove personal usefulness to self and others around. Depression is the neurological attempt at assimilation and adaptation to these constant stresses in response.
My idea is that as an animal, humans weren’t developed to live life in high stress situations. Anxiety building to panic is a primitive survival function. When we were living in the wild, we remember sounds that belonged to things that may cause us bodily harm. (roars, thunder, fast flowing water, etc) This caused us to fight of flee, the 2 primary responses to a threat. Once that threat was neutralized or gotten away from, the anxiety would subside and life could go on naturally, only needing to obtain food and shelter. We also instinctually seek other interactions, like procreative instincts and desire, but those usually come secondary to basic survival needs. Dread is the mental response to not being able to fight that threat OR flee from it. Depression happens when we don’t know what the threat is and uncertainty of our ability to escape it. Essentially, we are just experiencing and influencing our environment. Our USE was simply to survive as long as possible.
We have to first identify the traits of the human as an animal. What is the basic, primary functions of a human animal IN THE WILD? We have a relative 1/3rd of our lifetime already set in rhythm for sleep, that functions as an energy recharge and the time your body repairs itself and grows the most. The rest of the day was spent primarily seeking survival mechanisms: Food, shelter, something to cover our fragile skin to protect it from the elements. That could be several things, from mud, animal hides, primitive weaved fabrics from leaves, etc. The daily activities and functions needed for human survival were relatively basic and minimal. And most of the advancements in technology (minus military/warfare), has been to better provide for ourselves the basic things necessary up until we had relatively mechanized survival.
This happened at about the industrial revolution in the late 1800’s. At this point, industrial manufacturing of our survival tools began to grow and quickly, most of our needs began being met by industry (grocery stores, shops for clothes, home building subdivisions, gas and electric companies, hospitals, etc.) Industry gave way to the military industrial complex, and global military became the biggest industry on the planet. This is in part what facilitated WW1 and all wars since then, and those wars gave people something to feel USEFUL about. Useful to their communities, useful to their countries, useful to their friends and peers they were fighting alongside. This was a manipulation of preconceived notions of nationalism as a method of social influence. This is still a mechanism that is pushed today.
Fast forward to the 1950’s (just after WW2), and in the United States the outlook was one of a new Golden Age. Everything was possible and outlooks were positive. Many still refer to this stereotype as ‘the good ole days’. This gave rise to an economic boom of people wanting to obtain the possessions that provided a solid, secure life. A home, a car, financial abundance, all the things we consider today to be key markers in what delegates a person’s basic achievements in life was the primary social pursuit. Take care of yourself, clothe yourself, feed yourself, etc. Most of us would all agree that this should be a relative standard amongst the general population, although that isn’t always the case.
This massive influx of this demand for these possessions, along with new growth in population (Baby Boomer generation) led to increasing demand for industrial manufactured goods. Since these goods had manufacturer’s suggested retail value, this also leads to a higher overhead needed per household. Higher over head demands a higher wage. Higher wage is proposed to be obtained by a higher skill set. So, this opened up opportunity to industrial education. This available education then lead to an increasing standard in what is expected of the general person in oder to signify to themselves and the people around them that they are, indeed, successful enough to take care of their basic needs.
This outlook has lead to the global measure of success primarily being determined by bankroll, education level, and professional status. All of which are determined to a certain degree by the amount of effort you out into achieving financial and educational milestones, as well as your proficiency in achieving them. But one cannot argue the a lot of it is also based on chance occurrences. For example, certain opportunity is obtained by simply meeting and interacting with people. Often people gain access to career opportunity simply by knowing someone they were friends with in college, or some other social interaction. These friendships are often treated as if they have more value than others. If you achieve these goals in the top percentages of proficiency and happen to know just the right people, you are deemed the most useful, therefore the most in demand in your particular expertise. This goal is to obtain the best chance at obtaining the most wage to work hour ratio. To produce as much assets as possible to sustain the personal survival needs of you and any group you choose to provide for (family, etc)
This finally creates an atmosphere in which you must toil to create the most demand for yourself, your skills, and whatever else you can offer that is USEFUL to someone else that determines whether you become one of 2 things: a social asset OR a social liability. This constant atmosphere leads to an unusual set of conditions which lead from anxiety to panic to depression and ultimately to dread/hopelessness.
My goal of writing this all down and sharing it is to hopefully give myself and other a better hypothetical outlook on understanding the nature of these emotional and mental states so that I can better cope with them in the moment of experience. Hopefully, this can alleviate some of the “What’s wrong with me, and will I always be like this?” feeling when these episodes occur by my remembering that this is just a neurochemical response to an unnatural situation that I am coping with, applying scientific observation to instinctive traits. That will enable me to have a better chance at my basic human function, survival.
Be gentle to yourself. For better or worse, we live in a mechanized civilization and certain achievements are needed in order to live in a modern social environment. But try to remember, survival is your only REAL required use. Everything else is just what you choose to do. Whether or not you offer something to the world today should not be your ONLY measure of self worth. The fact that we are embodied and aware in an organic vehicle and not only able to interact with but influence our environment AND each other is in itself one of the most astounding and undeniably incredible aspect of being a living, human being. Just that alone is pretty amazing.
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by what the world is telling you that you SHOULD be doing. Do what you think you should be doing. Do what you want to be doing. Be in your experience. Be in your body, in your life. Joy and pain are part of what indicates that we are alive, and that in itself can be beautiful. I’m doing my best everyday to not let any of the monsters or shadows in the world ruin my subjective experience as awareness embodied. Because I’ll only be me once. And I want to enjoy this ride as much as I can. I want to love, I want to create, I want to laugh. That’s more important than my survival functions. That’s my instinct, and applying instinct to intention is an approach that could make us remarkable.
Be you, be free, and remember, you are useful. You need you to experience this awareness. That’s primary. What you do with that experience is who you ultimately become. And remembering that, my friends, just might be enough to help me get through a tough day. Express your awe, lift an eye to the cosmos, and be in the universe together. We can survive this, too. That’s what our species does… Survives.