Medical Musings, Health Hypotheses & Therapeutic Thoughts
Over the course of human evolution, our brain has developed to prioritise neural pathways that keep us alive. In particular, by helping humans to quickly detect threat, we are more likely to react and survive. This certainly has helped us well in hunter gatherer societies - we want our brains to quickly identify a tiger that may be lurking in the grass so we can get ready to run, fight or hide.
Modern society has developed faster than our brains can keep up with. There may not be tigers in the streets, but any perceived threat to our self or loved ones can trigger the same brain responses. For example, going on a plane, meeting unfamiliar people, sitting on a crowded train, or giving a talk are just some of the modern day examples that may trigger your sympathetic nervous system into overdrive, leading to stress and anxiety.
Humans are social animals, and again, in hunter-gatherer societies we depended on one another to be able to survive. You could argue that we still do. Because of this, our brain is wired to prioritise our interpersonal relationships and we can experience a range of emotions to help strengthen these relationships (love, bonding, closeness), or because we feel they are threatened (dejection, shame, depression).
So in short, we all have a brain that can be triggered into primitive responses leading to anxiety and depression. Like Ruby Wax says, "Our brains are designed to keep you alive. It doesn't give a shit about your happiness."
The good news is that we can learn strategies to help overcome these automatic responses, and to help us make choices towards a rich meaningful life, full of many emotions including happiness. Psychological therapy is one of those ways!
I have delivered a rather simplistic account to what is a complex notion. For more detailed readings see the links below.
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