Human emotions may be more primitive than we think. Our emotions are better suited to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle than to those of today’s vast civilisations. In order to better understand our emotional wellbeing, we need to take into consideration the emotional environment of our ancestors during the Palaeolithic period.
The human family tree is around 15 million years old, but it wasn’t until 10,000 years ago that our ancestors began to move from hunter-gatherer societies to settled agricultural communities. And only 5,000 years ago did the first large civilisations, characterised by urban development, social stratification, symbolic communication forms, emerge. So we’ve really only been ‘civilised’ for the past 250 generations. How much have our brains evolved in the past 5,000 years? Not that much: it seems we are still a bunch of primitive apes.
For the last 100 years, our habits have become conditioned by god-like technology that has overloaded our lives with excessive comforts and pleasures, as well as too much free time. This lifestyle is the foundation of negative thinking, which is the root cause of depression, anxiety and chronic stress. Why? Our brains are not designed to be bombarded with pleasure, but rather with challenges, struggles, suffering, pain and a wide range of negative emotions.
“The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Palaeolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology” – Edward Osborne Wilson
If we don’t feed our brains with a healthy dose of challenging emotions, our brains will feed themselves with negative thinking. Think about it. Our ancestors had to venture into the wild on a daily basis, searching for food: essentially, struggling to survive. We are emotionally wired to struggle. We have a negative emotional quota that needs to be drained regardless of the circumstances.
The Five Essential Factors that relate to Emotional Wellbeing come from this understanding: Humans are designed to drain a challenging emotional quota on a daily basis through an outdoor, physical, social activity in a natural environment connected to a higher purpose than oneself: the survival of the social group.
So, should we just give up our modern lifestyle in order to connect with our primitive roots? It would be kind of cool, but there’s really no need for that. Be aware that if you don’t fill your life with meaningful challenges, your brain will trigger negative thinking through meaningless drama. Being conscious of this is the first step towards improving your emotional wellbeing. And after that, it’s up to you to choose how to drain your challenging emotional quota.
When was the last time you were caught up in a meaningless drama? Do you get easily offended? Do you take things personally? Do you feel the urge to question this post? Great! Feel free to drain your emotional quota in the comment box below.