Psychology | The meaning of life
Have you ever wondered what our purpose is in living? Life does appear to be our purpose, to live and survive. Our purpose isn’t just to survive as individuals, but as a species. When we feel we’re in danger we feel the need to fight or run away. Our desire to face danger and survive can mean that rather than fight as individuals, we will fight as a collective. This can lead to riots and even wars.
Our emotions are very primitive and drive us to do thing associated with survival. When we feel thirsty we want drinks, when we’re hungry we need food. When we have a need, we tend react to that need in a very primitive way. We are different to other animals and in a very important way. We have language; we can communicate with each other. We can share our needs, we can share our desires and we can share our fears. This makes us more effective at survival. It also allows us to think using language and this tends to conflict with our primitive feelings.
Emotionally we might feel scared, but we think that we can overcome that emotion. Soldiers are scared, but they overcome the fear and fight. They feel a need to fight as a collective, as part of group survival. In their minds, they can justify ignoring their fear. There are other situations where people ignore their fear and overcome it. On the funfair, rides can be scary, but people enjoy facing their fears in a controlled way and overcoming them. At theme parks, the rides can be terrifying, but people queue up to be terrified and to overcome that basic of all emotions. People also race cars, climb mountains and do many other things that are scary and overcome their fear. They can only do this in a controlled way. Jumping out of an aeroplane with a parachute is scary, jumping out without a parachute is suicidal. The former is controlled, the latter is uncontrolled and therefore unacceptable.
We also have the desire to do things, mostly associated with survival. Even childhood games are a sort of rehearsal of survival techniques. When children don’t have games to play or things to do, they complain they are bored. Teenagers are closer to adulthood, when they will need their survival skills and so teenagers hate not having things to do; they are easily bored. It is no good asking a teenager to tidy their room, that isn’t rehearsing survival. Teenagers want sex, that’s all about survival of the species!
We use language for thinking and language is relatively new to use. We went millions of years just using words like huh and living in caves. You will see similar behaviour and language skills in many teenagers! Language and behaviour that challenges our instincts to survive are sophisticated. Talking is sophisticated; fighting is primitive. We now have diplomats who communicate with skill and only use soldiers as a last resort. Storing up food in your cave is primitive and greedy. Greed is a human attribute that is quite common, even in people who appear to be sophisticated and eloquent speakers.
We do need to be aware of the primitive caveman (or cave women) inside ourselves. We have used our ability to communicate through speech and writing to become sophisticated beings. How many people do you know whose lives appear to have been ruined by primitive desires? Greed and the primitive desire to reproduce has been the downfall of many people. We are no longer living in caves. We do have limitations and although we challenge those limitations and challenge our fears. We should be aware of our primitive selves. If the primitive self inside of us is telling us to run away, we shouldn’t completely discount the possibility. There is a big difference between challenging our fears by jumping with a parachute to the alternative that means certain death. We need to be in control. We often feel out of control, because other people want to control us. The only people who want to control us, are malicious people and we should see that as a threat and resist it.
What do you think? Do you balance your sophisticated thoughts with your primitive desires? Please comment and share your thoughts.
- 3 Tips on Moving From Fear to Faith (psychologytoday.com)