Think for a moment of a time when you felt truly connected to yourself – you were on purpose, knew what you needed, had a plan to get it, and felt passionate about doing so. Although many of us have experienced times when we felt we were acting from our true selves, aligned with our interests and passions, they seem few and far between. So why is this and what can we do about it?
We know how to survive but we don’t know how to strive. It has taken thousands of years for us to evolve to the state where industrialized cultures no longer just live in survival, with all energy going toward having enough to eat, a place to shelter ourselves from the elements and the relative safety of a health care system when we are ill. Despite the emergence of a larger middle class, where physical survival is no longer an issue, we still act as though it is. We keep using the parts of our brain that govern survival rather that learning to use the brain that has more recently evolved.
So instead of pursuing our self-actualizing goals, we keep “hunting and gathering” because this is what we know how to do. We go to malls to gather, buying the best, the biggest and the latest. We gather information on TV, Internet, newspapers and are from electronic devices that we can’t seem to do without. We go prowling to clubs to “hook-up” or are compelled to watch sports to identify with the victor of the battle. We just don’t know what to do with ourselves most of the time and our need or appetite for self-actualization gets translated into overeating, consumption of alcohol and workaholism to name a few.
This is why the more industrialized a nation becomes, the higher the rates of mental disorders revolving around depression, anxiety, despair and unhappiness. The wealthiest and most educated nations in the world are home to the most miserable, the saddest, least-fulfilled people in the world. There is a pill to take away every uncomfortable emotion and others to create pleasant ones. Sadly, this is encouraged as appropriate and desired medical treatment.
The human brain is evolutionary. We have three brains and unfortunately, we are not taught how to use them together to enhance our experience of life or to discover who we are meant to be. Our brain has evolved, allowing us to have the ability to be self-aware, to plan, to be rational and to understand our own natures. The prefrontal cortex, the newest part of the brain governs these functions. Yet we have become so polarized in the use of our survival brain that we keep on using it, doing what we feel like, acting on impulse and medicating ourselves so that we can tolerate our lives.
Anne Dranitsaris, PhD