Why are we still baffled by our own brains?
The human condition is a complicated state of affairs. It covers a gargantuan spectrum of complicated sciences and is possibly one of the most taxing topics we’ve ever encountered. Which is ironic, because the answer is right here, in us all. It’s hidden deep within the brain you’re using to read this very article, and in the cells and neurons I’m using to feverishly type it with.
It lingers within the algorithms designed to lure us to websites, the science behind the medicine given to us and the music we create. So why haven’t we figured it out yet? What makes us who we are?
The fact you’re even considering this is because, as humans, we’re self-aware — the reflective nature of our Homo sapien selves is one that paves the way to our often baffling analysis of existential matters. Digging deeper, we must consider what makes us that way inclined. No other species deliberates the meaning of life, the pursuit of happiness, or is so profoundly aware of our conclusive aloneness: death.
The confrontations of existence
One way we can look at the human condition is by observing the way certain people manipulate the world around them in order to serve our personal needs. What concerns us? What measures do we take in our search for purpose?
Developed countries have people working in technology, education, and psychology jobs to improve public health and medicine. These improvements to our way of life can change factors of the human condition and what we want, albeit very slightly.
Existential psychotherapist, Irvin D Yalom, published extensive works into the specific forces, motives and fears that drive our consciousness. He states that these flow “from the individual’s confrontation with the givens of existence”, i.e. the inescapable parts of our existence on this planet.
He narrowed them down to four ultimate concerns: death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness. Our curious search for a purpose combined with our self-awareness, rationality and wisdom is what makes us human.
The Black Dog
These human motives, of course, also bear a great weight on our mental health. A number of other factors play a role in the depression; including an individual’s environment and personal experience. It’s clear to see where depression arises following a tragic incident: a death in the family, relationship trauma, or sexual abuse. But what about those with no tangible problems in their job, relationship, or family?
Scientists are still not 100% certain what causes the “black dog”; although we do know it’s associated with impaired serotonergic and noradrenergic neurotransmission, in turn damaging the brain’s ability to to form neural networks.
That’s what antidepressants are for, after all — rejigging the underlying biochemical abnormality. Scientists have even gone as far as to say depression is some form of allergic reaction; an inflammation caused by the immune system kicking off and switching the brain into sickness mode.
Talented thinkers — a gift or a curse?
Still, mental disorders affect 1 in 4 people in the UK alone, over the course of a year; with mixed anxiety and depression most prevalent.
There’s significant evidence to prove the correlation of those with high IQ and bipolar disorder. That may not come as a surprise, since mental illnesses have touched many of our most noble writers and artists: Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson and, our own generation’s lovely thinker, Stephen Fry, to name just a few. It’s a common pattern: those that think a lot, appear to be cursed by it.
You wanna know the irony of it all? The true bitterness of mental illness is the fact we know so much about it, yet remain succumbed to it’s devilish power. As the mentalist magic-bean, Derren Brown, recently said — “we are all trapped inside our own heads”.
Nina Cresswell is a journalist interested in the human mind and behaviour. If you’re interested in a role in psychology, check out http://www.sanctuaryhealth.com/psychology for positions available.