My (Strange) Obsession with Slavoj Zizek

I promise that things will get back to normal soon. Between suffering from writers block and saving my career that’s quickly spiraling out of control, I’ve been working on side project. In the mean time, here’s another writing that comes deep within the archives.

I mention Slavoj Zizek with some regularity, even though this is a blog that’s supposedly about addiction and sobriety.

Why?

Because no one’s stopping me. But this is another My Life With Kant episode that I’ve transcribed. Once again, please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors.

Enjoy!

MyLifeWithKant

Believe it or not, this podcast was one bad day away from being called “My Life with Hegel”…which, by the way, I completely regret naming this show “My Life With Kant”. You know…in hindsight, I probably should have named it “Existential Angst” or “The Arguing with Myself” podcast. But whatever, here I am.

But it was the German Idealists that intrigued me first…Notably GWF Hegel. There’s just something so enigmatic about him…the fact that he influenced so much of 19th Century philosophy…and yet no one understood him. How does that even work? But I’m such an audiophile, that I listen to all kinds of books and podcasts…and Charlton Heston’s reading of, the synopsis of Hegel’s career, contributes so much to the mythos of Hegel the Philosopher…you know, by saying things like: Hegel not remembering what he meant with certain paragraphs, and making it the reader’s responsibility to understand the reading…to the point where he would deliberately make his writing difficult. All of this seems to indicate that Hegel teeters on the border between philosopher and simple madman.

His philosophy can be considered so “out-there” and convoluted, that he has more or less fallen out of favor in modern circles, despite his influence. But not everyone is intimidated by this labyrinth of a philosopher. Slavoj Zizek, the contemporary Slovenian thinker, in his work titled “Less Than Nothing”, calls the decades between the publishing of Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” and the death of Hegel, as some of the most crucial regarding human thought. And it’s a shame that I never got around to exploring German Idealism in its entirety (well, at least not yet), But Zizek says of the big Four within this sub-genre, as echoed by Badiou…quote “Kant relates to Newtonian science, his basic question being what kind of philosophy is adequate to the Newtonian breakthrough; Fichte relates to politics, to the event that is the French Revolution; Schelling relates to (Romantic) art and explicitely subordinates philosophy to art as the highest approach to the Absolute; and Hegel, finally, relates to love; his underlying problem is, from the very beginning of his thought, that of Love.” End quote.

And thankfully from that, I have more ideas for new episodes. But, I guess the project for German Idealism…especially for Kant…is that when seeking philosophical certainty, we needn’t concern ourselves with the objectable “Thing-in-Itself” that we don’t have access to, but instead…with the phenomena of our PERCEPTIONS of the thing-in-itself. This, understandably, is so disconcerning for many thinkers, notably Schopenhauer…who essentially criticized Kant for constructing a barrier, to shield us from the fact that he was, basically defending Christianity.

But Zizek asks the question: “What if there is more truth in the mask, than the face beneath it?”. Therefore Kant missed the biggest point of his gigantic philosophical project. Remember how I was trying to deny reality in the last episode? Well, thanks to Kant and the German Idealists, I can ALMOST do that. Not that I can deny the EXISTANCE of reality, but I can almost deny our INTERPRETATION of reality, as being nothing more than a self-serving device, (Not intended to isolate us from truth, but instead, it is to help us navigate the landmine that is “the thing-in-itself”), and because this a construct of the mind, the perception of the TOTALITY of the “thing-in-itself” can be changed, and is not concrete. Therefore, the real project of philosophy is understand THE MASK, and not the face behind it. So, please invite me back to your parties, I’m not THAT crazy.

But Zizek wants to place Hegel above the other three German thinkers. Because according to him, We ponder and observe the unknowable thing, and because of our frustrations with understanding, this is evidence of Truth.

I should point out though, That Zizek is not without some controversy, and his YouTube videos are a glorious sight to behold. He often flips people’s arguments, and then draws the same conclusions. This can appear insane at best, and downright Evil at worst. I read somewhere, that he thought Nazism failed, not because it was an evil ideaology….but because it didn’t go far enough! If a celebrity said that, there would be a MASSIVE apology tour. I’m pretty fucking far from being a Nazi apologist, but just think about it….what if the Hitler succeeded in his world domination? We don’t even need to do that much thinking, there’s a very good television series on Amazon about this very problem. But if they succeeded in the real world, would that have been a major paradigm shift in our morals? So we appeared to have dodged a bullet. But that’s the kind of road that we have to traverse when we explore Zizek.

And the book “Less than Nothing” is quite an undertaking. Luckily, Zizek seems to road rage his way through philosophers (which is pretty much what I do), so hopefully I’ll be able to make it through this book. We’ll see though.

But I’ve always thought fiction or creative reflections make far better philosophy than typical treatises. And in a Kantian sense, where we are far more concerned with the veil covering ultimate reality, writing and are provides us with a far more accurate picture on the monolith staring back at us. It’s unrestricted from the true themes that affect the heart. Philosophers can attempt to describe these experiences in a clinical sense, but rarely is there any connection to the actual human condition.

What really takes the reader into an alternate world, is reading testimonies of terror and survival. The case in point here, as Zizek explains, is the Holocaust. No amount of words put together in any order, can adequately explain the true horrors of this event. Yet those that did survive, needed to convey to the world what actually happened, even though we are disconnected from those experiences. Zizek explains that survivors returned home, only to find that their family and friends couldn’t comprehend the gravity of those experiences. To cope, or as a way to direct their message to a willing receiver, they told their journey to something called “The Big Other”. Or, in other words, something that will understand, even if it’s not present in a temporal sense. Some writers might direct their angst towards future generations, who might be more understanding of their predicament. But this is not a given.

Some might despair at the thought at not finding an audience, but perhaps the bigger picture is to capture moments between the Idea and the Real…with a capital I and R. Or as he says, quote: “There is more truth in appearances than what may be hidden beneath.” End quote. And that’s some pretty spooky stuff. Leading him to say that the benefit of having a poem about the Holocaust is that it provides the “Idea of the Holocaust”, which forces us to reckon with the terror that it really was. The terminology here, gets a bit wonky for me, but the things that we perceive, often distracts us from the reality of what it really is; sex being an exchange of bodily fluids, food being dead animals and vegitables and such. And the ideas that we receive are not perceptions of the Real, but are actually DISTRACTIONS….or escapes from the REAL, as Zizek says.

So those ideas do not generate on their own power, but are a culmination of the empirical world. Therefore, as the positivists are all too aware of, only the physical world is real. Bringing us to the problem Hegel was trying to answer….the problem of metaphysics. But Zizek explains that the question doesn’t become: “how do we discover truth behind ideas, but how are ideas generated from truth.”

So perhaps this is why I call this thing “My Life with Kant”, because this is essentially Kant’s project. If Zizek is any indication, philosophers today haven’t really moved passed this problem…we form our conceptions of the thing-in-itself based on a priori means, making these means the basis metaphysics, post-Kant. According to this definition, even the analytic philosophers are unwittingly engaging in this metaphysical discussion…namely by focusing on language. Which, we can think of in some ways as being an a prioric tool to understanding the world. I don’t if that’s correct, so don’t get pissy with me, analytic philosophers, I’m just saying it. And Google brought up all kinds of nonsense when I tried to research it, so who knows?

But Zizek places Hegel above Kant, so in actuality, we haven’t moved passed Hegel’s project. And speaking of nonsense, get a load of this. Zizek says, quote: “Appearance is appearance reflected against the background of nothing (or, to put it in terms of quantum physics, all entities arise out of the quantum vacillations). Appearance is nothing in-itself.” End quote. YES!!!! Everyday I get one step closer to rationally denying the real world. But what does this mean?

Just as matter is the filling of the void…as to are the appearances of things. Our perceptions are the fillingness of the nothingness behind it. As I’m saying that, this sounds dangerously close to George Berkeley…as in…”to be is to be perceived”. But as where Berkeley would claim that nothing exists outside of the mind…perhaps Zizek would say that not even the mind exists! So we can quit this whole philosophical discourse, because when it comes to the ultimate question of “why is there something rather than nothing?”, Zizek would say that there is ONLY nothing, OR, “from Nothing, through nothing, to nothing.” So I’m just completely wasting your time. Or, as the great Sammy Hagar would say, this is all “mental masturbation”.

But this nothingness isn’t all gloom and doom. After all, the Buddhist notion of no-self, would lead us to the nothingness, or flame out, which is the path towards Nirvana. But Zizek doesn’t subscribe to this, preferring to see this nothing as just a “pure gap”, ontologically speaking. And its from here where we can bridge off into the mechanics of reality, where the positivists might reduce everything to matter in motion. But it’s also from here, where we can take away the matter, and just leave motion. That is, if I’m understanding this correctly.

Carl Sagan said something similar in “The Cosmos”, during his whole “making a pie” sketch. We’re all dorks here, you know what I’m talking about….that atoms are mostly empty spaces. So the universe is primarily made up of, nothing at all. And if Carl Sagan said it, then it is good enough for me. So the matter that does occupy an atom, is really just energy in motion, causing mass. And when that energy ceases to be in motion, then it reverts back to nothing. What am I talking about? Doesn’t matter because I’m talking about…nothing. But again, we find that positive reality is just a network of interconnectedness. So how do we bring about free will? Or something that can generate an act, independent of this network?

Now for Zizek, we seem to be at a crossroads….we can choose the metaphysical path of Plato (not that I know anything about that). Or we can continue to kick the same materialist/positivists/postmodern can down the road.

One of the things that distinguishes the human mind from others (and why I suppose, a purely Darwinist approach would be insufficient to explain it) is that we are able to willfully deceive ourselves in order to believe fiction…or become infatuated with the veil. If the veil were to be removed, it would reveal the emptiness behind it, and the charade would be over. This is the mechanism of fetishness. The infatuation falls unto the cloth that covers the reality behind it. And if it was taken away, the mythos disappears and we are left with a void…the reality of nothing.

Now I have to spend more time of social media than I like, mostly Twitter because I’m lazy. And you look at the work of fellow starving artists…and what you find is the celebration of awkwardness, or the quote “creepy cuteness”. And those things are fine, a lot of it is very well done. But that’s the infatuation with the veil that I was speaking of. The reality of the perpetually awkward is how socially crippling those situations can be…or that a zombie will eat your mother fucking face off!!! And zombies aren’t even real, they’re a veil over the veil. The dwelling in the so-called “darker” aspects of life, is not the acceptance of the nothingness of life…but only serves to distract you from the terror that REALLY exists.

Not to put words in Zizek’s mouth, but I suppose we can take this grand assumption all the way down…down to the subatomic level…where we see the atoms, and protons, and God-knows what else that makes an atom…but we see them for what they really are…a mask. But what alarms me about this absence of reality is…other than the obvious being, half the horseshit we deal with, day in and day out…but in the age in which we live, how much of our politics are just facades?…Trying to deceive ourselves into believing that our projects are all that important? Like there’s an “end all, be all” solution to our problems. Or would we rather not face the fact that, heh…we are all just making it up as we go? Are the policies which we create just stand-ins for myths…that get categorized for having practical implications for the real world? So is Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” just another mythologizing of mathematics, economics, and politics that we hold dear today? Making it no different than Aesop’s Fables?

Now there’s a shitton more to this book, but it’s longer than War and Peace, I mean like…literally, it’s longer than War and Peace. So, I completely missed Zizek’s larger points, so if you want to learn more…read the damn book yourself. You’re welcome Slavoj Zizek…you just got free publicity.

But what I actually was Hegel…who has alarmingly gone seldom mentioned in this podcast. But look, I don’t know if the idea of nothingness is empirically sound…but, I just hate this world so much, that I’ll believe anything that contradicts it. So instead of talking about Hegel, we got to talk about…nothing at all.

Finding My ‘No-Self’

I take solace in the fact that I don’t exist. Well…I do, but the continuity of self is an illusion. Just a product of my imagination. And because it’s an illusion, it can be undone. That’s the path of no-self within Buddhist Tradition.When I consider depression and addiction, it’s these sorts of philosophies that I find comfort in.

Continuing with my writer’s block theme, this is another re-posts from the My Life With Kant days. This was originally an audio recording, and this is the transcription. Please forgive any spelling and grammatical errors. Enjoy!

MyLifeWithKant

I’ve bitched and complained before about having to live in modern society. Sure, not having to die in your mid-20’s due to a bear attack is awesome, but you know, if business school has taught me anything, is TINSTAAFL…you know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything comes at a cost.

Although living in a production society for the last thousand years has produced tremendous results. Life expectancy has gone through the roof. We can go into FUCKING SPACE! What other species occupying this planet has done that? Love us or hate us, you gotta admit, humans have done pretty well for themselves despite running around with our wangs hanging out just a few millennia ago.

But like I said, everything comes at a cost. Millions, if not billions, of people had to die as a result of disease, war, and other atrocities in order to get to today. So there’s that cost. But what has it cost the human psyche?

We take for granted today that we have language and personal property and government protection and the billions of people that exist independent of you. It didn’t turn that way over night. At one point, somewhere in time, there had to be the first humans. Mind you, it was a gradual change, but what would have been the thoughts of the first people? Of course, it wouldn’t have been, “holy shit, we’re people, and alive!”. But, I imagine (and I’m more than likely wrong, but just entertain me here for a second), primitive humans wouldn’t have had a sophisticated language system to help them process thoughts. It was probably less of a system and more of a rudimentary local dialect, that would have shared similarities with other groups, but would have varied from group to group. Now there’s probably some language theorist out there somewhere calling me a fucking idiot, but that’s besides the point.

The point that I want to reach is, when did this conception of “I” come to be? Do you see what I’m saying? Now I’m sure that some Marxist out there would like to claim that the transition from hunter-gathers to agrarians would have caused a shift in personal identity, where the individual would have seen themselves as primarily a member of their family or group, or something like that. But I won’t go that far. But there had to come at some point where it finally occurred to someone, “shit, I’m gonna die someday.” I think this sort of existential angst is what sets us apart from other animals. I mean, do dogs wonder around thinking about death and life’s meaning? Maybe they do, I don’t know.

But what you gotta remember is, that back in the cavemen days (which was MOST of human existence by the way), discovering meaning wouldn’t have been much of a problem. There’s the argument that because they had to spend most of their time surviving, there was no time to think of such things. But there’s another thing. What would they have compared their meaning to? If they were just wondering nomads, what would have been their definitions of success? They weren’t searching for monetary wealth or fame, their neighbors probably had the same resources and goods that they had, so what more was there?

Of course, this would have been giving early humans more credit than they probably deserve. There was most absolutely oppressors and oppresses. But was there a conception of personal gain? Of history? Or ‘otherness’? I don’t know. But today, we are self-aware animals. But once upon a time, we were just animals.

….

Over the course of thousands of years, humanity has shifted the primary concerns of existence away from survival. Very few of us have to fear death from the elements or predators. Now we compete with one another. Questions of the day are no longer “how will I eat today.” Now it is, “will my existence matter?”.

We are no longer in a group of a hundred, where we struggled together for survival. Now we are just one in 9 billion people…forced to live in a world where the individual is just one cog in a greater machine. In a sense, there’s an insecurity that the individual feels, knowing that they are only one person within the multitude. Instead of the connection with others, they turn their focus to the inside…the mechanism of vanity. This is only enabled by our technological advancements. The tale of the 21st Century can be told through social media.

Now, perhaps more than ever, narcissism reigns king.

You know yourself, right? You are you…this finite being. Your appearance might change over time, but you still look behind the same eyes. Despite the tides and turns of time, you still remain you. Does it have to be this way? What if the idea of “you” was just an illusion? Let’s venture out of the comfort of European philosophy, and go east.

The Buddha was concerned with suffering. Suffering is pretty much the story of mankind. That’s pretty much what history is about, right? It’s mostly about how humans have inflicted suffering on each other. And it’s not just physical suffering that ails mankind. Mental anguish paralyzes individuals just as well as its physical counterpart. What are the emotions that you feel when undergoing mental anguish? Guilt, unworthiness, paranoia, and possibly even hate?

In certain Buddhist schools of thought, these emotions find their root in one cause: the idea of the self. You perceive yourself to be the same person one moment to the next. But break down this perception. Time is a flowing stream, and our bodies that house the mind, are no different. In a certain sense, you are literally not the same person that you were 20 years ago. You are growing and changing at every moment. Even our very thoughts are flowing forward in time. There’s not much about you that remains constant.

Yet we pad ourselves with our self-conceptions. Believing that we are among the constants in an ever changing universe.

There might be some relation here with Kantian philosophy. I believe I might have said as much in the first episode, but don’t quote me on that. But in the Buddhist tradition, over-coming the self can lead you towards the path of enlightenment. That sounds pretty Kantian to me. Or we can at least see some parallels between Buddhism and European Enlightenment philosophy. At least I do. The overcoming of self in order to achieve enlightenment sort of reminds me of the unknowable thing-in-itself.

But in the European tradition, at least if you are a follower of Kant, the thing-in-itself cannot be known. No matter how much we try, we have to use the faculties of the mind to understand the world. The mind is finite. We can know that the thing exist, but we can’t know it intimately. All kinds of things are going on around us that we can’t perceive. But our minds are designed in a way to perceive the things that nature created it to perceive. Even the things that you do perceive, probably look different to say…something like a reptile. So no one perceiving THING knows the world as intimitaly as it exist without a mind to perceive it. Your reality, in some way, is shaped by your perception. So perhaps George Berkeley wasn’t completely wrong when he said that a thing doesn’t exist without a mind to perceive it. Which is another callback to an old episode. But he wasn’t completely right either.

I might be going off the rails here. I might be seeing connections where none exist. But so what? I think that both Buddhism and Continental Philosophy see the same thing. You, and me, are the problem. The human mind plays a central role. As where European philosophy largely doesn’t concern itself with evading the mind, and instead I would say that it just wallows in it, Buddhism at least focuses on rising above it.

But perhaps it would be strong of me to insist on the mind being a problem. In a Buddhist light, that is probably not the best way to look at it. However, the mind is a product of nature. And because it is so, it is designed to do certain things. Despite humanity being able to overcome many obstacles throughout its history, the mechanisms that protected our ancestors are still present within us. It is within the mind’s own best interest to exclude itself from its surroundings. To extract itself from nature, rather than seeing itself as another extension of it.

This separation causes the advent of the self. And the self creates the concept of “I”. But your mind, and mine as well, are just creations. The idea of “you” and “me”, are just illusions designed to protect our bodies. The mind controls us, we are encased within it. It’s common to make division between us and the world, but what is the world? Perhaps for expediency, we group other minds in with the world, yet we consider our own to be independent. To take the path towards enlightenment, the being that’s encased within the mind and therefore distinguishes it from the rest of the world, now has to remove that division…To see one self, or better yet, become ones-self, as a stream of the world that moves forward in time.

The European, and less spiritual version of this, we can see as stoicism. Like the Buddhist, the Stoics sees themselves as beings that are a part of a greater whole. Perhaps erroneously, and stereotypically, people tend to associate Stoicism with inaction. And perhaps a few might see Buddhism in the same light. But I have always felt that that was a mistake. I think that what the two schools have in common is their doctrines on time and our relationship towards it. The past is like an unmovable rock, and would therefore be a waste of time trying to move. As Ray Lewis once said “Only fools trip on things behind them”. But the future is like a door. The present is therefore the key towards unlocking that door. So being focused on the here and now keeps us moving forward on our path.

Mental Health and First World Society

I’m suffering from writer’s block today, so I’m rehashing some of my older material. I once hosted a philosophy podcast titled My Life With Kant. Why? Because I’m a huge Immanuel Kant fan. But anyways, I usually covered many different philosophically-related things. Notably mental health problems.

The recording is godawful, so I’m only releasing the transcript. Please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors. Enjoy!

MyLifeWithKant

How much has the human mind changed since we have officially evolved into “homo sapien SAPIENS”, because, apparently there’s a slight distinction between “homo sapiens” and “homo sapien SAPIENS”. If you’ve listened to this podcast before, you’ve heard me ask this question. And from what I gather, apparently it hasn’t really changed at all.

Yeah, like it or not, we’re still that same primate that was simply roaming the land thousands of years ago. We haven’t changed, only the bullshit that we’ve surrounded ourselves with has changed. Thankfully, our forefathers conquered all the beasts and tailored the earth to fit our needs. So I think that this has given us the illusion that we are more evolved or have things more figured out than our ancestors. And maybe we do, we certainly have a better understanding of the universe that we occupy. We can definitely achieve many more things than they ever could. But…what does it matter? I mean, we’re still going to die in the end. Or at least, you probably will. I’m going to live forever.

But I think that there’s this mistake that we all believe, that says, the most optimal time to live is right now. And as the future rolls on, then THAT will be the most optimal time to live. I think I might have also beaten this horse to death as well. But in our modern time, we have exchanged pure survival and minimal existence for material gain and information. Additionally, because we are very social creatures, the increasing population and constant awareness of others have greatly altered what it means to be a human. Does this make sense? So if you’re living in First World Society, there’s a whole NEW set of problems that the mind has to deal with, and isn’t accustomed to dealing with because the human mind and body are adapted for survival, and our social habits are a tool. Now we have to learn to survive in a highly sociable world.

The belief that we have evolved out of animal status, or our methods of living today are superior to those of our ancestors, is an arrogance of modernity. To an extent, we are just trading one set of problems out for another. As much as I hate it, I think to a large degree, the human mind is made to suffer. Instead of having to worry about animals and competing tribes out to kill us, we have exchanged those problems out for more Nietzchien-like struggles. Like how to we bring meaning to what seems to be a meaningless life? So, which problems would you rather face? Immediate survival with your fellow hunter-gatherers, or figuring out your purpose in a world that encapsulates you with its meaningless laws, morals, mythologies?…Probably the latter, I would too.

However, these new sets of problems have created a new set of illnesses. Or at least it has brought awareness to a new set of illnesses. But it’s interesting to consider what causes what…if I’m making sense.

The work I’ll be relying on for this episode is “All We Have to Fear: Psychiatry’s Transformation of Natural Anxieties into Mental Disorders” by Allan Horwitz and Jerome Wakefield. And they start of by saying, quote: “Fears, worries, and apprehensions are painful and ubiquitous aspects of human existence, whether they are common or idiosyncratic, specific, or diffuse, rational or irrational.” End quote. And it is. I think that everyone has suffered from it as some point in their lives. Love it or hate it, it’s a very effective tool that evolution has bestowed upon us. Without fear, who knows where we’d be?….

But Horwitz and Wakefield point out, that in the 1980 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Health Disoriders, it stated that only 2 to 4% of people would classify as having an anxiety disorder. Now that number reaches to 1 in 5 persons. And to the authors, this calls for an explanation.

Now us philosophically-inclined folk like to think of anxiety as feelings we get when we try to contemplate life’s meaning. Which, to be honest, I don’t really get anxious. Angstful…hell yeah! But let’s sideline that thought for awhile. When most people get anxious, at least in our comfortable first-world existence, it’s over small things like…I don’t know, being late to a meeting or failing to meet deadlines. However, having those small concerns in-themselves, are not enough to meet the criteria of having a mental illness. Unless, of course, these sorts of concerns come to dominate your life. In that case, these feelings can cross the threshold into a disordered anxiety.

Of course, fear itself is not an unreasonable thing. As I said before, fear is in fact, a very useful thing. However, in our modern sterile world, where a lot of these fears have become irrational, the human mind can sometimes find itself out of place, as it tries to grapple with mundane realities using cognative tools that evolution granted us. This can often lead to disproportionate reactions to problems that the individual has no control over. Then fear and anxiety themselves become things to avoid, even if they are natural reactions from the body. Thus new anxieties are developed out of these incontrollable fears.

But we come to define these anxieties in not only biological or neurological terms, but we also look at them through social terms. Which is why the severity of these disorders vary from person to person. Therefore, to the authors, questions arise, like how can we distinguish between normal and abnormal amount of anxiety, should the fears instilled in us through evolution (but seem out of place to us now) be considered a disorder, and what role does psychiatric evaluation have in making this distinction, in addition to the role of medication, among many others.

But the authors contend that by simply looking at the brain, you cannot adequately recognize any mental health problems. Or as they say, quote: “Looking at the intensity of amygdala activity is not a way to “see disorder” in the brain.” End quote. Only in extreme cases, where physical trauma has been enacted on the brain, you won’t be able to determine any abnormalities. Just because someone’s brain waves are exhibiting anxiety or any other forms of natural stress, doesn’t mean that there’s a disorder in place.

Another popular theory is that undesirable responses to stimuli can be a learned trait. For example, when you see someone else respond with fear to something, you echo that response. And some believe that mental illnesses can be considered a social construct. But either way, Wakefield and Horwitz don’t necessarily reject these positions, but they downplay the significance they might have had in the rise of mental health diagnosis’. Instead the authors support a more evolutionary focus on anxiety. They say, quote: “A disorder indicates that something is wrong with some (possibly inferred and as yet unknown) internal mechanism that is biologically designed to do something but is failing to do it-or is designed NOT to do something that it is doing, as in panic attacks when no threat is present.” End quote.

So as I said earlier, fear, panic, anxiety…those are all natural things. And occasionally…very useful things. It’s only when those functions start firing off at the wrong times, or even if they fail to fire off at the RIGHT times, can that be considered a problem…and therefore a disorder. These mechanisms are designed to respond to the world in a particular way. But perhaps the real problem isn’t the brain, it’s that the environment around it has changed, and so our brains are responding to a world that it’s ill-adapted towards.

This is where Wakefield and Horwitz introduce the idea of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation, or EEA. Which, to me, sounds similar to Hobbes’s State of Nature. I don’t know if the author’s agree, but that’s what I’m rolling with. And in this environment, is where humans developed their emotional responses, and a number of other adaptations. And this environment was distinctly different from the one we live in today. I’ve discussed before how much of human history really isn’t history at all. It’s just people wondering around as hunter-gatherers. And our psychology evolved to fit those needs. It’s only been within the last few thousand years, where we haven’t had to fight predators and hunt our food. If we brought a newborn baby from 50,000 years ago, raised it in modern times, that person would function normally. Same thing, vice-versa. We haven’t changed, the world has changed, and our psychology might be struggling to adapt.

How many problems are out there, that aren’t really problems? Am I making sense? You have a report that’s due tomorrow…well what would happen if you don’t turn it in? Are you going to die? You think back to those people 50,000 years ago, and I’m sure that there are millions of people living like this today, but their problems had to do with REAL survival. So those stress mechanisms that fire off in us today, were quite valuable to those ancient peoples. It’s what kept them alive. Unluckily for us, those stress mechanisms didn’t evolve away. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the same stressor that kept the ancient peoples alive, start firing off for a much lesser problem. So society, unintentionally for the most part, manipulates those adaptations. That’s why college students stress the fuck out for completely useless reasons, or why I stress out over this podcast. None of it matters, but because society or high demands on oneself dictate that these first-world problems are akin to survival, people will either react in proportionally to the problem, OR truly believe that this means survival. So this modern world is a cruel machine…

Struggle is a normal, and to a large extend, healthy function of life. And as a sports fan, there are all kinds of quotes from athletes and coaches that explain this, but the one I am reminded of (and is perhaps the most applicable) is the one from Michael Vick (I believe, when he is addressing a group of inmates), where he says: “If you don’t struggle, you can’t make changes”. And you know what…I don’t even if he said that, or if anyone said that…but neither here nor there…the point is that struggling is part of the human experience. Ideally, we all want life to be sunshine and roses, but it doesn’t work that way. There’s almost a movement towards Aldous Huxley’s world, where once when we start to feel bad things, we can just pop a soma, and all of our bad thoughts go away…to move into a sterile world….

…but…not to sound too much like Captain Kirk in Star Trek V…but I need my pain. I need my personal struggles. Because that’s what shapes who I am. And who the hell knows where I’d be without it….probably a lot happier. That’s for damn sure.