– by Brendan Reid, Editor –
Few mysteries have been as elusive as the nature of our own consciousness. Though we have been pondering the topic as long as history dictates, the answers continue to elude us, and scientifically, cognition remains a criminally understudied subject.
Regardless of this, is it clear that something is going on within our heads, and has been for a long time. Many have wondered why we perceive the world the way we do. What do we benefit from our intense level of self-awareness? What does feeling, a direct symptom of our consciousness, do to help us survive? Granted, there are plenty of emotions that have clear benefits. Love, for example, creates strong bonds between individuals, and builds mutually beneficial communities. Fear, though unpleasant, is a sensation that prompts us to avoid dangerous situations, and therefore allows us to survive.
But What About Depression?
Depression is an emotion that seems to have no purpose. As you experience depression, its symptoms work against you in every way. Your brain stews itself in immobilizing chemicals, and you find yourself locked self-deprecating loops of thought. You become reserved, and in many cases quite sick. Socializing becomes difficult, and in extreme circumstances simple movement can become difficult as well.
In a nutshell, depression makes living a chore. So why does such an emotion continue to exist in the modern human? According to the rules of evolution, shouldn’t traits that hinder our survival be bred out, and eradicated from our gene pool? Anyone who was depressed during our initial development as a species surely must have been killed off, for it offers no survival benefits whatsoever.
Or Does It?
Think about this way. If you’ve ever been depressed in your life, you’ll know there are very few things that can rapidly alleviate the feeling, short of one: exercise. When you exercise, you flood your brain with feel-good chemicals, chemicals that invigorate you awareness and prompt your body to make itself stronger. Depression truly sets in when you are inactive, when you sit at home and try to forget the world, and neglect physical activity. When you start feeling it, your body is telling you to care for yourself, so you can become healthy again and continue to thrive.
Depression exists as a simple communicator, a warning against the dangers of inactivity. Possibly, this is the very reason that depression has remained with us as a species. Those who feel depression become motivated to escape it through exercise, become healthy and productive, and are able to pass on their genes as a result.
By having the ability to critically analyze our own feelings and brain activities, we are able to make the choices we need to survive. Those who are aware of what is going on inside them, and can control it, are able to become stronger as a result, and can flourish in the world. While it is no definite answer to the mystery of our cognition, it gives justification to our feelings, and makes all sensations, even those that seem negative, a necessary part of the human experience.