Part 2: The Human Need for Control and Certainty

Blog 02 Welcome to Part 2 of the Lockdown Mental Health Series. If you missed Part 1 you can find it here. I find the concept below really helpful, when we modern humans are feeling distressed for one reason or another. Remember we’re group animals, designed to live in small tribes, in nature, and that our brains have not evolved at the same speed as the world we’ve created around us has. If you remember this fact, suddenly the reason most of us are feeling an element of stress all the time makes sense: We’re not designed to live in this fast-paced world, with technology knocking on our door 24/7, always being available via email, text, WhatsApp, social media, etc. We’re not designed to work full hour days and then come home and take care of the family and home as well and feel the pressure to make the most of our leisure time on top of that. We’re not designed to live in this noise of cars and crowds and music in shops or the radio blaring all day long. If we remember this concept of our ancient brains then suddenly the reason so many of us feel lonely at times makes sense too: We’re not designed to live these individualistic lives on our own. We’re meant to live in a tribe, or at least in a community, but in the Westernised world we’ve been moving away from this for decades now and the consequences are clear. We’re lonelier than ever before and we feel more disconnected and that we don’t have the help around us we need, and which our ancestors had.   If you think of humans as these primitive group animals with the one purpose of surviving, suddenly lots of the ways we interact with each other and the world makes sense. That’s why we’re so protective of ‘our own’, that’s why we fear ‘otherness’, that’s why we feel a need to control our environment and to feel there’s certainty in our lives. It was necessary for the survival of our small tribe and the next generation. Of course, lots of these survival traits are no longer necessary to the same degree and considering our interconnected world, have become harmful instead when we divide people into ‘us versus them’. But thinking about Covid-19 and the lockdown, how might this be relevant information? Our tribes are now much smaller and usually consist of our closest family members only. But we’re still motivated to protect them above all else. At the same time, there’s this big government force that has revoked our freedom to roam and limited our access to certain things and services. Different governments have applied different measures and their messages aren’t always clear. That’s confusing and it leads to a sense of uncertainty. We become instinctive and protective of our tribe and what that might look like nowadays is to buy all the toilet paper and flour and canned foods. Why? Because we’ve now stocked up on things we consider essential. We’ve kept our ‘tribe’ safe. We’ve tried to ensure a form of control by filling our cupboards and freezers. We’ve tried to buy some certainty. We’re animals and we learn from observing others – that’s why children often mirror our behaviours – so if everyone else is buying toilet paper so will I because either they know something I don’t about the importance of a fully stocked cupboard of toilet paper and so I shall follow their lead, or they’re trying to compete with me and ensure their tribe’s survival over mine, so I will engage in this competition too and try and win (them versus us). Of course, not everyone went out and stockpiled but I’m merely trying to demonstrate why we saw this reaction happening across the world. Blog series written by Terese Smith – counsellor, dyslexic and Dyslexia Scotland blogger