When we enter this world our priority is survival and the only thing that keeps us alive, aside from those who care for us, is our survival instinct. When we are hungry our instincts demand food and when we are thirsty they demand water. When life presents us with one of its infinite dilemmas our instincts demand action in order that we survive. The consequences of our actions are, in their simplest form, either survival or death.
We may survive due to our choice of action, but we have absolutely no idea whether or not our choice was the best we could have made. Neither do we have the motivation to question whether or not we could have made a better choice. Our sole aim is to survive and if we have achieved that, then we tick our action and mark it down as effective should a similar situation occur in our future.
This is where our problems start. Because we have what appears to be an effective action, there is no need to waste time and energy choosing a different route through a similar problem. It’s a risk that might ultimately end in death, so we stick to what we know works, even though it may not be effective in the long run.
To explain more clearly, take the problem of hunger. Our instincts tell us that if we do not eat we will perish. Let’s say we have a choice of food: an apple, a piece of bread, or a biscuit. If we choose the biscuit our hunger is satisfied and we also experience pleasure from the sweetness of the biscuit. What more could we ask for from a survival plan?
However, the long-term outlook for a diet of biscuits is bleak: we rapidly become undernourished, our teeth rot and our days are numbered. An ideal survival plan would be a combination of all three, weighted in favour of fruit and bread, and if we could explore further and find vegetables and a source of protein, then not only would we survive, we would also live a healthy life.
So it is with life’s other problems. Just because the survival plans we chose as infants have brought us this far, does not necessarily mean they are in our best, long-term interests. That is what I have learned over the last few months. Compared to others in the animal kingdom, our survival is all but guaranteed. However, effective survival and a healthy life physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually are a completely different matter.
I chose a survival plan which, among other things, relied on the mothering instincts of females. If I can trigger these instincts I will be looked after. Easy. The problems start when I begin to resort to drastic measures in order to do that. Unconsciously causing myself pain and suffering is not what I would class as a healthy lifestyle. It may have the desired effect on the women in my life and so ensure my survival, but at what cost? Just like a diet of biscuits to ease my hunger, my plan is ultimately doing more harm than good.
I am beginning to understand that there are survival alternatives. Moreover, there is virtually no risk involved. I will not perish if I change my life’s tactics. In fact, I am changing and the results are astounding. Having recognised the damage of my erstwhile survival plan, I am moving away from mothering instincts towards independence. I am looking after myself and I am growing stronger physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
As animals our priority is survival. As humans our priority is growth. There’s more to life than biscuits.