Listening to sublime music, observing a beautiful flower, tasting delicious morsels of food, inhaling a heavenly scent and feeling the titillating sensation of a gentle touch on my arm are all experiences that can send me into a state of bliss.

These however, are the COLLATERAL BENEFITS of having our FIVE SENSES.

Our five, dominant, senses evolved in response to a need to defend, and to protect, our organism-selves from the vast array of physical threats confronting us each day.

Our nervous systems are constantly working in the background, polling our physical environments, thousands of times every minute to gather tactile, auditory, olfactory, visual, and gustatory information; then comparing this never-ending stream of data against the gargantuan database of ‘documented’ physical threats that’s been accumulating, inside our brains, since shortly after conception. The next time that you’re an airplane passenger, notice just how finely attuned your body is to subtle shifts in acceleration, barometric pressure, alignment and axial orientation.

My main purpose in writing this blog post is not to discuss our senses, but to raise awareness that human beings, and many other creatures, have evolved a parallel defense-mechanism to defend and to protect us from NON-PHYSICAL THREATS.

For those readers familiar with my work on Behavioural Loop Theory, you’ll recognise that I’m talking about EMOTIONAL THREATS (and psychological threats).

Without going into detail here, I’ll simply state that ALL non-physical threats have this in common:

When the full spectrum of NON-PHYSICAL THREATS has been distilled to it’s lowest common denominator, that common denominator is an IMMINENT THREAT OF SOCIAL ISOLATION

Familiar forms of Involuntary Isolation include:

  • Rejection
  • Social Exclusion
  • Shaming
  • Excommunication
  • Banishment
  • Ostracisation
  • Disgrace
  • Lack of Belonging

When we encounter a physical threat, our nervous system sets to work identifying which of our responses are best suited to the elimination of that specific threat. When we’re standing on a ladder, for example, that has begun to slip sideways, our healthy nervous system might issue an instruction to our arms to hold onto the building tightly, or to shift our weight in the opposite direction. Since a particularly bitter taste can indicate toxicity, we sometimes feel an impulse to spit, or to throw-up, when our tongues encounter excessive bitterness.

Our EMOTIONS are CUSTOMISED RESPONSES to specific forms of EMOTIONAL DANGER!

These examples demonstrate how specific emotions protect us:

Suspicion indicates that something in our environment poses a threat to our social-connectedness and provides us with pause to evaluate the risks that are present.

Confidence is the emotion that we feel when we are acting in a way that (we believe) reinforces our social-connectedness. Confidence sends a signal to our nervous system to continue doing what we are doing.

Envy is the emotion that we feel when we notice that someone has something that we covet and we believe that having that trait or that object would enhance our connection-worthiness and could ‘immunise’ us from the ever-present risk of social exclusion.

Irritation is the emotion that we feel when we have no choice but to endure something that feels uncomfortable. Irritation protects us by signalling an urgent need to alter something in our social environment.

Sadness is a response to the absence of something, or someone, to whom we feel connected. Sadness protects us by illuminating a need, either to seek connection elsewhere, or to enhance/repair the existing connection (when that’s possible).

Here’s a short list of emotions that you’re encouraged to explore.

  • Anxious
  • Frustration
  • Trepidation
  • Inadequate
  • Furious
  • Self Conscious
  • Depressed
  • Lonely

In the comments section, please share YOUR understanding of how any of these emotions (or any other emotions, that you find compelling) evolved to protect us, or write to me using the email address at www.b-loops.com/about

Afterword: As a young MALE, I was raised in a culture that harshly, and often violently, discouraged the expression of emotion.

Over time my capacity to discern and to acknowledge emotions, other than sadness, frustration, anger and fear ATROPHIED.

I sincerely wish that we will move our civilisation forward, encouraging children, of all genders, to experience the widest range of emotions conceivable, in order for them to defend and to protect themselves from harm.

Given the VITAL role that emotions play in keeping us safe, I consider THIS a travesty!

I fervently hope that our civilisation will evolve in the direction that encourages children, of all genders, to experience the broadest possible range of emotions, so that they’re better able to defend and to protect themselves from emotional and from psychological harm.