Emptiness, Relationships & Our Prehistoric Psyche

Let’s loose some words about the basic human psyche and its origins in prehistoric tribe culture. Specifically, I want to explain the concepts of feeling „fulfilled“ and „empty“.

Nowadays, we often hear those terms. Everybody – including me – wants a fulfilling life yet so much people complain about waking up feeling emptiness inside. What is it exactly? Where does it come from? Why seem some people to be more „full“ whereas others seem so „empty“? A small view on how our psyche originated may get light into the matter.

First fun fact: Homo Sapiens is a horde species. Always has been. Since literally millions of years. The human psyche co-evolved with social group interactions, lone wolfs probably almost never existed. Since the rise of the first humans, they did everything together: eating, hunting, caring about children, having sex, carrying stuff, collecting food and crafting tools. All group activities from morning to evening.

As you can imagine, the human psyche began to develop a sense of self, or a rudimentary self-image, over the relationships to the other humans in the horde. „I“ as far as it even existed, got defined over the others saw the individual. Heck, in some tribalistic hunter-gatherer cultures that exist today, the tribe identity is still much more important than the individual person.

This relationship-identity over millions of years profoundly shaped the development of our brain. Our brain literally needs the presence of fitting people for different aspects of our lives (work, inspiration, sex, challenges, etc.) to let specific areas in our mind resonate with. There’s this theory, that interactions with people release specific hormones, which trigger different areas in our heads. You probably know this, if you hug or kiss a lover, your body gets flooded with oxytocin and others and you feel kinda high, well & inspired. This is, what we need people & relationships for; to cause hormonal reactions in our body-mind system, that make us feel „fulfilled“ – that make a part of ourselves, in our own brain, aware of its existence.

And guess what, we still carry this type of brain with us in 2021. Problem is now, that our modern lifestyle does not or only barely provide us with the close relationships we need. The human psyche is designed to maintain relationships with up to 150 people, and not only some mere acquaintances, you have to imagine those contacts like intimate familiars you have around you 24/7. Almost all of your life from birth till death.

Let that sink in. That’s a lot of presence time, even for close friends. Do you have best friends, family members or co-workers around you almost 24/7? of course not. Surely not 150. With how much people you share intimate, affectionate contact? Probably not more than one. And the average modern man surely has not more than one sexual partner at any given time – contrary to our ancestors, who had so much sex that they literally evolved the comparatively biggest penis in the whole animal kingdom, I kid you not.

No wonder, so much people in this world get up feeling „unfulfilled“ – It’s the lack of all the relationship bonds, that our brain is designed to expect but never gets in real life, that creates the hole in so much people’s psyche. It’s the lack of fitting humans and meaningful interactions, that lets a huge part of our subconsciousness, well, be not conscious.

Other people are a projection and representation of our mind, but this works vice versa – It’s other people, who enable the inner resonation of being „seen“, „valued“ & „appreciated“ that a human desperately needs to maintain a healthy sense of self. And, for those who are interested in spiritual matters, depending on the kind of relationship and the different hormones involved, we literally feel the awareness for those relationships in different locations inside our bodies – in my opinion the origin of the chakra model. We all know, that we feel intimate „love“ in the region of our heart, sexual intercourse resonates in the area of our genitals and an opponnent in martial arts challenges our capacity to swallow pain on a physical level. To experience all those different kinds of relationships on a daily basis is, what makes us feel internally „fulfilled“.

To depict that, I created a rudimentary graph. I tried to roughly estimate, how much relationships per life area the average ancestor in the last millions of years cultivated and compared it to the average modern human today – I also tried to calculate the actual time spent in the presence of those people around. Don’t pin me down on the actual numbers, I know, that during those millions of years, we face tons of fluctuating and not 100% provable parameters. But as a social anthropologist and as far as my knowledge in psychology goes, I use this depiction as rule of thumb.

Grey: Roughly the amount of humans, our subconsciousness expects to have around

Colored: Roughly the amount of relationships, the average modern human cultivates

And now a small graph that depicts our self-image. Usually, in modern life we only have a handful of people we really care about and that we expect to care about us. But cultivating only a small amount of relationships literally limits our minds and leaves a lot of our subconscious potential in the dark. Who could we be, if we surrounded us with all the people that our deepest psyche really, really needs?

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