The first mental illness that revealed a major component of human nature was the most common variety of severe depression, which, due to a quirk of history, is called “atypical depression.” It is officially recognized that a major ingredient of this kind of depression is separation anxiety, blown up into an illness by the pathological intensity of its being subjected to feedback reverberation. I then determined that the fundamental emotional ingredient of the other major form of depression, “melancholia,” was the fear of being trapped. I came to that conclusion because the overriding preoccupation of these patients is escape—often into death through suicide. Next, I concluded that the interacting components in the devastating illness of panic disorder were both the fear of being trapped (often a feeling of suffocation) and separation anxiety (in this case separation from the self—dissociation—precipitating a fear of “going crazy”) excruciatingly reverberating back and forth with one another.
I began viewing mental illnesses as “emotional fossils” that yielded up clues to the deep evolution of our emotions. I determined that the separation anxiety and the fear of being trapped were two fundamental emotions that played a crucial role in human evolution. But what role?
In prison I had learned the importance of group formation—mainly along ethnic lines—for protection. I began to understand the foundational emotional forces that had “squeezed” the elemental (and antisocial) fight-flight responses together into the dominance-submission structure of hierarchical groups. I now saw that the fear of being trapped in melancholic depression pertained to being trapped outside of a group or organization, as if up against the wall of banishment. I finally came to the conclusion that aversion to these two painful anxieties—one sensitive to increasing distances from the center of a group (separation) and the other sensitive to decreasing distances from the edges of a group (trapped)—both functioning to hold groups together as centripetal emotions that pressed in against the centrifugal impulses of fight and flight. The first glimmer of viewing the group itself as an organism with its own agenda began to dawn on me. I speculated that, set in motion by some as yet unknown unique circumstances, the process of my previously conceived inter-selection between dominance and submissive mentalities (selection inclusion) had initiated our hominid line by a sudden increase by orders of magnitude of these twin anxieties resulting in suddenly strengthening the bonds binding these groups tightly together.