Having determined that the various mental illnesses were all reflective of evolved segments of normal emotion, and that the majority of these illness – the anxiety and depression disorders – reflected motivation by aversion to the fears of separation and being trapped, I concluded that much of normal human behavior is inhibitory of primate aggression with the function of creating stronger and more productive social bonds.
Primatologist, Frans de Waal has spent the latter part of his illustrious career emphasizing fairness and empathy in chimpanzees. However, one’s first impressions are usually the most correct (cf. Blink.) When he started working at the chimpanzee colony at Arnhem, Holland, he had the following dream he related in his book, Chimpanzee Politics.
I clearly remember the first dream I had about chimpanzees. In it my preoccupation with the distance between them and me was apparent. During this dream the large door to their quarters was opened for me from the inside. The apes were pushing each other aside in order to get a good look at me. Yeron, the oldest male, stepped forward and shook my hand. Rather impatiently he listened to my request to come in. He refused point-blank. That was out of the question, he said, and besides, their society would not suit me: it was much too harsh for a human being.
It became clear to me that the evolutionary meaning of the prevalence of anxiety and depression in humans is their inhibitory function. These painful emotions have repressed antisocial behavior and have replaced it with coordinated behavior. Please note that I used the word coordinated and not cooperative. Group selection produces the unity of coordinated behavior, with the implication of centralized, “neurological” command and control, whereas selection at the level of the individual produces cooperative behavior of mutual self-interest, the hallmark of which is decentralized, local communication. This is the crucial distinction to be grasped.
I will end with a question that is also a clue. Why is it that dogs are the only other species that come close to us with respect to suffering from the same debilitating anxiety and depression illnesses that we do?