Ch1 L40: Beliefs – part XIV (The hallucinating solution)

  1. Realizing our own mortality has been the greatest discovery of all time [1]. It has had such an irreversibly huge impact on our lives that many might have wished that they hadn’t had a bite from the fruit of knowledge.
  2. It also changed the way people had defined their lives. Imagine that each day they had to deal with many dangerous situations to survive and finally they’d die [2]. So, why should we live when we just suffer? In societies, that’s what the poor and downtrodden would ask themselves even more, especially if they compared themselves to the rich.
  3. These thoughts can cause depression. In the 10th post, we discussed the difference between sadness and depression [3] which are the opposite of each other. When you’re sad, you lower your activities to reevaluate your situation and recharge, but when you’re depressed you waste your energy trying to solve an impossible problem, wasting your energy; and we know that defeating death seemed to be an impossible challenge [4].
  4. That’s why we’re socially allowed to be temporarily sad, say, while grieving but not depressed. Society sees depression as the most dangerous disease because it lowers productivity, so it would react to it.
  5. I’d say that mostly the ancient thinkers got depressed as Woody Allen [5] in Annie Hall [6] when he realized that the world would come to end one day. The brain of the majority would prioritize dealing with daily problems. Most people work till they get hungry, then they react to their physiological needs. Few people can forget their hunger or ignore their physiological signals and work non-stop until they get something done. Thus, most people pondered Death after work, usually in evenings when the sun was going down and the sky turned red.
  6. Again they could find a similarity between sunset and Death, the way they found a similarity between natural disasters and predators [7]. However, the sun would rise the next day. Would we come back to life again? They wondered.
  7. It sounds an absurd idea, doesn’t it? but hold on. Trees also blossom after they die in winter, or animals come out of the earth in spring. Why wouldn’t we revive? They certainly didn’t know much about plants dormancy and animals hibernation.
  8. Anthropologists have mentioned the seasonal changes as kindling to cause the big flame of the afterlife. But as far as I know, no one has mentioned another factor which, in my opinion, consolidated the belief in the afterlife: dreaming or hallucination.
  9. We can’t talk about the origin of the great depression and not to mention the discovery of alcohol or opium. Not only they’re analgesic, they block the pain terminals in the brain, but also they hinder the stress hormones; so, we’ll feel less pain and also happier [8,9].
  10. In parentheses, our body also produces painkilling hormones which create euphoric feelings, necessary for our survival. While running away from a predator, your brain shouldn’t receive pain signals from muscles [10]. So, the painkillers allow us to run faster or longer either to survive, to compete, or to exercise.
  11. Both dream and hallucination can be defined as a perception in the absence of an external stimulus that has qualities of real perception [11]. There are a bunch of unproven theories on why we dream [12]. The most plausible theory says that dreaming is part of the learning process to organize and memorize the daily data we’ve gathered and that’s the reason for sleeping, not to spend fewer calories [13]. When you’re asleep, your brain doesn’t need much to deal with external stimuli, so it can spend some time on learning or playing with images. A fascinating experiment on rats has shown that they dreamed the same maze that they’d experienced during the day (the same parts of their brain excited sequentially as they were running through the maze) [14].
  12. Hallucination can happen without the aid of alcohol or narcos in healthy people. “For example, data from 6 community survey studies in various countries indicate that 7%–30% of children and adolescents report experiencing hallucinations. In the context of grief after the death of a spouse, one-third to one-half of bereaved spouses report hallucinations of the deceased” [15]. Besides, when you’re stressed, your dreams would be more vivid and recurring [16].
  13. Now, we’re aware that those images are the products of our brain. But how could our primitive stressed-out ancestors know that they’re hallucinating or dreaming? They must’ve thought that their beloved deceased person was alive and living in a different world and the recurrence of their dreams consolidated it as a belief [17] that we will resurrect one day.
  14. I’d like to finish this post with a joke Woody Allen tells in Annie Hall. “It reminds me of that old joke- you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office and says, hey doc, my brother’s crazy! He thinks he’s a chicken. Then the doc says, why don’t you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs.”

Footnotes:

[1] Link to the previous post

[2] We started the story from survival and fighting Death. Link to the first post.

[3] An example which explains the difference between sadness and depression would be two different types of grief for a deceased. When someone close to you dies, you’ll lose a source of energy [Link], so you need some time to reevaluate your world and how you can live without them. This feeling is called sadness. However, if you think that you can’t live without them, or you regret that you’d ignored or hurt them. Then you’d try to solve this problem, but they’re dead and the problem can’t be solved. So, you’ll waste your energy and wish that they were here so you could right the wrong, but it’s impossible. So, you’d feel depressed. Link to the 10th post

[4] In my opinion, we should be collectively proud of ourselves, because our evolutionary solutions despite their side effects, have worked out and not only we’ve survived but also we’ve increased the life expectancy and it’s predicted that we will be amortal very soon. Link

[5] Link to the Wiki Page about Woody Allen

[6] Link to the wiki page about Annie Hall

[7] I defined the law of adjacency that our brain relates two adjacent things (similarity is the conceptual adjacency) and we saw how they could’ve related natural disasters to a predator since they both kill and the release of energy looks like anger. So, they decided to sacrifice one in order to save many. You can read it in a couple of posts starting from the 33rd. Link

[8] As we discussed before, happy hormones block the stress terminals in brain; thus happiness is the relative absence of stress or pain. Link to the 6th post.

[9] The reason that the drunk or high people make stupid mistakes is their brain ignores the fear of the consequences of a mistake.

[10] You can refer to “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” [Link] by Professor Sapolsky [Link], the chapter about pain.

[11] That’s the definition of hallucination [Link] but dreams can be put under the same category.

[12] Link to a Webpage about why we dream

[13] There’s an interesting Ted talk by Russell Foster [Link] about the neuroscience of sleep. Link

[14] Another Interesting Ted Talk by Matt Wilson about how rats think while sleeping. Link

[15] Link to the post about the neurobiology of hallucination

[16] Link to the post about 6 ways that your dream can change when you’re stressed.

[17] As you might’ve noticed from the title, we’re still studying beliefs, how they’re created and affect our thoughts and decisions. Link to the first post of the series.

*The featured image is taken from the following website:

Link

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