The human instinct to survive is our most powerful drive.In the Western world, generally our lives aren’t threatened on a daily basis. Our basic needs of shelter, warmth and food are pretty much met, we have universal free healthcare. Our survival instinct is therefore latent.But for those who live their lives in the shadow of death, the drive to survive is all-consuming.I imagine if one has known real hunger or seen family members die of starvation or malaria or in childbirth, one’s survival instinct is always active. Though we in the Western world are clearly the fortunate ones, it would seem that creature comforts do not automatically bring happiness.The clinical depression that is so rife here is anathema to poverty-stricken African who are too busy trying to survive to think about their emotional well-being.
It used to be the same for all of us which is why we have evolved in such a way, the ‘fight or flight’ response being an obvious relic of that time. Then people didn’t have the security of jobs, houses, law enforcement,telephones or refrigerators. Everyday, they had to go out into the world, whether it was a forest, plain, or arctic wasteland, and find food and water while not being killed by the elements or wild animals.These people went out and climbed, jumped, ran, and fought knowing that if they didn’t do this properly, that was the end of them. The sea didn’t care if that suitor turned you down. The rocks at the bottom of the cliff didn’t care if your boss didn’t like you or passed you over for promotion. The wolf or lion definitely didn’t care if you felt good about yourself. Then, more than now people felt alive everyday, because they had to live in a constant state of alertness.No we no longer live primitive lives though for some the desire to live on the edge is overwhelming; boredom has become the enemy and some have to think of increasingly risky hobbies to get the adrenalin rush they so desperately crave. From bungee jumping to gambling to over indulging on drink and drugs,a certain percentage of the population are addicted to risky behaviour, many of the rest are bored, depressed or on prescription drugs.Although risk-taking has obviously negative aspects,but without it, humanity would never have progressed in the way that it has; there would have been no drive for discovery. The trait persists—but there is little left to explore and work for most is dull as ditchwater.
So what is the answer? Has modern life become so trivial that our survival instinct has become unnecessary or simply fails us by making us react in an inappropriate way. It is not ideal to beat somebody to a pulp because you feel threatened by a hand gesture or annoyed because you didn’t get the job on which your livelihood depends. But the urge that goes with the anger and irritation may nevertheless be there. In the Western world at least , the fight-or-flight reaction, once crucial to our survival, would go the way of the dinosaurs and the appendix, extinct or having no impact on us.Ironically,unless we find ourselves at war,it is those who learn to control and direct those primitive instinctive reactions who will become the new survivors.