The human nervous system hasn’t changed very much over the last million years. Its purpose is to keep us safe and help us survive; that means looking out for threat and risks that might lead to our demise or cause us harm. Naturally, like other animals, this ‘alert’ nervous system is crucial to our survival and keeps us scanning for potential danger. BOLLYWOOD
Humans have developed the cognitive ability to use words, language and analysis to make sense of and communicate risk to one another efficiently. Humans can convey these messages about threat or danger with convincing and rich emotional content to highlight their relevance and importance. This superior intellectual ability has allowed humans to prosper and survive by organising communities, achieving social tasks, collaborating and problem-solving.
While living in tribal groups and small communities, our ancestors relied upon this ability to communicate warnings and risks to members of the tribe or community. A danger at the waterhole, poisonous berries, a lurking predator or an invading tribe were all risks that posed an immediate and relevant threat to each member of that tribe. Our nervous system is primed to be alert to such urgent warnings, especially when high emotion is present to convey urgency. Those who failed to attend would face danger and threat to their survival.
Community leaders throughout history disseminated relevant and important information for survival – the Town Crier and Pastors at churches became trusted ‘news’ bearers delivering information about community illness and death such as the Plague. Humans have learnt to pay attention when an announcement is made and our nervous systems are primed to do so!
The New Era
A lot has changed in the world since the invention of television, telephones and computers. The world is not constrained by geographical borders and tribal word-of-mouth communication. The millennial world features expansive social media influences with 24-hour news broadcasts, news updates to every device, news from every corner of the world, breakfast news, morning news, midday news, afternoon news, early evening news, late night news, and even news updates between the news!
If you are feeling overwhelmed just by reading that, it’s obvious what the actual content of all this news is doing to our nervous systems. Physical arousal and stress are triggered by our nervous system’s response to announcements and news that goes straight back to our primal need to survive and not necessarily because there is an actual and present threat to our safety.