Do I live responding automatically?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrin from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.

Evolution has a great deal of wisdom. Of course, it’s had many millennia to perfect itself! A living being does not require any great personal effort for survival. Everything is developed automatically. We have a few basic needs that seek to fulfill themselves without the help of our will or consciousness. For survival, everything has been selected and packaged like a computer program that functions by itself. Our program drives us constantly towards survival: breath, eat, sleep, mate, reproduce, care for the children and the family or clan, all without having to think about what we must do. Even those decision which we think of as intimately personal are mediated and driven by an automatic alert system.

When we think we are deciding with whom to associate, it is really the alert system which leads us to approach people or things which appear less threatening. This system acts in accordance with recordings of our personal experiences, which were created independent of our will. For example, if we have developed extroverted forms of behavior we will tend to approach things in a certain way and display a certain conduct. If we have grown up timid, insecure, and have recorded signs of danger from speaking in public, we will distance ourselves from these situations. This is not a conscious decision but rather our distinctive alert system which informs us when to approach or turn away.

If I am a timid person, I will have trouble choosing to expose myself. That requires a more conscious act that goes against the alert system. Accordingly, we tend to live subject to automatic responses – reacting, conditioned by our genetic makeup and the unconscious recordings of our experiences.

It is easy to see that we can survive perfectly well without the need for a single original thought or attempt to go against the grain, without reflecting on the possible changes in our lives, without meditating on our form of being, thinking, or acting.

We can avoid it!

In fact, this is how it tends to be.

However, if we want to be happy, that seems to be another matter. Surviving does not mean we are happy, without internal or external conflicts.

That requires a small effort of observation, an open attitude to explore and investigate how the machine that we have been given functions. If you are one of those curious humans who want to live beyond merely eating, sleeping, reproducing, accumulating goods that provide security, then you know what I mean. I invite you to be responsible for the quality of your life, to give it meaning, affection, creativity and motivation to explore what lies behind the purely automatic reactions; I invite you to lay a small path down in your life, a signal that it’s possible to live happily beyond those automatic conditions.

You are welcome to explore!