Life the Universe and Everything – The Emotional Man Ape

In this series of posts I’m going to look at the human perspective and ask questions like ‘What does it mean to be human?’ or ‘How can I be a better Human?’ with a little sprinkling of ‘How can I be more comfortable as a human?’

In this mad world we’ve been enduring especially over the last few years people have become more stressed, more anxious about the future with lost livelihoods, jobs or sadly family members. Life has been tough and a step back to look at life is perhaps something that many will find some kind of sense among the chaos that we’re all having to endure.

Being the sci-fi nut I am I’m going to use a bit of a Sci-Fi slant on this. Think of it as looking down on ourselves using a Total Perspective Vortex or as an Alien looking down from above and offering a few tips that might give a few helpful tips on how to get through life’s little ups and downs.

The Emotional Man Ape

The Earth is full of Man Apes or Ape Man’s (if that’s a thing) that have created a complex society where they’re all required to interact and behave in a way in which acceptable to that society. The Man Apes portrayed in 2001 a space Odyssey had no concept of societal norms and had learned to survive by killing other Man Apes from rival tribes. Serving us for thousands of years the emotions that drove this behavior helped us to survive and reproduce in small groups of other Man Apes and we still carry these same emotions with us today The problem is however that human society has moved on a bit. and in today’s modern society these emotions are more often than not, simply unhelpful.

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Even when Man Apes had evolved to the level of the hunter gatherer these emotions, these signs from within us still had use. Yet the stress and anxiety caused in the kind of modern life we we’re required to take charge, go out on a limb and present to a board or simply to carry out a moderately complex task no longer serves us.

It seems that our thoughts are a slave to our emotions and we have become a slave to our thoughts. The Man Apes of ages before have turned into humans and as human we experience a range of emotions though our day, but how useful are they? How many of you can relate to the rage felt as your planet is scheduled for demolition by a Vogon constructor fleet or the stupid computer won’t recognise the password that you know is right? Or jabbing at the lift button to make it come faster? Or incandescence when the bin bag splits becasue someone has pushed everything down too much?

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Many can relate to these irrational thoughts that come from the emotions in scenarios like this and if left unchecked the thoughts that come from these emotions can lead to actions with serious consequences for us. In real life on Earth road rage is a common affliction around the world, nothing seems to get us into a state of primal rage more than another road user behaving badly. In the some countries where guns are available it’s not rare to hear about road rage incidents that lead to people shooting each other.

What is an Emotion?


In order to get to grips with this problem a better understanding of what’s going on is needed. So here’s an exercise for you, ask yourself this question:

What is an emotion?

Think about it carefully, try and work it out as if you were to explain an emotion to someone else… If you didn’t manage it don’t be surprised, science has failed to come up with a definitive definition of what an emotion is. It’s not surprising either when our emotions are so interwoven with how our brain works it’s almost impossible to work out where our emotions end and the brain begins.

It is possible however to work out what emotions do, a stressful situation lead to increased sweating, higher heart rate, stress chemicals flooding your body which releases energy into your system ready for the flight or fight. With all this chemical chaos charging around your body, your decision making process is essentially hijacked.

Being aware of this is only part of the answer – what is it that we can do to deal with the emotions we face, engage the rational side of our brain and help us make better decisions? The first thing that needs to be realised is that emotions like anger, anxiety, happiness all have a purpose. We need emotions to help us create compassion, empathy and to do good to and by our fellow Man Apes. Think what you would be like without emotions, without those signals telling you what’s good or bad – there would be no drive to live life well.

Dealing with Emotions

Approaching every day with a different mindset is something that is often talked about but it’s often hard to work out what that really means. Being mindful or conscious in a moment can help reflect on what’s really going on at any moment.

Maybe the pattern buffers are misaligned, the AI toaster won’t shut up about waffles or the supercomputer is having an off day and trying to shoot you into space. In those moments just take a moment and breathe.

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Remind yourself that one day you may well look back on what’s happening now and would do anything to be back at this point (ok, maybe not the shooting into space thing). Remember that for the most part life’s struggles are small, made worse by the raging hunger or lack of sleep that is being barely tolerated and use that moment to reflect. Doing this can help change the mood of the moment and bring about a more rational response to it.

What might also perhaps useful to do a bit of Negative Visualisation. This involves a brief look into the day ahead and asking yourself for today or whenever – what’s the worst that can go wrong and plan for it. These three points may help you set your expectations and be ready for what life has to throw at you.

1) Be prepared to ride your emotions.

2) You’re going to be misunderstood – be ready for it.

3) Get ready for disappointment.

These three points can help prepare you for whatever the bastards can throw at us becasue let’s face it – as engineers and soldiers say if things can go wrong, they probably will. So be ready and then as the day goes on, see how it blesses you with all these little things that went better than had been hoped.

I hope you liked this little exploration into the emotional Ape Man, while a little tongue in cheek I hope it can provide some useful tip for you, there’s 5 more in this series covering more aspects of Man Ape thinking.

Let me know what you think.





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Inspiration for this came from Derren Brown’s Bootcamp for the Brain Podcast. I hold no copyright to any material from this.

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14 thoughts on “Life the Universe and Everything – The Emotional Man Ape

  1. So, I am not the kind of person who focuses on bad outcomes. Because you will always find what you are looking at. I had a co-worker who said, I basically always expect the worst then I cannot be disappointed. So sad, because she got confirmed every day with her expectations. And she said: See, I knew it. She did not realize that she only focused on that part. I always look out for the best and I am always gifted with so many little beautiful things. Yes, there are disappointments. But that comes from expectations. It doesn’t matter what we expect. As long as we expect something we are free of disappointments. But focusing on bad things doesn’t make life lighter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely I agree – we mustn’t focus on bad things or disappointments but be ready for them when they come. This means we can let go of perfection and embrace the beauty of life as it is, including the disappointments 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I see disappointments as part of our development und our learning process. In fact, everything that happens teaches us as a consequence of a former behavior. How we react creates the experience we make. So, nothing is either good or bad, it just us. Once we reach that state we are not disappointed anymore since we don’t expect but perceive and we enjoy the moment as it is.
        But I agree what you say about letting go of perfection and being in control because is impossible and causes expectations that puts immense pressure on one… as you said, it causes disappointments.
        To sum it up, disappointments teach us to let go of expectations.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, absolutely right! This matter reminded me of a former co-worker who said, she’d always expect the worst for not experiencing any disappointments. That inspired me for a post. So, thanks for the triggering the inspiration, Simon!

        Liked by 1 person

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