fearI have been working with a couple of young women who seem to be unable to move beyond a recently ended relationship with a young man.  In both cases, there’s no question that the young man is coming back, and yet their thoughts keep turning back to trying to analyze the failed relationship, wondering what might have gone differently and what lessons there are to be learned.

Their brain is telling them that they have to do this in order to preserve some chance for a future relationship, even though it is clear that objectively that’s not true. In other words, if they let this bad relationship go their brain is saying they will never have another relationship.

This started me thinking again about why humans have this capacity to experience the state of depression… what purpose it might have had that could offset the obvious costs.

The theory that we like is that depression evolved as a response to need for young humans to be cared for by two adults for an extraordinarily long period of time (compared to other animals).  It’s at least nine to ten years before a young human can survive on its own.

As a result there was a huge need to preserve relationships. In the past, when there were relatively few humans, there were not many choices.  If you were a woman and you were involved with a man who was mistreating you, there might not have been another option.

You had to endure for your kids.

Depression is the way that your brain made staying in a bad situation not only possible, but inevitable.  It eliminates the possibility of other alternatives and it makes the depressed person focus on doing whatever he or she can to preserve an existing relationship, often with lots of negative thoughts and chastisement (it is your fault, etcetera).

That was then and this is now. Both of these women live in a world where there are probably thousands of young men who would be equally or more likely to have a good relationship with them.  But their brain continues to generate this state trying to preserve their “one chance” at happiness…

Just another example of how our brains, as amazing as they are, can not always be counted upon to navigate the modern world effectively.