Primal drives

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Emotions and Primal Drives

There are a number of primal drives that motivate us throughout our life.  They are not really emotions, but are very strong motivators for our behaviour and they appear to be centred in the limbic brain.  These include:

Sex, the reproductive urge.  It can be very strong and overcomes all reasoning in the higher brain.  It propels us to act in certain ways and we are not always very sure why.  This is what happens when the Limbic brain is in the driving seat and the conscious thinking brain is relatively powerless.  The amygdala appears to be where the desire for sex arises, and this can be supported or inhibited to some extent by the body’s hormones, moral values and imaginings in the conscious brain.  Love is a higher emotion (joy + trust), and is very different from the primal urge for sex.

Infanticide.  If you watch wildlife programs you will probably have seen video of how a new male lion in establishing himself as the pack leader, will immediately set about killing any young cubs that were the offspring of his predecessor.  This is an uncomfortable topic for many of us, but infanticide and ethnic cleansing does occur amongst humans as well.  It becomes more evident in societies under pressure, and appears to be another mechanism in the Limbic brain that we have inherited from our distant past.  The notion of keeping the bloodline pure can be found in the Vedic traditions (read the Bhagavad-Gita) and Egyptian Pharaohs who married within the family to keep the bloodline pure, and in doing so brought their own downfall through inherited defects and diseases.  Laurence Gardner has written extensively on the holy bloodline.  What was going on in Hitlers mind as he attempted to rid the world of the Jewish people?  It is likely that the origin of this behaviour will be rooted deep in the amygdala in the Limbic brain, and unfortunately the human race has not yet outgrown this inherited animal instinct.

Migration (Zugunruhe).  The urge to migrate can be observed in many species such as birds, some of which fly long distances twice a year.  There is a less well understood, primal urge in many populations including humans, resulting in a desire to move on to greener pastures.  Teenagers often show a restless side and will travel seeking new lands and experiences, before settling down and having a family.  Our human ancestors are likely to have been nomadic.  What makes them decide when to move on?  Is it purely down to local factors such as the availability of resources, increasing local population, changing seasons, or another inner switch buried inside the amygdala?  Some people are more restless than others, frequently moving house and perhaps shifting countries.  What makes them more restless?  This same restlessness can be a driver for some to seek the answer to spiritual questions, and begin the quest for enlightenment.  This is an area for further research.

Migrating birds (image from