Over the millennia, the human mind became increasingly self-analytical.
We, as human beings, became accustomed to sitting around and just thinking about things. We could plan our aggression, for instance, perhaps delaying it to a later time. Or, in situations where we had to submit, we could sit around and brood and worry. We could wish evil things on our opponents, and increasingly, heap scorn and ridicule on ourselves for our weakness.
So what was happening? We were taking something that was formerly very behavior-oriented, very action-oriented, and starting to intellectualize it. Whereas thousands of years ago we spent little time analyzing our problems - usually because we were too busy with the problems of mere survival - we eventually began to carry on more and more inner conversations with ourselves.
In fact, the rise in our leisure time contributed to this phenomenon. But what made it particularly bad - and what makes it excruciating for a person with severe depression - is that these inner dialogues have a very powerful emotional component. They are one part intellectual, but five parts raw, churning emotions and feelings.
These inner dialogues - almost always involving some form of anger, worry or self-criticism - call up the brain’s submission response. It’s almost like dialing a phone number. The brain answers the call and its message is - submit, submit, submit. The brain is telling us that it is under attack and that it wants us to survive. And the signal to submit is this flood of extremely powerful, negative feelingsaefeelings we now interpret as being depressed.
The problem is - when you’re under attack by yourself, how does the brain’s submission response know when to “disconnect” from the “distress call” that it is receiving? That is, how does it know when the “attack” is over? Well, it never knows, because our attacking “thoughts” refuse to stop. This is how someone can spend a lifetime suffering from waves of severe depression.
But what is the ultimate twist on the intellect and depression? Something very surprising. In my research, I have found an extremely high association between intelligence and the likelihood of becoming severely depressed. In fact, a high IQ is a good predictor of depression. Why? Simply because those with higher intelligence are amazingly “creative” with their inner dialogues.
Some of the characteristics of high intelligence are an above-average imagination, superior verbal ability, and advanced analytical skills. This is the perfect recipe for cooking-up very elaborate, and very negative, inner dialogues. And that’s exactly what happens. This helps explain the well-known phenomenon of “tormented geniuses”. Simply, their submission response is often out-of-control. And, despite their genius, they don’t know how to stop it.