Why Humans are Sour, Somber and Sulky?

Paul Veliyathil
3 min readMar 25, 2023

There was a lady in my bereavement support group whose husband had died of cancer. She made statements like:

When we got married, I never thought he would leave me alone here;

we were supposed to get old together; this is not acceptable.

She was arguing with life;

she was fighting reality;

she was resisting the flow of the universe.

She was struggling, suffering, and miserable.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you look around, you will find that there is rarely any struggling or suffering in nature. We never see plants and trees striving to breathe; we don’t see the sun trying to come off the clouds; when the clouds move away, the sun shines effortlessly, without cursing the clouds for blocking its view.

The cows graze gracefully, the dogs wag their tails joyfully, the fish swim freely, and the birds sing soulfully. While surrounded by such serenity, why are we humans so sour, somber, and sulky?

As a counter argument, a friend said: “Look at nature: you see big plants choking small plants, you see spiders eating insects, big animals killing and eating small animals, big fish swallowing small fish.”

He is right, until he is not!

One plant might choke another plant, or one animal might kill another animal, but they act out of their survival instinct rather than conscious decision.

We should do better than animals and plants, although often we don’t, but we must, because we are equipped with something that plants and animals don’t have — consciousness!

We have come a long way in our evolutionary process. We must graduate from our lizard brain level of functioning to the neocortex level of living.

For our ancestors, life was mostly focused on their three primordial drives. Author Michael Dowd calls them “the 3 S’s of our inherited proclivities.” They are survival, sustenance, and sex. Our nomadic ancestors were constantly vigilant in survival mode because they could be attacked by wild animals or rival tribes. They operated mainly from the impulses of their reptilian brain, the amygdala in the limbic system rather than from the conscious awareness and choices of the neocortex.

We still have the limbic brain, and we need it for our survival, but if you really want to flourish and thrive as a civilized human, you must engage the neocortex.

Just look at a human brain and realize that it is not flat shaped like a crocodile brain. Its round shape indicates that you are supposed to pull up a few chairs around that mental conference table, think and plan a path towards the best course of action rather than triggering a fearful reaction.

In his bestselling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, holocaust survivor and logo therapist, Victor Frankl, says:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

When there is no space between stimulus and response, we react, which is usually immediate, emotional, and erratic.

A response, which comes from a space of grace and peace, is usually rational, realistic, and relational.

Respond to life, instead of reacting to life situations!

(from Cosmic Kindergarten: Earthly Lessons for a Heavenly Life)

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Paul Veliyathil

I am a citizen of India by birth, a citizen of the united states by choice and a citizen of the world at heart.