Mania is often considered a physchological illness, but it is a highly stimulated
mental state that may be perfectly normal.
People love to quote the statement that humans only use perhaps 15 percent of their brain. In general, that is a meaningless statement, but it is true that most of the time, we do not need the full capability of our brains. When we do have a problem to solve, we can bring most of our useful mental capacity to bare on the problem.
Remember, the human brain is optomized to solve human social problems, though it can solve many other kinds of problems as well.
Most of the time, we are relaxed and just cruising along. That is to be expected, since we work to remove crisis in our life. Sometimes, we encounter a problem though. It may be a problem of how to get some technology to work, but more often it is a social problem. It may be how to impress someone we are attracted to or it may be that someone's actions are angering us. We try to understand the situation so that we can effect it in some way we desire. It's called problem solving. Well, humans can naturally go into a highly stimulated mental state that is naturally good for problem solving. There are a number of implications to this, including that judgement may be reduced when in this state and that people tend to enjoy this state.
The first of these issues to consider are that while being in a manic state a
person may be very intuitive and able to easily solve problems that would
normally be difficult, the judgement that a person must always use, may not be
working that well.
A good example of this might be a social problem where a person gets angry at someone they associate with for a particular reason, maybe they feel insulted by something the person did. The person noticing this then gets in a naturally stimulated mental state, mildly manic perhaps stimulated by anger, and then realize that that person has actually insulted them frequently in the past, but it was ignored up to now. Well, the upside to this is that in the normal course of events, the person uses this understanding to change the social dynamics so that the other person does not insult them. The downside is that when the person is in the manic state and has just realized this truth, they are also likely to have bad judgement and make an immediate scene by not just accusing the person of insulting them, but of a pattern and history of insults.
Well, there is a lot that can be made from this, but it shows both why the
manic state is natural for problem solving and why it can be a hazard. The
degree of mania in people is one of the most important pshychological
balancing acts there is in individuals and in nature. In an individual, it
is largely genetically determined. It is something that can be conciously
controlled to some degree, if the individual is aware of it.
A person that is considered to have a pathologic mania is considered sick because they make bad decisions. They may binge shop or spout wild ideas. the balance has gone to too much stimulation.
On the other hand, not enough stimulation has been called depressive and the person simply is not stimulated enough to deal with the world. It is a miserable state, that is a bad situation and is often treated medicinally and non-medicinally. A person may take a vacation or any of many forms of stimulating entertainment or recreation to lift their mood. Many recreational intoxicants do the same thing. Interestingly, a huge number of people today are prescribed regular doses of psychoactive drugs to elevate their mood. I have to wonder if they have the natural non-manic periods during which they more carefully judge their experiences in the manic state.
While this is all extremely interesting in many ways, especially in light
the common use of intoxicants and all those implications, in evolutionary
terms this balance between stimulated and non-heightened mental states is
very important both because it is genetically controlled and because it is
critical to how we deal with the world.
One interesting question is whether manic states are necessary for problem solving at all or would these solutions "emerge" (in Michael Polanyi's terms) after some more time anyway. There is strong reason to suspect not. It takes a stimulated state to make broad associations, not just time or the entire pattern of a problem may not be recognized.
In terms of artificial selection, the manic state would be part of intellect. The manic state can contribute to intellect and even genius. At the same time, the manic state must be tempered by judgement and the jugemental abilities of a person are limited by intellectual ability. Manic states are just a part of a person's intellectual tools. You could artificaially select for mania in a person, but without psychological balances to offset that, the person would be dysfunctionally manic. More important than intellect in terms of artificial selection though, would be the individuals general mood. To survive, there must be a balance between the psychological highs and lows. It also seems that drug dependancy may be more common in people without a psychological balance leaning to an adaquately naturally stimulated or high mood. Besides that, in terms of the changing human ecology, a more stimulated psychology may be more advantageous. The modern world is far more stimulating, perhaps excessively so, than the world typically has been in the past. This may not just require a somewhat more stimulated psychological balance, but also a more resiliantly balanced psychology to deal with the stimulus of the modern world.
Features related to psychological balance will be the most problematic, potentially hazardous and potentially benificial aspects of artificial selection that humans will have to come to understand. We will have to come to understand it though and effect it.
In terms of discussion of this, there is an interesting discussion of this issue under the heading of "Hedonism". The term is used to describe a speculative situation where through the use of psychoactive chemistry (and nano-technology) so that humans (and perhaps all other animals) are permanently in a state of ecstatic mental stimulation. It is an interesting discussion in some ways, but it illustrates that other phychological features that humans do not have to deal with a highly stimulated state. How would one rest? how would one have the judgement to control ones actions in such a stimulated state? It also described such a high energy system, that the idea seemed problematic for natural reasons.
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