Working Against Nature
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about nature and our place in it. Because we’re so developed as a species we tend to frame ourselves as ‘outside’ of nature. But we’re not. We’re a part of it, and as such, are bound to Nature’s cycles, too.
Take for example conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a condition whereby the changing on the seasons, typically moving from summer months to winter months, affects our mood. This is a very real thing, and it affects a lot of people. Our behaviours change, our thinking changes – but our extra-Nature perspective has framed this as condition to be treated rather than an appropriate response to what’s going on.
During winter many mammals enter a period of hibernation. Their behaviour changes. Their moods changes. They behave differently, because the environment warrants a change in behaviour. I often wonder why this should be any different for us?
The mornings are darker. It’s harder to get out of bed. It’s cold. In these conditions it makes sense to me that our moods might change. That we are slower to get going, that we may not want to get going.
And yet, because we live outside of Nature, we’re expected to keep going. To have the same energy, and enthusiasm, and consistency of mood. Our man-made societies and routines don’t adjust for the seasonal change. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach to a fluctuating environment.
This is why I don’t really like calling it a disorder. Tis a natural response. It’s an adjustment. Maybe we’re supposed to slow down. Maybe we’re not meant to be as productive in Winter as we are during the brighter months. The way we feel in Winter would suggest this. The expectation we have to always be at the same emotional level is a man-made one. We literally made it up.
And so when we feel sad or lethargic in winter, there’s an added layer of guilt, because we’re not supposed to be feeling this way. We’re meant to be feeling good. Says who? Our culture has conditioned us to believe that happiness is the gold standard, and any emotional landscape that doesn’t reflect happiness is to be avoided and uprooted.
But I disagree. We cannot be happy all of the time. It is unreasonable to think we should. So maybe, just like the other animals we share the planet with, we’re supposed to wind down into a lower energy during the Winter. And maybe a lot of the distress we feel is because of a dissonance between what our Nature requires and what our humanity expects.
Nature tells us to slow down. Humanity tells us to pick up the pace. There’s no wonder we often feel out of sorts in the darker months.