All living things must gather energy for long enough to reproduce and pass on their traits to the next generation. As an organism, your primary goal in nature is Don’t Die. In order to accomplish this goal, you usually follow your Basic Functions.
The Basic Functions refer to the neurons that encourage the Organism to eat, stay safe, and mate. The desire to eat or be safe is not one that is learned, but rather a neural path that has been automated before the Organism is even born. Pleasure is released when the Organism is able to further its survival and the drive for more pleasure is what encourages us to do those actions again. Sex and eating feel good because those that felt pleasure from eating and mating were more likely to do it again; the more pleasure felt, the more likely an action will be repeated.
Here is where the hierarchy of mental processes comes into play. The Basic Functions are highly solidified neural paths that form before the Organism is able to experience the world. The need for food, safety, and sex are all high in priority when it comes to your thinking. If an action could lead to one of those things, you are likely to do that action even if it means sacrificing something else. The neural paths are so solidified that cognitive thinking cannot break the hierarchy, especially when the consciousness is allocated toward the Basic Functions. Let’s look at each of these drives a little closer.
When you are low on resources, you are less able to function properly and therefore the best action is to gain more resources. The feeling you get when lacking resources is called hunger, or thirst for water specifically. Sometimes you may have a particular craving like dairy or salty foods and this is usually a signal of what your body is currently lacking. When you listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs and how you can help it.
The high priority of eating also explains why it’s so easy to eat too much. Our ancestors were not always guaranteed a meal and when they did get food, they ate. We are no longer in the same position but that doesn’t mean our Basic Functions adapted as quickly as our society. We also get a certain pleasure from stuffing our mouths full. The pleasure is like a reward system for the Organism finding more than enough food.
You aren’t going to get too far in the natural world if you don’t have an eye for danger, and an eye for safety. We have fear in order to detect danger, but pleasure is also released in the form of comfort when you have managed to find a safe space.
In today’s society, our level of safety is higher than ever and our expectations have changed. Danger becomes social danger and our desire for safety morphs into a social safety of fitting in. Most teenagers would rather die than be embarrassed in front of their friends; a clear example of our desire for safety changing due to our circumstances.
Lastly, the whole point of you living (from a biological standpoint) is to make another one of you to keep your version of life going. Sex feels really good for a reason, those individuals who received pleasure from the act were more likely to do it again. During the act, you might realize that you are shifting into a “primal” mode where you are fully in the moment. This is the consciousness shifting away from the mental plane and further into the Basic Functions.
The same happens when you really chow down, ignoring the world around you. The pleasure released from sex and the high priority due to its pleasurable solidification shows why so many people cheat in relationships. The Basic Functions are a part of the brain that, in order to be accessed, must allocate resources away from elsewhere.
Tying all the Basic Functions together is competition. You are alive, which means you are a survivor in the amazingly dangerous and wonderful relay race of life. You didn’t get to where you are now by backing down either. You competed for every scrap of food, for every shelter, for every possible mate. That competition is solidified with the Basic Functions and its high priority can often bleed into other neural clusters. This is why we make competitions out of activities for entertainment, it releases pleasure from our Basic Functions.
Knowing about the most primitive functions of the brain allows us to distinguish our organismal drives from our cognitive goals that we set in the mental plane. Understanding that you are a machine, programmed to eat, survive, and reproduce, also gives a greater perspective on all of the other amazing things that our brain can do.
It is only when we allocate resources away from the Basic Functions that we find our true potential. I’m not saying it will be easy, following your Basic Functions is a very easy way to release pleasure; and the Organism really wants that! To find pleasure beyond the Basic is what makes us distinct among life, it makes us human.