The enigma of the human condition

We know a lot about the human condition. It’s one of those areas of study, of philosophy and of life that we are constantly drawn to understand ourselves better. Psychology, economics, medicine, law, are complete fields of study that help us understand how people interact, why they interact, what makes us better, and the consequences for actions which are harmful to others.

We know so much that we’re able to understand the cognitive development of babies. We understand the process of language development. We understand the purpose of emotions and are able to categorise them. We understand about ethics and¬†morality. We understand about love, affection and companionship.

And yet, there are some things we will never truly understand. Why does one person murder another? Why are some people born without the ability to be empathetic and therefore wilfully harm others? Why do some people develop addictions that are clearly harmful and yet they cannot help themselves? Why are some people just not in control of their eating habits and make themselves sick because of either under or over eating? Why do some people have less capacity for kindness to others? Why do some people wilfully hurt children?

Psychology (and other fields) tries to explain some of these things. But what about when your average police officer shoots a seemingly innocent person? Or what about when a stranger will seemingly give a deadly electric shock to another person for no other reason than they were instructed to? Or what about when a regular office worker commits fraudulent behaviour because they are under heavy personal financial pressures?

Sometimes, we can’t explain things. Sometimes we have to just accept that something awful has happened, and there won’t be an explanation.

The human condition is one of life’s biggest conundrums. We will continue to strive for answers in religion, in science, in philosophy or in medicine. We’ll come up short, because no matter how intelligent we may be, there will always be something that happens which we just can’t account for.

I am saddened by the shooting of Walter Scott in America. It’s a complete tragedy and there will be insightful commentary and analysis of why it happened. And not just of this incident, but also of the many others hat have occurred. Many will shout race, many will shout police right, many will not know how to react, many will be angry.

We have the right (imperfect) systems in place to deal with things like this. We can only have faith in those systems and in people that we can and must be better. But all the while, no matter how good we might be, we’ll never be able to account for that errant factor that is the human condition.

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Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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