What can we learn from Chimpanzees?

Oct 10, 2023

Our society is suffering. Mental health issues are on the rise amongst all age groups. In a recent article about loneliness Dr. Chris,ND offered a powerful reframe to this question: On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness among our youth harming our communities and society?

Actually, I would like to offer you a reframe on this question. I was listening to a lecture and the lecturer was sharing a study she had read about regarding a group of chimpanzees in Africa. Anthropologists noticed these chimpanzees had among its population in the village some members that demonstrated what could be called depressed behavior. These chimpanzees did not eat, play or sleep with the rest of the community. The anthropologists were curious about this phenomenon. They wondered what the effect on the tribe would be if they took the depressed chimps away for 6 months. So they did this and in 6 months they came back to see what the effect was on the village. When they came back to the village 6 months later what do you think the anthropologists found when they came back? More chaos? More depression? Other depressed chimps? A cohesive community? What they found when they came back was the entire village was dead. They realized then that the depressed chimps were the early warning system. They were depressed because there were snakes coming or elephants coming or a warning that a storm was coming. The other chimpanzees when they saw the depressed chimpanzees knew that something must be wrong.

We should be, on that level, listening to the depressed and lonely amongst us. We should be more depressed by the corruption in the world. We should be more depressed by climate change. We should be more depressed by global poverty and hunger. The issue is not the presence of loneliness being a problem. The issue is recognizing loneliness for what it is. Instead of looking at loneliness as a problem, per se, perhaps we need to look at it as a warning sign that something is terribly off with our society. We need to ask ourselves how can we navigate our way back to connection and community. Our children are speaking loudly to us and the megaphone they are using is loneliness. Loneliness is a signal that we haven’t taught our children the emotional skills necessary to navigate the inner landscape of their lives. Likely because we, as adults, have not been taught these skills. It is time is now to do the work, get the help, and make the changes necessary to move towards cohesive family systems and communities that are in connection with each other. We need to listen to our children, take note, rise up, respond, connect. Tune in, not out. They are the canaries in the coal mine; or the chimpanzees telling the rest of us something is gravely wrong with the direction we are going in. The opportunity now is to course correct.

On that note of course correction, Dr. Chris will be opening her Moving Beyond Coaching program to start Apr 6. If this is something that interests you, please hit reply and say “Yes, I am interested, please send me more details when available”.