So, maybe the textbook definition of instinct doesn’t completely encompass human emotion. However, it seems that some aspects of "instinct" would be helpful to some people in better understanding emotion.
Instinct is "an inherited tendency of an organism to behave in a certain way, usually in reaction to its environment and for the purpose of fulfilling a specific need…" American Heritage Science Dictionary
1) "inherited"- emotion has a genetic basis.
2) "tendency"- while perhaps even strong tendencies, emotions are not irresistible.
3) "reaction to its environment"- emotions are triggered by environmental cues.
4) "purpose of fulfilling a specific need"- emotions are strategic and facilitate behaviors that were adaptive in the ancestral environment.
Wouldn’t some people benefit from knowing that their emotions (especially emotions that push them toward destructive and self-destruction actions) are simply evolved mechanisms designed for a long-gone ancestral environment? Like outdated computer software that, with certain environmental cues, generates output that may or may not still be in their best interests? Your thoughts?
I don’t have an expertise in this area, but have some guesses to offer. I see that it is a possibility that such useless or harmful instincts prevail for some time, but it is also likely that such instincts may undergo mutation ( mutation in its broader sense) and selection to establish useful replacements. Longer the time since becoming not of use, more the chance that some useful ‘mutation’ takes it over.
Yeah, some of our instincts are well outdated. But if u look it on evolutionary time scale, that "long-gone ancestral enviroment" is actually not that far behind tho. Time our race has spent in modern culture is far from enough for evolution to eliminate some of our unusable inherited psychological mechanisms. Personally i think alot of modern psychiatric disorders arise from conflict between our out-dated instincts and modern culture demands.
In some cases understanding what is the cause of our emotion can help us control it… but usually that is limited because most of them have origins in our subconscious.
Most of this is my personal opinion on the subject.