"I'm a Human With Mismatched Instincts"


 UPDATE: In August 2009, Michael Dowd's wife, Connie Barlow, posted a half-hour PODCAST on this topic, titled "Your Brain's Creation Story"

A few days ago, for my evening workshop at Renaissance Unity, I decided to add several more slides on evolutionary psychology into my standard evening program. One of the new slides had this as its only text. "Hi, my name is Michael and I'm a human with mismatched instincts."

This statement is, of course, my evolutionary rewrite of the standard way of introducing oneself at a 12-step meeting. It evoked audience laughter, yet it also shows that the evolutionary sciences can indeed enrich not only the faith traditions but also the recovery movement. The evolutionary sciences thus offer a perspective through which those who need help might more readily be willing to receive it. As I like to say, "It's not your fault. But it is your responsibility." That is, the reason we can so can easily fall to addictions of all sorts is that our ancestors lived in very different environments than surround us today. What was there, after all, to become addicted to 10,000 years ago?  

I was inspired to evolve my standard program to have it include more evolutionary psychology because I had read in the bulletin at Renaissance Unity that an array of recovery groups meet at the church during the week: Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Narcotics Anonymous, Nar-Anon, Co-Dependents in Recovery, Emotions Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Gam-Anon, Overeaters Anonymous, and Shoplifters Anonymous.

Oh for the day when people attending these programs can be offered the profound gift of an evolutionary perspective, through which compassion for self and others will blossom, shame and denial will be easier to shed, and millions will be helped to witness their challenges in ways that promote long-term sobriety and healthy relationships. (For more on this topic, see chapters 9 through 12 of my book, Thank God for Evolution.)