Our Anxious Ancestry: Exploring the Roots of Anxiety

17,000 year old cave painting of wildebeest, found in Lascaux, France

Our Anxious Ancestry

Our Anxious Ancestry

Our anxiety has a long history. It isn’t an individual failing so much as a deeply ingrained feature of human nature. We need to learn how to manage it, together. It probably began around 350 million years ago, when our distant ancestors were fish.

We can trace the origins of our anxiety back to a crucial evolutionary moment when our distant ancestors first crawled out of the sea and onto the land. Being on land was safer, but it was also riskier in a new way. We developed a whole new kind of nervous system to deal with these new challenges. Anxiety is the price we pay for moving on to the next stage of our evolution. It’s a necessary signal that we need to change our behavior or thinking. In many ways, anxiety is a sign of deep health, a kind of primal compass that tells us what we need to do to stay alive and develop.