The Path of the Intuitive = The Path of the Forager

Robert Frost’s poem is a metaphor for the life trajectories of many intuitives. We often come to crossroads and our intuition tells us to take the path less travelled. There is an interesting blog post about this phenomenon by , in which he discusses that the intuitive path goes against:

  • Social conventions (traditional life trajectories: getting a job and married early)
  • Maslow’s pyramid (often putting self-actualization above the other needs)
  • Our biological clock (delaying reproduction)

As someone who came from Evolutionary Psychology to Personality Psychology I find all three trends interesting as they decrease reproductive potential and shouldn’t therefore really exist.

If our not too distant past all three intuitive trends would have led to fewer offspring. Not following into your parents’ footsteps may have left you without heritage and means, putting self-actualization over safety and reproductive needs sheer crazy, and delaying reproduction may have left you without a mate at all. And yet, “Eat, Pray, Love” stories resonate with intuitives:

Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern woman is supposed to dream of having — a husband, a house, a successful career — yet like so many others, she found herself lost, confused, and searching for what she really wanted in life .

This is by no means a new phenomenon, it has only become more pronounced in recent years. This is is a Cat Stevens song from 1970 and tells the “same old story”:

Find a girl, settle down

If you want you can marry

Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy

All the times that I’ve cried

Keeping all the things I knew inside

It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it

If they were right I’d agree

But it’s them they know, not me

Now there’s a way

And I know that I have to go away

I know I have to go

“Father and Son” was one of my favourite songs. I knew I wanted to find a girl and settle down and at the same time, my intuition told me that it was going to be harder for me than most other people. So, I had to go away, I travelled a lot, lived abroad, was an early adopter of the Internet and Web (basically as soon as it was out). In brief, I was the first Millennial, together with a legion of other intuitive X-Geners. This kind of lifestyle, which was rare at the time, has become very common, often in the form of digital nomadism. So has delaying reproduction from the 20s (the biologically most fertile years) into the 30s, which is often doubly risky, due to reduced fertility and potential loss of a long-term partner (the 7-year itch).

So, why is it that many of us have difficulties being happy with a traditional job and a traditional relationship? Happiness has an important evolutionary function: it should help us make the right decisions to increase our reproductive potential, but it seems to do the opposite in intutitives. In fact, intutitives are often the people who don’t want to have children at all. They are too busy finding their own purpose in life — evolutionary paradoxes, in brief.

In order to solve this conundrum, let’s assume that there are two types of people, those whose ancestors have been farmers for most of the past 12.000 years. These people will be tied to their property, community, traditions, families and routines, as well as a traditional 9–5 job. And then there are those people whose ancestors were foragers (hunter-gatherers) and who joined farming societies only much later. Foragers aren’t tied to any of the thing above mentioned: they discourage property, they change bands (groups) frequently and they have more egalitarian gender roles and wouldn’t be happy in a traditional relationship and they certainly would not be happy working in a routine 9–5 job as their lifestyle is determined by “punctuated” and not long, routine work.

Foragers change their bands to reduce inbreeding, but they also would do so when they experience conflict and unhappiness. This, in nutshell, is the biological origin or instinct of the intuitive path. The “I-know-I-have-to-go syndrome”. Foragers in a farmer society are bound to. And it’s not a new phenomenon. Buddha left all his riches behind. Countless other men and women did throughout history when they joined monasteries or convents (often the more attractive option to an unhappy marriage for a forager type woman).

Finally, unlike many of my forager-fellows, I did settle down and had children in my mid-30s. Being an “older father” has some interesting statistical implications. Children with ASD frequently have older fathers. And so do children with other types of neurodiversity:

Children of Older Dads at Higher Risk for Mental, Academic Problems. New research shows that children born to fathers over 45 are 13 times more likely to have ADHD and 25 times more likely to have bipolar disorder. If you’re thinking about having children at a later age, you may want to reconsider that decision. ( )

This effect is often attributed to “higher mutation load”. I am not a fan of this hypothesis. Correlation isn’t causation. Considering that most of us intuitive males tend to have children late, it may be just a correlate of the intuitive path. In fact, I could easily give you the opposite advice:

New research says older fathers have sons who are more intelligent, more focused on their own interests, and less concerned with fitting in at school, helping to give them an educational boost. ()

Of course, that advice would be rubbish. Most geniuses in history were intuitive types, and surprise — a constant finding about them was that they had older fathers. Moreover, they often had conflicts with their fathers, or no fathers at all as they had already died by the time they were teenagers. Mozart certainly had his own father and son story and took the road less travelled.

Originally published at http://the-big-ger-picture.blogspot.com on March 31, 2021.

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