Our inner emotional life, the place where our moment to moment conscious truly exists, is often regarded as pure mystery. And certainly I would be the last one to conclude that science will ever totally understand the complexity and uncertainty of the mind.
Yet my experience working with anesthesiologists and researching the 'biology of belief' as Candace Pert, Ph.D has noted, is significance. Neurons within the brain respond to external chemicals, hormones, proteins, herbs and pharmaceutical drugs by what are known as receptor sites. Without receptor sites these substances could never bind to any part of the neuron and therefore have no effect whatsoever.
Alcohol could never make us drunk, xanax could never calm us down, zoloft could never reduce our depression, anesthetics could never put us to sleep.
One moment's speculation on the topic leaves one rather perplexed–where do these receptors originate? And more important–why?
The only answer is clear–our brains evolved over millions of years with receptors to respond to our OWN endogenous [internal] chemical compounds which act like these exogenous [external] substances. The most well-known opiate like substances produced by our own bodies are known as endorphins. Even the sensitivity of our minds to placebos may reflect the internal binding of our own proteins to such sites.
The conclusion can only be this–we evolved with the capacity to calm our own anxieties, treat our own depression, reduce our perception of pain, produce our own anesthesia. Clearly our bodies have not evolved to the extent that pharmaceuticals are not needed–they have done much to alleviate emotional pain and suffering.
But ponder the miracle of our bodies–our capacity to heal ourselves on an emotional level is often overlooked.