BIOLOGY OF HAPPINESS: –
In democratic societies, the well being of the masses – happiness for everybody – has become the focus of the “new science of happiness” and a main agenda of the state.
Happiness is more than the absence of unhappiness. Happiness is experienced both as fleeting sensations and emotions, and consciously appreciated as a permanent disposition of the mind. It encompasses two inseparable aspects: Hedonic (pleasure of the senses) and eudemonic (pleasure of reason; living well and doing well).
Darwin speculated that the emotions must be key to the survival of the fittest. With the emergence of self-awareness, emotions have become a new evolutionary force.
The emotional ‘good’ has become detached from the Darwinian ‘Good’, such that experiencing pleasure has become an end in itself.
Other people are also principal sources of social alarm and thus of psychological stress. It is here that the great advantage of the neo-cortex becomes apparent: it functions as an arbitrator to attribute quality and strength to social factors. The thoughts and actions of particular individual can render us excited or leave us in different. Envy is one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. It can be tempered or neutralized by mobilizing the neo-cortex. But the main source of stress for the human primate is probably fear and subjective sense of uncertainty, so the satisfaction of the need for security is a precondition for the unfolding of all other needs.
These capacities of mental self projection in to the past, the future, or the perspective of another individual, all enable a specifically human way of life: living within time. It seems that achieving zero pain and maximum pleasure has driven the evolution of the modern economy. We have been molded by evo- lution not to be happy, but to act on the phantasm of happiness. Occasionally the intense enjoyment of the present can escalate to reach a singularity of ‘peak experiences’, the ‘single most joyous, happiest, most blissful moments of life.’
The west is especially rich in the things we call interesting, beautiful, delicious, cool, entertaining, and exiting. They make daily life more reinforcing, but they reinforce little more than the behavior that brings one in to contact with them. What is wrong with the life in the west is not that it has too many reinforces, but they are not contingent on the kinds of behavior that sustain the individual or promote the survival of the culture or species.
The emotional responses to the pleasant stimulus also weaken or completely cease, if stimulus remains constant. This phenomenon has been called the He- donic Treadmill.
Artificial brain stimulation by electrical currents or by drugs replaces the meaningful natural activities of observing the environment and acting appropriately in this way. Stimulation functions as an unusual reward, as a single response that suffices both to procure and consume it. It is in fact a short-circuiting of the natural mechanisms. Still there have been many utopians that envision that drugs will help us to achieve a perfect happiness.
Totally eliminating the suffering and blindly chasing pleasure are not paths to happiness. Posters on buses in London and other world capitals with the inscription “There is probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life” give false advice. A program of mass happiness is actually a delusion. Happiness can not be a set goal sold as consumer good. It can only spring up as a by-product of pursuing long term goals, intermittent with negative and positive emotions.