Why are we homosapiens so unhappy with life?
I read through blogs and posts and comments and find so many people dissatisfied with this or that aspect of their lives, their countries, their families, their selves, and I wonder how we got caught up in this vicious circle.
We don’t see other animals exhibiting this massive form of anxiety. Not many dogs walking around at 2 years old depressed with teenage angst. No giraffe riots against a rival pack of zebras. Everything else just sort of lives on balanced harmony, understanding some basic principles of life to guild them. Food. Shelter. Babies.
You can argue that our bigger capacity brains are capable of weaving much more complex stories, but why would an intelectually superior being invite increasing amounts of discontent and anxiety into their daily lives?
Well, I think we are a victim of our own success….
Early man (and woman) hunter and gatherers, just beginning to create social structures and form herds, had to find ways of creating order within the group. This is the structure upon which we built the sustainable communities we have all over the world today.
People work together for the common good. They make sacrifices so that all may benefit. So, these early groups started to tell stories to one another to teach, to pass down information, and to create order within the community. People were assigned jobs and accordingly we’re awarded benefits in the tribe for performing those jobs well.
No longer was every person able to focus just on providing for themselves and their family alone. Over time, the tribe became the most important focus of your life. Your needs we’re not met unless the hunters did their job today. Your house had no roof unless the gatherers brought back leaves and sticks.
Here is where the expectations of others begins to develop. We begin to judge others, as well as judge ourselves. Are we meeting the expectations of the tribe? Should we have a higher status in the tribe? Should form an alliance with that family to split from those families that we don’t agree with?
Fast forward 100,000 years
Over time, these little expectations expand and grow and multiply into a million little stories about everything we see, do, touch and feel. About remembering how everything in the universe works and the right way to hold your fork. About which days of the week are for fun and which are for work. About who you’re supposed to like and how to keep your hair looking nice. About how life should be full of adventure and money and love and peace and meaning.
…when all we were really promised when we plopped out into this world was that we would breath and eat and have instinctual impulses and feelings that drive us to do the things that make us feel good.
Dopamine and serotonin
Feeling good is really what it’s all about. We humans and every other animals on the planet are driven by the motivation to release these chemicals in our brains. We feel hungry, we eat, dopamine and serotonin. We need money, we work, we get paid, dopamine and serotonin.
All these other stories, objectives and expectations conflict with and get in the way of figuring out how to satisfy the overwhelming desire to feel good.
This complicates and confuses us beyond measure. We compare, contrast, judge and evaluate our level of feeling good to everyone and everything around us to see if we could be feeling better than we are.
Utopia is a place of contentment. It does not have anything to do with our surroundings or circumstances.
We need to stop looking for joy in the things we have or the things we do or the status of the world. Understand that your brain is just searching for a hit of dopamine and serotonin and find those things that give it to you.
It could be cuddling with your kids or making a craft or helping your grandma. Be content with one hit at a time. Work toward big goals by setting yourself up for a million little accomplishments of dopamine releases along the way.
We won’t solve the puzzle of life, and we were never meant to. Our only purpose here is self-fulfillment. Even if you’re the most humanitarian person in the world, your motivation is because it makes you feel good.
Find what makes you feel good, and do it. That’s the only way to find true Utopia for you.
P.S. My disclaimer about doing bad things that make you feel good: if there are consequences that will not make you feel good later, then you need to think those through and stop right there. Even animals learn this. That’s what all the other neuro-pathways are for. Don’t be stupid.