TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Why do we chase happiness?

If each emotion we experience is for a reason then why do we try to not to experience some of them as they are? Why there is a race for happiness out of the entire range of emotions? Is it a new phenomena or has the happiness always been sought the most? Is it a human need ?

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jan 25 2012: In my most recent research on the topic of happiness, I found out that as we step into this earth as babies, we all come whole, complete and happy. But as we gain consciousness, we enter into a dire pull to conformity which leads to further conformity which disconnects us from our real selves.....our real essence. And the quest to reconnect to our real essence which we most times do not understand leads us to the pursuit of happiness. Happiness has always been the greatest need of man, although sometimes we barely understand what it is we are longing for.
    • thumb
      Jan 25 2012: Fountain,

      You must be speaking metaphorically because, as I am sure you must know, we do not come into the world complete and whole.

      Happy?

      I'd be interested in hearing how you came to this conclusion.

      Our first expressions in the world are (usually) tears of pain and, perhaps, grief.
    • Jan 25 2012: Fauntain & Thomas,

      I tried and could not revive the experiences of the time i came into this world.

      Could you both please share how you figured that we came complete & happy (-Fountain) and how our first expressions in the world are tears of "pain" & "grief" (-Thomas)?

      Thanks
      • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Jan 25 2012: I have been present at the birth of two children. They both cried. I imagine it is painful being squeezed through a narrow canal that requires one's skull to be literally compressed.

        The grief is a guess. Grief from being "expelled" from an environment that was maintained perfectly for one's comfort and development.

        I know of one child whose mother went into labour and gave birth 20 minutes later. The child did not seem to experience much trauma ... she was the mother's third.

        I do have memories of my own from about 18 months but my introduction to the world was somewhat unique. I do not think my experience is common.

        Do you think being born is a pleasant experience?
        • Jan 25 2012: "Do you think being born is a pleasant experience?" ...i don't know. Why a baby cries and laughs is purely our interpretation. That fellow doesn't know the why, he hardly has any memory cells, as a reference, to laugh or cry about. Those expressions cant be termed as emotional expressions. That fellow never chases any emotion. It just is...absolutely in the moment. Crying only out of physical pain or need. I dont know why they laugh.
          Here's a link to both expressions together... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuYhQS4aVdQ

          The chase i am questioning is different. This is running away from some memory cells or chasing some memory cells. Ok...if our emotions are stored in memory cells as references and if each memory cell has a limited life span. Then, by remembering good feelings we multiply pleasant memories and by remembering unpleasant memories we multiply unpleasant memory cells? Does that justify the chase for happiness ?
          I think i am beginning to find the answer.
        • thumb
          Jan 25 2012: Manuj....GREAT clip...makes me smile:>)

          Perhaps this child is demonstrating what you describe in another comment?
          You write..." is a child born with all this ? Or is a child born blank?....and then these emotions get labelled in its mind as per his exposure?"

          Could the child in the video be simply "feeling" and reacting to those feelings without labeling? I believe crying and laughing are very connected:>)
        • thumb
          Jan 29 2012: Manuj Sharma
          About that video: I think we have more in common with the infant than we care to admit as adults. Not that they use memory cells or that they pursue happy memories as we might, but all humans have a capacity to synthesize happiness. I believe memory actually gets in the way of our reaching happiness and well-being. The video shows a learning experience for the capacity to synthesize happiness. It is not just an odd behavior. The infant laughs because he is gaining that capacity to create well-being. (synthesized happiness TED talk http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html )

          Find happiness switches, not memory cells.
          Happy thoughts,
          Mark
      • thumb
        Jan 25 2012: Hi Manuj,

        I am not sure I am following you but, when they are born, babies do have LOTS of "memory cells." They are not a "blank slate" as we used to say. Far from it.

        I am told being born hurts. I don't remember my own birth but having witnessed two, I have no difficulty believing that it hurts ... a lot.

        You may have heard the expression "neurons that fire together, wire together." So, yes, "remembering good feelings" will strengthen those connections.

        I think you would enjoy studying neuropsychology. Amongst other things, it has a lot to say about happiness and "memory cells."
        • Jan 25 2012: Thanks. If they have lots of memory cells, is there anything stored in there or they are like blank cells ready for impressions ??
      • thumb
        Jan 25 2012: QUOTE: "If they have lots of memory cells, is there anything stored in there or they are like blank cells ready for impressions ?"

        Both.

        But "blank" isn't really the right metaphor.
    • thumb
      Jan 25 2012: Fountain,
      I agree that when we are born into the human experience we are whole, complete, trusting, honest, happy, content, unconditionally loving. I believe that life experiences often cause us to disconnect from our true selves by building masks and defences which are supposed to protect us from feeling vulnerable and hurt. The challenge is that the protective defenses also keep us from experiencing life to the fullest, so we feel we need to search for those "parts" of our "self" that we are not experiencing...."our real essence", as you say. That may be why so many people are searching outside themselves for happiness. It can be frightening to let go of the defenses and feel vulnerable, and that is exactly what is needed to "know thyself" and experience true happiness/contentment.
      • Comment deleted

        • thumb
          Jan 25 2012: Pierre,
          It makes a lot of sense that we all listen to others, read some books, watch so many TED videos because in us is a great bank of knowing which is inate but silent and untapped but is staired at the entrance of knowledge. This knowledge we can gain from our experiences or by learning from that of others.
          Just as Colleen and myslf said before, when we set out in pursuit of happiness, we often think it is in pursuing so many things but one others point us to ourselves through their teachings we are reawakened to awareness and consciouness.
        • Jan 25 2012: I think Pierre is fine the way he is. He may appear to be bit irresponsible here but he makes the environment light with his casual comments.
      • thumb
        Jan 25 2012: We're not complete and whole when we are born. Parts of us are quite literally missing. Our brains, not to mention our bodies, are not yet fully developed. We may have the potential to be complete but we are not yet "fully baked."
      • Jan 25 2012: Colleen,
        "I agree that when we are born into the human experience we are whole, complete, trusting, honest, happy, content, unconditionally loving." .... is a child born with all this ? Or is a child born blank?....and then these emotions get labelled in its mind as per his exposure?

        As far as labeling of emotions is concerned....can we say that there may be many more emotions yet to be explored and labeled ?
        • thumb
          Jan 25 2012: A child is content when s/he gets basic needs met, correct? The baby will let us know if s/he is hungry, uncomfortable, hurting etc. They have very basic communication skills and use them appropriately. I think that demonstrates trust, honesty, and contentment. Babies are unconditionally loving and will bond with parents even if that parent is cruel to the child. We hear stories all the time about abuse and cruelty to children, and yet, the children continue to love the parent. That is unconditional love.
      • Jan 25 2012: Pierre, Thanks for your brilliant & in-genuine inputs. True, at times, i feel i am wasting my time here. Perhaps, i am "chasing" answers which exist within or which i will find as i move ahead, without having the need to define/label them.
    • Jan 25 2012: Fountain,

      Me thinks that we are born as a clean slate - nothingness so to speak, and just as a software developer writes codes for a program, the environment were born into coupled with the experiences we encounter, kind of moulds us along the way.

      How do you take this ?
      • thumb
        Jan 25 2012: Hi Mwenjew,

        We're not born as clean slates. We're born already knowing a lot. (There is a TED talk on this ... does anyone remember what it is called?)
      • thumb
        Feb 6 2012: Good link Koen.......thanks!

        Much of this information was available to us 40+ years ago when I was having children. I guess that's when I learned more about babies/children:>) It was well known, scientifically researched and proven way back then, that babies start to be programmed even BEFORE they are born. All of the child's systems are directly connected to the mother, as they are developing. How can we ever think that they would NOT be influenced? When are we, as humans with intelligence, going to start paying attention to so much information that is available to us???

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.