What follows is my explanation on how to become happy. Or at least on how to eliminate unnecessarily sadness (and by extension, suffering). By unnecessary sadness I mean the kind of sadness (or depression) that plagues many people in western nations; where resource, wealth and opportunity are ample by comparison to poorer nations and where, despite this, depression isn’t as prevalent.
In order to address this happiness “formula” I first need to address the age-old question: Is the outcome of your life predestined? Because in some sense the answer has been proven to be “yes”. For instance: Do bear cubs behave just like their bear parents when they grow up? Does a blooming rose look, behave and smell just like the one that preceded it?
When looking at all mammals, insects, plants… yes, pretty much every single life-form… it’s pretty obvious that there is a causal link between genetic inheritance and the physical outcome of said life-form. And by outcomes I’m referring to appearance, diet, behaviors, instincts, size-shape, color, flavor, and even personalities. In some sense, humans, are quite special because of the way in which we exhibit wonderful and extensive variations in our personalities and even our appearances. But apes show similar variations, though not to the same extent. Therefore while personality is clearly genetically inherited it probably only emerges in creatures with large enough brains to contain such a feature. Or at least organisms that have had to evolve and develop complex social structures where such personality differences are warranted. This would be especially true with humans given how much specialization has played crucial roles in our evolution (the need for a potter, a blacksmith, a soldier, a carpenter, a farmer, an artist, etc).
I am alarmed, however, that, as of late, variations among humans are being atrophied while those new ones emerging seem to be largely cosmetic and have little or nothing to do with our biology or even evolutionary pressures from nature. A mechanization (or domestication) that conditions us to fall “in line” with the preferences of a select “few”, and not at all to do with what really best suits us as an individual (and I would argue, even as a species). In other words, these are variations that are not at all driven by evolutionary pressures or any need to specialize for social cohesion (or the maximization of desirable outcomes), but a conditioning that is suited for an artificial political framework.
For instance, instead of seeing a true variety of personalities continue to emerge in society, we see more variations in clothing and hair color and we accrue social pursuits that dull our character rather than enhance it. Instead of a diversity of roles and specialties, we see cliques, clubs, movements, religions, cults, political denominations and a number of other intellectual tribal constructs proliferating through top-down pressures rather than bottom-up emergence. This is clearly evidenced in human sexuality where rather than reproduction being at all central to the practice itself (of sex), humans are finding themselves increasingly allured by fetishes and desires to, themselves, become a fetish unto others. Again, I want to argue that most of these differences are purely cosmetic and manufactured over-top our genetic underpinnings. Much like wearing a dog costume over top any functionally-serving garment serves no evolutionary purpose.
The reason I feel the need to go off on this tangent and address this is because I firmly believe one of the greatest causes of depression, sadness, discontent, discomfort, disatisfaction has to do with any living being behaving (or being forced to behave) in a way that is not “true” to the way their biology has wired them to be. For instance, if someone has a body that is wired for atheltic pursuits but is stuck behind a desk job, their body is going to suffer tremendously and bring about sadness in that individual. Bottom line is that when you aren’t able to express outwardly what you were designed for inwardly, you will inevitably encounter sadness. So what I am contending in this thesis is that most modern-day cases of depression stem from this one single issue. To be clear, I’m not talking about very exceptional cases (e.g gender disphoria and the like), but I’m talking about the every day person. I’m talking about the seven in ten women (yes 70%) in Great Brittain, whom are currently on anti-depressants. Prescriptions for whom doubled between 2005 and 2015. So this is seriously a problem worth exploring. And if drugs aren’t doing the trick (clearly), you’ll have very little to lose by continuing to read this brief composition.
Ok, so to put all of this simply, there are two dimensions to our individuality: One is our biologically determined physical nature and personality and the other is our socially constructed domesticated and mechanized behavior. And my contention is that the more these diverge from each other, the more existential the level of suffering will be experienced by such an organism. In other words, if you can figure out how to be yourself (truly) instead of trying so damn hard to be something you’re not, you’ll be much happier.
Now that I’ve explained how variations can stem from biology and (also) society, it brings me back to the question of nature vs nurture which I feel is imperative to answer in order to get through this thesis. After all, it’s been relevant in behavioral science for hundreds of years and remains relevant to this day. The question being: “To what extent is the outcome of your life determined by your genetic code.” Does it even matter how your parents raise you? It seems that now very few in the public believe that genetics play much of a role (at all) in our outcomes as human beings. We seem to be under a socially-constructed-illusion that our outcomes are all about environment and our genes play little to no role. The suggestion is that (because of this) as long as our institutions provide the proper conditions, there will be no differences in outcomes among humans and sameness will finally be the norm. I guess I would also then wonder, why the heck is it even desirable to have no differences in outcome? Unless, of course, something or someone is domesticating humans on a de-evolutionary path toward behaviors mimicking those of an ant colony. A collective hive mind in service of a single queen? Communism/Marxism sought out to do just that by seeking to eliminate the family unit close to a century ago. Such movements that centralize wealth and power will inevitably become corrupted, which is why it’s always best to keep power and wealth as distributed and democratized as possible. If we can agree that the nation’s power grid shouldn’t stem from one central power station, then why can’t we agree that human power and wealth should also be similarly decentralized? The free market system has been the best so far to achieve this, though the last fifty years have proven the system can also become corrupted when there is no separation between business and state.
But let’s take the Marxist view on things and confess that it is certainly true that our behaviors can be modified through changes in our environment. It’s called conditioning. For instance, you can isolate a rat from the other rats and condition it to behave differently when given certain environmental queues and incentives. In fact we humans do this every time we stop at an intersection upon being queued by a red light to halt. We’ve been programmed to do so because conditioning is simply another form of programming. Just like genetic code is a program that tells a bear cub to grow up and become a mamma or papa bear, society can also impose its own programming to override or sit over-top the hardware level programming that is our genetic code. But in the end, just like software doesn’t change the fundamental workings of computer hardware, our social domestication is ultimately an interface sitting over top the fundamental truth that is our biological mandate. Therefore any human, absent his or her social, religious, philosophical constructs, will inevitably fall back to their hardware level program.
This notion of human behavior being akin to hardware programming (for our evolutionary biology) vs software programming (for our social conditioning and domestication) is a concept that is being put forth for the very first time through this essay. And it’s a topic I intend to explore further in future postings. What’s exciting about this paradigm and intellectual framework is that it serves as the basis for a myriad questions that can make what was formerly a complex issue (that of finding happiness through personal pursuits), into a far more simpler one.
Recent twin studies confirm my thesis. The studies have involved observing twins that have been separated at birth by monitoring behavioral difference and similarities as they grow up into adulthood yet coming from very different families. What is noticed is that their “software” level conditioning (the training provided by the two different sets of parents) has significant effects on the child’s behavior, but once each twin grows old enough to live on their own, over that time period, they revert back to their hardware level programming and the twins then start behaving and exhibiting very similar personality traits (one to the other) even though they’ve never seen or even known about each other. In other words, the influence a parent has (and now a days mainstream media + public education) on the outcome of its children, very rarely extends beyond the borders of their upbringing. Once the child moves out, graduates and carves their own path through life, the new adult is very likely to behave as their DNA asked them to. There are exceptions to this, in particular for those children brought up in a religious tradition. If the child stays firm to their religious convictions and takes them into adulthood, the religion becomes like the invisible parent that keeps the adult from straying from the software level programming imposed on them. In essence, religion can be like an artificial father-figure that follows you through life and helps you moderate your behavior according to some socially constructed standard and therefore prevents you from falling back to your genetic mandates.
This is why as generations of children have distanced themselves more and more from the traditions of their forefathers, we see emerging a more hedonistic and narcissistic generation. We see this today among Americans whom are often second or third generation atheists. Places like Great Britain and Japan are much farther along in this path and therefore you see this tendency even more pronounced in those parts of the world.
This concludes the introduction to this topic. Stay tuned for the final segment where I’ll explain the ramifications of these truths and how we can work within them to find happiness in a life that is increasingly surrounded by lies about who we are and what we should do and become. Thanks for reading!