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Jewish World Review
Dec. 5, 2013/ 2 Teves, 5774
It turns out that our very lives depend on being unhappy
If you Google the word Happiness you would quickly find the name Shimon Edelman, Cornell Professor of Psychology and author of a book call "The Happiness of Pursuit."
His research has led him to an insight worth remembering. That happiness, like every other emotion, evolved for a good reason.
"Emotions are basically computational short cuts and so there is this functional need for an internal motivation system," said Edelman. "And I think this faculty of happiness you wish, is something that evolved, not just in this species but in ourselves, to serve this functional need of motivation and bringing action about."
Like all emotions, it's a shortcut developed by the brain to make good decisions essential to survival of the species.
Unhappiness is the stick that makes you feel like to have to get something, or go somewhere, find someone new. Happiness is the evolutionary carrot for meeting that goals, which usually involves spreading a species DNA across a wider area.
But --- and here's the insight. For happiness to be effective as an emotion --- it can't last long. Because a creature that is happy and content doesn't do anything new.
"If a species figures out how to stimulate its brain circuits of happiness without budging, it will very quickly go extinct," said Edelman.
So we are all doomed to be forever seeking happiness --- because we are programmed in a way that guarantees it won't last.
Because to be happy all the time --- would mean extinction. Now if that doesn't motivate you, I give up.
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Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on Seattle's KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. He spends his down time tinkering with electronic projects, writing novelty songs, shopping at thrift stores, and playing squash. As an avid hiker, he's earned the title Energizer Bunny from his friends; while they all stop to see stuff along the trail, Dave keeps going and going and going. He enjoys traveling internationally for work and pleasure with memorable stops in Baghdad, Qatar, Israel, Prague, Germany (to cover the Berlin Wall), China, Soviet Union, Niger, Senegal, and Iran.
You can listen to his daily column in audio format by clicking here.
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© 2013, Dave Ross