Emotions, Hormones & Drugs
For thousands of years the definition of happiness has been at the mercy of people's opinions and mindsets, left to each individual's sad or happy experiences and reduced to a mere question of taste. Most of our pleasures, physical or intellectual, have been subjectively described in our literature and lore, leaving the door open for endless interpretations about the most essential value in life, happiness, that all other values are based upon.
Only recently neuro-scientists were able to properly measure and accurately define many of our pleasures, that constitute happiness, in terms of quantity and quality. They use different scientific tools, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which showed many enjoyable sensations, thoughts and activities can cause the release of certain endorphins in our bodies, responsible for the ages-long dilemma of happiness.
Yet, many people are still afraid of thinking of what they enjoy, lest they stop enjoying it. To them, happiness is too ephemeral to capture, too mysterious to understand, too simple to complicate. No one guessed it might all come down to chemistry, and every emotion we have could be a mere chemical formula.
Emotions are various degrees of pain or pleasure caused by hormonal changes. We can control hormones naturally and artificially to achieve maximum happiness, our main goal in life. Emotions can be monitored, recorded, analyzed and re-engineered, even before a person is born, to achieve the utmost pleasure every human deserves.
Those who treat emotions as mysteries, or worse, mystify emotions, make themselves always salves to, not masters of their emotions. Good or bad, any emotion can be harmful when it gets out of control, when we give it free rein even to control us afterwards. Mysteries are good, but they only give partial, temporary, intractable pleasure. Worse, they cause chaos and conflict among their adherents, who immaturely chose to enjoy "incomplete knowledge" rather than understand themselves further and uncover such mysteries (their fear, incuriosity, habits ... keep them from pursuing knowledge to the end).
Just as alchemy was considered evil by some, before the advent of microscopes and the rise of modern chemistry where we can see actual chemical reactions, so is the present attitude toward genetic engineering, neuroscience, or any taboo-breaking science (or science in general, in backward parts of the world). Many treat emotions—and accordingly ethics, traditions and laws, which all derive from emotions—as idols not to be disturbed, to receive their blessings and keep the status quo of one's blissful ignorance. Fear is the most ignored emotion.
Understanding the chemistry of emotions helps us better control and enjoy them, especially for driving that which has been driving and controlling us for millennia: our instinct/drive/primitive brain. To enjoy maximum pleasures, we learn the causes of pleasure first; then we may discard, cherish, grow, refine ... and enjoy those pleasures.
We needn't worry if science takes away some of the mystery of pleasure, because there will always be more mysteries to uncover. Rather than mourn a mystery, we should learn about and analyze our emotions even more, because learning won't stop us from feeling them, nor will it turn us into lifeless robots. Contrarily, it proves our deep desire to pursue happiness, that no robot can feel.
Knowing the ingredients of the food you cook doesn't change the fact that you still enjoy eating it. It's time for humanity to grow up and evolve, taking the driver's seat and choose their destiny—a seat that's been long occupied by a reckless driver illegitimately called our Drive.
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People's experience of happiness varies widely. They report satisfaction with many lifestyles they live, taking pleasure in different avenues of life that may change, overlap, or contradict each other during the course of the same person's life: family bonds, social work, individual creativity, learning, eating, drinking, partying, etc. Defining happiness is still complex, even from a neuroscientific point of view. There are many hormones that cause pleasure, like serotonin, the well-being hormone, and dopamine, whose levels are highest during sex, gambling, consuming sweets, etc. Still, happiness can only be defined by the overall formulae of one's balanced chemicals, so to speak.
Controlling one's emotions, senses, thoughts and actions, which takes years of practice with uncertain results, will only take few seconds with technology's help, after we recognize and redirect the chemistry behind it. The Trader of Feelings portrayed in some literature and folk tales is already materializing into a real-life character, not necessarily a human one, that can sell us drugs with different effects:
In the future, almost all of our natural body chemicals will be manufactured and available for everyone. Their euphoric effects will be far deeper, longer, safer, and more diverse and controllable than our natural body hormones':
Until then, we should accept, tame and refine our present un-evolved nature, seeking happiness the old way, at traditional pleasure sources. We should also enjoy safely, knowing our limits, not confusing wishes with facts, experiments with results, or future with present. For now, we can watch our habits, behavior and relationship with other people, environment and ourselves to balance our natural chemistry. We can still take our good old-fashioned grandma's advice: "Sleep well, wash your hands before you eat, avoid drafts ... and have fun."