The Biology of Happiness
When I experience pain I know that something has gone wrong in my body. In short, pain is a warning signal (i.e. a symptom, actually a highly complex syndrome) that tells me that one or more of my bio-sub-systems (like a tooth or a kidney) is underperforming if not defective. Pleasure (i.e. as symptom, hence as signal) tells me that that one or more of my bio sub-stems is outperforming.
Likewise happiness. My experience of happiness (i.e. its symptoms) signals and so confirms (i.e. firms up via feed-back) that as a whole bio-system I have out-performed. In other words, that in the given (or any) situation (or world) I’ve emerged the ‘winner’ (to wit, ‘fitter’ than before). In simpler terms, happiness tells me that I’ve solved a problem, any problem. Unhappiness tells me that I’ve emerged a ‘loser’, i.e. that I’ve failed to solve a (i.e. any) problem.
Pain, pleasure, unhappiness and happiness and the sense of comfort (i.e. non-turbulence = nirvana) are generic signalling devices. They serve as the basic self-regulation functions (i.e. like traffic lights) of my biological Guide & Control System, and, indeed, that of every other of the 7 and half billion humans alive today.
Contrary to ancient atavistic beliefs, still promoted by most religious and political activists, the above experiences are not the reward or punishment for good or bad moral or ethical behaviour. Nor are they, as the rather naïve fantasist Aristotle believed, the effect of being possessed by a good or bad demon, nor, as the confidence trickster St Augustine claimed, the personal experience of God’s grace or wrath, nor, as others would have it, are they the result of good or bad luck.
Discrete everyday observation will invariably confirm that happiness signals an increase in relative survival capacity (hence survival resilience) in any situation (to wit, ‘I’ve won this one’) and unhappiness a decrease a relative survival capacity (to wit, ‘I’ve lost this one’) in any situation, whereby the situation may be either real (i.e. actual) or virtual (imaginary).
The shift into the bodily whole system’s status survival capacity self-representation modes of either happiness or unhappiness is instantaneous and momentary. Both shifts are decided and executed by the Bio-Nav (i.e. the brain) dependent on the data provided to it and which includes its preferences set. For the happiness or unhappiness signal to ‘last’ it must be continuously repeated, and which requires continuous survival capacity increases. Frequent if not continuous repetition of either signal may be deliberately engineered.