Just a roll of the dice

6 April 2019

Is happiness a state which occurs when there’s no sadness or are happiness and sadness two primary polar opposite states of mind? I guess to unravel this one we’d have to get to grips with the states themselves.

On rare occasions I’ve engaged the odd friendly shrink about this thing called happiness. Invariably the question has prompted them to engage that dark zone, currently termed depression, but which in days of yore was referred to as melancholia. Strange that my friendly shrink was prompted to descend into the darkness when the other half of the question addressed the subject of happiness! But having descended into the dark zone, there followed a lengthy string of adjectives such as anhedonia (a big word referring to the inability to enjoy oneself - use this word at your next cocktail party to impress the group!), pessimism, low self-esteem, distrust, hopelessness, helplessness and blame apportioned to everything from God and the Universe to parents, employers, family and friends. And indeed on being subjected to this life-sapping tirade one can just catch a whiff of the stench of this dark space. However this string of horrors still doesn’t define the essence of sadness. For the simple reason that sadness can also occur when happy people lose someone or something of great personal value. But hold it right there. Loss! Suddenly light enters the confused and wrestling mind. Loss is indeed a critical component of this discourse.

The universal hallmark of sadness is loss. I would suggest that it’s the perceived permanent loss of something cherished. But here comes the rub – it can result from the loss of something previously possessed as well as the perceived loss of that which one aspired or hoped to possess but never actually possessed. Right here, right now we can add a second component which often accompanies the need to possess - that is fear of loss. Fear of loss is the forbearer of anxiety. The fear of loss is much more acute in cases where there has been a threshold amount of possession, albeit minimal. If possession has been sub-threshold, any anxiety is quickly replaced by resignation and despair. Fear of loss would obviously apply to that which one already possesses as well as to that which one aspires to possess or has an expectation to possess. It is one of those cruel quirks of the order of things that the loss with the most damaging consequences occurs in the earliest period of our individual life narrative, our nurture period. For here we have the greatest need for possession – that of care in its broadest sense. Loss of care whether experienced and lost or aspired to/expected, which never materialized, establishes the circuitry associated with loss and all its negative accompaniments - pessimism, low self-esteem, distrust, hopelessness, helplessness and blame. A deep sadness indeed and one which will dominate the future life narrative, re-enforcing itself with perpetual self-fulfilling prophesies. In those instances where there once was a threshold of possession of care or a justified expectation of care, anxiety will be a sure accompaniment.

Turning to happiness, well that’s an easy one to define – its life without loss and a life which seldom ponders expected loss. The adjectives generated by this state would include gratification, purposefulness, meaningfulness, self-esteem, curiosity, engagement and a general state of optimism. And you guessed it, this state of mind is regarded as one of success in our current collective reality. But here I stretch my neck out as far as my seven cervical vertebrae will allow: Does this state of mind represent the pinnacle of human endeavour? Nay say I. For me the pinnacle of human endeavour is that lofty place where sensitivity, empathy and awe reside. It is a place of heightened awareness or consciousness. It is in fact a place which transcends happiness and sadness. The foot-path to this Nirvana originates not from sadness nor from happiness and success. Rather it commences with awareness and appreciation of the full spectrum of human subjectivity – the happiness, the sadness, the possession, the loss, the suffering and the successes. The path is fueled by empathy, awe and gratitude. Remembering always that ‘ there but for the Grace go I ... ‘. Because it all boils down to the cards that you were dealt. It really is just a roll of the dice!

Archive

6 April 2019
Just a roll of the dice

21 December 2018
Move on or move out

11 December 2018
The perch on your shoulder

28 November 2018
Harry, Sally and Fay

24 November 2018
Beyond the mire

14 October 2018
Change reaction

5 October 2018
An Ode to Roxy

15 July 2018
Indulge in the virtues of stoicism

24 June 2018
A ghost in the machine

11 June 2018
Death de-mortified

4 June 2018
Exposed!

12 May 2018
A tall story

8 April 2018
Transcending the mist

17 March 2018
Setting the record straight in this brief moment in time

4 March 2018
An authentic desert

11 February 2018
The hateful and the cruel

2 February 2018
Neuroscience is a joke

14 January 2018
To have and to hold

1 January 2018
Superconsciousness

22 December 2017
The Lethal Cocktail of Fear with an Existential Crisis

9 December 2017
Reflections in a cemetery

3 December 2017
Go forth and multiply

15 November 2017
Reflections of a mirror

29 October 2017
Dumbing down

26 October 2017
Avoid the brain drain

4 September 2017
An authentic lead

30 August 2017
Pop

23 August 2017
Respect begins at home

16 July 2017
An awe-full story

3 July 2017
Mushroom soup

2 June 2017
Relativity, relatives and other relationships

29 May 2017
Inflamed and smoked

25 May 2017
An Ode to my Mentor

10 May 2017
Counter-evolutionary

27 April 2017
Inspire

16 April 2017
Lost in an expert fog

12 April 2017
Don't be short-changed

30 March 2017
A brAIve New World

15 March 2017
The problem with Gus

12 March 2017
United in Energy

5 March 2017
Transcending emotions

25 February 2017
In the blink of an eye

25 February 2017
The real story about emotions

27 January 2017
Meditation Re-visited

21 January 2017
As a light to a flame

31 December 2016
Drowning in snake oil

24 December 2016
In the glow of an aura

19 December 2016
Mindfully yours

14 December 2016
Time to transcend the Flat Earth Society

4 December 2016
Prejudice and other violations

20 November 2016
Lighting up the Abyss

12 November 2016
Embrace the Zeitgeist and Transcend

9 November 2016
A Curious Life

8 October 2016
Perhaps we ought to read the stars?

22 September 2016
The truth about truth

27 August 2016
Conscious Integration

21 August 2016
The Toxicity of the Social Media

3 August 2016
Time to Integrate

24 July 2016
I Believe ...

16 June 2016
Crime, punishment and the brain

4 June 2016
The Essence of Effective Leadership

22 May 2016
Engage with the Eloquence of Neuromodulation

15 May 2016
Peer Reviewed Publications: A Trust Issue

28 April 2016
A Cathartic Therapeutic Moment

11 March 2016
Gateway to Consciousness

9 November 2015
Drivers of Success and Effective Leadership

2 November 2015
A Two-Point Solution

20 October 2015
All Black Rugby: The Eloquence of Applied Neuroscience

8 October 2015
In Mitigation of Limiting Deprivation Determinants

20 September 2015
Lamenting our intellectual malaise

13 August 2015
Respectful Intervention

25 July 2015
The Creative Leadership Zone

16 May 2015
Coaching to Pleasure

6 May 2015
Glowing the Void - Thoughts under a May Full Moon

1 April 2015
Context and Integration

7 February 2015
Add some Awe and become Awesome

11 January 2015
Effective Intervention

3 January 2015
The re-emergence of the right hemisphere

26 November 2014
Where is consciousness?

11 May 2014
A Strong Determinism

15 February 2014
The Physiology of Mindfulness

16 August 2013
The Triple Wheel Combination Model of Value-based Leadership

1 June 2013
Authenticity and Leadership

13 January 2013
The Neurobiology of Empathy

29 November 2012
Neuroplasticity

8 June 2012
The brain as a deterministic blueprint

21 April 2012
That 'Aha' Moment

17 April 2011
Rewarding Value

28 December 2010
The Dangers of Cyber-space

27 November 2010
Enhancing Gratification

23 June 2010
Systemic Degeneration

14 June 2010
Meaning and Purpose

3 June 2010
Medical Challenges