I wonder if there’s a possibility that we can be self sufficient. Not in terms of material needs but emotionally and psychologically.
Where it all begins.
Right from the time that we are infants we are dependent on other people to be a source of validation, happiness, a sense of security and a source of love. As children you get the feedback from your parents. In a way, perhaps, this is the stage where we get trained to look to others for emotional gratification. Or the other way to look at it is that this is the way we are biologically tuned from birth.
Both are strong possibilities. Is it just the one, or is it a bit of both? Is it training or is it hard wiring? Can either be altered? Some people (read “Gurus”) will tell you that it can be altered. Yet do we know of anyone who has managed to get over this dependency?
However, biology plays a very large role in the whole structure of thought. When we hit the teenage years, or ever before, our hormones and the physiology of being human, creates attraction to the opposite (or same) sex.
What about love and sex
Attraction is, crudely put, the need for sex. Falling in love has more to do with phycological needs. The kind I mentioned before. The need to be loved, validated, need to feel secure and not be lonely.
All these are very usual and natural human emotions. And mostly every one succumbs to them. Is it possible to love oneself? Not to the exclusion of others in an inconsiderate manner but in a manner to be self-sufficient emotionally.
Why do we seek a mate? Just biologically programmed to do it? That would make sense After all that seems to be the whole reason for the creation of woman and man. They were meant to seek each other at a certain point. Even if that point was procreation alone.
Who can deny the pleasure and the comfort of the company of a compatible and loving partner? But what if you do not find such a partner? What then..
Passionate about work or a past-time?
There are many people who take comfort in other things and activities. Someone can be passionate about a project or a cause. They can be passionate about what they do and extract a deeper sense of satisfaction from it than they would from a partner.
However, it is safe to say that these people are not as common occurrences as people who need to have a partner in their lives no matter how passionate or successful they are with what they do for a living or recreation.
In fact, ‘romantic love’ in its common derivation is the most common inspirational factor for art and music. Paintings, poems, sonnets, symphonies have been created because the artist felt the inspiration of love.
Falling in love with a beautiful woman has spurred many a man to slick action. Even Napoleon was no exception. The man who conquered and ruled the largest tract of the earth more than any other conqueror, was in love with Josephine. He would write to her on his war campaigns saying, and I am paraphrasing this, how meaningless and lustreless everything seemed in her absence. How desperately he wanted to see her. These letters were in turn a source of mirth and entertainment for Josephine who used to read them aloud to her friends, but that is another story.
Napoleon’s last words, translated to English, are purported to be : “France…the Army… Josephine…”,
Looking for a partner to share things with is perhaps the most instinctive thing that we all can do as a human being. It is something hard-wired and programmed into us.
Message from a friend.
I friend messaged this morning, forwarding me an extract from a book. It spoke of the same sentiment. That how we invest ourselves in other people and when those people leave us for various reasons, our temple of happiness comes crashing down. The extract ended with the gist that this is a wrong thing to do and we should not do it if expect to be ‘really’ happy.
She is someone who is going through a rough patch in her personal life, with her partner of almost 20 years. She is veering towards the point of view, for the moment, that the relationship is coming to an end. Not with her blessings but because of the her partner’s ‘paradigm shift’, which also happens to involve changed feelings for her.
Now, I have been writing this article for a few days now. The reason being that I get the feeling that I am going around in circles, or more accurately, not going anywhere with writing about this. This morning’s message is urging me to finish it and publish it.
Right in the beginning, I asked the question, is there anything to do about the fact that we look for gratification and happiness from another person..? Regardless of whether it is childhood training or hard wiring of our brains…
What do you think? Pause here for a moment. I did. And I realised that all our pleasures come from the external.
Everything is your senses. Everything pleasure is from the ‘external’
Whether it is a boyfriend or a book.. you need some stimuli outside you to make you feel happy. And that is exactly where other people come in.
Your parents, your friends, your girlfriend/boyfriend, partner, spouse, children.. All these people become important factors in your life, with one replacing the other and becoming more or less important depending upon the stage in your life. And if you want become less dependent on any of these people for your happiness, the best that you can do is replace them with, not someone, but something else.
Like I said, boyfriend or a book, it is all the same. You are still getting your quota of happiness from something external. The difference is only your ability to extract as much happiness from a book as from a boyfriend.
Many people are able to do this. They extract a lot from their work, passions, hobbies, pastimes, so much so as to substitute the importance of another person in their life. With some this is always the case, whereas for others, and much more common, it happens only the person of interest is a rather worn out presence in their life.
Love is still the most powerful feedback of all.
Because let’s not forget, as I have mentioned it previously, new love tends to be one of the most gratifying experiences a person can have. Right next to motherhood. As a matter of interest, and a slightly off the point, I want to make a mention of a research I read sometime back that said that most mothers has the very same chemical changes going on in their brains (read ‘reaction’) when they hold their newborn, as they do when they fall in love.
The ‘love’ of a mother
It is exactly the same pattern of electric impulses, brain areas lighting up, neurones firing, and hormonal releases of Dopamine and more, as when they fell in love with their romantic partner/s before. That explains parenthood to a great extent. As many parents proudly declare, they could kill for their child. I’m guessing this includes other kids as well, as long as they are not their own.
Don’t we see this plot is one movie too many? Someone’s wife / girlfriend / child is in custody of a nefarious villain. And to save that person the protagonist will commit acts that will harm hundreds and thousands of other people. I recently saw this as a part of the plot in a TV show. The germans capture a pilot’s wife. And to save her, he betrays plans of the allied forces on a regular basis, resulting in the death of thousands of soldiers, and devastation of hundreds of families. But I am seriously digressing here. “Love” as we know it and accept it is very very complicated and a matter of another post altogether.
But here is the point that needs to be addressed. It is something that I have wondered about for a long time. And I think I get it now.
Happiness as a chemical state of your brain.
I have read research on the use of psychedelic substances. Some world famous international gurus came into their spiritual avatars through this route. People report extraordinary revelations and mind-shifts with the help of micro-dosing. And I used to wonder, how is reaching an enlightened state, experiencing Satori, Zen or any other expression, possible by using a mind-altering substance?
Aren’t all those things supposed to come with some sort of a divine intervention? Some kind of a descent of Grace? You getting imbibed with some external forces, powers or magic?
Alright, forget about Zen and Satori. Lets just talk about the feeling of happiness. What a lot of people who use these substances describe is being in one place. And using. And having a great time. Like it was the most wonderful time of their lives.
Imagine this scenario. It’s New Years and a bunch of friends have driven off to a beach town, that is a known destination for new year revelries. But they end up staying in their rooms on New Years eve. Instead, they use a psychedelic substance. And they report having had the best time of their lives. They did not miss not being out.
I do not get that. How could you have enjoyed when you did not go out to be a part of the festivities?
The brain and its chemicals.
Let’s go back to the research I mentioned about new mothers and their brains showing the exact same patterns as being in love romantically. Every single feeling, thought or emotion is reflected by a brain activity.
When you feel happy, the brain is releasing dopamine into your bloodstream. There is no difference in the feeling of happiness whether you have fulfilled your life-long desire of standing under the Eiffel tower, or whether you are in your house and getting that dopamine release in any other way. For that moment, at least. Arguably, the pleasant experience of going to Paris is going to last you a very long time, just by re-visiting those memories.
But for that moment there is no difference in the feeling of well-being you get. So if everything we feel is a certain balance of chemicals and hormone releases in the brain, does it matter what comes first, the stimuli or the effect? The end result is the same?
It’s also about how you get it.
Well, not quite. Because having made the journey to Paris will give you satisfaction from many other factors. You might feel proud of yourself for having finally managed to make it. You will be able to tell your friends about it. You will have more adventures and stories along the way. Maybe you shared with someone and that made it extra special and even more joyful.
But at the same time psychedelic experiences can be powerful as well. People claim to have magical experiences. Feeling part of the universe. Whole. Loved. Medical micro-dosing it taking care of thousands of people who couldn’t be helped with their clinical depressions and anxiety with conventional medicines.
What if happiness is a biological function.
So if our emotions and feeling of wellness are about which hormones our brain releases, it changes the way you view happiness, doesn’t it? How do you get those synapses to fire? How do you activate that particular area of your brain?
Happiness or love, no longer seems to be something other than biological in nature. Something that we are biologically made to experience through our senses.
We tend to look at emotions as something other than biological. For example, feeling a certain emotion is not considered the same as digestion. But both seem to be equally body-based as the other.
Every time we are happy, there is something specific going on in our brains. How many ways do you know of getting your brain to do that? I mean people have managed to have out of body experiences by changing the chemical balance of their brains. And it seems completely real to them. For many it is life-changing. In a good way.
So you think you don’t need another person to make you happy.
Right, so back to the subject of people extracting more satisfaction from other things, as opposed to from people. So there are 2 problems that I see with that.
First, no matter what your other interests are, you will very likely want a romantic interest to go along with that as well. Even if you strip down this phenomenon to its bare requirements, you still get attraction and sex. The basic biological needs of the body. So even in the absence of a long term commitment like a relationship or marriage, you will still want to seek out that person.
For most people, there is also the need to feel loved and wanted, part from the physiological need to have sex. So for that reason, you will seek out another person. I don’t quite understand the need for people to have children, so I will not comment on that a whole lot. But I think it will suffice to say that that also stems from wanting more people to love and be loved back. Your own family. Your ‘own’ children who you can program to love and respect you for the rest of your life because you gave them this opportunity to be living and provided for their all their needs.
For one thing I do not understand how people take on such an altruistic version of their act of bearing children. Like the children were asking to be born and they did them a favour. Like it was not born out off a completely selfish need of oneself. To give oneself more happiness, purpose and meaning to their otherwise, seemingly, meaningless lives. Again I am digressing. We have been created to procreate after all. The overpowering urge to have sex. It is there so that you reproduce. That is it’s primary function alone.
So there is the need for love and sex, which will persist regardless of how much you are into other stuff.
It’s about replacing someone with something
Then secondly, and very importantly, there is the fact that even if you are someone who is completely able to get over your need for another person, all you will be doing is replacing it with something else equally, if not more, engrossing and personally satisfying.
If you are a great artist and can only think of making art, then you are replacing the hedonistic pleasure of a partner with that of painting and also perhaps the success and limelight you get out of it.
If it is nothing glamorous, just the ability of to enjoy travelling, reading, nature etc. you are still getting a high from all these things. You are still getting that dopamine hit from these things that makes you feel good about them. Even though the odds are that you will still miss having a good woman or a man in your life to share them with, you are still dependent on the external to feel good and happy.
There is no such thing as being enough within yourself. If that were possible, you could just sit and feel happy. Without thinking about something pleasurable. Without doing anything pleasurable. Without seeing or listening to something pleasurable. You would just be filled with happiness. For no reason at all.
Inner bliss. Like you have never known before.
In fact this is the version of you that all those so called Gurus keep promising you. A state of complete bliss that nothing can touch. That simply exists without the need of feedback from anything or anyone external to yourself. The same Gurus who revel in the ardent, worship-like following and attention of millions of people claiming that they are happy to be alone. Not to mention the wealth that they gather.
But you can understand why this version of a person sounds so alluring. To be filled with bliss and joy like no other. And for no reason. All the time. And the Gurus tell you they have a formula for it. Hasn’t worked for anyone from what I can tell. And seems impossible that it can.
You can never be ‘enough’ for yourself as long as pleasure comes from the external, be it a boyfriend or a book. You are still dependent on the availability of one or the other, as well as your ability to extract happiness from indulgence in that external factor.