CAN HAPPINESS BE THE POINT OF HUMAN EXISTENCE?
Psychology reveals that understanding human motivation is remarkably simple. We live, on a basic psychological level, simply to seek happy, pleasant emotions and sensations and to avoid negative, painful emotions and sensations. Human psychology, as complex and intricate as it appears, can easily be reduced to that basic proposition. Every human endeavor or behavior pattern is aimed simply to achieve happy emotion and minimize negative emotion. Though human behavior often seems very complicated, elaborate, ambivalent, and often “irrational,” the point to it all is emotion. Yes, the point to life is how we feel!
But what else explains things better? After all, what good is a close marriage unless it makes you feel happy? What good is a nice income unless it leads to happiness and satisfaction? Why achieve a goal if it didn’t make you feel fulfilled? Why be in love unless it makes you feel good? What good is a good meal, or warm bed, or a secure shelter unless it provides good, comfortable feelings? What good is moral behavior unless helps you feel good and decent? What’s the point to hard work unless it pays you dividends of secure happiness and self-satisfaction? What good are beliefs and values if they don’t provide a sense of meaning and the comfort of understanding? What good is fun if it isn’t “fun”?
What good is anything unless it makes us happy?
It may not be the most satisfactory explanation of existence, but happy emotions offer the best practical explanation of it. For without emotion, existence, as we know it, would not be possible. Our lives would be so barren, sterile, and empty, there would be no point to it. Nothing would be good, nothing would be bad. Nothing would bring pleasure; nothing would bring pain. Nothing would have any value. Nothing would hold any meaning. Nothing would matter at all.
As we proceed in this discussion, it is important to clarify one point. When we suggest that happiness is the point to human existence we say this exclusively from a psychological perspective. Nothing in this book should be interpreted to exclude religious or metaphysical views on this issue. Indeed, it is neither the intention or scope of this book to deal with such deeply philosophical issues. What this book forwards is simply the psychological point to life, not the religious. The latter, as it should be, is a matter for you to decide based on your personal beliefs. Hopefully, however, you will the analysis presented herein compatible with whatever religious belief you hold. After all, is not happiness one of the major rewards in living according to one’s religion? And is not happiness what God wishes for us all?
Students of psychology and biology inevitably come to grips with the question of “why.” Why do living creatures behave as they do? Indeed, why do they behave at all? Psychology, over time, is coming more and more to see that emotions — especially if we include under the definition of emotion things like physical pain and pleasure are the key to understanding “why.” And, as psychology discovered the emotional key to “why,” they have more easily come to an understanding of other major psychological processes: learning, memory, maladjustment, motivation, mental health, thinking, etc. Basically, the only explanation for behavior is emotion. Without it there would be no behavior. Mother Nature understood, early on, that without emotions, striving, active life would not succeed.
It is obvious from a study of human brain anatomy that the emotion centers are located at the very core of all psychological and bodily functions, and further, that the emotional structures are one of the basic things our human brain shares with all advanced animal life. The emotions are no accident. Nature has provided them for us, to help us survive, and better yet, to help us “want” to survive.