Like What You Want, Want What You Need

That will make sense once you’ve read about the work of Dr Kent Berridge, of the University of Michigan. He has figured out the mechanism in our brains that allows us to desire something that we don’t even know we will like. It’s a very interesting read though a bit long for the Internet attention span. I recommend it if you have 15 minutes or so.

Check it out at Wanting Versus Liking

“Ultimately, it is the desire, not the desired, that we love.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Have you ever heard someone say they are in love with being in love?
  • Have you ever known anyone that can change from sad to happy like a switch was flipped in their heads?
  • Have you ever known anyone that seemed to be without emotions? They’re always in the middle and can swing a little happy or a little sad?
  • Have you ever wondered what emotions are?

I have not seen easily accessible information before that identifies a mechanism for my thoughts on emotions. If we consider emotions to be a summary status of the chemical balance in our brains (though slightly more complex than that statement seems to make it out) we can get a glimpse of the chemical state of a normal functioning brain by what people reports as their emotional state. Further I opine that we can and do know how to manipulate that chemical state. There are those readers who know very well that it can be manipulated with a bit of help.

There are those that have experienced it but are not quite sure what I’m talking about. Let’s see it in pictures:

Jesus Camp

What, is that too drastic?


Some readers will be well aware of other ways as well as how some of the brain soup chemical interact in odd ways.

So what’s the big deal?

Gradually, he says, a pattern of pleasure-generating areas started to emerge. “Lo and behold, it wasn’t random. All the sites that were doing it were clustered together in various brain regions.” The clusters were about a cubic millimetre in rats (so probably no more than a cubic centimetre in humans), and he called them hedonic hotspots—a series of tiny islands, scattered across a number of brain regions, but all connected to the same circuit. From the evidence so far, it looks as though this same entire circuit is activated for any pleasure, from food and sex to higher-order delights including monetary, musical and altruistic. The same gloss applied to very different events. — Dr Kent Berridge

Oh snap! So it’s possible that because of indoctrination we might be able to activate the pleasure (like) zones in our brains by doing the things we are comfortable with, acquainted with. Going to church can make you feel good or being with an abusive partner can make you feel good. There is no logic to it, it’s chemical soup. We can train our brains to alter the soup so that we don’t trigger the like/pleasure response so easily under given circumstances but when something becomes an addiction that is very difficult

I will further opine that some people are capable of managing the chemical soup so that status is always about the same. To many that would make them look emotionless yet to themselves it means avoiding the highs and lows of letting that chemical soup boil out of control. Some of this might make sense to you as you read it and I would appreciate your thoughts in the comments.

I am excited that we are finding the mechanisms which can explain emotions and what they really are. That way lies sanity. Like what you want, want what you need. In this we can be ‘happy’ without all the drama, or so it seems to me.

  1. This is very interesting indeed! Thank you for passing along the info. Great read. 🙂

  2. This is intriguing

    • Thanks for commenting. It’s very intriguing. There are a lot of implications that follow from it.

    • JJ
    • May 10th, 2015

    I strive to maintain a place where no extremes are present. I guess some would say I seem emotionless. To a extent I feel emotions are over rated. Watching movies I don’t laugh or cry, I have been accused of having no emotion. I get exasperated at myself if I find myself reacting emotionally in any extreme. Its a strange place to be when I also have bi-polar. And of course when I still do feel things, at times quite intensely.
    I’m still processing what you have written. Very interesting.

    • Annie B
    • May 10th, 2015

    Good post. Fascinating read for sure.

    • Scottie
    • May 10th, 2015

    I try to practice the idea of “wanting what I have, not having what I want”. It seems the same but it is not. It is a state of mind that helps balance my wants with my real needs. The other point I would like to make is that the brain is a chemical soup and the recipe or formula of that soup can get messed up. For some people drugs can work to bring us back in balance and sadly for some of us they just make it worse. Hugs

  3. It’s fascinating and scary all at once.

    • Yes on both counts. But you can get over fear and that is the good part 🙂

      • True! What I mean by scary though is that the types of people who flock to fundamental Christianity are usually seeking that emotional high and are more prone to near-psychosis.

        • That is probably true, but the number of people who are like this is a very high number whether they are fundamentalist or not. Christianity is but one way to express this need.

          • Oh yes, indeed. A lot of them seem to exist on YouTube (aka emotional, angry debates).

            • There is a reason that people like their drama and sports. If you/we/I could harness this natural loophole to inspire science efforts the world would change dramatically. There’s just no drama in science.

              • Lol right? Thankfully I can use my sensitivities to creating fiction which is of some service to the world. I’d actually really like to study psychology and work in mental health research. When money allows.
                But you’re right. Most people can’t look past their sports, the Kardashians/prime time TV to have the time to think about helping the world. 😦

  4. You never cease to amazing me…

  5. Reblogged this on A slave's Intellectual Mind and commented:
    A Must read

  6. Thank you so much for the reblog!

  7. Meh – I am too well aware of the hedonic centre of the brain because I fucked with mine so badly in my years of drug addiction.

    Using drugs like meth for a long time puts the brain in a state of allostasis. i.e. stability through change, unlike homoeostasis. So the brain sets the pleasure threshold higher, and we can only feel anything at all by using drugs. Then when I first cleaned up, my perception of pleasure flat-lined.Nothing made me happy, or even feel anything good. This continued for nine months until I relapsed. (Though it wasn’t the reason I relapsed, it probably contributed. It’s hard to deal with feeling no pleasure ever.)

    Second time around that didn’t happen, and I am happy most of the time. Even now, I’m sad about my little girl being away, and yesterday I told someone about it – nearly crying in the process. But a second later I was able to switch over to feeling happy again, so I’m definitely one of those who can control my emotions. If I wasn’t, I’d probably go back to using drugs to feel good.

  8. Sheesh, I’m so vain and conceited. I relish any opportunity to write about myself.

    Thanks for a great post that made me think (and express my vanity)… 🙂

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