Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Is Confidence All That Matters?

I agree with the authors of this article, and of course with Sister Y who provides the link, that happiness is probably something that is mainly predetermined once we have reached a certain age (and our neural plasticity declines). The problem I think is that there are two kinds of depression - reactive depression, which can be observed in runt chimps who are not very high up in their social hierarchy (perhaps as a signal to those above them that they are submissive and not to be attacked), and the mental illness, "depression", which can be observed in wild estnihils regardless of their positioning on the social ladder and regardless of what entertainment is provided to them. I do think however, that if our happiness is being environmentally dampened, then that can quite obviously be fixed. But the main component for happiness - our happiness potential, is pretty much determined by fate. I can observe this quite easily in myself, having never been consistently happy for more than a day or two. But one thing I did notice once, when I was younger than I am now, was that some of the self-help websites gave way to a strange phenomenon in me: they helped me build confidence, and in doing so, made me sort of ok for a period of time, until I forgot to keep doing those exercises (in this way it was akin to muscles). I don't think I was all that happy, but at least, I was doing pretty damn well socially, and I wasn't contemplating death every five seconds. Humans are very similar to chimpanzees genetically. Now don't misinterpret the statistics here - 1% difference in DNA is actually very large from the point of few of the proteins encoded. But still, I believe in some ways that the same kind of emotional reaction to social standing has an effect - though it may be put into conflict due to the fact that we no longer live in tribes (those of us who are reading this right now). If one could tap into the alpha status - if one could delude oneself into believing that they were 'top dog', then some sort of well-being could be assured for as long as the person kept on exercising those traits of dominance. This goes back to what I was saying about chimpanzees - the higher the status, the happier in general they are, regardless of any genetic predispositions. Is this why otherwise ordinary people feel that their lives have been turned around by self-help hacks gurus? As a final thought, I wonder if people's confidence increasing as they get older is something to do with the fact that older primates are more powerful, and hence are placed at a higher position in the social command structure. Still, I have no evidence to suggest that my experiences on this matter were not simply another outburst of hypomania. But now that I'm on a mood stabiliser, hopefully I can get back to you guys on whether or not all this speculation has led to an answer. I would liveblog my feelings on a day-to-day basis, etc., but I simply cannot be bothered. Until next time, bye.

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