Happiness is a proximate outcome. It matters, and it is nice. But it is not an ultimate evolutionary outcome.
Thus, we may be thrilled to have a piece of chocolate cake on the table in front of us at a birthday party. But that momentary happiness is not an end goal in itself. We evolved to be happy when presented with rich food offerings because our ancestors, who were motivated to find rich foods, were more likely to eat and thus survive and reproduce.
Anxiety is not pleasant, but it is a substantial feature of human psychology for a reason. And ameliorating anxiety fully, as demonstrated by Nesse’s anecdote, can actually be maladaptive and counterproductive.
Negative emotions, such as anxiety and depression, actually exist for a reason, and efforts to fully ameliorate negative emotions are evolutionarily misguided.
Just as anxiety evolved to help motivate adaptive behaviors, happiness has also evolved to help motivate adaptive behaviors.
Why happiness is a good thing? and why do we want it so badly? Is this the ultimate goal of our evolution? to ameliorate negative emotions? I find these ideas important as it reminds me that having anxiety is normal just like being happy. They help us motivate in life to survive just like what our ancestors did.
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