We are attached to all sorts of things… not just things that give pleasure or happiness. We are attached to things that we hate, things that bother us, things that offend us. These attachments drive our sense of identity, motivate us to action, sometimes they even give us purpose.
We get a great deal of pleasure sometimes thinking about how awful situations or people are. This can be easily seen in the news. The news appeals to our sense of injustice, rightness and wrongness. These are some of our attachments. Television dramas do the same.
Attachments also form with sources of pleasure. Simple chemical pleasure like eating, or taking a hot shower. More complex pleasures like music, or art. And very complex pleasures like relationships with other people.
Dopamine and pleasure and desire. When pleasure centers in our brain sense the pleasant stimulus, dopamine is released. Years ago dopamine was described as creating a feeling of happiness. It is now described as creating stronger desires. In fact, some recent studies have shown that the dopamine influence causes strong desires for some activities, yet the subject does not report a feeling of happiness doing those activities. The pleasure merely creates more desire and stronger motivation to do the activity. It does not always correlate to happiness.
Reduce our attachments. If we can reduce our attachments, then those desires become attenuated. They control us less and less. I personally find the sweeping breath activity has an amazing power to reduce my attachments. The problem is only that it is time consuming and attention consuming. It is not easy and it is not fast. But it is remarkably effective.
I want to spend more time focussed on internal things that cause happiness. Things like concentration and focus and purpose. I have been able to reduce some of my attachments over the past few years. As a result, I have more control over where I put my attention, and how I use my attentive energy. I am no focusing it on physically sources of pleasure. Rather I am focusing that energy on doing things with greater concentration, or doing activities that are aligned with my purpose. This is much more rewarding. I call this happiness.
When I spend more attention on internal sources of happiness, it is easier to bring about. With less distraction by the pleasures of life, it is easier to focus on the internal things. I love to sharpen myself, to hone my attention to focus on becoming … well even more focused. Recently, I have noticed a subtle shift im my attention. What I do is becoming less and less important. How I do it, or what my internal state is like is becoming more and more important. Process is more important than product in my life. That is a source of renewable happiness. It also creates a double happiness in the sense that I feel I have more control over these internal things.
I can still savour the flavour of chocolate, but if I don’t get any, I don’t feel any loss. All the good points with none of the downsides.