Pleasure and Pain – the two most primal concepts we naturally feel. Have you ever wondered though, where did this begin? This post goes against the grain of how I usually like to write, because it asks a lot of questions. Although, these are the types of mind-tingling questions that are fun to wonder.
Morten L. Kringelbach of Oxford University suggests that “…this relationship between pain and pleasure would be evolutionarily efficient, because it was necessary to know whether or not to avoid or approach something for survival“. For this excerpt, let’s assume that Dr. Kringelbach’s theory holds true. We can ask, why are the best feelings humans can feel triggered when good prevails – love, compassion, humor, kindness, etc. At what point did evolution decide what we are to interpret as pleasure and what as pain? My theory is that evolution doesn’t make decisions: it’s based off the decisions we make. I believe that something coded us that way from the beginning. Someone decided that it’s satisfying when the good guy wins.
We can assume that pain evolved from events that harm our bodies. Pleasure, on the other hand, seems to be a little more complex. If pleasure is evolutionary, why do we feel pleasure from so many things that aren’t generally considered vital for our survival? In contrast, why don’t we feel instinctual pleasure from performing things that are extremely good for us, like eating a balanced diet? That is more of a mental satisfaction, knowing that we accomplished something healthy. Although, it’s not the kind of pleasure we get from making a baby smile, or helping a loved one reach success through adversity. That kind of pleasure is very real in our whole body: Our mind, our stomach, and our heart. We can actually feel the chemicals releasing inside our body, soaking us internally with what our minds tell us “feels really good!”
Think about music. If something makes you feel ecstatic enough to get up and dance like a maniac, it can certainly be on the list of the best sensations we can feel. When we sing along with one of our favorite songs, it’s almost as if the words we are singing come from our hearts and not just our lungs. It’s a true feeling of elation. I wonder, is music necessary for our survival?
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. … I get most joy in life out of music”
– Albert Einstein
Let’s address the greatest pleasure – Love. It’s un-arguably the best sensation we can experience. We could ask theorists, is love necessary for us to thrive as a species? If it’s the greatest pleasure we can have, then the logic of Dr. Kringelbach’s theory tell us that evolution made it that way because it is the most important factor in survival. I believe this to be true. But who decided love is the greatest sensation? Out of all the feelings we have, why is that the strongest? Regardless of what God you believe in, or if you believe in God, I have no doubt that there was an initial being that made this decision. When they did, they made sure that our Love for one another would stand out from everything else in the World.
I’m wondering what you, the reader think. Do you agree with Dr. Kringelbach, that pain and pleasure are a result of evolution? Do you believe there is a instinctual pain or pleasure that is/is not vital for our survival?