Came across this interesting article on happiness from Forbes. It talks about the genetic predisposition to being happy. Happiness has become a word with little real meaning, much like love and god. The idea of happiness is so arbitrary and subjective that one must define its use before any rational conclusions or comparisons can be made. Having said that, the article is interesting in that it proposes that our tendency toward happiness is more likely to be influenced by genetic rather than environmental factors.
What I found particularly intriguing was this little bit of research, referring to the dopamine response:
"For chimpanzees, this kind of brain chemistry can lead to strange behavior. In an essay, Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky described a chimp that chased a prospective mate far beyond what would be reasonable, because the mate dropped occasional signals that she might be willing--maybe, someday. Sapolsky referred to this as the "pleasure and pain of maybe." The chimp was willing to go to great lengths for a hypothetical reward. "
Ahh..the hypothetical reward, the "pleasure and pain of maybe." I know this all too well. Everlasting life, as promised by the jw dogma, was the proverbial carrot, the carrot that I, and many others, put their life's energy into. I believe it becomes an almost addictive response. The activation of dopamine in the brain causes jw's (and you can add in just about any other fundamental believer into this group) to constantly strive after something they have no rational basis for thinking they will ever achieve. Perhaps that is why it is so difficult to leave. There is a chemical withdrawal that happens when you no longer have a carrot to pursue. What then?
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the brain is a vast and complicated place. We are only on the brink of understanding what makes us tick.