Emotions are very weird and to be quite frank, terrifying.  Emotions for another human being cause so many issues associated with pain, distrust, and anger.  So why do we as humans even bother caring for one another if it means that we might become susceptible to these unpleasant feelings that arise from human interaction?  Well, the answer might seem obvious in which most people would respond: because not all of the feelings are negative.  That is true, we as humans love to feel positive feelings such as joy, love, and happiness that is sparked by the actions or words of another.  However, there is a lesser known, most likely subconscious draw that humans have towards the negative feelings that they may experience.  This is not true for everyone, but I beg to say that this is true for the majority of individuals.  I have done some research that shows some psychological evidence for this.  Unknowingly, people generally experience a fair amount of happiness in their daily lives.  When nothing big has recently happened to upset someone in their daily life for a long while, this happiness that they are consistently experiencing can smolder and fade into monotony.  This causes humans to unknowingly crave distress.  This is shown in why people feel the need to watch media that induces artificial sadness, because they need to experience that feeling in order to accurately judge the happiness they experience.  This brings us back to the initial question, why do people become attached to others when there is an immanent risk for pain and sadness to ensue?  It seems strange and contradictory to say that people secretly enjoy crying at a friend’s funeral, or grieving over a serious break up.  The evidence I have found has shown that in many people, this type of sadness also releases considerable amounts of Dopamine and Serotonin in the brain, which creates a neural pathway that creates a pre-disposition to experiencing sadness in the future.  People subconsciously will go into relationships that they know will hurt them eventually, because the brain is subject to this want.  It may be a short circuit or flaw in the brain, but it is no question that it craves sadness and other negative emotions.  I want to know what other people think about this discussion and if you agree with my stance, please let me know and feel free to provide any research you find compelling.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 How the Brain Craves Sadness by Maxwell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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10 Comments
  1. lauren 1 year ago

    Maxwell, I enjoyed your opinions very much. I agree with the part that expresses the idea that humans enjoy “crying at a friend’s funeral, or grieving over a breakup.” I think one element that is also involved in this is the attention one receives from expressing their negative emotions. People are much more interested in others sadness than they are happiness because I feel that people get the idea they can get more from a person’s sadness than happiness. When someone else is happy, it is almost as if we feel jealousy, and not happiness for that persons happiness. People crave the attention and secretly enjoy being sad, looking sad, or just overall faking the emotion. One thing to think about: Isn’t there real sadness in pretending to be sad?

  2. Judge Thomas 1 year ago

    Max,
    I read the research attached to your post. I have my own theory that may support or alter your view of happiness and unhappiness that the brain seems so inevitably drawn too. When I read your supporting research, I got the impression that the brain wants to feel unhappiness, not for the sake of just having unhappy feelings, but so that the brain can compensate for many unhappy things, to know that there are happier things in life that we can experience. I agree with the uneasy monotony of happiness, that is why I draw the conclusion that we must experience unhappiness to experience happiness. However, then you must start to think of what happiness truly is. Being human requires the fluctuation of emotions that shape who we are as unique individuals. I have been referencing Brave New World lately and feel as though it really connects to the many topics discussed in Youth Voices. The book Brave New World, emphasizes the dystopian conglomerate of human productivity that is an unfortunate result of having a drug that makes everyone’s emotions the same. This point I make about a society forcing the idea of being happy all the time, is not something that is healthy, and at the same time, something that works against human nature. I believe that to be human, we must experience pain and joy, happiness and unhappiness. A source that might help your inquiry about this idea is this: https://www.sanatan.org/en/a/happiness-and-unhappiness.
    Good Post
    -Thomas

  3. Noah 1 year ago

    Maxwell,

    I agree that some people seem to crave negative emotions, but I wonder if the root cause is more in comfort and familiarity than addiction. I see this kind of comfort in people and opinions. Learning the validity of opinions that might contradict your own should increase happiness and understanding for everyone, but few people find happiness in doing so since it puts them outside of their comfort zones. Something similar is probably at play with at least some of the people who just feel uncomfortable without a negative emotion they’ve become so used to.

  4. Ronnie 1 year ago

    Maxwell! I loved reading on this topic, what an interesting thing to write about! This made me think about personal experiences and relationships that I’ve gone through, and what I want to get out of them. It made me think to myself, do I like being sad? Am I comfortable with it? I feel like sometimes my sadness becomes a part of myself, and I wouldn’t be myself without it. if you’d like to read about how our happiness and sadness use parts of our brain, take a look at this article: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/28/science/the-brain-manages-happiness-and-sadness-in-different-centers.html?pagewanted=all

    You’re the best,
    Ronnie

  5. Zachary 1 year ago

    Max, this was a very cool topic to write on. The brain is something that is very interesting and so vast. I agree on how the brain is almost looking for something to be sad about. I think it does this because it is so much easier being sad rather than being happy. This idea is looked at as being wrong because people want to be positive, but it is a rude reality that this is true. Here is an article that I think that you would like: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/28/science/the-brain-manages-happiness-and-sadness-in-different-centers.html?pagewanted=all
    Zach.

  6. Bella 1 year ago

    This was one of the most interesting posts I’ve ever read on youth voices. I think you came up with a very important and interesting questions, and you put in a lot of research to it. I found it very informational and I enjoyed reading it because it is a question I have often asked myself. Here is another article that I think you might find to be compelling https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201403/are-you-addicted-unhappiness

  7. Cheryl 1 year ago

    Max, this is very interesting!! I think it is important that you are discussing this topic because in our society we need to better understand this because we can potentially help a lot of people. It will help us to further our knowledge on what causes sadness to stay for long periods of time and how to help people with depression and other emotional and behavioral disorders. I think by identifying why we crave this sort of sadness, we can start to see why our brains don’t produce the chemicals needed to be happy. It is interesting to know that we all sort of crave sadness so that the next time we experience it, we know what it is. However, I feel as if some sadness I experience, I truly never want to have to again. I found this article on the importance of sadness and why we must value it. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201507/the-value-sadness) I like you’re article ideas. I hope you continue to research this topic!

  8. Chloe 1 year ago

    Hi Max
    I really liked your post. It was really interesting how you described it as a craving that humans have for sadness. Many people might contradict your idea because they feel like they don’t like that feeling but I think it is more subconscious. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201403/are-you-addicted-unhappiness?amp was interesting because it describes people who seek out being unhappy for various reasons such as self esteem, self pity, and attention. I hope to hear more about this topic from you in the future.
    Chloe

  9. Sophia 1 year ago

    Max, this is such an intriguing topic and discovery, and this makes me want to learn more about it! I would have never guessed this phenomenon before reading this, but now it makes so much sense. The science behind it is both contradictory to what you would conventionally think and also very simple once it’s described. It is incredibly interesting to me that monotony of life causes this all, that not having occasions that are happy be special, they all blend together and cause a human to want what they lack: sadness. The most daunting sentence is this: “This causes humans to unknowingly crave distress.” It seems like it can sneak up on somebody without them knowing, and switch their goal from that of happiness to that of sadness. I would be so interested to hear more about this. Here is a link to an article that evaluates the causes and scientific backgrounds to pain: https://www.nap.edu/read/1542/chapter/4 . Your topic and this could be very much connected and interesting to study! Have a great one!

  10. Jessica 1 year ago

    This was very interesting to read. I agree with what you’re saying, about how the human brain almost likes being sad. On social media lately, I have seen so many tweets or posts about being sad or how being happy is lame. I feel like being sad is comforting to some people, which is strange to think. Though, it is way easier to be sad than happy. I wonder if our generation is the first to experience the “coolness of being sad,” or if it something everyone feels. I really enjoyed your piece, and the questions you have raised.
    Jessica

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