(Credit: jumpingsack via Shutterstock)
The Evolutionary Origins of Optimism
Author: ELAINE FOX
This article is an adapted excerpt from the new book "Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain" from Basic Books.
I still have vivid memories of David, a boy I knew in school. In a sea of Irish faces, he stood out with his shock of blond hair. He was also the first person I ever met whose pleasure brain seemed to be stuck on overdrive. He would light up a room as soon as he walked in, exuding an infectious sense of fun and happiness. Everyone loved David. He was bright, attractive, and one of life’s risk takers; by the age of fifteen, he had fallen off cliffs, crashed his father’s car, experimented with drugs and sex, and otherwise pushed himself to the far edges of excitement. Fear for David was fun. What he seemed to crave more than anything was the rush of adrenaline, which drove him to seek out danger. At sixteen, he died when he tried to leap from the roof of one city building to another but missed his target and fell to the street below. As our parents and teachers wondered about suicide, we teenagers knew that depression was a million miles from David’s experience. What killed him was having too much fun.
David’s experience gives us a glimpse into the life of the “sunny brain,” with all its ups and downs. My theory is that the spark at the source of the sunny brain is the pleasure center deep in the ancient regions of our neural tissue. All of us crave pleasure, but some of us, like David, bring it to the verge of addiction.
Read more at Salon