Remember our first element of well-being, Ephemeral Pleasures?
If you haven’t already done so, go back and give that page a read. There, we explain the role of pleasurable experiences in a life well-lived, covering their importance and, especially, calling attention to their risks.
Hedonic Independence, a subfactor of Perspective, is basically a measure of how well you keep ephemeral pleasures from controlling your motivations.
Hey, a friendly reminder: you can assess your Hedonic Independence, the other subfactors on this page, and hundreds of other subfactors of 50+ factors of well-being using the Assessment Center web app. Go check it out if you haven’t already signed up:
The Pleasure Trap
The above video is a simple, moving metaphor for addictive behavior. Addiction, especially in the context of substance abuse, is a complex disorder. You may or may not have experienced it before, but either way, it’s likely that you related in part to the video above. Why? What made it so familiar.
The impulses we feel toward pleasure are deeply fundamental in our neurology. In early animal evolution, brains evolved reward systems to promote survival and fitness, maximizing our exposure to beneficial stimuli—food, warmth, etc.—and minimizing exposure to harmful stimuli.
When we look at the brain we see, roughly, a map of evolutionary history: from the inside to the outer folds, our brains are first similar to our animal ancestors, then more uniquely us.
Notice in the following image how much of the pleasure/reward centers of the brain are focused in the interior.
So, from a neuropsychological lens, Hedonic Independence is a measure of our higher brain’s independence from our lower brain’s impulses.
Happiness as a Hindrance
What are the long-term implications? What might a lifestyle of more or less Hedonic Independence mean?
Together with Fear, this site draws attention to one other primary hindrance to a well-lived life. Essentially, it is the product of repeated low Hedonic Independence.
It is easier than ever, in the abundance of the modern world, to languish in comfort, stagnant and without purpose.
Our section on Happiness as a Hindrance covers the ins and outs of this common struggle. Go check it out, and learn how to overcome the quagmire of happiness.