If economists discovered that a certain portion of every individual's money was automatically destroyed, with the wealthiest people losing the most, such would become a central tenet of economic theory. If physicists discovered that some or all of a collection of matter disappeared once too much of it had accumulated, all further work in the material sciences would have to take that principle into account. And if the case can be made that excessive happiness provokes the application of pain from within the mind itself, we must redefine the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, given that people are at their core happiness-maximizing beings, this is an idea that fundamentally redefines not only the pursuit of happiness, but ultimately what it means to be human. In this startling investigation of a core brain function, Kevin E Meredith consults neuroscience, mental health studies, modern culture, and the tortured histories of successful people, past and present, to support the following theory: In order to maximize reproductive effectiveness through emotional balance, the human mind has evolved mechanisms that counter excessive happiness with artificial pain, when natural pain is unavailable. Heirloom of Agony includes an array of ideas for fighting this feature of the mind, some surprising and counter-intuitive.
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