wanting and liking

I am reading a book called “The Geography of Bliss”.  It’s been really interesting to learn about different cultures and their attitudes toward happiness, what they consider happiness, and how it affects their lives.  Something interesting popped up and I thought “wow, this is perfect for all of us out there who wonder why do I want spanking when it hurts so much?”  You probably already have some understanding of why, but here is some science behind it. 

“Neuroscientists have discovered that the parts of the brain that control wanting and the parts that control liking are separate; they operate independently of one another and involve different chemicals.  Neuroscientists know this the way they know everything else about how our brains work: by doing strange and often sadistic things to rats.

In the 1950’s, Canadian researchers planted tiny electrodes inside rat’s brains and electronically stimulated a part of the brain known as the lateral hypothalamus.  The rats loved it.  The scientists then gave the rats tiny rat-sized levers to push that would allow them to stimulate their lateral hypothalamus all by themselves.  The rats loved it even more.  ‘Working for this reward, they [the rats, not the scientists] will ignore sexually receptive members of the opposite sex, food, or even water, in their single-minded quest for the hit, writes Daniel Nettle in his book Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile.

A bit strange, you might thing, but still within the realm of the explainable.  Whatever those electrical currents are doing to the rat’s lateral hypothalamus, it must be something awfully good, something the rats like a lot and therefore will do anything to repeat.

That’s probably what the scientists thought, too, when they devised another experiment.  The stimulated the rats’ hypothalamus while they were eating.  The results were surprising.  The rats ate more food but, judging by their body language, weren’t enjoying it-clear evidence, says Nettle, that ‘you can crave for something very much but take little pleasure in it once you had it.’  Anyone who has ever been hooked on cigarettes or watched Nancy Grace knows this intuitively.

Wanting things we don’t like.     So much of human misery can be explained by this crazy way we’re wired.  We assume that our intense feelings of wanting something- a new car, winning the lottery- means that, once obtained, these things will make us happy.  But that is a connection  that, neurologically speaking, does not exist.” 

I don’t think that spanking is like wanting a car, or winning the lottery, it’s not the same as being materialistic.  I really just wanted to include that paragraph bc it makes the point that wanting doesn’t equal liking.  Kind of the way that pleasure doesn’t always equal satisfaction.  I might tell Brad that I want to be spanked, but in the middle of it, it probably doesn’t appear that way.  I’m becoming an expert at slipping out of his grip when things get heated.  Speaking of that, does anyone else’s husband say “If you don’t get back there right now it’s going to be twice as bad” ?  Ugh…That’s the worst, at that moment it’s the last thing I want.  I’ve never tested to see if he actually means it….

Ok, back to the subject… One point the author makes throughout the book, or at least what I have read so far, is that no matter where you live, relationships are crucial to happiness.  Spanking involves two people (usually) and facilitates connection.  It’s an interactive activity.  It’s not a surprise to me that people will gladly deal with the pain, even crave it (I totally feel like an addict sometimes), just for the resulting benefit. 

So it’s not a perfect comparison, but I thought it was worth repeating.  I hope you found it interesting too.


2 thoughts on “wanting and liking

  1. Sara says:

    Very interesting Ally! And yes, our husbands all say the exact same phrases….maybe THEIR brains are hard wired too? 😉

  2. greengirl says:

    We are fascinating – humans and our brains – rats too i suppose. And i thingk most of us have grappled with the illogic of the whole thing. Thanks for posting this.

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