Embodied Transformation & Evolution

You’d Be Surprised

Posted by on Jul 10, 2017 in Featured Writing, Lifeletters & Articles | 1 comment

You’d Be Surprised

What do humans want? It’s a big question. One man who has tried to answer it is Gregory Berns, who holds the Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

His research led him to the conclusion that only the new satisfies us. Our brains are designed to seek novelty and they are fulfilled by it. Based on his discoveries, Berns argues that the more complicated and challenging a life you pursue, the more likely it is that you will be satisfied. It’s simple–our brains thrive on complexity.

This is fascinating to me, given the number of people I know and work with who are longing for a much simpler life. It’s true, if we take on too much complexity and too many challenges, we get overwhelmed and discouraged. But that doesn’t mean that the way to find fulfillment is to hunker down into a good old simple life, like the one Grandpa had. Moving in that direction is not the way our evolutionary intelligence is flowing.

We do need safety and security. These core needs are important and should not be skipped over. But they don’t lead to fulfillment—they simply lay the groundwork from which we can engage fully and creatively in life.

What Do Humans Want, Lifeletter

What humans want is what couples want, too. I have asked many people over the years this question: “What do you really want from your spouse/partner?” It has amazed me, every time, to feel the depth of the longing in their voices when they respond, “I want him/her to surprise me.”

“Did you ever ask for that?” I would say.

“Well, no. It never occurred to me. You mean I could actually ask for that?” many of them replied.

“Try it,” I told them. “If it’s what you really want, ask for it. What have you got to lose?”

It turns out that many of the people who were asked had a very positive response to this request. Because this is actually how our brains work. We love being surprised, most of the time, by the people close to us; and we love surprising ourselves. The new wakes us up, enlivens us, makes us breathe a little deeper.

Of course surprises can be terrible, cataclysmic and terrifying. That’s why we need to remind ourselves and each other that our evolutionary intelligence is constantly drawing us into new and unknown territory.

Here is a beautiful example:

An eight-month old Canadian baby has been issued a health card without a gender marker, in what could be the first case in the world. Parent Kori Doty, a non-binary transgender person who identifies as neither male nor female, aims to allow the child to discover their own gender. The health card has been issued with a “U” in the space for “sex”, which could be for “undetermined” or “unassigned”.

Can you imagine being born into a world where your parents encouraged you to discover your own gender? Is that not surprising? And fulfilling?

Live the life that chooses you, new
every breath, every blink of
your astonished eyes.
~Rebecca del Rio

with love,

One Comment

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  1. Michelle Wilsdon

    What do we call you?
    Whatever springs to mind
    Many in one
    yet all can be true
    open eyed blind
    be true

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