October 10 Pearson Blog: Triggering Your Inner Happiness Chemicals

By Carol S. Pearson.


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In an interview for Harvesting Happiness, Lisa Kamen told me that happiness was her drug of choice. This led me to share, first with her and now with you, how living the four major archetypal stories in Persephone Rising: Awakening the Heroine Within can trigger the production of happiness chemicals in your body. All of our bodies are preprogrammed with happiness chemicals —dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin—that reward desirable behaviors with pleasure and nag us when we do not engage in them, creating a feeling of an inner lack of something. Knowing this can help you be both happier and more successful.[1]

Research has connected the production of these chemicals with certain human behaviors. However, simply engaging in those behaviors reluctantly is not enough. Dopamine rewards goal attainment—but not if we persist at our tasks grudgingly or if we have so much on our plate that we always feel overwhelmed. Oxytocin rewards helping or touching others—but not if we care for others out of guilt or duty, from a one-up, poor-you stance, or when we are feeling lonely, isolated, and abandoned. Serotonin rewards feeling safe and part of a group—but not if it is motivated by feelings of insecurity that fuel conformity, rather than being a result of us showing up as ourselves.

Psychiatrist C.J. Jung came to the conclusion that archetypes exist in the human unconscious, and thus are available to all of us. He observed that people have expressed archetypes throughout recorded history in literature, art, and everyday behaviors in all times and places, reflecting images and patterns he recognized in his patients’ dreams. It is likely that you have lived many archetypal stories in your conscious life so far, and others in your dreams and daydreams.

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Thus, awakening the Zeus, Demeter, Persephone, and Dionysus in you—with their ways of seeing the world, their emotions, and their authentic actions—provides more reliable triggers for releasing the chemicals designed to make you happy than does going through the motions of any recommended set of happiness-promoting behaviors alone. Zeus loves being focused, attaining goals, and demonstrating his strengths and gifts, and can help your body release dopamine. Demeter is genuinely generous and caring, and Persephone naturally follows what she loves—beauty, intimacy, sensuality, and deep bonding. Together, these archetypes can keep your oxytocin flowing.

All the archetypes contribute to keeping serotonin available to you. Zeus reinforces your motivation to make a contribution that others will value, Demeter to help others, and Persephone to be creative and intuitive so as to help the group evolve and change. However, the biggest jolt of serotonin may occur when Dionysus helps you “dance” with others, fully enjoying the moment, or literally or simply being playful with a group without worrying about who is up and who is down in the status department.

Given that we live in a competitive society, with news media that constantly report who’s up and who’s down, who’s benefiting and who’s losing, we need all the help we can get to keep from experiencing a serotonin deficit, which actually may be inevitable if we fall into the cultural trap of operating out of fear of not being good enough in other people’s eyes. Since many of the most popular antidepressants on the market today simply are cures for a serotonin deficit, it is worth trying to live the archetypal stories as a way to shore up your natural happiness chemicals.

These four primal archetypes and the related chemicals are designed to help you find happiness while also making a difference to others and the larger world. And this is exactly what the heroic journey is about.

You can listen to the show here.

[1] For more information, see Loretta Graziano Breuning, Meet Your Happy Chemicals, and Persephone Rising, Introduction, Lesson 4.