• Wheatley
    631
    Feelings such as pleasure and pain are usually limited to a certain activity that gives the person that feeling. For instance, the pleasure of bathing is only felt when the participant is bathing. Once the person get's out of the hot tub, the pleasure of the warmth starts to dissipate. But suppose the person stays in the hot tub? The pleasure would dissipate anyway because the feeling of warmth that the participant feels becomes the new normal. And, in a sense, feelings are related to homeostasis in that when your body gets used to a certain stimulus it builds tolerance and normalizes, so to your feelings build tolerance and normalize.

    Think about all activities that you enjoy, can you keep doing it indefinitely and get the same feeling? I personally can't think of any. It seems like all feelings start to dwindle after a while. It's almost like they run out of fuel. So, are feelings of limited quantity like fuel for a car? I don't think that conclusion is necessary. Perhaps our brains are programmed to regulate (a potentially endless supply of), for instance pleasure, so that it motivates us to continue to do things to seek it. (A person wouldn't be able to function properly if they received an endless supply of pleasure.) Both hypothesis seem equally valid to me: Hypothesis one, you run out of the energy or chemical that produces a feeling, hypothesis two, there is some feedback mechanism in your brain that limits feelings.

    Whatever it is that causes feelings to diminish, it seems like you can get it back if you wait for a period of time. If you like pizza and you eat it everyday, your pleasure from eating it will diminish. If you stop for a while and start eating pizza again you will enjoy it much more. I think, in the long run, we don't really run out of feelings. Our feelings may diminish temporarily, however they do get replenished.

    I experience sadness from time to time because I suffer from depression, and I sometimes wonder, will my brain run out or limit the chemicals or energy that produce these sad feelings? Or will my brain start to regulate those sad feelings? I think the answer is both yes and no. In the short term, from time to time, I experience temporarily relief from sadness. But if I wait a while, it always comes back though.

    What do you think? Do feelings run out like fuel in a car? Is there a feedback mechanism in our brain that regulates feelings? Suppose we can stop the supposed feedback mechanism that regulates our feelings, is hell or nirvana possible in our minds (because there would be nothing to limit feelings)?
  • khaled
    1.2k
    Do feelings run out like fuel in a car?Purple Pond

    Yes. I think this is one of our most important motivators in doing anything. It's why it's so hard to stick to the same habit for very long, the reward from it goes away eventually. Also our brains are wired to reduce dopamine releases for the same activity so we don't end up playing hide and seek to death as a child for example.
  • unenlightened
    4.1k
    the pleasure of bathing is only felt when the participant is bathing.Purple Pond

    "Feeling" seems to be a amalgam of sensation and emotion. So I would say that the sensations of bathing induce emotions of pleasure. But here is a problem for your claim: if there is no pleasure until I actually bathe, what can possibly induce someone to be bothered to run the bath in the first place? I must surely have some feeling about the idea of the bath which induces me to realise it.

    Emotions that constitute a motive necessarily precede the sensations that result from them, and can only be the product of memory and imagination, not sensation.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    You can just order more from Amazon.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Seriously, though, for me, variety is important. The pleasure I take in various things won't lessen as long as I pursue variety. That way you don't get burned out on anything.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    Humans adapt easily to any kind of situation.

    Feelings are typically the most strongest when you don't have any kind of experience of them before and they are totally new. Hence first love is typically something that people do remember. The adaption to any new situation simply makes us a bit 'numb'. So you can adapt to utter misery, imprisonment, bad health or being rich and in a powerful position or living happily with a partner who is far beyond your earlier fantasies, etc. At first these things can be very emotional, positively or negatively.
  • petrichor
    239
    It is probably the same mechanism by which we gain tolerance to drugs and suffer withdrawal symptoms when the drugs are abruptly discontinued. The nervous system tries to normalize itself by downregulating receptors for certain neurotransmitters like dopamine that are too plentiful.

    I am not sure why some negative feelings seem to persist indefinitely though. Different baseline? Other systems? Receptor regulation disorder? Something else?

    Some people seem to be loaded with dopamine all the time even without any cocaine! I know a few.
  • tim wood
    3.5k
    Do feelings run out like fuel in a car?Purple Pond

    I think this has got the sense of it. Maybe feeling in any abstract sense doesn't "run out," but as felt, yes. I say so because I've experienced change in feeling due to age. And I've paid some attention to the over-all phenomenon. I'm persuaded that feeling has a bio-chemical aspect that in essence means that, generally, age is a correlative determinant of feeling. Which is a blessing because it keeps the older adult, to quote Khaled, from
    playing hide and seek to death .khaled

    The young dog will bolt after prey even that it cannot catch; the old dog will look and see, enjoy a memory and go back to sleep. Certainly it won't chase the unattainable - and that passes for wisdom!
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    188
    In psychology, they usually refer to this phenomenon as the hedonic treadmill. Whenever something makes us feel good, the good feelings that the activity brings us start to diminish. On the positive end, activities which cause us negative experiences are also subject to the treadmill to a lesser extent. Unfortunately, it usually takes longer for negative experiences to diminish than it does for positive experiences. In addition, the extent to which negative experiences ultimately diminish seems to be less than that of the diminishment of positive experiences. Sometimes, really terrible life events can permanently lower our hedonic set point(which is the average hedonic happiness one experiences after adjusting to good and bad events). It’s really rare to have positive events permanently raise your hedonic set point. I think if you are a value hedonist or mental statist of another sort, you would probably be drawn to pessimism if you take the time to think about the positive and negative experiences that you experience in daily life and in your likely future life.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    Thats an interesting thought you’ve had there, thanks.
    The first thing I thought of while reading was how you think the intensity of the feeling would factor in, if at all. Maybe something like “intensity + frequency = the sustainability of the feeling.”
    Also, isn’t the reaction to prolonged pleasure you describe itself a feeling? Our feelings compete with each other, so maybe its not so much the feeling diminishing but rather being overpowered by another feeling. For example, when someone is angry but something happens thats so funny they start laughing. You are really feeling those things at the same time, its just one is stronger. You go right “back” to being angry after that laughter becomes weaker. Whatever is happening in the brain to produce those feelings is doing it more with one than the other. So we have a feeling to stop doing something that eventually gets more attention from the brain until it overrides the feeling from doing it (guess we could call that “X” or something.
  • Wheatley
    631
    I agree that one feeling can come into focus where other feelings go to the back of the mind. I'm not convinced that the original feeling, however, gets overridden in that people usually feel mixed feelings. You can love your child to death, and at the same time you can be very irritated by that child having tantrum.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    Well thats basically what Im saying. You love your child and you get angry with your child for so and so. The love doesnt go away, it just gets overridden, takes a back seat. Maybe overridden isnt the right word...mixed feelings still have one that wins out over the others or you are paralysed (which obviously happens sometimes, but not all the time). What would you call whats happening there, when one feeling amidst mixed ones becomes the motivator for action?
  • Wheatley
    631
    What would you call whats happening there, when one feeling amidst mixed ones becomes the motivator for action?DingoJones
    I call that being human. If you consciously consider every feeling you possess when choosing an action, it would drive you crazy. Only the most dominant feelings reach the surface of conscious experience. There's only so much a person can be conscious of at one time. The one or two dominant feelings that make it to the conscious mind serve as a basis to make a conscious decision. For all that it's worth, these are only my speculations.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    I agree with all of that, so lets talk about the ones that we are conscious of, those can be as I described can’t they?
  • Wheatley
    631
    The description that you concurs with mine? Sure, why not?
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    I experience sadness from time to time because I suffer from depression, and I sometimes wonder, will my brain run out or limit the chemicals or energy that produce these sad feelings?Purple Pond

    If it helps, people experience sadness from time to time whether they suffer from depression or not.

    But what I want to focus upon is this: For some people with very severe depression (which is fortunately not at all common), "feeling runs out". They stop feeling much of anything, and lapse into a state of emptiness, blankness, blackness... all zeroes. These patients are the ones who especially benefit most from ECT. Why, or how this sort of intense, deep illness developed, I have no idea -- but in the one case I am familiar with, a history of MI and a lot of drugs and alcohol helped produce the state.

    They aren't unconscious; they don't feel much of anything; nothing interests them; nothing gives them any pleasure. It's a bad state.

    For the rest of us--the 99.99% of the population who won't experience this sort of severe depression, we can exhaust positive feelings. There comes a moment when we can't stand one more second in the sauna, one more second laying in the sun on the perfect beach, one more second being outside in lovely snow, playing with the dog, or even having sex. Enough becomes enough.

    Fortunately we rebound. What was very pleasurable before becomes pleasurable again.

    The pleasure bit can be a bit tricky. Take tobacco: smokers find lighting up pleasurable. Based on my own experience (and science) the pleasure comes from RELIEF rather than a positive sensation. After 20 minutes, or whatever length of time, the nicotine from the last cigarette has been metabolized and we are due for another dose. We yearn for the next cigarette, and when we light up there is immediate relief. It feels good, but it isn't the aromatic hydrocarbons and other toxic substances in the smoke that are giving us what we want.

    What is true for pleasure is not true for unpleasant experiences like pain, nausea, numbness, severe itching, and all sorts of other things.

    For mildly negative sensations (like pain) we can manage to overcome the pain with our own physical resources (endorphins for example) or distraction. When that doesn't work, we reach for some pain medication.

    For major, severe discomfort, we either make some accommodation and alleviate the distress or, if we can't, eventually die because of it. For instance, people with advanced cancer "fail to thrive"; their bodies can no longer function. Severe addition, mental illnesses such as severe anorexia, very severe depression, and so on result in death because people stop eating and starve (or succumb to infection or some such cause of death).
  • Wheatley
    631
    Also our brains are wired to reduce dopamine releases for the same activity so we don't end up playing hide and seek to death as a child for example.khaled
    That's interesting because there are addicts who won't stop their compulsive behavior until they are forced to. For example, a compulsive gambler will go to a casino and only stops gambling when he runs out of money.
  • khaled
    1.2k
    That's interesting because there are addicts who won't stop their compulsive behavior until they are forced to. For example, a compulsive gambler will go to a casino and only stops gambling when he runs out of money.Purple Pond

    But they do increase the intensity of their behavior. That same addict starts betting more and more money the more addicted he is and the whole thing starts getting less and less satisfying. It gets to a point where he can quit eventually
  • Wheatley
    631
    That same addict starts betting more and more money the more addicted he is and the whole thing starts getting less and less satisfying.khaled
    Does it really? I think a gambler only get's his dose of satisfaction when he wins, which happens rarely. He's not exactly raking in good feelings. His compulsion is to keep chasing that feeling. And as Skinner showed, animals will keep doing an activity even if they don't get an award every time.
  • khaled
    1.2k
    my point was simply that the 100th win won’t feel as good as the 10th
  • Andreas Greifenberger
    9
    Think about all activities that you enjoy, can you keep doing it indefinitely and get the same feeling? I personally can't think of any.Purple Pond

    Nor can I. In economics, there is the concept of marginal utility, which was developed by the German economist Gossen in the 19th century.
    Marginal utility declines over time, so, for example, if you eat five bars of chocolate, you will enjoy the first one more than the second, the second more than the third, etc.
    The same concept could be applied to anything else that may give you pleasure.

    Do feelings run out like fuel in a car?Purple Pond

    Well, that question seems to me to be a bit too general to be answered clearly. Think about the people you love. Do you love them less when you see them more often?
    Perhaps when they are around very much, you get used to it and you love them less; you simply need a break. But you don't stop loving them, I am inclined to presume.
  • 3017amen
    985
    PP, you can also think of it this way: embrace the feelings you have about living a constant life of striving. We are never satisfied. Content or comfortable yes, but never satisfied. If we were satisfied, our quality of life would diminish. There would be no will to improve upon the human condition and/or need to experience newness. We would presumably be like animals. As other's mentioned we were hard-wired this way, like it or not... . Maybe it begs the next question: what should we do with this insatiable energy?
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