Seeking is the Granddaddy of Emotional Systems
A friend sent me an article about what gets us out of bed each day. It’s “Seeking.” According to Jaak Panksepp, “Seeking” is the granddaddy of our emotional systems. It goes beyond fulfilling our physical needs. We end up in a crazed state of foraging, curiosity and expectancy. The rewards we seek don’t have to actually solve our needs and they don’t need to be physical. Just exploring ideas or coming up with new “ah has” is enough to keep us going.
In the article, Seeking, How the brain hard-wires us to love Google, Twitter, and texting. And why that’s dangerous, Emily Yoffe writes about Seeking.
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways from the article:
- You can’t stop doing it. You have an insatiable need to search. It’s stronger than the basic drives for food, sex, and sleep. We’ll even seek at our own expense.
- Seeking is the granddaddy of the systems. “Seeking” is the master emotional system that influences the rest of our emotional systems.
- Each stimulation evokes a reinvigorated search strategy. It’s self-reinforcing. Stimulating the lateral hypothalamus puts mammals in a loop of foraging, excitement, and craze.
- Seeking is the motivational engine that gets us out of bed. “Seeking” is the natural drive that motivates us each day.
- Abstract rewards excite us as much as tangible one. Our “Seeking” circuits are the ones firing when we get thrilled about the ideas or make intellectual connections.
What’s powerful for me is having a name for the motivational system that drives us (Seeking), knowing that we can get stuck in a detrimental loop, and knowing that we get just as excited about abstract rewards as tangible ones.
Seeking is the Granddaddy of the Systems
It’s an emotional state you can characterize with curiosity, interest, foraging, anticipation, craving and expectancy, but Panskepp settled on the name seeking. Yoffe writes:
Panksepp has spent decades mapping the emotional systems of the brain he believes are shared by all mammals, and he says, “Seeking is the granddaddy of the systems.”
It’s the Motivational Engine that Gets Us Out of Bed
“Seeking” is the motivational engine that gets us out of bed. Imagine life without “Seeking”? Yoffe writes:
It is the mammalian motivational engine that each day gets us out of the bed, or den, or hole to venture forth into the world. It’s why, as animal scientist Temple Grandin writes in Animals Make Us Human, experiments show that animals in captivity would prefer to have to search for their food than to have it delivered to them.
Abstract Rewards Excite us as Much as Tangible Ones
All it takes is an interesting idea or a finding some new insights to keep us going. Yoffe writes:
For humans, this desire to search is not just about fulfilling our physical needs. Panksepp says that humans can get just as excited about abstract rewards as tangible ones. He says that when we get thrilled about the world of ideas, about making intellectual connections, about divining meaning, it is the seeking circuits that are firing.
The next time you’re searching or twittering or texting, ask yourself if it’s your next best move or if you’re just satisfying the inner-seeker in you.
Photo by Danard Vincente.