In his debut self-help book, Meredith offers suggestions for dealing with the human brain’s evolutionary heritage in order to enhance happiness.
The brain, the author asserts, was well-suited to enable people to function in the long-ago “brutal...dangerous world of scarcity,” but it isn’t conducive to modern happiness. He calls this “vast, secret,” now-dysfunctional brain, the “ultraconscious” and says that it’s “working directly against…happiness.” Meredith offers a few of the secrets of the mind’s workings, as well as how to outfox its unwelcome influences. One such influence, Meredith says, is the ultraconscious’s consuming goal to reproduce; it sees happiness “as the reward for surviving and reproducing.” Suggestions for overcoming this manipulation include accepting that some unhappiness is part of the human condition and simply striving to enjoy life’s basic pleasures. In the chapter “Your Ultraconscious is a Liar,” Meredith discusses such phenomena as the placebo effect and what he terms “emotional lies,” or the ultraconscious’s ability to cloud judgments with “false memories” and “involuntary emotions.” The chapter ends with pointers on applying this knowledge to persuasion and handling conflict. The book’s most controversial chapter tackles religion. The writer considers religion to be based on superstitions that exist largely to foster optimism and reproduction. Other chapters discuss the human ability to be exploited and the importance of critical thinking. The book concludes on a hopeful note: Human evolution has tended toward improvement and self-knowledge. There are also seven crucial “commandments” to follow to increase one’s happiness, including “pursue happiness incrementally” and “enjoy the small things.” Some may see the writer’s scheme as an overly simplified and limited description of human psychology. Still, Meredith’s energetic, colloquial style animates this often inherently abstract material. Readers interested in more information will find more than 100 notes, many of which cite scholarly sources.
An unusual, easy-to-follow examination of some perplexing aspects of human behavior.