Table of Contents

The content below was recovered from archive.org
I discovered the amazing increasehappiness.com website in April 2010. When I went back to read it again, I found it was gone and the domain was for sale. So, I purchased it and recreated this website to help others. If you have questions or feedback please email travis at increasehappiness dot com.

Previous Chapter

5. Affirm Relationships

Instinctive Survival Desires exert powerful forces on your life. According to the Survival Syndrome, those forces can both Increase and Decrease your Happiness. So how do Survival Desires affect your Relationships?


Like many species, humans evolved as social animals who live in groups to improve chances for Survival. Group BELONGING is a Survival Desire. Part of the instinct to Belong is a desire to help others in your group, but not outsiders.

Your sense of Belonging exists on many levels. You might identify with people who:
When your sense of Belonging is strong enough, you make efforts to help others in your group. Brain studies confirm that you receive Pleasure (dopamine) for helping group members. Belonging can also Increase Happiness when those in your group decide to help you.

The downside to Belonging is BIGOTRY. Studies also show that not only do people fail to help outsiders, but they actively shun them. Consider sports fans who root not only for their team to win, but also for rivals to fail, even when their own team is out of the competition.

Bigotry is a form of human cruelty that can start on a child’s playground, and grow far worse. Bigotry Decreases Happiness because, when you shun outsiders, you lose the opportunity for productive interaction. Similar opportunities are lost when others shun you.

The solution for Bigotry is to put your Survival Desires to work for you. Almost anyone you meet can be part of your “group” when you find even a single common interest. One common interest that has brought strangers together centuries is the desire for commerce and trade.

You should Affirm to look for common interests with others.


A Desire related to Belonging is CONFORMING. To reinforce your position within a group, you instinctively Conform to group norms. Conforming can exist on many levels:
The masters of Conforming are adolescents, who are forming adult relationships for the first time, and making every effort to fit in. Their heightened sense of Belonging also intensifies Bigotry toward those who fail to Conform.

It is possible for Conforming to Increase Happiness in groups that promote Strong Choices. On the other hand, many groups promote Weak Choices, and Conforming ensures their propagation. Conforming also stifles creativity and limits exceptional behavior.

Conforming leads to HERDING – Choices made by looking at how others choose, more than looking at the Choice itself. A classic example of Herding occurs during political elections. Rather than focus on the issues and the candidates themselves, many people only focus on how others are voting, as reflected by polls.

Again, put your Survival Desires to work for you. Since you instinctively Conform to those around you, you should Affirm to surround yourself with people who will bring out the best in you. Choose carefully your friends, your associates, and even the culture you enjoy such as music and television.


Conformity demonstrates a larger process called TESTING. There are three elements to Testing:
Desires, Tests, and Results. The Results can cause new Desires.

In the case of Conformity, you might try this Test: The Desire is to wear a new kind of shirt. The Test is to see of others like it. If the Result is that your new shirt is not accepted, your new Desire might be to wear something else.

Testing is the fundamental process of life. Everything you do, every Choice you make, includes the elements of Testing: driven by a Desire, with Results that can create new Desires.
Some Tests might not feel like Tests. Routine activities like walking across a room appear to Test nothing. However, if you suddenly had a new Result, and were unable to walk, you would certainly develop new Desires.

The concept of Testing helps us understand why we act the way we do. If we are doing something, there must be a Desire. If it is an instinctive Desire, it might not be obvious.

With relationships, your overall instinctive Desire is to determine if people are suitable for a relationship. Relationships are important -- choosing the wrong friend, boss, employee, or mate could Decrease Happiness. Strong Choices will help you Increase Happiness.

We use a variety of Tests to determine if another person is worthy, starting with Belonging. The Desire is to determine if someone belongs to your group. The Test is to look for Conformity. If the Result is successful, the new Desire will be to further the relationship.

You already know how to overcome the limitations of Belonging and Conformity. Now consider some other relationship Tests and their limitations.


Studies show even infants can identify BEAUTY. It is a hard-wired Test we apply to others constantly. So what is the Desire that the Beauty Test is testing?

The Beauty Test is applied by observing physical characteristics:
We deem people to be beautiful when they have symmetrical and pleasing proportions with vigorous skin, hair, teeth, and eyes. Interestingly, those are the same visual characteristics which might be affected by illness or genetic flaws. That helps us realize that the ultimate Desire for the Beauty Test is to determine if a person is healthy.

Looking for Beauty is a Survival Desire. In mating relationships, where Beauty is most emphasized, a healthy partner is more likely to produce healthy offspring. However, once you understand the purpose of the Beauty Test, you also understand its limitations.

The Beauty Test is a primitive tool for selecting a mate. Many physical flaws, such as those caused by accidents, are not passed on to the next generation and have no bearing on Species Survival. Further, there are many forms of illness that are not visible at all.

You should Affirm to consider the limited value of Beauty as a relationship Test. At the same time, realize that others will use the Beauty Test to judge you. The best way to enhance your true Beauty is to Increase Health.

Physical Ability

Historically, PHYSICAL ABILITY is a crucial element for Survival. Finding food, fending off predators, and even defending against other people is physically demanding. Your prospects for Survival improve with friends and associates who can take care of themselves, and, when needed, take of you.

For those reasons, we have an Instinctive Survival Desire to Test Physical Ability. Physical Ability is tested in many ways, beginning with simple observations of how others carry themselves. Do they walk with purpose? Are they coordinated? Are they clumsy?

More rigorous Tests of Physical Ability include sports and other forms of play which require high levels of strength and agility. Did you ever wonder why people all around the world watch sports? Part of the reason is your Instinctive Survival Desire to test Physical Ability.

Some cultures require that males survive a "rite of passage" into manhood that includes a physical test. In the animal world, tests for Physical Ability include nest building and displays of strength.

With respect to mating, Physical Ability is nearly universally Tested by DANCING. By watching others Dance, you can quickly determine: Are they balanced and coordinated? Do they have a sense of timing? Can they learn and remember?

As our world becomes more modern, the Survival significance of Physical Ability has decreased. But there are still situations and places where Physical Ability makes the difference between living and dying. You should Affirm to develop your Physical Ability throughout your life.

Mental Ability

The modern world places less emphasis on Physical Ability and more emphasis on MENTAL ABILITY. The primary Test for Mental Ability is communication.
A form of communication which is both a Test, and a demonstration of the Testing process, is STORYTELLING. Even though we think of Stories as entertainment, they are an important Survival Mechanism. By telling and hearing Stories, dangerous lessons can be communicated without dangerous consequences.

Interestingly, the Test for good Storytelling is how well it portrays Testing. The best stories depict strong Desires, Tests, and Results. Stories that miss any of those elements are typically unsatisfying.

You should affirm to develop your Storytelling ability. Do your stories depict Desires, Testing and Results? Are you putting on a worthwhile show?

Perhaps the ultimate Test of communication is a sense of HUMOR. Humor is an unexpected, yet acceptable departure from social norms.

The departure from social norms frequently involves an over-reaction or under-reaction as compared to normal behavior. For example, an over-reaction would be to treat a paper-cut like a serious wound. An under-reaction would be to hear you won the lottery, and yawn. When looking for opportunities to be funny, think about the opposite of what you might normally say or do.

The "acceptable" part of the definition relates to your audience. Some of the most effective Humor deals with the clash of cultures between different groups of people: male and female, old and young, black and white, et cetera. However, you need to know the difference between insight and insult if you want your Humor to be accepted.

Finally, your Humor needs to be unexpected. Humor that is slow or obvious produces more groans than giggles -- good to remember when you are tempted by a pun. And remember, the punch line belongs at the end.

A person with a finely-tuned sense of humor is demonstrating mastery of complicated social skills. You should Affirm to develop your sense of humor.

Affirm Shared Desires

When Testing reveals people you think are worthy, you might Choose to enter into relationships. Relationships might or might not fulfill your expectations. The key to successful Relationships is Shared Desires.

When you share the same Desires with others in your Relationships, you increase the probability that their Choices will be consistent with your Mental Survival. Lack of Shared Desires can destroy Relationships, resulting in: lost friendships, divorce, failed businesses, or even civil war. The most effective way to develop Shared Desires is to Affirm them.

One example of Affirming Shared Desires occurs when a company publishes a mission statement – in many cases, they post reminders of the mission statement in prominent places, just as you would Affirmations. Politicians try to Affirm Shared Desires among their citizens through the use of Mottos, National Anthems, Pledges, and even by controlling the education system. Churches commonly Affirm their Shared Desires during weekly services.

In a marriage, you should Affirm a wide variety of Shared Desires.
There are many more topics, each of which can involve numerous Shared Desires. Some Desires might be uncomfortable to discuss during courtship, but if you don’t Affirm Shared Desires, you can only hope to be lucky.

The traditional method to improving your luck has been to marry someone with a background similar to yours. The idea was that you would automatically share at least some Desires, and wouldn’t need to discuss every issue. Now, people communicate more openly, and even those things that go without saying, should probably be said.

An important element is Honesty. Once you are caught lying, your Partner will never know when you are telling the truth. To Share Desires with someone, you must be confident you know their true Desires.

A Shared Desire that should be part of every Relationship is that you gain Pleasure from your partner’s prosperity. When things are going well for your Partner, that should make you Happy.

So what do you do when a relationship goes bad? You Increase Happiness by using the same process as in every other area of your life. First, Admit Failure to yourself and your Partner. Then look for Rationalizations, Develop Desires and Affirm Daily.


People use the word “emotion” to describe a variety of mental states including long-term Choices such as Love, and clinical conditions such as depression. For this discussion, consider EMOTIONS to mean those involuntary reactions such as fear, anger, and sadness which temporarily disrupt your normal mental condition.

Emotions are valuable Survival Desires which serve to alert you when important things are happening.
Emotions get your attention with chemical changes that can affect heartbeat, breathing, sweating, and more. They provide an instant jolt, designed to shock you into awareness. Even though you might lack control over those physiological reactions, you can control your response.

People respond to Emotions according to their Values. When the engine of an airplane quits inflight, everyone on board feels fear. Many are overwhelmed by their emotions (some to the point of hysteria), but the pilot’s response is to remain calm.

The reason is, the pilot has trained and Developed Desire to remain calm under pressure. The pilot also knows a response to emotion can trigger additional emotions. Hysteria can lead to panic, which can lead to paralysis.

You should Affirm to control your responses to Emotions. Affirmations you might want to consider include:
Also, be careful not to confuse Emotions with Happiness. Excitement, Infatuation, and Lust all bring forth good feelings, but they could be followed by more Pain than Pleasure. It will be your response to those feelings which determine your Happiness.

Emotions and Survival

You should also recognize that some of your strongest Emotions are produced by the instinct to Survive, usually not Physically, but instead Mentally. Most people don’t often face life-or-death situations related to Physical Survival, but they do for Mental Survival. Your ideas, judgments and Values are subject to constant critique.

We all know people who are touchy, quick to take offense, defensive or even mean. In most cases, those people lack confidence in their beliefs or Excuses. Remember, an Excuse is a rationalization for making Weak Choices.

Excuses are points of weakness. If an Excuse fails to withstand an attack, you will be forced to change your Mental state. Your Mental Survival is at stake, and your Emotions will make sure you know that.

For example, say a co-worker is in the habit of leaving a mess in the break room. You can be certain the co-worker has Excuses for why that is acceptable behavior. (e.g. Everyone else does it. The mess is not that bad. I have more important things to do. I’ll clean it up later. That’s not my job. Et cetera.)

If you point out the messy behavior to your co-worker, you are likely to receive an Emotional response. The reason is, those Excuses are being questioned. A co-worker who is unable to defend the Excuses will be forced to change. Mental Survival is at stake.

On the other hand, you might not get an Emotional response for one of two reasons. The first is that the co-worker doesn’t care what you think. People like that will be of little use in your goal to Increase Happiness.

The second possibility is that your co-worker has developed the rare Value that selfimprovement is more important than Mental Survival. People with that Value want to learn from their mistakes, and take Pleasure from the opportunity to do so. That is the kind of person you want to be, and be with.

You should Affirm to rise above your Emotional reactions. When you feel an Emotion, first ask yourself why. Am I defending an Excuse? Then control your response and use the opportunity to learn.


"Love" is also a confusing word because it means many different things. Romantic LOVE is commonly mistaken with lust, or desire. Desire alone is not Love.

You are attracted to someone. Your thoughts are dominated by the relationship. You lose your appetite and want to spend all your time together. Sounds like Love, right?

Maybe. It is certainly Desire, but Love requires more. Love requires HELPING.

Helping is an important Survival Desire. Infants must be nurtured to survive, and even adults sometimes require assistance to live. By Helping each other, groups of people have greater prospects for Survival.

For this discussion, HELPING means an attempt to Increase Pleasure or Decrease Pain for someone else.
Even though you might Help both a stranger and your spouse, your Love for them is not the same. The difference is your level of commitment. Love is a commitment to Help.

The stranger, to whom you have committed nothing, can only expect your Help when it is convenient for you. Your spouse, to whom you have committed everything, should be able to expect you will do everything possible to Help. Others in your life can expect various levels of commitment and Help.

Loving Relationships Increase Happiness in two ways:
In fact, two people in a Loving Relationship can produce more Happiness together than the sum of what they can produce alone. When you do a chore for a loved one, you gain the Pain of the chore, but also the Pleasure of Giving. When your loved one does the same chore for you, your Pain is paid back, yet you still have the Pleasure of Giving. When you each do your own chores, the Pleasure of Giving never exists.

Just as Strong Choices require you to focus more on Pain than Pleasure, Love works best when you focus more on Giving than Getting. Unfortunately, some people gain so much Pleasure from Giving, they make Weak Relationship Choices. In fact, their addiction to the Pleasure of Giving is so strong, they claim to have no Choice but to Love someone.

Although you might have no Choice about your Emotions, Love requires commitment, and a commitment is always a Choice. When you Choose romantic Love for someone who Chooses not to Love you back, you might rob yourself of the Love you could otherwise Get, and you rob your partner of the Pleasure of Giving. You should Affirm to Choose Relationships that benefit all involved.

Finally, you should Affirm to practice Responsible Love. Helping others does not mean eliminating all of their Pain. Some Pain is instructive and therefore necessary.

A child who is spoiled is typically less Happy than a child who learns to make Strong Choices. Yet parents who spoil their children feel they are “helping” by eliminating discomfort. Your sense of Helping needs to encompass all needs, including the need for Pain.

One person you should always love is yourself. Commit to help yourself and to be responsible. A good place to start is to INCREASE HEALTH.



You say Relationships are a choice, but I didn’t Choose my family. True. But unless you are under-age, it is your Choice whether or not to remain in family Relationships. Many people resent the feeling of being trapped in Relationships. Realizing you have the Choice to leave can be liberating, even when you Choose to stay.

How can Love be a commitment to Help if I love people to whom I’ve never made commitments or who don’t need my help? The commitment might be kept to yourself, and the Help might not be needed, but the real question is: What would you do if someone needed your Help? If you would Help, it is because of your Love. If your Help would be limited, then so is your Love.

You mention looking for areas of common interest. Shouldn't we celebrate diversity? Celebrating diversity is intended to reduce Bigotry, but it is a step in the wrong direction. To really embrace fellow humans, we need to celebrate what we have in common. We can all maintain diversity, even while emphasizing common interests.

Continue Reading