Deepak Chopra
Photo: Jeremiah Sullivan
Why does bad news make us sad? Why does getting a raise make us want to celebrate? Not many people have thought about these questions. They seem too simple, yet in a way they are deeply mysterious.

In fact, the right answer can set your body free, while the wrong answer can prove to be an inescapable trap.

Right now, brain science can tell us part of the story. When someone tells you a piece of bad news ("Your bank account has been cleared out"), a different style of brain chemistry is activated from when you hear good news ("Congratulations, you got the job"). It isn't possible to have an emotion of any kind without various neurotransmitters and other so-called messenger molecules that turn words into brain activity.

Brain researchers have been so excited by this discovery—that the brain "lights up" with every new experience—that only a few people have said: "Wait, you didn't hit on the answer. You made the mystery harder to solve."

And here's why: How did mere words turn into chemicals? Information streams into your body every second. Not just "You got the job" or "Your bank account is empty," but all the sights and sounds of the world. You cannot see or hear anything without the brain being activated at the chemical and electrical levels. Yet no one has the faintest idea how that magical transformation occurs. There's enormous potential here for both good and bad. One person who gets bad news becomes devastatingly depressed while another quickly bounces back. One person becomes manic with good news and starts acting with irrational exuberance (think of the famous line from the movie Titanic: "I'm king of the world!") while another person takes good news in stride.

Clearly you would be much better off if you had some control over the beneficial information that could transform your brain into a powerful resource for your own growth.

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