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Have you ever noticed that trying to calm down before a high-stakes event often just produces more agitation? That trying to change troublesome habits can seem difficult or impossible? Or that real fulfillment and well-being can be elusive, despite living a successful life?

A surprising number of such difficulties stem from an inherited propensity of the human brain—our automatic, hardwired tendency to seek pleasure and to anticipate and avoid pain. Modern science demonstrates that this mental hardwiring, traceable to the survival needs of our earliest ancestors, is at the root of many of the psychological and behavioral problems that we face today.

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