Neuroscientists are examining previously unexplained instances of euphoria as felt by people deeply engaged in their craft.
My personal anecdote fits the bill.
It was the final examination of my Junior year Literature class; a panic inducing timed essay. Despite my neatly typed notes and access to a variety of prompts, I was stumped. I channeled my inner fiction writer, hoping desperately for the spark of an idea. Suddenly, I was no longer stranded at a desk, but traveling the high seas with Odysseus, or plotting the end of Big Brother with Winston Smith of 1984. Euphoria fueled that essay, not encroaching time restraints, or hopes of getting an ‘A’. Words flowed from my pen, seemingly unchecked by my brain.
This process is sometimes called Automatic Writing, the practice of writing without using the conscious mind. The technique often takes hold when the person is in a trance. Others are undoubtedly aware of their surroundings, but not the action of their writing hand. Throughout history, legends have arisen that Automatic Writers have used their power to contact spirits. Strong controversy surrounds these tales, though books have been published by these authors. The prose displays a direct landscape of their soul… or someone else’s.
The same metamorphosis of leaving one’s body is present in creatives, not just mediums. Many are induced into a “Creative Sleep”, joining characters or ideas in their world. They easily write those surroundings without worrying about burdensome sentences, or trivial things in the outside world. These creatives too write straight from the soul, and the positive emotions unearthed are also quite humbling.
A similar concept is known throughout running culture: the coveted Runner’s High. It is defined as the sense of euphoria felt in the midst of a long, blistering run (ironic, I know). This happiness serves as a natural painkiller for aching joints and gasping lungs. Runners credit endorphins as the cause because their produced in response to physical discomfort, which accumulates over a long period of running.
The press agrees, citing endorphins as the primary contributor, even causing one’s peripheral nervous system to be flooded with endorphins. The peripheral nervous system contains all nerves, organs and skin tissue outside the brain and spinal cord. This system sends signals to the central nervous system, which are then processed in the brain. It seems that feel-good hormones travel through the body to and from the brain, numbing nerves along the way, and creating an experience that rivals floating on misty clouds. In turn, there may be the presence of a strong chemical called endocannabinoids, that stimulates calm feelings. This chemical is found in virtually every cell within human anatomy. The answer may come down to numeric fact: some people may have more endorphin receptors than others, which require more specialized neurons.
Endorphins can’t override physical injury during the workout or lack of proper training. This is why more inexperienced joggers are less likely to feel Runner’s High when they first start out. Not everyone gets to this level, even though every human body has endorphins and Endocannabinoids. The secret is to log as many miles as one can, without going overboard, or getting their hopes up too high. Euphoria cannot be forced; the term ‘fake it until you make it’ could do more harm than good!
The same hazy conclusions have been drawn about Automatic Writing and Creative Sleep. No one is quite sure why the processes happen, other than the broad explanation of ‘imagination’. Unlike Runner’s High, there is no secret ingredient or scientific theory. There is only a few mundane things to aid the process: a barren space without distraction, like robust windows perfect for people watching, or a phone filled with glorious diversions. If one develops a solid writing routine, the creative process will become second nature, making the dream state easier.
Science may never be able to fully define these phenomenons, as euphoria is not methodical. Passion takes the soul by surprise.