Don’t Worry, Be Happy?

| 1/22/2008 10:55:28 AM

People make mistakes in the pursuit of happiness, but eventually we can all get there. “We are meant to be happy,” says psychologist . In his new book, Stumbling on Happiness, Gilbert tries to help people understand how to find a joyful life. He advises people to “distrust your brain, and trust your eyes a little bit more.” Don’t myopically pursue selfish and materialistic goals that you think will make you feel good. Rather, take a more scientific view, testing what makes you happy, and making natural mistakes on your way there.

This quest for bliss, however, may be entirely misguided, Eric G. Wilson writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Americans’ over-pursuit of happiness, and rejection of sadness, amounts to “a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life.” Melancholic feelings give inspiration to music, art, and literature, yet Americans try to destroy sadness through positive psychology and prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical therapies can help seriously depressed people, Wilson acknowledges, but too many people try to numb their pain instead of embracing it. This is a horrible and dangerous mistake.

Bennett Gordon


Sandra Brown_1
1/27/2008 7:13:36 PM

If we were to validate our feelings of depression as coming from our connection to a world that itself was full of sadness (remember "a warp in the force field"?) it might put unhappiness into a wider context--a kind of higher calling to those with the antennae to feel the Universe-al pain. Some in our society carry the burden not only for themselves, but for others who don't feel the injustices and injuries (clueless?). In more primitive societies we might actually honor these people for their sadness instead of insisting they get well. Psychotherapy is wonderful--everyone should have a kindly professional help them examine the patterns of their life in order to gain some measure of control and consciousness. And as a woman I am familiar with the chemical/hormonal titrating that can change one's attitude from dark to delighted -- but overall, depression seems to me to be valid response to a really disturbing world.

Joseph Riden
1/26/2008 11:40:38 PM

It came to me that happiness is elusive only if I am deluded about what happiness really is. For a long time I thought happiness is an emotion. It's not. At least not for me. The catalyst for this insight was my friend Kim. She often will ask me in odd moments if I am happy. Without a second's hesitation, I always answer "Yes. I'm always happy." This is not an automatic response. I really am always happy. "Even when I feel sad, I'm happy," I once told her. She asked me to explain. My answer is simple -- happiness is not an emotion, like the opposite of sadness. The opposite of sadness is the emotion joy. Or bliss. Happiness is a being state, not an emotion. It's a state of mind that I choose to sustain, which allows me to be filled with whatever experience 'now' is, and to welcome it, along with whatever feelings 'now' brings. Happiness is not about only liking feel-good time. Happiness is to be so enthralled with living that any of it, all of it, is precious and welcomed. Even when it hurts, being alive is the most fundamental blessing I receive. To live this way I have to stay in the center of myself, which is about taking responsibility to think independently and be as completely present as I can. It's work, but the rewards are stupendous. Happiness is no longer contingent on anything outside of me. I don't have to wait to be rich, or to be loved, or to be thin, or to be recognized, or to be anything someone else might want me to be. I only have to be myself and be real and know what's happening is never wrong. If it's what's happening, how could it be anything but right? Thinking otherwise would seem delusional to me. Perhaps the best thing I don't have to wait for any more is heaven. I don't have to feel sorry for myself suffering through all my tiny tragedies, waiting for some ultimate reward. I can skip the waiting and just be happy right now. Any

Ed Livingston_6
1/24/2008 5:40:20 PM

Excellent article. I am happy that I read it. It's ironic that pursuing happiness at all costs could prevent you from achieving it. That is, perhaps we are happier when we are not trying directly to be happy, but rather pursuing other goals. So we can be happy when we are pursuing professional advancement, assisting others, being generous, etc., etc., and not so much when we are doing things based on the answer to the question, "How can I be happier?"

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