Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pursuit of Unhappiness

this is the last few sentences of a NYT story about positive psychology:
“My personal satisfaction is the personal measure for me, and my personal satisfaction is great,” he explained. “I hate to say this, but really in the scheme of things we’re not going to change the war in Iraq.” Then he paused and thought how that sounded. “We can only fix the world one person at a time.”
can i just say "ick."

Positive psychology teaches people to be “happy.” But not just Happy Happy, as in pursuing pleasure, rather Authentically Happy, as in being of service others.

Well, promoting a more generous society seems to be a plus for positive psychology, but, gosh, why do we have to be happy? Isn’t it just as selfish to say that we should give to others because it will make us happy? How about being kind to others and giving for its own sake? Why do we have to get something in return? What if giving to others or being kind was painful? Does that mean we shouldn’t do it?

what is happy anyway? According to the dictionary: favored by luck or fortune; enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment.

Seems to me our society’s constant pursuit of happiness, whether it be the Happy Happy kind or the Authentically Happy kind, is driving the madness. We feel so entitled to happiness. If we don’t feel happy, we take drugs – prescribed or otherwise – we eat, we shop, we work, we find religion, we try to push our religion on everyone else. We are in a word: selfish.

Given the state of world affairs, if we're any kind of thinking, feeling human being, how can any of us have an overall state of mind that is “happy?”

Here’s a better question: should we be happy?

Happiness is overrated. I think we need pursue another state of mind, one that is unhappy and irritated and called to action because we care and because we DO think we can change things like the war in Iraq, rather than seek out “personal satisfaction” like the student in the story and settle for happiness.