Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What Is Happiness?

Happiness is….

Maybe it’s not a warm puppy, but one understands that a warm puppy might make you feel so good that you become seriously distracted.

It turns out that when you are happy you are more likely to ignore danger and more insensitive to the other people’s negative emotions.

Perhaps ignorance really is bliss.

For example, happy people, New York Magazine tells us, have such a good opinion of themselves that they declare themselves more empathetic than they really are. If you believe the research, they are better at shutting out the negative emotions of other people.

One imagines that this contributes to their happiness. If you are running around feeling everyone’s pain, the chances are good that you will feel like you are in pain.

The more you feel pain, the more you will feel unhappy.

Of course, being happy need not preclude gross insensitivity to other people. The research notwithstanding, those who are insensitive are less likely to sustain good relationships. And good relationships are essential for happiness.

Feeling someone else’s pain is often an exercise in futility, anyway. If your friend is crippled by anxiety you do not help him very much if you too feel crippled by anxiety.

You can be a good friend if you know that someone is in pain and are willing to try to help out. You will not be very much of a friend if you can do no better to feel the pain and offer nothing that would help out.

Clearly, there are times when it is best to ignore someone’s pain. Sometimes physicians downplay their patients’ pains because they do not want to add any unnecessary anxiety.

Moreover, happy people are also not very good at details.

Again, this is paradoxical. If depression entails confusion and lack of focus why would it not be that happy people are more focused?

Apparently, this is not the case. Link here.

When you fly off to who-knows-where today would you rather the air traffic controllers be happy or not-so-happy?

Studies suggest that stressed-out air traffic controllers are more attuned to what might go wrong and thus are better at their jobs. Their happier colleagues are more insouciant, more confident that things will work out and less focused on the problems that might arise.

What does this mean?

It suggests that smiley folk defend their happiness against anything that would encroach on it. But then, if they love their happiness too much, one suspects that they will become less functional on the job and less friendly.

How long will the happy air traffic controller remain happy if he overlooks a problem that causes a crash?

Naturally, we do not want to pick a fight with the researchers, but we would do well to ask how they are defining happiness.

Perhaps the problem lies more in the definition of happiness than in the behavior of happy people.

If happy means bright, bubbly, cheerful and always optimistic… then we might simply have defined it as the contrary of despair.

At times, we suspect that overly cheerful people are trying too hard to convince themselves that things are better than they are.

If happiness involves the feeling that attends to success, to achievement or to a job well done… it loses some of the giggly, giddy sense that researchers seem to have granted it.

A happiness that looks like disengagement from other people and from the tasks at hand will feel like an illusion.

If happiness is doing a good job and feeling proud of your children then perhaps it is not quite as giggly or smiley. Such a happiness would not be based on ignorance.


Ares Olympus said...

re: ...we would do well to ask how they are defining happiness. Perhaps the problem lies more in the definition of happiness than in the behavior of happy people.


Wealth might be the simplest asssumed path towards happiness, but how many people would stress themselves directing airplanes if they didn't need the money?

I know few people who buy lottery tickets and assured me they would keep their jobs if they won the big payout, just for something to do, but I think they just meant they'd not quit immediately.

I like the question, "if money wasn't a problem, what would you choose to do?" And I bet 50% of people would do better things for society than they are doing now, BUT I also bet 75% of jobs would remain unfilled, because they failed to inspire a sense of purpose and meaning.

The whole question of how society would self-organize, like in a Star Trek future of no money, because we have free energy and automation to do anything people don't want to do, its fun to imagine, but harder to trust good will come out it.

Can you imagine how many Net Flix addicts there will be in 2347 with 400 years of TV and movies?!

Sam L. said...

That link: Getting angry may work over the phone (not in physical presence), but in physical presence I see a waiter spitting in your food.