The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

Author: Jonathan Haidt
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by vasubandu   2019-07-21

That has been a life journey. A big part of it was falling in love with my future wife. She is INFJ, and I marveled at the richness of her emotions. While I still considered emotions to be a nuisance, she seemed to derive meaning and purpose from them. And my love for her seemed drab in comparison to hers for me. But I remained that way for many years.

I also was suicidal all my life. It started in kindergarten, and I contemplated suicide most days throughout my life. I promised my wife before we had sex the first time that I would no kill myself, and for some reason that bound me. Without that promise, I would be long dead.

When we were in our late 30's, she said that she wanted to have a baby. I thought that train had left the station, and I had no interest in having a child. So I said, "We have a dog." She said it was not the same, and I said that we have a special dog and cannot know if it is the same since we do not have a child. She repeated that she wanted to have a baby, and I thought for 15 seconds about how much it meant to her and how natural her desire was. I also realized that if we had a child, every moment of the rest of my life would change. So I said, "What a delightful idea, let's do it." Love will do that. When our first son was 2, she said that she thought he wanted a sibling. I said that I thought he was a tub of goo, and that his mommy wanted him to have a sibling. She said, "only one." I said, "I hope you don't have twins because i would hate to have to give one of them away." So we had our second.

When our kids were born, I did not bond with them. I was a full participant in their care, but I did not think I would miss them if they were gone. That got me to thinking about my connections with other people, and I realized that I did not connect with anyone other than my wife. And truth be told, I did not connect with her the way I wanted to.

Thus began a long journey to connect with people. It included cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants. And a lot of reading. Once I decided that I wanted to connect with people, I realized that I was actually jealous of all the people around me who expressed emotions. I love baseball, but when I went to a game, I sat and analyzed the game in a thoughtful manner. If the Mariners hit a home run, I noted it but did not cheer while people around me were high fiving each other. I observed that emotions have meaning to my wife's life and to the lives of many others.

It was a long a tortuous journey. I made halting progress and slipped back many times. I realized that I was still running emotions through my mind and trying to make sense of them, and I sought more help. My problem was that my mind tends to reprocess thoughts over and over again looking for connections and answers, and it was doing the same thing with emotions. Discovering Dialectical Behavior Therapy made a huge difference.

Most recently, I had the good fortune to arrange Transcrainial Magnetic Stimulation. TMS is like ECT in the most general sense in that it uses magnetic impulses to stimulate the brain. However, unlike ECT, TMS has no significant side effects. I had a very unusual reaction to TMS. After the very first treatment, the constant negative narration in my head stopped, and after the second treatment the next day, I could not detect any depression. I was disappointed because my state was neutral, not happy, but that is as it should be. I am quite often happy, but also can be sad or angry depending on circumstances. However, my state is appropriate to the stimuli.

I probably am not all the way there and will be dealing with this all my life. It all started with my realization that I was missing out on something by suppressing my emotions. It started when I decided that I wanted to experience the full range of my emotions and to stop spending so much energy fighting them. When I realized the overhead of trying to keep my emotions in check, I saw a lot of time wasted.

I think that everyone will have his or her own path. It starts with the realization that emotions are not the enemy, but a natural and healthy part of life. A book that I discovered on the way and that deeply affected me is The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. https://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Hypothesis-Finding-Modern-Ancient/dp/0465028020/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1550165981&sr=8-1. I would say that this book did more to change my perspective than anything else. I highly recommend it.

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by RideFarmSwing   2019-07-21

Sounds like you have some negative biases in your thought patterns. Have you ever heard of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? On the simplest level its about recognizing your thoughts evaluating them, and rationally deciding if they are accurate or being biased. My hands down all time favorite author, Jonathan Haidt, wrote a great book that is a great first look into the practice called "The happiness hypothesis" You might want to check it out.

But to the problem, if you have the emotional energy to reconnect you should. She may be feeling lonely and is reaching out to someone she remembered was a great person. There is a loneliness epidemic in the west, you could go a long way to help her, and yourself in the process.

Start small, build back up to a trusting conversation. After a few texts suggest a skype call or something, it's far easier to reconnect face to face, even if its on your couch.

by professorgerm   2019-07-21

> How on earth are you supposed to build a philosophy around raising the maximum happiness of the world when we're not even entirely sure how to measure it?

Excellent question! We hardly even have agreed-upon words for positive goals, how to strike a balance between short and long term happiness, adjusting for outliers, etc.

It didn't make quite the splash as his other books, but Haidt's Happiness Hypothesis is a good primer on the topic, and as far as I know it hasn't had the issues shared by some other pop-psych books on the mind.

by mindways   2017-09-30
<nod> I've read "The Happiness Hypothesis", which explores the same concept - the analogy it uses is that our subconscious mind is like an elephant, our conscious mind its rider. If the elephant doesn't have much of an opinion about where it should be going, the rider can guide it. But if the elephant wants to go one way, the rider can't do much about it.

(Though the rider can, slowly over time, train the elephant in certain things. But that's not in-the-moment control.)

IIRC - it's been a while since I read it - part of the book's point is that the whole system of elephant + rider is "us", even though the conscious POV is just the rider.

https://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Hypothesis-Finding-Modern-A...

by basseq   2017-08-19
I suspect you're asking the wrong question. If you're truly good at multiple things, and you've eliminated everything you don't like doing, you're ahead of the curve and beyond this model.

Happiness is a funny thing, because you can't just keep going straight. Doing only things you like (or things you're good at) isn't a recipe for long-term happiness. Both lottery winners and victims of horrific accidents revert to an average happiness over the long term.

You can read more. This book[1] by my college Psychology professor is the first that came to mind:

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Hypothesis-Finding-Modern-A...