Today's Freud

by phil on Monday Oct 31, 2005 5:03 PM

For the record, today's Freud is Martin Seligman. In other words, he's going to be that famous psychologist that historians will years from now associate with our era.

He is the leader of the "positive psychology" movement. this is the movement that recognizes that there's needs to be more discussion in psych about creating the maximal improvement to the internal quality of life for the most amount of people.

I'm currently reading "What you can change & What you can't." It's yet another one of those books that I read and think to myself, "man, this book is everything."


Bob said on November 1, 2005 8:47 AM:

Some related stuff in the economic field I just ran across:

Happiness policy blog
The post on Marginal Revolution that let me to it

All this meta-happiness stuff is interesting but following it too closely rarely leads to actual happiness for me...though the article "How not to buy happiness" was instrumental in my choice to live closer to work and friends than I might have otherwise. Even that article is subject to the framing concerns expressed in this Happiness blog post...

Philip Dhingra said on November 2, 2005 5:38 PM:

Results-analysis are the best way to determine the constituents of happiness. From my own personal results-analysis, increases in my personal wealth as a result of the dot-com boom did not make me happier.

But I agree, money is a tool, and can be used to obtain happiness if used properly. The tool itself can't make you happy on it's own.

Yeah, I want to ping Seligman about meta-meta-happiness. I'm reading "What u can change & what you can't" but then I'm wondering if the attitude that seeks self-improvement is partially to blame for one's ills.

But when you get into a meta-meta-happiness discussion, you get into crazy recursive loops. Let's say I propose: "To make yourself happy, you have to change, and the change I'm proposing is that you change your desire to change." And therein you see the contradiction, because changing your desire to change is a change in of itself.


Bob said on November 8, 2005 5:13 PM:

A related quote from the happiness blog mentioned above:

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.

- Albert Camus

Philip Dhingra said on November 10, 2005 1:30 PM:

One angle that the quote has going for it is that happiness involves an element of being content. Even the perpetually discontent wall street stock broker must be content with being in that discontented-money-hungry mode (if he is happy).

I still think it's important to ponder and reflect on one's happiness levels though, just at a reasonable level. At the very least, to be able to provide tips to others as to why you are happy.

Camus's idea may be more correlative. Perhaps the search for happiness is not a cause for unhappiness but more symptomatic.

For example, a tricky concept is that of being depressed yet still being happy. I get depressed all the time, and yet I'll ask myself if I'm happy, and I'll say yes. But when I do some meta-cognition, I realize that the topic of happiness is on my mind when my happiness can be called into question. In those depressed states I may be happy, but the short-term depression (which many of us withstand and grow from), can become a credible threat to happiness if it becomes long-term. So when I get depressed, oftentimes I'll tell myself automatically, "well, at least I'm happy."

There's probably a 50-50 chance that a topic is on your mind because you have a psychological or physiological need to think about it. This is based on reciprocal determinism, the behaviorist idea that you repeat what has worked for you in the past. So there's some chance happiness is on my mind at any given moment because happiness levels need to be addressed.

I also agree with Camus on some level. The proactive pursuit of happiness topics can make you crave happiness more and therefore reduce your happiness levels. Just like if you went car shopping when you didn't need to, you'd probably start thinking you need a new car. But that doesn't mean you should never go car shopping.

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