Friday, August 18, 2006

Happiness: It's all in your head.

USATODAY.com - Unhappiness has risen in the past decade: 'Happiness has a very weak relation to the events in our lives,' Haidt says. 'Your happiness level is determined mostly by the structure in your brain -- not by whether good or bad things happen to you. Negative events hurt or feel bad, but they are not usually as bad as we think and don't last as long as we think.

Gee, I guess the fact that "unhappiness has risen" is simply that brain chemicals have changed in the last decade.

Ya think? That the chains of amino acids that have been doing their thing for millenia just up and changed around in the last decade and that's why people are more unhappy?

Oh, YEAH. That must be it.

This beanhead really ticks me off. (I'm not wishing on him a cancer scare. The thought occurred, I admit it, but I didn't DO it. Can't control those pesky brain stuctures, ya know.) While I am a big fan of perspective, this nihilist "it's all in your head anyway so what does it matter" outlook is truly reality-ignoring at its worst.

By saying happiness has a very weak relation to the events in our lives the person is implying that we could be just as happy living in a tarpaper shack with a demented relative as we could be in a mansion with a devoted rich spouse, all else being equal. And yes, that's theoretically possible. But it sure would be easier in the second instance, wouldn't it?

He goes on to say, Happiness is an individual thing, like a thermostat in our brains with a baseline that's predetermined by genetics. So there's really not a lot you can do about it, though apparently he's written a whole book on giving it a shot. If you come from a glum family, that's why you are glum. And they are glum because of that genetics thing, instead of your father losing half his torso in a mining accident, and Granny using her .22 on potential dates, and Momma keeping it all together with the Bible and a smile, even though her drinking is getting a bit out of hand.

Naw, getting away from your family won't help the glum.

There is a kind of depression that is not related to life events. And that kind of depression is related to whacky brain chemicals. And those people should be helped. But there's much more depression related to all kinds of tragedies that originate HERE, in the all-too-real-world, that will impact a person regardless of their brain chemicals. In fact, we have a word for somebody who is cheerful despite losing loved ones.

That word is sociopath.

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