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Wednesday, August 5. 2009
More silliness about happiness
"Positive Psychology," an intellectual fad for the masses. These people talk about "happiness interventions." It's nuts, if you ask me, but I guess it attracts research grant money. Nobody has the wisdom to tell anyone else how to be happy, and anyone who purports to do so is a fool. A commenter to that article posted this:
I have posted on the subject here and here and also our Do Americans expect too much from marriage? (and I still think happiness is a dumb subject. It's what I call "psycho-utopianism").
Funny how disparate posts can seem to come together. Our Sowell quote yesterday captured it: The universe, or reality, was not designed to make people happy. But if you are one of those people who view happiness as a sociological phenomenon, see neoneo today on dystopias.
I am more inclined to the negativity proposed in our link to Nyquist this morning. One quote from him:
I do not know much about what Psychologists do or study. I do know what Psychiatrists try to do, which is to relieve disability and unreasonable pain. That can be difficult enough. Worrying about "happiness" isn't my problem. I happen to be reasonably happy right now, but I will not be in ten minutes when I attack my pile of bills and paperwork.
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Our Essays, Psychology, and Dr. Bliss at 18:14 | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)
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James Thurber Let Your Mind Alone! And Other More or Less Inspirational Pieces is the last word on self help mental health books.
Guggenbuhl-Craig ``The Blessings of Violence'' isn't bad either, in From the Wrong Side.
great post, Dr. B. consider that a great source, maybe THE great source, of "a feeling of unhappiness" is that big brite bubble of Happiness that we have conjured up and placed blindingly nearby and always just beyond reach.
Tantalus at least had an excuse --the gods did it to him. We're little greek tragedies of our own making, living "tantalized" because we're just unable to shut out the siren's song.
The Sirens didn't kill shipwrecked sailors --they sang so beautifully the sailors refused to leave, and hence starved to death on the island enchanted.
Well done, Dr. B. And perfect quote from Nyquist. Forwarded to puppies...
If your public and private personas are the same, you have difficulty remembering the last time you felt guilty.
"I don't trust happiness, I never did , I never will."
Robert Duvall from Tender Mercies.
I was fairly young when that movie came out.
I appreciate happiness, when it comes into my life.
That's a rather fatalistic view that Duvall's character held though it does have its appeal. But your take is good Jappy, one can't necessarily find it by seeking it out, happiness, but should be able to appreciate it if and when it appears.
The happiest I've ever been in my life was senior year in college studying for finals. I took a black beauty and read my entire Western Civ. book including footnotes, page numbers, end notes, and the bios of the authors of the book. I was so damn happy I couldn't understand why everyone in the world wasn't doing what I was doing. I dropped my pen and scrounged under the bed for it and cleaned all the dust from under there and felt great about it. Seventy-two hours after I aced the exam, my parents arrived for graduation. The first words out of my mother's mouth were, "What is wrong with your eyes?" I hadn't blinked in three days.
I think there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is random and circumstantial, and much of it depends on your temperament. Joy comes from within, from something you have done that produces and answers the recondite need to feel good about yourself and to have another note that goodness. I wrote a book once and my superintendent asked me to stop teaching for a year to travel the state to present the book. It was about teaching. I was invited to Chicago to present it to the annual convention of five-thousand social studies teachers. I was invited to present it to the annual VEA convention where I received a standing ovation. I was invited to an Arab/Israeli school in Israel to teach it and the to the Women's Conference in Bejiing. My feet didn't touch the ground for a long time, and I truly cannot describe the feeling of joy that filled me. Then I began to have weird feelings of paranoia as if there was something I was missing. The accolades and approbation kept on but my smile started getting kind of quivery for some reason. My mind was sending out the warning that joy does not last. It doesn't. It was like the 'black' beauty in a way... you can't sustain extreme emotions.
I don't believe we are wicked by nature. People who believe that fear themselves.
I think self-imposed guilt is a good thing. But when one imposes it on another, it is wrong. A child may forget the offense, but he will never forget how you made him feel. I believe it is a sin to shame someone. It is too painful.
Make your own happiness. If you are capable of original thought it's not difficult. Or if you have a dog.
Jeeez, meta --what a piece of writing. You're something, gal.
Thank you, Buddy and Dr. X. I reread it and realize I left out what made me respond in the first place - not that I didn't want to talk about happiness. But it's that guilt is not a virtue. It is the action one takes to assuage the guilt that 'may' be virtuous or not. Wallowing in guilt is repulsive. It is for the weak, I think, who simper and sigh in guilt's embrace. "I'm sorry." is magic stuff. So is calling your dad when you know he's only going to complain and ask why you haven't called. :(
Interesting stuff. Funny, but I think of "happiness" as being more sustaining, and "joy" being more spontaneous, but short-lived. Never did the black beauty thing though. Not that I didn't have my moments, and maybe my "time" was different but sometimes I can't help the feeling I missed out by not doing more drugs..then again, I think not. As one of the more liberal posters here, can I get some sort of credit for not having been more liberal in the past?
Anyhows, I've been thinking about getting dog....but we travel too much. Leaving poor doggy alone would make me feel guilt. On the other hand, dogs sit in shelters longing (it seems) for someone to adopt them. Maybe not adopting one should make me feel guilt. But it doesn't. I feel guilty about that. Alas, my glass is empty...again...I came in here to rant about this post and shrinks, but it's late and my weekend starts early this week.
Psychologists vs psychiatrists: from my experience, for my needs (not applicable to everyone, perhaps not even most), I'll take a psychiatrist.
I was diagnosed with depression. Not what I call "situational" depression from losing a loved one or job or whatever, but the type that hangs on for decades. I was prescribed a mild drug: not one that makes you happier, it just allows a sort of steady-state, and should I have a life problem the med does not keep me from having a "situational" depression - when my mother died, I was just as depressed as anyone else in the family.
After several years, I was transferred from a psychiatrist (the fourth of a series) to a psychologist. In the very first session, he announced we were going to talk me out of my "drug dependency" problem.... After two more sessions, with the same statement of purpose, I stopped going. I do have other minor problems, and perhaps they could be addressed that way, but I think not my form of depression.
Teqjack. That's a sad story. You described well the best one can expect from the plethora of antidepressants on the market. The 'steady-state' is perfect. The psychologist sounds like a psychiatrist-wannabe. He had to act as if he knew better than they when he used the 'drug-dependency' line. That's horrible. It transfers the problem onto you while he attempts a 'superior' role in your events. No wonder you left. Sounds to me as if he needs a good therapist.
I know several friends with the same kind of clinical depression. One tried Ritalin and it changed his life over night. He's funny and says, "I don't know how to act!" Big grin..
I hope you can find someone and get some relief. That was definitely a bad experience if you ask me. Like, the last thing you needed to hear.
The thing with psychiatrists is at least they are medical doctors who have had to take serious courses like math and chemistry, in contrast to the psychology majors. Psychiatrists have had the difference between perception and reality presented to them in an absolute manner.
Good luck with the depression fight. I know it's a difficult one. Both sides of my own family have had serious tragedies resulting from this disorder. Unfortunately my experience/observation, for the most part, has been that the "doctors" think they know more than they can possibly know. Then they try to shoehorn your problem into their solutions and don't listen. I just thank God that that for whatever reason the later generations of our family have been able to manage the problem (so far). Though I think much of that "success" is due to some sort of "dilution" of the cause. Of course that's not a scientific observation, just a hunch. But then again much of what the doctors "know" isn't very scientific when you dig into it.
OK, I lied about being tired...
"As one of the more liberal posters here, can I get some sort of credit for not having been more liberal in the past?"
No, not at all, no credit what so ever.
It's those of us who lived both sides... and with age and wisdom came to be where we are... we're really the unknown voters.
Look, not saying I lived a monastic life. Just took my "chemical enhancement" in verifiable if not not-likely-lethal (in the short term) doses.
The "been to the edge, I stood and looked down, lost a lot of friends there baby" is romantic and all but somehow my old man lived through the depression, survived 2 1/2 years of killing his fellow man (OK, Jap, but I found out they're nice people once you get to know them), raised a family, and died a relatively healthy (irony intended) 84 year old without resorting to anything more dangerous than martinis and (when younger) smoking corn silk (has anyone else tied this?). I feel ashamed that I let the minor slings and arrows of the 70s affect me like they did. But then again, I lost more friends to drugs and alcohol than Dad ever lost to the war. And my point comes full circle...
And that circle remains broken, KRW. Have you ever watched war stories where veterans of WWII are featured? Did you watch the celebration of the opening of the WWII Memorial in DC? All these old guys in their uniforms showed up .. in wheelchairs, using walkers, canes; and during the ceremony the cameras kept showing their faces and the tears flowing down the wrinkles of their hallowed countenances. Same with the war stories shows. At some point when the vets are talking, the tears flow. There was no science to help these guys so they just went to work and did what they had to do - many living lives of quiet misery. The Vietnam vets with PTSD get a little more attention but they have to fight for it. In Iraq, they're trying to stop PTSD before it starts so these guys can function before the 'quiet' starts. That's just the vets. In the general population, life can be a war zone, too.
Kinda shortsighted to refer to the 'edge' as romantic. What makes the mind immune to injury? I know.... the liver disease one gets trying to quiet the fires of it.
Touch of sarcasm/irony on the "romantic" comment. I actually don't find it romantic. Or I should say, I haven't since back when I was young and stupid.
Yes, I've watched many of the WWII vet stories. They have become even more special to me as they inspire me to read more of the letters that my father wrote home during the war. I tread dangerously here as I have no personal experience in the matter and certainly am not trying to be judgmental at all (don't hate the player hate the game). Yes, PTSD is a real problem and while they called it shell-shock back then, I also think it was less of a problem because society's expectations and acceptance were different. It makes me wonder if, in the aggregate they may have been better off without the "science".
BTW, I was exaggerating a bit when I said I lost "friends" to d&a, they were at most acquaintances. Still the lost potential is quite sad. They got the liver disease (actually, worse) but had no real fires to quiet. Certainly not real relative to what men like my father faced.
Good thought: "It makes me wonder if, in the aggregate they may have been better off without the "science"."
There is a lot to be said for denial in that it can allow one to function. PTSD is so tough because there is no magical cure and when the denial falters, all hell can break loose. I think that's why the WWII vets affect me so deeply.... they came home to expectations of being regular guys and some of them didn't recognize 'regular' anymore. Sheesh.. Too sad.
Buddy gave Luther and me a book to read about the fighting in the Pacific theater. "Goodbye Darkness" by William Manchester. I moved it onto my Top Ten List - where, oddly when I looked at it again, I noted five of the books are war books. (Real war..) It will change your life in that penetrating way visiting the cemetary at Normandy will. You can comprehend both intellectually, but there are no words to touch the emotional awe of any man who has gone to war. ( I used 'awe' in its true meaning.)
I'll try to keep "Goodbye Darkness" in mind, though I find I don't read (books) as much as I used to. I'm currently reading the "History of the 7th Division in WWII" (Dad's division) and matching it up with his letters home. Of course he couldn't write about what was going on battle-wise except for what was already released to the media back home. I should say that these were all letters his mother had saved, so they are all written to her. It is interesting to see what his correspondence was in response to the letters he had received from home (which of course I don't have). What I found interesting is that in one of his letters he said he's like to say he dreamed of being home except that he didn't dream anymore, which was something I found odd when I asked him about dreams decades later when I was a small child. Then, in the last months of his life, when the tumor in his brain had become inoperable and he had been told there was nothing more they could do, he asked me if I dreamed. He asked in such a way that it was apparent that he was dreaming again and it caught him by surprise. I then recalled what he had told me when I was young. He didn't say what he was now dreaming and he was having a hard time communicating so it wasn't really possible or practical to get much more out of him, but it's a new puzzle for me that I'd like to research when I have the time to dedicate myself to it.
BTW, I think I may have recommeded this book before, but if I haven't a very good book on WWII I have recently read is "Fly Boys" by James Bradley. Another that Dad had read and recommended to me as being very accurate was Studs Terkle's "The Good War".
Wow. That made me sad, KRW. I think your dad did dream. It's just that his brain short-circuited the recall of the dreams. His brain was working 'for' him at the time, and so was his training. One of the first realized symptoms of PTSD is dreaming and reliving events of the trauma. (I use PTSD and trauma here lightly, but there can be little doubt war is trauma.) I also use 'realized' to mean one of the overt symptoms as many of the other symptoms are more covert. Maybe his tumor and impending death reawakened his former, war time fears of death and that awakened his dreams. The part that makes me sad is wondering if he wanted to talk about the dreams, or if it worried him that not dreaming was a sign of something bad which he could not articulate and wanted to make sure his son was able to dream. I think it's great that you have his letters at least, and of course the memories of how he coped when he got home. My dad was in the Aleutians where some of the worst fighting was. He has never said a word about it. He is quiet by nature, and I wonder if he would speak of it now. I wonder more if I could bear to listen as I have such deep, pervading emotion about my father as it is, that I might not be able to handle it if the stories are sad. (Since I was little I've felt a helpless, relentless need to 'fix' some assumed and unknowable sadness in him..... odd, too, as he was so successful in his military career and retirement joy of raising the best camellias on the east coast on the plantation where he grew up.) I didn't dream until I was 24, and it was a nightmare that left me paralyzed for half an hour. What few dreams I have now, whatever people are in them have no faces.
I have written down "Fly Boys' and will read it. And I'll tell Buddy, too. He may have already read it. He will not read "Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara, though, and I'm not going to let him come visit me where I live in the midst of all the great battlefields of the Civil War. I owe him for "Goodbye Darkness", though. One more if you are interested in WWI is "A Soldier of the Great War" by Mark Halperin. shew! That's in my Top Ten.
One last thing..... Thank you for telling me about your dad. I have put off going to visit my dad for a while, and you shook me up about that. I needed it.
Hey, my dad was in the Aleutians also, but after the fighting was over (though they weren't sure at the time). He then went to Kwajalean, Leyte (where he was wounded...just read the part about that skirmish in the HoT7DiWWII), then after recovery, the Okinawa and on to Korea for post-war occupation. Give my thanks to your dad and take care.