Monday, March 20, 2006

Article: The Hidden Side of Happiness

I like this article because it confirms my world view.

What doesn't kill you can actually make you stronger. Post-traumatic stress is far from the only possible outcome. In the wake of even the most terrifying experiences, only a small proportion of adults become chronically troubled. More commonly, people rebound - or even eventually thrive.

Those who weather adversity well are living proof of one of the paradoxes of happiness: We need more than pleasure to live the best possible life. Our contemporary quest for happiness has shriveled to a hunt for bliss - a life protected from bad feelings, free from pain and confusion.

Now to be clear, most things that don't kill you actually make you much weaker - age, disease, poisons, accidents, war, deaths of loved ones, etc. But the horrors of life are part of what make us human. For a long time, psychology has focused on how bad things lead to mental pathologies - depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress syndrome - just to name a few. For a psychologist, these patholoies are a problem to be done away with, as they should be. But the stress and instability of trying situations can also be used to re-forge our lives into something better. And individuals who seek happiness by trying to avoid or shield themselves from negative events sometimes do themselves a disservice.
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