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'5 Scientific Reasons Your Idea of Happiness Is Wrong'

-Comparison is the root of all unhappiness-

http://www.cracked.com/article_19376_5-scientific-reasons-your-idea-happiness-wrong.html

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If you're looking for an answer to "How can I be happy?" then the response from the experts is, "You're asking the wrong question." The better question is why our idea of happiness is so screwed up that most of us wouldn't recognize the real thing if we saw it. Well ...
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Let's go back a couple of thousand years, back to the era when happiness was either all about luck, or the result of living a virtuous life. In both of those schools of thought, it sounds like the message is, "Don't even bother trying to be happy, because these are ancient times, we all live in filth and that's just the way it is." But according to the experts, they may have been onto something. Just in a roundabout way.
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The very act of trying to achieve happiness made people unhappy because of the anxiety they felt when they failed. They were happier when they weren't trying. You know, like if somebody had told them it was out of their hands, or that they should focus on doing good things and declare the result to be "happiness," regardless of what it looked like.

Heh, this reminded me of something I said here not too long ago along the lines of happiness being unimportant. I was surprised when several of the other posters found this to be a depressing statement and began offering emotional support. Not that I'm criticizing those responses, in fact I found them rather charmingly benevolent, it was just so out of the norm - all I had meant was more or less what this article refers to, that the pursuit of happiness as an end-goal is an exercise in futility. Happiness -the real kind, not the mere desire for pleasure that the word now means almost exclusively- is a result of actions performed well, not a goal in and of itself. One does not go into battle because he wants to get laid(unless he is, paradoxically, a faggot); he goes into battle to rout the enemy and crush all opposition. The feasting on boar, swilling of mead, and fucking of wenches is, in good times, a result of victory -and a good result it is- but victory itself is, and always should be, the actual goal.

Bliss is better than happiness.

Also, being highly competent, or--even more--being legitimately talented, can easily lead to psychological problems, such as coping with the expectations of appeasing every aged person who grins  at you. Unless you love the temporary pats on your back, then living a life as an "achiever" (how society defines achievement) will only lead to misery.

If you have any brains at all, you'll realize that you will never be within the upper class, unless you have not done so already (or in rare cases, the universe bends over for you). Even then, the nicest thing money can buy in this "free society" (by the way, working hard gets you nowhere; work smart) is security.

Anyhow, I am surprised so many people need science to explain to them obvious functions of the world. I suppose the constants formed by our society serve to placate us and fill our heads with nonsense concerning personal satisfaction; that is, until one of us loses it after repeated failures. Even then, said person will be deemed "insane" or "angry" for not accepting what society holds as true concerning "happiness". That leads me back to my original point: Being an achiever leads to misery.

he goes into battle to rout the enemy and crushes his enemies, sees them driven before him, and hears the lamentations of their women

Fixed that for you.

For me, being content is far more important than being happy. I try to find something that I enjoy in everyday activity, no matter how minuscule. Most people hate driving to work/school, I love it because I blaspheme upon the altar of Jehovah with Havohej or laugh at society while listening to Fear or something. It's all a matter of looking at things in a pragmatic way. "OK, this activity may not be very interesting in itself....why don't I make it interesting?"

I agree, pursuing happiness as its own end leads to nothing. A temporary high that you keep chasing, kinda like meth.

I think "peace" (or "bliss") is a far better/more achievable goal, and seems far more likely to lead to a more balanced emotional life than the pursuit of happiness.

he goes into battle to rout the enemy and crushes his enemies, sees them driven before him, and hears the lamentations of their women

Fixed that for you.
:p of course, that was the implication. The correct answer was not food, women, and beer, or even more serene forms of enjoyment ("The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.") - it was victory itself, success, the imprinting of one's own specific vir onto the the world around him. The hedonistic rewards that come as a result are merely an inevitable result of such things, to be enjoyed for their own sake, but never to take the place of will itself.

This whole topic is totally perplexing to me.

You all seem to be saying "forget about being happy, be happy instead!".

???

This whole topic is totally perplexing to me.

You all seem to be saying "forget about being happy, be happy instead!".

???

No.

bliss and/or satisfying personal goals =/= chasing hedonism

bliss and/or satisfying personal goals =/= chasing hedonism

Joseph Campbell's alleged response to the association of hedonism with his "follow your bliss" saying was: "I should have said, 'Follow your blisters'".
?
If we can use blisters to represent something that builds resistance from suffering, I think this helps clarify the distinction. Follow that which makes you stronger (will to power?), not that which is self-indulgent.

This whole topic is totally perplexing to me.

You all seem to be saying "forget about being happy, be happy instead!".

???

No.

bliss and/or satisfying personal goals =/= chasing hedonism

Hedonism in the naive sense of pursuing pleasure right now regardless of the consequences, rather than through more effective means such as actively working to achieve what you judge as having value?

There doesn't seem to be any criticism of the notion of happiness, rather the notion of shying away from life and planning in general, and thus living in a momentumless, fragmented state of following whatever unrefined impulses happen to come up in each moment. Same ol' same ol'.

However this,
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The very act of trying to achieve happiness made people unhappy because of the anxiety they felt when they failed. They were happier when they weren't trying. You know, like if somebody had told them it was out of their hands, or that they should focus on doing good things and declare the result to be "happiness," regardless of what it looked like.
is perhaps getting at something different, and possibly interesting, though requiring clarification.

The last sentence seems to contradict the first one if we are going by structure, in that in general by trying to achieve something we are more likely to achieve it than if we weren't. The maxim of the examined life being better than the unexamined one would suggest that analysing whether what you are doing is making you as happy as you could be would generally be a good thing to do. The general notion of expectations driving the outcome through the mental representation of a particular top-down path of action would suggest that having happiness as your meta-goal would make you more likely to achieve it.

However, the notion of cognitive loading would suggest that it is better to have simpler goals than more complex ones as they are easier to keep track of, and thus easier on the mind. If we were to perform hedonic calculations on every single one of our actions this would likely result in a worse outcome than if we had been unreflective (a paradox of utilitarianism).

So then, if someone were trying to achieve happiness through their actions, the best way to factor this in would be via synthetic rather than analytic means. We are constantly, consciously or otherwise, updating our moral worldviews in accordance with the hedonic principle, as determined moment by moment, and so we already have a very decent store of synthetic knowledge of happiness, according to what we value.

So it seems that the answer is not to ignore happiness, nor to treat it separately, but to reference synthetic notions of happiness with respect to a stimulus (i.e. values) which we have developed through our personal implicit systems of values, or to analytically determine the happiness of a course of action separately to having done it, so that when we do it we can make reference to these conclusions while executing the planned outcome.

The likely problems people would then face would be poorly developed values and poor heuristics in the analysis. I think this is what the article was getting at. This may be a result of having evolved in environments much different than what we have now, and so in general we have confused notions of who it is we are. Narratives of life are provided which may well not relate to how we actually function, and thus we need better narratives (I like that Joseph Campbell was mentioned).

So it's not that pursuing happiness is bad, but that in general we are implanted with poor narratives of how to live and thus are using totally insufficient references in situations. I still believe happiness, in the general sense, should be foundational to everything, though a term without colloquial misuse would be better for what is being pointed to. From this point general principles are formed, and these provide the basis of our cultural narratives/myths, and these are what we are to reference when determining which course of action would lead to happiness.

The greatest happiness, when validly measured across all space and time, is still to be the goal. We just need to better organise our thinking to better reflect ethical truths.