Wednesday, April 24, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Is happiness overrated?

Update : 19 Apr 2018, 06:09 PM
Happiness, a state of mind not many would reject. Most are constantly in the search for a blue-sky state of mind. While striving to be happy is and should be the goal for a meaningful life, the first question that is raised to you today is one that has been on my mind for quite some time now: is being happy all the time actually healthy and does striving to be happy all the time, while negating the full spectrum of human emotions, actually lead to a decline on the overall level of happiness? I am no psychologist or scientist, so I can only speak from a layman’s point of view but it seems to me, that the emotions we have developed are not within us for no reason. They have gone through the grand and spectacular process of evolution and that did not happen without reasoning. Evolution leaves within us only that which is absolutely and crucially vital for our survival. Our emotions also fall into that category. My first objection with striving to be happy all the time and ignoring all other emotions is a simple one. Ignoring all the range of emotions we have is not healthy and will lead to a decline in one’s well-being. Secondly, if you are happy, then by definition, you are happy with the conditions of your life.  What happens to your levels of motivation then? Of course, a happy person would be motivated to maintain his life conditions so as to remain at the level of happiness he already is at, but will he be motivated to push further?  I believe, corroborated by the findings of many prominent psychologists, that we need to recognize and acknowledge on our full range of emotions in order to be truly motivated to create a better life for ourselves. When we talk about negative emotions, anger is very often the first on the list. One of my closest friends, retrospectively once told me that he truly understood that I cared about him after the first time I shouted at him. To my understanding, that succinctly summarizes anger. I may have been angry at him for what he did at the time but subconsciously what propelled that was the fact that I felt undervalued. I felt underestimated. This may explain why people sometimes get angry when they are being offered help. Psychologists believe that the primary benefit of anger is to prevent oneself from being exploited. Think of a scenario when someone exploited you to such a degree that you didn’t get what you deserved; what you truly deserved. Your go-to emotional response ought to be anger. In fact, many psychologists believe that the anger motivates an individual to take action.
When we talk about negative emotions, anger is very often the first on the list
Other emotions might make us avoid situations but anger is one that actually promotes proactive action. It also can do tremendous good to our confidence, optimism and risk-taking, these qualities might be of particular value when the alternative is losing something you hold dear. In some social circles, anger can actually make one stand out in the crowd, in a positive way. It shows that you have the strength of resources and resolve to stand up for what you believe in. Not to mention that it has been anger that was the catalyst for many a positive social change. Another universally looked down upon emotion is envy. Think of that one kid in school. That one kid who was always one step better than you. Maybe that one kid excelled at all the things you wished you could excell at too. The natural emotional response to this would be envy. Of course envy can have disastrous consequences, but much of our success, depends on our status prescribed and perceived by others in a group, as it has throughout human history. You don’t have to be better than everyone on the planet, just those in your immediate surroundings. In fact, being worse off than your peers, has been psychologically proven to create within you an unhealthy combination of hostility, shame and resentment. It goes without saying that too much envy, just like anything else, is not healthy but think of it akin to a friendly competition, but with serious consequences. It would be interesting to similarly analyse other emotions such as embarrassment, confusion and grief, but that would require a much bigger article (I think I have barely scratched the surface of anger and envy). To conclude, I would like to posit that emotions that have been called negative or even sins in the religious sense are not meant to be suppressed or just medicated. To give these emotions the title of “negative” is a misnomer. They are a complex inbuilt system in ourselves that we have in order to navigate the world around us, and to completely disregard all but one emotional state would be a grave mistake.
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